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Welcome to my blog. It's good to have you here. I hope you'll enjoy reading about my writing and knitting exploits.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Writers' Police Academy - The Experience

So I got sidetracked by launching my mystery (Your Eight O'Clock Is Dead) and didn't get back to tell you about my adventures at the Writers' Police Academy.

First, I have to say it was a fabulous experience, and I'm so happy I had the opportunity to attend this year.  I owe a huge thank you to Sisters In Crime since they defrayed a large portion of our registration fee. 

Our first experience was a wet visit to the academy's body farm.  I have never been so wet in my life - and I had an umbrella.  I swear it was hurricane type rains.  But everyone was good sports and trekked through the woods to the location.

Fortunately, the "body" turned out to be a mannequin.  A lot of the dead body smells were washed away by the downpour.  But it was quite realistic to be out in the woods at the site of a crime scene and to be aware of what the real life investigators go through to get clues and solve murders under all kinds of circumstances.

After the body farm, I had a fascinating session with Deneen Lofland who talked to us about Bio terrorism.  We learned about the various types of labs used in our country and around the world and how bio terrorism works.  I have to say I'm very happy Deneen is on our side.

Deneen showed all kinds of slides and I left with a wealth of information.  I have a very healthy respect now for the kind of work she does and a much better understanding of how things can go terribly wrong either by accident or on purpose. 

I went to classes on trace evidence, undercover work, processing a scene, blood spatter, ATF and cyber crimes.  But one of my favorite times was the mock hostage demonstration the instructors put on for the entire 2011 class.  We came into the main auditorium and this white tent was on stage.  We'd later learn that one of our teachers was taken hostage by someone who worked for her.  The negotiators came in and tried to get the bad guy to release his hostage and put down his gun. 

But he refused.  A shot rang out.

And down he went.  Fortunately this was all a demonstration for us.  But we learned that is what happens when the negotiations aren't going well and the hostage's life is in imminent danger.  The sniper took his shot and aimed for the kill zone and that causes the bad guy to drop.  The shot takes out the control center in the brain and there is no danger of reflexes causing injuries once that shot hits.

The sniper was then brought up on stage and showed us the weapon he used and the protective gear he wears.  Sometimes he will be at a hostage situation for 20+ hours in full gear.  I was so impressed that we have these kind of people protecting us.  I also had a chance to take a separate class later from this sniper and he was very thorough and gave us a lot of detail about what it's like to do his job. 

This is from the sniper class and shows one of the protective head coverings that are used to blend into the surroundings. 

I also got to hear Katherine Ramsland, a forensic psychologist, present several cases that she worked and they were mind-blowing.  In some cases - literally.  We were not allowed to take pictures, but let me tell you, the crime scene information was just as the authorities would have seen.  She even presented a case that remains unsolved - but we all have our theories on that one.

All too soon the two days of classes were over.  My head was overflowing with details and information.  My mind was bursting with ideas for future plots.  Even though I write funny mysteries, I have law enforcement and ex-law enforcement characters in my books.  It's important for me to get the details right and to understand these men and women of law enforcement so I can write realistic characters. 

This whole WPA was an amazing experience.  I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in writing with realism.  

Although I was tired from the experience, I was really sad to leave the conference.  I can truthfully say it is one of the best experiences I've had as a writer.  My thanks to Lee Lofland, all of the staff at WPA and Sisters in Crime.  A special thank you goes to my husband for driving me to the WPA and watching me crash each day after dinner.  He didn't see much of me during these 4 days, but he sure heard all about it on the way home and for weeks after.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Your Eight O'Clock Is Dead

Your Eight O'Clock Is Dead, Book One in my River City Mystery Series is available NOW!  Woo HOO!!!!  It went up last Friday on Amazon Kindle and on Barnes and Noble Nook.  It's also available in many formats on Smashwords

Eight O'Clock is a light-hearted, humorous mystery.  And I had an absolute blast writing this book and creating these quirky characters.  Here's a bit about the story.

Becca Reynolds is having a bad day. But her day takes a turn for the worse when she finds the fledgling psychiatric firm's 8 o'clock patient dead in the waiting room. Becca appoints herself the unofficial investigator since the police seem to be doing a really bad job of finding the murderer.

The case takes Becca from the sordid depths of the Russian mob, to the upscale West End of Richmond, Virginia (known locally as River City), and even to her own backyard. In the course of the story she finds herself in hot water, hot danger, and with dreams of hot men.

I described it to a friend today as:

A dead body

An innocent accused of murder

A mysterious Russian and a hunky ex-cop turned accountant - each with deep secrets and hidden agendas

And a lovable screw-up who is determined to save her job, bring the real killer to justice and increase her love life in the process. 

I've received quite a bit of positive feedback from early readers.  I hope you'll join with me in celebrating the release of my book.

Right now I'm hard at work on Book 2 - Your Time Is Up.  And I've got Book 3 - Your Lights Are Out - already plotted out.  Both books will be released in 2012. 

October was very, very good to me.  A son who got engaged and a book release.  Chocolate and mimosas all around.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Newsflash - Proud Mom

My darling son, Michael, called this past Sunday to let me know that he had proposed to his sweet girlfriend, Jenna, and she had accepted.  I am so very happy for both of them and hope they will have a long, happy married life.  I think it'll be a 2012 wedding. 

Jenna and Michael

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Writers' Police Academy - Getting There

The end of September saw me heading southwest from where I live in Richmond, VA, to Greensboro, NC and The Writers' Police Academy.  I had been wanting to do this for the past several years.  Initially, I'd heard about it when I was going through chemotherapy in 2009.  The only places I went that year was to doctors.  But I made myself a promise that when I was healthy again, I was going to go to this event.  And this year I made it!

The drive down wasn't too bad.  About four hours by interstates with some nice, peaceful scenery as well as the usual interstate views. 

My dear husband, Jorgie, was my trip companion and driver.  Even with the GPS, we managed to get lost once - which for us is good.  I still blame the Magellan, or Maggie as we call her.  She had us go off the interstate when I was frantically pointing to the highway signs.  This allowed us a little excursion off the beaten path and I managed to snap a picture or two while Maggie was recalculating.

Back on track and speeding right along, we were both amazed to see a BRICK sound wall.  Wow!  I know we have a lot to talk about in the car.  But we're so used to seeing plain barriers, it was interesting to see this brick work.  And long stretches of it.  We were both speculating about the cost. 

It takes a lot to amuse me on a trip.  I'm worse than a small child (are we there yet?).  This happens mostly when traveling to yarn shops, but this time I was anxious and excited to get to the hotel and get this party at WPA started.  So I had to get a picture of the sign for the Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, NC, which is where our classes were going to be - and is the home of an active police academy.  It's the 3rd largest community college in NC with an enrollment of about 11,000.

Before I knew it, we were pulling up in front of the hotel and Jorgie was dropping me off with the luggage while he searched for a parking place. 

I also tend to get caught up in picture taking and while I was snapping a few shots of plantlife and the hotel, Jorgie was back.

The hotel interior was lovely.  Had to get a few shots of that too!

Atrium Skylights

Elevators with great views.

Atrium looking down from our room.  The breakfast buffet was served each morning here toward the back of the Atrium.  This was to become a very important area for this trip.  I had to be up, showered, dressed, fed and on the bus to the Academy by 7 a.m. or so each day.  The buses left promptly at 7:30 a.m.  I am NOT a morning person, so this was a challenge to stagger into the breakfast buffet each day and make intelligent choices and try to get my body to wake up.  This was also a great time to network with fellow attendees who were also jump-starting their day.

Meanwhile, Jorgie got to sleep in and stroll down at 9 a.m. or so for his breakfast.  He even had time to get an omelet made to order each day. 

Here are a few pictures of our two room suite.  Yes, a suite.  We might work hard during the day, but Lee Lofland, organizer of the Writers' Police Academy, made sure we were comfortable at night.  Jorgie got to enjoy it much more than I did.  We had a great bedroom with a king size bed and a flat screen television.

The living room had a sleeper sofa, ottoman, comfy chairs along with a mini-fridge and microwave.  Oh yes, and another flat screen television along with a desk and internet connections.

After checking in and registering for the academy and getting all of my supplies, we decided we'd better go grab a bite to eat before the evening sessions started.  Maggie was a great help in locating one of my favorite food chains, Ruby Tuesday.  We had an excellent meal and then hurried back to the hotel where I donned my academy badge and headed down to the orientation meeting led by Lee Lofland.

Head filled with all kinds of rules and things to come in the next few days, I opted out for the meet and greet late night session (that up and at 'em time for the next day was looming large in my mind).  I headed back to the room, kissed my honey good night and hit the bed. 

Next time, I share with you what I learned.  All I can say was it was a huge learning experience for me as a writer and as a citizen. 

Until my next post,

Kat - who had NO time to knit on this trip

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day Tripping to Charlottesville

Back in the summer several of my fellow Tuesday Night Knitters (TNK) took a 60 mile trip up Interstate 64 to Charlottesville, Virginia, for a day of yarn shopping, knitting and camaraderie.

The Downtown Mall is closed to motorized traffic leaving brick streets for pedestrians to stroll.  This is especially nice in great weather.  And we had such a day.  Low humidity, warm temperatures, lots of sunshine.

Our first stop (and the main reason for our trip) was The Needle Lady.  Lots of lovely fiber was on display in the shop window.  More fun yarn and accessories were inside.  Great samples were shown throughout the shop.

I'd really like to make this shawl.  Love the colors.  I was really tempted by this one and if I go back up there, I may cave and buy both the yarn and the pattern.

This one was striking and unusual.  Several of our group stopped to look at this one and comment.

TNK member Issy Thomas posed beside a very pretty green sweater sample.  Issy does love those greens.  She is one of our most accomplished knitters.  In fact, she was one of the knitters for Wendy Johnson's lace book,Wendy Knits Lace

Here I am with Jo and Deb inside of The Needle Lady.  I wish Cathy T (bonaircat on Ravelry) had told me to stand up straight and suck in my stomach and turn to a more flattering angle, but she didn't.  I'm thinking the camera adds at least 50 lbs.  By the way, all of these pictures were generously supplied by our trip photographer, Cathy T.  You'll see her in another picture. 

Jo and I may have won the unofficial prize that day for doing the most shopping. 

After shopping for yarn and needles (for those of us who didn't bring projects and had an immediate desire to join in the knitting fun) we decided we should have some lunch before doing any more shopping.

We ate at outdoors since the day was so nice.

Here are Issy, Cathy T (who briefly relinquished her camera so she could have her picture taken) and Linda enjoying drinks and waiting for their lunch to arrive.  We had a great waitress who stayed hopping the whole time.  I have immense respect for waitstaff since I would be an absolutely terrible waitress.  "What do you mean you don't want water?  I brought it, drink it."  I don't think I would get many tips.  Anyway, we had a wonderful waitress and very tasty food.

Here we are.  That's Janice, me (not looking too perky, am I?), Jo and Deb.  I really was having a great time. I think I was shopped out and *very* hungry at this point.  It had been a long morning.  And as we all know, I'm not a morning person. 

After lunch we strolled in a few of the shops and may have bought a few more things other than yarn.  I confess that I have a weakness for earrings.  Linda has a bag thing and found a perfect wallet and I believe a bracelet.  No pictures of these purchases, but there are pictures of some of the shops, both exteriors and interiors.

Loved the J. Fenton store.  They had some lovely items inside including unique jewelry, purses, quilts and toys.  Plus the giraffe outside is pretty darn cool, imo. 

The crowds had picked up after lunch and we went in and out of various shops.  I was lured by a bookstore as I struggle to carry my purchases.  Note to self:  bring a large tote bag for future trips.

This mosaic sofa was really interesting.  Typical of the art that you'll find along the mall. 

These earrings were gorgeous.  And I may have an in with the artist who crafted them.  Mary's designs are always so creative and colorful.  We're encouraging her to open an Etsy shop.  She also has cute, cute sheep and kitty pins.  A very talented artist for sure.

After we strolled and did our shopping, we found a nice round outside table, parked ourselves and our knitting and sat and did a lot of people-watching and a lot of knitting.

Sadly my Charlottesville shawl is still in progress.  But here's a picture of what I've knit so far.

The yarn and colors are beautiful.  And it's a super simple knit.  I need to get back to this, but so far Anne Hanson's Fall in Full Color club has been keeping me busy with knitting projects.

Linda is much better at finishing things than I am.  Here's her Stripe Study Shawl that she was working on while we sitting and knitting in the fresh air.  Love the colors.  Linda is another one of our prolific and accomplished knitters. 

We had a great day and I'm so glad I had the chance to go and bond with this great group of women. I so look forward to Tuesday nights and meeting with them from 7pm to 9pm across the James River.  They are funny, kind, supportive and interesting. 

I encourage you to find a group of similar knitters in your area.  And I hope you're as lucky as I have been with the Tuesday Night Knitters.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Private Investigations with Meriah L. Crawford

On Saturday, August 27, 2011 about a dozen intrepid souls braved Hurricane Irene's imminent threat to gather at Tuckahoe Library, in Richmond, VA to attend the last summer meeting of our local Sisters in Crime chaper.

The speaker was Meriah L. Crawford, owner of Rhino Investiagations and English teacher at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Meriah shared information with the group as the winds kick up outside and the lights blink inside.  Not knowing how long the library would be open, the group decided to start in on our Panera boxed lunches while Meriah gave her presentation.

Suspense writer Mary Burton manages to juggle lunch and ask some great questions of our guest speaker.

Meriah showed how she set up a fake Facebook account and friended Heather W, one of our program chairs.  Then Meriah set out to pretend to be someone that Heather and her friends went to school with.  Of the 51 people she sent friend requests to, only one questioned who she was.  That's kind of scary and an eye-opener.  You really could be "talking" or friending just about anybody on these social networks.  As writers, we tend to friend potential readers and rarely don't friend folks.   Writers need to accept a certain loss of privacy.  But people not in the public eye may want to think carefully before jumping in with both feet.

Ms. Crawford does a lot of Internet work in her investigations.  The social networks are becoming more and more of an issue in divorce cases as the cheating spouse will be in online friendships with the person they are cheating with.  A staggering 50% of divorces now have some social networking involved. 

In her work as a private investigator, Meriah L. Crawford has worked on many types of cases from insurance fraud, background checks and stalking to murder and theft cases.  The day of a PI is never boring.

She used google maps to explain to us how she sets up a stakeout.  And she explained how to park to best see the person you're surveilling and methods to follow a target.

Google maps is also a great way to visit a neighborhood where you'd like to set a book.  You can do a 3D 360 degree view of any location and this was demonstrated to us as well.

Another site that Meriah uses is Wunderground.  Not only does she use this to check the weather for surveillance activity, but she also uses it in her writing.  With this site you can check the weather for many locations and for many dates, both present and past.  If you're writing anything other than a current date into your story, this can be very helpful in figuring out what the weather was for a certain date.  It will lend reality to your story.

Meriah shared some inside information with those of us gathered - such as, you can walk on a person's property even if they have a posted No Trespassing sign until the owner tells you to get off of their property. Then you must leave.

Both paid and free internet search sites are used by private investigators as they attempt to locate people or work a case.

Since stalkers have been known to hire PIs to locate their victims, Meriah stressed how careful a PI needs to be in taking cases.  She asks careful questions before she'll commit to a case and trusts her internal moral compass to decide whether or not to take a case.

She once had a client who wanted her to locate his high school sweetheart 20 years after the fact and provide him with pictures.  Ms. Crawford stated that for some reason this creeped her out, and she refused to take the case.  You have to use your good judgment in deciding what to do or not do. 

We were just getting into more detailed information when the library announced it was closing early due to the impending hurricane.  We had to wrap up the meeting quite quickly.  Meriah was given a round of applause not only for sharing her information with us but for also braving the weather.

It is my sincere hope that we will have her visit us again in order to continue her fascinating presentation.