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

Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

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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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Human Memory and Eye Witness Accounts - Information for Writers


Excerpt from WEAKEST LYNX -

     “Wilson’s stable. In police custody at Suburban. He’s being charged with breaking and entering with intent to harm, and possession.”
     I waited for the rest of the charges.
     Striker pursed his lips.
     “Wait. What about six murders and an attempted murder?” My voice squeaked.
     “The D.A. is having trouble putting together a case. The original six were linked to you by the MO. We have no evidence. None. Though they’ve been working on developing the case since your attack.”
     “But what about me? I saw him. The neighbors saw him. We confirmed the police sketch. Surely…”
     “Subsequent to seeing him, you sustained a traumatic brain injury. The defense can shred your eye-witness report on the witness stand. Same with the neighbors. They were running in the dark. Could be a look alike. There were no prints, no DNA, no motive linking you two. They need something more or they can’t make the case.”

THE INNOCENCE PROJECT "Many wrongful convictions overturned with DNA testing involve multiple causes: 75% involve eyewitness misidentification... Prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective defense, police misconduct and racism are harder to quantify but were also factors in many of the wrongful convictions that have been overturned with DNA testing." 

75% of wrongful convictions involved eyewitness misidentification? How is this possible?

The first thing that needs to be understood about memory is that humans do not process events like a video recorder. We process information based on focus, intensity, and past experiences. 

All of our individual past experiences form "schema" in our memory banks. As we encounter information our brain looks into its schema-files and develops an understanding based on what it has experienced before.
When one remembers an incident the various past schema can overlap and mingle. The witness memory can be crystal clear - but it might not be the reality of what took place.

The dorsal stream (green) and ventral stream (...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Four Types of Memory

* Cognitive - These are sequences and patterns.
* Motor Vestibular -Body memories such as
   playing a instrument or driving a car
* Emotional/Affective - These are memories of
   feelings like grief and fear.
* State - These are memories from the senses. State
   memories seem to be the most helpful in developing
   a  clear picture of what occurred. PTSD plays from
   this memory - a certain smell or noise can trigger a
   physical reaction. Auditory memories are less reliable than visual
   memory. But  as a plot twist, an author should understand that
   witnesses are more confident in what they hear than what they

The Stages of Memory 

''Note that in this diagram, sensory memory is...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Short Term - Unimportant data that is processed in the now. If
   the brain deems something to be important it moves the
    information into long term memory.        
* Long Term - Can be retrieved from past events. One's ability to
   recall depends on how information was processed. Processing
   depends on which of the four types of memories or which
   combination were used to interpret and "cluster" (this is basically
   a filing system).

The more significance-in-the-moment and the more types of memories involved create the clearest and most accurate memory picture. As a writer, think about your character. As she remembers something, which of her memory types is she using? For example, does she cognitively recall the fear that slowed her sequence of her actions when she smelled the smoke? Could she be making a profound mistake because she clustered the schema and now has a faulty memory? Did she remember the man saying, "I will kill you!" when she was really merging the event with a nightmare she had had just the night before?  

Remember that no two people could ever remember an event from the same perspective. It's just not possible. What if your characters had completely different memory schemas of an event? Wow - all hell could break loose!

VIDEO QUICK STUDY - (9:02) FALSE MEMORY AND EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY                                             interactive, very interesting!

So we know that people will perceive with four different kinds of memory. They will either store in their long term memory, or not. They will develop a schema based on their past experiences and cluster these in their memory banks. But what are some of the components that might interfere in a clear and accurate memory? 

A list of possibilities:

* Beliefs
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)
* Stress levels
* Cross Racial Identification Bias
   Brains are wired to identify distinctions in our own
   race but NOT other  races. 
* Distinctive Aspects - People will remember
   particularly attractive or especially unattractive
   physicality better than "average" looks.
* Age of Witness - Children and elderly are less
  accurate and their descriptors might be different as
  well. Example: to a five year old "really old" could
  mean someone who is in their thirties.
* Gender - Men and women remember different
   aspects because of how their brains are wired. A
   man, for example, might remember the make and
   year of a car while a woman might remember that
   it was blue.
* Profession - Ex. an artist might have a better ability
   to recall the face structure while a physical
   therapist might notice a posture or unusual gait.    
* Drug or Alcohol Use
* Head Trauma - As in the excerpt from Weakest
* Weapons Focus Effect-If there is a weapon present
   the witness focus remains on the weapon (duh) and
   not on anything else in the environment.
   (LINK - Blog about my experience as a eye witness
     in a simulation)
* Attention - A victim or bystander will pay more
   attention to details if they are aware of what is happening
   than someone who is not aware that something is going on. Even
   if the witnesses are very attentive and good with faces, it is hard
   to find the words to describe a person. Try this experiment - think
   of someone you know very well, now try to describe out loud
   their features so that someone could draw them
   (Witness recall and Police Sketch Artists)
* Setting - Full day light, face full on, length of time of incident
   and time when recalled. 20 min can cause a sharp decrease in the
   number things that can be remembered.
* System Variables - These are police and legal procedures that
   can introduce bias.

In the 1977 Supreme Court decision in Manson v Brathwaite (Information Link)  - It was determined that eyewitnesses are allowed to testify if they are very sure of testimony. If they are unsure it is up to the judge in the case whether to allow or not. Psychological studies have shown that the degree of certainty does not correlate with accuracy. 

Many countries realized that innocent people were going to jail based on false witness memory - remember the witnesses can be 100% sure of themselves. They are not in any way "bad"; it is the way that memory works that makes eye witness testimony so very difficult. In 1999, Janet Reno was tasked with trying to develop procedures to help prevent some of these false-memory reports.

If your book takes place AFTER 1999, it should reflect these changes:

* Police ask open ended questions. Instead of asking, "Did he have
   a gun?" thus planting the memory of a gun, the police should ask,
   "Do you remember a weapon of any kind?"

* Police should pause before asking another question, giving the
   witness a chance to think about a situation and perhaps remember
   another detail - This is one I used a lot in my counseling practice:
   Ask. Answer. Wait.

* The police should inform the witness that they can say, "I don't
   know." This helps to prevent the witness from trying to fill in the
   blank with information that is being pulled from a different

* The police, when possible, should physically walk the witness
   through the crime scene. This might trigger memories from the 
   "state" memory bank.

* Careful use of Police Lineups - A line up, either in person or with
   photos, should be done in a double-blind scenario. The officers 
   who are conducting the lineup should not know who the suspect
   is. This stops the voice inflection and body language tells that are
   picked up by the brain of the witness ex. "Are you sure that's the 
   right guy?

  VIDEO QUICK STUDY of Line Up Experiment (1:45)
         spoiler - none of the photos were of the criminal
  VIDEO QUICK STUDY - Line Up and False Memory (4:35) The
         students were extremely sure of
         themselves and would have, under the Supreme Court ruling, 
         been allowed to testify. Watch their faces
         as every single one of them realizes that they were wrong.

Relative Judgement - when a witness tries to pick the person who most closely aligns with the memory of that person. To prevent the witness from feeling that they HAVE to make an identification the officers should say that the subject MAY or MAY NOT be in the lineup. Also, the members in the lineup should be presented sequentially one after the other and one at a time. Witness will compare the suspect to the mental picture and not use relative judgement.

Fillers - the other people in the line-up should look similar. If         the suspect had dreadlocks then the fillers should have dreadlocks. If the witness picks a filler, then it should be noted that their recall
might be questionable. 

         VIDEO QUICK STUDY Comparing with Filler (3:00)
         Shown through an experiment and description

How can your heroine help?

During a crime the heroine could look for anything that is unique and difficult to shed or change such as:
        * Body-type (height, weight), tattoos, scars, focus on ears and
        * Movement - limps, postures
        * Voice - lisps, unusual accents or speech patterns

As soon as possible - and without talking to ANYONE ELSE the heroine should sit down and write down all of  the details that she can recall - She could write them, sketch them, or even call and leave a message recording so she can retrieve the information later.

Try this mini-experiment:  Eye Witness - How Do You Stack Up?

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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Sunday, June 30, 2013

K Nycole Lee - Sword Geek - and Her Chronicles of Koa

      Nycole - Good evening!

Fiona - Hola! How are you tonight?

Nycole - Very well, thanks!

Fiona - Pull up a chair; I have a fresh pot of coffee - help yourself - So! Let's talk books.  You have a futuristic
           vampire book, with human pets. Can you give my blog readers a quick overview of your story?

Nycole - The Chronicles of Koa takes place in two worlds. The mortal world (our world) and the Netherworld 
          (the land of supernatural creatures.) Koa is a half-blood. She is half-human and half-vampire. Such a
          creature has never existed, and this makes her a target for a Netherworld serial killer and the King of the
          Netherworld Vampires. Such danger poses a threat to all that Koa knows and loves. Koa's mother is
          cursed, she fears for the safety of her human pet, Ian, and she can sense that her best friend, Halston,
          knows more than he reveals to her. Whoa! Was that brief? Haha!

Fiona - This is a woman? And her name is Koa?

Nycole - Yes! Her name is Koa.

Fiona - And is she working for the government - she's trying to
           keep order?

Nycole - She works for the Netherworld Division along with her
          best friend, Halston...who happens to also be her boss.
          The agents of this division patrol all supernatural activity
          and strive to provide a peaceful coexistence between 
          humans and vampires.

Fiona - Did you base this Netherworld Division on some
           peacekeeping/policing done in our "real world" or did you
           create it all for Koa's story?

Nycole - I would compare it to similar organizations that we have
            such as the CIA, but the Netherworld Division has total
            power over their practices. If a vampire chooses not to
            register and live a life free of killing and violence, they
            will be terminated. You cannot hide from the 
            Division. There is a system for such things. There are
            humans that are willing to sell their services and become
            "pets." Think of them as mistresses to the vampires.
Fiona - How do the vampires eat? And, Ian is her boy toy? LOL!

Nycole - They drink from their "pets." Or from farmed blood. Yes.
            He is. But Koa has her sights on someone else.

Fiona - The vixen! Good for her! LOL                                                   

Nycole - LOL!

Fiona - So when you were conceiving of Netherworld Division - did you do research into how the 
           CIA functions?

Nycole - The only research came from movies and television. Most of their tactics are a
           collection of ideas I had from dreams. Most of my real research was focused on Roman
           and British military strategies. But that deals more with the Netherworld portion of the 

Fiona - I'd love to hear about that. Here at ThrillWriting, we like to see writers write it right.
           And so it's fun to understand how authors of paranormal and sci-fi create their worlds 
           and yet keep them recognizable and accessible.

NycoleOh yes. I have a slew of Roman history books detailing the origins of their empire as
           well as their advanced military tactics. In the Netherworld, things are more scientifically
           advanced and yet they do not have the natural resources we have such as flora and 
           fauna. With that said, you'd think you were in Ancient Rome due to their architecture and
           style of dress. Most of the research went into such aspects. Another major area I    
           studied was Hebrew and Greek mythology. You'll see where that ties in when you learn 
           Halston's secret.

Fiona - And the sword? can you tell me about its significance to the story?

Nycole - Yes! I'd like to call myself somewhat of a geek when it comes to swords. Koa's is a 
           sword forged in the black fire of the Netherworld by the fallen angels. Instilled within its 
           blade is the skill and power of every person that it was passed down to. Her father gave 
           it to her, which raises questions of how he got such a weapon that doesn't even belong
           in the mortal world.

Fiona - A sword geek! I've never met one. How does one become a sword geek? Are you
           trained in martial arts?

Nycole - I am not trained. I wish! I just have a fascination with swords from different cultures. I 
           think a sword is a beautiful weapon, and in my story, not even a gun is more powerful
           than the Lyrinian blade!

Fiona - From my experience, a sword doesn't move through the air and make slices the way one 
           might think. A sword in the hands of a master looks light and effortless. In reality, it's 
           heavy and cumbersome - and really difficult to fight with. Did you get to play around with 
           various swords before you wrote about how the Lyrinian Blade was used? And can I just
           say the name you gave it sounds like "lyrical" - as in music and dance - so it sounds 
           graceful from the beginning.

Nycole - Yes ma'am! Exactly. When Koa uses the Lyrinian blade she is instilled with power and
           left in a trance that resembles a dance. I have handled many swords and I understand
           how the grooves become engrained in your palm and how heavy it can be. Koa has 
           mastered her skill. And she has the strength of her father...a vampire.

Fiona - Got it. Very cool. Nycole, thank you  so much for stopping by for a chat today! 

Nycole - Excellent! Thanks again! This was fun!


K.N. Lee is an American author who resides in North Carolina. She enjoys writing fantasy and horror novels and short stories. She also writes poetry and does a great deal of promoting other authors on her websites. When she is not cooking traditional Asian meals for her friends, she travels the world and practices foreign languages.

Her works include, The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld, the dark poetry collection, Wicked Webs, and the collection of short stories, Thicker Than Blood. She lives with her two dogs, Raven and Rocco. AMAZON LINK TO THE CHRONICLES OF KOA
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