The empty apartment looks abandoned. It smells abandoned too, like dust and sunbleached carpet and old sawdust, like no one has ever lived here. And yet there you are, on orders from your SWAT team leader, at the head of the stack, shield in front of you, semi-automatic in hand. Your second is ready with a breaching round in her shotgun, and the officer behind her has his rifle poised, in case the door she’s about to blast open reveals a threat more imminent than your intel has foreseen.
You hold up three fingers. Your team knows what this means. On three. You can’t count out loud, not on a dynamic entry. You gotta shock and awe, surprise and dominate, and that means tiger-soft stealth at the door. So you count with your entire body, a slight bend in the knees for each tick of the countdown. Three . . . two . . . one . . .
And then you unleash the whirlwind.
Can you feel it? The twin currents of adrenalin and epinephrine smoking through your veins like a spark eating up a fuse? I could. Because the “you” in the above scenario was actually me (see the photo above for proof). And while the scenario itself was staged—with fake guns and fake intel—the physical response I described was very very real.
And so was the team leader. His name is Captain Randy Shepherd, and he works for the Guilford County Sheriff’s department. He was the instructor for the Building Searches workshop during my most recent Writers’ Police Academy. He’s awesome in many superhero SWAT-cop ways, but most striking to me is his good-natured generosity in sharing what he knows with a bunch of detail-hungry mystery writers who are more likely to drop their fake guns (oops) than demonstrate a proper clearance strategy.
Patient. Did I mention Captain Randy is patient?
So are all the other instructors. Writers’ Police Academy features a slate of professionals across several categories (law enforcement at local, state and federal levels; EMTs and emergency responders; firefighters; legal specialists) but they all share one common trait—they run toward danger. They confront the ruthless and the lawless. They stand up when ordinary citizens can’t. And for one weekend a year, they gather at Writer’s Police Academy to share what they know with a conference full of mystery writers.
Which is how I ended up with a bright orange fake assault rifle, barking orders at a bunch of complete strangers while they scoured closets and balconies and kitchen cabinets for bad guys. I posted up in the living room, alert for any danger. And wouldn’t you know it, but the baddest of the bad guys tried to sneak in behind my team—Captain Randy himself. I saw the doorknob turn, and I couldn’t help grinning as I raised my rifle and waited for him.
Our conversation went something like this:
Captain Randy: Did you think to check that closet behind you?
Me (whirling around): Oh crap! What closet?
Captain Randy: And you just turned your back on a threat. You are now dead.
Me: (smacks forehead and mutters curses)
Oh well. Guess I’ll be signed up for this workshop again next year. One more chance for me and my orange gun to save the day.
* * * * * *
Tina Whittle’s Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver series—featuring intrepid gunshop owner Tai and her corporate security agent partner Trey—has garnered starred reviews in Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. The third book—Blood, Ash and Bone—premiered March 2013 from Poisoned Pen Press.
You can find Tina online at her official website — www.tinawhittle.com.
As Denene and I took Kathy Reichs on a brief tour of the WPA facilities, we discussed what makes the WPA so darn popular. Sure, we put on a fine show, the best anywhere. And our instructors are the finest in the business, but here are the folks who really make us shine…
Well, there are a few other things that keep writers coming back for more, such as high-risk traffic stops, firearms, explosions, canines, undercover officers—street prostitution, narcotics, etc.
Will we see you in 2014?
Are you blogging about your experiences at the 2013 WPA? If so, why not do it here? Contact me for details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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In remembrance – September 11, 2001
Have you ever seen a happier group of people, knowing they’re on their way to jail? Well, yesterday at 6:00pm, Guilford County North Carolina Sheriff’s Deputies loaded over two dozen smiling WPA recruits into two sheriff’s office vans and whisked them away for a tour of one of the local county jails.
Then, with the jail tour group heading over to “the rock,” a parade of police cars from various departments began arriving at the WPA hotel. Their mission—to pick up a second wave of recruits for the start of four-hour ride-alongs.
When the final patrol car left the parking lot, keynote speaker Lisa Gardner took a seat behind the wheel of an unmarked Dodge Charger, a fancy police car specially designed and equipped for covert assignments.
Yes, I’d handed Lisa over to a multi-jurisdictional task force where she was to spend the next four hours with the “the boys in black.” Their mission was, of course, secret.
So, with the jail tour and ride-along participants off and away, it was time for my annual stress session to begin. I always know our WPA recruits are in good hands, but I still worry like a parent worries about their kids. Did they take a jacket in case it gets chilly? Did they take enough money in case the officers stop for refreshments, or a meal. Did they each wear their best underwear in case they’re in an accident. You parents all know the drill, right? It’s what we do.
But the worry would have to wait. We had other fish to fry. It was time to give the remaining recruits a taste of high-risk nighttime traffic stops. You know, where the suspects in the target vehicle are more than likely armed and you’ve stopped them someplace where backup is scarce and there’s nothing between you and the bad guys but space, blue lights, and a whole lot of hoping all goes well.
How the heck do cops handle those dangerous and scary situations? Well, WPA recruits were definitely in and up front on the action last night.
When the session was over there were many shocked and amazed people, and their comments reflected their sudden “enlightenment.” Comments such as, “I had no idea what police officers go through out there. What a dangerous job. Holy cow! I have a new-found respect for police officers. Now I understand why it sometimes takes five or six police officers to arrest one guy. All those police cars for one small SUV? Now I know why. Heck, after seeing this tonight, I’d think it would be safer to bring in more officers and patrol cars.”
I was on my way back inside the hotel when I took a glance at the time. Not good. Lisa Gardner was missing-in-action—MIA.
Our star speaker’s ride-along was scheduled to end at 10pm. At 10:00, though, Lisa Gardner was nowhere to be seen. Then came 10:15. Still no Lisa. That’s when the knot of worms in my gut woke up and began to squiggle and wiggle. Images passed through my mind of Lisa caught in a crossfire with dangerous gang members. What would I tell her husband and other family members? Suppose she’d injured her best and favorite typing fingers? How would I face her fans, knowing that it was I alone who’d placed their favorite author in harm’s way?
Then the worst thought of all struck. How in the world would I fill her empty slot at the Saturday night banquet? It was certainly too late to find another keynote speaker. I began to pace the hotel lobby, first to the bar, then to the front desk. Back to the bar and back to the front desk. Okay, so I worry about everyone. I admit it.
Suddenly my phone alerted me to an incoming text message. It was 10:30. Please let it be Lisa, and please let her be okay.
I opened the message….
“Lee, it’s Lisa. Making an arrest. Be back later. Best ride-along ever!”
*Thursday evening and night was exciting and a lot of fun for everyone. What the WPA recruits don’t know is that the real action and excitement starts tomorrow. Last night was a mere sip from an ocean. As the songs says…”You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!”
We’re hours away from the start of the 2013 Writers’ Police Academy. It’s such an exciting and action-packed event that some people like Chris P. (above left) stand in line for up to a year, skipping sleep and meals, hoping to grab one of the coveted slots. Probably a wise move since we sold out in just under six days this year. Special events, such as FATS, were scooped up the first day.
Speaking of the firearms simulation training…it’s a very serious activity, where WPA recruits are faced with real-time shoot/don’t shoot scenarios. It’s intensive, heart-pounding, and to some, quite emotional. Yes, some experience hand tremors, stress-induced perspiration, and a few have even shed tears. And then there are those who never, ever crack under the pressure.
The staff of the WPA have the unique opportunity to observe personal things about our recruits, such as a look at how well they function behind the wheel of emergency vehicles.
Some do really well under pressure, expertly steering around obstacles, such as cars, trucks, and pedestrians. Others (I wont mention any names…Lee Child) should not be permitted to operate any contraption bearing wheels and an engine. Actually, I think I heard a collective sigh of relief from the citizens of North Carolina when Lee handed over control of his vehicle to Marcia Clark, deciding that being a passenger was in the best interest of mankind. Lee Child is a true hero.
WPA workshops are taught by some of the top experts in the country, which sometimes translates into hard-to-come-by seating.
Some WPA recruits grow weary of the race to grab the best seats, therefore, they often resort to extreme means to secure premium spots in the various classrooms.
But, the weapon-wielding seat hunters are sometimes met with violent resistance.
Fortunately, we have a well-trained emergency medical staff on hand at all times.
If things to rise to the point of “out-of-control” we simply bring everyone together and have a sheriff’s captain give them a stern talking-to.
Then we make them promise, under oath, to behave.
The powerful oath always works, returning everyone to their normal “lovey-dovey” state.
Still, some renegade recruits require a one-on-one discussion to prevent them from going rogue.
When all else fails, we turn the matter over to our “enforcers,” who know how to deal with special situations.
In the end, and everyone who’s attended will agree, the WPA is hands-down/hands-on one of the best doggone events anywhere in the country.
For me, it’s the smiles on the faces of our recruits that tells the WPA story, and that’s what makes the effort worthwhile.
I suppose today’s the day when I should start blogging about the 2013 Writers’ Police Academy. Therefore, since I’ve got nothing else up my sleeve…here you go.
We leave for North Carolina this afternoon and I’m nearly done packing for the trip. My load is light this year—a few books, some clothes, toiletries, the Golden Donut Trophy, and more medication this year than last. The latter is a depressing reality that emphasizes the fact that I’m getting older.
Another reality I face at the Writers’ Police Academy is the officers there who all look so young. In fact, some of them weren’t yet born when I first pinned a badge to my uniform shirt.
When I started out in the police business I carried a six-shooter. Now, the youngsters carry guns that hold nearly as many rounds as the number of pills I take in a 24-hour period.
Speaking of pill-taking…one of those dang things affects my liver, so I take two to counteract the potential damages inflicted by the first. Then there’s the triangular one, the one shaped like a football, and a big ugly brown one and squirts of liquid-fire drops to hopefully help repair the damage caused to my eyes during a recent surgery. Not much luck there, so far. Then there’s stuff I mix with juice, and the weekly injection that I’m still too chicken to do myself (I could never be a heroin user).
In a few hours, with my gut full of pills and my eyes swimming in what feels like molten lava, we’ll drive away from our house, heading to North Caro… Oh yeah, I already told you that. By the way, youngsters, the memory automatically begins to come and go the day immediately following delivery of your first letter of invitation to join AARP.
So we’ll be arriving at the event hotel late tonight. I plan to have a quick snack, go over my “To-Do” list to be everything is To-Done and then call it a night. I’ll need a few solid hours of sleep since Thursday is when the WPA wheels really begin to turn.
To those of you who weren’t able to attend this year (we sold out in just under six days after opening registration), I want to assure you that you won’t be missing much, and that the 200 + WPA recruits and over 100 experts and presenters will absolutely NOT be having fun. This event is off-the-charts boring. Why, there’s hardly anything to do. Don’t believe me? Well, here…see for yourself. This is just a small portion of the boring crap you’ll be missing. I’m already yawning…
And, of course, there’s…
So I don’t blame you for not coming this year. It’s really going to be a real snooze-fest… NOT!
The Writers’ Police Academy is pleased to continue the Golden Donut short story contest in 2013. The rules are simple—write a story about the photograph above using exactly 200 words, including the title (each story must include an original title). The image in the photograph MUST be the main subject of the story. We will not provide clues as to the subject matter of the image, or where the shot was taken. That is for you and your imagination to decide. Remember, though, what you see in the image absolutely MUST be the main subject of your tale.
All stories are to be polished and complete, meaning they must have a beginning, middle, and a twisted surprise ending. Again, all stories must be exactly 200 words. Not 201 or 199! So read the word count rules carefully.
The contest winner will receive the prestigious Golden Donut Award.
All entries will be screened by a panel of authors who will select their ten favorite stories and then forward their picks to the contest judge, editor Kristen Weber. Ms. Weber’s decisions are final and may not be contested or appealed. After reviewing each of the entries, she will present the winning story title to the appropriate Writers’ Police Academy staff member and the winner’s name will be announced and award presented at the WPA banquet. The contest is open to everyone, not just attendees of the academy, and the winner need not be present to win.
Submissions are a two part process. Please read carefully!
1. All submissions MUST be submitted electronically via email to >email@example.com< (You’ll need to copy and paste the address, omitting the >< symbols). Each entry will receive a confirmation email. If you do not receive a confirmation within two business days, please feel free to contact Lee Lofland at the above email address.
2. Write: Golden Donut Entry in the subject line of the email.
3. Please include your story within the body of the email. Attachments will not be opened.
4. Additionally, a twenty dollar ($20) entry fee and a hard copy of the story/entry must be mailed to:
Writers’ Police Academy
P.O. Box 60091
Savannah, Ga. 31420
– Contest opens at 12 noon on Monday April 1, 2013 (Please do not send any entries before this date).
Submission Deadline: Midnight Monday August 19, 2013 (the precise point in time between 11:59 pm 8-19 and 12:01 am 8-20)
– Any entry not meeting the exact 200 word requirement will be disqualified. Please count and re-count before submitting your entries. A few excellent stories have been rejected due to word counts.
– Hyphenated words, for the purpose of this contest, will be counted as two words, or three, etc., depending upon how many words make up the hyphenated phrase/word.
– Entries submitted after the deadline will NOT be judged. No refunds!
All entry fees must be received on or prior to August 19, 2013. No exceptions. There is normally a mountain of entries, therefore, it is a time-consuming process for the judges. We need time to process the entries and to have the award properly engraved.
– Every single word will be counted as a word – this includes: “a,” “and,” and “the.” To be very clear…if it’s a word, count it. If it’s part of dialog and you think it may be a word, count it. If it’s a stand-alone letter or group of letters, count it as a word. If it’s a number, count it as a word. If the number would include a hyphen when written out as a word, then count it as a hyphenated word. If it’s a smudge on the page, count it as a word.
– Be sure to include your name, address, email address, telephone number(s), and title of your story in an opening paragraph above your story (in both the email and snail mail entries). Then, please include your story, headed by the title.
– There is a $20 entry fee. You may submit the fee by money order or check. There is no Paypal option for the contest. Entries received without the appropriate entry fee will be excluded from the contest.
Please submit the entry fee and your story(s) in the same envelope. It is far too confusing to receive an entry one day and the entry fee weeks later. Entries received without the proper entry fee will not be considered. Also, you must submit the electronic submission to be considered.
– There is no limit on the number of entries by any author. But each individual entry must be accompanied by its own $20 entry fee. ( One entry = $20. Four entries = $80, etc.)
– Any entry not meeting the exact 200 word requirement will be disqualified.
– By submitting an entry to this contest authors agree to allow The Graveyard Shift/Lee Lofland/the Writers’ Police Academy, Sisters in Crime, and affiliates to publish/reprint the story as a part of The Graveyard Shift blog and/or as advertisement for the Writers’ Police Academy or Sisters in Crime, or in other publications and media, including, but not limited to, books, magazines, newspaper, blogs, ebooks, online outlets, etc. *Sisters in Crime is not a part of the Writers’ Police Academy.
*All rights to all work/short story shall remain the property of the author. The Writers’ Police Academy reserves the right to exclude or delete any entry without cause, reason, or explanation.
– No refunds. Proceeds go to the Writers’ Police Academy fund to benefit the GTCC criminal justice foundation.
So there you have it. Now get busy and take us on a journey that’d scare the pants off Poe himself. Is that a drop of blood on the stairs? Has someone been murdered? Or, was it merely a speck of red paint? Perhaps a colony of zombies lurk behind the concrete and steel. Maybe this is the wall that separates purgatory from eternal paradise. Who knows?
Writers’ Police Academy 2013
Registration opened last night and we’re already near capacity!
This is the largest, best, and most exciting event we’ve ever produced. Please do not procrastinate. This is not an event to be missed.
Here’s a small portion of what we have in store for you:
New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner is the 2013 keynote speaker.
Special guest speaker: NY Times bestselling author, TV producer of the hit show “Bones,” and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs.
Special Guest Speaker: World-renowned DNA expert Dr. Dan Krane.
See you in soon!
September 5-8, 2013
Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC)
Public Safety Building
*Photos by Patti Phillips, Julie Goyette, and me.
Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead catapulted her to fame when it became a New York Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Her other Temperance Brennan novels include Death du Jour, Deadly Décisions, Fatal Voyage, Grave Secrets, Bare Bones, Monday Mourning, Cross Bones, Break No Bones, Bones to Ashes, Devil Bones, 206 Bones, Spider Bones, Flash and Bones, and Bones Are Forever, in addition to Virals and Seizure, two young adult fiction novels following the adventures of Temperance Brennan’s niece. Dr. Reichs is also a producer of the hit Fox TV series, Bones, which is based on her work and her novels.
From teaching FBI agents how to detect and recover human remains, to separating and identifying commingled body parts in her Montreal lab, as a forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs has brought her own dramatic work experience to her mesmerizing forensic thrillers. For years she consulted to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina, and continues to do so for the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Québec. Dr. Reichs has travelled to Rwanda to testify at the UN Tribunal on Genocide, and helped exhume a mass grave in Guatemala. As part of her work at JPAC (Formerly CILHI) she aided in the identification of war dead from World War II, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Dr. Reichs also assisted with identifying remains found at ground zero of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Dr. Reichs is one of only eighty-two forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, and is currently a member of the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada. She is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
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We are extremely excited about our 2013 lineup of superstar speakers and experts, including keynote speaker Lisa Gardner, and special guests Dr. Kathy Reichs, and Dr. Dan Krane. Each year we shoot for the moon, hoping to bring you the best talent available, and doggone it, we deliver.
We’re also excited about the top-of-the-line team of expert instructors we have on board for the 2013 Writers’ Police Academy. We have lots of new workshops and hands-on sessions in store for you this year. And, as always, the action is nonstop…and FUN!
Registration is scheduled to open in February (updates to the WPA website are in progress). Please keep in mind that space for the WPA is extremely limited, so register early!
*The winner of the “Name The Speaker” contest is Elizabeth Bryant, for being the first person to correctly guess Kathy Reichs. Congratulations, Elizabeth. Your prize, a free driving simulator session, will be waiting for you at the WPA!
Countdown to the WPA
The Writers’ Police Academy
Get to Know Lee Lofland
Lee Lofland is a nationally acclaimed expert on police procedure and crime-scene investigation, and is a popular conference, workshop, and motivational speaker.
Lee has consulted for many bestselling authors, television and film writers, and for online magazines. Lee has appeared as an expert on national television, BBC Television, and radio shows.
Lee is the host and founder of the Writers’ Police Academy, an exciting, one-of-a-kind, hands-on event where writers, readers, and fans learn and train at an actual police academy.
To schedule Lee for your event, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org