WPA 2012: Jail Time

 

 

 

An old view through old bars.

 

The first evening of Writ­ers Police Acad­emy, I was lucky enough to draw one of the lim­ited spaces for the tour of Guil­ford County Jail.  It’s a new facil­ity, and much needed.  The pre­vi­ous facil­ity expe­ri­enced extreme over­crowd­ing, to the tune of  two hundred-plus inmates who were bunk­ing on the floor.

The new jail is clean, bright, state-of-the-art, but grim.  That last sur­prised me, though I’m still not sure why.  I haven’t spent much time in pris­ons (read “any”), and what I’ve seen in the movies and on T.V. didn’t seem to touch the real­ity.  Hol­ly­wood builds with an eye to viewer reac­tion.  Real jails are built with an eye to security–bottom line–and you can feel the loss of options the fur­ther you go into the facil­ity.   It’s there for only one pur­pose: to house poten­tially dan­ger­ous peo­ple securely.

One of the first things I learned–and again, it’s some­thing I thought I should have known–is that jails are for peo­ple await­ing trial or who have been sen­tenced for a short dura­tion, typ­i­cally less than a year.  Pris­ons are there to hold peo­ple with longer sen­tences.  Jails are run by county sheriff’s depart­ments.  Pris­ons are run by by the Pris­ons and Cor­rec­tions office in each respec­tive state, or by the fed­eral government.

Another thing I hadn’t con­sid­ered is the type of work the offi­cers han­dle as part of their assign­ment to the cor­rec­tional facil­ity.  There are no “light duty” assign­ments, per se.  You’re pro­cess­ing peo­ple in or out, or walk­ing the lev­els, or over­see­ing the inmates dur­ing their “free” time.  It’s a full-time, on your feet, always-on-the-alert gig. The only per­son who gets to sit a desk is the offi­cer assigned to the Con­trol Room.

 

The Control Room

The Con­trol Room
Cour­tesy of Triangle.News14.com

From there, the entire jail is mon­i­tored, the ele­va­tors are con­trolled, and the cell doors can be oper­ated.  As you can see, the walls are made of secu­rity glass.  It’s a fish­bowl in there.

 

Cell Row
Cour­tesy of Triangle.News14.com

 

The pop­u­la­tion isn’t housed accord­ing to what they’ve been charged with.  They’re housed based on behav­ior or need.  So the candy bar thieves are cheek to jowl with the child pornog­ra­phers and the mur­der­ers.  Four to a room.  All just wait­ing for their court date, or their sen­tenc­ing date, or for the case to be dropped, or to be trans­ferred to a prison.

It’s clean.  Spot­less, actu­ally.  It needs to be.  With an enclosed pop­u­la­tion, dis­ease spread­ing would be a dis­as­ter.  For all of the off-white paint and bright over­head lights, it’s bleak.  The sense of wait­ing is pal­pa­ble.   It’s full of the pass­ing of time.  Time weighs heavy, presses against the walls.  It’s an accu­mu­la­tion you can feel, and not only because of the pris­on­ers gath­ered in the com­mon room, or pressed up against their cell doors watch­ing through nar­row win­dows, but it’s also car­ried in by the fam­i­lies and friends in the lobby, wait­ing for their 15 min­utes of glass-partitioned vis­it­ing time.

Sher­iff BJ Barnes gra­ciously allowed us to tour the facil­ity as part of WPA, and I’m grate­ful he allowed us to dis­rupt his exceed­ingly pro­fes­sional staff for an hour.  As a writer of crime fic­tion, it was a invalu­able expe­ri­ence to see the offi­cers work­ing on the var­i­ous lev­els, learn­ing the intake process, hear­ing an inmate hoot and holler and bang clois­tered behind one of the “inci­dent room” doors, and see­ing how direct con­tact super­vi­sion worked in real­ity.  As a cit­i­zen, it was even more valu­able to learn the real­i­ties of cor­rec­tional facil­i­ties.  It’s not some­thing we, as a gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, know any­thing about … out­side of fiction.

I will admit to being glad when we left, relieved to step out­side into the fresh, soft North Car­olina night.  It felt good to look up and see some­thing other than stark white ceil­ings, to smell the dense green veg­e­ta­tion and not the faint-but-layered aroma of old gym socks, bod­ies and disinfectant.

The out­side is a good place to be.

 

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Writers Police Academy 2012

20120920-163531.jpg

Com­ing into Greens­boro, North Carolina

 

What do Greens­boro, human traf­fick­ing and foren­sic inves­ti­ga­tion have in com­mon?  The always awe­some Writ­ers Police Acad­emy, that’s what!

Last week, I returned to the south­east to learn what it is cops, EMTs, and foren­sic anthro­pol­o­gists do.  Research, research, research.  And what fab­u­lous research it was!  The sun was shin­ing, unlike this time last year when we had the fall­out from a trop­i­cal storm and a ver­i­ta­ble del­uge.  We couldn’t have asked for bet­ter weather, or bet­ter people.

Friday’s sem­i­nars included:

  • Human Traf­fick­ing
  • Cold Cases and the Real­i­ties of Investigation
  • Build­ing Searches (we got to suit up for this one)
  • Inter­views and Investigation
  • Foren­sic Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, by Dr. Eliz­a­beth Murray

And in the evening:

All of this is on the first day.

Saturday’s sem­i­nars included:

  • A re-enactment of a felony stop com­plete with car chase and shoot-out.
  • Sui­cides, Hang­ings and Auto-Erotic Death Investigations
  • Police Gun­fight­ing
  • EMS and the Crime Scene
  • Crime Scene to Court: Evi­dence Han­dling and Chain of Custody
  • Work­ing the Court­room into Your Thrillers, by Mar­cia Clark
Sat­ur­day night was the ban­quet, com­plete with a spe­cial appear­ance by Mayberry’s favorite deputy, and spe­cial guest speaker Lee Child.  He was an incred­i­ble, gra­cious speaker, and it was a plea­sure to hear him talk about our type of sto­ries … the thriller … the proto-story.
More detail on var­i­ous sem­i­nars to come, includ­ing a bit about my tour of Guil­ford County’s jail.  Stay tuned .…

 

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That Old Rascal, Time

It’s been almost a year since I posted. Not quite, but close enough for gov­ern­ment work. I’ll admit that writ­ing life, cou­pled with work life, tan­gled up with fam­ily life sucked the blog­ging life right out of me.

But it’s a new dawn, a new day, and I’m ready to poke at all those top­ics that once drifted to the top of mind like sweet smoke of a camp fire, only to dis­si­pate as the winds of another busy thing blew through. There are thoughts to pon­der and, I hope, dis­cus­sions to be had.

Let’s do the blog thing!

– kn

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Writers Police Academy, Pt 1

Begin­ning of autumn, not that you could tell by how warm it was.  Cen­tral North Car­olina.  Eight o’clock in the morn­ing.  Run­ning on not much cof­fee.  Simone and I at the Writ­ers Police Acad­emy: Day 1.

Kath says warm; Simone says, “The rea­son I would never live in North Car­olina ever again.” It was only about 85 degrees. It felt like 95. The rain felt like we were stand­ing under the place where God and the angels hang around wring­ing out their sweaty bas­ket­ball clothes at the end of a good pick-up game.

This was a dream come true for me.  I love being a writer, and I love dig­ging into the research I get to do as part of writ­ing.  I’ve been like a sugar addict in a candy store for the last six months with all the police pro­ce­dure and inves­ti­ga­tion research­ing we’ve done for our WIP.  Just ask any­one, they’ll say I’ve been giddy with it. Giddy!

Giddy! 

The Writ­ers Police Acad­emy, orga­nized by the fab­u­lous Lee Lofland (buy his book!!), is a com­bi­na­tion of hands-on learn­ing and sem­i­nars taught by active duty offi­cers and some of the lead­ing experts in the fields of inves­ti­ga­tion and foren­sics.  It’s an amaz­ing three-day oppor­tu­nity to learn what’s real and what’s prime time television.

Les­son #1:  The first thing we were told?  Real police and CSI techs do not wear high heels or even mod­er­ate heels.  Or tight skirts.  Sorry, Detec­tive Beckett.

Let’s get it right.

It is not nor­mally this dark at 8AM in September.

 

We watched the clouds deepen and darken as we gath­ered in the EMT train­ing bay at Guil­ford Tech­ni­cal Com­mu­nity Col­lege and Pub­lic Safety Train­ing Acad­emy.  The wind shifted, and our instruc­tor for Fire Equip­ment, Bob Halpin, said, “Let’s keep mov­ing, the rain’s com­ing in.”  I shrugged.  I’m from Seat­tle.  What’s a lit­tle rain between friends, right?

We toured the fire­house set up.  Got a good look at fire engines and the fire­fight­ers’ gear …

Shiny!

 

Then the heav­ens opened.

This was no end-of-summer shower.  It was a del­uge!  The only other time I’ve been in rain this heavy and per­sis­tent was when Simone and I were in Florida.  What is it with these south­ern rainstorms?

Being a stal­wart and relent­less researcher, not to men­tion a cocky Seat­tleite who shugs off rain as a mat­ter of course, I chose to take the Shal­low Grave Crime Scene work­shop first while Simone went to her appoint­ment with the Firearms Train­ing Sim­u­la­tor (or F.A.T.S).

Okay, the Firearms Train­ing Sim­u­la­tor is amaz­ing. And yes, I won­dered when I’d get to shoot the lit­tle girl car­ry­ing the chem­istry book like in Men in Black (“What is she doing in this neigh­bor­hood?”).  But the sim­u­la­tor was more sophis­ti­cated than the popup tar­gets and laser-tag I had been expect­ing. We were issued real, mod­i­fied Glocks, and walked through live action video. A con­troller (and our extra­or­di­nary sup­port per­son for the train­ing) would decide in real time if our words or actions affected the sim­u­la­tion and could change the video reac­tion on the fly–a bit like the ani­ma­tion from an old video arcade game. Our guns inter­acted with the screen, and the com­puter assessed whether we hit or missed, and, if we hit, whether or not the hit would affect, inca­pac­i­tate, or kill the tar­get. Some­times no shoot­ing was called for. Some­times you could save every­one except the sus­pect. Some­times only shoot­ing VERY ACCURATELY could give you a bet­ter than hor­ri­ble outcome.

The ana­lyz­ing part of my brain loved observ­ing how the sim­u­la­tions used shout­ing and amped up ges­tures to stim­u­late adren­a­line and get us exam­i­nees more involved in what would oth­er­wise be a “video game.” Sev­eral of the peo­ple I observed were really tense. 

Les­son #2a: The trig­ger on the weapons we were given can only be pulled if your fin­ger fully engages it.

Les­son #2b: Aim­ing metic­u­lously and try­ing to fire from the side of said trig­ger gives your part­ner time to shoot sev­eral other things in the envi­ron­ment. Inno­cent, video squir­rels suf­fered that day.

Les­son #3: If given a choice, wait for the bomb squad. If not given a choice, bemoan­ing your fate to the instruc­tor only makes him giggle.

While Simone was off shoot­ing bad guys, those of us want­ing to check out dead bod­ies hud­dled in the pagoda out­side the train­ing facil­ity in our var­i­ous states of water-repellent pre­pared­ness while we waited for the storm to pass.  It didn’t.

Did I men­tion we were stalwart?

 

Cross­ing the Line

 

We tromped through the grass and sticky red clay mud to get to the body of Sonja, a young female man­nequin who had been dumped in a shal­low grave.

No man­nequins were harmed in the deploy­ing of this shal­low grave.

If I ever wanted to know what it was like work­ing a crime scene in pour­ing rain, in muddy, crappy con­di­tions, now I know.  The REI water­proof jacket failed.  The hat failed.   Also, iPhones take even crum­mier pic­tures when the lens is wet.  The good thing?  The rain kept down the smell of decom­po­si­tion which in turn kept away the corpse-loving bugs. Despite the tor­rent, we found evi­dence galore.

Les­son #4:  Rain screws with crime scenes, yes, but that doesn’t mean all evi­dence is washed away.

This is totally going into our next book.

Note to self:  Next year, bring a change of clothes.  And boots.  Lee did warn us.  He really did.

After that, I met a (com­pletely dry) Simone at a Blood Stain Pat­tern­ing sem­i­nar taught by Dave Pauly, Direc­tor of Applied Foren­sic Sci­ence at Methodist Uni­ver­sity, Fayet­teville, NC.  We learned about angles of descent, the need for pre­sump­tive test­ing, what meth­ods can be used to reveal a blood stain, and just how much a blood stain can tell an inves­ti­ga­tor.  The answer is ‘quite a lot.’  And that high school math you thought you’d never use?  It comes in very handy when look­ing for the area of con­ver­gence and the angle of impact.  Who knew?

How blood lands can tell an inves­ti­ga­tor a huge amount about what occurred. Copy­right: howstuffworks.com

 

Les­son #5:  Scrub­bing away stains with bleach won’t remove the pres­ence of heme (as in hemo­glo­bin).  Nei­ther will scrub­bing off and paint­ing over a spat­tered wall.  Also, sprayed blood hides every­where.  Every­where.  

“We pulled up the base­board, and sure enough …” –Dave Pauly 


Com­ing up, Part 2!  Fin­ger­print­ing, Impres­sions Evi­dence, and Foren­sic Psychology.

 

PS  Lee Lofland is a retired police offi­cer and one hell of a blog­ger.  You can read his true stores, his reviews of the TV show Cas­tle, and find out more about the Writ­ers Police Acad­emy at The Grave­yard Shift.

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Review: Gone, Baby, Gone

Gone, Baby, Gone
Gone, Baby, Gone by Den­nis Lehane

My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

Gone, Baby, Gone is the fourth of Den­nis Lehane’s series with PIs Patrick Ken­zie and Angela Gen­nero. Fourth, and so far, arguably, the best.

While the story took me a good 50 pages to get into, once Patrick and Angie take the case, that of a miss­ing child, the emo­tional stakes sky­rocket for both reader and char­ac­ters. And it just never stops. There are more twists and turns to this plot than an dirt road wind­ing through a treach­er­ous ravine, but always the twists were log­i­cal, and always com­pletely believ­able. At one point, I set the book down, think­ing, “I have no idea how they’re going to make it out of this one.”

In Gone, Baby, Gone, our cen­tral char­ac­ters’ strengths are given a gen­er­ous hand, but so too are their flaws. Mis­takes are made, good peo­ple fal­ter, bad peo­ple tri­umph, and the reader is left try­ing to decide if jus­tice was done; if the truth was worth hold­ing up to the light. In fact, while he’s busy break­ing his char­ac­ters’ hearts, he’s break­ing ours as well. The sub­ject mat­ter, the endemic neglect and abuse of chil­dren in Amer­ica, hits every­one with the weight of a freight train, and none are left unscathed even if some are left stand­ing. Lehane asks hard ques­tions, and expects his reader to at least think of possibilities.

Yes, it’s a mys­tery. Yes, it’s a thriller. And yes, Gone, Baby, Gone is so much more. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.

Lehane just keeps get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter. I am in awe.

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The Worst We Can Do

I don’t know why it took me so long, but I’ve dis­cov­ered a kind of dark sto­ry­telling magic that occurs in con­flict.  Bad things hap­pen­ing to (some­times) good peo­ple?  Yeah, that’s where the juici­ness of story is cre­ated.  That’s where char­ac­ter arcs are born and raised.  That’s where it all happens.

Nes­tled into the folds, pinned to its edges, lay­ered three strata deep, con­flict is the story.  It’s what pushes every­thing along. It’s the under­pin­ning of fic­tional uni­verses.  Inter­nal con­flict, exter­nal con­flict, both/and.  My favorite recipe is a lot of both, with nicely com­pli­ment­ing fla­vors and a side of success.

The trick is to make it mat­ter, to make it rel­e­vant.  I find this is harder to do in game plot­ting than it is in novel plot­ting, because play­ers are an unruly lot.  It took me far longer than it should have to fig­ure out that if my players/readers don’t have buy-in to the stakes, my intri­cate plot won’t mat­ter.  And if the indi­vid­ual char­ac­ters don’t have buy-in, the players/readers won’t have buy-in.  The cen­tral con­flict has to be rel­e­vant for each and every per­son par­tic­i­pat­ing.  Reader or gamer, it’s exactly the same.  They have to care.

And yet we want our char­ac­ters, play­ers, and read­ers to be happy, and most peo­ple aren’t happy when faced with oppo­si­tion.  So we don’t go there.  As writers/plotters/schemers we soft pedal, we make nice, we let our char­ac­ters be com­fort­able, we don’t kick up the sand­box … and it ends up being bor­ing.  There are no stakes in “nice” except the one of los­ing what you have, of mess­ing up the sta­tus quo.

That’s our job as sto­ry­tellers though, to embrace the Destroyer arche­type, and make the sit­u­a­tions dire, to give them every­thing and to take it away, and to let them reach for some­thing new in turn.  It’s our job to push char­ac­ters beyond their skills, beyond their means, beyond their com­fort zones, and to not be afraid if they hate us.

Because when they succeed–in small ways in the mid­dle or hugely at the end–that’s the pay­off.  That’s where the accom­plish­ment comes in.  That’s where char­ac­ter and player and reader say, “I made it, and I’ve grown, I built some­thing new, and this really mat­tered.”  That’s where the sat­is­fy­ing rich­ness is born.  And they can’t get there with­out hav­ing first been to hell-and-gone.

I was think­ing of my very first “favorite” book, Jane Eyre.  From the out­set, Bronte placed Jane in a sit­u­a­tion where she had noth­ing going for her but her indomitable spirit, and her truth to her­self.  She’s given friend­ship and sup­port, edu­ca­tion, true love (now I think it’s high-handed manip­u­la­tion, but that’s a whole dif­fer­ent issue), sta­bil­ity, money and pas­sion.  Time after time, it’s all ripped away.  In the end, she’s given every­thing she orig­i­nally thought she wanted … and has to make a choice between it (the social sta­tus quo), or who she is and what makes her happy.

It’s her strug­gle to get to that point which is the story.  If she had every­thing she wanted to begin with, she’d have stayed with Mrs. Reed, John, Eliza and Geor­giana.  No story there!

What is it your char­ac­ters have that you can take away?  What makes them strug­gle?  What makes them unhappy?  What pushes them past the edge of who they think they are?  And the impor­tant flip side … where can they succeed?

Do it!  What’s the worst you can do?  What holds you back from cre­at­ing deep and mean­ing­ful con­flict?  I’d love to know.

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The Balance of All Things

All right, so it’s not the bal­ance of all things, merely cer­tain aspects of my life.

This week­end, Simone and I fin­ished what we call the first reader’s draft of our sec­ond MS.  ::incred­i­bly happy dance goes here::  The story has seen a fair whack of revi­sions already, and we’re to the point where it’s time to let other eyes peruse it, and tell us what they see.  After we have some time away and feedback/crits in our emails, we can assault it with fresh brains.  Which is awe­some.  I love this part of the process, because it’s like magic.  Take a cou­ple of weeks away from the story, add a dol­lop of feed­back from our gen­er­ous and stal­wart cri­ti­quers, then see what cool things emerge.   And while the MS is out hav­ing adven­tures, I get to dive into all the things I haven’t done for the last … well, a while.

For instance, gar­den­ing.   Or, catch­ing up on the five dif­fer­ent TV shows I’ve missed entire sea­sons of.  And there’s my poor fam­ily who would like some atten­tion.  And respon­si­bil­i­ties like clean­ing the fish­tanks, or mak­ing sure no one starves because I’ve neglected to buy gro­ceries for three weeks straight.  Which reminds me, I need to buy gro­ceries.  Or maybe I’ll clean the house.  It hasn’t had a deep and mean­ing­ful clean since Sep­tem­ber, which is, not coin­ci­den­tally, when we started work­ing on this story.  And in a few days, Simone and I will start on the Phase II revi­sions of our first MS.

You see how it goes.

It’s true that I some­times groan and whim­per at all the things I want/need to do, and won­der why, why, why I can’t be inde­pen­dently wealthy so I can write 40 hours a week, instead of work­ing out­side the house (this moan­ing does not take into account awe­some health ben­e­fits), then I’d have all that other time to do things like gro­ceries and gar­den­ing.  Which is, I believe, what most artists/writers/dancers/creation-gurus/every-day peo­ple want.  Why can’t we just live the life we love??

Then it dawned on me, and I’ll be the first to admit, I’m some­times slow on the uptake.  I am liv­ing the life I love.  For cry­ing out loud, I’m writ­ing NOVELS!  Two, so far, and many more to go!  I get to col­lab­o­rate and cre­ate with a bril­liant, insight­ful, delight­ful, won­der­ful friend on an almost daily basis.  I get to play with words, and weave sto­ries together, and do research, and go on site tours, and take the Seat­tle Police Department’s Com­mu­nity Acad­emy, and dream up new and delight­ful ways to make my char­ac­ters suf­fer or find redemp­tion or fall in and out of love–or all the above!

There’s a gra­cious lot of AND in my life.

Do I wish I had more hours in the day?  Of course.  Don’t we all?  But I can’t say I’m not liv­ing my dream, because I am.  Every day that I sit down and work on a story, I’m liv­ing my dream.  And for now, my day job pays for my real job, and that’s really much more than all right.

As for all the rest of life?  It will work out.  It always does.   And therein lies the bal­ance of all things.

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Review: A Drink Before the War

A Drink Before the War (Kenzie & Gennaro, #1)A Drink Before the War by Den­nis Lehane

My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

I think the Boston Sun­day Globe said it best, “Harsh and chill­ing … an absolutely ter­rific story.”

This is the third Den­nis Lehane story I’ve tucked away and I have to say, the man can write. I only put the book down to get some sleep, and fin­ished it as soon as I could the next day. The story is solid, his char­ac­ters deep and never dull, the loca­tions as defined as his char­ac­ters. And even if I was pretty sure how the end­ing would come out–and I was right–I still wanted to know Ken­zie and Gen­naro would get there.

This was writ­ten 15 years ago, and yeah, I know, I’m behind the times.  Hap­pily, for a reader who doesn’t know much about the cur­rent Boston, the story has weath­ered very well.  I don’t know how much has changed locally in the bet­ter part of a gen­er­a­tion, but the top­ics Lehane hits go well beyond local, and well beyond our own neigh­bor­hoods, and they still seem as ram­pant today as they ever were.

I’m look­ing for­ward to Ken­zie and Gennaro’s next case, which I’m going to start … right about now.  Time for some more of Mr. Lehane’s excel­lent storytelling.

Has any­one else on my FL read much of Lehane?  If so, what did you think of him?  If you haven’t, what has stopped you from read­ing his work?

View all my reviews

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The Chosen One

To pub­lish tra­di­tion­ally or to self-publish?  That seems to be the ques­tion at the fore­front of writ­ers’ minds of late, if the writing/publishing blog-o-sphere is any indi­ca­tion.  I’ve been rumi­nat­ing on the topic for the last few weeks, and finally decided to set some thoughts down.

The big hoopla right now is, of course, over Amanda Hocking’s suc­cess.  She’s the poster child for the self– or indie pub­lish­ing route, hav­ing sold over 900,000 copies of her books since 2009, all via Amazon’s Kin­dle.  For us writ­ers not (yet) part of the Old Skool sys­tem, her suc­cess is, we’re told, our suc­cess.  What she’s done, we can do.  No Big Six Houses need apply.  Right?

Hmm.

One of my favorite entre­pre­neurs and mar­ket­ing mavens, Seth Godin, took a recent dive into the Indie Pub­lish­ing fray (he swims in it reg­u­larly):  “Reject the Tyranny of Being Picked:  Pick Your­self.” In it he posits that the big pub­lish­ers, “… the gatekeepers–the pickers–are reel­ing, los­ing power and fad­ing away. What are you going to do about it?

It’s a cul­tural instinct to wait to get picked. To seek out the per­mis­sion and author­ity that comes from a pub­lisher or talk show host or even a blog­ger say­ing, ‘I pick you.’ Once you reject that impulse and real­ize that no one is going to select you–that Prince Charm­ing has cho­sen another house–then you can actu­ally get to work.”

As much as I reg­u­larly love Mr. Godin’s insights, I’m not sure this one works for me.  There are many excel­lent rea­son authors seek to be pub­lished by tra­di­tional houses, ones that go far beyond “it’s the way it’s always been done,” or hav­ing an “author­ity” val­i­date their work.  In fact, being cho­sen by an agent, an edi­tor, a pub­lish­ing house … that’s only part of the equa­tion.  Authors also choose.  And that’s what turns the process into a partnership.

The world of tra­di­tional pub­lish­ing is pop­u­lated by peo­ple who know what has sold, what is sell­ing, and what will prob­a­bly sell in the future.  They know how to sell.  It’s their job to know, and it’s that acu­men, that abil­ity to spot good–or at least entertaining–stories, and get spines on shelves that com­pletes the loop, secur­ing them, their houses, the agen­cies and the authors a pay­check.  That’s their CV.  That’s how we choose them.

Tra­di­tional pub­lish­ing brings some­thing to the table.  It seems to me that it’s up to the author to decide if what a house offers is right for them.

Ms. Hock­ing just signed a four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press.  On her blog, she explained:

Tra­di­tional pub­lish­ing and indie pub­lish­ing aren’t all that dif­fer­ent, and I don’t think peo­ple real­ize that. Some books and authors are best sell­ers, but most aren’t. It may be eas­ier to self-publish than it is to tra­di­tion­ally pub­lish, but in all hon­esty, it’s harder to be a best seller self-publishing than it is with a house.”

As far as I can tell, pub­lish­ing no longer has to be either traditional/or self-.   It can be a both/and depend­ing on what the author wants out of it.  We’re in an age of pub­lish­ing options, and those options are grow­ing every minute. There seems to be no right answer, there seems only to be the answer that is right for you when the time is right.

What’s impor­tant to you?  What draws you toward self-publishing, indie pub­lish­ing or tra­di­tional houses?  What makes you shy from one or the other?  What do you want out of pub­lish­ing?  I’d really love to know.

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Review: The Treatment

The TreatmentThe Treat­ment by Mo Hay­der

My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

Mo Hayder’s book, The Treat­ment is the sec­ond in her series with DI Jack Caf­fery, and shows Ms. Hayder’s grow­ing com­mand of the pro­ce­dural thriller. Tech­ni­cally? This book is an incred­i­ble exam­ple of its genre. The story is tight, inter­wo­ven, com­plex and incred­i­bly compelling.

It’s also incred­i­bly brutal.

I only made it halfway through the book before I had to call it quits. I was so caught up in the story, even with tensely antic­i­pat­ing how much worse it could get for both present and past crimes–and yes, sit­u­a­tions COULD get worse, and often do in her books–that Hayder’s sto­ry­telling con­tin­u­ally sucked me back in. Even­tu­ally, though, I found the crimes depicted were so heinous and the suf­fer­ing of the vic­tims so drawn out, that I put the book down. Did I want to know if the vic­tims made it out? Yes, because in the world of DI Caf­fery, there’s no guar­an­tee that good, or even jus­tice, pre­vails or that any­one makes it out alive. Even so, I didn’t want to steep my brain in the tor­ment of the vic­tims for another 150 pages before some sort of res­o­lu­tion might occur. I con­sider myself fairly hard-core when it comes to mur­der in crime nov­els. With this one, though, my wal­low­ing in tor­ment reached its limit.

The three stars reflects me hav­ing to put it down, but for sheer effec­tive­ness in writ­ing, for the abil­ity to make you care for the victims–and even for the enor­mously flawed Caf­fery himself–I wish I could have given Mo Hayder’s The Treat­ment the full five stars. The female char­ac­ters are extra­or­di­nary strong and strongly-written–victims, cops, girlfriends–and that’s always a bonus for me in the male-dominated cop-thriller genre (or any genre, for that mat­ter). Also, Hayder’s themes of fam­ily, indi­vid­ual brav­ery, and the stran­gle­hold of per­sonal his­tory are rich and com­pelling. They sim­ply weren’t enough to get me through the rest of the torment-steeped pages.

The novel is phe­nom­e­nally well done, and maybe some­day, when I don’t find my but­tons pushed, I’ll read the sec­ond half of The Treat­ment.  I’d love to find out what hap­pens, and how deep into the abyss Jack Caf­fery has to descend before he and the vic­tims find a way out.

… unless every­one ends up dead.

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