The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

Showing posts with label Lexi Sobado. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lexi Sobado. Show all posts

Monday, July 17, 2017

Brought Down by Her Heaving Bosom - Helping Writers Write it Right

(Photo credit: Wikipedia

When I joined the Search and Rescue team, I was given a mentor, Brian, to help me get off to a good start. Having been a Girl Scout leader for over a decade, I already had some expertise in the woods and most of the necessary equipment on hand. One day, Brian came over to my house to inspect the survival pack I’d put together. As we walked to the side door, he stopped to look at my rhododendron in its full display of beautiful violet blooms. Hands on hips, shaking his head, he asked why I had planted it. The truth was that I’d received the bush as a gift when my third child was born. It had been a barely-alive bush in a gallon bucket and now, twenty years later, I loved that the plant had grown to the same height as Kid #3. That bush was a source of pride. I didn’t understand the sour look on Brian’s face as we moved into the house.

Fast forward a few months. I totally understand that look on Brian’s face. I haterhododendrons. Rhododendrons are the bane of Virginia searches. In order to fully clear an area, a searcher has to climb through these long obstacle course bushes that seem to be created by the devil himself so he can laugh at us.

Worse than those darned rhododendrons? Briars. Sheets of briars. Curtains of briars. Briars that snag at our clothes, wrap into our packs, swipe hats from our heads and glasses from our faces. There’s no going around the briars. When you’re walking a grid, searching for clues, it’s straight through.

The last time I was out on a search, Brian happened to be searching next to me in a swamp. He put his hand on a tree trunk to help him balance as he scooted under the briars and past the rhododendron when BOOM! The entire tree–and I’m talking about a tree with a three-foot trunk circumference–went crashing down. That’s why I now call him Paul Bunyan. Paul and I stood looking at the tree for about a nanosecond before we were off searching again. On that particular day, with the temperatures in the nineties and the humidity at eighty percent, the mosquitos found our sweaty faces particularly delicious. If we stopped, they swarmed.

Despite what I’ve just written, I truly enjoy being on the Search and Rescue team. It’s not easy, but it is important. I’m honored to be part of a such a dedicated group of people. Also, I have to admit, I like it for the misery factor. Yes, you read that right. Believe me, there’s not a masochistic cell in my body. But professionally, it’s necessary for me to understand just how miserable a mission can be. It’s important for me to know how the brambles wrap my ankles to trip me. To struggle to stay positive, smiling, and kind to those around me as the heat beats down on my head. To feel the weight of my pack after five hours traipsing up and down the mountain side. I need to find where the blisters form (and it’s not where you’d think). I believe that first-hand knowledge, even if it’s only the tiniest glimmer of reality, helps my writing be more vivid and correct.

Imagine reading a book in which the heroine was saved by a retired SEAL. He swept her romantically into his arms. She clung to his neck as he cradled her against his chest. Then, he ran five miles through the jungle to safety. I’d be laughing so hard, I’d be crying. Though I’m certain that wouldn’t be the emotion the author was going for.

Sure, if I was in the backcountry and someone was strafing the area with their AK on full auto, I’d try my darndest to get myself out of Dodge. Running though? Hmm. Consider the obstacles of wayward vegetation: falling trees, vines, stumps and roots… Consider that the ground is almost never flat under foot. Consider that the debris that falls to the ground is not only slippery, but it hides holes. Deep holes. Now imagine the hero stagger-running forward — a sixty-pound pack on his back, a damsel draped (beautifully) in his arms. He can’t see where he’s putting his feet past her heaving bosom. She must weigh a good hundred and twenty pounds. Readers, have you been to the gym? Have you seen the guys with their Rambo-muscles lifting a hundred and twenty pounds? Does that look easy? (I swear, Hubby, I’m just looking at the men’s muscles for research purposes.)

Notwithstanding that hundred and eighty pounds of extra weight, our hero is running full tilt. Dodging bullets. Scrambling through the foliage — Please note, there are one thousand seven hundred and sixty yards in a mile. In five miles, this guy has to sprint a football field eighty-eight times. With that in mind, that five-mile run might seem unreasonable. In this scenario, the more likely outcome is that after a hundred yards of super-human effort, our hero’s foot goes down into one of the holes. Crack! The hero not only dumps the lady-in-distress onto the (snake and poison ivy covered) ground, but now he’s writhing in agony with a broken leg. His bellows call the bad guys to their location like the sweat on a search and rescue team member’s face calls in the mosquitos.

There’s a reason why SEALs say, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” There’s a reason why a SEAL probably wouldn’t be tearing through the jungle. There’s also a reason that writers are told “write what you know.”

And what I know is, it ain’t easy to hack your way through a curtain of briars.

Fiona Quinn's newest series:

The prayer on her lips is JACK Be Quick.

It’s been months since ex-Navy SEAL Jack McCullen last saw his fiancĂ©e, Suz Molloy. He was on the other side of the world involved in a grueling black ops mission for Iniquus Corporation at the behest of the US government. Mission fail meant a special flight home, and an ambulance ride to the hospital where Suz should have been waiting for him.

Devastated by Jack’s last death-defying act of heroism, life quickly takes a turn for the worse for Suz. Terrorists attack the school where Suz teaches first-grade. Suz saves her students’ lives, but her own moment of heroism leads the terrorists to believe she is a CIA operative. Suz is taken hostage.

When Jack rouses from his surgery to find Suz missing, he knows something is very wrong. Led by the psychic “knowings” of his Iniquus colleague, Lynx, Jack risks everything as he desperately tries to reach Suz in time to thwart the terrorists’ plot and save her.

This time, his mission is for more than love of country; it’s for the love of his life - his heart and soul.

You can READ IT NOW!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Easy Evil: Interview with Crime Reporter Doug Cummings



Fiona - Hey, Doug. I guess the street lights are just popping on in the windy city.

Doug - ...and the crickets are chirping.

Fiona - I've spent a little time in Chicago - I wish it were more. Can you tell my blog-readers
            how you spend your days and maybe give them a little of your background?

Doug - In reverse order... I grew up in Kansas where I went to college and worked as a deputy
           sheriff for half a dozen years. I got a degree in radio-TV and had interned at a local TV
           station. I was getting tired of cop work, as sometimes happens, and one night I had a
           reporter from a radio station as a ride-along. He was leaving the station to go to law
           school. I asked if his job had been filled, and it hadn' I had the perfect segue.
           I ended up working at the station, and he became a deputy while in law school. I think
           they make TV shows about things like that nowadays. I worked as a crime reporter in Kansas City
           for two years, and then I moved to Chicago and spent fifteen years covering crime and disasters
           in this area.

Fiona - Did you have to go through a police training program to be a deputy sheriff?

Doug - Yes, training is required...more now even than back then. With regular weapons qualification and
            continuing education. I completed about half the work for a Masters in Criminal Justice, in fact.

Fiona - Because I have a lot of international readers, can you explain the differences between a sheriff and a
            police officer? Link to more information about sheriffs

Doug - The differences are mostly in name. Sheriff's are elected officials.
            The name comes from the old English, I believe...shire-reeve. If
            you remember Robin Hood...Anyway the sheriff is the chief law
            enforcement officer of most counties and his deputies usually
            have authority in unincorporated areas of the county.

Fiona - Shire-reeve. Now there's a fun little tid-bit of information that I
            can drop at  my next cocktail party.

Doug - Police officers typically patrol in cities. Having said that, some states countywide police departments
           and the sheriff is relegated to administration of the jail. It depends on where you live.
           In Kansas and Illinois, sheriffs are elected county officials and have police and jail administration

Fiona - So, I know that guns are near and dear to your heart. Have you ever had to use one in the line of
            duty? Or for self-protection?
                                                              This is Doug's Colt Python

Doug - Thankfully, no and I hope I never get into such a situation. I was on my way to a shootout once...
            but  the bad guy was killed before I arrived. I appreciated the timing.

Fiona - No kidding! That must be an odd experience to have the adrenaline flowing and then know that it
            was over - but badly.

Doug - It's not uncommon...I've certainly been in hairy situations that weren't diffused quickly enough for
            me to avoid them.

Fiona - Okay, give me a hairy example, LOL.

Doug - Well, the hairiest was a chase and head on crash. We were chasing a couple of armed robbery
            suspects (we thought), and they turned around and came back at us. It was odd to have the right,
            front fender appear three inches from your head while sitting in the passenger seat.

Fiona - No kidding! YIKES! Was everyone okay?

Doug - My then partner still has back issues but other than that everyone was fine. Yep, wrecked a squad
            car with only a couple of hundred miles and all new equipment tho.

Fiona - I bet that went over big with the budget office. Okay, I'm going to throw out my typical question -
            what in books, TV, movies etc. do you see being portrayed incorrectly, and it ticks you off?

Doug - What annoys me most...when cops are portrayed as bumbling or stupid. While I have met some
            book stupid cops, most of the people I've known in law enforcement are street smart, really care
            about the work and put 100 percent into it. With 500-600 hours of basic training now, and
            sometimes 40-60 hours of in service training every year, they know the business.

Fiona - But they also aren't super-heroes. No one should expect a cop to shoot a gun out of a perpetrators
            hand with eagle vision. They can't take down a whole gang single-handedly. So how can a writer
            write a cop correctly?

Doug - I think research can be as easy as finding a real cop in the town or area the author is writing about.
            Going on ride-alongs or enrolling in a citizens police academy are good resources too. Another
            thing that annoys me is when I read a book and can tell the author has done his research watching
            cop shows, not talking to or even reading about real cops.

Fiona - How can you tell the difference? What is wrong in the shows that a cop would relate differently?

Doug - Cops aren't fashion models for one.

Fiona - Hahahaha! (I think they should be.)

Doug - And not every case requires chases and shootouts... but for
            dramatic effect, nothing beats a good  fight or shootout.

            Also, seldom do you arrest someone and immediately give
            them their rights. I only read folks their rights if I needed to
            question them. Most often I was telling them to shut up!

Fiona - Hahahaha! Okay, Doug, at this point of the interview
            you have a choice -
           A) Tell me about your favorite scar
           B) Tell me about your newest book  - or-
           C) both.

Doug - I have a tiny knife scar on the pointing finger of my left

Fiona - How did that happen?

Doug - Domestic dispute...lady swung a piece of broken glass at me.

Fiona - So, not a knife-scar a glass-scar. That sounds like a gang name. Victor Glasscar.

Doug - Ha! Writing that down as a character.

Fiona - Okay, I picked "C" for you. Tell us about your book.

Doug - Easy Evil, yes.

Fiona - I think evil is darned easy.

Doug - You have the point of the book right there! My new
            protagonist  is a deputy police chief in a wealthy
            Chicago suburb...he's got a checkered background as
            an ATF agent. He thinks the PD job will be rubber
            chickens and golf, until someone shoots a
            judge and her daughter in their driveway. The task
            force that's called in takes off in one direction, but
            Harry Cork sees evidence that they're wrong, and the
            real culprit may be a professional killer. As he follows
            his theory, others die, and he discovers a money
            laundering scheme run by some nasty
            international thugs, and his past comes back to bite
            him in the tookus.               LINK

Fiona - In the tookus no less!                                              

Doug - Indeed

Fiona - And Reno Mc Carthy is your protagonist?

Doug - No, Reno was the lead character in the first two books...he appears in Easy Evil, but Harry Cork
            is the protagonist. Reno has a walk-on as himself.

Fiona - That was nice of you, otherwise his feelings would have been hurt. Well, Doug, thanks for
            playing along. It was great chatting!

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.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Do You Think Your Character Might Be Depressed? Psych 101 for Writers


Excerpt from WEAKEST LYNX

     “So how many Zoloft are you popping each day?” Dave gingerly set his coffee on the table.
    “That would be a fair indicator of how badly this guy’s getting to me. Right now? None.”
     “Nerves of steel?” He was in professional mode, eyes scanning me, assessing. It felt intrusive; I lowered my lashes for privacy.
     “Hardly. I’m trying to stay busy so when I fall into bed, I’m too exhausted to let the tap dancing in my stomach keep me awake.”
     “So Zantac, not Zoloft, keeps you together?”
     I focused on the mug I slid back and forth in front of me. “I guess.

What causes depression and how can you tell if your character might be depressed?

Depression (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are many reasons for feeling depressed. Some people are affected by the amount of light available in the winter (SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder), some people have an inherited propensity towards depressive episodes, while others experience depression following a traumatic experience. Medical issues such as thyroid disorders and diabetes can produce depressive symptoms. Also, brain trauma such as concussions or tumors can produce depressive symptoms. Researchers believe that depression is a physiological response to a hormonal disturbance (fewer neuro-transmitters such as serotonin.)

Depression is diagnosed when sadness is accompanied by helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness.

No Me Mireis!
 (Photo credit: El Hermano Pila)
According to the DSM V, a manual used to diagnose mental disorders, depression occurs when you have at least five of the following symptoms at the same time over a two week period of time:

* A depressed mood during most of the day, particularly
   in the morning
* Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
* Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
* Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
* Insomnia (an inability to sleep) or hypersomnia
   (excessive sleeping) almost every day
* Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all
   activities nearly every day
* Recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just fearing
* A sense of restlessness or being slowed down
* Significant weight loss or weight gain

NOTE: Your character probably won't demonstrate ALL of the signs. Pick five to work with.

Types of depression include:
* Major
* Dysthimia (chronic low level)
* Bipolar
* Seasonal (SAD or seasonal affective disorder)
* Psychotic
* Postpartum (many mental health workers include episodic depression related to the menstrual cycle, etc)

How might your character look?

Of course, your character will have her own way of expressing her depressed state. 
A depressed man sitting on a bench
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

* Flat affect - which means that the face is slack and
  does not register a normal range of emotion
* Weight changes which make clothing too tight or hang
    from their frames.
* Dark circles under the eye if the character is
   experiencing insomnia
* An unkept appearance which might include
  `Wearing the same clothes day after day without
    washing them
  ` Unwashed hair
  ` Unshaven
  ` Body odor
  ` Mismatched clothing
* The unkept appearance will extend to their home and environments
* Gray pallor
* Stooped posture
* Dragging gait
* Vacantly staring
* Frowning

VIDEO QUICK STUDY, TED Talk: We Need to Talk About Depression (9:30) Excellent description of what a character would feel/experience.
 How might your character act?

* Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
* Fatigued with decreased energy
* Not reactive to sound or interaction
* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, and/or hopeless/pessimism
* Insomnia or excessive sleeping
* Irritable
* Restlessness
* Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
* Loss of pleasure in life
* Loss of sex drive
* Change in appetite
* Persistent aches or pains such as headaches, cramps,
* Digestive issues that do not respond to conventional treatment.
* Feeling sad, anxious, and/or emptiness
* Lathargic gestures and movements
English: Human Experiences, depression/loss of...
English: Human Experiences, depression/loss of loved one (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Their eyes may be red or wet and blink infrequently
* Little to no social interaction
  ` ignoring computer or phone messages
  ` No visitors/isolation
* Suicidal thoughts or suicide

Your character may try to hide their depression by:
* Self-medicating (drugs/alcohol)
* Forced positive emotions like being on
   the stage and performing.
* Overly bright fake smiles
* Telling people that they have been ill - flu etc.

During this period your depressed heroine might be a target to nefarious characters because she may have diminished:
* Observational skills
* Ability to concentrate
* Time sequencing skills
* Concern for self-harm

Things that might help your character:
* A physical exam to rule out various medical issues
* Exercise
* Refraining from unprescribed drug use and alcohol consumption
* Nutritious food
* Caring friends, family, coworkers
* Meditation/yoga
* Therapy
* Medications

Zoloft (photograph)
Zoloft (photograph) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Common medications include (top 10):  
* Cymbalta
* Lexapro
* Effexor
* Zoloft
* Celexa
* Trazadone
* Prozac
* Welbutrin (anxiety) 
* Citalopram
* Pristiq
According to WebMD Link

Why Should My Character Have Follow Up Appointments With Her Diagnosing Physician

1. If a character is suicidal, but is too depressed to act on their ideations, 
    * They don't have the strength to carry through with the suicidal
    * Once the medications have started to act in the character's
       system, and they start up the hill towards
       recovery, the character might reach a point where suicidal 
       ideations and physical ability intersect and
       that can be disastrous. 
    * A monitoring physician might be able to intercede if this is
       disclosed in therapy. 
2.  Many people do not like the side-effects of the medications.
     * As soon as they start to feel better they stop taking their pills. 
     * The pills have an effect on the body system. 
     * If the character was taking pills to increase serotonin, for
        example, her body might stop producing
        serotonin on its own. 
     * When the patient suddenly stops taking the medication, they
        are often in a worse place than when they
        started. This could be a very interesting plot twist. ( Patients
        are weaned slowly and with careful
        monitoring from psychotropic meds.)

Should you recognize yourself in any of this information. Please seek help from your physician. Depression is a physiological disorder.

If you find yourself thinking about suicide please contact One of these National Suicide Prevention Hotlines
If you are a veteran, there is help specifically for you at this link to The Veterans Crisis Hotline 

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.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Duct Tape 101 for Writers


          Excerpt from WEAKEST LYNX:

          “Where did you find her?” Gavin asked.
          “The adjoining bedroom, on the floor, bound at the ankles and wrists. No signs of struggle. She was out when he tied her.” Dave’s voice sounded hollow and tight at the recounting. “At some point, she must’ve started to come around.  He gagged her with duct tape, wound it around her head a bunch of times. She worked it loose with her tongue - that’s what saved her life.

English: A roll of silver, Scotch brand duct tape.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like the idea of duct tape.
I can't tell you how many times it has come to my rescue - from taping my brake light back onto my car after I was rear-ended, to making this nifty pair of shoes. Kidding!

Found on FB, creator unknown
In novels and films, duct tape is a staple go-to for gags and binding. And why not?
* Duct tape is convenient
* The villain doesn't need to have a lot of  fancy-schmancy knot tying skills.
* It doesn't look strange to have duct tape in the car trunk where chains, cordage, and cloth strips might
   need an explanation.
* Duct tape doesn't leave marks like rope burns or handcuff bruising.

Sadly for us writers, duct tape does not live up to its reputation. Duct tape is actually a very poor choice. Since we here at ThrillWriting like to write it right, I want to debunk some of the duct tape myths.

Found on FB, creator unknown

So you're writing along and, oh no! Your heroine is in trouble! She was captured by the bad guy, and he wants to make sure she is secured and silent. He pulls out his roll of duct tape and sets to work.
* Duct tape mainly works on a psychological level like this horse tied to the plastic chair.
* Duct tape really does not provide much in the way of restraining capacity.
* If your character has a military or police background, it is highly doubtful that your character wouldn't
   know how quick and easy it is to escape from duct tape.
* If, on the other hand, your character is naive, young, and lacking in enough self-preservation to TRY to
   escape then perhaps your use of duct tape makes more sense.
* Maybe it's not your victim but your villain who is naive. Maybe the bad guy thought that the duct tape
Found on FB, creator unknown

 scenes in the movies were accurate. Well, then your heroine can laugh as she frees herself and makes her
* If your character is drunk or otherwise drugged, duct tape might just do the job.

Video (2:22) This is a newscast of a man restrained to his seat in flight to maintain the safety of the other passengers. The announcer asked a good question, why was someone on the flight traveling with a roll of duct tape? I see a plot twist.

Duct Tape Gags:
Found on FB, creator unknown

* A single piece of duct tape across the mouth has o effect, except perhaps as an irritant.
* Duct tape will not silence the victim; it will merely muffle the sound, no matter how many times you wrap it around.
* Duct tape gags can be be an asphyxia hazard.

   Please don't go playing with duct tape gags to
   test a plot point without proper help at hand.

* If your villain puts something in the victim's mouth to prevent sound or to increase the victim's tension level - such as a sock, rag, or panties - it is a high-risk choking hazard.

  Note: cloth in a taped mouth absorbs saliva, increasing the gagging reflex. This is a survival reflex and will trigger the limbic system to fight for life. Adrenaline and other hormones will flush the body. Cogent thought processes will be overridden as the victim panics. And as we know from Spyder McGraw in WEAKEST LYNX, "Panic will kill you. It makes you unable in mind and body."

Video Quick Study (3:17) Excellent demonstration of duct tape gags and their efficacy.

Duct Tape Handcuffs:

* Quick and easy to release.
* Can be done by slipping one hand out. This is easiest when the victim is sweating from adrenaline and has
   stretched the tape a bit. Video Quick Study (:36) Young boy duct taped to a tree wiggles out in less than
   30 seconds.
* Popping using the same technique I described in Breaking Out of Zip Ties LINK
   Video Quick Study (:19)
   Video Quick Study (:09)
   Video Quick Study (:19)
* Notice the length of the above videos. We are talking a matter of seconds to freedom. Granted, the last
   three were by rugged manly men. But the first was a young kid.
* Here's one where the man uses a twisting motion.
   Video Quick Study (2:13) Breaking the duct tape takes seconds.

Well, you say, they just didn't use enough duct tape. Here is a video quick study showing a man wrapped head to toe in duct tape like a mummy. Of course he knew he would get more oxygen in by breaking the gag first, but I guess his panting added to the drama.
Video Quick Study (2:40)

Taping someone to furnishings has the same effect.
* If the person is sober and willing to try (and willing to feel discomfort) then escape is a matter of minutes if
   not seconds away.
* Use the same techniques as with handcuffs, either rotate or pop.
* Duct tape may remove some hair and the top layer of skin, it doesn't even leave much of a red mark.
   Certainly not a welt.
* It is not particularly painful. When I was experimenting with this - and yes, you know I had to - it didn't
   bring tears to my eyes or even make me say, "ouch." If your character has experienced a salon eyebrow
   waxing, she's pretty much inoculated.

Found on FB, creator unknown
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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Monday, September 16, 2013

Bomb Squads 101 Information for Writers


English: Training with bomb robot 1
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


We watched the monitor closely; the robot stood flush with the case. A pincer reached out to twirl the locking system, using the combination that I had uncovered while behind the Veil. The mechanical arm moved with amazing dexterity, slowly releasing the catch, retrieving the papers and files. Axel wiggled the toggle and the robot zipped back to us with the booty. Again Axel maneuvered the machine to the case. The robot sent a video image to our laptop; I studied the screen until I could show Axel where the concealed latch protected the hidden compartment. We all held our breath while Axel maneuvered the motorized claw to release the hook. 

The following information was gathered from bomb squad members that I met at this year's Writers' Police Academy. Because of their undercover work, neither their names nor images can be used in this article. A bomb squad member is also called an EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) Technician. All EOD Techs come through the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama where they undergo an intensive 6 week training session.
* There are at least two people per responding team.
* Typically this team prefers nine members
* On this team, the EOD techs have other police duties and leave those duties to respond to bomb threats.

The Suit

Bomb Protective Suit is a little bit of a misnomer. Though it can help; it will not actually keep someone alive under all circumstances. What makes a difference in survivability?
* How close is the officer?
* How big is the blast? The concussion of the blast can be as deadly as the shrapnel.
* At five feet from the bomb survivability increases by 50%

I am all suited up at the Writers' Police Academy 2013

I'd explain this to you, but then I'd...  EOD Suit WPA 2013

 VIDEO QUICK STUDY - suit and safety features (2:54)

*Is made of various materials including Kevlar to prevent penetration and ceramic plates to help disperse the
Suit Components WPA 2012
  blast concussion.
* Cost? aprox 75k
* The suit weighs approximately 85-100 lbs.
   35 lbs for the trousers
   35 lbs. for the jacket
   8 lbs. for the helmet
   And boots.
   This suits allows little in the way of dexterity and
    agility. More armor might increase protection 
    but make movement impossible.
   (Though this guy is going to prove me wrong: VIDEO QUICK STUDY - dancing in a EOD suit 2:17)
   * The helmet includes a fan unit to help prevent  humidity from building up inside of the visor. But
      does not cool the person inside.
   * The suit has no cooling unit - considering the  weight of the suit, the body response to adrenaline and 
       physical activity, and the ambient temperature a bomb technician has about a twenty minute window
       of operational opportunity. 
   * If there is a possibility of a contaminant or bio-hazard, the team members have access to special suits
      that incorporate oxygen tanks (SCBA Self-contained Breathing Apparatus). These tanks add to the
      weight and loss of agility. These usually have about 45 minutes of air. That time period must include time 
      to "decon" (decontaminate).

VIDEO QUICK STUDY - Tools in use (3:53)
1. Telescopic manipulator - has a claw allowing a technician to work from a safer distance.
2. Ordinance disposal tools - the one we saw was approx. 35 lbs and could shoot the bomb. Also, there
   * robots with hooks, arms, car door openers, etc.
   * water jet disruptors
A Belgian Malinois of a police K-9 unit.
A Belgian Malinois of a police K-9 unit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
   * laser aiming devices, and so forth.
3. Remote viewing systems that might include
  * Borescopes
  * Videoscopes
  * Fiberscopes
  * X-ray technology 
4. Disruptors - can open up the package.
5. Bomb Detection Dogs
   * Dogs are typically taught to sit or lie down when
      they detect the scent.
   * Typically they are rewarded with a ball
   * Dogs are trained to the base component of
      explosives. Once they have these components
      any combination will trigger an alert. Dogs smell
      differently than humans if a human smells "stew," a
       dog  smells carrots, and beef and onion, etc.
WPA 2013 That's my scary  backpack.
 I named the robot  "Molly," because she needed a name.
6. Robots
   * Cost? Approx 125K and up
   * Depending on model, these are around 44 lbs.
   * VIDEO QUICK STUDY (3:41) 
   * Major issue is depth perception. That's
      why these techs practice, practice,
   * Information is transmitted via wireless to
      the  HAZMAT truck

Video Quick Study British EOD Tech talking about the "Long Walk" and assessment  (2:38)
For a bomb to go off there need to be three components:
1. Battery
2. Switch
3. High Explosive Charge
Disrupt any of these and you render the bomb inoperable.

Basic Techniques

(Techniques are kept secret so as not to train the attacker in better ways to succeed)
VIDEO QUICK STUDY - Suspicious Package Investigation (9:02)
1. Determine that there is a possible event. In the case of the technicians I was interviewing, most of their
    calls come from people who have found dynamite, or war souvenirs (WWII from granddad) and not
    from actual concerns about a bomb.
WPA 2013 Bomb Extraction Truck
2. Bring in the team and their trucks
   * Mobile Headquarters with gear also called
      HAZMAT Truck
   * Containment Truck
   * EMTs and fire
3. Clear the area to ensure the public's safety
   * Set up equipment this might include tenting if
      they believe bio-hazardous materials were
4. Suit up
5. Develop intelligence
   * They cannot use radio communication because it could set off the bomb.
6. Formulate a plan
7. Work the plan and leave.
   * If they are exploding something they yell, "FIRE IN THE HOLE!" three times.
   * Exploding the object is called "disrupting the device."
   * Counter Charge - means to put another explosive device on top of the suspected bomb and blow it up
   * Video Quick Study (4:50)

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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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Forensic Toxicology - Drugs and Poisons 101: Information for Writers



       I undressed in the bathroom. When I lifted the hamper lid, my peripheral vision caught a dark face reflected in the mirror. I gasped, my brain processing like a camera with an open shutter. Click. Tribal tattoos. Click. Gas mask. Click. Sink on right. Click. White cloth. Click. Sweet odor. Click. No alarm. Click. No help.
       While my mind snapped perceptions, my body acted from training. I lowered my hips to drop my weight for better balance and leverage. My left leg swung behind his. I bent my knee in a swift, sharp move as I reached over my head, grasping his shirt to put him on the floor.
        But the initial fumes I had sucked in made the room watery and undulating, melting my muscles and my instincts into useless puddles. My arms dropped ineffectually to my sides. One of his hands trapped me against him as I dangled, unable to hold my weight up with my legs, while his other hand smashed the cloth tightly over my nose. 

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Forensic Toxicologists study how animals are affected by drugs and poisons. They work for various independent companies as well as agencies.

Inside a forensic department there are typically two chemistry labs housed in different locations because of the potential for cross-contamination. There are:
1 Contraband Substances Labs
* Identifies substances in seized form
* Typically measured in gram and kilograms
2 Toxicology Lab
* Identifies substances that are found in urine, blood, and tissues
* Typically measured in micro-gram and nano-grams
What is a Forensic Toxicologist (1:50)

Some Useful Vocabulary:
A drug - single chemical or compound chemical that has psychological and or physical reactions on the
Medicine drugs
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Prescription
* Over the counter
* Recreational
   legal - such as alcohol
   illegal - such as heroine
* Natural - such as caffeine

A poison has life threatening 
Toxicology - The study of how humans and animals are
                affected by poisons or drugs
Forensic Toxicology - how the affect of drugs and
                 poisons have legal ramifications
Synergism - Forensic Toxicologist must be mindful
                  of Synergism - When two or more drugs or
                  substances work together to increase the effect such as
                  alcohol and barbiturates. Jimmy Hendricks, Janice
                  Joplin are two examples.
Pharmacologyy - the science of understanding the way drugs act
                  and the affects they have on a body
Pharmoketetics study of how drugs move - including how they get
                  into and out of the body
Absorption - how a drug gets into a body 
                        VIDEO QUICK STUDY Absorption and Dose (7:49)

 1. The drug can be inserted intravenously - shot directly into a
      vein/ the blood system. They can also be shot into a muscle 
      where they will enter the blood in a gradual manner.
 2. Orally - entering the body through the digestive tract
 3. Rectal insertion - crossing the mucus lining into the gastro-
     intenstinal tract
 4. Inhaled - such as for asthmatics or with a nebulizer or gas like
     carbon monoxide poisoning.
 5. Deramal - lotions and other products that are applied to the skin,
     but will not typically show up in significant quantities in the
     blood stream.
 6. Ocular

Distribution - almost always the product is distributed to the rest
     of the body through the blood/circulatory system. These do not
     circulate in an even way.
 1. The heart and liver - often have a higher concentration
 2. The brain - many drugs cannot get into the brain because blood
     networks in the brain are less permeable than other parts of the 
 3. Some products simply build up in the system. Pesticides, for
     example, build up in fatty tissues (adipose) over time. 
     Example of this is mercury in fish.

Metabolism - (broken down into metabolites) usually happens in
      the liver.
 1. Drug is deactivated with time.
 2. Body eliminates the drug
 3. Converts it into a substance that can be used for energy

Elimination - 
  1. Most is removed through urine (that's why urine testing is so 
  2. Feces
  3. Sweat
  4. Lactation
  5. Hair follicles. 
      VIDEO QUICK STUDY of hair toxicology (1:10)
  6. Exhalent VIDEO QUICK STUDY - A breathalyzer to analyze
       alcohol consumption (:50)

Poisonings can occur by:


  •   Child poisoning
  •   Storing improperly, putting a poison in an incorrect 
  •   Container/mislabeling
  •   Taking the wrong medication
  •   Taking one's medication multiple times during the day (do     to dementia, etc.)

  Adverse drug interactions

  •  An individual might have specific issues such as organ    damage that is exacerbated over time by taking certain     medications.
  •  Environmental causes such as radon or industrial chemicals
  •  Animals such as spiders or snakes
  •  Plants

  Overdose on recreational drugs VIDEO QUICK STUDY of street drugs and their forensic effects (9:52)

Suicide only fatal about 2% of the time but often results in organ 

An arrangement of psychoactive drugs
An arrangement of psychoactive drugs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In a living person signs of poisoning might include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • respiratory distress
  • change in skin coloration
  • seizures
  • blurred vision
  • slurred speech
  • mental confusion
  • swelling
  • Loss of consciousness

The severity of the reaction depends on many factors including:

  •  Size of the victim
  •  Health of the victim
  •  Amount of substance
  •  Duration of exposure

When deciding if this was a suicide or homicide investigators may utilize a forensic psychologist or death investigator to interview family, friends, and coworkers to put together a picture of their health  history, their state of mental health, and their history of drug use both legal and illegal.

Tests can be performed on the living or the dead.
Subjects who are living might be tested for some of these reasons:

  •  Pre-employment drug tests
  •  Randomized drug testing for public safety
  •  Athletes
  •  Crime scene - was a suspect under the influence?
  •  Victim of a crime - for example was a date rape drug used?

   Blog - How to Drug Your Victim - the Four Main Date Rape Drugs

Post-mortem Forensic Drug Tests are done by Forensic Toxicologist and/or Forensic Pathologist - medical doctors specializing in disease and chemistry.

In trying to determine the poison/toxin there are three main steps:

Sample - Postmortem Sampling List will probably look at:

  •       blood
  •       urine
  •       stomach contents
  •       bile and liver (site of metabolism for many drugs)
  •       brain tissue/spinal fluid
  •       vitreous fluid (from the eye) Even in a body that has                  already started to breakdown, this is often a place where             toxicologists can gather information because the eye is               more resistant than other tissues to decomposition.

Opium Presumptive Drug Test
(Photo credit: Jack Spades)

  •       fatty deposits
  •       hair - this is the longest lasting           source of a decomposed body.

Screen -
      * indicates a drug might be present
      * some drugs mimic naturally 
         occurring substance
      * Gas Chromotography VIDEO QUICK STUDY (1:12)
      * Enzyme Multiplied Immunoassay Testing
         VIDEO QUICK STUDY (2:06)
Extract -
     * concentrates the drug so it's easier to detect
     * removes other substances that might contaminate the results
     * Mass Spectometry VIDEO QUICK STUDY (7:59)
       qualitative and quantitative information is gathered

Please let me know if you have any questions, and I will do my best to help.

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.