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Mar 18

My First Guest Author, John Wills, Returns and Talks About his New Release

MA: Today I am pleased to welcome back not only a veteran guest-blogger, but the first author who appeared as a guest when I launched my blog two years ago. John Wills “guested” with me back in November 2009, and you can go back and read that original interview here: Fellow Writer John Wills is Mike Angley’s First Guest-Blogger! John and I are fellow, former law enforcement officers, and it was through this affiliation (and via a website called PoliceLink) that we met and networked to join the same publishing house a few years ago. John, welcome back! Please tell us about your law enforcement career because I know it has shaped your life and it has informed your writing.

JW: I spent 33 years in law enforcement, including the Chicago Police Department and FBI. That background was a natural springboard for me to write about what I had been doing most of my life. As an FBI agent, much of your time is spent writing things such as affidavits for search and arrest warrants, interviews with witnesses and informants, etc. The problem is that once you’ve created a document it has to go up the line for approval, sometimes all the way to FBI headquarters. By the time it returns to you it hardly resembles your first draft. Once I retired I felt the bonds of oversight were severed and I was free to create whatever I wanted. One caveat . . . if a former agent writes a book, the manuscript must first be approved by the FBI. Why? The Bureau must ensure that no active cases are being written about and no covert techniques or national security issues are compromised.

MA: With such a broad LE background, you must have had a lot of experiences to draw from in crafting your fiction, right?

JW: I had thousands of stories knocking around inside my brain from my time on Chicago PD as well as with the FBI. I began writing professionally as soon as I retired, confining myself to articles on officer survival, firearms, ethics, and training. To date, I’ve had more than 100 articles published on sites such as Officer.com and LawOfficer.com, as well as several print magazines. But those articles were non-fiction; I was interested in telling some stories and giving them a twist that would engage the reader emotionally.

MA: I’ve read your first two books which I thoroughly loved, tell my readers about the series itself.

JW: I created a fictional series, The Chicago Warriors™ Thriller Series, in which two Chicago Police detectives investigate not only the violent crimes they are assigned, but often times the political machine that is part and parcel of Chicago. The books are part of the mystery/thriller genre, but with a twist. Both characters rely on their faith to see them through the challenges that big city police work presents.

MA: Now, you don’t have a single protagonist in your stories, rather, you have two. Tell us about them.

JW: The male protagonist, Pete Shannon, is an amalgamation of several cops and agents I’ve worked with through the years. The female detective, Marilyn Benson, is based on a real FBI agent who I helped train in my years at the FBI Academy. I’ve also continued to mentor her since she is still an active FBI agent. Both characters are very strong, tactically. I’ve ensured they utilize the proper firearms and street survival tactics. I think it’s important to be correct in describing police work of any kind to ensure authenticity and credibility. In terms of their weakness . . . they are both heavily invested in personal relationships, including friendships. This sometimes has a pejorative influence on how they react to certain situations.

MA: And what about antagonists?

JW: Each book in the series has its own unique bad guy, including bad cop(s). That’s how I bring a fresh perspective to each story and create a bad guy that my readers have to flesh out as the story progresses.

MA: I know from your real police work that you were involved in a whole lot of action, so how did that makes its way into your stories?

JW: Yes, I’ve been involved in several shootings, been involved in SWAT operations, execution of search and arrest warrants, and of course, experienced many of the challenges in my own life that I transfer onto my protagonists.

MA: You have a new release in the series, so please tell us about that and what else you are working on.

JW: I continue to freelance, writing articles for magazines and websites. I’ve written several award winning short stories and have had others printed in several anthologies. I’ve also contributed several stories to a daily police devotional entitled, Cops on The Street, which was released in December.

I am working on a new novel, non-fiction, entitled, Women Warriors: Stories from the Thin Blue Line. The book will be a collection of true stories, written by the women who’ve lived them. I include not only female police officers, but also corrections, dispatchers, chaplains, and prosecutors. If any of your readers know of a woman who might like to share their story in the book, which will be released sometime this fall, please direct them to my website; http://johnmwills.com/

In my latest release, TARGETED, I’ve brought the FBI into the story which may allow me to take a totally different direction in future novels.

All of my books are also available in eBook format on both Kindle and Nook.

MA: John, thanks again for coming back to my website. I wish you well with the new release and with all your writing endeavors.
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Mar 06

Stepping Away from Fiction for Something Real: Help Find Nadia Kersh

Sometimes in our lives tragedy strikes in ways we could never contemplate in advance. The terrible news we read about everyday always seems to be about someone else. When similar events happen to us, we are always caught off-guard, never prepared, and we struggle to make sense of it.
God has His plans. We all know that, and we cherish Him when His works seem to fit our plans. When the unthinkable happens, we are always left to wonder where God was at the time. Was He looking the other way? Did He not see evil coming and try to stop it? We may never know the answers to these questions, but we must rely upon our faith to sustain us.
I spent a career in the United States Air Force as a criminal investigator, and while I saw plenty of tragic things, none ever came too close to home. I was always affected by the cases I worked, and I knew with each sad story I investigated, that I would never be the same. Every victim of every crime has had a place in my heart. My inspiration for writing fiction comes from them. But they were all people I never knew in their lifetimes. Our introductions came with terrible news.
One of my friends from my Air Force days, Kevin Kersh, is going through a tough time. For two years, he and his family have been seeking answers to their daughter’s disappearance. Nadia Kersh disappeared on November 3, 2008 in Alabama. Kevin and his family have been searching for her since, with few clues to guide them. She left behind her son, Kevin’s grandson.
While Nadia has never been found, a person in Alabama will stand trial soon for her murder. That is important, but not nearly as important as finding Nadia and bringing her home. The Kersh’s have not given up their search. What parent could? I hope that by writing about their story, someone with information about Nadia’s whereabouts will come forward and do the right thing. You can learn more about Nadia and her family’s determination to find her here: Help Find Nadia.
I urge my readers to visit the Kersh’s website and help out if you can. If anyone has information about Nadia’s disappearance, now is the time to speak up. Thank you.
Mike Angley
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Jan 26

Something We All Hope for: Avoiding Rejection, an Article by Mary Deal

Avoiding Rejection
by
Mary Deal

The following tips are some that have been reconstructed from a handout I gave at one of my workshops for writers already far along in their manuscripts. On the registration form I asked what each attendee would most like to learn. Surprisingly, the frequently mentioned information pertained to feeling insecure about submitting once the manuscript was finished, and how would they know it was ready for submission.

In order to help avoid rejection of your manuscript, you need to think through what you’ve created. Start by analyzing these points before submitting.

Does your story start off strong enough to grab a potential reader’s attention?

Does your plot contain enough twists and turns to keep the reader from knowing the ending beforehand? Or is your story so predictable that it might be boring?

Does any possibility exist that you’ve created a story that creeps along, when it should fly and keep the reader turning pages?

Do you know the difference between a slow moving, arduous read and a story that moves like lightning where the reader has difficulty keeping their eyeballs in their sockets?

Have you included your own opinions in the plot sequences instead of allowing the scenes and characters to write themselves?

Are you preachy and trying to make a statement concerning something in which you believe and wish to share? Have no doubt. It is a definite turn-off and will show in your writing.

Have you developed your story to its fullest potential? If not, that would be the same as a detective having four clues and investigating only three. Whatever happens in your story, make sure you cover all aspects and possibilities of each scene.

What about your narrative voice? Is it different from your characters’ dialogues? Does it sound realistic or forced?

Always be careful of clichéd writing, and the use of stale jargon. Use only the most recent language of the time period of your plot that people in real life would use if they were your characters. To have a story taking place in present time, but using age-old language just doesn’t work. That’s unless the author shows that their particular story requires it.

Does each and every scene pull in the reader? Are the scenes developed so the reader knows when and where things happen and how the characters fit into that scene? In other words, have you written the scenes well enough so the reader will feel a part of it all and not know that they sit in a chair reading a book?

Do you have the appropriate beginning, middle and ending? As already stated, the beginning should grab the reader’s interest and make them want to keep reading. The middle may sag if you’ve simply tried to flesh out the story by adding inappropriate information that doesn’t feed into and forward the plot. The ending should be dramatic or contain the element of an Aha! experience. Whatever the experience, the reader must feel satisfaction for the characters when the story concludes.

Are your characters’ dialogues commensurate with the types of people you’ve created them to be? Do all your characters sound the same? Even if all your characters share the same backgrounds and social status, you must make each of them unique. One of the easiest places to accomplish this is through their dialogues.

As with the story line, the same applies to the characters. Are they lackluster predictable types?

Do your characters perform to the best of their abilities while moving through the plot? They can be demure to dastardly, but whatever they are, make them true to type and the best that they can be for the situation in which you’ve placed them.

Have you had your finished manuscript edited by a new set of eyes, preferably professional ones? A relative or friend critiquing your manuscript just isn’t enough – unless the person is an English teacher, perhaps.

Too, here’s something I do:

I have my final manuscript in one long file. I do a search for various important words that I may have used throughout the book. When I find too many of one word, I replace some of them with a different word or phrase with the same meaning. To read the same words too often begins to make the writing seem amateurish, as if the author had not seen the inside of a dictionary or thesaurus.

Lastly, these are some suggestions that should be thought through before submitting your work to agents or publishers. This information also applies to short story and novella writers, even some nonfiction. Much of this information may have crossed the mind of the writer way before getting to the end of the writing phase. In that case, that author is a huge step ahead and their manuscript will show it.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Nov 10

Mary Deal Shows How to Move from Novella to Novel

Novella to Novel
by
Mary Deal

How I produced my first full length book.

Writing a novella follows the same general guidelines as for writing the long short story or novel.

For quite a while, I wrote and published short stories, poetry, and other brief prose. Many of the pieces received critiques in a number of Internet workshops. I kicked around a lot of ideas for writing longer stories, maybe a novel.

My thoughts were that since I practiced multi-genre writing, surely I could produce a novel. After all, I maintained a long, long list of tips for writing a story.

When some of us in an online workshop decided to experiment with Interior Monologue, the idea of a person caught alone in a rip current gave me an Aha! experience. It was, after all, fresh in my mind because I had just survived being caught in a rip current at Ke`e Beach on the North Shore of Kauai.

I was alone in the water with my thoughts while the current threatened to pull me toward the North Equatorial Current!

I would write my own interior monologue, my self-speak, and fictionalize it to suit the heroine’s predicament when she thought she could be a goner. What a spectacular story that would make! Thus, Caught in a Rip was born.

Again, I entertained the idea that writing a book couldn’t be much different than writing a long short story. Who was I kidding?

After I posted the novella of my experience, translated to my character’s plight, for review and critique in the online writing workshop, the story and my writing received a rating of 10 from each and every reader.

Still, I was faced with the fact that big publishing houses were not accepting novellas for publication. Nor is a single novella the same as writing a book.

At that moment, having written only a novella, writing a book seemed a daunting task.

Getting this novella completed was fun.

Then I hit on the idea of writing another of my short stories into a second novella. For the moment, writing a book slipped from my mind.

I had been on a ketch in the Caribbean that almost sank in a sea storm. Banishing the thought that my long stories wouldn’t be published, Child of a Storm was written next.

Then, returning to the idea of writing a novel, I was in a quandary as to how these stories helped with writing a book. These two novellas still weren’t long enough when combined to call them a novel.

Simply, I had two novellas, as different in content as any multi-genre writing.

Publishers didn’t want to see either, separately or together, and two weren’t long enough to break apart into a trilogy. Not that publishers accepted trilogies at the time either.

In pondering the idea of writing a book, I needed to pull these stories together. Their similarities were that both dealt with living in the tropics, one story in the Caribbean, one in Hawaii.

Both were written from my own life-threatening episodes at sea.

The stories being related gave me another Aha! experience.

I conjured the idea of interrelating the two separate main characters, giving each of them their own story but having the women as good friends. The only thing left to do was bring them together in writing a third story, completing the trilogy.

This was bending the rules of the standard format for writing a book, but, well… perhaps not.

I wrote the third story, Hurricane Secret, loosely at first. I knew that I had to have threads from each story intertwined in the others. That is the beauty of writing fiction.

I then went back through each story and wrote in some threads that I left dangling. In writing jargon, that means I did not totally wrap up the action at the ends of each novella, even though each story can stand alone. Instead, I left questions unanswered. After all, readers would know more intrigue was to come because there was much more of the book to read.

Another important element was that I began the time period of Child of a Storm much earlier and had the two women meet in the first story. Then the timeline in each story progressed forward, as did the ages of the characters.

Caught in a Rip takes place in a much later time period, perhaps two decades later.

In the third story, Hurricane Secret, all the threads have been woven toward the climax and denouement. And yet, each story stands alone and could be published alone, but I finally had a book-length work.

For over a year, I submitted the complete package to agents, seeking representation. I received only rejections. If the agents commented at all, most stated that this was not the kind of project their agency represented, in spite of saying my query letter and other documents were well-written and the stories sounded exciting. Without being told, I felt they were rejecting novellas in particular.

During the search for an agent that lasted about a year and a half, I began to research my Egyptian novel, The Ka. My first completed novel was finished. I now felt I could write one story into a full book.

After a string of rejections longer than my arm, I decided to publish The Tropics using print-on-demand.

Though I was extremely pleased with the outcome of The Tropics, when I thought about writing The Ka, an entire novel composed of one story, I knew then that I would really be writing a book.

Still, it doesn’t matter which format you choose when writing a book. All of it amounts to experience. In order to learn, you must get the words out, no matter what you may write.

The most widely known procedure in writing a book is to produce one continuous story, beginning, middle and ending. But, as in everything, there are deviations.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Oct 22

Tree/House Author, Jessica Knauss, Visits with Mike Angley

MA: My guest-blogger today is Jessica Knauss. Born and raised in Northern California, Jessica has become something of a wanderer who hopes to settle down soon. She has worked as a librarian and a Spanish teacher. She lives with her husband Stanley, with whom she plans to open a soft-serve ice cream shop in the future. Jessica has participated in many writer’s groups and workshops, including the International Writers’ Program at the University of Iowa. Her nonfiction has appeared in Medieval History Magazine, Hortulus, LL Journal, and an encyclopedia entitled The World and Its Peoples. To date, she has published fiction in Bewildering Stories, Do Not Look at the Sun, (Short) Fiction Collective, Full of Crow Quarterly Fiction, Sillymess, This Mutant Life and Short, Fast, and Deadly. Her poetry can be found at Haggard & Halloo, Apollo’s Lyre and The Shine Journal. Her novella Tree/House, about a woman’s awakening through sleeping in trees, is available at Amazon. Açedrex Publishing will release her poetry chapbook, Dusk Before Dawn, in September. Get updates on her writing at her Facebook page.

You have been very busy with all your writing projects!

JK: I came out of the womb with a pencil in my hand. In grade school, I could hardly be bothered with math, but let all other experiences influence the stories that just kept coming out of me unbidden. I grew up in Northern California, close to the Redwood forests, near the foggy grey beaches, and gained a sense of awe at nature and a strong isolation from civilization that shows up in all my work. I studied a lot of subjects, mainly Spanish, because my love of Spain sprouted spontaneously one day when I was about 11. I’ve been a librarian (love those books!) and a Spanish teacher in the beautiful cities of Boston and Providence. Somewhere along the way I lost sight of creative writing, but have now taken it up again with complete seriousness. The stories and characters were patient. They knew I had to come back to them some day.

MA: Was your decision to write novels a conscious, formulated one, or did something simply inspire you?

JK: The novels chose me instead of the other way around. For me, being a writer consists of taming the wild muse and making a craft out of a formless mass of creativity I’m re-learning to tap into.

MA: So tell us about Tree/House.

JK: My novella, Tree/House, is a timeless coming-of-age story in which a woman, Emma, has made terrible decisions throughout her life, allowing herself to be led around by anyone with more force of will. When the husband who took her on dies suddenly, she slowly turns her drifting into a direction, learning some shocking truths along the way. She could not go through this process without Geraldine, a vagrant who camps on her property, sleeping not in the barn or the stable, but in the wild old trees. Geraldine is in need of some emotional rehabilitation herself, but with her assertive personality, she helps Emma see the alternatives to the passive life she has lived. The novella has a slightly nineteenth-century feel to it, because the characters write letters, build libraries, and trek through the countryside on foot, but at just 28,000 words, it’s a fast, fun read that will leave you time to read it again! It’s perfect for book clubs and discussion groups or just sharing with friends.

I also have a poetry chapbook that recently released, called Dusk Before Dawn. This is a compilation of most of my poetry from over the years, and I’ve put them together in a trajectory that addresses the nature of language, the search for love, the nostalgia of place, the creative process, and, most importantly, personal identity. Some are like stories, and others a very lyrical. They make a nice companion to Tree/House, as they address many of the same issues.

MA: Emma sounds like an intriguing character. How did you go about developing her in the story?

JK: One of the lines from what ended up being the third chapter came to me in a bolt of sheer inspiration. It’s when one of the servants on the estate is telling Emma some unsavory truths she didn’t know about Geraldine: “Do you know she killed the cat, aimed for the stable boy and slept with her boss?” The protagonist at that point was merely a receptacle for this information. Emma’s character grew out of the way she reacted to Geraldine’s extravagant style. The antagonist, Franklin, grew out of that passivity in a natural way, creating the drama organically.

MA: Would you say Emma is a strong character? Is she flawed at all?

JK: I’m afraid Emma is all weakness: confused, not confident, no direction, no definable talent, and worst of all, led easily astray. She represents any woman who finds herself at a crossroads, and I think her indecisiveness and insecurities make her very sympathetic for readers.

MA: Do you have a definable antagonist, or is Emma challenged by many characters because of her weaknesses?

JK: Franklin, who ends up as Emma’s husband (and then brutally murdered in revenge for past misdeeds) is very dangerous because he knows how to manipulate her, all while she believes she is making her own choices. His praise of Emma seems unfounded and bizarre, just like the rest of him. He seems to have sprung out of nothingness to impose an ancient order on her disorganized life. He is a jailer and a neglecter and represents every thing evil and intransigent, at the same time that he opens a new world of literature up to Emma. His gifts are awkward, beautiful only in a certain light, and I hope the reader feels as weird about him as I do.

MA: Is there any of Jessica’s real life story in Emma?

JK: Absolutely. Because of the organic development of the plot, Emma’s predicament reflects the trapped feeling and self-doubts I was going through at the time. The writing and sending of letters comes directly from my experience, and I think it increases the feeling of isolation as she’s trying to make a decision about what to do with her life. I had a terrible experience with a wrinkled wedding dress that I make Emma go through with a little more naiveté, and I had a friend in college who told me that eating French fries gave her the hiccups, so thanks for that tidbit! (I’m not sure she would want me to broadcast her name, but she knows who she is.) Franklin turned out as a Bluebeard type. He has elements from just about anything I felt stifled me in the past, including, of course, old boyfriends! I think all this leakage between life and fiction, unintentional or otherwise, helps give the story psychological realism the reader can really get into.

MA: Now that Tree/House and your book of poetry, Dusk Before Dawn, are out, what’s next on your writing horizon?

JK: I’m striking out into territory that may seem very different by writing a historical novel set in tenth-century Spain and based on an epic revenge poem. It’s full of battles, glittering armor, and exotic locales. It’s not really a departure for me because I have a PhD in Medieval Spanish, and, continuing the feminine theme of my previous work, the story has female characters who know how to manipulate the society in which they live.

I’m always working on weird short stories, and waiting for that bolt of inspiration for my next longer work.

MA: Will Emma come along in future works?

JK: Tree/House readers have said they would love to spend more time with the characters. I have considered writing the further adventures of Geraldine, or even a prequel showing how she really got to be the fascinating woman she is in Tree/House, but nothing concrete is on the writing schedule. Read More

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Oct 06

“Talk the Talk” Sage Advice from Mary Deal

Talk the Talk

Is your dialogue authentic?

I write mysteries and watch some reality cop shows listening for police techniques and jargon. It’s a way of keeping stories in the now, exciting, up to date and understandable by readers. With an open mind and ear, you can learn how to make your characters act like the police or the perpetrator. You can learn search techniques or glitches in the schemes of wrong-doers. All of this knowledge enhances the reality of the stories you write, not just mysteries.

When writing dialogue for each character, it’s important that each person in the story have their own personality. When speaking, no two characters should sound alike. So it’s important to make a cop sound like a cop and a perpetrator like a perpetrator. It’s important t make these characters sound authentic in any story.

Especially, dialogue is critical in defining character personality. Here is a piece of dialogue I heard when watching Manhunter:

“Do you have an eyeball?”

The scene was a stakeout. Lenny DePaul, on one side of the building, was asking Roxanne Lopez at the corner of the building, if she had a clear view to the doorway where the perpetrator might appear. In another show, I heard “Do you have an eye?”

A book I recommend where you can find police jargon if you’re not into scrutinizing TV shows is Cop Speak: The Lingo of Law Enforcement and Crime, by Tom Philbin.

Here are some examples from the book that can easily be incorporated into dialogue:

Flashlight roll = A police technique of rolling a flashlight across a doorway of a dark room to illuminate the interior.

Make a canoe = Do an autopsy.

Catch a stack = To rob someone who turns out to have a lot of money.

Grounder = An easy case to prosecute; also known as a ground ball.

Mutt = Police term for a person with very poor character.

Hello phones – Telephones that informants use to reach their police contacts.

Still more of the terms and definitions in this book run from hilarious to dead serious. You can find any term explained and some mean far more than you think they do.

If you want your stories, especially mysteries to sound authentic, this book or other similar ones listing terminology and definitions will greatly enhance your writing and dialogue. Make them part of your instructional library.

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Jun 25

Police Psychologist and Author, Dr. Ellen Kirschman, Goes On the Clock at the Child Finder Trilogy

My very special guest today is Dr. Ellen Kirschman of Redwood City, California. Dr. Kirschman is a licensed clinical psychologist who has specialized in police and public safety since 1978. She is the author of two books I Love a Cop: What Police Families Need To Know-Revised (Guilford, 2007) and I Love a Firefighter: What the Family Needs to Know (Guilford, 2004).

Dr. Kirschman is a member of the psychological services section of the International Association of Police Chiefs, the police, public safety subdivision of Division 18 of the American Psychological Association, the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology, the International Law Enforcement Trainers Association, the Public Safety Writers Association, and Mystery Writers of America. She has published more than a dozen articles and book chapters about police stress, the psychology of recovering from critical incidents, and strategies for consultation to organizational issues in law enforcement. Her essay “Bare Butts and Bare Souls” was included in the anthology What Would Sipowicz Do? Race, Rights and Redemption in NYPD Blue (Ben Bella, 2004). She and Dr. Lorraine Greene are co-developers of policefamilies.com, named web site of the month by the American Psychological Association.

She provides psychological consultation and peer support training to many local and federal public safety agencies, police, fire and probation. She was co-facilitator of the Trauma Team Training Institute for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from1996-2008.

Dr. Kirschman has appeared on a number of national radio and television programs. She has been an invited guest at four national conferences on police psychology sponsored by the FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit. She is listed in Who’s Who in American Women and was once named Woman of Distinction by the Police Chief’s Spouses Worldwide.

Dr. Kirschman currently devotes her time to training and public speaking, including guest lectures at the Hong Kong Police Department and the Singapore Police Force. She volunteers at the West Coast Post Trauma Retreat, a peer-driven, clinically guided retreat for first responders with PTSD. Read More

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Dec 09

A Most Fascinating Author, Laura Elvebak, Visits With Mike Angley

My guest today is quite an impressive woman! Laura Elvebak is the author of the Niki Alexander mystery series. Laura was born in North Dakota, but raised in Los Angeles and San Francisco. She draws from her nomad kind of existence in various cities throughout Baja California, New York, Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania before settling in Houston with her three children, now grown. Along the way, she studied writing at UCLA, USC, Chaffey Community College, and Rice University. Laura optioned three screenplays to a production company and a fourth script placed second in the Empire Screenwriting Contest. Laura also wrote, directed and acted in a play staged in Houston. She is a member of The Final Twist Writers, Sisters-In-Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Whew! That’s quite a list of accomplishments. Read More

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