Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Tales Cops Could Tell

April 12, 2017

My new publishing company, CopWorld Press, just got a great article in the Medford Mail Tribune in Oregon. Here is the link. http://www.mailtribune.com/ news/20170410/tales-cops- could-tell.

More Police Procedural Writer’s Questions Answered

August 13, 2016

Here’s a second round of questions from a writer seeking advice about police policies and procedures for a book she’s writing. I’m including the Q&A in a blog so that other writers tackling police issues can benefit from the information. My answers are in bold.

Q.  I have a couple more questions. Can my rookie cop have the same partner after she completes her probation period?

A.  Here’s where things get a little complicated. This may depend upon the size, and or, policies of the department. First, it’s important to point out that there’s a difference between a rookie and a trainee. If she’s a trainee, it’s likely the department would like her to work alone or with a different partner than her training officer upon graduating from the training program. However, that’s not set in stone. If she’s a rookie who’s on probation, then it’s probable there wouldn’t be any problem with her continuing to work with the same partner when her probationary period ends.

Q.  And what is the chain of command? I have her having a Sergeant as well as the Captain. But I watched Southland and they referred to the Watch Commander as the boss, and the rookie had to be assigned a different partner after graduation.

A. This situation is also more complicated than it appears at first glance. The chain of command is likely to differ depending upon the size of the department. If it’s a large department, then the rank structure is likely to be officer, sergeant, lieutenant, then captain. Ranks above captain are likely to vary depending upon the individual policies of the department.

The watch commander position is actually outside of the normal chain of command. He or she is likely to be the ranking officer in charge of the patrol functions of a specific shift. They may also be responsible for approving bookings to verify that the arresting officer has met all of the standards of probable cause, department policy etc.

If you’re a writer with questions regarding police issues, feel free to send them along. I’ll respond and turn the exchange into a blog for the benefit of others.                                                     ~T.B.  Smith 

 

Answers to Reader’s Questions: Getting it “right” when writing police procedural crime fiction

August 7, 2016

Not long ago, I spoke to a group in San Diego and made an ongoing offer to field email questions from participants regarding police issues as they relate to their writing. I recently received my first question. What follows is a slightly edited version of our email exchange.

 

Q-Thank you for speaking at the Partners in Crime meeting a couple of months ago. I enjoyed your presentation, and so appreciate your willingness to help us writers get it right when writing about police.

I’m hoping you can answer a question for me. I have a character who has been on the job less than a year, is (with her cop partner) first on the scene of a murder, and it turns out she was best friends with the granddaughter of the woman who lives in the house. The victim was her best friend’s uncle.

She doesn’t realize at first that she knows the family. Then when she does, she keeps thinking she’ll tell her partner, but doesn’t want to until she talks to her old (estranged) friend. Then after she sees the friend, she realizes she doesn’t know as much as she thought she did, or the friend is lying to her, and she makes up her mind to tell her partner.

 

As she’s about to do so, he goes off on how he hates people who can’t keep secrets.

Finally she makes a list of pros and cons to help her decide what to do.

Here’s the question: What kind of trouble could she potentially be in for not saying she knew a member of the victim’s family? (the murder investigation is ongoing)

 

A-As stated, your character’s situation doesn’t sound too tenuous. But I need to know the role she and her partner play in the investigation. If they’re patrol officers who are dispatched to the murder scene, their main and perhaps sole functions are to secure the scene for homicide investigators and perhaps do some witness canvassing. If they’re investigators, then there needs to be a clear explanation of why an officer with so little experience would be placed in that position. If your character obtains some information through her previous friendships then fails to disclose to her superiors, that could be cause for serious discipline up to and including termination. That may be more trouble than you want to deal with, but it could also be the source of a lot of conflict that could propel the plot in interesting ways. I guess what I’m saying is, I need to know more to fully answer the question but I’m happy to engage in ongoing discussion if you’d find that helpful.

 

Q-My character and her partner were first on the scene at the murder. They secured the scene, and she was allowed to do a first interview of the mother of the victim, as well as one of the sisters of the victim. My character (Regan) was friends with a granddaughter/niece when they were both in 8th grade. They’ve been estranged since junior year of high school. Regan doesn’t tell her partner (or anyone) that she realizes she knows the family, was friends with Beth. Regan contacts Beth, talks to her about why they’re not still close, then tries to question her re the murder victim.

 

A-That all sounds reasonable. I’d add some little explanation about why she did the initial interview. Something like her partner wanted to give her the experience. If that’s the case, he could monitor the interview which would ratchet up the conflict a bit when she tells him of the deception by omission 

 

Q=As I’ve written it, Nick dresses her down, tells her she could lose her job, etc., but in the end, he says she just needs to let the detectives on the case know what she knows, and not to withhold information in the future.

The thing they don’t know yet is Beth is the killer.
While I didn’t include this in the email exchange. There wouldn’t be much point in including this episode unless her friend did turn out to be the killer. The sole exception that I can think of is if it were necessary for some deep character development for the young officer.

The Current State of Publishing: Q & A with Hellgate Press

July 12, 2016
hellgateHi Harley: Thanks for agreeing to take the time to answer some questions about the current state of publishing.
You’re the publisher of Hellgate Press that primarily publishes war memoirs but also has a small fiction component and has recently begun publishing children’s books.
Q:  How much are you focused on eBooks and what do you think the next five years holds for that niche in the publishing market?
A:  We simultaneously publish print and ebook versions of every title. Over the past 5 years, we’ve seen a tremendous growth in ebook sales, to the point where now they regularly outsell the print versions. I see no reason for that trend to change over the next 5 years. While I think the printed book will always be with us, it definitely now shares the marketplace with its ebook counterpart. And for authors and publishers alike, that’s a great trend, as there is more profit in ebooks because you eliminate the  cost of printing—which is substantial.
Q: Do you think that the increase in self published works has had a negative or positive impact on the quality of the books in the marketplace?
A:  I guess it depends on how we define the “marketplace.” The mainstream booksellers, such as Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Millions and others, don’t typically sell self-published works, so that marketplace really hasn’t been affected. Amazon and other online sellers do, and I think, while there are many well-written, even well-regarded self-published works, many of those authors are new to the world of writing (particularly fiction) and labor under the false notion that all you have to do to write a book is sit down at a computer and start typing. Many of the manuscripts that come across my desk, and even some previously self-published works that are submitted to Hellgate Press, are frankly not ready for publishing. For those, we recommend  that the authors find a professional editor/proofreader who can work with them to get the book ready for publication. Once they do that, we will then reconsider the book for publication. On the upside, while self-publishing may have brought many amateur writers to the marketplace who are not quite ready for it, it has also resulted in some wonderful books that might not have otherwise been published.
Q:  Which is more important to you when approached by a new author, their credentials to write the book, or the quality of the writing in your correspondence?
A:  It depends, and is probably more often than not a combination of the two. An author who has no direct experience with his/her subject matter may be able to craft lovely prose, but the facts need to be accurate and reflect either a good deal of research and/or personal experience. If not, then it really won’t matter how good the writing is. And if the expertise is there, but the writing is less than perfect, well that’s where a good editor comes in. But of course editors are no substitute for experience with the subject matter. And this is true whether we’re talking fiction or nonfiction. In the area of military history, for example, a writer better have the facts, the jargon, the specifics, etc., absolutely correct, or we’ll hear about it. But we rarely hear complaints about the writing style. Of course I attribute some of that to the fact that we do work with our authors to make sure they’re putting their best writing foot forward.
Q:  What does your publishing experience teach you about the viability of fiction vs. non-fiction? In other words, what type of book sells best and should there be a stronger incentive to write one form over the other?
A:  To be honest, neither type of book is selling in the numbers that they used to. According to Publishers’ Weekly, “The average U.S. nonfiction book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.” Numbers for fiction books are even lower. Consider that every book published is competing with more than 10 million other books for sale at the same time! At Hellgate Press, we sell many more (maybe twice as many) nonfiction books than fiction. But that could be due to our main niche being military related topics. I would imagine that if we published romance-related titles, our novels might well outsell our “how-to” books.
I personally think nonfiction is an easier sell, particularly because of the competition in fiction writing. If you write well, have intimate knowledge of your subject matter, and, if necessary are willing to work with a good editor/proofreader, you can produce a high quality, marketable non-fiction book in relatively short order. But if you’re working on the great American novel, or a lengthy piece of historical fiction, you’re competing with the very best writers in the world, or at least writers who have studied and practiced the craft for a long time. And you better have an excellent mastery of prose, dialog, pacing, plot, metaphor, structure, etc., or the reviews could be brutal. And while good reviews may or may not help with sales, a bad review definitely hurts. So I think the old advice is the best advice: Write what you know. And if you know how to write well, then give fiction a go. But if writing is something you’ve always wanted to do, but really haven’t studied it (and I mean formally, at a well-respected university or with a professional mentor), then non-fiction may be the better choice.
Q:  You’re planning on establishing a new imprint called Copworld Press that will exclusively publish authors with a law enforcement background. Why is that group of writers important to you and what do you think they can bring to the marketplace?
A:  This speaks to my earlier comments about writing what you know. While I don’t think you have to be a military veteran to write about military topics, it’s been my experience over the last 16 years that it certainly helps. I believe the same is true when writing within the law enforcement/true crime genre. Like the military, law enforcement has its own community, its own jargon, rules of conduct, etc. And although not impossible, it’s more difficult for an outsider to “get it right.” And getting it right can make the difference between success and failure when writing about a particular group or profession.
I enjoy publishing books written by those who serve and are affected by that service, and law enforcement professionals certainly fall into that category. And as a publisher, I know that the genre is a popular one, and one that can only benefit by an influx of writers who know what they’re writing about. So, I’m seeing it as a win-win opportunity to bring new writers with solid credentials and a wealth of experience to the genre, and, in so doing, provide a publishing opportunity for those who perhaps have found it difficult to get their work into the mainstream. And, of course, sell some books in the process!
Learn more about Hellgate Press at https://hellgatepress.com

San Diego Fights Back Against Sex Trafficking

May 20, 2016

On December 20, 2014, the “Los Angeles Times” published an article entitled “San Diego region has become hub of gang-controlled prostitution rings.” By way of example, it covered a recent human trafficking enforcement operation that occurred in Eastern San Diego County. The operation resulted in the indictment of twenty-two suspected gang members and their associates for running a multi-state prostitution ring. Similar indictments in recent years have targeted gangs in the city of Oceanside and the North Park neighborhood of San Diego.

San Diego’s gang activities related to sex trafficking are no different than those employed by other gangs across the nation. In the last several years, crimes related to human trafficking have expanded because it, and its off-shoots, are lucrative businesses. Gangsters prey on society’s most vulnerable children, those who live in foster homes and impoverished neighborhoods.

After working with communities across the United States on this topic, I feel it’s imperative to assert that San Diego is NOT a unique hub of gang-controlled prostitution as asserted in the Times article. A more accurate description is that San Diego has a coalition of courageous leaders and policy makers who aggressively protect our communities. They work tirelessly to prevent human trafficking from occurring and prioritize enforcement that recovers victims and prosecutes suspects. In fact, San Diego is one of the first communities to respond to human trafficking and set a high standard for collaboratively combating both labor and sex trafficking.

In 2011, Diane Jacobs and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors teamed with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Sheriff Bill Gore to form the “San Diego Regional Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Advisory Council.” Its goal is to implement a holistic, county-wide approach that integrates prevention, protection and prosecution partnerships.

In the past, crimes of this nature were the purview of police and prosecutors alone.  With today’s broader perspective, expertise and collaboration openly occur among professionals in education, law enforcement, child welfare, faith-based programs, victim service providers, university researchers and many other dedicated community members.

The San Diego Police Department’s Vice Unit, the FBI’s Innocence Lost Task Force and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department are some of the most aggressive and highly trained law enforcement professionals in this area of criminal activity. In 2003, District Attorney Dumanis formed the Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division with specialized prosecutors, investigators and victim advocates. The local United States Attorney’s Office has seen a 600 percent increase in human trafficking cases in the last five years.  In other words, these timely enforcement actions and strategies brought awareness to impacted communities sooner than elsewhere.  While local media are important partners in this fight, it’s critical that San Diego is not mis-characterized. San Diego is uniquely positioned to serve as a national example by holistically addressing trafficking crimes with aggregate expertise that effectively combats domestic human trafficking.  The strategies are being noticed by the federal government and heralded as a best-practice approach for replication nationwide.

The fact that the San Diego community recognized the scourge of domestic human trafficking and quickly took action in the form of training, awareness presentations, policy changes and three major law enforcement operations, should not create the impression that human trafficking gangs are any more prolific here.  Being known as a hub of sex trafficking is a distinction this community does not deserve. San Diego should be seen as a community with talented leaders who care enough about our children to forge strategies that break down bureaucratic barriers to arrest and prosecute criminals and save our children.

May 14 Book Signing in San Diego

May 8, 2016

For immediate release

Contact: Nicole Sours Larson 858-274-6160; nsours.larson@gmail.com

T.B. Smith, Author of Luke Jones Novels, to speak at San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime May 14.

Partners in Crime, the newly reestablished San Diego chapter of the national organization Sisters in Crime, will welcome T. B. Smith, retired San Diego Police Department lieutenant and author of the Luke Jones cop novels, as speaker at their second meeting to be held on Saturday, May 14. He will have copies of his novels available for purchase and signing. His subject will be Understanding the police: why authors, movies and television shows nearly always get it wrong and what to do about it. (Please see his bio below.)The chapter will meet from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.at San Diego Writers Ink, 2730 Historic Decatur Rd., Suite 202 (located above the Women’s Museum) in Liberty Station, Point Loma.

Sisters in Crime is a national organization with local chapters which supports mystery and crime writers and promotes reading the genre. We are authors, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers and librarians bound by our affection for the mystery genre and our support of women who write mysteries. We are open for everyone’s participation.

Each meeting will feature a short reading from a recently published or soon-to-be-published novel followed by a presentation by a mystery or crime writer or knowledgeable professional in a field of interest to mystery writers and readers. San Diego chapter meetings are held on the second Saturday of the month, starting with a social period with refreshments, followed by a brief membership meeting.

Attendance is free for members and $5 for non-members, which may be applied to membership. Dues are $25 per year, plus membership in the national organization. Members may join at our meeting, with payment by check, cash or credit card, or online athttp://www.sistersincrimesd.org.

Please let us know you’re planning to attend — but drop-ins welcome, too! Please RSVP to SDPartnersinCrime@gmail.com.

T.B. Smith, a former police lieutenant, joined the San Diego Police Department in 1978. He began his second career as an author while recovering from a car accident that forced him to retire from law enforcement.

During his police career, Mr. Smith gained extensive experience as a trainer, teacher, and public speaker. He worked as one of two teaching specialists responsible for the ongoing training of a police department with 1800 members. He’s also taught traffic school and lectured at the University of Southern California’s Delinquency Control Institute. Mr. Smith has spoken to dozens of business and community groups as a Community Relations Officer in the Historic Gaslamp Quarter and is a founding member and former vice president of the SDPD’s Toastmasters Club in addition to being former vice president of the San Diego City Schools Police Officers’ Association.

Mr. Smith’s radio interviews about police use of deadly force have aired in such cities as San Diego, Los Angeles, Denver, Washington D.C., Dallas, and New York. His academic achievements include being both class president and honor graduate of the 107th Delinquency Control Institute at the University of Southern California where he subsequently joined the faculty. He majored in Literature and Creative Writing at San Diego State University.

Mr. Smith lives in Ashland, Oregon, where he enjoys attending the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Partners in Crime

April 25, 2016

I recently had a brief email discussion with Nicole Larson of the San Diego Chapter of “Partners in Crime,” in preparation for a discussion with her group on May 14. Here are a few of the thoughts that we shared.

Hi Nicole: Your question about a prospective topic is more expansive than you might guess, as is the scope of crime writing. Novels related to crime can be grouped into several categories, among them are: mysteries, suspense, thrillers and procedurals. Just one of those, mysteries for example, can be broken down into several categories including cozies like those of Agatha Christie, Nancy Atherton and Lilian Jackson Braun, and the hard-boiled type in a sub-genre championed by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

To answer the question about a proposed topic directly, I’d say that one might be the importance of authors knowing their genre, and when they begin to write, staying true to that genre even while striving to transcend it by finding ways to bring in a wider audience. In my case, I’ve written two procedurals so far that incorporate Shakespeare for several reasons that might interest your members.

Speaking to your question about whether there are authors who get things right and those who don’t, the answer is an emphatic Yes! On point, I’d mention a blurb on the back of my first novel, “The Sticking Place,” provided by Bonnie Dumanis, district attorney for the County of San Diego. “Mr. Smith does what so many other police writers don’t–he gets the little things right. And best of all, by using Shakespeare, Mr. Smith reminds us that cops are human beings too.”

To be precise, I strive for similitude or, to be correct, as opposed to verisimilitude which is more about seeming to be correct. The difference may seem indistinguishable but the nuance is more like whispering in your ear that I love you than it is like my standing on a busy street corner trying to be heard above the horns and screeches of the traffic.

If the reader is interested in realistic writers who get it right, they should look for the authors who have really done the work on the streets like Wes Albers, Joe Wambaugh or Paul Bishop.

 

 

In the Rodney King Case, Police Have Taken a Beating,Too.

June 2, 2012

In cleaning out my files recently, I found a couple previously published articles on the Rodney King incident. What follows is an updated version of my opinion piece that appeared in the April, 1991 edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune under the headline, “In the Rodney King Case, Police Have Taken a Beating, Too” with input from my writing partner, Linda A. Shubeck.

The physical damage the police inflicted on Rodney King most likely healed long ago. Healing the damage to relations between cops and the public they serve took a lot longer and is still on the mend.

Many things have changed since 1991, when a bystander serendipitously armed with a camera videotaped Rodney King’s drubbing. Most police cars now carry video cameras and some officers wear head cameras and microphones. Cell phone communications and their ever present cameras add to the levels of public scrutiny.

However, two things remain immutable; the physical and mental reactions of cops who chase scofflaws at speeds exceeding a hundred-miles-per-hour, and the fact that it’s the offenders, not the cops who start police pursuits.

Cops get angry when lives are needlessly jeopardized by the stupid actions of thoughtless people. This anger is magnified by the adrenaline rushing through their bodies as they careen through the streets and along the freeways of urban areas, wondering all the while if the risk is worth the potential cost.

The rush of adrenaline dilates their air passages and pushes elevated levels of oxygen into their lungs. Blood vessels constrict throughout their bodies, redirecting the blood toward their hearts, lungs, and major muscle groups. Their body’s systems react to the adrenaline and other hormones within seconds, giving the officers a nearly instant physical boost of strength as their respiration and awareness of immediate surroundings heighten and brain chemicals make them slightly dizzy.

That’s a partial description of the “fight or flight syndrome” that affects an officer’s physiological state during a pursuit and informs their actions during the arrest. Exercising their best judgment under those circumstances is certainly not easy.

We don’t know what happened between the time when King finally yielded to the police sirens and the videotape rolled. Today we probably would have the entire incident on video. However, we do know that King was shot with a Taser, an apparatus that propels two barbs attached to the ends of wires and delivers 50,000 volts of electrical current, immobilizing almost everyone it strikes. It didn’t immobilize Rodney King. Even with several officers present, the fact that King wasn’t subdued created fear. Add physiologically agitated bodies to fear and frustration and the sum is violence.

What frustration? There’s the frustration of the chase itself and there’s the frustration of policing our society. There’s too little room in our jails and prisons, limited facilities for housing violent or helpless mental health patients and more and more homeless people pepper the streets and sidewalks.  These problems get worse decade by decade.

Maintaining the balance of justice in a free society is an arduous process. We need to recognize that cops are victims of the chaos as well. They police the streets of a degenerating society on a daily basis while suffering under the diminished public support for decades since the Rodney King beating.

Oddly, 9/11 did a lot to heal the breach of trust when the country saw just who runs into a building that’s under attack when nearly everyone else runs in the opposite direction. And today, ubiquitous video cameras can continue to repair police/community relations. Recently, a Philadelphia police officer’s violent encounter with a street crook drew almost universal praise from media pundits in awe of the bravery and mental focus it took to retain his gun during the life-and-death encounter.

It does seem a little odd that today’s proliferation of video cameras can help grant the heart-felt request Rodney King made during the riots following the first trial of the officers involved in his post-chase arrest, “can we all get along?”

Knots of Love

May 15, 2012

The answers to some questions seem obvious before you ask them. But Christine Fabiani surprised me when I asked her motivation for creating “Knots of Love.” It’s a charity that makes and donates caps to cancer victims and I was sure she’d known someone intimately who’d either lost or faced the prospect of hair loss due to illness. Starting a mini-ripple of philanthropy aimed toward one person that swelled into a wave of generosity washing over countless others seemed like a logical progression.

“My son asked me to make him a cap.” The answer was that simple. Only Christine had no idea how to do it and no intention of trying to learn until her son’s requests persisted. It took a series of failed efforts before she created anything that functioned like the cap her son craved. But time mixed with persistence is the recipe that solves most of the world’s solvable problems and her caps soon got so popular that her son’s friends all wanted one and so did their friends…  Christine kept making the caps after demand dwindled, because “making caps is a fun, quick way to pass the time while watching TV or a sporting event… A friend told me she would have loved a cap when she had cancer.  I looked for a charity to donate my caps to and couldn’t find one. That’s when Knots of Love was born.”

Christine’s baby is now a 60 to 70 hour a week job and well worth the time and effort judging from the feedback. One cap recipient told Christine “I never dreamed I’d be going bald at the age of 28. Losing my hair has been devastating. I was so nervous that I’d wake up, all my hair would be gone, and I’d have nothing to cover my head with! Your gift has been the bright spot of my day, and I am so excited to have something I can still feel attractive in. Cancer is awful, but it’s wonderful to be reminded there are amazing people in the world, people who make a difference in the lives of hurting people like me.”

The gift of “Knots of Love” is grander than the solace it brings to the people who receive and wear the caps. The charity has also recruited a dedicated cadre of cap makers who donate their time and skills. Christine tells me, “I hear comments all the time like–thank you for saving my Mother’s life, now she has something to do that makes her feel good.”

Giving and receiving. In the end, Christine tells me, it’s all part of the process for “people of all ages in need of love, kindness and support as they wage the fight of their lives.”

A Special Offer

February 1, 2012
Hi Everyone! Hoping this post finds you happy and healthy.
I’m sending along some exciting news regarding my debut novel, “The Sticking Place!”  The LA Times says “it has a high-minded protagonist, rookie (cop) Luke Jones, who is slowly coming to terms with the fact that law enforcement is a blunt instrument not altogether suited to fixing society’s deeper problems.” San Diego’s Mayor and former police chief says it’s “a must read for … anyone with an appreciation for realistic literature that depicts what it will always mean to be a cop.” A police reporter says it “has all the elements of a Shakespearean play; political intrigue, betrayal, comic relief, and an understanding of the dark parts of the soul.”
It is with gratitude I can announce that this past November, editors at Amazon hand-selected it for an ebook sale at $2.99 and sales took off to Best Seller status!! With this good fortune, I’m taking the cue and offering Kindle and E-Reader versions directly on my websitewww.lukejonesnovels.comat the same low price!! It’s important to share this low price opportunity with your friends and social networks  because there’s a special benefit in doing so.
Throughout the remainder of 2012, I’ll be working with a different charity/not-for-profit organization each month AND donating ten percent of all sales generated from my personal website directly to the designated charity!! This February I’ve chosen San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter Association as the recipient since much of the book is set in the Quarter at the beginning of its amazing transformation from skid row to nightlife destination. I’d appreciate your recommendations and/or suggestions for any organizations that could benefit from this opportunity!!
Please take a moment and forward this information to friends and associates and share it on Facebook and any other social media platforms you participate in. I want to make this a win-win for everyone!!
All the best,