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Friday, December 29, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Writing Sex Scenes

There are no sex scenes in my novels. I'm not a prude, nor against sex, I just don't know how to write them. There's nothing more pathetic than badly written sex. For me, it's a lot easier to have good sex than make it come alive on paper. I suspect that some writers who compose good sex are better on the page than in bed. Would I rather have good sex or write it? That's a tough one.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On His Dreams

I don't know any of the people in my dreams. They are all perfect strangers to me. So, I not only write fiction, I dream it as well. Does that make me a bit crazy? Probably, but what the hell, if I were sane I wouldn't be writing novels.

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Writing Dialogue

Dialogue that jumps off the page sounds nothing like the way real people converse. A transcript of an everyday conversation is devoid of coherent, memorable, rhetoric. Ordinary talk, when read aloud, comes off as boring, repetitive, and at times, idiotic. Sparkling, rhythmic dialogue is difficult to write, and requires a great deal of training, experience, and talent. Many novelists just don't have the ear for it.

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Why Novelists Write

Writing fiction is a form of escape from the mundane realities of life. The same is true for those who read fiction.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Being Armed With A Stun-Gun

If I were a cop, I couldn't be trusted with a stun-gun. I'd zap every jerk I encountered. Give me lip? Zap. Give me the finger? Zap. Walk away when I'm questioning you? Zap. I'd be a real Thomas Edison out there.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Thornton P. Knowles On Why Johnny Can't Write

Johnny can't write because Johnny can't think. Half of his brain has been sucked out of his head into his television set.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, December 22, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Ben Hecht

While 1940s and 50s screenwriter Ben Hecht is largely forgotten, few writers today can hold a candle to his gift for expressing himself in such a colorful and memorable way. For example, in describing the writer in Hollywood, he wrote: "I knew her name--Madam Hollywood. I rose and said good-bye to this strumpet in her bespangled red gown; good-bye to her lavender-painted cheeks, her coarsened laugh, her straw-dyed hair, her wrinkled fingers bulging with gems. A wench with flaccid tits and sandpaper skin under her silks, shined up and whistling like a whore in a park; covered with the stink like a railroad station pissery and swinging a dead ass in the moonlight." In today's stifling culture of political correctness, even writers born with Ben Hecht's gift aren't allowed to write like this.

Thornton P. Knowles


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Death As The Writer's Nightmare

You wait all your life to die. And when you do, you can't write about it. This is the writer's nightmare.

Thornton P. Knowles

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Children Die From Abuse and Neglect as Child Protection Services Look On

     According to the Associated Press, at least 786 children died of abuse and neglect in the U.S. in a six-year span in plain view of child protection authorities. Many of them were beaten, starved or left alone to drown while these agencies had good reason to know these children were in danger…

     To determine that number, the AP canvassed the 50 states, the District of Columbia and branches of the military…Many states struggled to provide numbers. Secrecy often prevailed. Most of the 786 children whose cases were compiled by the AP were under the age of 4. They lost their lives even as authorities were investigating their families or providing some form of protective services because of previous instances of neglect or violence or other troubles in the home…

     Many factors contribute to the child abuse problem nationwide: The child protective services system is plagued with worker shortages and a serious overload of cases. Budgets are tight, and nearly 40 percent of the 3 million child abuse and neglect complaints made annually to child protection services hotlines are "screened out" and never investigated. [This sounds a lot like our VA Hospital situation.]

     Also, insufficient training for those who answer child abuse hotlines leads to reports being misclassified, sometimes with deadly consequences; a lack of a comprehensive national child welfare database allows some abusers to avoid detection by moving to different states; and a policy that promotes keeping families intact can play a major role in the number of deaths.

     Because no single, complete set of data exists for the deaths of children who already were being overseen by child welfare caseworkers, the information compiled over the course of the AP's eight-month investigation represents the most comprehensive statistics publicly available….

"AP Impact: Abused Kids Die as Officials Fail to Protect," Associated Press, December 30, 2014
    

Thornton P. Knowles On Judging a Book By Its Author

A chain-smoking reporter once asked me if I could enjoy a book written by a bigot. I asked the reporter if he could enjoy a cigarette made by a company that knew it was killing people.

Thornton P. Knowles

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Living Before Writing

It's against the law to drive a car before you're sixteen. There is a reason for that, so how about this: You should not publish a novel until you're thirty-five. Although this rule won't save lives, it would improve the quality of book-length fiction. One of my favorite crime novelists, Ross H. Spencer, a blue collar guy who, like me, was born in Nitro, West Virginia, didn't start writing until he was 58. That's why his books are so full of life and so funny. He lived before he wrote.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

More Fun and Games in Whackademia

The Phantom Professor

     Venetia Orcutt, an assistant professor in George Washington University's department of Physician Assistant Studies, went AWOL from class in two of her courses. She just didn't show up. Students who signed up for these teacherless courses, however, all received As. This went on for two semesters. After someone finally came forward, the dean of the medical school fired Orcutt and announced that the students who had not attended her classes would still get credit for the teacherless courses.

     In college, grades are a form of currency. Being a professor is a lot like being able to print money. Like money, grades can be used by academic slackers to buy the silence of  students in a conspiracy of fruad against parents, taxpayers, and alumni contributors. Professor Orcutt, had she not reached for the moon, might have gotten away with her scam indefinately. I'm sure many professors have.

Students or Guinea Pigs?

     Oklahoma University placed assistant professor Chad Kerksick on leave of absence following accusations from his Health and Exercise Students that, as a part of his research, he injected them with substances that caused pain and bruising. The university removed Kerksick from his duties. After the professor challenged the school's right to remove his tenure-track position, the university agreed to pay Kerksick $75,000 and give him one year of unpaid leave during which time he could look for a teaching position elsewhere.

     The above story made me think of my own career as a criminal justice professor, I who worked at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania for thirty years, and actually showed up for class and didn't taser my students for a paper on nonlethal force. I now realize I was working at the wrong university. I should have been in Oklahoma.

Publish or Perish

     Emory University Professor Mark Bauerlein, in a recent paper, argues that professors who teach English Literature spend far too much time writing books, essays, reviews, and dissertations, stuff that nobody reads. According to the Modern Language Association, the number of these scholarly works published every year in the fields of English and foreign languages and literature has climbed from 13,757 in 1959 to 70,000 a  year. This glut of dense, arcane babble is not only killing innocent trees, it's keeping the writers of this unreadable stuff from teaching classes and interacting with students. Unless academic administrators eliminate publication as a prerequisite of academic advancement and tenure, trees will continue to fall and students will be taught by graduate assistants. (And English departments will continue to be called "Anguish" departments.)

No Snacks, No Class

     At California State University at Sacramento, students in professor George Parrott's Psychology 101 lab class, were required to bring homemade snacks each week to the laboratory. If the professor didn't get his snacks, a policy he established in the early 1970s, he canceled the class. Over the years, the professor's students went along with the joke without complaint. But a few weeks ago, when students in the professor's morning section of Foundations of Behavorial Research failed to bring muffins, professor Parrott walked out of the lab.

     Members of the Psychology Department ruled that professor Parrott's decision to walk out of class because his students had violated his homemade snack rule, was unacceptable. So, the dean told professor Parrott, who is retiring at the end of the year, to teach without snacks. (It's hard to image all of this was news to Parrott's teaching colleagues.) Since I didn't major in psychology, I am not equipped to figure out what in the hell was going on with this teacher, or his department.      

Thornton P. Knowles On Meeting a Non-Writer

When someone I meet learns that I'm a published writer, I often get one of two responses: "I have a terrific idea for a novel, we can split the royalty 50-50." Or: "You ought to write a book about my uncle, he's a card!"

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, December 11, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Do-Gooders In Crime Novels

In the crime novel, the do-gooder rarely makes it past page 50. In my novels, there are no do-gooders. They don't even make it into the book.

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Wrong-Way Driver

     Two separate wrong-way wrecks killed 11 people on Sunday morning, February 9, 2014 in Florida and California….Five people died in a crash on Interstate 275 in Tampa when a Ford Expedition, traveling south in the northbound lanes, collided head-on with a Hyundai….The Expedition caught fire, and the driver was killed. The other four people killed, all men between the ages 20 and 21, were occupants in the Hyundai….

     In Pomona, California, a wrong-way driver crashed into two other vehicles on State Route 60, known locally as 60 Freeway, leaving six dead…The first driver was arrested on suspicion of DUI and manslaughter….The driver was hospitalized in critical condition….Four other people at the scene and two others died at the hospital.

Ralph Ellis, "11 Killed in Wrong-Way Wrecks in Florida, California," CNN, February 9, 2014

Thornton P. Knowles On "The Catcher In The Rye"

Over the years I've read J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in The Rye several times. I must say that the greatness of this 1951 classic escapes me. In my opinion, the book is nothing more than a coming of age novel narrated by a dimwit.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Rounding up Pedophiles in the United Kingdom

     Police in the United Kingdom arrested 660 alleged pedophiles following a six-month investigation. The suspects included doctors, teachers, scout leaders, care workers, and former police officers. On July 16, 2014, the United Kingdom's Crime Agency reported that the operation occurred across the UK and included 45 police forces…

     The operation, kept secret until the arrests, involved targeting those accessing online images of pedophilia. Thirty-nine of those arrested were registered sex offenders. The rest of the suspects had been unknown to the police. The charges ranged from possessing indecent images of children to serious sexual abuse…

     These arrests followed a series of pedophilia scandals that have dogged the UK. In July 2014, the authorities revealed that in the 1980s, politicians in the UK routinely abused vulnerable children….

Mirren Gidda, "UK Police Arrest 660 Suspected Pedophiles," time.com, July 17, 2014

     

Thornton P. Knowles On Ignorance As Bliss

My mother, bless her soul, had a high regard for authority. She believed, for example, that all physicians were highly competent and well meaning. Men of the cloth were as pure as the driven snow. Local politicians had her best interests in mind, and the president of the United States would never lie to the American people. And, if she read something in the newspaper, it had to be true. It must have been nice.

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Novels Are More Challenging to Write Than Short Stories

Short stories are wonderful and extremely challenging, and the joy of them--because it only takes me three or four months to write--is that I can take more risks with them. It's just less of your life invested. That's great. But the challenge of a novel is so rewarding--there's so much more you can cram into them. Maybe the metaphor is: With a short story, you're building a table, you have four legs, you're trying to make it as beautiful and as functional as you can. With a novel, you're building not just a table but a whole house--you're building all the furniture inside it. It's more challenging, and then when you finish, it's more rewarding. I do think it's a richer experience.

Carole Burns, Off The Page, 2008 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On a Compliment From Another Writer

The West Virginia poet, Fannie Pingpong, once called me a "mildly talented nutcase." That was the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me. I liked the "mildly talented" part.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On The Politician

The mere act of talking voters into putting you into a position of privilege and power that enables you to take money from them is inherently an act of deceit and corruption. No wonder we hate the politician.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Cases For Home Schooling

     I hated gradeschool because my parents moved a lot, I was ugly (buck-toothed), and stupid. My career as a public school student hit bottom when I flunked seventh grade in Wellsburg, West Virginia. (My mother saved all of my report cards, even the two I produced in seventh grade.) As bad as my elementary school memories are, I have to admit that my teachers--all women--were okay. Moreover, I was never bullied, sexually molested, taught by a drug-addled instructor, taken into police custody for classroom misbehavior, or told by my second grade teacher that the Santa Claus bit is a load of crap. Compared to the elementary school experience today, I had it pretty good. (Apparently, the hell of elementary education is universal. According to the late Christopher Hitchens: "...no self-respecting Brit can write about his early education without at least some reference to sadism and misery...")

The In-House Pedophile

     No one knows how many child molesters are in elementary education, or what percentage of elementary school teachers are pedophiles. Based on the anecdotal evidence consisting of news reports featuring teachers charged with sexual molestation, and/or possession of child pornography, there is reason for concern.

     In Tucson, Arizona, a judge sentenced elementary teacher Joseph Chanecka, 44, to seven years in prison and lifetime probation after the defendant pleaded guilty to possessing 300,000 child pornographic images on his computer. The judge could have sentenced Chanecka to 25 years behind bars but gave him a break because he had already lost his home, fiancee, and their newborn son. Chanecka said he was "extremely sorry" for his "foolish behavior." (I wouldn't call possessing 300,000 pornographic images "foolish" behavior. I would call it "pathologically criminal" behavior.) A shrink who examined Chenecka  assured the judge there was little chance the defendant would re-offend.

     In Toms River, New Jersey, detectives arrested a 38-year-old elementary computer science teacher charged with one count of endangering the welfare of a child, and one count of second degree sexual assault. On the same day, in Orlando, Florida, a 50-year-old elementary teacher was arrested for child molestation. This teacher was already in custody for downloading images of child pornography. He had been behaving "foolishly" this way for more than a decade. (My recommendation for this guy--call in the shrink from Tucson.)

     In Shawnee, Oklahoma, police arrested a former "Teacher of the Year" for taking photographs of some of her third grade students dancing around in bras and panties. (Bras?) The kids were attending a pizza party at the teacher's home.

Cracking Down on Fourth Grade Sex Offenders

     In Philadelphia, members of a police special victims unit arrested three boys--ages ten and eleven--on charges of attempted rape, deviant sexual intercourse, and unlawful restraint in connection with an incident that allegedly took place in an elementary school restroom. The complainant was an 8-year-old boy the defendants had allegedly bullied. After this incident, students in the West Philadelphia school had to go the the restroom in pairs. According to common law, children under the age of seven are incapable of forming criminal intent, and therefore cannot be held culpable of crimes requiring this element. Between the ages seven and fourteen, children, under common law, were presumed incapable of criminal intent.

High on Teaching or Teaching High

     A tenured fourth grade teacher at the Wilson Elementary School in Granite City, Illinois was charged with possessing heroin and drug paraphernalia. She posted her $15,000 bond and was released.

     In Boone County West Virginia, a kindergarten teacher, after being pulled over for running a stop sign, consented to a search of her car which led to a charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. The teacher admitted to consuming hydrocodone while on her lunch break.

The Criminalization of Brown Nosing

     In Alabama, it's a violation of the state's ethics law for a legislator to accept a gift from a citizen. The law has recently been expanded to include public school teachers and their students. According to the director of  the Alabama Ethics Commission, "Something of relatively insignificant value--a candle, a coffee mug--is fine. It just can't be a $50 gift to Cosco or Target." Education spokesperson Kathy Kilgor told reporters that elementary school teachers do not like this new rule. "That was a little bit, I think, hurtful, condescending, to think we couldn't accept something from a caring student. That's kind of important to them. Not only is it hurtful to us, it's hurtful to the child."

     You bet. This stupid rule will deny Alabama students the opportunity to practice a skill absolutely necessary to get ahead in their future careers--sucking up and bribery. This is so hurtful.

There's No Santa?! Big Deal

     A second grade teacher in Nanuet, New York broke the news to her students that the Santa thing was a crock. I assume this educator believed it's never to early to lay life's truths on her naive students. You know, prepare them for the "real world." But why did she stop with the Santa myth? Why didn't she tell them that in a few years at least half of them will be obese, on drugs, under-employed and divorced? And that all of them were going to die? Hell, after that, none of them would give a crap about Santa and his reindeer that can't fly.        

Thornton P. Knowles On Why It's Easer to Write Nonfiction

Fiction has to be creative and original but still make sense and be believable. Otherwise, readers will reject it as unrealistic. Nonfiction, on the other hand, just has to be true.

Thornton P. Knowles

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Literary Agents

Because there are almost as many writers in the U.S. as there are readers, publishing houses are overwhelmed with manuscripts. To help screen out the junk, the major publishers only accept manuscripts submitted through a literary agent. For the unpublished writer, it's as hard to secure a literary agent as it once was to find a publisher. The catch-22 is this: To get published one needs a legitimate literary agent. To get a good literary agent, one needs to be published.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Writers' Fear Of Death

Creative writers, more than normal people, are terrified of death. For example, Woody Allen had this to say about the grim reaper: "I don't want to achieve immortality through my writing. I want to achieve it by not dying."

Thornton P. Knowles

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On How Many Words a Picture is Worth

So, a picture is supposedly worth a thousand words? Give me a break. In reality, a word is worth a thousand pictures. Only a so-called "literary" novelist could do a thousand words on a picture, say, of a cow. Most pictures don't rate more than a title like, "Brown and White Cow."

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Ernest Hemingway

Psychology students, in Assholeology 101, study Ernest Hemingway.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Bank Account is Alive, But The Account-Holder Isn't

     Seven hours before Caryl Vanzo was reported dead at the age of 91, she went to the bank with her son and withdrew $850. Now authorities believe Vanzo, wheeled into the Wells Fargo bank in Plymouth, Minnesota, was dead…

     David Vanzo, her son, called 911 on January 5, 2015 to report his mother's death. But an investigation is underway to determine when Caryl Vanzo died and if her son had anything to do with it…

     Officers who responded to the Vanzo home reported that the stench of urine and feces was overwhelming. They found the dead woman wrapped in a robe and a fur coat…

     Neighbors said they saw the mother and her son get into a taxi to go to the bank. She looked either dead or unconscious. Witnesses at the bank said her feet kept dragging under her wheelchair. ..The cab driver said he believed she was alive when they got into the taxi, but may have died on the way to the bank.

     Police took David Vanzo into custody on the charge of neglect. He has been investigated several times in the past for exploiting his mother financially…Bank records show that David Vanzo took out a $118,000 reverse mortgage and cash withdrawals of $47,000 and $25,000…He denied any wrongdoing. "My mom and I had an agreement. I took care of my mom for years, I'm the good guy here, not the bad guy. My mother wouldn't eat in the end."

"David Vanzo Possibly Made Bank Withdrawals With Dead Mom," huffingtonpost.com, January 22, 2015 

Monday, November 20, 2017

An Armored Car Heist

     Armored car driver Trent Michael Smith, 24, charged with stealing more than $200,000 from the vehicle, was arrested on Monday December 22, 2014 in Colorado Springs, Colorado….He has been charged with first-degree felony theft…

     Shortly before eight in the morning on Monday December 22, 2014, police in Amarillo, Texas responded to a report that a Rochester Armored Car Company vehicle had been found unoccupied and still running on Northeast 22nd Avenue. Both the driver and the contents of the armored vehicle were missing…

     On Monday night, officers arrested Cook's father, Brian Keith Hodge, 43, on a charge of tampering with evidence connected to the theft. The next day, investigators recovered a white 1995 Ford van they believed had been used in the heist…

     Cook was supposed to meet another Rochester Armored Car Company employee at eight on the morning of December 22 to replenish ATMs with cash. An hour later the empty armored vehicle was discovered several miles from Cook's assigned location…

     Cook, with the help of his father, rented a storage unit where they concealed the Ford van. Investigators believed the van was used to haul the stolen cash. The money was recovered at the time of Cook's arrest….

     [In August 2015, a federal judge sentenced Trent Michael Smith to 78 months in prison. Smith's father received a sentence of 63 months behind bars.]

"Armored Car Driver Arrested in Colorado," amarillo.com, December 24, 2014 

Thornton P. Knowles On His Last Words

Unless I'm run over from behind by a semi, my last words, appropriate for a writer, will be: "The End."

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Criminalizing Certain Drugs, Regulating Alcohol and Tobacco

     In trying to confront crime and health problems caused by alcohol, tobacco and drugs, American legislatures over time have enacted various laws ranging from criminalization to regulation to revenue-raising. The governmental efforts to eliminate or at least control these quests for pleasure engender intense reactions of approval and disapproval, ideology and rhetoric, culture and religion, and in some cases, racial and ethnic effects.

     But for the past seventy years, the basic response structure has endured intact. Using alcohol and tobacco for pleasure is legal; using drugs for pleasure is illegal. To justify this radical contrast, government asserts a need to control crime and public health problems by criminalizing drug sale and use, with no need to control such problems through a criminal ban on the adult sale and use of tobacco. But when the government punishes Americans for engaging in conduct they want or feel a need to pursue, it needs to have a compelling reason or such action will eventually falter. The political failure of alcohol prohibition, for example, led to its repeal in 1933. [Since the above was written, several states have adopted medical marijuana. Two states have legalized it altogether.]

Henry Ruth and Kevin R. Reitz, The Challenge of Crime, 2003

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Science in Science Fiction

There's a great deal of evidence that the laws of nature are the same throughout the universe. This fact enables us to make reasonable guesses about what sorts of things might exist in other parts of it. We would not expect, for example, to find civilizations growing in atmospheres consisting principally of hydrogen and oxygen. The laws of chemistry make such an atmosphere too unstable to exist, on Earth or anywhere else. Nor would we expect to find real counterparts of that hoary old cliche of monster movies, giant spiders exactly like Earthly tarantulas but a hundred times larger. A really determined science fiction writer could concoct plausible aliens that superficially looked somewhat like big spiders, but inside, they would have to be very different.

Stanley Schmidt, Aliens and Alien Societies, 1995 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Authorship

There should be no such thing as a ghost writer or an as-told-to author. If you didn't write the book, you should not be allowed to claim its authorship. Literature's great benefit from this rule would be the elimination of the so-called "celebrity memoir" genre.

Thornton P. Knowles

Intramural Sex at a Texas High School

     Saralyn Gayle Portwood was arrested on April 17, 2014 for suspicion of having an inappropriate relationship with a student. She's been suspended from Princeton High School [Texas] pending the outcome of the investigation.

     In an interview with authorities, the teacher's 17-year-old alleged victim, who is not enrolled in Portwood's special education classes, said that the 30-year-old teacher began harassing him at school earlier this year. She would compliment his appearance and inappropriately brush against him and touch him, he said. The student claimed that he told Portwood several times that he wasn't interested in a relationship with her, but she persisted, and he did not know how or who to tell….

     One day, the student said, he was called into Portwood's office. Once he was there, she pushed him against a desk, pulled down his shorts and performed oral sex….

     Portwood is married to another teacher in the Princeton School District, and they have a son. School district officials said the allegations surfaced after teachers overheard some disturbing rumors…."It was just rumors by some kids talking, and some teachers overheard. So, when we found out that there truly was an allegation, we immediately called our local law enforcement," Superintendent Philip Anthony said.

     If convicted, Portwood could face up to 20 years in prison.

Andres Jaurequi, "Special Ed Teacher Accused of Forcibly Performing Oral Sex on Student," The Huffington Post, April 22, 2014 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Get A Babysitter!

     Two children in Washington, D.C. under the age of two were left in an unattended car while their parents went to a wine tasting event in a restaurant on New Year's Eve 2014. Police identified the parents as Christopher Lucas, 41 and 45-year-old Jennie Chang…

    The children, a 22-month-old boy and a two-year-old girl were restrained in child seats inside the car which was locked. The children were left alone for about an hour. When the parents returned to the car police arrested them on the charge of second-degree cruelty to children…The youngsters were examined by paramedics then taken into custody by Child Protective Services personnel.

"Parents Left Kids In Car To Attend Wine Tasting," WUSA-TV, February 3, 2015 

Woody Allen On Writer Immortality

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.

Woody Allen

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Drugs For Writer's Block

They now have a drug (Prozac) for writer's block. Hell, they should invent a drug that kills the creative writing desire. You know, get to the root cause of all this misery. Short of that, there's always the Ernest Hemingway solution.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Turning the Interrogation Room Into a Gas Chamber

     A police interrogation of a Kansas City man charged with drug and gun offenses ended prematurely when the interrogator was driven from the room by the suspect's excessive flatulence.

     A detective reported that when asked for his address, 24-year-old Sean Sykes Jr leaned to the side of his chair and released a loud fart before answering...Sykes continued to be flatulent and the detective was forced to quickly end the interview.

Associated Press, November 13, 2017 

Humor and Pathos in Nonfiction

     Any well-written nonfiction story can and should engage the emotions. In even the most serious of topics, there is usually room for a touch of humor, and the contrast helps heighten the story's impact. Pathos, too, can emerge in the unlikeliest settings, and can be all the more effective for being unexpected. This doesn't mean that material has to be thigh-slapping hilarious, or tear-jerking sorrowful. Most often, humor and pathos are subtle, growing naturally out of the events being described.

James B. Stewart, Follow the Story, 1998 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Baby Drug Snitch

     Deputy Sheriffs in Daytona Beach, Florida stopped a car on Sunday February 1, 2015 for traffic violations…A K-9 unit arrived to check the car for drugs and deputies asked the occupants to step outside. One of the occupants had an 11-month-old baby in her arms.

     When a deputy handed the driver's license back to Candyce Harden, the baby in her arms reached inside her shirt and pulled out a baggie full of cocaine…The officers found three more bags of cocaine and a quantity of pills without a prescription.

     Harden faces several charges including child abuse and possession of drugs.

"Baby Pulls Cocaine From Woman's Shirt During Traffic Stop," Associated Press, February 3, 2015 

One Stupid Mother

     Police in Lincoln County, Missouri say a 6-year-old boy was subjected to a violent kidnapping arranged by family members who worried he was "too nice" and wanted to scare him to teach him to be warier of strangers.

     According to the account from the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, the boy's aunt arranged for a male co-worker to do the kidnapping with the consent of the boy's mother and grandmother. He then lured the boy into his truck, told him he would never "see his mommy again," and showed him a handgun. The man bound the boy's hands and feet, blindfolded him, and took him to the family's basement. After more trauma, the boy was taken upstairs for a lecture on stranger danger.

     All four adults involved in the scheme were charged with a range of offenses including felony kidnapping and child abuse.

"Staged Kidnapping of Boy: Why Parents Should Avoid Using Fear," csmonitor.com, February 2, 2015 

Write a Nonfiction Book People Will Want To Read

I'll bet you think that if you write a nonfiction book that is interesting, fact filled, and with touches of great writing, a publisher is sure to buy it. Wrong. You have forgotten the first basic rule. Find out who wants it.

Oscar Collier, How to Write and Sell Your First Novel, 1990 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

TV Star Confessed to Sex Crimes

     "7th Heaven" TV star Stephen Collins has admitted to inappropriate sexual contact with three female minors…The actor released a statement amid child molestation accusations that arose in his divorce proceedings.

     Collins was the subject of reports in October 2014 after his wife, Faye Grant, said he admitted to her he molested three underage girls. TMZ posted an audio recording that was alleged to have been made during a November 2012 therapy session involving Collins and his wife during which he made incriminating statements…

     The incidents reportedly happened between 1973 and 1994.

     "Forty years ago, I did something terribly wrong that I deeply regret…I have been working to atone for it ever since. I've decided to address these issues publicly because two months ago, various news organizations published a recording made by my then wife, Faye Grant, during a confidential marriage therapy session in January 2012. This session was recorded without the therapist's or my knowledge or consent," Collins wrote.

     Collins, 67, was known for his clean-cut image in Hollywood and played a pastor and beloved father on the hit show "7th Heaven," He's avoided the limelight since the accusations were made public….

" '7th Heaven' Actor Stephen Collins: 'I Did Something Terribly Wrong,' " CNN, December 17, 2014 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Missing In America: A Nation of Missing and Lost Persons

     On May 29, 1971, Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson, high school juniors from Vermillion, South Dakota, were in a 1960 Studebaker Lark en route to a party held at a gravel pit near Elk Point, a town near the Iowa border thirty miles east of their hometown. Along the way, the girls asked a car full of boys for directions to the party site. According to the boys, while leading the girls to the gravel pit, they looked in their rearview mirror and didn't see the Studebaker.

     The Vermillion High School Students did not arrive at the party, and did not return home. The Studebaker went missing as well. (The youths who gave Miller and Jackson directions were never suspects in their disappearance.) The missing persons investigation led nowhere, and died on the vine. Decades after they went missing, no one had a clue regarding what had happened to the Vermillion students. It seemed they had just vanished off the face of the earth.

     Early in 2007, Aloysius Black Crow, a South Dakota prison inmate, told the authorities that he had secretly audio-taped a fellow prisoner who had confessed to him that he had raped and murdered the Vermillion girls. David Lykken, the 54-year-old man Aloysius Black Crow said he'd taped, was a convicted rapist and kidnapper who was serving a 227-year prison sentence. In 2004, the police had found human bones, articles of female clothing, and a purse on Lykken's farm. (In 1971, Lykken would have been 18-years-old.)

     A Union County Grand Jury, based upon the jailhouse snitch's audio-tape, indicted Lykken on two counts of murder, kidnapping, and rape. As it turned out, the confession Aloysius Black Crow had taped was a fake. The charges against Lykken were dropped, and in 2008, the jailhouse informant pleaded guilty to perjury.

     On Tuesday, September 24, 2013, a fisherman on Brule Creek near Elk Point, spotted the wheels of a car sitting on its roof in the drought-shallowed creek. Several hours later, the authorities pulled a 1960 Studebaker Lark out of the water and mud. Inside the rusted vehicle, police officers discovered what appeared to be the skeletons of two people, remains presumed to be those of Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson.

     On April 15, 2014, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley told reporters that forensic scientists have confirmed the identities of the remains as being Miller and Jackson. Investigators and forensic experts determined that the vehicle's ignition and headlights had been on when the car went into the water. The car was also in the third gear. Given the absence of gunshot or knife wounds, and no signs of alcohol consumption, the deaths went into the books as accidental.

     As a missing persons case, the 42-year-old mystery was solved. While the case was officially closed, family members would never know the exact circumstances of the crash, or how quickly the girls had died.

     If the lakes, rivers, creeks, and ponds in the United States suddenly went dry, there wouldn't be enough forensic scientists to analyze all of the remains. America's waterways are grave sites for thousands of missing persons, people whose stories will never be told.

       

Is Publishing A Novel Like Winning a Trophy?

What do we imagine our published novel will bring us? In part it is a trophy we want. Not entirely, of course, for we want all the pleasures of writing and we want the pleasure of knowing that someone else may read our words and savor a story that once existed only in our heads--and yet in part there is a yearning for a trophy. But a trophy of what?

Bonnie Friedman, Writing Past Dark, 1994 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Using Exaggeration in Writing Humor

Be careful with exaggeration, one of the main tools of humor writing. Exaggeration, generally speaking, should be outside the realm of possibility, but somehow within the realm of visual imagination.

Patrick McManus, The Deer on a Bicycle, 2000

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Canada: Where Rational Tort Law Goes to Die

     Before the August 2008 car accident, Alissa Afonia's teacher described her as a very bright student, in the top two percent of her media-arts high school class who dreamt of being a filmmaker or actress. After the accident she became a different girl and ended up working as a dominatrix. She showed no impulse control, could not carry through on tasks, became isolated and began to have outbursts and make inappropriate sexual comments...

     Justice Joel Grove of the British Columbia Supreme Court, after presiding over Afonia's 2014 personal injury lawsuit, awarded the plaintiff $1.5 million in damages. In so doing, the judge noted that the pre-accident Afonia was "in some ways a typical girl, in some ways an atypical girl, someone who described herself as a 'goth girl' with "artiste presentation. But all that changed in the wake of the motor vehicle accident."

     Afonia, who was about to enter 12th grade, was a passenger in a vehicle driven by her mother's boyfriend. Her mother and brother were also in the car. The driver's Toyota ended up in a ditch. The judge concluded the civil suit defendant was driving too fast under the conditions and was therefore negligent.

     Lawyers for the plaintiff argued that her decision to begin working as a dominatrix showed a lack of "correct thinking" and was proof she'd taken an unnecessary risk due to a loss of cognitive function from a moderate traumatic brain injury…According to her lawyer, without the injury, she'd have been capable of earning a two-year college or university degree.

     The judge's damages included $825,000 for "future capacity loss," $376.000 for cost of future care, $300,000 for pain and suffering and $23,000 for special damages…Afonia's mother suffered a mild traumatic brain injury as well and was awarded more than $943,000 in damages….

"Student-Turned-Dominatrix Awarded $1.5 Million After Car Accident," nationalpost.com, January 29, 2015

Thornton P. Knowles on Truman Capote

Truman Capote is a strange little man who writes well for a boozed-up, drug-addled manic-depressive. There is no doubt that some of our most creative writers are oddballs gifted with an abundance of talent. Some writers pay a high price for that gift.

Thornton P. Knowles, The Psychology of Writing, 1976 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles on the Dried-Up Novelist

Eventually, all novelists run out of ink. The well and spirit go dry. For the dedicated writer, it's a form of non-fatal death.

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, November 6, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles on Supermarket Literature

For the well-constructed, to-the-point sentence, go to the supermarket and read boxes, cans, and packages. Every word counts.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Cost of Catching a Cop Killer

     The manhunt for alleged cop killer Eric Frein cost more than $11 million according to the Pennsylvania State Police. Overtime costs for the state police accounted for the majority of this total, with $6.9 million being paid out to officers who worked extra hours throughout the 48-day manhunt.

     The $11,046,653 total only accounted for the costs for the Pennsylvania State Police and not the supporting agencies like the FBI and the U.S. Marshals who were the officers who ended up finding Frein October 30, 2014 in an abandoned airport hanger in the Poconos.

     In addition to overtime wages, nearly $3 million was spent on benefits and more than $657,000 in standard salaries. Travel costs amounted to more than $66,000 and nearly $200,000 for inventory and operational expenses.

     The manhunt for Frein began after he allegedly ambushed two state troopers on September 12, 2014, killing one and wounding the other. Frein, a war re-enactor, excellent shot and self-taught survivalist, eluded the massive police dragnet for nearly 7 weeks. He has been charged with murder and possession of weapons of mass destruction (two bombs). He has also been charged with terrorism. He has not entered a plea and is being held without bail. [Taxpayers will still have to pay for this killer's prosecution, defense and lifetime incarceration.]

"Eric Frein Manhunt Cost More Than $11 Million," ABC News, November 14, 2014 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Should Bank Guards Be Armed?

Bank crimes data from the FBI show that when bank guards are armed with guns, bank robberies are three times as likely to become violent. [It would be better not to have bank guards at all then have guards that are unarmed. Unarmed guards would be pointless and unnecessarily dangerous for the officer.]

" Armed Guards and Bank Robbery," Center For Investigative Reporting, December 2014 

Catherine Drinker Bowen on Writing a Biography

In the writing of a biography, it is expedient to approach one's subject from the periphery, from the outside in--to study first the times, then move to the localities and persons of the immediate story.

Catherine Drinker Bowen, Adventures of a Biographer, 1959 

Barbara Pym: The Depressed Novelist

I get moments of gloom and pessimism when it seems as nobody could ever like my kind of writing again [social-comedy novels]. I get depressed about my writing, and feel that however good it was it still wouldn't be acceptable to any publisher.

Barbara Pym in Lot to Ask by Hazel Holt, 1991 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

John Jakes On Being A Novelist

There are much easier, more pleasant ways to pass the time than writing, though few so rewarding intellectually and spiritually. But it's no sin to be honest and admit it if you'd rather garden, fish, or socialize with friends than go it alone as a novelist, with no guarantee of success. If you aren't sure you're up to all that writing demands of a person, go no further.

John Jakes in Writer's Handbook, edited by Sylvia K. Burack, 1988 

Mobster Turned Government Witness Got Off Light

     The ex-husband of TV series' "Mob Wives" star Renee Graziano was sentenced to just 11 years in prison on September 24, 2014 for his role in the murder of a Brooklyn man…Mobster Hank Pagan, who could have been sentenced to life behind bars, caught a break on the murder case because he had been a "significant government cooperator."…

     Along with Bonanno crime family associates Luigi Grasso and Richard Riccardi, Pagan ambushed and shot to death James Donovan at his Brooklyn check cashing business in July 2010.

     At Pagan's sentencing hearing, the slain man's daughter pleaded with Judge John Gleeson to give Pagan a lengthy sentence…After the judge handed down the lenient punishment, the victim's daughter blasted the criminal justice system for giving mobsters light sentences in return for their prosecution testimony. Judge Gleeson responded by saying that such deals, while not pretty, were a necessary part of the system….

"'Mob Wives' Star's Ex Gets 11 years for Murder. The New York Post, September 24, 2014 

Reporting the News is Exciting, Writing a Novel is Not

The one drawback to writing a novel is the being alone. In people's imagination, that's the difference between a novelist and a journalist. The journalist, the newspaper reporter, is always rushing, hunting, meeting people, digging up facts. Cooking a story. The journalist writes surrounded by people, and always on deadline, crowded and hurried. It's exciting and fun. The journalist researches a story. The novelist imagines it.

Chuck Palahnuik, Stranger Than Fiction, 2004 

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Short Story As Practice For The Novel

A young fiction writer should try everything, but some literary forms will come more naturally to him than others. Short stories are more within his scope than longer forms, and he will learn most by making many beginnings and endings--the hardest parts of any piece of writing.

Wallace Stegner, On Teaching and Writing Fiction, 2002 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Caleb Gordley Justified Homicide Case

     Caleb A. Gordley, a 16-year-old junior at Parkview High School, lived with his father and his 13-year-old sister in Sterling, Virginia, a suburban community on the Maryland state line in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. Caleb played on the varsity basketball team and aspired to be a rapper. His mother, Jennea, divorced from his father Shawn, resided in nearby Clayton.

     Just before midnight on Saturday, March 16, 2013, after being grounded for several days, Caleb sneaked out of his bedroom and walked down the street to a party at a friend's house. For the next two hours he joined the others in drinking shots of vodka.

     Caleb left the party at two in the morning and headed home. The boy was so intoxicated he climbed through an unlocked window at the rear of a house two doors from his house. When Caleb entered his neighbor's dwelling he triggered a motion detection intrusion sensor that awoke the homeowner, Donald Wilder. The 43-year-old lived in the suburban house, one that looked like the Gordley home, with his girlfriend.

     The burglar alarm activation caused Mr. Wilder to grab the 40-caliber pistol he kept near his bed. From the top of the stairs, Mr. Wilder saw, in the light produced by the intrusion alarm, the figure of a six-foot person standing in his kitchen. The homeowner yelled at the intruder to get out of his house. Caleb, thinking that he was being yelled at by his father, ignored the command and headed up the stairway.

     With an intruder walking up the steps toward him, Mr. Wilder fired a warning shot to turn the invader back. The shot, however, did not cause the home intruder to retreat. When Caleb brushed past the homeowner at the top of the stairs, Mr. Wilder fired a second shot. The bullet hit Caleb in the back. The boy turned around and said, "You just shot me." He turned back around, took a few steps, collapsed and died.

     The next morning, Shawn Gordley awoke to find that Caleb was not in the house. A little later he heard the news about a fatal shooting that had occurred in the neighborhood. The father did not connect the incident to his missing son. Later that day the bad news reached him.

     In speaking to a local television reporter on the Monday following his son's death, Mr. Gordley said, "I definitely don't blame him [Donald Wilder]. I know he was trying to protect his family. I forgive him." Jennea Gordley, about a week after her son's homicide, said, "It was not absolutely necessary for my son to lose his life." Rather than suggesting measures to keep alcohol out of the hands of teenagers, she called for better training for gun owners.

     On September 10, 2013, following an investigation by the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office, Commonwealth Attorney Jim Plowman announced his decision not to file criminal charges against Mr. Wilder. The prosecutor believed Mr Wilder had a reasonable fear for his life and the life of his girlfriend. Based on the doctrine of self defense, the case was deemed a justifiable homicide.

     Shortly before the Loundoun County prosecutor's announcement, Shawn and Jennea Gordley received copies of the sheriff's office investigative report. Caleb's parents, after reading the police report, questioned Mr. Wilder's judgment. Jennea Gordley, in speaking to a reporter with ABC News, said, "If you're really in fear of danger of your life and your family's life, why would you allow a person that appeared to be dazed walk right past you and then you shoot him in the back?"

     Shawn Gordley, having once forgiven Mr. Wilder, said, "He could have shot Caleb in the leg. Instead he lined himself up at the perfect angle to shoot a hollow point bullet through my son's lung and explode his chest and then a fourth shot at his head for good measure." [The two shots after the fatal bullet both missed.]

     Donald Wilder, in a written statement wrote: "As you can imagine, the incident was an unfortunate tragedy on every level."

     While Shawn and Jennea Gordley questioned the necessity for the fatal shooting, they did not call for the criminal prosecution of Mr. Wilder. On that issue, Jennea Gordley said, "Do I hate him [Mr. Wilder]? No. Do I want him put away? No. I don't think that's going to solve anything."  

Bad Journalism From a Newspaper in Kentucky

     On Thursday January 8, 2015, a newspaper in Kentucky retracted a front-page story after publishing a racist quote attributed to Hardin County Sheriff John Ward that turned out to be false. The quote, published in the Elizabethtown News-Enterprise read: "Those who go into the law enforcement profession typically do it because they have a desire to shoot minorities."

     Sheriff Ward said he did not come close to making such an outlandish statement…According to Sheriff Ward, he said in the interview that cops enter the profession "because they have a desire to serve the community."…

     How Ward came to be quoted so falsely was unclear, but the paper's editor, Ben Sheroan, retracted the article…He said that "disciplinary steps have been taken" [Like what?] and that "this error involved a failure to follow established production processes in our news department."…

"Kentucky Newspaper Retracts 'Major Error' In Police Story," The Daily Caller, January 8, 2015 

Drug Cops Found Nothing After Breaking Into A 90-Year-Old Woman's House

     A broken door. Smashed windows. Residue from a flash grenade on the carpet. That's the state in which cops in south Florida left a 90-year-old woman's house after raiding it for drugs. They didn't find any illegal activity, but won't admit they made a mistake.

     The woman said the raid happened on December 18, 2014. "I don't know how the cops got in here. The noise woke me up when something said boom! Like a bomb or something," she said. "Cops standing over here talking about where's the drugs? I said 'what? What drugs? Ain't no drugs in here.'

     Riviera Beach police said they got a search warrant based on evidence of criminal activity.

     After drug-sniffing dogs failed to find anything, the police left. When asked whether they got the wrong address, a police spokesperson said that just because the woman didn't know anything about drugs being sold out of her house "doesn't mean it didn't happen." The cops agreed to repair the damage to the woman's house.]

Robby Soave, "90-year-Old Woman's House Destroyed By Cops in Wrong-Door Raid," reason.com, February 18, 2015 

Frank McCourt on "Angela's Ashes"

In August of 1994 I started writing Angela's Ashes. I was sixty-four years old…I began by writing in the past tense about my parents meeting in New York and having me. Then, suddenly--it's on page nineteen of the book--I wrote a sentence in the present tense that says: "I'm in a playground on Classon Avenue in Brooklyn with my brother Malachy. He's two, I'm three. We're on the seesaw." I meant it just as a note to myself for the next day: how to continue. But the next day I continued where I had left off, in the present tense, in the voice of the child on the seesaw. It felt very comfortable, and I just kept going with it. The whole book is in the present tense, with a great lack of punctuation and with simple sentences and a simple vocabulary. It was kind of a mosaic: bits would come to me and I'd put them down. It wasn't a linear process, though in general the narrative follows the "Once upon a time" format right to the end.

Frank McCourt in Inventing the Truth, edited by William Zinsser, 1998 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles on Book Publishers' Fear of Truly Original Fiction


In the 1960s, my manuscript, Where There's Smoke, a crime novel featuring a 14-year-old male protagonist who set fires for the sexual thrill of it, was simply too original and disturbing for mainstream publication. Editors kept saying, "There must be a reason no novel has ever been published with this kind of protagonist." My answer was, "There is a reason, publishers like you are gutless followers." That response didn't help my cause. But it was true.

Thornton P. Knowles

Using Anecdotes in Fiction

Little nuggets of economy and compression, interpolated stories--anecdotes that one character tells another within the body of a narrative--change the pace of that narrative and illuminate a character who is revealed by the content of the story, by the manner of its telling, and finally by what the reader concludes about the purpose that the anecdote is intended to serve.

Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer, 2006 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

While Parents Drink, Baby Dies

     A 9-month-old baby in Prince William County, Virginia was pronounced dead after being left unattended in a crib for 16 hours…Avarice Alexander was in her crib from 8:30 PM October 15, 2014 to 12:30 PM the next day…

     Police took the 21-year-old parents, Adam and Jasmyne Alexander, into custody. They were charged on October 16, 2014 with child neglect. [Child neglect? What about criminal homicide?] Police allege the baby was left in her crib while the parents were drinking.

     A Gofundme.com page was created by the mother, claiming that her daughter had died of SIDS. [SIDS is a description of death, not a cause.] An aunt has since taken over the fundraising account, claiming the funds will be used so her niece can have a proper burial. The aunt says that the parents will have no access to any of the donations.

"Baby Left in Crib For 16 Hours Dies," Dayton Daily News, October 18, 2014 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Michigan Sniper Case

     In 2003, during a three-week period in and around Washington, D.C., snipers John Allen Muhammad and his 17-year-old accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, shot thirteen people, murdering ten of them. During this killing spree, the so-called Beltway Snipers randomly shot individuals who were going about their daily business in places they thought were safe. During the time these pot-shot artists were at large, the media paid little attention to the rash of routine shootings that were taking place in the District of Columba, a place much more dangerous than the sites of the sniper shootings.

     Because of the nature of the Beltway shootings, and the victimology, Muhammad and Malvo terrorized an entire region. And that's what snipers really are--terrorists. Although a person is far more likely to be shot by a spouse, it's the sniper that scares the hell out of us. These people instill fear far beyond the harm they actually inflict. This is what terrorism is all about.

     In mid-October 2012, a sniper began randomly shooting at motorists and pedestrians along a 75-mile stretch between Ann Arbor and Detroit in southern Michigan. While there were ten shot fired by the sniper in Wixom, Michigan, most of the bullets were flying across I-96. (Forensic firearms identification experts linked dozens of bullet fragments to a single rifle. This and the fact that snipers are usually lone wolves led the police to believe they were dealing with one subject.)

     At 11:50 in the morning on Saturday, October 27, 2012, an 18-year-old motorist from Canton, Michigan, driving eastbound on I-96 with his girlfriend, became the sniper's 26th target when a bullet passed through the backseat windows of the vehicle. No one was injured.

     Thirty minutes later, Scott Arnold, from Dalton, Michigan, driving eastbound on I-96 on his way to Detroit to attend game 3 of the World Series, became the Michigan sniper's first shooting victim. The 46-year-old, alone in the car, was shot in the buttocks as he approached the Fowlerville Road exit. The wounded driver made it to a service station where he was treated by members of an ambulance crew who took him to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital of Livingston. According to reports, the wounded motorist was extremely concerned that he would miss the Detroit Tigers-San Francisco Giants World Series game.

     In terms of the damage the bullet could have done, Mr. Arnold was lucky. The slug just missed an artery and major nerves. With the bullet still in him, doctors discharged Mr. Arnold from the hospital on Sunday, October 29. He had missed the game.

     The FBI and ATF offered an $11,000 reward for information leading to the sniper's arrest. (An odd amount.) Local police, based on witness information, were looking for a black Ford Mustang with blue-tinted headlights and a center racing stripe. Officers were also on the lookout for an older model Chevrolet Cavalier. The limited description of the sniper--a young white male--wasn't much help.

     On October 30, 2012, federal officials and CrimeStoppers of Michigan posted a $102,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the Michigan sniper. The police now believed the shooter was driving a 10 to 12-year-old dark-colored sedan in the shape of an old Toyota Camry or an Oldsmobile Alero.

     On November 7, 2012, police officers arrested 43-year-old Raulie Casteel at his home in Wixom, Michigan. A geologist, he was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and other crimes connected to the sniping incidents.

     Casteel, in March 2014, pleaded guilty to terrorism and numerous weapons charges. Livingston County Circuit Judge David Reede sentenced him to 18 to 40 years in prison. At a press conference following the sentencing, State Attorney General Bill Schuette said, "Raulie Casteel committed calculated acts of violence that terrorized our state, and today the victims of his shooting spree received justice."

     Defense attorney Douglas Mullkoff told reporters that the Michigan legislature did not intent the terrorism statute to fit someone like Casteel who was mentally ill. According to Mullkoff, "The public views my client as sad. Most people feel sorry for him."

     Had this case gone to trial, I don't think the jury would have shown much mercy to the defendant. That's probably why the defense attorney agreed to the plea bargain. There are a lot of mentally ill people living among us. How many of them turn into domestic snipers? 

Injecting Humor in Your Writing

Writing is such lonely work that I try to keep myself cheered up. If something strikes me as funny in the act of writing, I throw it in just to amuse myself. If I think it's funny I assume that a few other people will find it funny, and that seems to me to be a good day's work. It doesn't bother me that a certain number of readers will not be amused; I know that a fair chunk of the population has no sense of humor--no idea that there are people in the world trying to entertain them.

William Zinsser, On Writing Well, 1976 

Thornton P. Knowles On The Inspiration to Write

Novelists who insist they can't create without inspiration are pretenders and dilettantes. A plumber doesn't need inspiration to fix your toilet, and a real writer shouldn't need inspiration to tell you a story.

Thornton P. Knowles, The Psychology of Writing, 1976 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles on Being an Obscene Writer

A seventh grade teacher called a short story I wrote "obscene." I went home and bragged to my parents that I was an obscene writer! I didn't know what the word meant. Fortunately for me, they didn't either.

Thornton P. Knowles 

When a Professional Athlete Steals, It's a Mistake. For the Rest of Us, It's Criminal

     Saying it was "the biggest mistake I've ever made in my life," Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle apologized to teammates after getting arrested on shoplifting charges. [How about an apology to the store he ripped-off?]

     Randle, 22, a backup tailback in his second season with the Cowboys, was accused of attempting to steal $80 worth of cologne and underwear from a Dillards' Inc. store in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett told reporters on October 15, 2014 that Randle will be fined, but not suspended for this weekend's game against the New York Giants.

     "The actions that we're going to take is to fine him significantly and move forward," Garrett said in a news conference…[I don't think it's a good sign that people are always "moving forward."] Randle will be fined at $29,117, the amount he earns each week on his scheduled $495,000 base salary this season. [He can't afford cologne and underwear on that salary? This kid needs a raise.]…

     "I just made a huge mistake," Randle told reporters. "It was hard coming back in the locker room and looking at people who care about me in the eye, knowing that I did something stupid."…

"Cowboy's Randle Charged with Trying to Steal Underwear," bloomberg.com, October 16, 2014 

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Ira Bloom Murder-For-Hire Case

     In the domestic battle over who gets what in a divorce, one of the most contentious issues centers around who will acquire principal access to, and responsibility for, the children. Parents who believe they have received a raw deal in the custody fight are embittered. Quite often they are fathers who resent supporting children from whom they have become estranged. Some parents who have lost custody to ex-spouses they consider unfit to raise their children have taken the law into their own hands. A few of these parents, motivated by hatred, the need for control, and the desire to win, have resorted to murder.

     Zhanna Portnov, a political refugee from Russia, emigrated to the United States in 1992. Two years later she met and married Ira A. Bloom, a violent and sadistic criminal who made Portnov as miserable in America as she had been in her home country. The couple lived in Enfield, Connecticut.

     In the summer of 2004, following a string of restraining orders, Zhanna divorced Bloom and gained custody of their 8-year-old son. Bloom, dissatisfied with his 3-day-a-week visitation schedule, petitioned the judge for full custody. Six weeks before the August 2005 custody hearing, Bloom began planning to have his ex-wife murdered.

     Following their divorce, Bloom moved to East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, a town outside of Springfield. From there he would plot his wife's death, and commit the mistake most murder-for-hire masterminds make: reach out to the wrong person to help him carry out his mission. Bloom asked his friend Donald Levesque, a petty criminal and drug snitch who claimed underworld connections, to find a hitman who would carjack Zhanna as she drove home from the chiropractor's office in Enfield where she worked as a receptionist. Bloom wanted the hit man to rape then kill his ex-wife. Pursuant to his plan, the killer would dump her body somewhere in Hartford, Connecticut.

     Levesque, snitch that he was, went to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tax and Firearms (AFT) where he informed agents of Bloom's murder-for-hire scheme. (Levesque was a regular, paid ATF confidential informant.) Because murder-for-hire is a state as well as a federal offense, the ATF had jurisdiction in the case.

     The informant told ATF agents that Ira Bloom had promised him $15,000 out of his dead ex-wife's $100,000 life insurance payout. Working with local law enforcement agencies in Connecticut and Massachusetts, the ATF launched its investigation.

     On July 8, 2005, Levesque and Bloom met in a restaurant in Enfield. The snitch wore a hidden recorder and had driven a car to the meeting that was wired for sound. To the amazement of the officers and agents surveilling the meeting, Bloom arrived with a woman he had just met. Seated in a booth, Bloom began talking about his battle to regain custody of his son. He said, "I'm really tired of this game anyway. This will save me. I mean, I only owe my lawyer about $500 right now. If we go to court on August 12, I'll owe him about another fifteen grand by then. So everything's gone. I mean, she's dead."

     Before the meeting broke-up, Levesque, acting on instructions from his ATF handlers, asked Bloom for a hand-drawn map showing the route to the target's place of employment. "You think I'm gonna give you a map?" Bloom said. "We'll all go to jail." But the snitch persisted, and a few minutes later, the mastermind sketched a crude map on a napkin.

     In Levesque's car outside the restaurant, he and Bloom, with the mastermind's date sitting in the back seat, continued discussing the hit. When enough had been said to justify an arrest, the officers and agents rushed the car. Just before being yanked out of the vehicle, Bloom looked at Levesque and said, "Don, what did you do to me?"

     In October 2006, Ira Bloom was tried in Hartford, Connecticut before a federal jury. While the defendant did not take the stand on his own behalf, his attorney, in his closing argument, characterized the conversation in the restaurant as nothing more that his client's blowing off steam to impress his date. The jury, after deliberating three hours, found the defendant guilty of conspiracy to murder his ex-wife. Following a series of appeals, federal judge Alfred V. Covello, in April 2008, sentenced the 48-year-old Bloom to the maximum sentence of twenty years in prison.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Pedophiles in Hollywood: Hey Kid, You Want to be a Star?

     While child sexual molestation takes place behind closed doors, pedophiles groom their potential victims in plain sight. They do this in classrooms, churches, gymnasiums, and day care centers--anywhere vulnerable children are subjected to the influence and control of adults. They also do it in Hollywood where parents eagerly offer up young, aspiring actors and entertainers to pedophiles working as talent managers, agents, publicists, acting coaches, and casting directors.

Jason James Murphy

     In Edmonds, Washington, 19-year-old Jason James Murphy, an aspiring actor working as a camp counselor, met and began grooming a 5-year-old boy for sexual encounters. In December 1995, an employee of the Hazelwood Elementary School in Lynnwood, Washington, saw Murphy kissing this boy who was now 7. The teacher notified the police who took Murphy into custody on a child molestation charge. Murphy's family posted his bail and shortly after his arrest he was released.

     In January 1996, Murphy's fixation on this child was so intense he disguised himself as a woman and lured the boy from the elementary school. Murphy and the abducted child flew to New York City and checked into a hotel. After a massive police hunt for the missing victim followed by a segment featuring the case on "America's Most Wanted," a New York City hotel clerk who recognized Murphy and the boy notified the authorities. A short time later, FBI agents rescued the child, and arrested Murphy. Eight months after that a federal jury found Murphy guilty of kidnapping and child molestation. He served 5 of his 7 year sentence behind bars.

     Four years after getting out of federal prison, Murphy moved to West Hollywood, California where he registered as a sex offender under his legal name, Jason James Murphy. Under California law, there were strict rules regarding the circumstances under which a registered sex offender can work with children under 16. The law also required registered sex offenders to notify law enforcement if they changed their names or use aliases.

     Murphy, under the professional name Jason James, became a successful freelance child actor casting director. He worked on films such as "Bad News Bears," "The School of Rock," and "Cheaper by the Dozen 2." Director and co-producer J. J. Abrams hired him as a freelancer on "Super 8."

     On November 17, 2011, J. J. Abrams, having been tipped off by his manager David Lonner who had just learned of Jason James' true identity, informed Paramount Pictures, the studio that released "Super 8." Someone at Paramount called the police.

     Officers with the Los Angeles Police Department, on December 9, 2011, arrested Murphy on charges he had violated California's sex offender registry regulations. Violations of these laws were felonies that carried sentences of up to three years in prison. Murphy's attorney blamed the arrest, and the attention it drew from the media, on the highly publicized Penn State child molestation story that was breaking at the time. The lawyer also claimed that the people who had hired Murphy as a casting director knew his full, legal name. Mr. Murphy had not been accused of molesting any of the children he had worked with professionally.

     On May 2, 2012, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge dismissed the charges against Murphy on the grounds that all the studio executives who used his services were aware of the casting director's true identity.

Martin Weiss

     Less than two weeks after producer J. J. Abrams notified Paramount Pictures of who Jason James really was, Los Angeles detectives with the Topanga Division's Sexual Assault Unit arrested 47-year-old Martin Weiss, a Hollywood manager who specialized in child actors. Weiss stood accused of committing 30 to 40 sexual crimes against an aspiring singer and musician he represented from 2005 to 2008. The sexual encounters allegedly took place at Weiss' apartment/business office in Santa Monica, and at his home in Woodland Hills. After being taken to the Los Angeles County Jail, a judge set his bond at $300,000.

     According to the alleged victim, now 18-years-old, the molesting stopped when he turned 15. After that, he and Weiss parted ways. The victim didn't report the abuse then because he didn't think anyone would believe his story. But after the Penn State scandal became big news, the victim decided to report his abuser, and come forward with evidence that backed up his story.

     On November 15, 2011, the victim confronted Weiss at his apartment in Santa Monica, and secretly taped their conversation. (In the Penn State case, the victim's mother taped her confrontation with former football coach and child molester Jerry Sandusky.) In discussing their past relationship, Weiss did not deny having sexual relations with his accuser. When Weiss' accuser compared his victimization with that of Jerry Sandusky and the boys he molested, Weiss reportedly replied, "Those kids didn't want it." Weiss' accuser pointed out that his sexual encounters with Weiss, acts that took place when he was 11 and 12, had also not been consentual.

     Martin Weiss, at a December 15 pretrial hearing, entered a plea of not guilty. If convicted as charged, the owner of Martin Weiss Management faced up to 34 years in prison.

     Paula Dorn, the co-founder of the non-profit child talent support organization BizParentz Foundation, reportedly said that, over the years, she and members of her group have heard rumors of Weiss' sexual relationships with some of his clients. But without any hard evidence of sexual abuse, no one reported this to law enforcement.

     On June 1, 2012, Martin Weiss pleaded no contest to two counts of a lewd act with an 11-year-old client. The judge, Leslie Dunn, sentenced Weiss to one year in the Los Angeles County Jail. He also received five years probation, had to register as a sex offender, and stay away with people under 18. In return for the plea, the prosecutor dropped 6 other sex offense charges against  him.

      Martin Weiss got off easy.

      A Documentary on Pedophilia in Hollywood

     On June 13, 2016, The Week magazine published an article about a column by Oliver Thring that had appeared recently in The Sunday Times (London) regarding pedophiles in Hollywood. What follows is an excerpt from the The Week piece:

     "...Serial child abusers lurk among the legions of directors, managers, and agents, sheltered by powerful friends and their own wealth. One agent who managed high-profile child stars was convicted of molesting a boy and trafficking in child pornography, and he spent eight years in jail. Others, though, are never exposed or return to work in Hollywood after serving just a few months in prison--and their old pals hire them to work with children again. Those who speak out are shamed or silenced. Actor Corey Feldman, for example, went public after the abuse he and Corey Haim suffered for years. Both actors went on to abuse alcohol and drugs, and Haim died at age 38. But Feldman's tell-all memoir was dismissed as unreliable because of his drug addiction….Oscar nominated director Amy Berg has a made a documentary about the prevalence of child sexual abuse in Hollywood, in which five former child actors describe their abuse and name names. But though An Open Secret was well received at Cannes, Berg can't get a distributor. Hollywood bigwigs just don't want the story told."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Reverend Creflo Dollar: Megaproblems at the Megachurch

     In 1986, prosperity minister Creflo Dollar started World Changers International Church in suburban Atlanta's College Park, Georgia. Housed in the World Dome, a golden-domed structure that houses a 8,500-seat sanctuary, the megachurch boasts a membership of 30,000. Through his Creflo Dollar Ministries, the silver-tongued pastor had become a wealthy man with his real estate holdings, a stable of breeding horses, and thirty books to his name. Reverent Dollar charged up to $100,000 for one of his rousing, motivational talks.

     In 2007, United States Senator Charles Grassley launched a congressional investigation of Creflo Dollar and five other wealthy televangelists to determine if these preachers were using church-owned airplanes, luxury homes, and credit cards for personal use. While no tax evasion charges were filed in connection with the inquiry, senators decried the lack of governmental oversight of these religious goldmines.

     Pastor Dollar's problems became more personal, and hit closer to home on June 8, 2012. His 15-year-old daughter called 911, and reported that the reverend had assaulted her. Deputies with the Fayette County Sheriff's Office who responded to the mansion spoke to the daughter and her 19-year-old sister who said she had witnessed the incident.

     According to the older Dollar sibling, her father and the alleged victim had been arguing over whether the girl should go to a party. The witness told deputies that Pastor Dollar grabbed his daughter by the shoulders, slapped her in the face, choked her for five seconds, then threw her to the floor. The officers noticed fresh scratch marks on the complainant's neck. The police handcuffed Reverend Dollar and hauled him off to the Fayette County Jail. ( On January 25, 2013, after Pastor Dollar completed an anger management program, the Fayette County prosecutor dropped the assault charges.)

     Just before ten in the morning of October 24, 2012, 51-year-old Floyd Palmer, a former janitor at the  World Changers International Church, walked into a chapel where 25 members of the congregation were being led in prayer by Greg McDowell. Palmer calmly walked up to the stage where the 39-year-old volunteer staff member stood, and shot him dead. After murdering this husband and father, Palmer walked casually out of the World Dome, climbed into his black Subaru station wagon, and drove off. Reverend Dollar was not in the church at the time, and no one else was shot.

     A few hours after the church killing, local police and U.S. Marshals arrested Floyd Palmer outside a Macy's store in a shopping mall in the upscale Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. The police had spotted Palmer's vehicle in the parking lot. Taken into custody without incident, the suspect was placed into the Fulton County jail where he was held without bond.

     Floyd Palmer was a psychotic and violent person in what seems to be a growing population of dangerous nut cases. In June 2001, when Palmer was part of a security detail at a Baltimore mosque, he shot a fellow employee named Reuben Jerry Ash. After shooting Ash in the back, Palmer tried to fire again, but his handgun jammed. Bystanders ran toward Palmer to disarm him. He fired at them but the gun still didn't work. Fortunately no one was killed, but the shooting left Reuben Ash paralyzed.

     At his pretrial psychiatric examination, Palmer said that members of his family, and Ray Lewis, a linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens, were out to get him. Palmer pleaded guilty to attempted murder, and was committed to a mental hospital. Three years later, Palmer shot and wounded another Baltimore man. For that attempted murder, Mr. Palmer spent 18 months in a psychiatric hospital.

     In September 2015, a Fulton County judge ruled Floyd Palmer mentally competent to stand trial for murder.

     A Fulton County jury, in May 2016, found Floyd Palmer guilty of first-degree murder but mentally ill. The judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

     When violent mental cases like Floyd Palmer are allowed to live among us, no one is safe, not even a man inside a church leading a prayer service. I can't imagine that Mr. Palmer would have been hired to clean the church if the people who employed him knew of his violent background. If they did, and hired him anyway, they are fools who will have to answer for their bad judgment.  

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Bradley Stone Mass Murder-Suicide Case

     Bradley William Stone, a 35-year-old former Marine reservist, resided with his wife Jen, a media analyst, in the town of Pennsburg thirty miles northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He married Jen in September 2013 following his divorce from his first wife Nicole. Nicole had filed for divorce in March 2009 and since that time she and Bradley had been embroiled in a bitter custody battle over their two daughters. On December 9, 2014, a family court judge denied a petition from Bradley that ended the court fight in Nicole's favor. He did not take this defeat in stride.

     Bradley Stone served as a Marine reservist from 2002 to 2011 during which time he spent a couple of months in Ramadi, Iraq where he monitored a computer screen that tracked missiles. After convincing his superior officers that he suffered from asthma, they sent him back to the states.

     In October 2010, Stone was diagnosed with 100 percent service connected post-traumatic stress disorder. At the time of his honorable discharge in 2011, he had risen to the rank of sergeant. In October 2013, Stone filed 17 VA disability claims for problems that included traumatic brain injury,  muscle and joint pain, sleep apnea, and headaches.

     Following his military service, and during the height of his domestic war with his estranged then ex-wife Nicole, Stone received psychiatric treatment at the Lanape Valley Foundation in the Doylestown Hospital for post-traumatic stress disorder. (Some former Marines with PTSD questioned Stones' diagnosis noting that he hadn't seen combat.)

     In 2013, a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania judge sentenced Stone to one year probation following his second driving while intoxicated conviction.

     At four-thirty in the morning of Monday December 15, 2014, six days after Bradley Stone lost the child custody battle, police officers were dispatched to a house in Lansdale, Pennsylvania 28 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Nicole Stone's mother, 57-year-old Joanne Gilbert and her mother, 75-year-old Patricia Hill, resided in that house. Police officers found both women dead.

     Bradley Stone's ex-mother-in-law lay in her bed with a slashed throat. Her mother lay on the floor with a gunshot wound to her right eye. The scene of this double-murder was awash in the victims' blood.

     Shortly after the discovery of the two Bradley Stone ex-in-laws, a 911 call was made from an apartment complex in nearby Lower Salford where Stone's 33-year-old ex-wife Nicole resided. A neighbor in the Pheasant Run apartments reported hearing a disturbance followed by three or four gunshots that came from Nicole's unit. Following the disturbance, the neighbor saw Stone putting his daughters into a green Ford and driving off. (Stone dropped the girls off at an acquaintance's house in Pennsburg. They were unharmed.)

     In Nicole Stone's apartment police officers found her lying on her bed with two gunshot wounds to her face. On the bed lay the murder weapon, Bradley Stone's .40-caliber Heckler & Koch pistol.

     At eight o'clock that morning in southeastern Pennsylvania, police officers in the town of Souderson discovered three more victims of Bradley Stone's murderous rage. Patricia Flick, Nicole's sister, was found hacked to death in her home. Her husband Aaron and her 14-year-old daughter Nina had been bludgeoned and slashed. Anthony Flick, Nicole's 17-year-old nephew, in fighting off an ax-wielding Bradley Stone, had lost fingertips, sustained lacerations to his hands and arms, and suffered a fractured skull. He survived the attack by barricading himself in a room on the third floor of the house. Paramedics rushed the seriously wounded teenager to Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.

     Later that Monday, Bradley Smith, the subject of an intense police manhunt, confronted a man walking his dog in Doylestown. Wearing camouflage clothing, Stone demanded the man's car keys. Instead of acquiring access to a vehicle, Stone found himself looking down the barrel of the man's handgun. The mass murderer was last seen running into a nearby wooded area.

     On Tuesday December 16, 2014, SWAT team officers looking for Stone in Pennsburg, came across his body in the woods a half mile from his home. He had managed to hack himself to death.

     Neuropsychology professor Eric Zillmer of Drexel University, in speaking to reporters about the mass murder-suicide, said he didn't believe that Stone's murderous rampage had anything to do with PTSD. 

The Demands of Writing for Young People

Writing for young people is a great responsibility, because their minds are impressionable and what they read can effect not only their current lives but their future ones as well. Writing for them should be approached with a serious regard for the possible influence of your words. Do not plan to write for children because you think it easy, or the writing does not need to be as good as that in books for adults. Requirements for good juvenile writing are far more strict than they are for adult fiction.

Lee Wyndham, Writing for Children & Teenagers, 1988

A Mafia Hit Man's Self-Analysis

I didn't want to go straight. No boring sessions with do-gooder social workers for this cookie. No BS therapy from a shrink who would say I hated my uncle. Forget denial and struggling to make ends meet on some begged-for, dead-end job. "You're a criminal pure and simple," I told myself, "so go for it whole hog."

Donald "Tony the Greek" Frankos in The Book of Criminal Quotations, J. P. Bean, editor, 2003 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Courtroom Impostor

     A bizarre case in Summit County, Utah has led to the arrest of a woman who police say was impersonating a Utah attorney and handling cases in court, representing real clients under the attorney's name. Karla Carbo, 29, of South Jordan, Utah was arrested on December 30, 2014 and booked into the Summit County Jail for investigation of identify theft, two counts of forgery, and communications fraud. Investigators say she represented herself as an attorney in several jurisdictions and will likely face more charges.

     Carbo allegedly opened her own law office and hired a man who recently pass the bar but had no idea he was being hired by a fake attorney…On December 23, 2014, Carbo was allegedly in court representing a suspect in a 2008 criminal case…Carbo said her name was Karla Stirling Fierro. Karla Stirling is an actual attorney from Bountiful, Utah certified by the state bar association. Carbo allegedly used Stirling's real bar number…Stirling, while licensed in Utah, mainly practices in California…"I don't do any criminal work or personal injury cases," she said. "I've done business contracts, real estate…There shouldn't be any court files with my name on my bar number in Utah whatsoever."

     When the court contacted Stirling on December 23 with a question regarding the recently completed court matter, she had no idea what they were talking about…The Summit County Attorney's Office got a phone call from the Utah State Bar Association explaining that Fierro was not an attorney….

"Woman Accused of Impersonating Attorney in Court," ksl.com, December 31, 2014 

Thornton P. Knowles on Writing as the Self-Delusion Advocation

Writers must delude themselves into believing that what they have to say is either important or entertaining, that people will actually want to read what they write. Man, how we kid ourselves.

Thornton P. Knowles, The Psychology of Writing, 1976 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Halifax Mass Murder Plot

     On Thursday morning February 12, 2015, a caller on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Crime Stoppers tip line caused serious concern with a disturbing report. The tipster said that a 19-year-old James Gamble from Timberlea, Nova Scotia, a suburb of Halifax, as well as a woman named Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath, 23 from Geneva, Illinois and a 20-year-old Nova Scotia man, Randall Steven Shepherd, planned to shoot as many shoppers as they could on St. Valentine's Day at the Halifax Shopping Centre on the west side of the city.

     The informant said the group had acquired the necessary weaponry to commit Canada's version of America's 1929 St. Valentine's Day massacre. After committing the mass murder, the plotters planned to take their own lives.

     The persons identified by the RCMP tipster revealed through photographs and comments on an Internet chat stream their obsession with serial killers and bloody murder scenes. The American, Lindsay Souvannarath, had written messages on her Twitter account she didn't want posted until after her self-inflicted death.

     At one-twenty in the morning of February 13, 2015, police officers watching James Gamble's Timberlea residence, observed a couple believed to be the suspect's parents drive away from the house. After pulling the parents over, a detective called the house and spoke to their son.

     Gamble, whose house was now surrounded by an Emergency Response Team, told the detective on the phone that he was unarmed and ready to exit the dwelling. Instead, he shot himself to death in the house. Inside the suspect's home, besides the body, officers found three loaded rifles.

     An hour after the suicide in Timberlea, officers took Lindsay Souvannarath into custody when she flew into the Halifax International Airport from her home in Illinois. Police officers arrested Randall Shepherd who was at the airport to greet her.

     Shortly after her arrest, Souvannarath confessed to the conspiracy to randomly murder as many people as possible at the Halifax shopping mall.

     A local prosecutor charged the American woman and her alleged 20-year-old Nova Scotia accomplice with conspiracy to commit murder. In the meantime, detectives with Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Team were looking into the background James Gamble who had committed suicide. The investigators were trying to determine the extent of his participation, if any, in the mass shooting plot.

     At a press conference held on Saturday February 14, St. Valentine's Day, Justice Minister Peter MacKay announced that the mass murder plot was not "culturally motivated" or linked to Islamic terrorism. The justice minister called the murder conspirators "murderous misfits." Mr. MacKay acknowledged, however, that murderous misfits like the ones in custody could be exploited by terrorist organizations. He said, "An individual that would so recklessly and with bloody intent plot to do something like this I would suggest would also be susceptible to being motivated by groups like ISIS and others."

     On February 17, 2015, Charles Aukema, one of Lindsay Souvannarath's professors at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, told a reporter with the Cedar Rapids Gazette that his former English student "knew how to put together a sentence and had a command of detail." The professor added, "Sometimes it was pretty sick detail."

     On April 11, 2017, Lindsay Souvannarath pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the Halifax mall murder plot. 

The Challenge Of Writing Romance Novel Love Scenes

Strong, appealing characters, sensuous writing, and an understanding on how to create sexual tension are the key elements of good romance novels. Writing strong love scenes that are neither too sappy nor too graphic is one of the challenges of the genre.

Judith Rosen in The Writer's Handbook, edited by Alfrieda Abbe, 2002 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Heroin Overdose Deaths: Give Cops Naloxone

     With deaths from heroin and opioid prescription pills soaring, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on April 3, 2014 announced a push to have law enforcement officers across the state carry a drug that is effectively an antidote to overdose. The program, to be funded primarily from $5 million in criminal and civil seizures from drug dealers, would help provide a kit with the drug, naloxone, and the training to use it to every state and local officer in New York. [Drug dealers, I image are behind this program. Fatal overdosing costs them customers.]

     The authorities have increasingly seen naloxone, also known under its brand name Narcan, as a potent weapon against a national surge in drug overdoses. Last month, the Justice Department encouraged emergency medical workers across the country to begin carrying the drug. The move to broaden access in New York is the latest tactic employed by state officials to combat abuse of pills and the rising specter of heroin use….In New York City, there was an 84 percent jump in heroin overdose deaths between 2010 and 2012….[While naloxone may save lives, it won't play a role in reducing drug abuse.]

     The drug naloxone, which has been available for decades in emergency rooms, works on the opiate molecules that attach to the brain and, during an overdose, fatally slows a person's breathing. Naloxone effectively bumps them away, restoring breathing in minutes and giving medical workers time to get a hospital.

     For years only paramedics carried the drug. In 2012, a pilot program in Suffolk County, New York trained emergency technicians and half the police officers to administer the drug….Last year, the New York Police Department trained some 180 officers to use the drug on Staten Island, which has the city's most acute problem with heroin and pill overdoses, saving three people in the first three months. The department is currently looking to expand the program across the borough and around the city.

     The state's Good Samaritan law protects those who call the police during an overdose, even if they too were using illegal drugs. Those who administer naloxone are also protected from liability. The drug, which is not habit forming and gives no high to an overdosing user, is nontoxic….

David Goodman, "New York Program to Help Police Get a Kit to Combat Overdoses," The New York Times, April 3, 2014