The Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) first opened its doors eleven years ago as a means to help writers breathe life into their stories. Not that books weren’t already fantastic, it’s just that many were missing intricate details, the things that make scenes come alive and dance and sing and undulate on the page. Missing were the smells, tastes, touches, sounds, and the sights seen and experienced by cops, witnesses, and victims of various crimes, and their family and friends. Emotion and anticipation and aftermath were, well, not there.

It wasn’t the fault of the writers that they’d not once set foot inside an actual murder scene, or driven like a bat out of hell through city streets and alleyways while pursuing a dangerous killer. Many authors, believe it or not, had not once ever shot someone. Nor had they been stabbed, cut, or shot at. They’d not trekked through acres of wooded land to search for an armed serial killer or prison escapee.

Honestly, it’s impossible to perfectly describe something we’ve not done or seen. Imagine trying to write a scene about heart surgery when you’ve not, as they say, been there/done that. I wouldn’t know where to start other than a Google search. Sure, the process is there but it doesn’t do a thing to activate the senses. Therefore, the scene would come across as flat and lacking true emotion. The same is so when writing about cops and crime scenes.

So yes, those spots of intricate detail were missing from many a good crime book that had the potential of being great ones.

Back to the WPA, though, the hands-on event where writers participate in actual police training and live-action scenarios. During the action-packed weekend, writers fire weapons, drive patrol cars in pursuits, exchange gunfire with bad guys, handcuff criminals, and much, much more. It’s a weekend that stirs emotion and adrenaline, and writers leave with a treasure trove of first-hand knowledge of the world of cops and criminals.

This year, the WPA has gone a step further, dedicating the entire event to murder investigations. Aptly named, MurderCon, the special event will expose writers, readers, fans, etc., to insider information, tactics, techniques, and tools of the homicide investigation trade. And, to sweeten the pot, MurderCon takes place at Sirchie’s headquarters and training complex, a secure facility tucked away in the countryside near Raleigh, N.C. Sirchie is the world leader in crime scene technology.

The WPA is NOT a typical writers conference

I’ve said all of the above to bring me to this particular question. What happens when writers and police instructors and other law enforcement and forensics experts come together? Well, the result is amazing to say the least. Writers learn from the experts and the experts learn from the writers. It’s a meshing of ideas and thoughts and experiences that lasts a lifetime. The experience of attending the WPA has even been described as life changing. It’s that powerful.

The stories generated from the meetings of writers and WPA law enforcement and forensics professionals are unique. They’re detailed. They’re packed full of real-life emotion. Adrenaline courses throughout the pages. No longer are many fictional cop tales lacking true heart-pounding scenes.

Like the odor of swamp water and crab boils pour into the room after opening the covers of a James Lee Burke novel, blue lights winking and blinking and flashing, wailing sirens, and hearts pounding and thumping behind steamy-hot, perspiration-soaked Kevlar vests now emanate from mystery, thriller, suspense, and romance novels that feature cops.

It was my goal to help writers “get it right” and it warms my heart to see the end result of the WPA and all of the hard work and dedication of the hundreds of instructors, staff, and volunteers who’ve made the WPA what it is today … a real life-changer.

When Cops and Writers Come Together AFTER MIDNIGHT

It was a long time in the making, but this day finally arrived. For a while now, I’d hoped to bring together WPA instructors, supporters, and special guests and speakers, all in a single place where they could join forces to reach out the world, as a single entity.

My desire was to have this group meet during the hours known as the graveyard shift, that time of night—between the hours of midnight and dawn—when most mysterious and strange goings-on occur.

Well, a date and location for the meeting was set and the group finally came together, each arriving separately in a plain unmarked vehicle with dark, tinted windows.

A lone hoot owl sounded in the distance, beyond the spot where the light of single lantern spilled out across a row of marble and granite markers. This was the designated meeting spot and it was there where the group came together.

Lee Child, creator of the Jack Reacher series, presided over the meeting and called it to order, silencing the nervous chatter. He quickly stated the group’s mission and then instructed each participant to compose a story, a tale of mystery and suspense with a twisted ending and a carefully woven plot. Then he enlisted the assistance of Phoef Sutton, another bestselling author who’s also known for his work on the award-winning television shows CHEERS and BOSTON LEGAL, and a slew of Hallmark Mysteries. Sutton was given the task of editing the stories told by the carefully selected group of writers and law enforcement folks.

Several months later, boiling up and out of the cauldron, came a much-anticipated anthology, AFTER MIDNIGHT: TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT, published by Level Best Books.

Today, AFTER MIDNIGHT is now available to you, both as a Kindle book and in paperback. And thanks to the generosity of everyone involved in the project, proceeds from the book benefit the Writers’ Police Academy.

Here’s how to order your copy. Click on your preference. (Amazon will merge the two on a single page as soon as possible).


The Authors and Their Stories

To learn more about the stellar cast of AFTER MIDNIGHT authors, click the links below.

Lucky Cop by RJ Beam
The Brass Ring by Michael A. Black
Sunshine Berkman by Joseph S Bonsall
Ride Along by Allison Brennan
Neighborhood Watch by Ry Brooks
The Bookends Murder by Robin Burcell
Gentrified Homicide by Marco Conelli
Prime Rib from Brahma by Les Edgerton
The Devil in the Flesh by Heather Graham
Justifiable Homicide by Lisa Klink
Rookies by Howard Lewis
LeishMANIA by Denene Lofland
The Sheriff of Macabre County by Lee Lofland
Code Murder by Linda Lovely
Baddest Outlaws by Rick McMahan
A Confluence in Stow by Emilya Naymark
Shared Secrets by Carrie Stuart Parks
The Case of the Staring Man by Katherine Ramsland
Panther Bait by Mike Roche
Disco Fries and Homicide by Shawn Reilly Simmons
3:45 in the Peacock Room of the Channel Grill on 6th Street 
by Phoef Sutton
Hostage (A Love Story) by Cheryl Yeko
With a Foreword by Lee Child



Each year, the Writers’ Police Academy reaches for the stars to offer writers the opportunity to learn and to train as law enforcement officers. The event is unique in that sessions involve hands-on training classes.

We’ve seated authors behind the steering wheels of patrol cars during pursuits. We’ve placed rifles and pistols in their hands and we’ve taught how to properly and accurately shoot them. We’ve set off C-4 charges and we’ve set things ablaze. Writers have learned to stop bleeding from gaping and blood-gushing gunshot wounds, and they’ve used battering rams to gain entry into buildings where armed bad guys were hiding.

Attendees have seen first-hand what it’s like to be involved in heart-pounding hostage and active shooter situations. They’ve seen mounted patrol officers and their horses and they’ve been on the receiving end of bites by an actual police canine (while wearing a bite sleeve, of course).

We’ve exposed writers to practically every aspect of police training. However, what we haven’t done in the past is to narrow the focus of the Writers’ Police Academy to a single, fine point, the subject matter that brings readers back to your books, time and time again—the solving of a murder.

Sure, readers love your characters and they love a well-described setting. And they love you, the writer, and your story-telling abilities. But what many readers and fans truly desire is to solve the case before your protagonists wrap up their investigations. To do so, readers need details. Many details. They need and want to see, hear, feel, taste, and touch (in their minds) every aspect of a crime scene. They want and need to experience the tales you’ve concocted and set to page, not to simply read strings of words.

In addition, your fans want to believe what it is you’ve offering as a means to take them deep into your fictional world. Therefore, the descriptions you provide must be accurate because, for goodness sake, nearly every breathing human on the planet has watched some sort of crime TV show and the cops on those programs use all of the latest tools, gadgets, and gizmos.

With this in mind, we’ve developed the most unique, spectacular, and exciting program ever offered to writers. This year, during our special event—MurderCon—we’re taking you to the source of crime-solving and crime-solving-tools and equipment—Sirchie.

Yes, we’re taking you on a tour of a large, one-of-a-kind manufacturing facility where all types fingerprint powders are made. It’s where drug testing kits are developed and assembled, and where fuming chambers are manufactured. It’s the place where, well, it’s where ideas for the latest crime-solving gadgets are conceived, manufactured, and then distributed to law enforcement agencies worldwide, whose investigators solve crimes ranging from the smallest to the most complex, high-profile murder cases.

Sirchie’s staff of esteemed instructors also train top investigators from all around the world. Sirchie instructors are the best in the business, and detectives, officers, and agents from a variety of local, state and federal agencies attend high-level sessions at the Sirchie Compound in N.C. These instructors also educate and advise investigators from state prison systems, airport security, FBI agents whose focus is on counter terrorism, and Treasury and Secret Service agents. International students come from countries ranging from Italy to Mexico and Argentina to Qatar.

Again, Sirchie is second to none when it comes to crime-solving products and training. We are fortunate to have them as our partner in this extremely special event for writers.

I’m beyond thrilled that you have this opportunity to train in a place that’s never been made available to the public. I’m also over the moon excited that you’ll attend the same training classes attended by some of the best homicide investigators in the world.

MurderCon attendees will see how crime solving products are made. Then, you’ll learn how to use those cool tools. And, finally, you’ll use the equipment in live-action settings, such as outdoors at a clandestine grave.

Anyway, we’ll release details very soon. Our website guru is working behind the scenes on a brand new website which we plan to launch on or very near to February 4, 2019. Registration for the Writers’ Police Academy’s MurderCon event opens in mid to late February.

Event Hotel

The official hotel for the Writers’ Police Academy’s Murdercon is:

Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley

4500 Marriott Drive
Raleigh, North Carolina 27612

We encourage you to make your hotel reservations by using the online reservation link (below).


Individuals may also make their reservations by phone by calling Hotel’s toll free Reservation Line, 1- 800-MARRIOT.
To receive the established Group rate, you must identify yourself as a member of the Writers’ Police Academy 2019 event when making the reservation. All reservations must be received by the group’s Cutoff Date of on or before July 10, 2019. Reservations made after the Cutoff Date will be subject to availability and the most available rate.
*You’ll definitely want to reserve your hotel rooms well in advance for this unique event! We expect the room block to fill quickly. The same for spots at MurderCon. So please, please, please be ready to sign up when registration goes live. We’ll announce the date and time very soon.

Here’s a sample of what you can expect to see and do at MurderCon 2019:


  • Learn proper methods to locate, identify, and collect physiological fluid stains, including the use of alternate light sources, and chemicals such as luminol and Bluestar. WPA attendees will learn how to presumptively identify the type of stain using chemical reagents. Collection and preservation methods will be reviewed based on the latest best practices for DNA.
  • Develop latent prints on porous surfaces, including paper and cardboard, utilizing iodine fuming, ninhydrin, and silver nitrate. WPA attendees will learn the proper process sequencing for the maximum retrieval of latent prints and review the chemical principles of how they work. Cyanoacrylate (“superglue”) techniques for non-porous surfaces.
  • Attendees will learn the fundamentals of fire science, recognition of fire behavior including burn patterns and aftermath, and how fire is utilized by perpetrators during the commission of violent crimes and murder by fire. This is an outdoor session with “live” burns to highlight the effects of burning various pieces of evidence.
  • Search and recovery of remains from clandestine graves.

  • Determining race, sex, and other biological factors from found skeletonized remains.
  • Differences between civilian law enforcement and military L.E. investigations, procedures, and nuances.
  • How a forensic geologist uses previously mapped data, as well as, newly sampled evidence to show the uniqueness of soil to a given geographical location, and ultimately to a suspect and victim. The usefulness of soil in linking a subject to a victim, and/or crime scene. Session taught by one of the top forensic geologists in the world.
  • Footwear and Latent Foot Impressions – hands-on exercises to search for, document, and collect various forms of footprint and shoe evidence.

And, well, there are many more super-exciting sessions and workshops, but we’ll save those for later. In the meantime, yes, these are the same classes taught to law enforcement professionals and experts worldwide!!

Instructors include a wide array of renowned experts that include a founding member of the FBI’s Evidence Response Team, FBI Special Agents, a former Army JAG Corp attorney, forensic botanists, medical examiners, toxicologist, forensic geologist, forensic anthropologist, LAPD and NYPD detectives, Bioterrorism expert, SANE nurse, Certified Fire Investigator with both the ATF and The International Association of Arson Investigators, certified footwear expert, Deputy Director of the City County Bureau of Identification (CCBI), Wake County/Raleigh, NC., forensic pathologists, one of the country’s top interview and interrogation experts, and many more.

Special Guest Speaker!

Now for the icing on the cake.

I’m pleased and honored to announce that the 2019 MurderCon’s Special Guest Speaker is Graham Hetrick, the star and host of Investigation Discovery (ID) channel’s hit television series, THE CORONER: I SPEAK FOR THE DEAD.

Graham Hetrick

Graham Hetrick is a subject matter expert on drug abuse, child death and child abuse, organ tissue donation, violent crimes, medical legal death investigation, forensic methodology, and the grieving process. He has advanced training in blood pattern analysis, crime scene management, forensic sculpting, and shallow grave recovery.

Graham advises the news media and consults attorneys on the investigative process for cases facing litigation. He lectures widely on forensic autopsy, crime scene management, and critical thinking within the investigative process. He is an adjunct professor of forensics and human anatomy at Harrisburg University School of Science and Technology.

Graham is also a motivational speaker for students and troubled youth who are trying to get control of their lives through a speech entitled “Doors.” Over the last 35 years he has written and lectured on grief and loss recovery to the medical community, hospice groups and loss recovery organizations. Graham’s upcoming book explores improving the relationship between forensic evidence collection and organ tissue donation. His case studies are featured on the Investigation Discovery (ID) channel in THE CORONER: I SPEAK FOR THE DEAD.

*Bio Source –

Keynote Speaker

The WPA and I are absolutely thrilled and honored that superstar author Heather Graham is joining us in 2019 as our Guest of Honor/Keynote speaker. Heather will attend many of the sessions throughout the weekend and then she’ll address the entire group at the Saturday night banquet.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Heather Graham, majored in theater arts at the University of South Florida. After a stint of several years in dinner theater, back-up vocals, and bartending, she stayed home after the birth of her third child and began to write. Her first book was with Dell, and since then, she has written over two hundred novels and novellas including category, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, sci-fi, young adult, and Christmas family fare.

She is pleased to have been published in approximately twenty-five languages. She has written over 200 novels and has 60 million books in print. Heather has been honored with awards from booksellers and writers’ organizations for excellence in her work, and she is the proud to be a recipient of the Silver Bullet from Thriller Writers and was awarded the prestigious Thriller Master Award in 2016. She is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA.  Heather has had books selected for the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, and has been quoted, interviewed, or featured in such publications as The Nation, Redbook, Mystery Book Club, People and USA Today and appeared on many newscasts including Today, Entertainment Tonight and local television.

Heather loves travel and anything that has to do with the water, and is a certified scuba diver. She also loves ballroom dancing. Each year she hosts a Vampire Ball and Dinner theater raising money for the Pediatric Aids Society and in 2006 she hosted the first Writers for New Orleans Workshop to benefit the stricken Gulf Region.  She is also the founder of “The Slush Pile Players,” presenting something that’s “almost like entertainment” for various conferences and benefits. Married since high school graduation and the mother of five, her greatest love in life remains her family, but she also believes her career has been an incredible gift, and she is grateful every day to be doing something that she loves so very much for a living.

August 1-4, 2019

Raleigh, N.C.

Sirchie Compound and the Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley

*Please make your calendars for this unique opportunity. In the past, the WPA event has sometimes sold out within the first hour after registration opens. Due to the nature of MurderCon’s unique training sessions and high level of behind the scenes type of instruction that’s typically for law enforcement eyes only, we anticipate spots filling quickly. The same for the event hotel. I strongly urge you to make your reservations as soon as possible.