This month’s theme is “From the Headlines.” Since I write romantic suspense and mysteries, news headlines can be a great inspiration for plot twists and characters. However, my idea bank really overflows when I have an opportunity to spend time with folks who are actively involved in various aspects of law enforcement.
In September, 2012 and 2013, I had the opportunity to sit in on presentations by FBI and DEA agents, a sheriff, a prosecutor, a DNA expert, an undercover cop, a forensic psychologist, members of a bomb squad and an underwater dive team, K-9 officers, a detective assigned to gang work, a medical examiner, the head of a SWAT team, a specialist in bioterrorism, and, believe it or not, I haven’t exhausted the list of pros I met. And, I didn’t just sit in on lectures. I fired a Glock in firearms training, having to make instant decisions on when and who to shoot in various scenarios. I carried an assault weapon on a building search, where bad guys were suspected of hiding. I looked for contraband hidden in a jail cell. I tromped through woods to investigate a shallow grave.
Perhaps the biggest bonus, however, is that I got to ask questions of experts in a wide range of professions, questions directly related to ideas for future books and problems with current manuscripts. Even featured speakers couldn’t get enough of the sessions. Lee Child sat next to me in one of the classes conducted by an undercover cop from New York City.
So, how did I get face time with these busy, in-demand individuals? I attended my first Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) in 2012, and I couldn’t wait to return in 2013. This year I’m fortunate to be one of the WPA volunteer staffers helping to run the event, which is held at an actual police academy in Jamestown, N.C.
Lee Lofland, a former police detective, is the bright, funny man behind the WPA, which has earned generous support from Sisters in Crime, another organization I belong to. Lee’s unique program offers authors an unmatched hands-on, interactive educational experience. While it’s sort of like a crime Disneyland for adults, it also provides invaluable insights to anyone who wants to incorporate any aspect of a crime in a manuscript. It certainly has given me a much better understanding and appreciation for all aspects of law enforcement and forensics. Plus, I’m much more likely to get the details right.
I’d urge you to sign up for the 2014 Writers’ Police Academy but it sold out the first day registration opened. But you may want to add the website to your favorites and start looking in January for when registration will open for the 2015 academy. You won’t be sorry.
Here’s the website: http://www.writerspoliceacademy.com/. Oh, and this year’s featured author guests include Michael Connelly and Lisa Gardner.