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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Writing Quote: The Journalist as Con Man

     Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse. Like the credulous widow who wakes up one day to find the charming young man and all her savings gone, so the consenting subject of a piece of nonfiction writing learns--when the article or book appears--his hard lesson.

     Journalists justify their treachery in various ways according to their temperaments. The more pompous talk about freedom of speech and "the public's right to know"; the least talented talk about Art; the seemliest murmur about earning a living.

     The catastrophe suffered by the subject is no simple matter of an unflattering likeness or a misrepresentation of his views; what pains him, what rankles and sometimes drives him to extremes of vengefulness, is the deception that has been practiced on him. On reading the article or book in question, he has to face the fact that the journalist--who seemed so friendly and sympathetic, so keen to understand him fully, so remarkably attuned to his vision of things--never had the slightest intention of collaborating with him on his story but always intended to write a story of his own.

Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer, 1990

Writing Quote: Don't Make the Reader Wait Too Long for the Murder

Some mystery novels don't reach the discovery of the body until many pages into the story…Mystery writers have freedom to spend quite a few pages establishing the character of the detective or setting up the society in which the murder will take place. But the audience is quite aware that a murder will take place, but will become impatient if the writer takes too long getting to it.

Orson Scott Card, How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy, 1990 

Criminal Justice Quote: NYC Woman and Her Children Assaulted by Impostor Cabbie

     A fake cabbie violently flung children on the ground and battered a desperate 26-year-old woman in a brutal sexual assault that was caught on video. The impostor claimed to be a cab driver when he picked up the woman and her children on 207th Street in Manhattan on Sunday August 24, 2014. When the car arrived in Queens, the suspect began to sexually assault  the woman in the vehicle. Once she resisted the man can be seen going ballistic.

     He first elbows the 5-year-old in the head before forcibly removing the 3-year-old from the car. He then throws the other child to the ground before getting back into the car and driving off.

     The children were taken to Elmhurst Hospital with minor injuries. Police are searching for a man in his 40s. [Their mother was treated for more serious injuries and released.]

     [Update: On August 28, police arrested 48-year-old Pedro Vargas, an ex-con from Yonkers, New York. He has been charged with felony assault and three counts of endangering the welfare of children.]

Joe Tacopino, "Fake Cabbie Throws Kids, Sexually Assaults Woman," New York Post, August 27, 2014 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Horse and Buggy Crime: Robbing The Amish


     Michelle Rodriguez lived in Berne, Indiana, a town of 4,000 35 miles south of Fort Wayne. The 42-year-old resided with her three teenage sons. In September 2012, Rodriguez informed her boys that she couldn't travel to Fort Wayne to buy cocaine because she had run out of money. (And probably food stamps as well.) To solve the problem, she asked her sons to climb into her faded green Chevy Malibu and drive the rural roads in the area's Amish country looking for buggies to pull over and Amish people to rob.

     The teenagers piled into the old car equipped with gas masks and baseball bats. Within a span of two hours they pulled over four buggies occupied by a total of five Amish persons. Four of the robbery victims were woman accompanied by children.

     Shortly after the buggy heists police officers took the mastermind and her sons into custody. In April 2013 Michelle Rodriguez and her boys pleaded guilty to robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, and criminal confinement. The judge sentenced the mother to 15 years in prison. Her 18-year-old son, Alezandro Lopez, received a 6-year sentence. The two juvenile defendants got off with probation.


     In southern Tennessee along the Alabama boarder, Lawrence County is home to a growing Amish enclave that has become a tourist attraction. On April 18, 2014, three men drove into Waterfork Park where they robbed an Amish man at gunpoint. A short time later, a few miles away, the same criminals held up a second Amish person.

     That night, as police officers conducted an investigation at the scene of the second robbery, they spotted the suspects' car as it sped by following a hit-and-run incident with another Amish buggy.

     The police chase that followed resulted in the arrest of three men in their thirties from the nearby towns of Lawrenceburg and Ethridge. A local prosecutor charged the three suspects with aggravated robbery. Their cases are pending.


     Gladwin and Clare Counties in rural, central Michigan are homes to a growing settlement of old-order Amish. In this community, a man armed with a shotgun, from May 22 to June 4, 2014, committed a string of late night hold-ups of Amish people riding in their buggies on the area's rural roads.

     Detectives with the Michigan State Police believe that several Amish victims have not reported being robbed. (Many Amish people are reluctant to get involved with the authorities.) In an effort to identify the lone bandit, police officers asked members of the Amish community to come forward if they have any clues regarding the identify of the robber. In addition, Crime Stoppers posted a $1,000 reward in the case. The crimes remain unsolved.


     At 12:30 in the morning of Monday August 25, 2014, a masked gunman driving a white minivan robbed an Amish man of $11 in a park in Intercourse, a town in the heart of eastern Pennsylvania's massive Amish community. Ten minutes following that crime, the robber struck again in East Lampeter Township five miles outside the town of Lancaster. In the second heist, the gunman in the minivan forced an Amish buggy occupied by three people off a rural road. The robber jumped out of the vehicle, pointed a handgun at the victims, and demanded money.

      The three Amish victims facing the barrel of the robber's weapon tossed their wallets out of the buggy onto the road. As the robber turned his back on the victims to retrieve one of the wallets, the driver of the buggy drove it into an adjacent field. The robber, unable to negotiate the rough terrain in his van, drove off.

     The police in Pennsylvania's largest Amish community have not identified this robber.

Criminal Justice Quote: Say Goodbye to Alaska Serial Killer Robert Hansen

     Convicted Alaska serial killer Robert Hansen, who gained the nickname of "The Butcher Baker" for abducting and hunting down women in the wilderness during the state's oil pipeline construction boom in the 1970s, has died at age 75. Hansen died Thursday August 21, 2014 at  Alaska Regional Hospital after being in declining health for the past year…

     Hansen was convicted in 1984 after confessing to killing 17 women, mostly dancers and prostitutes, during a 12-year span. Hansen was convicted of just four of the murders in a deal that spared him having to go to trial 17 times. The Anchorage baker also confessed to raping another 30 women at that time…

     Hansen was the subject of a 2003 film entitled "The Frozen Ground" that starred Nicolas Cage as an Alaska State Trooper investigating the slayings. Actor John Cusack portrayed Hansen.

     Hansen was serving a 461-year sentence in Alaska at the time of his death. He had been incarcerated at the Seward State Prison and was moved May 11, 2014 to the Anchorage Correctional Center to receive medical attention.

     Hansen owned a bakery in a downtown mini-mall in the 1970s and 1980s. He lived across town with his wife and children who knew nothing of his other life…

     Hansen would abduct the women and take them to remote places outside the city. Sometimes he would drive and other times he would fly his private plane. A licensed pilot, Hansen told investigators that one of his favorite spots to take his victims was the Knik River north of Anchorage. In some instances Hansen would rape the women then return them to Anchorage, warning them not to contact the authorities. Other times he would let the women go free in the wilderness then hunt them down with his rifle. Only 12 bodies of the 17 women Hansen confessed to killing have been found.

Rachel D'Oro, "Alaska Serial Killer Dies, Decades After Murders," Associated Press, August 223, 2014 

Writing Quote: Theme in Documentary Film Stories

     In literary terms, theme is the general underlying subject of a specific story, a recurring idea that often illuminates an aspect of the human condition…

     The best documentary films, like memorable literary novels or thought-provocking dramatic features, not only engage the audience with an immediate story--one grounded in plot and character--but with themes that resonate beyond the particulars of the event being told.

Sheila Curran Bernard, Documentary Storytelling, Second Edition, 2007 

Writing Quote: Historical Accuracy in Horror Fiction

Let us start with an observable fact: Many commercially successful novels and motion pictures pay only slight attention to historical accuracy. This is just as true in horror fiction as it is in other types of historical storytelling. Let us also observe that these inaccuracies are found in many outstanding works of literature and drama, and that faithfulness to history does not, by itself, create compelling stories.

Richard Gillian in On Writing Horror, Mort Castle, editor, 2007 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Junk Science in the Courtroom

     Junk science is the mirror image of real science, with much of the same form but none of the same substance. There is the astronomer, on the one hand, and the astrologist, on the other. The chemist is paired with the alchemist, the pharmacologist with the homeopathist. Take the serious sciences of allergy and immunology, brush away the detail and rigor, and you have the junk science of clinical ecology. The orthopedic surgeon is shadowed by the osteopath, the physical therapist by the chiropractor, the mathematician with the numerologist and the cabalist. Cautious and respectable surgeons are matched by some who cut and paste with abandon. Further out on the surgical fringe are outright charlatans, well documented in the credulous pulp press, who claim to operate with rusty knives but no anesthesia, who prey on cancer patients so desperate they will believe a palmed chicken liver is really a human tumor.

     Junk science cuts across chemistry and pharmacology, medicine and engineering. It is a hodgepodge of biased data, spurious inference, and logical legerdemain, patched together by researchers whose enthusiasm for discovery and diagnosis far outstrips their skill. It is a catalog of every conceivable kind of error: data dredging, wishful thinking, truculent dogmatism, and now and again, outright fraud.

     On the legal side, junk science is matched by what might be called liability science, a speculative theory that expects lawyers, judges, and juries to search for causes at the far fringes of science and beyond. The legal establishment had adjusted rules of evidence accordingly, so that almost any self-styled scientist, no matter how strange or iconoclastic his views, will be welcome to testify in court. The same scientific questions are litigated again and again, in one courtroom after the next, so that error is almost inevitable.

     Junk science is impelled through our courts by a mix of opportunity and incentive. "Let-it-all-in" legal theory creates the opportunity. The incentive is money: the prospect that the Midas-like touch of  a credulous jury will now and again transform scientific dust into gold. Ironically, the law's tolerance for pseudoscientific speculation has been rationalized in the name of science itself. The open-minded traditions of science demand that every claim be taken seriously, or at least that's what many judges have reasoned. A still riper irony is that in aspiring to correct scientific and medical error everywhere else, courts have become steadily more willing to tolerate quackery on the witness stand. [While during the past ten years efforts have been made to keep junk science out of the courtroom, it remains a problem.]

Peter W. Huber, Galileo's Revenge, 1991

Criminal Justice Quote: Barricaded Soldier Shoots Herself To Death on Military Base

     A female soldier shot herself on Monday August 25, 2014 at a military post in central Virginia. She later died…The incident began at 8:45 AM at Fort Lee when the soldier brandished a weapon and then barricaded herself in an office at the Army Combined Arms Support Command headquarters building…

     Fort Lee police responded within two minutes and quickly established contact with the barricaded woman. But during the course of the negotiations she turned the weapon on herself and fired one shot…The soldier, who was not identified, died at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center…

     Fort Lee is located near Petersburg, about 30 miles south of Richmond…

"Soldier Who Shot Herself Dies, Army Says," CNN, August 25, 2014 

Writing Quote: Stephen King on the Anatomy of Stories and Novels

     In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts: narration, which moves the story from point A to point B and finally to point Z; description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech.

     You may wonder where plot is in all of this. The answer--my answer, anyway--is nowhere. I won't try to convince you that I've never plotted any more than I'd try to convince you that I've never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren't compatible. It's best that I be as clear about this as I can--I want you to understand that my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves.

Stephen King, On Writing, 2000

Thursday, August 28, 2014

England's Child Sex Exploitation Scandal

     In Rotherham, a city of 250,000 in northern England, five men from the Pakistani community were convicted in 2010 of grooming teenage girls for rape. The victims were trafficked across northern England by crews made up of Asian men. The high-profile trials brought to light other child sex exploitation rings run by Pakistani men in the cities of Rochdale, Derby, and Oxford.

     English authorities, responding to public pressure in the wake of the trials and accusations, asked Alexis Jay, the former chief social worker for the Scottish government, to investigate the scandal and publish a report on the depth and scope of the criminal operation. She released her report on August 25, 2014.

     Ms. Jay and her investigators determined that from 1997 to 2013, 1,400 girls, some as young as eleven, were sexually assaulted in the massive criminal enterprise. They were gang-raped, beaten, and threatened. The author of the report wrote: "There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told someone."

     How could so many girls be exploited, by so many men, for so long? According to Alexis Jay, "Police regarded these child victims with contempt." Moreover, a good number of these children were known to child protection agencies. Police chiefs, detectives, and council members chose to believe the sex was either consensual or the allegations of rape were false. These crime were, according to the report, "effectively suppressed."

     In some instances, parents who tried to rescue their children from the exploitation operators were themselves arrested. (Police bribery must have been rampant.) In the report, Alexis Jay wrote: "The collective failures of political and police leadership were blatant. From the beginning, there was growing evidence that child sexual abuse exploitation was a serious problem in Rotherham."

     Following the publication of Ms. Jay's shocking report, Roger Stone, the head of the Rotherham City Council resigned. Outraged parents and others called for the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire to step down as well. The commissioner told reporters he had no intention of resigning. No one else in the public sector has been held accountable for the scandal.

     Currently, authorities in northern England are investigating 32 other cases of child sexual exploitation by Pakistani men and their Asian accomplices. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Former Government Cyber Security Director Convicted of Child Pornography

     Former acting director of cyber security for the Department of Health and Human Services, Timothy DeFoggi, was convicted for a myriad of gruesome child pornography charges Tuesday, August 26, 2014. DeFoggi, who had top security clearance in his capacity as cyber security director, first joined the child pornography website PedoBook in March 2012…He was arrested last April when law enforcement officers, when serving a search warrant, found him downloading child pornography in his home.

     In addition to viewing and soliciting child pornography, DeFoggi reportedly asked another member of the PedoBook site if he would share photographs of the other member's son. DeFoggi suggested that he and the other member meet in person to violently rape and murder children together.

     The DeFoggi trial lasted four days. The jury only deliberated two hours to reach its guilty verdict. DeFoggi will be sentenced on November 7, 2014.

     PedoBook's founder, Aaron McGrath, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2013. So far seven users of the site, including DeFoggi, have been convicted. Department of Justice attorney Keith Becker explained that the site, prior to being shut down by the FBI in December 2013, had specific forums for discussion of babies, young boys, and young girls. DeFoggi had been active on forums discussing the rape of young children.

     Under federal law, the minimum sentence for engaging in a child pornography enterprise is 20 years in prison.

Tristyn Bloom, "Former HHS Cyber Security Director Convicted for Child Porn," The Daily Caller, August 26, 4014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Oklahoma City Cop Accused of On-Duty Sexual Assaults

An Oklahoma City police officers is being held on $5 million bond for allegedly committing a series of sexual assaults against at least six women while he was on duty. Twenty-seven-year-old Daniel Ken Holtzclaw was arrested Thursday, August 21, 2014 on complaints of rape, forcible oral sodomy, sexual battery and indecent exposure…Officer Holzclaw allegedly stopped the women, forced them to expose themselves, fondled them, and in one case, allegedly raped the victim. [On January 9, 2015, the police chief fired Holtzclaw who is free on $609,000 bail.]

"OKC Police Officer Accused in Sexual Assaults," KRMG News, August 22, 2014

Writing Quote: Avoiding Writer's Block

I think writer's block is overrated. It is not about the work, but one's own attitude toward it. William Stafford, when asked what his advice was to someone who was blocked, said, "Lower your standards and keep on going." That's the single wisest thing ever said about this subject. And, again, it's why I advise students to learn to think only in terms of this day's work. Every good book, every bad book, and all the great books, too, were all written a little at a time. A day's work, over and over, for a period of months or years. If you concentrate on one day's work, putting in the time, there is no such thing as writer's block.

Richard Bausch in Novel Ideas, Barbara Shoup, editor, 2001 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Memphis Police Officer Ronald Harris: The Make-A-Wish Robbery Case

     In January 2002, 22-year-old Ronald Harris joined the police department in Memphis, Tennessee. Twelve years later, he was assigned to the substation at the Memphis International Airport. Officer Harris' supervisors, over the years, documented his failure to live up to the department's standards of professional behavior. He abused the agency's sick leave benefits, did not answer radio calls, and in 2013 was suspended for insubordination.

     In May 2014, Officer Harris' wife reported that he had become delusional and had threatened to kill her. The department granted him leave to seek psychiatric help.

     In June 2014, Harris learned that an employee of St. Jude Children's Hospital, on the seventh of that month, would deliver a credit card worth $1,500 to a Make-A-Wish Foundation family before they boarded a plane with their terminally ill child. On that day Harris followed the Make-A-Wish organization's volunteer into the airport terminal.

     When the paper bag containing the credit card and five St. Jude T-shirts exchanged hands, the off-duty, out-of-uniform cop grabbed the container and tried to flee the scene. Nathan Moore, a member of the sick child's family, confronted officer Harris. In the scuffle that ensued, Harris caused a deep laceration in Mr. Moore's forehead by head-butting him.

     Airport police officers, a couple of bystanders, and the injured Nathan Moore eventually subdued the out-of-control cop. Once inside the police car, Harris kicked open the door and tried to escape.

     Paramedics stitched up Mr. Moore's forehead at the airport. Not long after that the shaken child and his family boarded the plane and flew off to DisneyWorld or wherever they were going to make his dream come true.

     When investigators searched Ronald Harris' car, they found pieces of mail that had been stolen from his neighbor's mailbox.

     Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong suspended Ronald Harris from the force as officers booked him into the county jail on charges of aggravated assault, robbery, and escape from felony incarceration. At his arraignment, the judge set the suspect's bond at $25,000.

     Ronald Harris may or may not go to prison for his outrageous robbery and assault. There is little doubt, however, that he will not get back on the police force. He will probably end up in a mental health facility.

     Few situations are more dangerous than a violent, mentally ill cop. At least in this case the officer, when he went off the deep end, was not armed. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Two Suicide-by-Cop Cases in Maryland

     Howard County Maryland police shot and killed a knife-wielding man who confronted officers and threatened relatives…County police were called shortly after 6:30 AM Saturday August 13, 2014 to Montgomery Road in Ellicott City where police encountered a 61-year-old man in the front yard of a house. One officer shot the man with a Taser weapon, but the man was able to get back inside the house.

     Upon returning to the front yard, the man confronted the officers with a knife at which time the officers shot him. Two large knives were found at the scene.

     Relatives said the man had recently talked about suicide. Investigators believe he called 911 twice, reporting that someone at the house planned to kill the occupants…This is the second police-involved shooting in Howard County in a week. Both cases involved suicidal suspects. On Wednesday August 20, 2014, police shot a man who stabbed himself and confronted officers.

"Man With Knives Shot, Killed by Police," WBAL-TV, August 23, 2014 

Writing Quote: Alien Nonhuman Beings in Literature and Film

     Aliens--nonhuman beings, usually intelligent and sentient, usually from places other than Earth--are of the most familiar elements of science fiction. Even people who don't read science fiction have become well acquainted with quite a few of them through television shows and movies. "E.T." was the title character of one of the highest-grossing movies ever made; the Star Wars movies popularized wookies, Yoda and Jabba the Hut; Star Trek offered a steady parade of nonhuman life-forms, some of them regular members of the cast.

     Movies have been dealing with aliens for much longer. Invasions of giant spiders and such have long been a staple of low-budget horror films, while occasionally a film would try something a bit more sophisticated like H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds. The same novel inspired Orson Wells' 1938 radio broadcast that literally terrified thousands of listeners.

     Printed science fiction has also featured a great many aliens, often with more care and finesse than they've usually received in the visual and broadcast media…

     Some writers have made a specialty of creating fascinating, believable aliens, along with their cultures and the worlds that produced them…Intelligent nonhumans have been an important element in literature much longer than what we now know as science fiction. Gods, demons and talking animals appear in the most ancient mythologies. The folklores of many lands have produced elves, dragons and trolls that have persisted in some form into the written fantasy of today.

Stanley Schmidt, Aliens and Alien Societies, 1995 

Writing Quote: Before Writing Horror Stories You Must Read Horror Stories

     Horror is a genre with certain identifiable characteristics. When people who enjoy horror read your story, they are not reading it in a vacuum. They are reading it as part of a genre, constantly comparing your story to other horror stories they've read. If I had never read Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" and then a story very much like it, readers who know Poe's story may not be quite as thrilled with my big surprise ending as I had hoped. To them it's no surprise. They've read it before, only a better version.

     To be a creative, innovative horror writer, you must read a lot of everything--and a lot of that everything must be horror. You may be thinking: How can I be creative and original with all these other authors' ideas floating around in my head? This is critical: The sheer amount of material floating around in your head will actually prevent you copying from any one author in particular.

     Instead, you will find a tiny piece of character from this book, a tiny piece of plot from that book, a certain stylistic technique from that other--to combine into something totally new. It is the writer who reads only Stephen King who will turn out stories that sound like Stephen King--on a very bad day.

Jeanne Cavelos in On Writing Horror, Mort Castle, editor, 2007  


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Framing Your Estranged Husband

     On August 11, 2014, a jury in Indiana, Pennsylvania found 43-year-old Meri Jane Woods guilty of trying to frame her estranged husband of a crime. According to the district attorney, in August 2013, the  Clymer, Pennsylvania defendant downloaded 40 images of child pornography onto the family computer and took the photographs to the police. She accused her estranged husband, Matthew Woods, of downloading the pornographic contraband.

     When investigators examined the time stamps on the images, they determined they had been downloaded more than two weeks after Meri Woods had kicked her husband out of the house pursuant to a protection from abuse order. Since he didn't have access to the dwelling or the computer, he couldn't have downloaded the incriminating material.

     The judge will sentence Woods in December for filing the false police report. She faces up to nine years behind bars. She might also have to register as a Megan's Law offender. 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Cash Goes Into the Armored Truck, Not On It

Nearly $21,000 is missing after a bag of cash fell off the roof of an armored truck that had picked it up from a soon-to-be-closed Atlantic City casino. GardaWorld Armored Car Services picked up the cash at Revel Casino on August 6, 2014…Surveillance video showed the bag holding the cash on the rear driver's side roof as the vehicle left the casino. The bag was still on the roof when the truck pulled away from nearby Resorts Casino Hotel. It is not clear where the bag fell off. [Someone in Atlantic City hit the jackpot.]

"$21 G Falls Off Truck After Pickup From Revel Casino," Associated Press, August 20, 2014 

Writing Quote: Writing For Young Adults

Books for young adults often explore the gulf in understanding between parents and children. You can only do this if you enter the world of the young person and address the conflict from their point of view. Try to remember the battles you had as a teenager with those adults who wielded authority over you, be they parents, teachers, the police or whomever. How did you feel when these people tried to impose their will on you?

Allan Frewin Jones and Lesly Pollinger, Writing For Children and Getting Published, 1996

Writing Quote: Novelists Should Write For Themselves

My biggest struggle as a novelist is to put my own story on paper--not to be influenced by what I think my editor, my publisher, my friends, or the reader wants to see on the page. I need to get these people out of my writing space and focus on writing my story. If it resonates for me, it will resonate for my readers.

Joan Johnston in The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists, edited by Andrew McLeer, 2008 

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Militarization of American Law Enforcement

     About half of the nation's SWAT officers are trained by active-duty commandos from Navy Seal and Army Ranger units. Police officers with special operation backgrounds in the military train the rest. When fully outfitted in Kevlar helmets, goggles, "ninja" style hoods, combat boots, body armor, and black or camouflage fatigues, and carrying fully automatic rifles and machine guns, these police officers not only look like military troops geared up for battle, they feel that way.

     These elite paramilitary teams--composed of commanders, tactical team leaders, scouts, rearguards, snipers, flashbang grenade officers, and paramedics--are organized like combat units and are just as lethal. But unlike troops in battle, SWAT police don't encounter mortar fire, granade-propelled rockets, homemade bombs, land mines, and highly trained enemy soldiers.

     A vast majority of SWAT raids, conducted after midnight, are targeted against private homes inhabited by unarmed people who are either asleep or watching television. When a SWAT team encounters resistance, it's usually from a family dog who often gets shot. Given the hair-trigger intensity of these drug operations, unarmed civilians who move furtively or are slow to comply with orders get manhandled and sometimes fired at.

     In a landmark study of police paramilitary units published in February 1997, Eastern Kentucky University professors Peter B. Kraska and Victor Kappeler found that by 1990 every state police agency and half the country's sheriff's officers (about 1,500 agencies) had SWAT units. Thirty-eight percent of the nation's police departments were also SWAT team-ready. Five years later, in cities with populations more than 50,000--about 700 municipalities--90 percent of the police departments were deploying SWAT teams.

     At the dawn of the 21st century, according to Kraska and Kappeler, federal, state, and local police were making 50,000 SWAT raids a year. Twenty-five years earlier, there were 3,000 SWAT call-outs annually. According to the best estimates of experts in the field--counting federal, regional, state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies--there are now at least 3,500 paramilitary police units operating throughout the country.

     The 1,300 percent jump in SWAT team deployments in less than twenty years does not reflect a concomitant increase in armed hostage taking, sniper cases, or other high-risk incidents requiring heavily armed, combat-trained SWAT teams.

     Since the mid-1990s, the country's largest police agencies have used armored personnel carriers--APCs--to patrol high-crime districts, transport SWAT officers, and function as drug raid-site operations centers. In recent years, medium-and small-sized law enforcement agencies have been acquiring these military transporters. Although they come in various sizes and designs, APCs are full-tracked, armored, amphibious vehicles capable of traveling over rough terrain at relatively high speeds. Many are equipped with high-caliber, fully automatic turret weapons.

     In the summer of 2013, under a national military surplus give-away program, the Department of Defense gave Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected combat vehicles--MRAPs--to 165 police agencies. The 18-ton fighting vehicles built at the height of the Iraq war, cost the military $500,000 apiece.

     These military behemoths, too big for many bridges and roads, come equipped with bullet-proof glass and machine gun turrets. A MRAP can carry six officers and travel up to 65 miles per hour. Because these huge machines only get five miles per gallon, fuel costs are high. Moreover, each recipient of one of these combat vehicles will spend $70,000 to retrofit the MRAP for civilian use.

     And how will law enforcement agencies use these Army surplus MRAPs? At Ohio State University, campus police are using their MRAP to show force at home football games. (No kidding.) In Boise, Idaho, hardly a place of high crime and civil unrest, the police department uses its MRAP to serve arrest and search warrants.

     A reporter asked one law enforcement administrator if the police department had a use for the mounted machine gun. The chief of police assured the reporter that the department had no plans to remove the machine gun turret. "The whole idea," he said, "is to protect the occupants of the vehicle."
But from what? The officers are inside a bullet-proof vehicle that can withstand a land mine.

     These military surplus vehicles, designed for war, are intimidating and out of place in a civilian setting. The fact that so many police agencies possess them is one sign of how inappropriately militarized American law enforcement has become.

Two Women, Two Arson Cases

     Arson is mainly a man's crime, but recently women have gotten into the act. Men usually use arson to defraud insurance companies while women tend to set fires for pathological reasons.

Sadie Renee Johnson

     In July 2013, a wildfire broke out on the Warm Springs, Oregon Indian Reservation. Before being brought under control it scorched 51,000 acres and cost the federal government $8 million to extinguish. At least no one was injured.

     Two day after the start of the blaze, 23-year-old Sadie Renee Johnson wrote this on her Facebook page: "Like my fire?"

     Interrogated by detectives, Johnson confessed to intentionally setting the fire by throwing a firecracker from her car into roadside brush. She said she had no idea the fire would spread so fast, burn so much land, and threaten so many people. Asked why she committed arson, Johnson said she thought her firefighter friends were bored and needed work.

     On May 19, 2014, Johnson pleaded guilty to arson in federal court. Pursuant to the plea agreement the judge will sentence her in September to 18 months in prison. Under federal law the maximum penalty for this crime is five years behind bars and three years probation.

     To quote John Wayne, "Life is tough. It's even tougher when you're stupid."

Martha Dreher

     In early August 2014, Adam Williams came home to his empty house in Austin, Texas to find the dwelling filled with smoke. His father, Glenn Williams and Adam's two pre-teen sisters were out of town.

     Fire investigators determined that fires had been set in each of the girls' bedrooms. Due to lack of oxygen and highly combustable fuel, the fires had burned themselves out. Nevertheless, the 90-year-old  historic house, due to smoke damage, had to be gutted. So, who had committed this arson?

     Glenn Williams told detectives that a couple of months ago he had hired 57-year-old Martha Dreher to babysit his daughters. According to him, she had recently complained that the girls treated her with disrespect. As a result, she had threatened to quit.

     In reviewing surveillance camera footage, investigators saw Martha Dreher drive up to the Williams house. Twenty minutes later, when she drove off, flames could be seen in the bedroom windows.

     Based on this circumstantial evidence, a Travis County prosecutor charged Dreher with felony arson. At her arraignment, the suspect pleaded not guilty. Her attorney, Amber Bode, in speaking to reporters, said, "The thing that we are going to be pushing for--in addition to lie detection tests and everything else that we can do to prove her innocence--is evidence." 

Criminal Justice Quote: Missing NYC Model Found

     A 22-year-old Sudanese model who had been missing for nearly two weeks was found in a New York City hospital on Monday, August 18, 2014. Detective Kelly Ort had no details about the condition of Ataui-Deng Hopkins, known in the fashion world as Ataui Deng.

     She was last seen August 6 about 11 PM on West 48th Street in midtown Manhattan…Hopkins has worked with designers from Oscar de la Renta to Diane von Fursternberg, according to Corinne Nicolas, president of Trump Model Management. She has been featured in Vogue and worked for names such as Hermes and Kenzo.

     Ataui Deng was born in Sudan and immigrated to San Antonio, Texas, before signing with Trump Models in 2008…She is 6-feet-1, weights 100 pounds and lives in Manhattan's East Village…

"Missing Sudanese Model Living in NYC Found in Hospital," CNN, August 18, 2014  

Writing Quote: Getting Into a Protagonist's Thoughts

     The defining characteristic of a contemplative scene is that your character spends more time thinking than he does in action or speech. These passages of thought are referred to as interior monologue and are meant to reveal something to the reader. These thoughts will be overheard by the reader, and therefore have a bearing on plot and character in each scene.

     While the old convention was to set off thoughts by putting them into italics, I'm more of a fan of embedding thoughts within the narrative voice as simple, elegant exposition.

Jordane Rosenfeld, Make a Scene, 2008 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Writing Quote: Is Writing For Children Easier Than Writing For Adults?

Even famous authors of books intended for adult readers have found that their fame does not transfer easily into the children's market. Renown in one area of writing does not necessarily smooth a path into an entirely different genre. And that is precisely what writing for children is: a different and separate writing area, not an easier one. It has its own difficulties and calls on special and specific skills from its practitioners.

Allan Frewin Jones and Lesly Pollinger, Writing for Children and Getting Published, 1996 

Writing Quote: Synopsizing Your Novel

     I hate synopses, and I've never managed to write one. How the hell can you boil down a novel from 400 pages to three?

     And what does the reader of a synopsis expect to learn from it, anyway? I'm not nearly good enough a writer to convey tone, voice, and character and summarize a 90,000-word plot in five paragraphs. Someone who writes in romance told me that the synopsis is used to prove you understand the expectations of the genre. Well, okay, I guess. But I've never heard another good reason, and even that sounds weak to me.

     If the publisher's demand for a synopsis in nonnegotiable, do the best you can. Otherwise, just skip it--attach Chapter One, or a list of writing credits, instead. For me, the whole point of the game is to get them to read the first few pages. After that, it's all about the writing, as it should be.

Michael Wiecek, in The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists, Andrew McLeer, editor, 2008 

Criminal Justice Quote: Skateboarder Attacks Park Ranger

     Philadelphia police are investigating a video that shows a skateboarder kicking a city park ranger while others stand by laughing. The attack took place in the city's Love Park.

     The park ranger warned several young men they had to stop skateboarding in the park because there were too many children in the area. As a result he was repeatedly kicked in the head by one of the skateboarders. The assailant's friends, during the attack, spit on the victim.

     The city renovated the park in 2002 and reopened it with a permanent ban on skateboarding. But there have been other reported incidents between skateboarders and the authorities.

"Skateboarder Attacks Ranger at Philly's Live Park, Associated Press, August 17, 2014 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Death by Stray Bullet

     A 58-year-old man was killed by a stray bullet Sunday morning, August 17, 2014 while he was inside his New Haven, Connecticut home. Officers responded at two in the morning to a 911 call that reported gunfire. Moments later, a woman called saying that her husband had been shot.

     Police officers found Darryl McNair shot inside his home and say he was struck by a stray bullet inside an office area in his basement. McNair had earlier celebrated his birthday. He was treated at the scene by medical personnel and transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital where he died shortly thereafter.

"Connecticut Man Killed by Stray Bullet," CBS News, August 17, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Stealing Lego Sets

     From Arizona to New York thieves are turning those tiny iconic plastic interlocking bricks you grew up with into cold, hard cash. On New York's Long Island on Friday, August 15, 2014, a 53-year-old woman was arraigned on grand larceny charges for allegedly stealing about $60,000 worth of Lego sets and trying to sell them on eBay…Gloria Haas was arrested after allegedly stealing 800 sets from a Long Island storage facility…

     Thieves are capitalizing on the enduring popularity of the simple little bricks that generated $1.1 billion in profits last year for the Danish toymaker. "The Lego Movie," released last February, made $69 million in its opening weekend and has grossed more than $250 million so far…

     In Phoenix, police arrested four people allegedly involved in an elaborate Lego theft operation…A real estate professional, another man and two women were arrested in connection with that scheme…Police said one man bought expensive Lego sets at a discount from shoplifters and resold them online. Each of the play sets taken were valued at $100 or more…The suspect allegedly recruited accomplices to go to Toys R Us stores to steal Lego sets….

"Cops: From Arizona to NY, Thieves Turn Legos Into Hard Cash," CNN, August 16, 2014 

Writing Quote: The Romance Novel: Perception Versus Reality

     The detractors of romance novels--usually people who haven't read any--often say the stories are simplistic and childish, and they contain no big words and very little plot--just a bunch of sex scenes separated by filler and fluff. A common view of romance is that there's only one story; all the authors do is change the characters' names and hair color and crank out another book.

     Critics of romance also accuse the stories--and their authors by extension--of presenting a world in which women are helpless. Romance, they say, encourages young readers to fantasize about Prince Charming riding to their rescue, to think their only important goal is to find a man to take care of them. The books are accused of limiting women by idealizing romantic relationships, making women unable to relate to real men because they're holding out for a wonderful Harlequin hero.

     In fact, rather than trailing behind the times, romance novels have actually been on the cutting edge of society. Long before divorce was common, for instance, romance novels explored the circumstances in which it might be better to dissolve a marriage than to continue it…

     Even early romances often featured working women and emphasized the importance of economic independence for women. While some heroines are indeed young, inexperienced, and in need of assistance, the usual romance heroine is perfectly competent. Finding her ideal man isn't a necessity; it's a bonus.

     Modern romance novels tell a young woman that she can be successful, useful, and valuable on her own; that there are men who will respect her and treat her well; and that such men are worth waiting for.

Leigh Michaels, On Writing Romance, 2007 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Writing Quote: Selecting Your Main Character

     Novice writers continue to make the mistake of choosing as the main character people who don't--or shouldn't--have enough freedom to be interesting. If the story is about a great war, they assume their hero must be the commanding general or the king, when in fact the story might be more powerfully told if the main character is a sergeant or a common soldier--someone who is making choices and then carrying out those choices himself. Or the main character might even be a civilian, whose life is transformed as the great events flow over and around him…

     As a main character, only use people in positions of highest authority when you are forced to because the story can't be told any other way. And then be very sure that you understand how people in such positions make their decisions, how power actually works.

Orson Scott Card, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1990 

Writing Quote: Creating Chronology in the Documentary Film

As a documentary film storyteller, you decide where to begin and end the story. You can begin in the middle, go back to the beginning, catch up with your story, and then move ahead to the end. You can start at the end before moving to the beginning to ask, "How did we get here?" You can flash forward or back. The only thing you can't do, in a documentary that's driven by a narrative sequence of events, is change the important facts of the main underlying chronology.

Shelia Curran Bernard, Documentary Storytelling, 2007 

Criminal Justice Quote: An Eye For An Eye

The biblical precept, "An eye for any eye and a tooth for a tooth" belongs to an era that predates courts. It enjoins the injured party not to wreak vengeance beyond the injury he has suffered. In this sense it is the beginning of the idea of justice.

Ronald Irving, The Law Is An Ass, 2011 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Running Gun Battle With Police Results in Shooting Death of Child

     A 3-year-old girl died Saturday, August 16, 2014, after a man and police officers engaged in a chase and gun battle in Prince George's County, Maryland…Officers began pursuing the man early in the afternoon when he drove a Nissan Maxima away from the scene of a shooting in Temple Hills. One of the wheels fell off the suspect's car and he stopped and exchanged gunfire with police…

     The suspect kept driving but stopped again and traded bullets with the police a second time. Officers killed the man in the second exchange…Inside the vehicle, police found the wounded 3-year-old girl who later died.

     Police say they don't know who fired the bullets that killed the man or the girl…Police believe the dead man was the girl's father.

     At the scene of the first shooting, two people had been wounded. One of the victims was the girl's maternal grandfather and her maternal great-grandmother. They were in critical condition at a local hospital.

"Girl, 3, Dies After Maryland Gun Battle Involving Driver, Police," CNN, August 16, 2014 

Writing Quote: Write Your Novel Instead of Just Talking About It

Writing a novel is like poking out your eyes with a flaming stick. A real writer will develop the discipline to do it anyway, instead of just talking about the story to anyone within listening range. Unfortunately, writing the book requires spending time alone with yourself. Locking yourself in a room without distractions is usually the best course. Woody Allen said that he can't write in a room with a window.

Bruce Balfour in The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists, Andrew McLeer, 2008 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Legal Windfall

Americans feel that if something untoward happens to them, someone else ought to pay. In Richmond, California in the mid-1990s, lawyers had a field day. An explosion in the local chemical works spread fumes over the city. Within hours a swarm of lawyers descended on the town and persuaded 70,000 of them to issue claims. The insurers of the plant were obliged to pay out a total of $180 million, of which the lawyers creamed off $40 million.

Ronald Irving, The Law Is An Ass, 2011 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kenneth Douglas: The Morgue Employee Who Had Sex With Bodies Awaiting Autopsy

     First you're murdered then you're raped. This represents the ultimate victimization. Having sex with a dead person, while a relatively minor crime, reflects behavior that is beyond deviant, and worse than bad. It's disturbing to know the world is populated with sexual deviants like Kenneth Douglas who can commit their disgusting acts for years without detection. However, while dead victims cannot speak, advances in forensic science have given them a voice. It's that voice that brought Mr. Douglas to justice.

     From 1976 to 1992, Kenneth Douglas worked the night shift at the Hamilton County Morgue in Cincinnati, Ohio. According to his wife, who reported him several times to his morgue supervisors, when he'd undress at home after work he "reeked of alcohol and sex." Eventually morgue officials told Mrs. Douglas to stop calling. Apparently they were not interested in knowing if one of their morgue employees was abusing corpses and contaminating evidence. When the 38-year-old left the morgue in 1992 it was not because officials fired him. He simply stopped showing up for work. The situation at the Hamilton County Morgue reflects a fairly typical example of governmental inertia.

     In 1982, ten years before Kenneth Douglas left the morgue, door-to-door salesman David Steffan confessed to beating and slashing the throat of 19-year-old Karen Range after she invited him into her home. The forensic pathologist found traces of semen in the murder victim's body. Steffen, however, said he had not raped the victim. The judge sentenced him to death. (Steffan remains on Ohio's death awaiting execution.)

     In March 2008, police officers arrested Kenneth Douglas, the former morgue employee, on a drug charge. A detective ran his DNA sample through a database and came up with a match. The semen found in Karen Range's body was his.

     Following his indictment for gross abuse of a corpse in August 2008, Douglas pleaded no contest to the charge. The judge sentenced him to three years in prison.

     Four years later, investigators in Cincinnati discovered that Douglas' DNA matched semen that had been found in two other female corpses in the Hamilton County Morgue. One of these cases involved 24-year-old April Hicks who died in October 1991 after falling out of a three-story window. Kenneth Douglas, when confronted with the DNA evidence, admitted having sex with her body on the day she died.

     The other case involved the 1992 murder of 23-year-old Charlene Appling. Douglas confessed to have sex with her corpse as well. Mark Chambers pleaded guilty to strangling Appling and was sentenced to 10 to 25 years. (He was paroled in 2000.)

     Douglas shocked his interrogators by confessing to having sex with more than 100 Hamilton County corpses during his tenure at the morgue. He blamed his deviant behavior on crack cocaine and booze.

     In 2012, relatives of Karen Range, Charlene Appling, and April Hicks sued Hamilton County in federal court. The plaintiffs accused the defendant of "recklessly and wantonly" neglecting to supervise Mr. Douglas. In 2013 a U.S. district judge dismissed the suit on grounds the plaintiffs, while perhaps victims of negligence on the part of morgue administrators, had failed to establish that their constitutional rights had been violated. The plaintiffs appealed that ruling.

     In August 2014, a three-judge panel on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's decision. This meant that the civil case could go forward against Hamilton County. Kenneth Douglas is now 60-years-old and out of prison.


Criminal Justice Quote: Dropping Rocks Onto Interstate 80

     The husband of an Ohio middle school teacher was among those expected to testify Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at a court hearing about a rock-dropping incident on a stretch of rural interstate in Pennsylvania that left a woman with severe head injuries. The preliminary hearing at the county courthouse in Lewisburg involves the criminal case against four teenagers accused of a July 10 crime spree that included dropping a rock onto the car in which 52-year-old Sharon Budd was riding.

     Budd's husband, Randy, said there are indications she may be recovering some sight in her left eye, as she has been blinking and opening it for short periods, and that her ability to communicate also has been improving. She was moved to a rehabilitation hospital two weeks ago…Surgeons plan in the coming weeks to remove her right eye and install a temporary plate to protect her brain…

     Investigators have charged Dylan M. Lahr, 17; Brett M. Lahr, 18; Tyler Gregory Porter, 18; and Keefer Lance McGee, 17 of assaulting Sharon Budd as well other crimes that include another rock throwing incident, driving vehicles through a cornfield, and breaking a home's window with a baseball bat…

     Tyler Porter told investigators he threw a rock from the Interstate overpass but did not hit anything. But a rock thrown by Dylan Lahr hit a passenger vehicle that then pulled off the road. The Budds were passengers in a Nissan Rogue driven by their college student daughter. They were on their way from their home in Uniontown, Ohio to see a show in New York City when the rock smashed through the windshield and nearly killed Sharon Budd….

"Rock-Throwing That Injured Teacher Goes to Court," Associated Press, August 19, 2014 

Writing Quote: Biographies Must Have Drama

Considerable commentary focuses on the nexus between biography and fiction. As a narrative genre, biography would seem to have the greatest affinity with the novel, since both excel in the creation of characters and scenes through the sensibility of narrators. And yet the biographer has much in common with the dramatist, since biography is a kind of impersonation and the biographer functions as a kind of actor attempting to represent his subject's sensibility. The greatest biography in the English language, Boswell's Life of Johnson, consists mainly of dialogue, with Boswell's own comments serving almost like those of a director's notes.

Carl Rollyson, Biography, 2008

Writing Quote: Writing Humor

Humor writers mine their personal experiences for material. They may tell a story using narrative techniques, or they may relate personal experiences to make a point and offer an opinion. Humor writers gain a lot of help in craft by learning how to structure jokes, work with timing, and deliver punch lines.

Elizabeth Lyon, A Writers's Guide to Nonfiction, 2003 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Amish Girls Kidnapped

     At seven in the evening of August 13, 2014, 6-year-old Delila Miller and her 12-year-old sister Fannie, members of an old-order Amish clan consisting of Mose and Barb Miller and their thirteen children, were working on the family farm when a car drove up to the Miller roadside vegetable stand. The Miller family resided in Oswegatchie, New York, a farming community of 4,000 near the Canadian border 150 miles north of Albany. Because the land was relatively inexpensive and the soil fertile, the Oswegatchie area had grown into the second largest Amish enclave in the state.

     When Delila and Fannie saw the 4-door white sedan pull up to the vegetable stand they walked the few hundred feet between the barn and the stand to greet the customers. The couple drove off, and when they did, the girls were gone. Someone ran to an English neighbor's house and called 911.

     The authorities issued an Amber Alert while scuba drivers prepared to search nearby rivers and helicopters flew over the area in search of the missing girls. Agents on the US/Canadian border reviewed surveillance camera footage in the event the abductors left the country.

     On Thursday evening at eight o'clock, 24 hours after the abduction, the kidnappers dropped the Amish girls off in Richville, New York, a town thirty miles from the Miller farm. The girls knocked on the first door they came to and asked for help. They were greeted by Jeff and Pam Stinson who recognized the older girl from  having purchased corn from her at the Miller produce stand.

     It had been raining and the girls were cold and wet. They were also hungry so the Stinson fed them grape juice and servings of watermelon. The girls quickly consumed the food and were driven straight home where they were met by the police.

     Police officers, working off clues provided by the kidnapped girls, identified a pair of suspects and took them into custody Friday night, August 15, 2014. Charged with counts of first-degree kidnapping, officers booked 39-year-old Stephen Howells II and Nicole Vaisey, 25, into the St. Lawrence County Jail.

     Stephen Howells lived in nearby Hermon, New York with Vaisey, his girlfriend. According to the St. Lawrence County sheriff, the couple and their victims did not know each other. The district attorney told reporters that Howells and Vaisey sexually abused the girls during their period of captivity. The judge denied the suspects bond.

     Sheriff Kevin Wells, at a press conference Saturday morning, August 16, in speaking about the suspects, said there was "definite potential" of other kidnap victims associated with the couple. As a result, addition charges could be filed against Howells and Vaisey. The sheriff said he believed the Amish kidnappings had been carefully planned.

     Howells, a father of three, worked as a registered nurse at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdenburg, a town adjacent to Oswegatchie.

     Nicole Vaisey graduated with honors in 2011 from Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania. During her senior year, as a psychology major, she received a $1,500 grant to do research about the effects of watching pornography on attitudes toward rape. She was president of the Mercyhurst chapter of Psi chi and a member of the Mercyhurst Psychology club and the school's Active Minds club.

     Upon graduation from Mercyhurst, Vaisey worked as a substitute teacher at a day care center then took a job with an agency in St. Lawrence County that serves developmentally disabled people. After moving in with Stephen Howell, she worked twice a week as a dog groomer at Bows & Bandanas Pet Salon and Resort. The couple met eighteen months ago online.

     Vaisey's lawyer, Bradford C. Riendeau, told a reporter with The New York Times that he planned to argue in court that his client was in an abusive and submissive relationship with Howells. She was not, he said, the lead person in the kidnapping. "She appears to have been the slave and he was the master."

     St. Lawrence County district attorney Mary Rain, said, "We are confident that Vaisey was equally involved in the allegations as he was." 

Writing Quote: Fiction is Drama

Many students in fiction workshops have trouble understanding how important it is to dramatize as much of their material as possible; they'd much rather tell the reader about what happened than show it. I've never understood why this is so; perhaps it's only that they resist the notion of "being dramatic" and therefore corny.

Martin Russ, Showdown Semester, 1980 

Writing Quote: Writing Essays

Essays, unlike articles, intentionally include or even feature the writer's subjective viewpoint and experiences. Besides political and social commentary in newspapers, the essay form encompasses personal experiences of all kinds. Essays are further distinguished from articles by a structure suited to argue an opinion or tell a story.

Elizabeth Lyon, A Writer's Guide to Nonfiction, 2003

Criminal Justice Quote: Police Chase Woman Who Stole a Patrol Car

     Traffic in Atlanta came to a screeching halt late Sunday afternoon August 10, 2014 when a woman leading Cobb County police on a chase that reached 100 mph crashed into several vehicles…Among the crumpled cars was the Cobb County patrol car the suspect had stolen…

     It all began when officers confronted a woman wandering along Windy Hill Road pointing a weapon at motorists. The suspect managed to get into a police cruiser and led officers on a chase down Interstate 75 onto the connector. Witnesses say the suspect was driving extremely fast and crashed into a Chevrolet Cavalier. The impact sent the Cavalier into another vehicle, and they crashed into a wall. The driver in the Chevy had to be extricated from his car…In all, four people were injured including a Cobb County officer...

     After the crash the suspect jumped out of the patrol car and charged toward an officer…According to a witness, "She was on the ground and making all of these noises. There were people all around her holding her down because it looked like she was resisting arrest."

     Authorities identified the suspect as Emmerli Wilcoxson. She reportedly suffered head trauma and was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital. The driver of the Cavalier suffered severe injuries to his lower body.

"Woman Steals Police Car and Leads Officers on Chase," WXIA-TV, August 10, 2014 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Writing Quote: The Source of Writer's Block

The most common reason for writer's block is problems with the storyline. There are no hard and fast rules as to overcome this, but without swift attention, an acute attack can turn into a chronic condition. Start by revisiting the storyline. Have you introduced new elements, and are the characters true to your original outline? If you have veered from your original plan then you have to decide whether to rewrite the outline, and potentially the plot line of the story, or rewrite chapters. Both are painful decisions to make, but remember that writing is a work in progress, so revisiting your ideas is an essential element of writing successfully. By focusing on the bigger picture (the framework, context, plot and characters) the details often become clearer.

Maeve Binchy, The Maeve Binchy Writer's Club, 2008 

Criminal Justice Quote: Federal Judge Arrested For Assaulting His Wife

     A Federal judge spent the night in an Atlanta jail after being charged with misdemeanor battery in an alleged domestic violence incident involving his wife. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller, 55, of Montgomery, Alabama was charged with the crime after Atlanta police officers responded to the downtown Ritz-Carlton hotel shortly before 11 PM on Saturday, August 9, 2014.

     According to a police release, "Officers spoke to the victim who stated her husband assaulted her. Officers observed injuries to the victim. Paramedics treated her on the scene."…

     The judge granted Judge Fuller a $5,000 signature bond. He walked out of the Fulton County Jail at noon, August 10, 2014…Fuller was confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in 2002.

"Federal Judge Spends Night in Jail," CNN, August 11, 2014


Writing Quotes: The Novelization of Movies

     You've seen the movie, now read the book. The movie came from an original screenplay, but several weeks before the film comes out, there's a book on the stands. Novelizations, they're called…

     The authors of these books are usually paid a bit more up front than the average first novel advance--but their percentage of royalties is far lower, so that a box office hit won't mean that much more money to the novelizer than a complete failure. Also, writing a novelization can be a frustrating experience, since you almost always have to work from the screenplay, turning in your manuscript before the filming has been competed. Often the whole plot of the movie will be changed in filming or editing, and there sits the book, with the old "wrong" version firmly enshrined.

     Novelizations can be fine pieces of work, but in most cases very few readers and no critics will notice or care. There's little joy in the work, it does nothing for your career, and whether the money is worth it to you is for you to answer.

Orson Scott Card, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1990 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Serial Abuser Accused of Beating His 5-Year-Old To Death

     At eleven in the morning of December 18, 2013, an official at the Pershing Elementary School in Pine Hills, Florida, a community of 60,000 near Orlando, asked Darell Avant to come to the school and take his son home. The principal had suspended the 5-year-old for kicking a teacher.

     Perhaps the unruly boy had learned his bad behavior from his father. Since 2003, the 26-year-old Avant had been arrested in Orange County 25 times for domestic violence and other crimes including assaulting a pregnant woman, drug possession, aggravated assault, and grand theft.

     At seven in the evening on the day Avant removed his son from the school, he called 911 to report that the boy was unconscious and wouldn't wake up. Twenty-five minutes after the emergency call, a member of the Orange County Fire and Rescue crew pronounced the boy dead at his father's apartment.

     In speaking to Orange County Sheriff's deputies, Avant said that after picking up his son from school, he spanked him and sent him to his room. Later that day, Avant punished the boy by making him do push-ups and squats. According to the father, after twenty minutes of this, the child became dizzy, collapsed and lost consciousness.

     Avant told investigators he tried to awaken his son by shaking and slapping him. When that didn't wake up the boy father called a friend who came to the apartment to resuscitate him. That didn't work either. Finally, Avant called 911. Avant didn't explain why he didn't call for professional help immediately after his son lost consciousness.

     Deputies at the apartment and officers at the morgue noticed fresh contusions and bruises on the boy's back, stomach, chest, and arms. His mother told detectives that when the child left for school that morning he did not have those injuries. It looked to investigators that the boy had been severely beaten.

     Police officers booked Avant into the Orange County Jail on charges of domestic violence and several lesser offenses. A social worker with the Department of Children and Families took the dead child's younger sibling into protective custody.

     On December 20, 2013, the medical examiner, following the autopsy, announced that the 5-year-old had died from multiple blunt-force trauma. The medical examiner ruled the death a criminal homicide. Shortly after the medical examiner's ruling, an Orange County prosecutor upgraded the charges against Darell Avant to first-degree murder. If convicted as charged Avant could be sentenced to death. The judge denied him bail.


Writing Quote: Writing For Publication is Exhausting

I tend to think of writing as much like taking an exam--the experience is deeply absorbing, my concentration is intensely focused, time seems suspended yet suddenly hours have elapsed. At the end of a day of writing, I feel drained. The point is that I don't believe anyone has to innately love the process of writing to be a good writer, and to find it an immensely satisfying pursuit.

James B. Stewart, Follow the Story, 1998

Writing Quote: Turning Tragedy into Humor

     Unlike tragedy, a sense of humor is determined by many factors: our age, our socioeconomic backgrounds, our culture. What most of us consider tragic is fairly static, though something tragic can be made funny by comic techniques such as repetition. In Nathanael West's A Cool Million, the hero keeps losing limbs and other parts of himself as he makes his way in the world until there is very little that's left of him. You lose one limb or all your limbs at once, that's tragic. But if you lose them little by little, as well as an eye, your teeth, your hair, you start defying logic, and once you've transcended logic, most people will laugh in spite of themselves, even if they find something a little horrifying at the same time.

     Simply put, tragedy has serious and logical consequences. Cause and effect. Comedy usually doesn't. You throw a person off a tall building in a comedy, he bounces. You throw someone off a building in a tragedy, don't wait for the bounce.

Robin Hemley in How to Write Funny, John B. Kachuba, editor, 2001 

Criminal Justice Quote: Crime Pays--For Defense Attorneys

The line between a bank robber and a lawyer is a very thin one. The criminal attacks society head on; the lawyer is trying to set you free after you have been caught so that you can go out and steal some more. Whether he succeeds or not, the lawyer profits from your crime. The only way you can pay him is out of the money you have stolen at one time or another. It isn't called his share of the loot, of course. It's called his fee. But that's because he has a license that entitles him to do what he's doing, and you don't.

Willie Sutton, Where the Money Was, 1976 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Angry Old Woman With Shotgun

     A 90-year-old Texas woman armed with a shotgun held off police officers for four hours before surrendering. Officers arrived at the great-grandmother's home on July 31, 2014 because construction workers called and said she threatened them with the weapon.

     Eleouise Adcock was reportedly outraged that workers were digging up dirt and piling it behind her house. Recently, a company bought up the land surrounding the home where Adcock has lived for more than 40 years. Adock was the last holdout and was frustrated by the company's repeated attempts to buy her property.

     Adock surrendered and was taken to the hospital for a psychological evaluation. No charges are expected.

"Fed Up Grandma Holds Shotgun in Standoff With Police," Fox News, August 2, 2014 

Writing Quote: Keep Jokes Short

The best humor is concise. Ask yourself: Is this line needed? Can I make this line shorter? Is this aside that funny? Can I format this joke differently to make it move quicker? Here's an example of a lean joke: George W. Bush's plan to gain environmentalists' support for his energy policy: solar-powered oil pumps.

J. Kevin Wolfe in How to Write Funny, John B. Kachuba editor, 2001

Writing Quote: The History of the Romance Novel

     Though love and romance have long been a part of the literary world, the romance novel as we know it today originated in the early twentieth century in England. The publishing firm of Mills & Boon, established in 1908, brought out the work of such authors as Agatha Christie and Jack London--and also published romantic fiction. The firm soon realized that its hardcover romances, sold mostly to libraries, were more in demand than many of its regular titles. As the years passed, romantic fiction outstripped other book sales by even greater margins, and eventually the firm dropped other types of books in order to concentrate on publishing romantic novels.

     In the late 1950s, the success of Mills & Boon romances was noted by a Canadian publishing company, Harlequin Books, which began publishing Mills & Boon books North America as Harlequin Romances. The two firms merged in the early 1970s, with Mills & Boon becoming a branch office of Harlequin. Harlequin began setting up independent publishing offices around the world and started to publish romances in translation. In 1981, the firms became a division of the Torstar Corporation, a Canadian communications company.

     For a number of years, Mills & Boon continued to be the sole acquiring editorial office, buying books from British authors. Though it began publishing American author Janet Dailey in the 1970s, Mills & Boon didn't truly open up to other American authors until the early 1980s.

Leigh Michaels, On Writing Romance, 2007

Friday, August 15, 2014

Getting Burned: Stupid Teens and the Online Craze "The Fire Challenge"

     It's no secret that teenage boys are capable of incredibly dangerous and stupid acts. In the past, only a handful of peers might witness a kid drawing attention to himself by pulling off a reckless stunt. Today, through social media, acts of youthful idiocy reach a larger audience.

     Recently, kids have been inspired through the online craze called "The Fire Challenge" to set themselves on fire in front of video cameras for the entertainment of others. This activity is so stupid only a psychiatrist could even begin to explain the thinking behind it.

     On July 29, 2014, in Charlotte, North Carolina, a bare-chested 16-year-old boy took the fire challenge by dousing his neck, chest and abdominal area with nail polish remover, a highly flammable liquid. With his 41-year-old mother behind the video camera, the teen set himself on fire. Obviously shocked by the intensity of the blaze, the burning boy panicked and ran. Fortunately other kids witnessing the insanity took him to the ground and smothered the flames. The boy escaped with minor burns.

     The fact the kid's mother, Janie Lachelle Talley, participated in the spectacle boggles the mind. Not only that, mother and son posted the video on Facebook. Stupidity on top of stupidity.

     Someone with the state Department of Social Services saw the fire video and notified the police. On August 6, 2014, after viewing this boy light himself up, officers with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department arrested the mother on the charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
     Over the past few weeks, several boys have taken the fire challenge by using flammable liquids to ignite themselves. A 15-year-old in Kentucky doused himself with rubbing alcohol. The fire caused second-degree burns on his chest and abdomen. In California, a 16-year-old set himself ablaze and ended up with third-degree burns that will require skin grafts.

Criminal Justice Quote: Does Tweeting Aid Criminals?

Authorities want social media to use restraint during crime investigations. Police in Washington state are asking the public to stop tweeting during shootings and manhunts to avoid telling the bad guys what officers are doing. The "TweetSmart" campaign began in late July 2014. Some are calling the effort a step that could lead to censorship.

"Police: Stop Tweeting During Shootings, Manhunts," KRMG News, August 24, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Jelly Jar Assault

A Florida woman faces a charge of aggravated assault after she used a full jar of jelly to attack another woman on Monday, August 11, 2014. Denisha Day, 20, of Belle Glade was arguing with another woman because the woman's daughter poured out some of her shampoo. Day wanted the woman to pay for the shampoo and the argument turned into a physical fight. After family members broke up the fight, Day hit the woman with the jar of jelly. The assault caused a large lump on the side of the victim's face. Day was released from the Palm Beach County Jail after posting a $2,000 bond.

Matt Morgan, "Police: Florida Woman Attacked With a Jar of Jelly," WFTV News, August 13, 2014 

Writing Quote: Nonfiction Writers are Curious People

We seem to be living in an age of know-it-alls: talk show hosts and guests, expert witnesses, pundits, gurus on every conceivable subject. The information age is exhausting. It is also dull, like a dinner party guest who never stops talking. In my view, this climate is anathema to good writing, which is rooted not in knowledge but in curiosity.

James B. Stewart, Follow the Story, 1998

Writing Quote: Subjects of Unauthorized Biographies

Unauthorized biographies undress their subjects. When John Updike realized that a biographer was on his case, he hurriedly wrote a memoir, Self-Consciousness, so that he could forestall the biography. Autobiography and the authorized biography are time-honored methods of attempting to derail independent biographies and make them seem illicit.

Carl Rollyson, Biography, 2008 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Crime Prevention or Crime Displacement?

Those who have examined whether crime prevention at one place results in total displacement of crime to other places find little evidence for such a hypothesis. Any occurrence of displacement can be highly contingent on the nature of the neighborhoods, the particular crimes, and the particular offenders. One can posit as well that even if a portion of some crimes being prevented in one crime-ridden neighborhood is displaced into ten nearby but different neighborhoods, that same amount of crime will cause less overall fear and disintegration of community. One can also posit a diffusion-of-benetfits effect from protection of certain places or items. For example, some evidence exists that if a potential offender knows that security devices cover one portion of a place or a portion of items in a place, he may attribute that coverage to other portions as well.

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

Writing Quote: Can Writing Students Handle the Truth?

The brute fact is, the instructor in a fiction workshop earns his pay by telling students what's wrong with their stories. The students themselves are convinced they need encouragement more than anything, and of course you'll encourage them as much as you can; but what they need most of all is discouragement, so that they'll come to realize how appallingly low their standards are and break the terrible habits they've learned.

Martin Russ, Showdown Semester, 1980

Writing Quote: Aspiring Writers Avoid Writing Biographies

     Although biography is one of the most popular forms of nonfiction among readers, it attracts relatively few aspiring writers. Young writers say to themselves, "I want to be a poet…a novelist…a playwright," may even say, "I want to write a memoir," but seldom, "I want to be a biographer."

     Maybe aspiring writers find biography a less attractive form of nonfiction because they like to write about themselves, and, unlike memoir, poetry, fiction and drama, biography seems to offer little chance for self-expression.

Philip Furia in Writing Creative Nonfiction, Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard, editors, 2001 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Decline of Car Theft

     Auto theft isn't much of a problem anymore in New York City. In 1990, the city had 147,000 reported car thefts, one for every 50 residents; last year, there were just 7,000. That's a 96 percent drop in the rate of car theft.

     So why did this happen? All crime has fallen, nationally and especially in New York. But there has also been a big shift in the economics of auto theft: Stealing cars is harder than it used to be, less lucrative and more likely to land you in jail. As such, criminals have found other things to do.

     The most important factor is a technological advance: engine immobilizer systems, adopted by manufacturers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These make it essentially impossible to start a car without the ignition key, which contains a microchip uniquely programmed by the dealer to match the car.

     Criminals generally have not been able to circumvent the technology or make counterfeit keys…They are stuck with stealing older cars. You can see this in the pattern of thefts of America's most stolen car, the Honda Accord. About 54,000 Accords were stolen in 2013, 84 percent of them from model years 1997 or earlier…Not coincidentally, Accords started to be sold with immobilizers in the 1998 model year…

     Old cars are easier to steal, and there are plenty of them still on the road. But there's an obvious problem with stealing them: They're not worth very much. Cars are typically stolen for parts, and as a car gets older, its parts become less valuable….[Today, if a criminal is desperate for a new car, he highjacks it which is a more violent crime.]

Josh Barro, "Here's Why Stealing Cars Went Out of Fashion," The New York Times, August 11, 2014. 

Writing Quote: Writing the Novel's Opening Line

My favorite struggling writer is the Billy Crystal character in the movie Throw Momma From the Train who spends much of the film trying to write the first line of the book that will free him from his crippling writer's block. "The night was," he writers over and over, never getting beyond those first three words. In the end, comic and harrowing events in his life cause him to throw away the line and just start writing. The lesson is, there is no magic opening line. The magic is what creates the line in the first place.

Loren D. Estleman, Writing the Popular Novel, 2004 

Writing Quote: Writing Well is an Acquired Craft

     For some reason everyone thinks, "I should know how to write." No one thinks, "I should know how to play the piano." But when it comes to writing, "I should know how to do it."

     What if I told you a story about a man who buys a piano, sits down to play for the very first time and is shocked when he doesn't sound like Arthur Rubinstein?

     "I don't understand," he complains. "I've listened to lots of music, I should know how to play the piano."

     Ridiculous, you say? Yet there you are. You're mortified when your work isn't as good as Ernest Hemingway's.

Joel Saltzman, If You Can Talk, You Can Write, 1993 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Rabbi Murdered on Miami Street

     A Miami rabbi was killed while walking to his synagogue on Saturday morning, August 9, 2014. Rabbi Joseph Raksin, 60, was walking to a North Miami Beach synagogue with a friend around nine in the morning when two young men approached and shot him. Raksin was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center where he died shortly thereafter. Police have not determined if this was a hate crime.

     The two suspects fled on foot and by bicycle….

"Rabbi Murdered in Miami," The Jerusalem Post, August 10, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Drive-By Shooting Spree in New Orleans

Three people, including two children, are in critical condition after a drive-by shooting that killed two people and injured five on Sunday, August 10, 2014 in New Orleans…All of the victims were in front of a house when a dark car occupied by several men drove up, opened fire, and sped off. Witnesses said several people were on the porch of the house in the Lower 9th Ward, a predominantly black neighborhood less than 5 miles from the French Quarter tourist district. Hurricane Katrina's floods overwhelmed the neighborhood in 2005….

"Two Children Cling to LIfe After New Orleans Shooting," WWL-TV New Orleans, August 11, 2014  

Writing Quote: Keeping a Journal

I've kept a journal on a capricious basis since I was sixteen. For me, my journal is a supplement to my imagination. I recently heard of a novelist who cuts out magazine photos of people, pastes them on his study wall, and uses them as the basis for his character descriptions. I completely approve. Writing is hard enough, and I welcome anything that helps me along. Besides, I can't help but filter what I see through my imagination, so even my most autobiographical fiction is, in a sense, wholly imagined.

Robin Hemley, Turning Life Into Fiction, 2006

Writing Quote: News Versus Story

News is plot, event, what happened last night or this afternoon or is in process right now. News breaks fast, somebody writes it up, the gun is barely fired before the world is clued in. Story is a wider map and involves any number of whys, relating to personal history, family background, the times, the place, and cultural background. Story makes a stab at explaining how such a wonderful or terrible thing could have happened. News enjoys a brief shelf life, turns stale fast, grows a quick crust. Story addresses complicated possibilities and reasons, therefore lasts longer, maybe forever.

Beverly Lowry, in Writing Nonfiction, Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard, editors, 2001

Monday, August 11, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: John Hinckley Jr. Could be Charged With Murder 33 Years After He Shot James Brady

     The death of James Brady, who served as press secretary for Ronald Reagan and died August 4, 2014 at the age of 73, was ruled a homicide, 33 years after he was wounded during an attempt on President Reagan's life. The District of Columbia medical examiner's ruling opened up the possibility of murder charges against John Hinckley Jr., the man who shot Brady, Reagan and two others outside of the Washington Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981.

     Brady suffered a gun shot wound to the head and was partially paralyzed. Reagan was wounded by a ricocheted bullet that struck him in the chest. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the attempted assassination and is currently a mental patient outside of Washington…

     Members of the Metropolitan Police Department's Homicide Branch, the United States Attorney's Office, and the FBI will review the case. [There is no way Mr. Hinckley will be charged with homicide in connection with Mr. Brady's death. Too many years have passed to establish causation. Moreover, if he couldn't be found guilty due to mental illness in Reagan's case, he won't be found culpable in Brady's death.]

Chuck Ross, "James Brady's Death Ruled a Homicide," The Daily Caller, August 8, 2014 

Writing Quote: Setting up the Novel's Big Scene

I can always tell when a writer has rushed through a scene or written around it in order to get to the good stuff. The dialogue is hurried, like the wedding vows in a tired old comedy where the bride's in labor. Descriptions are sketchy or nonexistent. Too often, the scene isn't even there; the novelist has lifted it out and thrown it away, or not written it at all. At best, this leaves an annoying gap. At worst, the "good" scene has not been set up and so it falls in like a cake because someone skimped on the eggs. In between is a lost opportunity, because sometimes the scene you dreaded most turns out to be the best in the book.

Loren D. Estleman, Writing the Popular Novel, 2004

Writing Quote: For the Novelist No Subject is Taboo

Is there a subject too daunting, a perversion too kinky to mention? Show a writer a taboo and we'll turn it into a story. Pedophilia? Nabokov's Humbert Humbert has been there, done that…The recent craze for zombie fiction offered an orgy of the restless undead feasting on human flesh. Genre novels serve up all sorts of grisly horrors and murder, and the popularity of Fifty Shades of Gray suggests that readers have no problem with sex beyond the vanilla. Even love between the species finds its expression in fairy tales like The Frog Prince and Beauty and the Beast.

Francine Prose, The New York Times Book Review, July 20, 2014 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Convicted Pill Pusher Too Fat and Sick For Prison

     Steven Goodman, a 70-year-old former pharmacist and resident of Treasure Island, Florida, a gulf coast community of 7,000, pleaded guilty in 2012 to supplying more than one million oxycodone and other prescription pain pills to illegal pain management clinics throughout south Florida. Illicit prescription drug lords Christopher and Jeffrey George were already serving prison terms in connection with the $40 million pain mill operation.

     At Goodman's federal sentencing hearing in Tampa, defense attorney Edward Page argued that his client's health problems--morbid obesity (551 pounds), sleep apnea, heart fibrillation, high blood pressure, gout, and arthritis--rendered him too sick for prison. Moreover, the prescription pill pusher couldn't dress or feed himself and was too fat for the standard prison cot.

     In light of Goodman's physical condition, U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Marra sentenced the defendant to thirty months of house arrest followed by four years of probation. The judge also fined Goodman $25,000. (Because of his obesity and health problems this man was already confined to his house.)

     Attorney Page, in July 2014, was back in court before Judge Marra. According to the defense lawyer, his client had just one to three years to live. Because Mr. Goodman wanted to travel to Cincinnati, Ohio to visit family and friends before he died, attorney Page asked the judge to lift Goodman's house arrest sentence.

     In denying the attorney's motion, Judge Marra said, "But for the defendant's obesity, he would have been given a prison sentence. To reduce the period of home confinement would result in the elimination of the only real form of punishment Mr. Goodman has received in this case." 

Criminal Justice Quote: Governor Denies Charles Manson Follower Parole

     On August 8, 2014, California governor Jerry Brown reversed a parole board and denied the release of a former Charles Manson follower who served more than 43 years in prison. It was the third time a California governor denied the release of Bruce Davis 71, a member of the murderous Manson Family convicted in the 1969 slayings of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea.

     In March 2014, the parole board once again found that Davis was suitable for parole based on his age, conduct in prison--he became a born-again Christian, earned a doctoral degree in philosophy of religion, ministers to other inmates--and other factors. The governor lauded Davis for his efforts to improve himself. However, he wrote his his five-page decision that the evidence shows that Davis "currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison." [In reality, Davis posed an unreasonable danger to Brown's political future if released. I'm not saying this man should be released. But asserting that he's still dangerous is ridiculous. He shouldn't be released because of what he did.]

"California Governor Denies Manson Follower Parole," Associated Press, August 9,  2014 

Writing Quote: The Novel: How to Begin the Story?

Unlike bombastic journalism that relies on opening with a bang, a novel can open less loudly. Here's an example of a bang opening by Truman Capote in "Children on Their Birthdays": "Yesterday afternoon the six o'clock bus ran over Miss Bobbitt." Yes, this catches our interest, but what next? It'll be hard to match the intensity of the beginning with what follows. The story starts with a climax rather than working toward one; instead of looking forward, we look backward, and the whole story might be an anticlimax.

Josip Novakovich, Fiction Writer's Workshop, 1995 

Writing Quote: Autobiographical Fiction

     Many writers distrust fiction that smacks of autobiography. They believe that autobiographical fiction represents in some way a failure of the writer's imagination, or that such writers have only one good book in them and, after they have finished their autobiographical effort, they will have spent their creativity and no more will be heard from them. There's an air of smugness in that kind of attitude. The writer who makes such a claim is, in effect, saying "Autobiographical writing is not real writing," and "I'm a real writer and people who want to be real writers should write like me--that is, from the unlimited stores of my superior imagination."…

     There might be some truth in the fact that writers whose first novels are autobiographical find it more difficult than other writers to write a second novel, but writers of any stripe have a difficult time following a first novel. I've heard that as many as half of all first novelists never write a second.

Robin Hemley, Turning Life Into Fiction, 2006


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Internet Data Heists

     A Russian crime ring got its hands on more than a billion stolen Internet credentials, according to a New York Times report. Citing records discovered by the Milwaukee based Hold Security company, the Times revealed on August 5, 2014 that the stolen credentials include 1.2 billion password and username combinations and more than 500 million email addresses.

     Hold Security, which has a strong track record of uncovering data breaches, says the stolen data was gathered from 420,000 websites. Organizations affected range from household names to small Internet sites…In October 2013 Hold Security identified the disclosure of 153 million stolen credentials from Adobe Systems…

     A number of high-profile companies have fallen victim to hackers. In 2013, for example, thieves stole the credit card numbers of 40 million Target customers. In July 2014, six people were indicted in connection with the cyber ring that allegedly defrauded StubHub out of $1 million. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said the indictments connected a global network of hackers, identify thieves and money-launderers….

James Rogers, "Report: Russian Crime Ring in Massive Internet Data Heist," Fox News, August 5, 2014