Category Archives: technology

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.

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The Glocalization of e-Books

North America from low orbiting satellite Suomi NPPHere’s an eye-opening article from Ebook Bargains UK regarding how glocalization is fueling the e-book juggernaut. I agree with their main premise–don’t think the micro-sites aren’t worth getting your book into. The biz is shifting every day. The Zon may not always be the biggest market for your work. The world is a HUGE place and some of us tend to be a tad short-sighted here in the US by not paying a lot of attention to what’s happening around the planet.


Kobo Cull Self-Published Titles In Knee-jerk Response To Tabloid Clickbait

Whoa. A little over-reaction on the part of booksellers, me thinks. Interesting article on David Gaughran’s blog regarding the kerfuffle in the UK over erotic titles and children’s titles coming up in the same search. Sigh.

Kobo Cull Self-Published Titles In Knee-jerk Response To Tabloid Clickbait.


Fences, Schmences–Why Going Indie was Easy

I’m over at Indies Unlimited today, blogging about going indie vs. traditionally published. Come on over and join the conversation! http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/09/18/fences-schmences-why-going-indie-was-easy/


Improve your book’s discoverability

Reading glasses resting on an open bookhttp://selfpublishingadvice.org/blog/how-to-increase-the-discoverability-of-your-self-published-books-choose-the-right-kdp-categories/


Ode to a Library

I don’t know about you, but libraries will always have a special place in my heart. I remember my mother taking me to the town’s only library every week, and while she perused the art and mythology sections, I would ransack the children’s nook. If I didn’t find anything interesting there, I’d move on to more adult genres,books,boys,education,libraries,men,people,readings,research,shelves,students,studying,academic like mysteries and spy novels. When I got older, I devoured the biography section along with whatever caught my fancy, from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius to photojournalism to the French Revolution. Luckily, my mother spent countless hours there, so I was able to feed my overactive imagination without worrying about running out of time.

I haven’t been back in a long while, and I’m sure it’s not nearly as big a building as I remember. I don’t even know if the structure is still there. Several levels opened to the lobby, all boasting heavily polished floors and creaky wooden shelves, groaning under the weight of so many hard-bound tomes, giving it an old world, floor-to-ceiling bookstore feel. Early on I discovered an ancient circular stairwell behind the stacks and when I grew tired of searching for something new, I’d hide there, alone with the subject du jour, lost in another world of my choosing.

The lobby at SPL

2nd Floor Lobby at SPL

This past weekend my cousin Fieke, visiting from the Netherlands, suggested we visit the Seattle Public Library.  She works as a photographer in Eindhoven and was acquainted with the photographer who assisted the architect, also from the Netherlands. I’d been to SPL a couple of times before, but hadn’t been able to take the time to really discover the place.  If you haven’t had the chance to visit, put it on the list for whenever you’re in Seattle. It’s an amazing, mind-bending building dedicated to all things literature.

The structure is a honeycomb of concrete, gleaming steel, and glass. The natural light streaming in through the walls is impressive on a sunny day–and it’s a fabulous place to be in the middle of winter when the skies are the same steel-gray as the supports. Each floor is its own world and conveys a different feeling, from future-shock orderliness to saturated, mind-warping tomato reds and neon yellows. Nothing here is understated. Every nook and cranny demands that you pay attention.

Photo of the 4th floor of the Seattle Public Library

4th Floor Red

That Seattle voters chose to support the revitalization of the library system in such large numbers is a telling regional character trait. Folks who live in the Pacific Northwest, from Vancouver, BC to Portland, Oregon, are known as voracious readers. (Yes, we’re heavy caffeine abusers and like our wines and microbrews, but when it’s dull gray and bone-chilling wet outside, curling up with a good book, be it on our Kindle, Nook, iPad, or the printed page, is one of this area’s favorite pastimes.) The libraries in western Washington embraced eBooks early, and several offer a large selection of audio books for downloading. One of the benefits of living in a tech-heavy area (Amazon and Microsoft are based here, among several other tech organizations) is that early adopters drive innovation and concepts are introduced here long before other areas of the country.

Below are a few more of the photos I took of the interior. Do you have a library story?  I’d love to hear it 🙂

Happy Monday!

Photo of SPL

Looking down at the 2nd floor

Neon Yellow Escalator

SONY DSC

SONY DSC


Smashwords Adds Pre-order Capabilities

Read the blog post here: http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/07/smashwords-introduces-preorder.html

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