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

Monday, May 8, 2017

How Fast is FAST?

Most of us have read about our military elite operators: the SEALs who are connected with the United States navy, the Delta Force and Green Berets who are with our army. But few people have heard about our Marine special units. 

We talked about one of them the Marine Raiders HERE, but there's another Marine unit called FAST. Marine Fleet-Anti-terrorism Security Team.

I featured a Marine with the Marine Raiders in WASP, the first book in the Uncommon Enemies series, and in the second book, RELIC, Brian Ackerman, our hero, is retired from a FAST unit.

FAST units are deployed all over the world. You might be most familiar with them as the team that responded to the Benghazi attack from their base in Spain.

If there is a terrorist attack anywhere in the world that involves US forces, these guys are ready to be deployed. They have received special training to handle terrorists.

"They are highly skilled in counter surveillance, physical security, urban combat techniques, close quarter combat, and martial arts... Companies contain six platoons of fifty Marines. On deployment, FAST can be stationed in Spain, Japan, and Bahrain." (1)

Right now we have three FAST companies in the US as well as a training company. Companies A and C are located in Norfolk, Virginia, and Company B, which is located at Yorktown, Virginia. These companies operate under the control of the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment located on Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia.

The Security Force Regiment Training Company is located on Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads, in Chesapeake, Virginia. (2)

Can I just say all four units are about two hours from my house where there is also a SEAL team - so in the event of a zombie apocalypse, or any other disaster - I know where I'm headed. 

Marines assigned to FAST have:

  • SOI (School of Infantry).
  • Security Force School - (NSA Northwest, Chesapeake, VA) - Teaches Combat Marksmanship (shotgun and pistol), Close Quarter Battle
  • FAST Training (5 weeks)-(NSA Northwest, Chesapeake, VA) Additional training in Advanced Urban Combat. (2)
Elite US Marines, ready, willing, and more than able!

In RELIC, Retired Marine FAST member is now working for Iniquus where his work as one of the nation’s top security professionals has fueled his lust for adrenaline-laced danger. While Brian’s private life may seem risky, his professional life is strictly business. Until he accepts two private protection contracts that is. 
Available on most e-readers
Two security assignments seem simple enough. Brian’s been wrong before.

The first assignment involves protecting archaeologists, Sophia Abadi and Nadia Dajani. While digging to uncover a remote site is a bit mundane by Brian’s standard, he welcomes the chance and the challenge.

The second assignment requires Brian to do his own digging to uncover the truth. The thrill seeker is contracted by the FBI to discover who is financing ISIS through the sale of conflict relics from Syria. Problem is, his suspects are also the two archaeologists.

His initial introductions to both esteemed scientists not only reveal the challenges of protecting them, but a shocking dilemma of honoring his security contract. Seems the woman he’d fallen for after one incredible night in New York is the very same Sophia he’s now charged with protecting and leading into an FBI trap.

Meet Brian Ackerman. He has a gun. He also has a heart.

I hope you enjoy reading RELIC, I look forward to hearing what you think!


Information for his article comes from:
  • (1)
  • (2)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Climbing Trees in the Rain - Encouragement for Your Writing (and other) Goals.

Writing is a journey - a put one word in front of the other adventure. And it takes persistence. Lots of persistence. I thought I might share with you this story about my daughter's service dog as a way to illustrate what that means.
When Bear was a very little bear, he set out on his hero’s journey. As his “mom” it was my job to give him the tools for success.  Two of the major tools for a DAD  (Diabetes Alert Dog) are persistence and discernment.

By persistence I mean that he cannot give up – not ever. If my daughter (affectionately known as Kid #4)  had a low blood glucose level, Bear couldn’t give a signal and go to sleep.  He had to get the blood levels checked. He had to go around the house and find someone who would act. Bear is very good at this.

Fran├žais : Photo d'une chaussure de sport. Le ...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We have different ways that Bear signals us based on where we are and what’s going on. If we are at a restaurant, Bear will tap-tap-tap on my foot until he hears the meter beeps. At home, where we are busy and our brains are often elsewhere, Bear will bring us shoes and drop them over and over until we give him the signal, “check-check, Bear.” This isn’t enough for my husband. Hubby is deaf in one ear and can’t always hear the shoe being dropped. If I’m not home and Bear needs to get Hubby to act, he will jump right up on the bed and hit my dear deaf husband in the head with the shoe. "There! That'll get his attention." No. I didn't teach Bear to do that, but it cracks me up every time I see it happen. Persistence and a little ingenuity keeps Kid #4 safe.

A Tennis ball Author: User:Fcb981
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now here’s a major issue with DADs - if 1/3rd of the U.S. is diabetic, how can we take Bear out in public and get him to ONLY alert on his diabetic? Well, I thought I had it worked out -- both the persistence idea and the discernment idea. I thought I would teach these concepts to Bear with his daily ballgames. 

When Bear was a puppy, I would give him one tennis ball and that was the only tennis ball that we would play with that day – the only tennis ball that I would throw.  As he learned this, I would add to the number of tennis balls that were out in the yard. When the yard was full of tennis balls and Bear still would only bring me our tennis ball du jour, then I could even throw other balls. He would chase them but refuse to pick them up, returning to me and waiting for me to throw the right ball.

The persistence part comes from another game we played. I would send Bear away from me with the command, “Go.”  As he ran away, I would pitch the ball into the bushes somewhere. He would turn for the ball, and I would command, “Find it.” Off he would run, and run, and run. He would have to search the whole yard. Most times this was a forty-five second event. His nose is remarkable. Sometimes when the ball went some place obscure it was a longer process. There was Bear running circles around the yard sniffing every square inch -- his tail wagging, his tongue lolling, joy shining his coat.  I’d sip my coffee and wait. Bear would not give up until he found the ball. I love this about him!

Well, I mostly love this about Bear. One particular morning not so much. I was out throwing the ball for him having a great time, enjoying nature and the beauty of the trees in their full green splendor. I sent bear out with the, “Go,” command, turned and threw the ball behind me. “Find it, Bear!” And off he sprinted. I sat down and took a sip of my coffee to wait for the ball to be brought back to me.  There was a clap of thunder and the sky opened up. Rain by the bucket full. I went onto my porch to wait for Bear. I couldn’t call him in because he didn’t have the ball – and he can never give up. He ran by me -- coat streaming, big smile on his face. He was having a great time! He ran and ran and ran. The humidity in the air made my clothes heavy and wet. I was getting cold, and still he ran. The thunder boomed and the lightening flashed – and still he ran.

I couldn’t understand what was taking him so long. Was it the wind? Was the rain getting in the way of his scent? Then Bear put both paws on a tree and looked over at me. I waited. Bear looked up the tree, looked back at me, and barked. I perfectly understood what he barked at me. “Hey, Mom! I found it. The ball's up the tree, and I never give up until the ball is in my mouth!”
So that’s how I found myself, dressed in my sopping wet flannel p.j. pants, climbing a tree in the rain to retrieve the ball that had wedged itself into the branches. Because in our house, Bear will only play with the ball-of-the-day, and he will not stop until he has put it back in my hand. And I love that about him (mostly).

Best of luck with your project. When the rain is lashing you, picture Bear -- nose to the ground, smile on his face, tail wagging, powering through because nothing will stop him. Don't let anything stop you. One word and then another. You'll get there; I know it.

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.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pedal to the Metal: High Speed Chases for Writers with Inspector Karen Lynch


Fiona - 
Today, Karen Lynch is visiting us from her home on the West Coast. Karen, would you please tell ThrillWriting about your background?

Karen - 
I was born in San Francisco and graduated from UC Berkeley in 1980. At that time the headlines read much as they have in recent history, "graduates face worse job market since Great Depression." I had no safety net, no family to rely on, and my marketable skills were minimal. I was also a feminist and had read a lot about women being recently allowed into law enforcement. Many men interviewed felt women were too weak and emotional to do the job. I was a stubborn 21 year old, quite physically strong, and I had a little chip on my shoulder. I ended up applying, going from my college Renaissance Bar serving wench job to working street patrol. 

My first years were working uniform patrol in San Francisco's downtown, the parts of town I had lived in....Chinatown, North Beach, Fisherman's Wharf, the Tenderloin, and Financial District. At 30, I was promoted to "Inspector" a rank known as "Detective" in other cities, and was sent to the investigations bureau. There I worked Sex Crimes investigations, Accident, and traffic related investigations, and finally ended my career as a Homicide Inspector.

I retired after 29 years on the force, leaving sooner than I had planned because of a bout with breast cancer.

Fiona - 
Today, we're talking about high speed chases.

Under what circumstances are police officers allowed to conduct a high speed car chase.

Karen -
When a cop is chasing a speeding vehicle, she must be constantly asking if the value of capturing the criminal/speeder is greater than the risk to life and property. 

Most departments have greatly restricted their parameters for allowable times to continue pursuit. I can only speak for my own jurisdiction, San Francisco, but it is not at all unusual for a sergeant to call off a pursuit when she feels it is simply not worth the danger to the public. 

Back in the 80's we chased anyone who ran from us, and the chase continued, often ending in the suspect hitting a parked car or something. By the time I retired, cops had reduced the number of chases they were in. They might start chasing a red light violator, but if it became dangerous to the public, they would shut down the chase. 

Generally, the only chases that continue for long periods of time now, are those with dangerous fleeing felons,or reckless drivers who are causing a hazard

Fiona -
How fast can a cop drive in a chase? And how do they acquire their skills?

Karen -
I'm not aware of any specific speed limits enforced on officers.

Obviously, the cop has to drive nearly as fast as the violator just to keep him in sight. Again, once a chase begins, a sergeant is required to monitor the action. She might come over the radio and ask the speed....if she deems it too dangerous, she may shut it down. 

In the old days, there were chases right out of the movie Bullitt.....just crazy fast and dangerous. In the end, no cop wants to hurt an innocent person, or die pursuing someone for something trivial, so things are much less wild on the streets today. 

San Francisco cops receive excellent EVOC training. (Emergency Vehicle Operations Course)
Video Quick Study (2:45) car camera of officers training.

The instructors have been highly trained in race car driving skills. We do about two weeks of training in the academy. In my day, a track was set up at Treasure Island, and we chased a "suspect" around learning counter-steering skills, Code 3 driving (Code 3 means using red lights and sirens), basic maneuvering skills. 

We all needed to learn to back and park the "wagon" a large transport van, not many had driven before. 

The most enjoyable and memorable part of the driving training was the "skid pan". One day they flooded the lot with soap flakes, and we drove around at high speeds going into skids and donuts and learning how to correct our steering. Over the years, we would return to the academy for in service training and our skills would be refreshed. By the 90's the department purchased excellent simulators that allowed us to hone our skills without having to set up a big track.

Fiona -
What if they hit a county or state line? I'm thinking Dukes of Hazard here.

Karen - 
Once a chase enters a new jurisdiction, the dispatcher notifies that town, and usually one of their officers will follow the chase until we leave their jurisdiction. If we crash and burn on their turf, then their department is now part of the mess....if we just drive through, they become a footnote, as in, Daly City Officer sos and so also joined the pursuit from X to Y.....then we entered San Bruno where Officer blah blah....all of that is part of the report, but ultimately the cops who started the whole mess are stuck with the report/arrests/clean up, etc.

Fiona - 
When you get a call for an accident, and you head in sirens blaring, what are the first steps that one takes?

Karen -
Well, as an inspector/detective we tend NOT to respond Code 3. 

We come after the first responders, and they are generally stabilizing victims, assessing if a crime is involved, taking witness statements, towing cars. We come as this is happening....not Code 3, but generally expedited driving. The inspector then takes over the scene. 

To read more about crash scene forensics go HERE

Fiona -
Okay, let's say you are in a car chase, and the runner hits a person or a person's car. What does the officer do? Continue to follow or stop and process the accident scene?

Karen -
The officer would continue the pursuit and another officer and ambulance would respond to assist the victims.

Fiona -
Have you ever done a real life chase?

Karen -

Oh yes! sadly I was in dozens of them as a patrol officer.

Most of them involved stolen cars, but there were many crimes involved in a variety of chases. 

Fiona -
I'm wondering about the physical and emotional aspect of a chase. How might an officer feel? What goes through their mind?

Karen -

A police chase is one of the most stressful, adrenaline provoking situations on officer can be in. In some ways, it's worse than an officer involved shooting, at least, in the short term, because it can go on for in some cases hours! 

We've had chases half-way across the state. The entire time, as the driver, your adrenaline is maxed out. I personally felt borderline panic at times, though some cops love the high of the excitement. 

The entire time I am praying the driver will stop before someone gets hurt. You fear your brother/sister cops will crash into each other trying to get to your assistance, and you don't want that on your shoulders. When you're 25, maybe you think it's fun and exciting. Grow up a bit, have a child or two, and a police chase is your worst nightmare.

As a passenger it is equally stressful....your life is in your partner's hands, and you sure as hell better trust his/her driving ability. The passenger is responsible for the the ever changing locations and advising other cops the safest avenues of approach, etc. 

Fiona -
Do you think that seeing as many vehicle accidents as you have, that that too comes into play? You know exactly what can happen to you and that has to be somewhere in your mind?

Karen -

Without a doubt, we have seen the horrible damage two tons of crushed steel can do to a human....but consciously, I don't think that is going through our minds....we are in that lizard brain fight or flight thing. 

Fiona - 
Do police cars have special protections for crashes.

Karen - 
Police cars are probably less safe than the average vehicle because we have all this computer equipment, etc to be impaled on. I have lost more that a few co-workers to vehicular accidents, and annually more cops are killed in car related incidents than gun or any other means.

Fiona - 
Let's move forward to your book. This is a memoire. What aspects of your book do you think would be helpful for a writer in learning what makes a good cop?

Karen -
Good Cop, Bad Daughter gives a really clear insider's view of the making of a rookie cop. 


There are many chapters about things my friends had no idea we had to do. For instance, at one point we were all put in an army quonset hut and gassed with CS canisters. This gas makes you feel as if you will die, though it cannot in fact kill you. Before that training day arrives, the anxiety builds to such a point, some recruits quit the day before. We were also required to practice the carotid restraint (choke hold) on each other, and the instructor actually put a classmate to sleep with the hold. We all lived in fear of the instructor using us to demonstrate the hold, because one potential consequence is defecation or there was fear of pain, coupled with humiliation. I would say the most common response I get from readers is something along the line, "I had no idea what you had to go through to be a cop." 

I would just say any reader who enjoys memoir in the tradition of "The Glass Castle" etc, or anyone interested in police training, how cops live, growing up with a bi-polar mother....any such reader will most likely enjoy GC, BD....reviewers say it is a page-turner.

Fiona - 
Thank you kindly for all you have shared, Karen. 

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you 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.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Celebrating ThrillWriting's First Birthday!

English: Photo of Team Singapore fireworks dis...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One Year Old


I just wanted to express my deep gratitude
for your support, and kindness.

And my special appreciation to the wonderful
professionals who have shared their 
time and talent with us.

Looking forward to Learning More with YOU

in Year TWO!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Forensic Trace Evidence: Hair and Fur - Info for Writers

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia
So your investigator arrived on the scene.
(Crime Scene 101 for writers article)

They've photographed and collected all of the macro-evidence. 

Now they need the trace evidence (that which isn't easily seen with the naked eye) collected and processed. This trace evidence might include hair. 
* Hair is one of the most collected forms of trace evidence.
* Hair is particularly useful because it is stable over time.
* Because hair is produced around blood vessels it is a long term
   record of toxins
   ` Illicit drugs such as THC in marijuana
   ` Poisonings such as arsonic
   ` Heavy metal exposure such as lead.
   ` Medications
* Hair grows at a fairly predictable rate of about .5 inches per
   month. So scientists can even calculate when the exposure to
   the toxin began - depending on the length of the hair.

Investigators will use three basic means of collecting hair and other trace evidence.

1. Hunt and peck
2. Tape
3. Vacuum
Video Quick Study (9:50) Prt 1 
Video Quick Study (1:54) Prt 2 Teacher explaining collection
                     methods of finding trace evidence including hair. 

Humans have various hair all over their bodies including body hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows. But only head hair and pubic hair have forensic use.

So let's say we have a rape victim. They find hair on her clothes. 
1. They will have to collect hair from the victim - this is a known or
    K sample
2. The laboratory will compare the victim K sample to the 
    Q sample - the sample in question.
    a. First, they will figure out if the Q sample is a human hair.
    b. Second, They will determine if the K and Q samples have
        the same general characteristics.

Let's say that the victim K sample excludes the Q sample that is they could not come from the same person. But our investigators have their eye on a bad-guy. They ask him for hair samples. He can 
a. Agree and submit to testing
b. Refuse - if he refuses then the courts can order him to submit.

The suspect K sample is collected.
1. It is suggested by the FBI that 100 full, intact strands, including
    the follicle are harvested from the suspects head from various
    regions as even hair from an individual person can differ
    from region to region on their heads.
2. It is suggested that at least 20 intact strands of pubic hair are

*If the laboratory says that the suspect K sample and the Q sample
  do not share similar qualities, this excludes the suspect. 
*If the lab says that there are similarities in the K and Q samples,
  this DOES NOT mean that you found your villain. 
* Hair is class evidence - it can be used to exclude but not to prove
   someone is culpable.
* If there are similarities, the sample is sent for DNA testing.
  (DNA 101)
* By doing lab analysis first, it saves a great deal of time and money
   over going right to DNA analysis

Let's do a little biology 101 - I know you're excited!

hair follicle
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

* The root of the hair is
   anchored into the dermis of
   the skin
* Follicles are surrounded by
   epidermal cells
* Blood vessels at the roots
   deliver nutrients

Looking at the hair itself

* Hair is mostly made
   from keratin
Haarstrukturen im Vergleich
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* The outside of the hair is 
   called the cuticle
* In humans, the cuticle
   gives very little information. 
* Mammals have various
   patterns in their cuticles and
   the labs can compare the
   various patterns to tell
   that's a bat, or a rabbit, or a

* Inside of the cuticle is the cortex.
* The cortex is the thickest layer of the hair strand.
* This is where pigment from the melanin can be found, giving hair
    its color.
   ` Hair colorant can coat the surface or penetrate to the cortex.
   `In bleached hair pigmentation is lost from the cortex
   `Only the hair that is treated will show a change in color, so at the
     root the true color will be visible. There will be a line of 
     demarcation between the two

* When people change the color of their hair, or their hair changes
    naturally as the subject ages, this can create issues in finding 
    similarities in the K and Q samples. 
   A fingerprint cannot be altered, but your villain can thwart an
   investigator by dying their hair, committing a crime,
   and then dying their hair a different color. So even if the police
   take K samples from their hairbrush they will not show as similar
   in the lab. And when they take them from hair that's been altered
   it too will not show as the same.

Photomicrograph of Pubic Hair Medulla
Pubic Hair Medulla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Medulla
* The medulla is at the core of the hair sample
* It is the hollow region at the center.
* A data bases of medulla patterns have been developed to
   identify various animals and differentiate human from other
   animal hair.
* Finding animal hair can be very helpful. It can link transferred
   hair from a suspect at a crime scene. For example, Blade Slayer
   goes in and attacks your heroine. Trace evidence hair is found.
   It's a black rabbit, and Blade Slayer happens to have a black
   rabbit named Cuddles. It's circumstantial, but it can be helpful.
* Animal hair forensics can also be used in crimes like poaching
   and illegal animal importation (Wildlife Forensics Blog Post)

Three Phases of Hair Growth

Anagen Phase
* 2-7 yrs for scalp hair 
* Growth phase where cells are formed at the root which pushes the
   hair out of the scalp making the hair longer.
* This hair will only fall out if it is yanked out.
* When hair from this phase is
Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...
Animation of the structure of a section of DNA. The bases lie horizontally between the two spiraling strands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
   found at the crime scene it has a
   follicle attached. 
* The follicle contains DNA that
   will identify an individual
Catagen Phase
* The hair is in transition
* The hair no longer grows, the
   cuticle pulls away
Telegen Phase
* The final phase where hair falls
* In the catagen and telegen
   phases the follicle is no longer
   attached to the hair. Nuclear
   DNA cannot be found. The
   investigators will try to test for
   mitochondrial DNA in the hair
   shaft. Mitochondrial DNA is not
   conclusive as everyone in the
   matriarchal line will have the
   same DNA (DNA 101 for Writers)
* Telogen hairs are those typically found at crime scenes.
* Because hair is easily transferred from one place to another, it is
   circumstantial evidence.

What else can an investigator tell from a hair strand?

* Pubic hairs have shaft differences along the length and a
   continuous medulla
* Male facial hair is usually more triangular in shape
* Hair that's been cut or shaved will have a blunt end
* Hair that is allowed to grow naturally such as arm hair will have a
   naturally tapered end
* Head hair - not recently cut- will show a frayed or split end
* Age cannot be discerned.
* Sex cannot be determined.
* Ethnicity - is difficult. The person would have to have a very
   clean background as Caucasian, African, or Asian ancestry.
   And then, there are variables that can point the investigators
   in a direction. It is not conclusive.

So what can an investigator say about a hair sample?

* Is it human, or animal (or vampire)?
* Is it a useful sample, either head or pubic hair?
* Is it head or is it pubic hair?
* Is the Q sample consistent with the K sample?
   `If yes, further investigation - suspect stays in the pool.
   `If no, suspect is removed from possibilities; they look for another
   `If yes AND no that is there are similarities AND differences,
    then no conclusion can be drawn.

Video Quick Study (4:16) Hair testimony at Casey Anthony trial
Video Quick Study (4:27) Britain CSI school

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you 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.

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