Showing posts with label Fiona Quinn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiona Quinn. Show all posts

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Talk About a Plot Twist! Jury information with Judge Hopkins


Today our guest is the Honorable Judge Hopkins.
Judge, would you introduce yourself to everyone?

Judge Hopkins-
My name is Bill Hopkins and I have been in the legal profession since 1971. I have been a civil attorney, criminal defense attorney, prosecutor, administrative law judge, and trial court judge, all in the state of Missouri.


Fiona - 
This article is "Jury Nullification in Criminal Trials" which is not something I've ever heard of before. But you're going to walk us through this new way of twisting our plots. I'm just going to let you have free rein.

Judge Hopkins -
Doug Linder wrote an article about jury nullification, which I recommend to you. It’s found HERE


“Jury nullification” is a fancy legal term for what happens when a jury doesn’t buy the prosecutor’s reason for the state’s case even though the defendant is truly guilty of a crime. In other words, the jury cancels the effect of a law that they don’t like. The law may be in their minds immoral or unfair or wrongly applied to the defendant (the one on trial).

Now, as a writer, you could develop a thousand or more plots just on the information set out above. For example: 
Is there a defendant who admits to killing his ailing wife who was suffering from terminal cancer and was in pain so extreme that no drug could alleviate it? A jury may have a great deal of sympathy for the surviving husband. The jury lets him go although he is definitely guilty of murder. But, wait! A month after the trial, a juror finds out that the “grieving husband” had his wife take out a million dollar life insurance policy when she was healthy. The insurance carrier has paid off. Now the defendant is going to Belize with his sweetie who he’d been seeing long before his wife got sick. The informed juror convinces all the other jurors to help him kill the grieving husband. The Case of the Informed Juror. Sounds like an Agatha Christie plot. Or maybe Perry Mason.

Linder, in the article cited above, asks if juries have the right to nullify. Juries clearly have the power to nullify. But that doesn’t mean they have the right to nullify. If the jury in a criminal case finds a defendant not guilty (which, by the way is not the same as “innocent”) then the state can never prosecute the defendant again. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states (in part) that no person shall “...be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb....” The state is allowed to try a defendant only once.

Today, courts not only don’t want to tell juries that they can nullify (or cancel) a criminal law they don’t like, they are often actively discouraged to nullify. In Missouri, for example, jury nullification is not allowed. Things could be different in whatever jurisdiction you’re writing about. Checking with the state bar in the capitol would be the best way to find information about legal questions where you live.

Judges in Missouri instruct jurors that it is their duty to apply the law as it is given to them, whether they agree with the law or not. And, I suspect, it would be reversible error for a defense lawyer in my state to use jury nullification in a closing argument for a client.

The Case of the Unwelcome Snitch. Another plot might be that a jury really wants to free a person who is clearly guilty. One of the jurors who wants to send the defendant to prison, sneaks a note to the judge, explaining that the jury’s deliberations are wandering into forbidden territory. There’s a hung jury and later the snitch is found dead behind the courthouse, beaten to death with the judge’s gavel. That’s kind of flimsy, but you get my drift.

Linder reports that many legal scholars “have suggested that it is unfair to have a defendant's fate depend upon whether he is lucky enough to have a jury that knows it has the power to nullify.”

I won’t comment whether I think jury nullification is fair or unfair. However, I know that judges worry that courtrooms will become hotbeds of anarchy if jurors are told they have the power (but not necessarily the right or duty) to nullify a law. Judges also worry that jurors do not have the legal training to decide what the law is or isn’t. Jurors should decide facts only and apply the law that the jury instructions give them, whether they agree with the law or not. That’s what most judges (I suspect) believe today.

As I said, this is an article about criminal trials. Today, in America, there is very little control over prosecutors, who, in some ways, have more power than judges do. I was a prosecutor once. I could’ve announced in the newspapers that I was investigating Suzy Saintly Citizen for smuggling dope from Canada. There would be a flurry of news. Then I could say, “Sorry. There’s not enough evidence to charge Suzy Saintly Citizen for this serious crime.” If I were a deceitful prosecutor and knew she had never so much as stepped on a crack in an attempt to break her mother’s back when she was in kindergarten, I have now ruined her reputation. Nothing could be done to me as a prosecutor. Note that everything I said to the newspaper was true: (1) I’m investigating a leading citizen of the town, and (2) I’ve decided that there’s not enough evidence to charge her. 

Another plot: The Case of the Slimy Prosecutor.

Linder’s article concludes: “[J]ury nullification provides an important mechanism for feedback. Jurors sometimes use nullification to send messages to prosecutors about...what they see as harassing or abusive prosecutions. Jury nullification prevents our criminal justice system from becoming too rigid—it provides some play in the joints for justice, if jurors use their power wisely.”

I could go along with that. A good book on criminal law that every crime writer should have is by Leslie Budewitz:

Full disclosure: I am in the book!


Fiona - 
So fun!

Thank you so much for this information. Would you please take a minute and tell us about your latest book?

Judge Hopkins -
My latest book DISHONEST CORPSE was out last year: 



The ebook versions of my first two books (COURTING MURDER and RIVER MOURN) are FREE from Amazon. Courting Murder.

Fiona- 
Free books? Woohoo!!!

Thanks for joining us. Happy reading and writing!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Relationship Deal Breakers: Things to Keep In Mind When Constructing Characters

Author: Bagande
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Relationship deal breakers: traits that ruin the chances right out of the gate


This article is based on the study conducted by:
1. Peter K. Jonason1
2. Justin R. Garcia2
3. Gregory D. Webster3
4. Norman P. Li4
5. Helen E. Fisher5
1. 1Western Sydney University, Australia
2. 2Indiana University Bloomington, USA
3. 3University of Florida, Gainesville, USA
4. 4Singapore Management University, Singapore
5. 5Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA



Awesome! Your hero has met the one. It was a magical heartwarming encounter. He turned and bumped into her, and she spilled scalding hot coffee down both of their fronts. It was a shared moment of excruciating pain and quick undressing. But she took his number! Sure, it was with the understanding that he'd need to pay her dry cleaning  and medical bills. But it was a foot in the door!


What characteristics could you give your would-be love interest that would assure the reader that the hook up will never happen?

Well, it turns out that the NUMBER ONE - "no thank you" quality is...

 A MESSY unkept appearance - Described as a "disheveled or unclean appearance," according to 71% of women/63% of men. Clean them up before you send them out on the street. If you think that your heroine's showing up all grimey from digging in the garden with that cute little  smudge of dirt on her upturned nose is going to catch the studmuffin you've conjured up, deep down your readers (for the most part) aren't buying it. 

LAZY -Seventy-two percent of women/60 percent of men


NEEDY -
That damsel in distress isn't pulling out the knight in shining armor qualities of your hero. 57% of men would take a pass. Women? Yeah, they need a man who can take care of his own issues. 69% are heading out the door.


Poor Sense of HUMOR - It's a major mrph for relationships. 58% of women/50% percent of men say no to humorless partners. So make them funny, even if they met clinging to the side of a cliff, desperately kicking their feet trying to save themselves.


LONG DISTANCE Relationships.
Now this is relative. Living ten miles away in a city like Boston or LA can mean an hour commute to get there for dinner. In Texas, ten miles means they live in your backyard. 47% of women/51% of men won't get into a relationship where their love interest lives too far away.

BAD SEX - 
Here's an interesting one. Only 44% of men thought bad sex should end the relationship. 50% of women would call it quits. I'm going to leave that one there - but this kind of turns things on its head for me. I would have thought that number would be MUCH higher and possibly reversed. But it looks like women aren't willing to put up with men who are bad in the sack.

INSECURITY - 
47% of women/33% percent of men would let this relationship go by the wayside. Insecurity in most relationships is draining as the other needs constant petting and reassurance.

TECH-OBSESSED
Another interesting one. What a gender difference. 41% women would call it quits. 25% of men. Look how low that number is for guys - Take the inverse that means 75% of men are A-OK with your character binge watching Netflix all day.

LOW LIBIDO
27% women/39% men would break up if their partner had a low sex drive. So if you put this with the category for bad in bed, you could see how someone with a low sex drive, but who did well when things heated up, might still have a shot at this relationship.

 INCREDIBLY STUBBORN
34% of women/32% of men 

CHATTY
20% of women/26% of men find being chatty worse than TOO QUIET  where only 17% of women/11% of men would find this a deal breaker.

BLUNTNESS
No thank you says 17% of women/11% of men.

I DON'T WANT KIDS
The "I don't want kids" phrase will shut the door on a relationship for 15% of women/13% of men.

HAVE KIDS
12% of women/14% of men prefer their partner not have children already.

TOO BUFF
Yeah, there is such a thing. And it's a problem for 10% of women and 7% of men. Conversely, "NOT ATHLETIC" is an issue for only 6% of women - but still 7% of men. So build your characters somewhere on the interior of that spectrum.

Here's to your characters finding their heart's desires and living happily ever after!

Cheers,
Fiona

Monday, January 9, 2017

Catch a Dragon by the Tail: Giving a Solid Base to Your Fantasy Work with Tina Glasneck

English: Dragon on Longshan Temple.
English: Dragon on Longshan Temple. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
ThrillWriting welcomes back our friend Tina Glasneck. For a list of articles that she's informed on this site use the search bar on the right.

Fiona - 
Tina, let's jump right on this. Recently, we sat next to each other on a writing panel. I was so intrigued by what you said that I wanted to corner you and pick your brain. Thank you so much for coming and hanging out with all of us ThrillWriters and ThrillReaders. Let's start with your educational background since that seasons our topic for today.

Tina - 

Sure. I have a Masters of Arts in Religion, as well as a Bachelors in Pastoral Christian Ministries. Prior to writing, I had planned on heading into Christian Ministry. Although plans changed, one thing I love is the education I received because of its lectures in the humanities, which included ancient civilizations, cultures, and languages. 

Theology is not just the study of the Christian bible, but so much more.

Fiona
And you've lived in Europe which also gives flavor to your writing. Can you tell us about that? How did you get there, what did you do?

Tina - 
I lived in Germany for six years where I also studied theology, and was introduced to so many different cultures, as well. In undergrad, I was a German minor, which took me to Germany. After graduation, I loved it so much that I returned. I attended a local university and continued my interest in theology, as well as history.

You can't live in Europe without being impressed by the history all around you. My interest in castles, for example, caused me travel around to view them; to check out the different sites throughout the country and Europe. I wouldn't be the person I am without the trip outside of the US. I do feel that it has provided an extra layer of spice that I didn't necessarily pick up prior to traveling abroad. 

Fiona - 
Now, let's scoop all of that background knowledge up and see how you applied it to your fiction. You have recently started writing about dragons. It's not the leap that some people might think it is. Can you tell how this all comes together?

Tina - 
LOL. Well, you are correct. Usually fantasy is not the avenue one would take with such a background. But for me, well, these characters appeared, and I couldn't shut them up! 


In my fantasy romance, A Dragon's Destiny, a woman discovers she is a dragon and has to come to terms with this new information, as well as her unique involvement in holding Ragnarok (the Norse Apocalypse) at bay. For this story, I have my heroine, Jasmine, travel back to the 1520s. This is the era that Europe was undergoing the Protestant Reformation. This was, also, a very important time when the Catholic Church continued to persecute people on charges of witchcraft, sorcery and the like. For this story, I wanted to delve into how those of the pagan belief would have had to deal with such a change in that changing world. Plus, everything with a dragon calls for a bit of fun too.

I consider this, the fantasy romance, to be the light to balance out the darkness that the mystery/thrillers create, as well. So, I was able to apply all of my background to create the tale, as well as provide some historical data as to what occurred during this time. 


Fiona -
You mentioned pagan - can you define that for our readers who might not have pagan friends. And, can you tell me if you use mythology from the pagan religions as an influence?

Tina -
Although the term pagan is constantly use to deride non-monotheistic religions, or religions that are not part of the Abrahamic- religions (like Judaism, Christianity and Islam), a pagan is just a non-believer. 


To clarify, the term pagan, from a Christian perspective, would be a heathen, or one that holds a belief that differs from that of the Abrahamic religions. Pagan of course, is a general term, and is usually used against those that did not adhere to Abrahamic religions. There are many different belief sets, but pagan is usually used to deal with religions that practice animism, polytheism, or anything that doesn't embrace that of the Abrahamic religions (or monotheism - the belief in one God).

That being said, Norse mythology played a very important role in creating the story, especially since I use many of the Norse gods in the story (including Odin, Loki, and Freyja). Although, the Marvel Comics' world has re-introduced the world to these deities, the original sources are quite fascinating in their own right.

Fiona -
How did you go about incorporating the myths to give body to your plotline, making them fresh and accessible to those not familiar with Norse mythology?



Tina -
 When it comes to the plotline, I believe in asking, "What if." In dealing with the events of Ragnarok, the Norse Apocalypse, my thought was to dive in and try to define it. In my studies, we did a lot of course work on eschatology (or the study of the end days). I wanted to do a comparison and see how that influenced and shaped paradigms, as well as the culture. 


That being said, after finding out that the gods pretty much kill each other, and things start over, you sort of get the idea that the gods would probably want to find a way to stay alive -- or stop Ragnarok. Who wants to die? That was the starting point. 

I also used a lot of Church history to recreate some of the incidents that I portray in the book, as well. I think by adding them both, it provides a great bit of detail for the reader to pull them more into my world. I went with the themes of who wants to die and let's embrace your truth. The worlds then collided and my creation was born.

When incorporating my myths, it takes a good amount of research. I am forever grateful for Google Scholar. 


Fiona - 
That leads to my next question: Not everyone has your level of scholarship in their back pocket. 

I know in some of my work I have used Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces. One of my college courses that has influenced my writing the most was an art history class where I learned about images and the stories from Christian art as well as the tarot, numerology, pagan stories and so forth so when we were looking at art we knew the background of say Io and Zeus. Absolutely fascinating. 

How do you suggest authors conduct their research? What sources could they go to if they wanted to give their fantasy depth as well as fun?

Tina - 
This will sound cliche, but the Internet can be your friend (or worse nightmare). I approached research as I would on a collegiate level, searching for proper scholarly sources that will provide a better understanding of the myths and their interpretations. 


For this, I include such help as Google Scholar, which is a search engine that is a part of Google that allows you to search academic papers, and scholarly literature. 

Another jumping off point, if one is more visually stimulated, is the History Channel, and PBS. Through documentaries, one can find great nuggets of information to then assist in one's own research. 

Personally, my favorite is just a trip to the local library and either by asking questions of the librarian and just perusing the nonfiction shelves. The information is usually there, you just have to find it (and that can be the most difficult, but also the most fun, because, you'll walk away with tons of fodder to include in your story). 

Additionally, with fantasy a lot comes down to world building and the rules of the world you're creating. Christian Theology does not speak well of the dragon (a simple comparison is that the western understanding of the dragon is that it is maleficent, while the eastern version is that the dragon is wise). The dragon is mentioned in not very good terms, so you have to know the world you are placing your characters in and how to maneuver them in it. If you are writing fantasy, the best thing you can do to get a handle of it all is to read from that genre to discover its rules, as well.
Fiona - 
I have Kindle unlimited and when I'm doing research I look up documentaries (which are free to me) and listen to them like lectures, taking notes.

Let's talk magic. . . 

Tina - 
Sure. While preparing for this book, I took a course course called Magic in the Middle Ages. The course showed how the understanding of magic went from that of healing (natural magic) to being understood as maleficent (demonic). This mindset is what would eventually lead to the Inquisition, which officially lasted until 1908, and even the Salem witch trials, and how we regard magic today (as being demonic). 


The greatest thing to know is that words have different meanings and understandings based on the time period that they are used. The course did not teach magic, but showed how the world interacted with it. Nowadays, we probably wouldn't burn someone at the stake, but that is how our culture has changed over the years and how we handle the differences in faith and the understanding of what magic truly is. 

Fiona - 
And A Dragon's Destiny?

Tina - 
A Dragon's Destiny has a bit of my heart and soul in it. I wrote it because I was having a crisis, whereby I could no longer write darker pieces (a real problem for a murder mystery writer to have). I needed something with a happier ending, and a message for me to learn from. This story was me pulling myself up from my bootstraps, sort of a rebirth. 


Here is the blurb: Curses are destined to be broken... In this the first of the Dragons series, time travel and fantasy are weaved together in a fast-paced, funny yet emotional romance. Jaz, a fish out of water in the real world, discovers that she is actually a dragon who must seek her true destiny in another, parallel place. There she discovers that Erich, the man she secretly lusts after in real time, is the Dark Knight. He's ruthlessly extinguishing the ancient Norse religion in an emerging new world. Is he the beloved Jaz is tasked to find in order to release her dragon heart? 

Fiona - 
How does this series affect your other writing?

Tina -
I am being as prolific as possible right now. I recently released the first two issues of my Detective Damien Scott murder mystery serial, with am actively working on completing books 2 and 3 from the dragons series. You can take a girl back in time, but you can't make her give up her dragons -- LOL. 

There are two things I learned through this entire process: Everything has consequences, and I am trying to make sure that I discover what those are when building my worlds and my characters. AND, be true to yourself. Oftentimes, the best stories are the stories you need to tell. I needed to tell my dragon story and sharing it with the world has blessed me more than I ever thought it could.

Fiona - 

I learn something every time we get together. Thank you so much! Here's how to stay in touch with Tina:

http://www.TinaGlasneck.com
http://www.facebook.com/TinaGlasneck/
http://www.Twitter.com/TinaGlasneck/

Tina Glasneck
Mystery, New Adult Paranormal & Fantasy-Romance Writer
tinaglasneck.com



ALSO: TINA AND I ARE IN A GIVEAWAY! SCROLL DOWN FOR A CHANCE TO WIN 35 BOOKS!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

What Was Your Character Thinking? Or: What I Learned on a Cold Dark Training Mission

English: American Black Bear Ursus americanus ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was out in the mountains of Virginia, training with the the K-9 Search and Rescue teams, but I was thinking a lot about plot development and characters. 

If I could pick one nugget to share from my experience, it would be that in a "situation" whatever the situation is that you've cooked up for your character, the thing on their mind will be the last related story they were told. 

Example 1:

I had been out as a walker most of the day tracking the handler who was tracking the dog who was tracking the lost person. We had a "find." A young woman and her friend were hanging out in the bramble as our subject. After applying fake first aid to a fake injury, we assisted in an equine evacuation. The girl and her friend had been in the woods for hours, and I was asking how they did. The woods can be a scary place. "Were you afraid?"
"Only of bears," she said.

Huh, okay. 

Fast forward, dinner's done back at base, and they're calling for volunteers to be staged in the woods. I was glad to do that, I'm quite comfortable in the woods, and I had sufficient equipment in my pack that the below freezing temperatures and chance of snow didn't feel concerning. So off I went. We drove until there was no more fire road, then I was walked waaaaay out into the woods until I hit the location they'd assigned me, and my handler left me there. The last thing the handler was talking about was bears in the woods. Since it was pitch black out there, I asked if I was allowed red lights (we don't use white lights in the woods if we're not using a search beam, because we're trying to keep our night vision. I use a green light when I'm walking in the woods at night, because it's easier to read a topographical map.) 
"Why do you want lights? Are you feeling scared?"
"No not really, it's just that you've been talking about black bears; and when the K-9 runs out of the brush, I'd like to know it's a dog and not a bear. I'd like to know if I'm about to get  licked or mauled."
"Good point, but no. We'd prefer you not use your lights."

So there I was. Alone. Wrapped in a black tarp. Sitting under a tree, contemplating life. And the rustling sounds around me. And was that a snort? 

As I said before, I'm perfectly okay in the woods, night or day. What sent me out of my comfort zone was that a potential threat loomed in the forefront of my thoughts, since it had been alluded to twice that day in the context of sitting alone in the woods. 

Those earlier conversations are what made me pull my knife out of its sheath and stab it into the dirt beside me. I kept my hand on the handle. A low level hum of "what if," ran the entire time I was waiting for my "rescue."

Example 2:

Fast forward; The K-9 team found me as the moisture in the air started to rise and the dew began to form. The temperatures were dropping precipitously. I headed to the equine camping area to warm up in front of the campfire before Hubby and I drove to our tent to get some sleep. Around the blaze, we were sharing war stories of past searches. One of the last stories they told was that the night before, only one equine searcher was in the area. It was a single woman in her horse camper. She was the only one who was supposed to be there. Late in the evening, she heard two men talking outside. She listened as they circled around her trailer. 

The woman called over to base and several men came over and did a search. Finding no one, they went on their way. The strangers came back and tried the woman's door handle. She racked the slide on her semi-automatic and called out, "Leave now or I shoot." They high tailed it out of there. 

It was an odd story because no one should have been testing her door's locks. It was also concerning because no one was supposed to be in the area, not even park staff. To be honest, there aren't many who want to hang out on the top of a mountain, camping in December. 

I heard the story and promptly forgot the story. That is, I forgot it until Hubby and I were in our tent. We were the only tent in the whole campground and the campground was a good distance from the equine area and even farther from base. No big deal, Hubby and I are perfectly comfortable in the woods. Though, a little warmer would have been more pleasant as far as our comfort went, that's for sure. 

As we lay in our tent, a dually truck drove around the camp twice, nice and slow. 

Here's what I was thinking:
I'm in silk long johns in my sleeping bag. My boots are a hassle to get on. No one would hear me if I screamed. My pack is in the car. I have no gun. I didn't even bring in my knives. It's around twenty degrees outside. There's nowhere to run except deeper into the woods. Dressed the way I am, there isn't a good chance of survival if I run towards the woods. My best option, if these men come to cause problems, was to get past them, out the small tent door, down to the bathhouse and lock myself in the shower room. Of course, I'd be barefooted and in almost no clothes, so unless they left pretty quickly or there was a ton of hot water available, I'd probably freeze. 

I'll be honest, the bears were such a long shot in terms of actually being a problem, that it was just something that played through my brain. The story about the men - who tried to enter our teammate's trailer and had to be chased off with the threat of gun fire - that was much more worrisome. Worrisome enough that I only slept lightly, keeping an awareness of the sounds, trying to catch footfalls coming toward the tent.

The next morning, I was talking about it with Hubby. Of course, he was in the same straights I was -- clothing and weapons wise. He'd heard the same story and the concern of folks not on the mission being in an area that was supposed to be empty. He went through almost the same thought processes as I did. 
"So what did you conclude? Did you have a plan?" I asked.
"I guess it would come down to who won the fight us or them."
So he had imagined how he'd have to spring from the sleeping bag (and we had to stay zipped against the cold). His conclusion, we didn't have a good shot at coming out of this okay. He hadn't considered getting to the showers but said that would have been a good route. 

We both decided that we'd make better weapons choices next time around. Live and learn and come out the otherside. It's all an adventure.

On the drive home, I thought about the significance of that last story one hears, the last odd concern that was expressed. It has the power to construct a new understanding of an otherwise okay situations. The storytelling becomes a warning that looms large when in a situation where the other person's story elements are lining up with yours. It's a great way to get to know a character or twist a plot.

I thought this was a pretty good thing to keep in mind as characters are sharing their stories with the others in a book. So I'm sharing my observation with you in case you're wondering just what your character would be thinking.

Cheers!
~And happy writing.
Fiona



Sunday, November 27, 2016

How Safe Is Your Character? Information for Writers with Jacqueline Ward

Jacqueline Ward is a Chief Executive Officer at the Safety and Reliability Society, in England. This is a membership based organization that deals with major hazards. She is a Chartered Health Psychologist and has done research into women's health, domestic violence, missing people, Alzheimer's, central nervous system, and disaster management & human factors in engineering. How cool is that?

(This article was edited for American spelling)

Fiona - 
Does any your work background show up in your writing, or do you use your writing to escape from these subjects?


Jacqueline - 
I have used my knowledge of missing people and domestic violence extensively in my writing, and I'm currently writing a psychological thriller where the central character is a psychologist studying psychopathology! Not based on me though - honestly.

Fiona - 
Let's chat about trauma psychology. I bet you've had some experience with TV, movies, and books, where you're thinking - in no universe is that how it happens. Can you start with some of the common mistakes creative types make when they're putting their characters into a highly charged atmosphere? 

Jacqueline -
I have a lot of experience of what happens step by step in major disasters. Part of my work is to read and evaluate major incidents reports and to draw out lessons learned, so I understand them at a deep level. 

It just happens that major incidents with lots of danger and fatalities are the subject matter for books, TV and movies. 
  • One of the most common mistakes I pick up is alarms. It's either no alarms at all, or all the alarms go off and everyone runs in all directions. There is never a procedure that everyone follows. Quite often this mayhem is portrayed as the cause of the disaster and fatalities, when it definitely isn't. 
  • Also, when one person is bellowing orders to lots of people in a noisy environment, I am shouting at the screen. It is usually massively oversimplified, in film and TV. I guess to save money, but in books it's usually lack of research.

Fiona - 
In some people, they follow the rules - you mentioned the alarms - surely there have been times when a group has practiced evacuation  and even though someone is new (perhaps visiting) but enough people know the process that the new players can be herded along.

But what happens when the way the populace has been taught to respond is thwarted? The exit they were aiming for is ablaze. Can you break down what kinds of reactions might happen - are there in your field specific "types" that you plan to accommodate or even depend on emerging?

Jacqueline -
A lot of this is cultural. 
  • Firstly, alarms. When an alarm is put into place and it has a process around it (alarm sounds, employees/staff exit and guide the public out) it is rehearsed. The problem comes usually at the first stage when the initial alarm goes off to indicate something is wrong. 
  • Quite often and a real problem is alarm desensitization. The person in charge of the facility or venue may have rehearsed the alarm so often that the populace is used to it and begin to perceive every alarm as a rehearsal. This is a direct reversal of what should happen biologically in the flight or fight. 
  • Then there is the reaction to an alarm by the crowd. This differs significantly in different disasters. 


Fiona- 
That's so true, and obvious when you say it. I might have understood how one of my characters would act/react - but I also need to be cognizant that they are acting within a group that will have its own personality traits. Can you give us a couple of cultural examples?

Jacqueline -
Let's take the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster, the incident was caused by alarm desensitization. Alarms were possibly overridden by the survival instinct. The individualistic culture of the UK might have played a role. This is an example of the exit that is ablaze. In this situation, the crew had fairly clear instructions about how to leave the rig but fire blocked their way. So their fight or flight instinct was invoked. Their lives were threatened and their senses heightened to find any way to survive. Sensory amplification in hazardous situations in common. In this case, they had no choice but to jump into the sea that was on fire.

Alternatively in Japan with the Fukushima nuclear incident, all procedures were followed to the letter and fatalities were extremely low (from the nuclear incident, not for the natural tsunami incident).

Major hazards are so rare that there is not enough data collected to assign types to people who have survived or perished. This is also why there are very few prediction models.

Fiona -
Let's talk about prediction models - what elements are involved?


Jacqueline -
Taking infrastructure hazards as an example, a big focus has been on the safety and reliability of the engineering of things like trains, planes and buildings. Many prediction models focus on the performance of the complex system and its parts - how the materials have performed in the past. This is combined with the past incidents and near misses with similar vehicles or buildings.

It is only fairly recently that human error has been taken into account when predicting disasters. 

The people who design and operate prediction models to prevent accidents and disasters are just as much heroes as the people who act when the hazard happens - without their foresight there would be many more disasters. 

I'd like to see more of them in books, films and TV, but they are not as sexy as someone who (often unrealistically) runs in and rescues someone from a burning building. Believe it or not there are whole teams of people who are responsible for keeping military vehicles safe and reliability so as to protect the lives of the people who operate them in war zones. 

Part of my rationale for working in this field is to keep nuclear power safe. I used to be against nuclear power, but as it is here to stay we need to be able to manage it in order to prevent a major accident with lots of fatalities.

Fiona - 
I can totally see a lone hero on a planning committee trying to bring a flaw to the attention of those who'd rather turn a blind eye.

Okay ThrillWriters, we have a new hero! Maybe it's our beta heroine, who knew the risks the whole time. The alphas are in high gear, and she's running into the fray with blueprints in hand. "Listen to me!"

So Jacqueline, let's make you in your position into a character. What common qualities do you see in someone who is working in your field?


Jacqueline -

  • Someone in my field would probably have a science background and a deep concern for the safety of people and for the environment, so they'd be compassionate
  • There is a certain amount of confidence needed as 'speaking up' is part of the job description, but also being able to operate on a national level, as the work involves understanding and reporting on the National Risk Register to government. So resilient also.
Fiona - What would you like to teach us about your world that I would never guess or know to ask about?

Jacqueline -
That major incidents are a lot less frequent than we think they are and that they can almost never be predicted. There is a book called Black Swan by Naseem Nicholas Teleb that anyone interested in risk and disasters should read.


Fiona - 
In the ThrillWriting tradition, it's now time to share your favorite scar story.
Jacqueline -
It's horrible. I've never been good with electric knives and one day when I was heavily pregnant with my third child I was chopping cabbage, and I cut my arm open with the electric knife I was using. As if that wasn't enough, I ran to the bathroom to wash it and even though there was no one in the house I locked the door behind me. I couldn't get out as the lock stuck. I was bleeding badly and then I felt labour pains. It took three hours for my partner to come home and find me, and the ambulance was accompanied by the fire brigade who had to break the bathroom door down. I was OK, my baby son was OK, but I have a big scar on my arm to remind me of that day. People sometimes ask me about it and ask if I tried to commit suicide, which is ironic as I was actually giving birth, but it gives m an opportunity to open a conversation about mental health and have been able to facilitate healing through it. So all's well that ends well!

Fiona - 
AMAZON LINK
Thank you.

I'm sure you are all anxious to learn about 
Jacqueline's writing.
Why not check out her work RANDOM ACTS OF UNKINDNESS

DS Jan Pearce has a big problem. Her fifteen year old son, Aiden, is missing. Jan draws together the threads of missing person cases spanning fifty years and finds tragic connections and unsolved questions.

Bessy Swain, an elderly woman that Jan finds dead on her search for Aiden, and whose own son, Thomas, was also missing, may have the answers.

Jan uses Bessy's information and her own skills and instinct to track down the missing boys. But is it too late for Aiden?

Set in the North West of England, with the notorious Saddleworth Moor as a backdrop, Random Acts of Unkindness is a story about motherhood, love and loss and how families of missing people suffer the consequences of major crimes involving their loved ones


Her website, www.jacquelineward.co.uk, is a great way for you to get in touch with her also her Twitter - @jacquiannward

Cheers! And thanks for visiting.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Who Has Jurisdiction? A Question for Crime Writers with Tina Glasneck

This post was written by ThrillWriting friend Tina Glasneck, who jumped in to help me out as I am furiously trying to meet a deadline for my publisher. So a big thank you and welcome to Tina. Tina's other articles on ThrillWriting are: Paralegals 101  and Prepping the Alleged Perp.




Who has jurisdiction?

Being a part of a writing community provides opportunities that are not always possible to enjoy alone. This past weekend, I attended a wonderful workshop regarding the Cop Culture and the Organizational Differences in Law Enforcement.This workshop was about getting the details right.







There are different branches of law enforcement including, Tribal, Federal, Task Force, State Police, Private Security, Sheriff, Local Police, and even Campus Police. When creating a crime story, a mystery that entails that a crime occurred, it is important for to question jurisdiction, and to know which law enforcement agency might respond.

In understanding the jurisdiction issue (and it is not always based on county, city, state or country lines), let's look at the example of a laptop being stolen. If it happens on a college campus, it’s usually something reported to Campus police, but it could also be reported to the city or county police who have jurisdiction over that campus, based on where the campus is located.

What about the state police? Would they look into something as benign as a stolen laptop? Well, it all depends. For example, in Virginia, Virginia State Police would be called in “to investigate any matter referred by the Governor.” Additionally, “[t]he Attorney General, commonwealth's attorneys, chiefs of police, sheriffs and grand juries may request the Department to investigate matters that constitute Class 1, 2 or 3 felonies.”

Class 1, 2, or 3 felonies include: murder, and malicious wounding, and although it does not include burglary or grand larceny, I think that if it is connected to such a matter, it could then still fall under the perview of the State Police.



Now let’s suppose that this laptop has something egregious on it – say it is connected to a serial killer, and all of his victims, for such a matter the FBI would be quite interested. According to the FBI’s website: “The Bureau concentrates on crime problems that pose major threats to American society. Significant violent crime incidents such as mass killings, sniper murders, and serial killings can paralyze entire communities and stretch state and local law enforcement resources to their limits. Particular emphasis is put on criminal street gangs, bank robberies, carjackings, kidnappings, interstate transportation of stolen property and motor vehicles, assaults and threats of assault on the president and other federal officials, and the theft or destruction of government property. As part of this priority, the FBI also investigates crimes against children, art theft, child prostitution, fugitives and missing persons, and crimes on Indian reservations.”

Can you see where we're going with this? It is not just the object but how it connects to the overall crime.

And what about these organizations working together. Borders do not always stop one law enforcement's jurisdiction. This is called concurrent jurisdiction. Concurrent jurisdiction means: "The authority of several different courts, each of which is authorized to entertain and decide cases dealing with the same subject matter.”

It is important to understand concurrent jurisdiction, especially in our understanding of the FBI, DEA, and others working in a task force. “In law enforcement, “concurrent jurisdiction” may exist, where a crime may be a local, state, and federal violation all at the same time.” See FBI on task force.

This is where task forces come into play, and there will be agents from multiple agencies on the task force.” Task forces typically focus on terrorism, organized crime, narcotics, gangs, bank robberies, kidnapping, and motor vehicle theft. “Ibid. As a side note, the FBI does investigate matters which take place on Tribal land, as well, just as it can have an attache in the embassies located outside of the US borders..

Another jurisdiction to consider is the sovereign jurisdiction of the Tribal nations. The Federally recognized tribes, who have reservations, are their own sovereign nations. While some of these reservations have their own tribal law enforcement officers, those that do not have their own police force use officers from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). For more information, see BIA.Gov

When writing that next piece and working on solving that next case, consider that question of jurisdiction. Not only do we have to look at the crime itself, but as to the severity of the crime and if concurrent jurisdiction is indeed possible. The theft of this laptop can, from my understanding, be a jumping off point for multiple agencies to get involved in the investigation, and it will depend on the details on who actually takes the lead.

A special thanks to Lilianna Hart and Scott Silverii for leading such a wonderful workshop in making sure us writers get it right, and can take our writing and careers to the next level!


 (Look for Scott Silverii ThrillWriting articles by doing a search at the top right-hand side of this blog)

___

TINA GLASNECK writes in an array of genres and loves a good story. She appreciates a good cup of coffee, characters that cause visceral responses, and a nice helping of laughter to balance it all out. Learn more about Tina and her writing at
 www.TinaGlasneck.com


Some things are worth killing for.... Alexandria "Xandy" Caras was charged with murder - a mass murder. The charges were dropped; the case dismissed. Or was it? A serial killer with a "Moses complex" is out for blood - Xandy's blood - and the blood of those who have sinned against the 10 Commandments. The bodies are piling up, and he's getting closer to his number one target: Xandy. Only her death will make it all stop, silencing the deranged killer who thirsts for far more than just revenge.

AMAZON LINK

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Blind Date with Freddie Krueger and the Art of Thrill Writing with Chris Patchell

Welcome!

Grab a cup of something warm and let's settle in for a chat with my fellow Kindle Scout winning author, Chris Patchell.

Chris, please tell us about your background and how that brought you to writing novels.

Chris - 
I was a shy kid who didn't make friends easily. We lived way out in the country, so there were no kids nearby. I would escape into my own head for hours at a time, making up stories. Imagining I was somewhere else -- a flight attendant up in the blue sky flying to exotic places. I'd imagine shapes in the clouds. I'd act out scenes with my barbies. In the third grade, I was given my first creative writing assignment and discovered the magic of writing--of creating a new world, all of your own making.

It was awesome.

Better than friends.

I wrote on and off through high school and my early twenties and then quit. I got busy building a career in tech, and a family. 


I hit a point in my career where I was feeling burned out. My girls were little, and I remember thinking that there was no part of my life that was mine anymore. I needed a little piece of myself back. I thought about what I used to like to do, and I remembered that I used to love to write. But being type A, I didn't just sit down and open up a word processor. I researched some writing courses I could take. Found one through the University of Washington. Went to the information session. Loved what I heard and STILL, it took me a year to sign up.

My husband says to me, "did you ever sign up for that course?" Um... No...

"Why not?"

"I'd never have time to write. You know, with the job, the kids..."

He fixed me with this hard stare. "Stop making excuses. Just do it."

So I did. That was 10 years ago, and I've been writing ever since.

My analytical mind has served me well working in the tech industry. I set my first book in a tech company, and used some of my experience as a woman working in tech in building the book's main character, Jill. Little bits of tech make it into my plots.

I've managed a lot of projects from small mobile apps, to large scale, complex deployments. This experience--the ability to organize and deploy multiple projects simultaneously translates well into devising complex plots. I love weaving multiple story lines together into big bang endings.

I can remember a lot of detailed dependencies off the top of my head, which means when I make plot changes, I can go back and change all of the places in previous scenes where the info becomes relevant. It's handy.

I like the high-stakes and fast paced plot lines in suspense novels where characters struggle against external obstacles to get what they want. I also like creating their internal obstacles--the emotional baggage they carry with them that limit their actions. Fear. Anger. Rage.

The minute I started writing my first thriller, I was hooked.

I also like creating strong female characters. Jill Shannon, the anti-hero in my first book is a great example. She's smart, fierce, and a little ruthless. Not what you'd expect lurking underneath her pretty face.

Ha!

Fiona - 
What do you think makes a good thriller - what components do you try to include? What are you consciously aware of as you're putting your plot together?

Chris -
It has to be high stakes. Typically life and death, or loss of freedom. Both figure prominently into my plot lines. There also has to be a personal stake in the story. What motivates your hero to conquer the obstacles in the story and risk it all? Single mother, Marissa Rooney, will stop at nothing to find her missing daughter. Then there is the element of time (pacing). Everyone knows that the first 48 hours are critical in a missing person's case, but beyond that, what provides a ticking clock--the tension that moves your characters (and your readers) through the story? The kidnapped girl in In the Dark is a type 1 diabetic. She's got her insulin pen with her, but it's not ideal (she needs 2 types of insulin and only has one) and her supply is limited. When it runs out, she dies.

AMAZON LINK
It's a compelling ticking clock. It's selection wasn't random. My husband is a type 1 diabetic, so I know a little bit about what happens (high blood sugars, low blood sugars, etc.).

If your hero has a good reason to care, your readers will too.

Fiona - 
Let's talk about that pacing. I find books that are written with the gas pedal being pushed down the whole time wears me out. I appreciate a few scenes with introspection or a little more quiet so there are highs and lows. Is that something you include in your pacing or is it go go go?

Chris - 
Like you said, it can't be go go go all the time. It gets boring. It's like the never-ending car chase scene.

There are moments when your characters are alone and they're struggling with their inner demons. The action isn't high, but the emotional tension is. I also like to inject a little humor where I can into the story.

That was probably more true of my first book than my second.

You also need to let your hero win every once in a while to keep people invested. There was this t.v. show years ago, about an Irish family. Modern. T
he Black Donnelys. But everything went wrong for this family. It went from bad to worse. I watched 2 - 3 episodes then quit. It was too depressing. They took it off the air before the season finished.

Fiona- 
Another way that you can hold the reader's attention is with complex plotting. Beyond the pantser v plotter question, how do you develop the ideas for your plots and how do you refine so it's the Three Little Bears not too twisty not too straight?

Chris - 
Yes, I'm a big fan of complex plotting. I'm definitely a plotter. I start with the seed of a story. An idea. I spend some time nodding on the idea, growing it, to see if it's big enough to support a plot. Then I write a summary 3-Act Plot. This is maybe 5 - 10 pages long. Then I start breaking it into scenes--more of a formal outline. I usually start writing. Evolve the outline as I go. Major plot twists are built into the idea of the story. Part of how do you make it interesting or surprising. For instance, In the Dark has a big reveal in the prologue. Sometimes though, you delay a reveal to build tension, or a new idea comes to you during the writing phase that makes a reveal or twist better.

Good twists are part of my original story design. They're what makes the story interesting. So, while I do outline, I use my outline as a guideline and not a blueprint, so if my characters take me in different directions (deviate off the path), I go with it. If it works, I keep it, if it doesn't, I dump it and move on.

Each of my characters have their own story lines, even the secondary characters. While they play a role in the major plot, their stories weave into the whole making it richer.

Fiona - 
Go back to the original three parts. What does that breakdown look like?

Chris - 

The first act sketches out the main character. Who are they? Why are they here? The inciting incident that puts the characters on the path. My first act usually ends with the characters gaining momentum, they reach the point of no return on their journey, which propels them deeper into the story.

The second act is the bulk of the story. The obstacles they face, setbacks in the plot. Pushing against the obstacles to learn more about the case, battle with their own demons. You know. At the end of the second act, they acquire knowledge that moves them into the third act. In In the Dark, the investigator learns the identity of the kidnapper. The climax of the story. The showdown. Do they find the missing girl? Can they save her? Slay the demon? In a romance it's usually about whether the relationship survives the crisis and how.

The end of Act 3 is the resolution. I usually tie the ends of my acts with a big reveal or twist; a moment in the action that propels you into the next phase. You up the stakes.

Fiona - 
Do you apply special choices of words or sentence structures to encourage people to read in a section in a particular way? For example how would you change between the physical action high stakes pages v. the emotion angst introspection pages to change the rhythm?

Chris - 
Sentence structure is obvious. Shorter, choppier sentences for action scenes. Longer, more complex sentences for more introspective parts. Atmosphere plays a role too; setting the scene. Because I set stories in the Northwest, I use a lot of physical scene setting (barriers like mountains and mudslides, raining, flooding, typical things we experience in Northwest winters). Word choices are important--how you describe something reflects the mood of the character. Marissa Rooney has made a lot of mistakes with men. When she thinks about these mistakes, her inner critic calls her a loser. The voice of her inner critic is probably her mother's, and she struggles against her poor self-esteem the whole book. Only at the end does she accept her mistakes and move past them. Get stronger. Those emotional moments where she's waging her own inner battle use words that reflect what her inner critic (and by extension herself) believes.

The emotional stuff is harder for me to write.

Takes longer. I have to dig pretty deep to get it out.

Fiona -
For me sex is hardest to write -- I can write emotion all day long.

Chris - 
I hear ya!

When I'm writing a sex scene, I have to block out the idea that anyone else will ever read it. If I didn't, I would never be able to write one.

Fiona - 
Amen to that one -- especially the idea of one of my kids reading it! Ha!

Chris - 
I'm in denial about my kids reading my stuff. I started to write again about the time my oldest daughter was in kindergarten. That's when I instituted the rule, you never read mommy's stuff. Eventually though, they will. Luckily we're still years away from that.

Fiona - 
Let's talk about staying motivated.

Chris -
I think the hardest thing for me is finding ways to stay motivated during the edit cycle. It always feels endless to me. Ripping a scene apart. Rewriting it, until you get it right, or as close to right as you can while not over-obsessing to the point you can never let it go. So, one of the things that helps motivate me is getting feedback from my writing group, or other sources that I trust. When I'm struggling with a scene and I think it's a piece of crap, getting feedback helps identify what's working, what's not, and provides an opportunity to brainstorm how to fix what's there. Writing is solitary. Building a community of support will help motivate you when the going gets tough.

Tracking what you do also keeps you motivated. Tracking word count in the initial draft, watching your manuscript grow. And then keeping track of where you are in the edit cycle. While it may feel like slow going, just being able to see progress helps. Remembering that there is an end in sight. I know there's a point during the edit cycle where I want to burn the manuscript, or kill myself. Or both.

Having finished several books, I know that this is part of my process. I need to keep pushing to get past it. Eventually I will and the book will be finished and I can write something else.

The promise of writing something new is the carrot at the end of the string fore me.

Fiona - 
It's time! We want a good scar story, please.

Chris - 
My favorite scar story...

Well, I've got a three-inch scar at the base of my throat. One of my coworkers asked me how I got it and this is what I said...

I was working in Vancouver, BC, in an area of the city called Yaletown. It was late. Winter. Raining. I was meeting some of my friends downtown and stopped at a bank machine to pick up some funds. Vancouver is an interesting city--parts of it are upscale, pretty. Safe. But step one or two blocks out of the "zone" and it can get a little sketchy. So there I was at the bank machine, paying no attention to what was going on around me when a man approached from behind. I felt the cold chill of metal against my throat and..."

"Whoa," he says. "Is that what really happened?"

"Uh, no. But it makes a better story."

The real truth was that I had surgery to remove a cyst. Apparently the surgeon was either drunk, or used popsicle sticks. Maybe both. 

Afterwards, I had a drainage tube and a long row of staples closing the wound. I looked like I'd gone on a blind date with Freddie Krueger. I should have been horrified when I looked in the mirror. Instead, I burst out laughing. That was 20 years ago.

Fiona - 
Ha! You got me -- I totally thought you were a crime victim. Thanks so much for coming and hanging out!


Readers, you can stay in touch with Chris:
Website - http://www.chrispatchell.com
Facebook
Twitter - @chris_patchell


I hope this was helpful. As always, a big thank you ThrillWriters and readers for stopping by. Thank you, too, for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.


Chat Conversation End

Sunday, October 23, 2016

I Haven't Got a Clue: Clue Awareness for Crime Writers

English: Pensacola, FL, September 19, 2004 -- ...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Do you have a character looking for clues?

It is important for your investigators to be calm and in the right frame of mind to be effective. So by adding distractions - personal or professional -- your investigator can make mistakes.

This article can pertain to a search because of a crime (for clues or perpetrator), a severe weather event, or a missing person. 

Your investigator is a human being. And humans, even the best of the best, can and do miss clues along the way.

Negatives to successfully finding clues might include:
  • fear
  • stress
  • grouping (when searchers cluster together)
  • some medications
  • noise
  • chatting
  • speed
  • ego***
  • preconceived ideas - for example, you're looking for a missing toddler who wandered off; you discount the beer can and cigarette. The baby didn't use those, but maybe this is a crime scene not a missing person.
  • alcohol
  • nicotine
  • caffeine
The larger the search area, the harder it is to contain, protect, and find pertinent data. GO HERE for a blog article to understand more about this and to understand means such as vacuuming that can be employed to find every possible piece of evidence.


  • Knowing about the subject helps
  • The investigator needs to open all of their senses, including their intuition.

But let's say you're in a larger area - a state park for example. Weather, bugs, animals can all work to degrade evidence. AND it is extremely hard to find.

I recently was on a training weekend where I followed a clue trail. This trail was bound by markers and we walked at normal pace, using searching techniques to try to find the hidden clues. I found the two bottles, the stuffed dog, the golf balls, and wrapping papers. I missed the brown glove laying in the brown soil under the brown log. I missed the pile of bullets at the end of the log in the leaves. I missed the weathered map caught in the tree branches. 

I hit 65% of the possible clues from the beginning of the trail to the end. And that's when we knew exactly where the person of interest had travelled.  That meant 35% of the clues I passed over. As a matter of fact, everyone missed the bullets and casings. 15 trained searchers following the same trail, looking for clues, and not one of us found the bullets (Or the rubber ducky who was sitting in the yellow leaves). 

Clues are going to go unfound. Every time someone goes into that area, details change. Bring a trailing or tracking dog in and that's going to have it's own set of changes. 

Another task we were sent on was to clear large areas for clues when we didn't know if someone had gone in that direction or not. We bagged, tagged, and GPS identified locations on a whole lot of trash. Some of the garbage in our sweep we could identify as weathered to a time period prior to the timeframe we were working with. But still, if you're sweeping large areas, it's a mixture of luck and experience that's going to find something of importance. I found two golf balls and a pair of glasses. Turns out the glasses weren't part of the clues that were laid -- sorry to the guy who lost his glasses, I hope he got home okay.

How you go about a sweep:
You have a search team of say 4 people. You place a paper on the ground and person A goes as far right as they can until they are just catching that paper in their left peripheral vision.  Then the middle person B puts the paper in their right peripheral vision and a second paper in their left peripheral then person C  puts that paper in their peripheral. So hopefully as the eyes are sweeping, the whole area is seen. (x = paper). 

Person D is the Field Team Leader and is watching navigation and communications.

A        x          B         x        C


                 D


Person C is tying a piece of marking tape every few feet on the right. At the end of the tsked search area, they reconfigure so that they return to base searching the next space over. 
^ and v = direction of travel.

^                        ^                   ^
^                        ^                   ^

A        x            B         x        C           x

      D                                                                                                    D
                                                           
                                                           x               C        x          B         x        A

                                                                             V                   V                   V                                                                                                                                                      V                   V                   V
  

Teams of 6-9 are the norm. The team can be bigger and work this way. However, more than nine, and it's a problem.


USE THE RIGHT TERM
What are your investigators looking for?
  • signs - indications that someone has passed that way.
  • tracks (a track is a sign that is identifiable to a specific person/animal)
  • clue - is an indication of a subjects passage through an area. These might include:
    • physical items - personal items, campfire, foot prints
    • occurrence - like noticing that the animals are spooked. Birds suddenly taking flight.
    • information - such as interviewing. "Sure, I saw Billy-John on the trail today. He were about say two miles east as the crow flies. You ain't gonna find him round here no more. He was hot footin' it up the mountain."

What happens if a clue is found?
The person who finds something calls a halt to the search team. The team leader examens the item, and will call it in to command and command will inform the team what to do. 
  • Bag it, flag it (put marking ribbons in the area. 3 ribbons is the signal), and get GPS coordinates.
  • Leave it in place. If it is to be left in place then the searcher must do their best to protect the clue from further degradation. For example if it's a footprint, a cage of sticks might be set in the ground to stop others from walking over it. A plastic bag might be placed over the top of the cage to preserve against wind, rain, dew. . .
Speaking of tracks - they are often the most numerous clues. The average human leaves more than two thousand steps in a mile. That's a lot of clues (direction of travel etc.) to be found. The best place to look for tracks are in track traps. A track trap is any area that can hold an obvious track if someone steps in it. (So those on the search for clues need to NOT step in these areas.)
  • ant hills
  • mud 
  • stream bank
  • snow
  • crop fields

I hope this was helpful. As always, a big thank you ThrillWriters and readers for stopping by. Thank you, too, for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.