For the past 15 years, Writers’ Police Academy has offered a plethora of specialized classes designed to help writers evoke a sense of hyperrealism in their stories. The event’s unique hands-on training sessions stimulate the senses of participants, enabling them to convert those real-life experiences and emotions into believable fiction. Our goal is to help attendees develop and write accurate, realistic, and compelling scenes and characters.

This year we’ve decided to focus our attention on the crime of murder since that’s a major plot point in crime fiction. Therefore, we created Killer Con, a hands-on homicide and crime scene investigator training academy. This special event is designed to guide writers through the various stages of investigations.

Yes, participants will experience what it’s like to enter a crime scene as an investigator.

To guide attendees through the processes, we are pleased to feature top-tier law enforcement instructors and forensics experts as presenters. They are undoubtedly some of the best in the business, and their sessions are magnificent. Prepare yourself to be amazed.

So, without further ado, it is my pleasure and honor to introduce you to the second group of 2024 Killer Con presenters, beginning with these three (in no particular order). Also included are the classes offered by each presenter. More to come in the days following this post.

Processing and Preservation of Fingerprint Evidence

Learn and apply the same fingerprinting tools, techniques, and skills taught to and utilized by police investigators and other crime scene investigation professionals. Attendees locate, develop, lift, and preserve latent prints from a variety of surfaces. There is more to this process than meets the eye, and certainly more to it than is depicted on TV shows. Hands-on training.

Location – CC205

Instructor – Ian Nishimoto, Master Instructor – Defensive and Arrest Tactics, Firearms/Tactical Rifle, Scenario Assessment, Tactical Response

Ian Nishimoto’s mother and father were born and raised in Hawaii. His father served in the US Army for 30 years, allowing Ian to live in many areas of the United States and hence his place of birth was Staten Island, New York. Ian completed his master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin—Stout in Training and Development. He began his 30+ years of law enforcement experience at the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy sheriff and worked part-time for U.S. Marshal Service and other local agencies. He recently retired after 25 years of teaching from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, where he instructed in the Police Academy and the Law Enforcement Associate Degree program. Ian is a certified master instructor in Defensive and Arrest Tactics, Firearms/Tactical Rifle, Scenario Assessment and Tactical Response. He is currently an adjunct faculty member at NWTC.

Ian and his wife have been married for 41 years, and currently reside in Oneida, Wisconsin.  They have two daughters, two sons, and five grandchildren.

Processing and Preservation of Fingerprint Evidence


Body Trauma and Gunshot Wounds

Curtis Greene knows the information writers need to breathe life into shooting and trauma scenes in crime novels, having “been there, done that” for nearly two decades as a Coroner for Manitowoc County WI, serving as a Paramedic for 24 years, and managing the Emergency Room, Ambulance, Lifeline and Specialized transport division for a major hospital.

In this course, Greene shares his first-hand knowledge and experience of the effect gunshots and various injuries have on the human body. Class includes images of a variety of wounds and trauma.

Location – CC212

Instructor – Curtis Green, Elected Coroner, AS-EMTP (retired), ABMDI-F (retired)

Curtis Green

Curtis Green is currently the Elected Coroner for Manitowoc County WI.  He has held this position for 16+ years and is serving his final term in that position.

He earned his basic EMT certification in 1983 and became licensed as Wisconsin’s youngest Paramedic in 1985. He began his career at County Rescue Services, Metro Ambulance Service and several other services including time in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties CA.  After leaving California he managed the largest Air Ambulance Service in the United States, American Medical Transport, based out of Milwaukee WI.  He served as a paramedic for a total of 24 years.  He was a Department Head for Manitowoc Memorial Hospital in the late 80’s managing the Emergency Room, Ambulance, Lifeline and Specialized transport division.  He was the owner of one of Wisconsin’s largest specialized transport services for 16 years and was responsible for approximately 350,000 specialized transports annually.

Curtis was a founding member of Prevent Suicide- Manitowoc County.  An organization formed to help reduce the number of suicides and to help families cope with suicide deaths. His commitment to this cause is deep-seated in Curtis.  He has had immediate family members die by suicide and homicide and brings a level of empathy to this cause from a unique perspective.

Curtis saw a need for drug prevention and education as the deaths from drug overdoses began to rise in the earlier 2000’s.  Curtis has been providing education and training for those affected by drug overdose deaths and the collateral damage drug addiction inflicts on families, friends, EMS and Law Enforcement professionals.  For his volunteer work, Curtis was honored to receive the 2015 Health Award from the Manitowoc County United Way. Curtis plans to continue to provide continuing education to Law Enforcement, EMS and Death Investigators following his retirement in 2027.

Curtis has 4 daughters and 6 grandchildren and lives on the hobby farm where his children were raised. He enjoys spending his limited free time at his off-grid 176 acres of riverfront property in the north woods of Wisconsin.

Coroner Curtis Green – 2023 Writers’ Police Academy

Virtual Reality – Mental Health Training Simulator

Officers are in regular contact with individuals who are undergoing a personal crisis, such as problems relating to the opioid epidemic, someone diagnosed on the autism spectrum, or one of a variety of psychiatric issues. Dealing with those situations can be challenging for law enforcement, especially when they often occur within mere seconds of arrival at a scene. There is often no time to know or research the person’s history, background, or medical diagnosis; therefore, officer responses to the situations are often reactionary to what is sometimes perceived as violent threats to their safety or the safety of others, including that of the person in crisis.

Virtual reality mental health training simulators place law enforcement officers into the shoes and minds of those suffering from an emotional disturbance or experiencing a mental health crisis. This realistic training experience helps police better comprehend what these individuals are experiencing, and to recognize and understand how to handle a subject who is undergoing psychiatric distress.

Killer Con attendees have the unique opportunity to participate in this hyper-realistic, eye-opening training experience.

Location – SC142

Instructor – Erik Walters, Public Safety Training Complex Specialist – Wisconsin Department of Justice Certified Instructor in Defensive and Arrest Tactics, Vehicle Contacts, Scenario, EVOC, Tactical Response, Physical Fitness, Firearms

Eric Walters – Writers’ Police Academy

Erik Walters is the Public Safety Training Complex Specialist at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.  In that role, Erik oversees all the public safety training facilities and equipment at 4 different locations.  He’s also a Public Safety Training Academy instructor. Prior to coming to the college Erik spent 15 years at the Manitowoc Police Department, where he attained the rank of patrol sergeant.

Erik is a Wisconsin Department of Justice certified instructor in Defensive and Arrest Tactics, Vehicle Contacts, Scenario, EVOC, Tactical Response, Physical Fitness, and Firearms.





Spaces at this unique and exciting event are limited and will be filled on a first-come first-served basis. To claim your spot I strongly urge you to sign up right away. The 2023 Writers’ Police Academy event was sold out!

We also urge you to make your hotel reservations ASAP. We’ve already had to extend the room block!! There is no sister hotel available for overflow.

2024 Guest of Honor

Killer Con is extremely pleased to announce that internationally bestselling author Charlaine Harris is our 2024 Guest of Honor.

Charlaine delivers her keynote talk at the Saturday night banquet, and she will sign copies of her books immediately afterward.

Special Guests Include:

Dr. Katherine Ramsland – bestselling author and expert on forensic psychology and serial killers.

Robert Bruce Coffin – former detective sergeant (homicide and violent crime) and award-winning mystery author.

Carrie Stuart Parks – bestselling author and internationally recognized forensic artist who is the most widely known instructor of forensic art in the world.

Michael A. Black – Chicago area police sergeant – homicide, SWAT, investigations (ret.), and bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction.

On-Site Crime Scenes and Hands-on Workshops

Killer Con is a hands-on training event for writers, with classes taught by top forensic experts and DOJ-certified law enforcement instructors.

Classes and workshops begin on Friday, starting with a live shooting scene response scenario.  Participants will see the event unfold in real-time as first responders, detectives, EMS, the coroner, and others arrive in response to a 911 call where the frantic caller states, “Help, someone’s been shot … I think they’re dead!”

Next, Dr. Katherine Ramsland hosts a murder scene where Killer Con attendees learn particulars about the crime and then explore the scene to determine the evidence needed to solve the case. Following Katherine’s workshop, participants attend classes and hands-on training sessions on Friday and Saturday. Information and techniques learned in these sessions provide the tools to solve this case and others.

Did You Solve the Case?

At the conclusion of Saturday classes, Dr. Ramsland reveals the case details from Friday’s Crime Scene Workshop. Attendees will then know if they solved the case or not.

… And More!

Killer Con begins Thursday at noon with a massive indoor “Touch-a-Truck” event featuring a variety of public safety vehicles, fire apparatus, CSI Unit, drones, SWAT vehicles and equipment, and other items for attendees to view, examine, and explore. Officers, firefighters, and other experts will be available for Q&A and live demos.

Thursday night ends with forensic artist Carrie Stuart Park’s session Don’t Lie To Me, a forensic study of the language of deception.

Friday evening features Dr. Katherine Ramsland’s presentation, Encounters with Killers.

Saturday ends with a banquet and keynote address by guest of honor Charlaine Harris. A book signing follows her talk.

Killer Con festivities end on Sunday with a fun and informative panel discussion with experts who answer attendees’ questions.

Click to watch the Killer Con promo video below. Please turn on the sound and watch to the end.


Each year the Writers’ Police Academy hosts the Golden Donut Short Story Contest. It’s a fun contest with two major but simple rules—the focus of the story must be based on the photo we provide, and the story must contain EXACTLY 200 words. No more, no less.

*Writers were permitted to submit multiple entries.

To ensure fairness entries were judged blindly, meaning judges saw only the stories and titles without mention of the authors’ names.

We were extremely fortunate to have stellar, top-level judges for the 2022 and 2023 Golden Donut Contests. The panel of judges consisted of associate, and commissioning editors of the fabulous UK publishing company, Bookouture. Yes, those of you who submitted stories had their work read by top editors in the industry!

About Bookouture:

We are a dynamic digital publisher of bestselling commercial fiction and a division of Hachette UK.

We also publish commercial non-fiction under our Thread imprint.

Our unique publishing model and transformative campaigns have created unrivalled international author brands.

We connect stories, authors and readers globally, publishing books that reflect the diversity of the societies we live in.

Our submissions are always open as we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to share their story.

Over 60 million copies sold worldwide.

*Bookouture is a sponsor of the 2023 Writers’ Police Academy.

Now, without further ado, the Golden Donut contest winners and runners-up (the judges provided the comments on the winning stories).

For 2022:

The photo prompt.

The winning story is:



Trish Zaabel 


Sea sprayed over the deck. Nibble fingers swept her heavy skirts away. Mary smoothed over an invisible frown. She had bloomed into a woman in the fifteen years since she saw Jack. Would he look the same?

Bracing for the jolt when docking, Mary crashed into another passenger. His hands grabbed her waist. “Easy Sister, “he muttered.

Fighting the urge to swear, she nodded her gratitude then exited. Negotiating the lonely hallways, Mary shivered. She requested of the man guarding a thick wall, “Jack Pearson, please.”

Eyeing her suspiciously, he opened a door. “Room three.”

This dark passage was filled with catcalls. “Hey Sista, come to save my soul?”

Spotting her desired room, she rushed through the door. He stood near a window. Jack asked, “Who are you?”

She laughed. “You have aged.”

“Like a fine whiskey.” Jack smirked then gestured. “A nun, really?’

Smiling, she lifted her black skirt, revealing the dagger. “Did you think I’d forgotten?”

Jack yelled. “Guard, come quick.”

The guard barreled in, tackling her.

She stammered. “Jack, I don’t understand.”

Jack stepped over the prone woman. “My dear, I’m to be released today. It’s your turn to be a prisoner.”

Judges’ comments about the winning story – We loved the unusual take on this one, which centred on an intense domestic set-up and finished with an interesting and satisfying twist. It left us with questions about what had happened in the past while also feeling like a fully rounded story, which is hard with only 200 words to play with! The visual detail included was great, and the pacing worked well for the final reveal. A clear winner.

2022 Runners-up:

2: “The Big One”


Michael Rigg


For eighty days in a row, Eduardo had sailed his skiff to the same spot just inside the Golden Gate, cast a baited hook, and waited. His weather-beaten face, half-frozen by an icy March-wind, belied the fire within.

“That fool in the boat,” they called him. “The fish migrated south,” they said. “And so should you.” But his prey remained. He felt it. He would prove them wrong.

Even guards on the “Warden Blackwell”—a ferryboat transferring small groups of inmates from the soon-to-be-shuttered Alcatraz—ignored him. He had observed each trip over the past weeks unchallenged—seemingly invisible. Men-in-chains shuffled onto the wharf, labored up two dozen concrete steps, and clambered aboard busses for transport elsewhere.

Today’s cargo represented the last set of prisoners—twenty-seven in all. He nodded in recognition when a white-haired man stepped onto the pier. Eduardo removed a rifle from under a pile of blankets, raised it into firing position, and placed Inmate One-Five-Seven-Nine in the crosshairs.

After twenty years, justice for Eduardo’s murdered wife and daughter was at hand. He grinned. Not all the fish had gone south.

3: “Roll Call”


Michael Rigg


No more alarm bells jolting him awake at six-fifteen for Roll Call. No more maggot-infested gruel for breakfast. No more Screws dictating his every move from Wake-Up to Lights-Out. Charles Weatherman rowed toward shore, imagining life away from The Rock. A Ribeye at Alfred’s. Cigars and brandy at Top of the Mark. Lili St. Cyr at the Music Box. Everything was within reach. Just a few more pulls on the oars.

Escaping had been easier than he thought. Using broken saw blades to loosen the grating over an air vent. Fashioning a fake head so the guards would believe he was sleeping. Paying a few dozen cigarettes for a small boat to be hidden in a grotto out of sight of the guard towers. Finally, implementing everything by slipping through the vent and inching his way along an unguarded utility corridor, across the roof, and over the fence.

Crimson-and-gold rays from sunrise topping the Santa Cruz Mountains greeted him as he stepped onto land, undetected, near Fisherman’s Wharf. Freedom—his dream—attained.

Brrrring! Brrrring! “Roll Call in five minutes,” blared over the loudspeaker. Charles opened his eyes and cursed. His nightmare, renewed.

And for 2023:

The photo prompt.


The winning story is:



Sally Milliken


“Kent’s already on set,” Associate Producer Lia called as her head appeared in the makeup room doorway.

“Is Martin nearly ready for his closeup? We’re losing our light.”

“Hang on, he just needs a touch up of powder. His cheeks are shiny, that’s all,” I answered.

“Great.” She nodded. “I’ll send an intern to walk him to set.”

As soon as Martin was out of the chair, I followed, stopping next to Kathy. As a hair stylist, she was ready with brush in hand.

“I’m sorry the hat is covering the style work you did on Martin.”

“Thanks. Comes with the territory, though.” She shrugged. “You know how it is.”

“Mmmhmm. I’m using tricks I never even imagined.”

“Me too. After his hair flew off during the chase scene yesterday, I thought that would be the end.”

“Not that I’m complaining about steady work,” I began, “but how long are we gonna milk this thing?”

“As long as we bring in the money, the brass wants us to keep going.”

“Martin’s been dead for eight years.”

“Damn, nobody move, his tooth fell out again.”

“That’s a wrap for today, everyone.”

Judges’ comments about the winning story – We really enjoyed reading this submission and it stood out because it was so different to any of the other stories. There was almost a sense of dark comedy about it and we thought the twist at the end was super. The visual detail gave a great sense of setting and we thought the plot built well towards the final line. It also worked well with the photo. Well done!

2023 Runners-up:

2: Law and Molder


Marcia Adair


“Yeah, right,” the dispatcher said. “A psychic reports a body at Stoneview cemetery…” Click.

If she’d believed me, the cold case squad would be there, closing the decades-old murder of Officer Max Wilgus. I was just a kid when he was ambushed in that very boneyard, but I never forgot. How could I? Tabloids published countless photos of a man wearing a ghoulish mask and goggles speeding away after the shooting.

When I saw the identical mask and goggles at an antique store recently, I grabbed them. “Where’d you get these?” I asked innocently. “Maybe they have something else I could use for a project.” Amazingly, the clerk gave me the man’s name and address.

Next day, I slipped a flyer under the killer’s door: “Feeling guilty? Visit Sarah the Psychic.”

I knew he’d come. He did. When “the spirits” slid a doctored photo in front of him — half cop, half skeleton mask — he blanched and bolted.

I followed him to the cemetery.

Rushing to the ambushed officer’s grave, he tripped hard on its stone coping and smashed headlong into the tombstone.

I smiled. “Case closed, punk.

“Grampa Max, you finally got him.”

3: Cemetery Justice


Pat Remick


My favorite walk is through the town cemetery. It’s peaceful until my final stop, the grave of K-9 Officer Brett Thomas. Sometimes I think I see my ex-partner near the Thomas family plot, in his uniform and signature dark shades, grinning, and taunting me and the world to take him on. Brett was a tough SOB, but no match for a hail of bullets. They hit me, too, but I limped into forced retirement. I still can’t fathom how a routine check of a vandalism report in Pineview Cemetery exploded into an unsolved murder. Lately, I’ve noticed a man loitering near Brett’s grave. Even from a distance, I see him shudder when he glances at the headstone, as if startled by something. Maybe Brett’s ghost. Usually, the man crosses himself and disappears before we reach him. Today was different. He smiled and nodded at my companion, who has moved in with Brett’s widow and me. I understand now. Growling and barking won’t change things. However, I’m trained to kill so I attack repeatedly, mortally wounding both. But not before the loiterer gets off a shot, reuniting me with Brett forever.

“Congratulations to all the writers, and to the winners!” ~ Bookouture judges and Writers’ Police Academy

*The contest winners will receive the Golden Donut Award via shipping. Runners-up to receive certificates by U.S. mail.


2024 Killer Con registration opens in January 2024.

Be ready to sign up because this is a KILLER event that’s not to be missed!

Visit a homicide scene and solve the case using tactics, tools, and techniques learned throughout the event.

2024 Killer Con Guest of Honor is internationally bestselling author Charlaine Harris.

Click the link below to visit the Killer Con (Writers’ Police Academy) website to view the schedule of events, classes, instructors, and special guest presenters.

2024 Killer Con

“I. Know. My. Rights!”

Officers hear those four familiar words many, many times each and every day all across this great land of ours.

It’s a phrase often spoken by the wisest of the wise–the top legal minds of street corners, sour mash-guzzling patrons of back road honky-tonk juke joints, and professional crack and meth smokers everywhere. It’s forcefully uttered by masked basement keyboard warriors who’re out for their weekly brick- and moltov cocktail-throwing adventures, and by pickup truck cowboys out hee-hawing it up after a night of suds-swigging and two-stepping at Myrtle Mae’s Bar and Grill in the strip mall next to the Sizzler turned Bingo Parlor that closed some six years ago.

More times than I care to count, the person delivering the line is a scrawny, wiry sort of guy who prefers to go shirtless, exposing a set of bony ribs that could replace any xylophone in any symphony in the world. They’re the hoodlum wannabes who guzzle three six-packs of cheap beer followed by six shots of Jack Black as a warmup to their serious drinking. Of course, members of all sexes/genders dive in to offer their own spectacular versions of the diatribe and, like the aforementioned folks, they, too, come in all shapes and sizes and from varied backgrounds.

Lately, though, the famous words have been adopted by the likes of soccer moms, college students, sovereign citizens, kids, grocers, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers.

But no matter from whose lips it crosses, the message is the same, and it’s shouted and screamed and yelled into the faces of law enforcement officers. Of course, the phrase is often followed by a series of threats, such as …

“I. Know. My. Rights, you fat dumbass son of a whore doughnut-eating pig! No offence to pigs, mind you. You work for me. I pay your salary. I’m gonna have your job and I’m gonna sue you and your mama and I’m gonna take your houses and cars and your pension and your mother’s Social Security checks. You gotta let me go. This arrest is illegal ’cause you didn’t read me my rights! Now take off these cuffs … NOW … afore I open a can of whupass on you like you ain’t never seen!!!!”

Well, Mr. Canary-Chest TinyPants, your legal analysis is incorrect, and your threats of violence against well-armed and well-trained officers do very little to intimidate them. Especially when you’ve shown the world the physical attributes you have to back up those strong promises of ass-whuppins.

So let’s examine TinyPants’ claim regarding Miranda and when it’s required.


When is a police officer required to advise a suspect of the Miranda warnings?

I’ll give you a hint, it’s not like we see on television. Surprised?

Television shows often have officers spouting off Miranda warnings the second they have someone in cuffs. Not so. I’ve been in plenty of situations where I chased a suspect, caught him, he resisted, and then we wound up on the ground fighting like street thugs while I struggled to apply handcuffs to his wrists. And yes, words were spoken once I managed to get to my feet, but “Miranda” wasn’t one of them. Too many letters, if you know what I mean. Words consisting of only four letters seemed to flow quite easily at that point.

When Is Miranda Required?

Two elements must be in place for the Miranda warning requirement to apply. The suspect must be in custody and he must be undergoing interrogation.

Writers, this is an important detail – A suspect is in police custody if he’s under formal arrest or if his freedom has been restrained or denied to the extent that he feels as if he’s no longer free to leave.

The fellow wearing the handcuffs in the photo below is not free to leave. Therefore, should the officer wish to question him he must advise him of his right to remain silent, etc. However, if the officer decides to not ask questions/interrogate, then Miranda is not required.


I’ve arrested criminals, many of them, in fact, and never advised them of their rights. Not ever. And that’s because I didn’t ask them any questions.

Sometimes officers receive a stack of outstanding arrest warrants for a variety of cases and it’s their job that day to go out and round up those folks. Those officers have no clue as to the circumstances of the crime or case details, therefore they’d not know the appropriate questions to ask. All they know is that the boss handed them a pile of warrants and told them to fetch. This, by the way, is often one of the mundane duties assigned to rookie officers, along with directing traffic and writing parking tickets.

So, the warrant-serving officers locate the person named on the warrant and haul them to the station, or jail, for processing/booking. The officer who had the warrant issued may or may not question the arrested person at a later time. But the arresting officer, the one who played hide and seek with the crook for a few hours on a Monday morning is most likely out of the picture from that point onward. So no questioning = no Miranda.


Interrogation is not only asking questions, but any actions, words, or gestures used by an officer to elicit an incriminating response can be considered an interrogation.

If these two elements are in place officers must advise a suspect of the Miranda warnings prior to questioning. If not, statements made by the suspect may not be used in court. Doesn’t mean the arrest isn’t good, just that his statements aren’t admissible.

Officers are NOT required to advise anyone of their rights as long as they’re not planning to ask questions. Defendants are convicted all the time without ever hearing the police officer’s poem, You Have the Right to …

Miranda facts:

  • Officers should repeat the Miranda warnings during each period of questioning. For example, during questioning officers decide to take a break for the night. They come back the next day to try again. They must advise the suspect of his rights again before resuming the questioning.
  • If an officer takes over questioning for another officer, she should repeat the warnings before asking her questions.
  • Officers may not ask questions if a suspect asks for an attorney.
  • If a suspect agrees to answer questions but decides to stop during the session and asks for an attorney, officers must stop the questioning.
  • Suspects who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs should not be questioned. Also, anyone who exhibits signs of withdrawal symptoms should not be questioned.
  • Officers should not question people who are seriously injured or ill.
  • People who are extremely upset or hysterical should not be questioned.
  • Officers may not threaten or make promises to elicit a confession.

Many officers carry a pre-printed Miranda warning card in their wallets. Here’s a copy of the reverse side of my old Virginia Sheriffs Association membership card (same design, size, and feel of a credit card). I could not begin to count the number of times I’ve used it to read the words to crimincal suspects.

Miranda Card

Fact: The Miranda warning requirement stemmed from a case involving a man named Ernesto Miranda.  Miranda killed a young woman in Arizona and was arrested for the crime. During questioning Miranda confessed to the slaying, but the police had failed to tell him he had the right to silence and that he could have an attorney present during the questioning. Miranda’s confession was ruled inadmissible; however, the court convicted him based on other evidence.

Miranda was released from prison after he served his sentence. Not long after his release, he was killed during a bar fight.

His killer was advised of his rights according to the precedent-setting case of Miranda v. Arizona. He chose to remain silent.

Some individual department/location policies require their officers to advise of Miranda at the point of arrest. However, the law does not require them to do so.

Full event details TBA

Here are just a few of the odd things that occurred during the past 15 years of the WPA.

14. Semi-Nude Presenter – Sometimes, we have someone famous announce the winner of the annual Golden Donut Short Story Contest, and they typically do so via video. One year the winner’s name was announced by actor Michael Cudlitz of Band of Brothers, SouthLand, The Walking Dead, and currently Superman and Lois (Cudlitz plays Lex Luthor).

Mike was a bit late in getting the recorded video announcement to me, arriving the day we were due to present the trophy. He followed up by calling to apologize for the tardiness. The delay, he said, was because he’d been filming the TV show SouthLand and the video had slipped his mind.

He went on to say that he’d remembered it after he’d gone to bed the night before and was nearly asleep when it hit him. So, he immediately hopped out of bed, slipped on a t-shirt, and then recorded the brief video, a clip that showed Mike from the waist up. He said the upper body shot was appropriate and 100% necessary since in his haste to make the recording he’d neglected to put on pants; therefore, he was nude from the waist down.

So yes, Michael Cudlitz announced the winner of the WPA Golden Donut Contest while NOT wearing pants. Of course, fans of the TV show SouthLand once saw Mike’s lower half (back side only) during a shower scene.

13. Topless Car Wash – In 2009, the WPA took place at a public safety academy in Jamestown, N.C., and we booked a nearby hotel for sleeping and meeting rooms, and the banquet and reception. Unfortunately, we did not check out the businesses located to the rear of the property. As a result of our poor observation skills, the view many of our attendees were treated to when gazing out from their hotel room windows was that of a quite busy topless car wash. We’ve not made this mistake a second time.

12. Love Story – Two writers met and fell in love at the WPA and later married.

11. Love Story, Part II– Two newlywed writers, not the two from #12, spent their honeymoon at the Writers’ Police Academy.

10. Writers Destroy Equipment – During PIT Maneuver training (Precision Immobilization Technique), a writer/driver connected the right front corner of their patrol vehicle with the left rear of the suspect vehicle’s left rear corner. Well, the object of the technique is to cause the suspect vehicle’s rear tires to lose traction and spin to bring the car to a stop, allowing pursuing officers to apprehend the driver. In this session, however, the writer/driver engaged with a wee bit too much force and ripped off the entire front bumper of their patrol car. During the Saturday night banquet, the instructor presented the mangled bumper to the attendee as an “award” for their remarkable driving skills. PIT Maneuver classes are no longer offered at the WPA. Gee, I wonder why not …

In another accidental incident, a WPA attendee was a little too rough when behind the wheel of the emergency vehicle driving simulator, and, well, they broke it. The initial cost of the simulator exceeded $100,000.

9. No Bra, Do NOT Go to Jail – In past years, we offered tours of county jails, prisons, police departments, and morgues. Since jail and prison tours involved visiting actual housing units where inmates live and were present, WPA attendees were searched before entering the facility. They were not allowed to wear jewelry, carry purses, bags, cellphones or cameras, ink pens, or weapons (of course), and they were to be properly attired—no revealing clothing.

Well, one of the attendees scheduled for the tour was someone whose personal preference was to not wear a chest area undergarment, and the person’s wardrobe selections as upper body wear for the event included only thin shirts/tops. They were refused entry to the jail unless a proper change of clothing was immediately available. So, one of our volunteers managed to produce a bra and shirt, both correctly sized, and all was made well in a matter of minutes. Those volunteers—the “Library Ladies” —were prepared for practically anything that popped up or out or that needed covering.

8. NO FOOD! – We sometimes host a nice Friday night reception that takes place around 7 p.m., complete with delicious hors d’oeuvres and beverages.

Back in the day I typically did not micromanage the reception setups and preparation, as I do for the law enforcement-related activities. After all, what could go wrong with fruit, cheese, and meatballs? You set up a bunch of tables, prepare the food, and then place it on the tables for people to enjoy. That’s it, right?

One would think so, but …

I usually arrive at the reception between 6 and 6:30 to make sure the cash bar and food are in place and that our guests are having a good time. Well, this particular year when I arrived the food was nowhere to be seen. Nor were the tables where the goodies were to be placed. I immediately strolled into the kitchen, a place where no mortal human is supposed to go, to see about the trouble. I saw nothing but empty food prep tables and stovetops. No employees, No chef. Not even a single crumb for a hungry mouse to find for its midnight snack.

I panicked.

I found one of the event set-up people in the back office and explained the situation, quite loudly. He said there were no orders for a reception. Again, I raucously explained the situation. He finally found our reception order on a clipboard and was shocked to see the extensive food list. It was now 6:10 with the reception scheduled to begin at 7. He said there was nothing he could do because there was no food to prepare.

As you know, I would never settle for such an answer. Therefore, I INSISTED that he call someone who could help, and then together he and I went to work. I discovered an entire already-prepared wedding reception feast just sitting in the walk-in cooler waiting for the taking. So, I, along with the set-up guy and three other hotel staff who responded to the call for help, heated the things that needed heating, plated things that weren’t already plated, arranged things that needed arranging, and then carried it all out to the tables that were then waiting in the reception room.

We started the reception ten minutes late, but it was done, and it was scrumptious. Best of all, no one had any idea of the chaos that went on behind those kitchen doors.

7. No Instructors, No Problem – Due to outgrowing one of our host academies we moved to a larger training facility. The new venue was relatively nice with top-of-the-line equipment. However, several instructors who worked there failed to show up on the first day of our event. No advance notice. Nothing. Not a peep. They simply didn’t show up, which left us scrambling to accommodate nearly two-hundred writers. We managed to make use of larger classrooms to shift attendees from the suddenly nonexistent sessions to those that were available. Fortunately, it all worked out and appeared seamless.

But the next day promised to be a repeat of AWOL instructors who’d not taken their commitment to the WPA seriously. So, Denene, the hotel security chief (a former instructor at the academy in question), and I were up that night until 3 a.m. trying to come up with a solution for a potential day two disaster. Luckily, with the security boss’ assistance and several late-night phone calls to contacts and friends, we had instructors to fill in the vacant spots.

The event was a success with no one the wiser as to the hours of agony we’d experienced. We did not return to this academy.

6. Food Shortage and Drunk Chef – Our Saturday night banquets are pleasant, fun affairs. The food is typically very good, as is the joy of sharing the meal with friends and fellow attendees who’ve spent the past three days enjoying the excitement that comes with participating in the Writers’ Police Academy. And, well, the banquet is usually a flawless portion of the event. After all, there’s not a lot to it. People come in and sit, talk, and drink while the chef and staff put the final touches on a delicious meal. Simple, right? Sure, it’s easy if the chef prepares ALL the meals for ALL our attendees. But when he forgets to cook 25 or 30 of those meals and then heads out to a local bar for a night of rapid-fire alcohol consumption, well, that’s a recipe for disaster, and that’s exactly what happened one year.

When I saw the banquet manager heading toward our table, with a worried expression plastered on her face, my first thought was, “What fresh hell is this.” I somehow managed to contain the explosion that wanted to erupt from deep down in my core when she leaned down and whispered the news in my ear. “We do not have enough food for everyone, and the chef has gone for the night.”

As luck would have it, though, the member of the banquet staff we’d immediately sent searching for the preparer of our meals found the chef washing down his troubles with booze at a tavern merely a few blocks from the hotel. It was his regular after-work watering hole, so they’d had a good idea of where to start looking. Our “scout” delivered his slightly inebriated boss back to the kitchen where he oversaw the preparation of the missing meals. Somehow, the meals were completed on time and were tasty.

Again, this all took place behind the scenes, so no one knew this happened, other than Denene and me, and the extremely rattled banquet staff.

We no longer use this hotel.

5. An Extension Cord Made of Gold? – The same hotel mentioned above in #6 wanted to charge us a whopping $300 to use an old extension cord. The bookstore folks needed it to power a device. I gently explained that we would not agree to such an exorbitant fee and, after a call to the manager, the cord was handed over to the bookstore, at no charge. Shoot, I bought my first car for only $400.

4. It’s Only Money … a Lot of Money – Back in the early days of the WPA, one of our former hotels had us settle the entire event bill at the front desk when we checked out on Sunday afternoon. Denene and I stood in line with others who were also checking out and when our time came to handle our business the clerk handed me the bill and said, “Your total is xxx.”

The amount that year was just over $30,000. The couple standing behind us heard the total and when they did the woman said to her partner, “Over thirty thousand! Wow, I wonder how long they were here?”

3. HELP ME! – One late night, one of our attendees exited the hotel elevator on the wrong floor, the basement level where staff offices and other private areas are located. Unfortunately for the attendee, during off hours, this floor is supposed to be inaccessible to hotel guests. As a result, the doors there are locked, and the elevator does not work for return trips to upper levels. It was a fluke that the elevator went there at all.

So, the person was trapped in the darkened basement. Luckily, they were able to call for assistance, but not before sending me a frantic “Help! I’m locked in the basement” message.

2. My Horse Won’t Let Me Go to the WPA – During the past 15 years thousands of writers, and others, have attended the Writers’ Police Academy. Each year, some write to say they’d love to come but they’re unable to do so for a variety of reasons—illness, vacation, child’s graduation, etc. Well, I thought I’d heard every possible reason why someone couldn’t attend until this message arrived.

“I can’t make it this year because I need to use the money to buy horse sperm and it’s expensive.”

Breed the horse to bring a little one into the world, or play cops and robbers for a weekend? The choice was, well, good horse sense.

And the Number One Odd But True Thing That Happened at the Writers’ Police Academy is …

1. We LOST Lisa Gardner! – As most of you know, the Writers’ Police Academy has been blessed with having as our guests of honor, some of the biggest names in the business, such as #1 New York Times bestselling thriller novelist Lisa Gardner.

Lisa not only served as the guest of honor, but she also eagerly participated in classes alongside attendees. In addition to the typical sessions, we arranged for Lisa to go on a nighttime ride-a-long in an unmarked car with an officer who was working a special assignment. The officer, a plainclothes deputy sheriff, was supposed to return Lisa to the hotel by 10 p.m. However, 10 p.m. came and went, as did 11 p.m. I tried calling and texting Lisa, but no response.

11:30 … no Lisa.

11:45 … no Lisa.

I contacted the sheriff’s office and was told they were unable to reach the deputy.

I then had to face reality. We had officially lost Lisa Gardner, our guest of honor and one of the world’s top thriller authors. Her fans would be livid.

Shortly after midnight, though, I received a text from Lisa. It read, “Back soon. On a drug raid. Suspects in custody.”

Lisa’s late-night message was the non-writer equivalent of, “Having a great time. Wish you were here!”

Coming in 2024!

Exciting News!

The Writers’ Police Academy is pleased to announce the June 2022 return to in-person, hands-on training in Green Bay, Wi., at one of the country’s top law enforcement training academies. Registration for this action-packed, thrilling event often sells out quickly. Therefore, for the first time ever you’ll have a chance to secure your spot in advance. In addition, this offer includes a 5% discount off the 2022 registration fee.

Here’s all you have to do to take advantage of this incredible opportunity—sign up to attend 2021 MurderCon. It’s that simple!

Click this link to sign up for MurderCon.

Once you’ve registered for MurderCon, your 2022 WPA spot is automatically reserved at the specially discounted rate (5% discount off the 2022 rate).

Writers drive police vehicles in hot pursuit, then perform PIT maneuvers. THRILLING and HEART-POUNDING!

This offer applies retroactively to everyone who’s already registered to attend the 2021 MurderCon event!

Those of you who elected to rollover your Writers’ Police Academy registrations from the 2020 event that cancelled due to COVID, your spot is reserved for the 2022 WPA, at the 2020 rate. 

To claim your discounted rate, you must complete a new registration form. The 2022 WPA registration opens in February. Details coming soon.

In the meantime, sign up to attend the 2021 MurderCon, the ultimate training event featuring incredibly detailed and cutting-edge workshops. 

Click this link to sign up for MurderCon.

All MurderCon participants will receive a free mini fingerprinting kit to be used during an interactive class!











MurderCon sessions, taught by some of the world’s leading experts, have never been available to writers, anywhere. The information presented is typically for law enforcement eyes only./



*The exact days of the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy date TBD.

Leading characters should be written as real people with real problems and real goals. They’re people a reader wants to care about. Protagonists are likeable and smart, yet flawed in some way.

Sure, the hero will win, we know that, and we love seeing them doing what they do to solve the murder du jour. But what should they NOT do while poking and prodding through crime scenes? Well, here’s a short list of eight things we shouldn’t see in your books.

Don’t touch!

1. Picking up the murder weapon at an already secure homicide scene is a no-no. First, investigators should be sure the weapon was photographed exactly as it was found. Next, when the time comes to move the firearm, the detective should use care to protect possible fingerprints, trace evidence, and DNA. Of course, if the scene is not secure and 100 people are still running through the area like crazed zombies, officers should immediately secure the weapon using whatever means available, if any, to prevent contamination and to avoid the possibility of becoming murder victim number two.

2. Don’t let your hero cover the body with things found at the crime scene (blankets, sheets, the living room rug) because doing so could transfer potential evidence from the covering to the body, or from the body to the covering. I promise, the dead guy doesn’t care that he’s lying on the floor in his birthday suit.

3. Don’t let TV cops blunder around inside your protagonist’s crime scene. Outsiders are apt to step on evidence, spill things, move evidence, bring things into the crime scene (fibers, etc.) that shouldn’t be there, and they always, always, always touch things.

A crime scene isn’t the place to have a conversation about going to Cape Cod on vacation while walking from room to room drinking a cup of coffee. This also isn’t the time for shyness. If necessary, have the hero use their best command presence and demand that looky-loo’s remain outside the perimeter.

4. Please don’t have your hero dig a bullet from the door casing and then immediately say, “Just as I suspected, the murder weapon is a 9mm SIG Sauer.” It’s darn near impossible to know the caliber of misshapen bullets/fragments merely by looking at them, and cops, or anyone else, certainly wouldn’t be able to guess which brand of gun fired it. The same is true about entrance and exit wounds. You can’t judge the caliber size merely by glancing at an wound in human flesh.

5. Revolvers do NOT automatically eject spent brass. If empty casings are found at the crime scene it’s likely because the shooter manually dumped them there, which would be highly unlikely. Semi-automatics and automatic weapons do automatically eject spent casings, but you won’t find them in a neat little pile beside the body. Normally, semi- and fully-automatic weapons eject brass a few feet away from the shooter, and they may bounce in several directions, depending upon the surface/item they strike—concrete floor, wood flooring, lamps, tables, carpeting, etc.

Inanimate objects cannot be robbed. Stealing from a home is burglary.

6. Robbers cannot rob a house. A robbery occurs when a bad guy forces someone—a person, not an inanimate object—to give him money/items. Breaking into an empty house and taking a TV or jewelry is burglary. The two are not synonymous. They are not the same! I’ll say it again, robbery and burglary are not the same.

7. Cordite. Need I address this again? Your hero won’t smell cordite because the stuff is no longer used in modern ammunition.

Now, let’s delve a bit deeper into a couple of the areas I mentioned in the above list of things a protagonist should not do. For instance, I highlighted the fact that detectives should NOT cover the body with any item found at the scene. I also detailed that people entering a crime scene could contaminate the area by bringing in trace evidence on their shoes, clothing, etc. Tertiary transfer, my good friends, is the reason why these things should never take place, and here’s why not.

8. Tertiary DNA Transfer – DNA can be accidentally transferred from one object to another. A good example could be the killer who shares an apartment with an unsuspecting friend. He returns home after murdering someone and then tosses his blood-spattered shirt into the washer along with his roommate’s clothing. The machine churns and spins through its wash cycles, an action that spreads the victim’s DNA throughout the load. Police later serve a search warrant on the home, seize the clothing, and discover the victim’s DNA on the roommate’s jeans. The innocent roommate is arrested for murder.

Tertiary Transfer of DNA Evidence

The same can occur with touch DNA. A man shares a towel with his wife and his DNA is subsequently transferred to her face and neck. Later, a stranger wearing gloves chokes the woman to death, transferring the husband’s DNA from the victim’s face to the killer’s gloves. The assailant removes the gloves and leaves them at the scene. Police confiscate the gloves, test them, and find the husband’s DNA. He is then charged for his wife’s death while the real killer is free to murder again.

The example above (the choking case) actually happened, and those of you who attended the Writers’ Police Academy session taught by DNA expert Dr. Dan Krane heard him speak of it. He was the expert who proved this was indeed possible and he testified to it in the groundbreaking case involving accused killer Dr. Dirk Grenadier.

By the way, I’ve been talking about tertiary transfer/secondary-transfer of DNA evidence for a few years now. In fact, I first wrote about it in my book on police procedure, but I don’t think everyone believed me.

Here’s what I wrote (page 170 – 171 of Police Procedure and Investigation).


“It’s actually quite easy to transfer DNA evidence. When evidence is transferred from a person to an item, it’s called a primary transfer of evidence. When evidence is transferred from one item to another, it’s called secondary transfer. Tertiary transfer occurs when the DNA that’s been transferred to a second item is again transferred to a third item. 

DNA can also be transferred to people who then use that item, such as a towel that’s been used by someone else. DNA can even be transferred from one article of clothing to another in a clothes washer.

Evidence that’s been cross-contaminated will exhibit false results and could be used to convict the innocent and allow the guilty to go free.”

“In December 2012 a homeless man named Lukis Anderson was charged with the murder of Raveesh Kumra, a Silicon Valley multimillionaire, based on DNA evidence. The charge carried a possible death sentence. But Anderson was not guilty. He had a rock-solid alibi: drunk and nearly comatose, Anderson had been hospitalized—and under constant medical supervision—the night of the murder in November. Later his legal team learned his DNA made its way to the crime scene by way of the paramedics who had arrived at Kumra’s residence. They had treated Anderson earlier on the same day—inadvertently “planting” the evidence at the crime scene more than three hours later.” ~ by Peter Andrey Smith, Scientific American













Exciting News!

The Writers’ Police Academy is pleased to announce the June 2022 return to in-person, hands-on training at one of the country’s top law enforcement training academies. Registration for this action-packed, thrilling event often sells out quickly. Therefore, for the first time ever you’ll have a chance to secure your spot now. In addition, this offer includes a 5% discount off the 2022 registration fee.

Here’s all you have to do to take advantage of this incredible opportunity—sign up to attend 2021 MurderCon. It’s that simple!

Once you’ve registered for MurderCon, your 2022 WPA spot is automatically reserved at the specially discounted rate (5% discount off the 2022 rate).

Writers drive police vehicles in hot pursuit, then perform PIT maneuvers. THRILLING and HEART-POUNDING!

This offer applies retroactively to everyone who’s already registered to attend the 2021 MurderCon event!

Those of you who elected to rollover your Writers’ Police Academy registrations from the 2020 event that cancelled due to COVID, your spot is reserved for the 2022 WPA, at the 2020 rate. 

To claim your discounted rate, you must complete a new registration form. The 2022 WPA registration opens in February. Details coming soon.

In the meantime, sign up to attend the 2021 MurderCon, the ultimate training event featuring incredibly detailed and cutting-edge workshops. 

*MurderCon sessions, taught by some of the world’s leading experts, have never been available to writers, anywhere.

The rules were simple—write a story about the photograph above using exactly 200 words, including the title, and the image must be the main subject of the story.

Shortly after the contest was announced stories then began arriving from all around the globe. Then, when the contest closed and the dust finally began to settle, we were left with a mound of twisted tales written by many talented writers.

We congratulate everyone who submitted stories, with a special congratulations to the winner and the others who placed in the top ten.

I understanding that judging was a tough assignment, as always, due to the large number of wonderfully-told tales. We also thank each of you for your support. The contest proceeds help the WPA continue to deliver top programs year after year.

The contest winner will receive the coveted Golden Donut Award, a handsome trophy, as well as free registration to a 2021 WPA event, either an in-person event or virtual (COVID restrictions may dictate which).

So, without further ado, the 2020 winning story, followed by the rest of the top ten, is – drum roll, please ………………………..

And I Must Play

by Nicolas Morales


This … is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the greatest place on Earth. From the tasty food to the super fun rides and games, it has everything a boy like me could dream of. I like coming here so much, it feels like I live here. Whenever I go to one of the restaurants called the Surf City Grill, I eat like a king. But I think I order too much food sometimes because people like to stare at me when I eat. After that, I usually go play some laser tag, and I must be really good at it because nobody can hit me. I also like to go to the Cannonball Arcade, where my favorite games are Pac-Man and The Real Ghostbusters. The only weird part is that there is a big picture of me hanging on the wall outside. And every once in a while, a lady brings some flowers and lights a candle in front of it. Then she starts crying for a few minutes before she leaves. She looks familiar but thinking about it too hard makes the hole in my head hurt. Whoever she is, I hope she feels better.

Pinball Wizards

Ry Brooks


As break-ins go, the Boardwalk Arcade yielded slim pickings, but Nate and Joel needed cash, and quarters were better than nothing. The desperados plundered the coins from almost all the games before Joel noticed a strange looking pinball machine placarded “CAUTION – DO NOT PLAY!”

“Hurry,” Nate scolded. “We got no time to lallygag.”

“Hold on.” Joel dropped a coin into the slot and heard the unmistakable clatter of a full coin box.

The machine began to light up and made grinding sounds.

“Leave dat thing alone! Wanna get us caught?”

“Come ‘ere, help me get dis open. Dere must be a fortune in it.”

The pair worked on the box with pry bars, but it was unyielding. Suddenly, a hinged section of floor where they stood dropped away, and the two burglars disappeared before it snapped shut again.

It was the smell that eventually led to their discovery, but by then of course it was too late. Their desiccated remains each clutched a sack of quarters, and to this very day, in the depth of night when all is quiet, you just might hear the faint sounds of them scratching at the trap door to get out.

Game Over

by Lori Martin


Melanie tapped out another text.

You still coming, Theo? I’m outside Arcade Entrance C

Be there soon!

OK but hurry. You already missed the sunrise.

Thirty minutes later, she texted again. WHERE ARE YOU? R U MESSIN WITH ME?

I’m here.

C’mon! Are you going to meet me or not?

I am right here, Beautiful.

She smiled. Where? There’s no one here but some third shift arcade workers waiting for rides home.


A shiver wormed its way down Melanie’s spine. Why was the sweet guy she’d been chatting with online for a year being so weird? What r u talking about?

You know how your husband died in that car crash last month?

Of course. I miss Danny like crazy.

Yeah. Well, I have another surprise.

Melanie started texting “Another?” but dropped the phone as an armed woman emerged from between some of the pillars that guarded the arcade’s entrance. Melanie’s eyes widened as memories from over twenty years ago triggered recognition.

“Surprise, Homewrecker! Theo is ME.” A chuckle rumbled from the woman’s smirking lips as she raised the gun. “Say ‘hello’ to Danny for me!”

4th Place



Pamela Raymond


Under the brilliance of the midday sun, Mr. Brooks hobbled down the concrete promenade on his quest for a vacant bench and a cool breeze. Joints flexing cruelly, he quietly settled into a seat nestled between a row of plum painted pillars.

Mr. Brooks rubbed the silver tuft on his head. Perspiration glazed his weathered, dark skin as his once spirited eyes scanned the storefronts with puzzled curiosity. Not at all how I remembered it, he thought.

Four decades and a handful of years earlier, before gentrification took root, it was a modest Greyhound bus terminal. Back when the fight for dignity collided with the back of a billy club. When the law of the land whittled a man’s worth down to the circumstances of his birth.

That summer the buses rolled in beckoning a young Mr. Brooks to join the fed up and the cast down. He did.

Mr. Brooks eyed the plaque that posthumously sanitized his sacrifice. He shifted on the bench, a wince curling his bottom lip. He remembered the stiff baton his hip, and his dignity, once endured and wondered would the defiance ignited that summer ever shine brighter than the lights on the boardwalk.

5th Place

Amusement Park Legacy

Laurie Newberry

Looking over what I have created, I stare down mostly empty isles. In just a few minutes my dreams will be realized. My amusement park is done, full of lights, music and delightful family fun.

I cannot begin to express all the excitement I feel. Themed shops are about to open, thrilling rides are ready for boarding. I can smell corn dogs and cotton candy.
This is my legacy.

I stride through the gateway to fun.

In front of Cannonball Arcade, I hear a muffled pop, clutch at a pain in my chest, and stumble against the door frame. No one turns my way. My hand comes away bloody.

This cannot be happening. NOT now!

The door opens, and I am dragged inside. Past the flashing lights to a storage room. Fresh cement nearly fills a pit.

“Thank you for the park. It is going to make me very rich” Unemotional words stab deep.
I struggle to stand.

“Why?” I gasp.

“Because, I want it all.”

The gun appears.

The silenced muzzle flashes and another bullet tears into my chest.

I fall backwards into the cold concrete quicksand.

Sinking slowly, I hear her voice.

“Goodbye…, Dad.”

6th Place

The Dauphin

John St. Clair

Fragrances of tepid ocean air, kettle corn, and cotton candy should have worked their magic inside my nostrils as I followed the boy under a lengthy covered breezeway. But I smelled nothing.

Nestled between an old style nickelodeon and a two star buffet named for the God of the Sea, his destination that day promised a surfeit of fun and games.

I watched as he surveyed the colorful notice affixed to the door, oblivious to my presence.
Annual Cannonball Arcade ‘Melee Sur La Promenade’ Video Game Tournament, Today!

Upon this hallowed ground, thirty years ago, I recalled hulking black cabinets with luminous marquees, standing shoulder to shoulder like silent sentries. Inside this darkened pleasure palace, upon a virtual field, furious pitched battles would crown a champion for the hit arcade title Melee Maniacs 2. My competitors were a much older motley crew. Some of them even attended high school! Endless practice, skill and fortitude, married with destiny had premeditated my victory, and my coronation became the stuff of local legend.

“I wish you could see me now, Dad.” The boy sighed.

“Son, I will be with you in spirit.” I smiled.

He opened the door and went inside.

7th Place

Beware the Calliope Monster

Tammie Fickas

“Beware the calliope monster,” the leaves whispered as they skittered around Adam’s boots. He stomped his feet to crush their murmurings. His gaze roamed the arcade, the tall columns now bright purple, not like the old days, but the carousel still spun out its tinny music.

Her Love’s Baby Soft perfume stung his nostrils as she appeared before him, purplish marks marred her beautiful neck.

“Hey, you. It’s been so long.” Adam reached to touch her arm, but she backed away “Let’s ride the carousel horses, you loved doing that.

Her words mingled with calliope music as a contorted grimace replaced her smile. “I hated the carousel. That was your thing.”

Tears seeped from the corners of Adam’s eyes. “No, you were my thing. My everything.”
“Adam, you strangled me.”

“I loved you.” His whisper scratched the cold air and with nothing to hold it up, plummeted to the stairs he stood on.

“You wanted to control me and now you do. Are you happy, Adam?” Sepia tinted air swept in, erasing her like he did that night on the carousel.

In death, he had her all to himself. Beware the calliope monster, indeed.

8th Place

At the Amusement Park

Janice Utz

Exuberant squeals. Infectious laughter, and sweet, childish giggles. The clanging of bells. The cheerful tune of a calliope. Raucous applause. Corn popping. The welcoming call of a barker. The snap of a banner in the breeze. The click, click, click, click of a rollercoaster rising, followed by the whoosh of its descent.

Bang! Bang! Bang! A moment of stunned silence. Screams of terror. Bang! Bang! Bang! The pounding of a human stampede.

Sirens blaring. The thunder of heavy vehicles. Bang! Bang! Bang! Radios squawking. Orders snapped. The coordinated march of men on the move. Bang! Bang! Bang! The staccato response. Bang! Bang! Bang! Breaths held. Silent stalking. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Squeaking gurneys. The now fading wails of ambulances full of critical cargo.

The scratch of a match. The crackle of a candle flame. Murmured prayers. Quiet weeping. A sorrowful song rising to the heavens.

The rumble of a garbage bin being pushed over the pavement. The chuff of a broom. A spray of water. The squeak of a gate, the snick of a padlock, and the metallic clink of a chain against the iron fence.

The mournful cry of a pigeon. Dead silence.

9th Place


Deborah Maxey

Scraggly head down, the tattered hem of his disheveled kakis dragging the concrete, Ivar hobbled to the arcade doors unlocking them and flipping a switch causing the dark room to come alive with colorful dancing lights.

Jax and friends, leaving their perch on the picnic table outside, pushed past the elderly man.

“Move, Sling Blade.” Jax barked.

“He stinks,” Randy said.

“Disgusting,” Leo added.

But their daily vitriol was greatly diminished without Hunter, their leader.

“Over here first, Sling Blade,” Jax yelled.

Ivar hobbled to the pinball machine where his three tormentors waited, his key starting the loud music, dings, bells, and clacks.

“Where is Hunter?” Randy whined.

Leo shrugged. “Beats me.”

Ivar limped through the building unlocking foosball, air hockey, and video games. Returning to the boys he placed a Claw Game token on top of the pinball machine, mumbling, “Somebody dropped this,” then turned and shuffled back through the arcade and exited the building.

Leo grabbed the token, “Dibs,” and hurried to the tall glass box crammed with multicolored stuffed animals. Seconds later his blood curdling screams summoned Randy and Jax. The three stood, transfixed in horror. The Claw’s shiny hooks were positioned over Hunter’s severed head.

10th Place

No Hoax

Lex Tinsley

Sam led Fred to an arcade machine, a glassed-in box with the half torso of a full sized Indian in a turban sitting there.

“You place your hands on these two pads, and he reads your palm. “

Sam placed his palms on the pads.

The Indian raised his head, blinked, moved his right hand across the cards before him. Then in a quiet voice, said, “You will soon come into money. Guess the correct number between one and ten, you will get a card for a free sex lesson.”


The Indian frowned. “The number is Three.”

Fred smiled, “Wow. Give me a token.”

He inserted the token and placed his hands on the pads. The Indian went through the motions. “Tomorrow will be a very good day for you. Guess the correct number between one and ten, you will get a card for a free sex lesson.”


The Indian frowned. “The number is Three.”

As they walked back to the food court, scattering the pigeons, Fred shook his head, “That’s a hoax. You can’t win a free sex lesson.”

Sam shook his head, “Oh, no. My girl tried and she won twice.”

The Contest Judge

The 2020 Golden Donut Short Story Contest judge is THE ultimate virtuoso of the short story, Linda Landrigan, editor-in-chief of “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.”

Assuming the mantle of editor-in-chief in 2002, Linda Landrigan has also edited the commemorative anthology Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents Fifty Years of Crime and Suspense (2006) and the digital anthology Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents Thirteen Tales of New American Gothic (2012), and has found time to be active on the board of the New York City Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association. In 2008, Linda and her “partner in crime,” Janet Hutchings – editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine – were presented with the Poirot Award from Malice Domestic for their contributions to the mystery genre.

We will soon contact each the top ten authors. Please watch for an email message from The subject line will read “Golden Donut Contest.” Again, congratulations to all!

*The photograph used as the basis for the 2020 stories is of the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, Ca. Denene (my wife) took the shot on Christmas Day several years ago.

It is our annual tradition to visit a beach each Christmas Day, where we walk on the sand and listen the calming ocean sounds.

The process has begun. A new website is under construction. Courses and classes are in the design stages. The first group of instructors are scheduled and, by the way, the lineup for the first daylong live and interactive seminar is absolutely incredible. You’re going to lose yours minds!!

Full details soon to be announced. This is exciting!

*The online WPA is not a substitute for the in-person hands-on event!! Instead, these courses are designed to compliment the annual event, and to further assist the writing community.

Over the years, many have requested that we host a virtual event. Well, those requests are now a reality!

In just a few short weeks a group of MurderCon’s top law enforcement and forensics experts will arrive in homes around the world (virtually) to teach LIVE online classes, such as Fingerprints, Chemical Processing of Prints, Presumptive Blood/DNA, Blood Spatter, Footwear Evidence, Lifting Footwear, Homicide Investigations, Murder Case Studies, Toxicology, Forensic Geology, and Entomology to name a few. Each session features Q&A time with the instructors. There are also a couple of surprises in store for attendees..

This is an extremely rare opportunity, and presenting this material in such intricate detail is not something that’s previously been available outside the walls of police and forensics training academies and facilities. Once again, we’re making it possible for you to attend sessions that are typically for law enforcement eyes only. This is the same material that’s taught to top investigators.

As you know, sadly, we were forced to cancel the in-person MurderCon due to COVID restrictions in North Carolina.

We made the difficult decision to cancel late Wednesday evening after receiving notice N.C. would not be moving to Phase 3 on June 26 as planned. So we shifted into high gear and Thursday morning we held the first meeting about developing a virtual event. We’ve since developed classes, format, retained instructors, platform, schedule, and more. The entire MurderCon website  and registration system will need to be retooled from the ground up.

Then comes a brief period of advertising leading up to the opening of registration for this very special virtual event, hopefully on July 6, 2020. We’re optimistic.

But, to make this work we need your help. You are our best means of advertisement. So please, please please, share this exciting news with your friends, family, on social media, your websites, to your writers groups, agents, publishers, and more. Shout it from the rooftops! I. Need. Your. Help!

As always, thanks so much for your continued support.

Lee Lofland

*Due to format and programming restrictions, space is limited. First-come, first-served.

It’s is with great pleasure that I announce that the Writers’ Police Academy will soon begin work on a new anthology. This new collection of mysterious stories (details below) comes on the heels of the successful publication of the 2019 book, After Midnight: Tales From The Graveyard Shift (published by Level Best Books), edited by Phoef Sutton with a foreword by Lee Child.

Description of AFTER MIDNIGHT

The curtain rises on this collection of twisted tales, revealing the words of bestselling thriller author Lee Child. Child sets the stage for a series of mysterious and strange goings-on that occur between the hours of midnight and dawn … the graveyard shift.

Contributing authors in this first anthology produced by the Writers’ Police Academy include bestselling mystery and crime authors, top television writers, true crime experts, and more.

Contributing Authors

Heather Graham
Phoef Sutton
Robin Burcell
Allison Brennan

Ry Brooks
Carrie Stuart Parks
Lisa Klink
RJ Beam

Joe Bonsall
Katherine Ramsland
Denene Lofland
Michael A. Black

Emilya Naymark
Mike Roche
Les Edgerton
Shawn Reilly Simmons

Rick McMahan
Marco Conelli
Cheryl Yeko
Howard Lewis
Linda Lovely
Lee Lofland

Also published by Level Best Books, the 2020 WPA anthology is titled People Are Strange: Tales From The Graveyard Shift. Phoef Sutton returns in 2020 as editor. And, like this year, we’re offering a chance for YOU to have YOUR story in this amazing collection of tales.

I know, you’re anxiously awaiting the name of the superstar, mega-famous author who’s writing the foreword. So, without further ado …

Yes, your story could appear in a book with a foreword written by …







Lisa Gardner!






Lisa Gardner, a #1 New York Times bestselling thriller novelist, began her career in food service, but after catching her hair on fire numerous times, she took the hint and focused on writing instead. A self-described research junkie, she has transformed her interest in police procedure and criminal minds into a streak of internationally acclaimed novels, published across 30 countries. She’s also had four books become TV movies (At the Midnight Hour; The Perfect Husband; The Survivors Club; Hide) and has made personal appearances on TruTV and CNN.

Lisa’s books have received awards from across the globe. Her novel, The Neighbor, won Best Hardcover Novel from the International Thriller Writers, while also receiving the Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle in France. She was also recognized with the Daphne du Maurier Award in 2000 for The Other Daughter. Finally, Lisa received the Silver Bullet Award from the International Thriller Writers in 2017 for her work on behalf of at-risk children and the Humane Society.

For a bit of fun, Lisa invites her readers to enter the annual “Kill a Friend, Maim a Buddy” Sweepstakes at Every year, one Lucky Stiff is selected to meet a grand end in Lisa’s latest novel. Past winners have nominated spouses, best friends and even themselves.

Lisa lives in New Hampshire where she spends her time with an assortment of canine companions. When not writing, she loves to hike, garden, snowshoe and play cribbage.

Full “People Are Strange” contest details coming soon!