Category Archives: guns

KLAW TV Interview

Hey there! Just a quick post to let you know that my interview with Kitsap Literary Artists and Writers for local access TV station BKAT is live on YouTube. You can watch it here:

Looks like I’m about to strangle the interviewer, doesn’t it? Well, you should watch it to find out if I do 🙂  Interviewer Mark Miller went a tad off script, which made things interesting, and I had a blast (even though I was fighting an epic case of allergies that day…)

 

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Happy International Women’s Day

Hey there. Happy Wednesday 🙂  In honor of International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month I’ve decided to spotlight strong, independent women from history on the blog. As I was researching the latest Leine Basso thriller, I ran across the story of the woman I’ve chosen for the inaugural post: Lyudmila Pavlichenko.

pavlichenko_lmLyudmila Pavlichenko was a Ukrainian-born sniper active in the Red Army during WWII with 309 confirmed kills, including 36 enemy snipers (which means she probably killed far more Nazis than 309 since to confirm a kill it had to be witnessed by another person). In an era where women in the US and Soviet Union weren’t allowed to join the military and fight on the front lines, Pavlichenko blasted through the glass ceiling imposed by the Russian military by being an expert at what she did. Eventually, the Soviet Union not only allowed but actively trained 2,000 women to be snipers, 500 of whom survived the war. Pavlichenko wapav-stamps one of those survivors and often worked in the “no man’s land” between the front lines of her unit and the enemy’s.

She was a woman after my own heart. At the age of 14 when a neighbor boy boasted about how good of a shot he was, she took it upon herself to learn how to shoot better than he did. “I practiced, a lot,” she was quoted as saying. In 1937, she went on to attend college at Kiev University, intending to become a teacher.

From an article in the Smithsonian: “[Pavlichenko] was in Odessa when the war broke out and Romanians and Germans invaded. “They wouldn’t take girls in the army, so I had to resort to all kinds of tricks to get in,” Pavlichenko recalled, noting that officials tried to steer her toward becoming a nurse. To prove that she was as skilled with a rifle as she claimed, a Red Army unit held an impromptu audition at a hill they were defending, handing her a rifle and pointing her toward a pair of Romanians who were working with the Germans. “When I picked off the two, I was accepted,” Pavlichenko said, noting that she did not count the Romanians in her tally of kills “because they were test shots.”
Her first day on the battlefield, she was scared to death and couldn’t bring herself to shoot. A fellow soldier set up next to her to give her courage but was quickly killed by a German sniper. Again from the Smithsonian article: “Pavlichenko was shocked into action. “He was such a nice, happy boy,” she recalled. “And he was killed just next to me. After that, nothing could stop me.”
lyudmila-pavlichenko-w-eleanor

Justice Robert Jackson, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Eleanor Roosevelt (Source: Library of Congress)

In 1942 she traveled to the US to drum up support for a second front and while there met and became friends with Eleanor Roosevelt. Reporters gave Pavlichenko a hard time about not wearing makeup and not dressing like a woman should, and to say she was shocked is probably an understatement. She had been awarded the highest honor in Soviet Russia, the Order of Lenin, among other commendations, for what she’d done in the war, and American reporters were concerned about how she looked. (Hasn’t changed much, has it?)

Intrigued by her story, I found a recent film (2015) on Amazon chronicling her life. The Battle for Sevastopol is in Russian and English with English subtitles.  The subtitles whoosh by pretty fast, so have your pause button handy, but the movie itself was cinematic and gut-wrenching and definitely one to watch if you’re into war movies based on a true story.

After being wounded in battle, Pavlichenko went on to train snipers until the war ended, and then returned to university to earn her Master’s degree in history. There were reports that she married a fellow soldier during the war, but that he was killed in the Battle for Sevastopol. There’s a scene in the movie that details this, although I found scant information out there about him.
Read more about Lyudmila Pavlichenko:

Also in honor of International Women’s Day, I’m participating in two promotions featuring strong female characters: from March 6-17th, the 1st Annual Women’s History Month Giveaway (all genres), and running March 8-15th, the Nasty Women Giveaway (the name says it all 🙂 All books are through #Instafreebie, so all you’ll need to do to download your free books is sign up for the newsletter for the author of whichever titles you choose. I guarantee you’ll find yourself some new authors to read 🙂
Enjoy! 

Gunshot Wounds and What They Tell Us

Bullets Hydra-Shok 9mm JHP 2871988380 o
Here’s a fab post by Ben at The Writers’ Guide to Weapons regarding what a gunshot wound (GSW) can and cannot reveal about the weapon used. Great information for those of us who write crime.

It appears that I’m on a roll with linking to other blog posts. I hope you mystery/thriller writers/readers out there find this one helpful/interesting. Original content will resume as soon as I’m finished with edits for the latest Leine Basso, A Killing Truth–coming soon! 🙂


The Smell of Cordite Hung in the Air

Woman with Smoking Gun by Clarence F. UnderwoodSo I’m reading away on the first in series of a new-to-me thriller author, enjoying the story line and the protagonist (tortured male assassin–one of my favorite kind of characters. Cliché, I know, but I still love ’em) and I come to the line “The smell of cordite hung heavy in the air” (or something like that).  As I’m sure you can tell by the title of this post, there just might be something wrong with that.

Well, yeah.

Back when I was a newbie to the crime genre, I read as many crime novels as I could find, and it didn’t matter what year they were published. Often, I’d come across the cordite reference and I wondered, “what the heck is cordite?” So I looked it up. Turns out, cordite was a propellant much like gunpowder, used mainly in the UK.

Notice the past tense.

That’s because cordite is no longer around and it hasn’t been used since WWII. Now, I’m not trying to be all snarky about accuracy in books, since I’ve made mistakes in my own fiction (like using the word clip for magazine. Got called on that one a couple of times.) But the author claims to have several experts read their work for accuracy and it makes me wonder how “expert” those folks really are. This author is independently published, but I’ve read a few books by traditionally published, well-known thriller authors who used the same reference in fairly recent books. Aren’t they supposed to have fact-checkers? Or at least a good editor?

Oh, well.

I’ve also read books where the character flipped the safety off on a Glock. A Glock doesn’t have an external safety . After reading the most recent book with that reference I gave the author the benefit of the doubt since guns weren’t their forte, and because it didn’t throw me too far out of the story. I do that with most of the books I read. Being an author myself, I realize how hard it is to make sure unfamiliar subjects are accurate, and the best you can do is research and try very hard to get it right. If the rest of the book is compelling, then a mistake here and there isn’t a deal breaker, at least for me.

The one thing that does make me throw the book across the room, though, and I’ve touched on this before, is when a male writer tries to write a female and either makes her a one-dimensional, convenient character, or puts lipstick on a dude and calls it good.

Ugh.

But, then again, being female is one subject where I have plenty of experience  🙂

How about you? Do you give authors the benefit of the doubt when you notice a mistake, or do you throw the book across the room? Better yet, do you tell them?


Where Did the Summer Go Part 2: Writers’ Police Academy

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, a day after we got back from Rainier, I flew to Appleton, Wisconsin to attend the fabulous Writers’ Police Academy.

The brainchild of former LEO Lee Lofland, the Writers’ Police Academy brings together crime writers and experts in the field of law enforcement, CSI, emergency services, etc., in order to help writers “write it right.” Now in its 7th year (and having outgrown its original home in North Carolina), the conference was held at the brand-new Fox Valley Technical College Public Safety Training Center.  It’s three jam-packed days of information sessions, hands-on experiences, and a whole lotta fun. (pictured below: Lee Lofland)

photo of Lee Lofland

The state-of-the-art facilities had an airliner on site, as well as a derailed tanker and a faux city with several buildings including a bank, a motel, and an apartment building. LEO training was ongoing at the time of the conference and attendees were welcome to watch traffic stops and various other law enforcement scenarios.

photo of airliner

One of the most informative classes I took had to do with blood spatter and DNA with Jeff Miller (pictured below). Talk about fascinating. Did you know that fingerprints can actually transfer through latex gloves? Not so with nitrile (the blue gloves). Or that the reason DNA results take so long (other than a backlog) is that they have to go through a quality assurance/peer review process that takes an average of 15 days before a report can be issued? (Although if you have a suspect, a match can be determined within a day.) I also learned that DNA can still be detected through seven layers of paint, and that 90 minute results will be available to law enforcement once the FDA approves a machine/process called RapidHit DNA.

photo of blood spatter class

More interesting factoids: a) hermaphrodites can have two different sets of DNA (think of the fictional possibilities!); b) even though identical twins have identical DNA, there is a copy number variant that can help determine which twin committed the crime; and, my personal favorite, c) if a person kisses a suspect for 30 seconds or more, the suspect’s DNA can transfer to the other person–your PI/sleuth character will need to get a swab from them quickly, though. Also, Luminol is on its way out as a blood visualizing agent, and is being replaced by a product called Blue Star. If a criminal tries to clean the crime scene, both Luminol and Blue Star sparkle in the dark when introduced to cleansers.

blood spatter class

There was a boatload of interesting lectures by world-class presenters (pictured below: Dr. Katherine Ramsland giving us an Overview of Forensic Psychology) Katherine has a way with words–especially when she’s describing– shall we say– unusual sexual proclivities in serial killers;

Dr. Katherine Ramsland

The CSI Effect: Real vs Reel (with Mike Black). A great class that blasted through several of the inaccuracies inherent in television programs regarding crime scene investigation. And no, CSI: Miami/New York/etc. should NOT be used for research purposes. But you already knew that, right?

evidence photo

slide of CSI myths

Not surprisingly, some of my favorite sessions were of the hands on variety, like MILO: Shoot/Don’t Shoot Interactive Training. In this class, you’re given a laser pistol similar to a 9mm and told to stand in front of a screen while they run video scenarios involving suspects behaving badly. It’s up to you to determine whether you should shoot or not. I have a new appreciation for how scary it must be for an officer to face down someone who has (or most likely has) a weapon  (sorry, no pics of this one–suffice it to say I didn’t have a problem shooting bad guys coming toward me on the screen…);

Then there was the shooting range (rifles with scopes! Need I say more?);

photo of DV shooting an M4

Bangs and Booms 101 (and all things incendiary with John Gilstrap — pictured below). You can certainly tell by the way he teaches that he LOVES his job 🙂 ) In this class we learned about shaped charges (e.g. RPGs), grenades, dynamite, and C4, and a host of other cool stuff;

John Gilstrap session

Fighting Words: Martial Arts for Writers (with Howard Lewis). The mindset of a person who practices martial arts is very different from one who does not. Howard is extremely entertaining–if you get the chance, go to anything he teaches. And don’t forget to ask him about Bruce Lee…

Martial Arts for Writers photo

Karin Slaughter was the Guest of Honor at the banquet (I forgot my camera that evening, so no pics), and she was hugely entertaining. If the whole crime novel writing gig doesn’t work out for her, she definitely has a shot at a career as a stand up comedian 🙂

In the end, I came away with a much better understanding of the challenges faced by law enforcement and emergency personnel, and gleaned all sorts of little details that I will certainly use in future books. If you write about crime or law enforcement, you’ll LOVE this conference. I wish I could have cloned myself so I could go to every one of the classes. Sigh.

I guess I’ll just have to go again next year.


Writing and the Unsung Heroes: Enter the Expert

BBC creditsHow many times have you watched a movie in a theater and actually stayed through the credits? You know, when stuff like “Best Boy Grip” or “Assistant to Mega Star” or “Star Stalker Head Buster” is listed on-screen? With all the films adding extra scenes at the end these days, it’s almost mandatory.

The sheer number of people required to make a movie always amazes me. The idea’s hard to wrap your head around, right? What? They need that many assistants for what’s his face because he rocks his inner diva better than a Kardashian?

Well, it got me thinking (be afraid) about what goes into writing a novel. Novelism (okay, not a word, but it should be) does not always involve the solitary wordsmith slaving away in a garret in Paris with only a flagon of wine and five-year-old cheese to sustain her. Oh, contraire, mes amis (and yes, that is the extent of my French, except for maître d’. And champagne.)

May I present the idea that it may take a village to raise a kid, but it takes many, many patient and Cargo 3Dhelpful people to finish a novel. For instance, in the latest Leine Basso, Cargo (Shameless Plug: available right now, today! Links to your upper right 🙂 ) I was unsure how many containers I could stack on a container ship, and how big of a ship I was going to need for some pivotal scenes. I began my search online, of course, but if you’ve ever looked for something on the interwebz, you know it can leave a LOT to be desired. Mainly, is the source valid? Can I believe what I’m reading? Are there extenuating circumstances I need to be aware of?

First level of twistlocks on a containership deckEnter The Expert. For this particular subject I was able to check in with my brother-in-law, Brian, who spent many years as a merchant marine aboard container ships sailing to points hither and yon. He steered me toward the perfect sized ship and corrected several of my assumptions about safety and security on board. Of course, actually knowing the expert is a plus, but I could have also called or emailed a shipping company and asked to speak with someone who would be willing to answer my questions. Most folks are happy to talk about their work, and some even enjoy helping an author out.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, writing Cargo was a huge stretch for me (as was A One Way Ticket to Dead—more about that later) but the perfect expert uncannily appeared at every stage of the book. The story deals with trafficking—human, ivory, endangered species, you name it—and sheds light on the dark, disturbing underbelly of the criminal world. Since I’ve written about the subject before, I have a crap-load (scientific term) of information on human trafficking, but when it came to smuggling, ivory poaching, Thailand, Africa, snipers, etc. I needed to turn to far more knowledgeable people.

Okay, confession time here. I set Cargo in Tanzania instead of Kenya or Democratic Republic of the Congo or New Jersey because I have a good friend who lives there. Mike has been an invaluable resource and has given me a resident’s perspective, ramping up the believability factor. The insider angle combined with hours of research has hopefully made the sections of the book set in Africa much more realistic than I could have ever done on my own. I mean, did you know that when a hyena crunches through bones it sounds similar to someone eating popcorn?Hyene amneville

Yeah. You don’t hear that every day.

Another challenge to writing this novel (and the Leine Basso series in general) is that I have not been trained as an assassin, nor have I ever killed anyone.

I know. Shocking.

In yet another spooky cool, writer-geek moment, I reconnected with an earlier contact that had served in Special Forces and now trains Special Ops. The first time I worked with him was on Yucatán Dead (I’ll refer to him as Special Forces Dude, or SFD). I’d decided to create an ex-SF operative who was helping vigilante groups fight the Mexican drug cartels, except I didn’t have a contact in that arena.

Until Zumba.

Suffice it to say, a writer friend introduced us (and yes, Zumba was involved), and SFD agreed to read the scenes I was unsure about and give me feedback. The character of Quinn and his group of soldiers is based on his detailed comments, as are the scenes involving them. Needless to say, I think they are some of the best characters and scenes I’ve written.

Then came A One Way Ticket to Dead. Wow—did I have help with that book.

cover for A One Way Ticket to DeadThe novel began as a Kate Jones/DEA/FBI thriller. I reconnected with Gary, a retired DEA supervisor from Texas who had rescued me from making some truly horrible mistakes in Bad Spirits. In the course of discussing several scenes involving my drug lord character, he suggested I use steganography which became a major plot point in the book. I’d also been introduced by a writer friend to another LE adviser for the FBI scenes, so I had that angle covered. Then I ran a gun scene past SFD, and he suggested I bring Quinn back and have Kate help with recon, exponentially upping the stakes.

Well, yeah.

So I learned about HALO jumps, extractions, how to do reconnaissance the SF way, and all sorts of amazingly cool stuff, ripping open my inner warrior—which, relatively speaking, I never knew existed. Being the amazing teacher that he is, SFD uses PowerPoint presentations to explain tricky concepts, ensuring that I understand. The visuals go a long way toward helping me write scenes.military dog w chute

There’s nothing worse than not knowing what the hell I’m writing about. To be honest it keeps me up at night. I want the best possible experience for the reader and getting details wrong prevents that from happening. There is so much I don’t know. Having access to people who do is an amazing resource and reduces the cost of therapy.

In Cargo there’s a scene where Leine reverts to her old ways. Quelle surprise (and you thought I wouldn’t find another place to insert my limited French 😀 ). As it involved taking someone out with a sniper rifle, I wanted authenticity. And yes, I’ve used a rifle, but have never been a sniper. Turns out, SFD had it covered. He also tweaked the big gunfight scene at the end. Surprisingly, I’d gotten a lot of it right.

sniper rifleWell, when you consider all the help I’ve received, maybe it’s not so surprising.

Along with several kick-ass alpha and beta readers (one of whom is turning out to be a fantastic developmental editor), a truly supportive critique group, and a flat-out sterling editor, I’m so grateful to the generous people who have shared their time and knowledge with me. Because of them I’m able to craft exactly the stories I envision, and I can’t thank them enough. As others have said before, writing a novel is not a solitary endeavor.

How about you? Writers, what types of experts have you worked with? Readers, how much does it matter to you that the writer gets the details right?


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