Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Disaster of Your Choosing



By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine


In recent days we have witnessed several disasters. The Big Island in Hawaii seems to be exploding on a greater scale each and every day. Homes are being swallowed up by the slow moving lava flow, the air is filled with poisonous gases, and sudden explosions send large molten boulders flying through the air. In the Gulf of Mexico we have a large tropical storm headed our way. Not sure if it will remain a storm or develop into hurricane strength as it comes ashore. And in Ellicott, Maryland they are experiencing a flood of disastrous proportions. It was preceded by a 2016 flood which was of such great destruction it was dismissed as a 1-in-1,000 year event. This flood of 2018 has shown to be even greater.

Disasters, whether natural or man made, are a part of our life. As writers we have the opportunity to tell the story of the disaster, it’s hardship on the individuals and the heroism that most often comes from the most ordinary people. In doing so we must be mindful of our many choices and directions we can take. It has been said, “As a river in flood cuts an oxbow and the over-full dam over flows so problems left unsolved take their own course. No one can predict the shape the cataclysm will take.”

As writers we not only can tell the story but develop the problem, the reason for the problem as well as the shape the cataclysm will take. I recently saw a disaster movie and was taken with the talent of the writer as they developed each small disaster which was created as a byproduct of the larger one. It was one of those developments where I was beginning to feel sorry for the poor hero. It seemed he would never overcome the next challenge but of course he did.

As we witness these disasters, which seem to be on a daily basis, let’s consider the shape the cataclysm will take. The problem, the reason for the problem and the many outcomes that are possible. You can develop it as you go. All are you’re choosing.           


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Minding Our Modifiers




By Judith Nembhard


Teaching Freshman English made me aware of two of the least talked-about linguistic errors. Sometimes as I graded papers, I chuckled at the unintended humor of some of the students’ dangling and misplaced modifiers. I began collecting examples of “DMods” (our department’s correction symbol for the error).           

What is a dangling modifier anyway?  Find a college handbook (if you don’t Google everything) to get a working definition. In my trusted Practical Stylist, Professor Sheridan Baker exhorts: “Don’t let your modifiers or references dangle” and gives a succinct tutorial. These are words, phrases, and clauses that “tend to slip loose from the sentence and dangle, referring to nothing or the wrong thing.”  An example: “When only a freshman, Jim’s history teacher inspired him.”  A freshman as teacher? How inspiring!             

Careless placement of modifiers often results in confused sentence meaning. Example: I saw several beautiful pheasants on a hike to Soda Springs yesterday.

Hiking pheasants are an unusual sight. Example: The Police Department will be notified of all reported prank phone calls by the telephone company. Which telephone company makes prank phone calls?            .

Seasoned writers can be guilty of faulty modifiers. In my collection is a Washington Post article by an acclaimed writer whom I admire immensely. Here is a sentence from the article. “But before entering high school my father died (I had already lost my mother several years before).”  Such a calamitous situation! Newspapers provide abundant examples. Here’s one from a 1986 “Personalities” column in a major newspaper. .”Democratic Party Activist Pamela Harriman, who has been in Barbados avoiding the Washington winter with her husband is frequently on the phone to Washington organizing her annual fundraiser.” And this example is amazing. “Hospital report: The condition of Apollo astronaut James Irwin, whose heart stopped while jogging last week, was upgraded to fair and stable.” Just inserting “he was” after the word “while” solves the problem.           

How do you avoid this linguistic mishap?
1.     Make sure your modifier has a word in the sentence that it actually modifies and  place them next to each other.
Example: “On the basis of Webber’s testimony, a pale young man with sinkhole cheeks
 named Gary Dobson, spent six years in jail until he was released last week. Place the modifier after “young man.”
2.     Be sure to put the subject in each sentence and clause.
Example (about the death of a local pastor): “While talking with two ladies, the
 ladder slipped, causing him to fall about 15 feet into a stairwell.” Insert “he was” after “While.”
3.     Revise carefullykeeping an eye out for the problem when you do.

Now and again, I find one of these modifiers sneaking into my writing. I try to catch it before the rest of the world does. I don’t enjoy providing untended humor for my readers.
___________________________________________________________________ 
Judith Nembhard has spent all her professional life in education, in the classroom and in administration. She reads a lot of poetry and loves to teach it but doesn’t write it. She writes Christian fiction that explores her vision of the intersection of faith and daily living, especially in an academic setting. She is originally from Jamaica, and her stories reflect the lush island landscape, a setting conducive to romance. Teaching and writing are her greatest love, and reading is her most passionate hobby. She has two adult sons and lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Magic Mirror


by Gary Fearon, Southern Writers Magazine


When Romper Room (1953-1994) was on the air, each region did its own version of this kiddie show using a local TV host. Mine had "Miss Jean." I remember little about the show itself beyond its signature segment that always began with these words:

Romper, Bomper, Stomper, Boo
Tell me, tell me, tell me, do
Magic Mirror, tell me today
Have all my friends had fun at play?

After this incantation, each regional host would look at the camera and recite the first names of a handful of children in her viewing audience ("I see Jimmy, and I see Cindy..."). Presumably these were the kids whose parents had written in on their behalf. Maybe she supplemented with random names for good measure. Even at my young age I considered that possibility, though it was still a mild thrill when she happened to speak my name, and for that moment it did feel a bit magical.

Spreading similar joy to the other end of the age spectrum, weatherman Willard Scott took it a step further on The Today Show when he would congratulate someone on their 90th or 100th birthday and show their photo (brought to you by Smucker's). No doubt these nonagenarians and centenarians got much the same thrill as Romper Room's pre-schoolers did at the mention of their name, age and city.

These simple factoids delivered from stranger to stranger are often our own starting point when we're creating characters for our story. We typically begin with the standard details like their name; we have a general sense of their age, and we place them in some setting. But, like Miss Jean or Mr Scott, we don't know much of anything about them until we fill in some essential details.

At this point, writers will often work up a fact sheet, chronicling such details as the characters' hair color, eye color, height, weight, race, education, where they were born, etc. Some authors go so far as to include mannerisms, pet phrases, quirks, whether the character has an accent, and so on. These tactics are helpful and come in especially handy if there are multiple characters to keep track of.

That said, a fact sheet provides merely a sketch of the character. That's when many authors dig deeper to flesh out their character by exploring his/her motivations, belief system, hopes, and fears. What childhood incident left an emotional scar? What achievements give them strength? What have been the turning points in their life? Answering questions like these brings our stick figure character to life by giving him a soul.

Remember to include irony and conflict in your character's psyche; that is, who they want to be versus what is holding them back. Often they are their own biggest hurdle. As author/philosopher Albert Camus said, "Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is."

A writer who has clearly tuned into their protagonist rarely regrets having invested the time to do so. The result is an authentic and well-defined character qualified to mirror the magic of your story.


.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Importance of Genre



By Mike Nemeth


You’ve finished your novel and you’re proud of it. Your friends and family are proud of you. You may be savvy enough to predict the obstacles you face: early readers who misunderstand the story; rejections from agents; criticism from editors; an unexpected lack of interest from the media, reviewers and bloggers. You clear these obstacles and wait for the royalties to roll in. Then you are surprised by one last hurdle: confusion over how to categorize your work for distribution.

Physical bookstores have relatively few categories of fiction and getting misplaced in the mysteries aisle when your book is an action-filled thriller isn’t the end of the world. Online bookstores, however, have a plethora of detailed categories to make searching millions of titles easy for sophisticated readers. No problem, you think, put my book in that often-searched mysteries category next to all the bestsellers. But wait, if your novel doesn’t conform to the definition of a mystery, it can’t be categorized as a mystery. Then it must be a thriller, you think, because it is a thrilling read. Well, it is a thriller only if it conforms to the definition of a thriller. Otherwise you’ll have to keep looking for a home for your story.

That’s what happened to me when I published my debut novel, Defiled. I wrote a story that made the points I wanted made about our legal system and I never gave genre a thought. When asked about genre, I suggested legal thriller, then mystery, and finally just thriller and found that my plot didn’t conform to any of the established formulae. Eventually, an experienced editor labeled it Crime Fiction, a category in which the protagonist is an anti-hero who fights for moral superiority against faceless institutions. I had never heard the definition before writing the book.

As a writer, we are faced with a dilemma: Will we follow a predefined formula for a genre, or will we write what our creative instincts tell us to write and let the chips fall where they may? Having learned from the confusion over my debut novel, I faced this dilemma with open eyes as I plotted the sequel, The Undiscovered Country. It couldn’t be a mystery because the characters don’t know there’s been a murder until it is unexpectedly solved in the climax of the story. It couldn’t be a thriller because there was no way to keep the victim alive either.

So, I intentionally wrote the story as Crime Fiction, the genre that comes naturally for me. Knowing the genre rules made plotting easier. Writing for a genre makes sales and distribution more efficient. Being correctly categorized in a genre simplifies reader searches. Understanding genre is an essential step in the education of a writer.
________________________________________________________________ 
Mike Nemeth is a novelist, blogger, non-fiction writer, former basketball coach and retired Information Technology executive. The Undiscovered Country is the sequel to Defiled, an Amazon Crime Fiction bestseller. Mike’s other works include 128 Billion to 1, an examination of “March Madness,” the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament. Mike now lives in the Atlanta suburbs with his wife, Angie, and their rescue dogs, Sophie and Scout. Mike can be followed at www.mikenemethauthor.com,  @nemosnovels, @nemosnumbers, and Facebook/mikenemethauthor.



Friday, May 25, 2018

And So, That One Time, She Really Let All Those Words Get in Her Way



By Molly Jo Realy


Creative writing is a tricky beast to edit. After all, it’s the creative aspect that says we can do it however we want, right? Well, that’s not entirely true. You wouldn’t want a doctor to say, “What does it matter how I make the incision as long as we fix you?”

Now, y’all can Google those kill-words with one hand holding your sweet tea, and you’ll find tons (okay, maybe not tons, but definitely a lot) of articles on words to avoid. Ways to “fix” your voice. And how to make the most of your manuscript.

I have a few self-editing starter tips for you:

Stop writing so many words. “But I’m a writer. It’s what I do.” It’s too easy to drag down your story with needless words. A quick fix is to do an edit/search: And. So. Once. Then. Later. Just. That. Was. More often than not, you can remove these words and your story will be stronger for it.
Also try to avoid words ending in -ly. Words that tell instead of show: Know. See. Feel.
Instead of, “She saw the curtains billow” (passive voice) try “The curtains moved” (active).

Avoid retelling. Often, a first draft narration unnecessarily repeats actions and dialogue. Tell it or (preferably) show it, but don’t do both.
George missed the nail and hit his thumb with the hammer, and let out a yell.
Ava looked up from her garden. “What happened, George?”
George grimaced. “I hit my thumb with the hammer.” He waved his thumb around and blew on it.
tightens to
George’s scream shook Ava and she looked up from her garden. “What happened?”
He was blowing on his thumb. “Ah, I just hit myself with the hammer.”

Let someone else edit. I know. Y’all are thinking, “SoBeBoHo Girl say whaat?” You know what your story shouldread like. You’re living there, right? You spent months, if not years, with these people, in this place. You see the world you created. You need to let someone else come along side to take the teal-colored glasses off and show you what you’ve missed. Oh, hey. Your characters Jack and John and Joni get a little mixed up.

In my first draft, four of my six main characters had five letters and two syllables to their names. Now it’s a mix and no two sound alike. I also mentioned the humidity in New Orleans. Well, I’m from the SoCal desert, and humidity is a bit of a novelty. So when my character flies from LA to NOLA, she enjoys the wet weather. And when she steps outside, she feels the humidity. And when she opens a window, she’s greeted by damp air … Ya tired of it yet? Yeah. So was my editor.

A second set of eyes helps vacuum the dust bunnies out of the manuscript, leaving you with something shiny and polished, something you’re proud to show off.

With a red pen and ready eye,

Happy editing. 
______________________________________________________________________ 
A Southern Belle in Southern California, and known to her friends as the Bohemian Hurricane, Molly Jo is a writer, editor, social media ninja, and producer of Aaron Gansky’s Firsts in Fiction podcast. Her writings have been featured in children’s magazines, on national blogs and devotional websites, and have earned her awards and scholarships from nationally-acclaimed writing programs. She is the founder of New Inklings Press, author of The Unemployment Cookbook: Ideas for Feeding Families One Meal at a Time, and other books available through her website and on Amazon. Her current work in progress, NOLA, is a location mystery set in New Orleans and is scheduled for publication in 2018. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and her blog, Frankly, My Dear . . . For more information on her social media, marketing services and books, contact her through her website MollyJoRealy.com.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Film Noir from the 1940’s & 1950’s is Being Reinvented in Modern Thrillers



By Annette Cole Mastron


According to Noir Alley on the TCM channel, it’s true. They claim the 1st film noir was Stranger on The Third Floor, made in 1940. It’s a cult favorite. It helps that Peter Lorre & Elijah Cook, Jr. are the co-stars. True to noir, the spunky girlfriend solves the crime while the male protagonist is unavailable. 

Some say the first is Maltese Falcon, released in 1941, because it made so much of an impact in defining the genre. One of the best articles on film noir is by Eddie Muller who writes, "The men and women of this sinister cinematic world are driven by greed, lust, jealousy, and revenge—which leads inexorably to existential torment, soul-crushing despair, and a few last gasping breaths in a rain-soaked gutter. But damned if these lost souls don't look sensational riding the Hades Express."

A show of psychological dread, sweaty paranoia, expressionistic imagery, search for demonism, amoral characters, devious behavior, smart mouth sarcasm, and a cynical world view is essential for a true film noir story. 

Cry Danger starring Dick Powell was shot in the Bunker Hill section of downtown LA and a seedy trailer park in the same area during the late 1940’s and 50’s. The comedic conversation with dead-pan delivery by Powell makes a wonderful example of film noir at its best. Screen writer Bowers delivers a script that encompasses all the components of classic film noir with a few twists to the normal noir story. 

No Questions Asked, a 1951 noir movie starring Barry Sullivan involved in an insurance scam recovery tale. Sidney Shelton wrote the screenplay from an adaptation of Bernie Giler’s story. Giler went on to write television episodes as did Shelton. Shelton then become a popular novelist. In “No Questions Asked," Shelton wrote cynical and amusing twists built into the story that can be seen in his later move into novels. 

Of course, who can forget the value of a film noir character almost always present, “TB with the H of G” (Tough Broad with the Heart of Gold)? Sultry, Lauren Bacall epitomizes that as she turns just prior to leaving the room and says to Humphrey Bogart (in the noir movie To Have and Have Not), "You know how to whistle, Steve, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow". It’s the sassy dialogue that makes this film memorable. The book of the same title was written by Ernest Hemingway, and the screenplay was written by William Faulkner. It is not surprising with these authors' talents that it’s considered a cream of the crop film noir. 

I’ve recently read a number of current “psychological thrillers” that seem to get a lot of there story ideas and some structure from the classic film noir plots. The Last Mrs. Parrish, The Wife Between Us, The Woman in the Window, The Lying Game, and The Woman in Cabin 10 all have elements of film noir stories. The difference is the expansion of characters' behaviors and interactions with other characters to keep the reader reading. When all is said and done in the end, like in film noir, there will be revenge, retribution and resurrection of the cast of characters. 

Watch a couple of film noirs and see what you think. Does it compare to the latest book genre, psychological thrillers?


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Art of Writing Out of Your Head



By Charlotte D. Hunt


You sit in front of your computer with thoughts of fantastic characters, brave new worlds, and words that will make a difference in the lives who need it most. Your heart beats with excitement experiencing the privilege you’ve been given to create and interpret words to the masses as a gift. You write with freedom and joy. Then gradually, thoughts, doubts, and distractions, bit by bit, and day by day draw you further away from the joy and freedom of your craft. Does that pattern sound familiar?

When I wrote my first book, my fingers could not move fast enough for words to run on the page. Thoughts came freely from the passion of the work and the focus of what I wanted to say. Over time, I began to think about the opinions of others.  I doubted the book’s value and began to focus on everything running through my mind except the reason why I began to sit at the computer to write in the first place. I was working to write one nice, well-structured sentence after the next in short spurts. 

However, I lost the joy and freedom of, “Writing out of my Head.” I was so busy trying to be the next John Grisham that I failed to simply use my own gifts and share the value of my message for others. I was not enjoying the process of writing.

Eventually, my editor and friend simply told me, “Stop thinking and just write!” It was the best advice that I have ever received as a writer and I offer it to you. Stop thinking and simply begin to write out of your head. We certainly need to do our research, market work, create outlines, and do the administrative non-writing part that goes with our craft. However, once we sit at the computer or instrument of choice to write we can write out of our heads with freedom.

There are a few steps to begin to write out of your head:

1. Before you sit down to write, remind yourself why you are writing this work. Are you trying to entertain, educate, inform, encourage, etc.? Allow that to be your sole focus during your time of writing for that day.

2. When you sit down to write, just write without editing yourself or worrying about grammar, punctuation, structure, or interpretation. Allow editing to be done once great and flowing thoughts and words have been placed freely on the page.

3. The moment your mind begins to clutter with the opinions of people, doubt, the pressure of agents, fear, or anything outside of your focus, stop writing and walk away. Distract yourself, get refocused, and then begin writing again.

When we master the art of writing out of our heads, we become the creative artists our readers deserve and our readers enjoy the fruits of our unfettered writing.  Happy writing!
______________________________________________________________________
Charlotte D. Hunt is the award-winning author of seven books, a national speaker, counselor, retired international runway model, off Broadway actress, recording artist and Jazz musician, national radio personality and founder of Hunt for Personal Optimization. She has been featured on numerous radio and television programs, three national documentaries, PBS specials, The 700 Club and has impacted lives worldwide encouraging individuals to use their journeys to change the world one story and one life at a time. Social Media: Website: www.charlottehunt.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteDHunt.Author/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/Dreamersknow Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/cdhdreammadly



Tuesday, May 22, 2018

ARE YOU A DRAGON OR A MOUSE?



By Susan Reichert,  Editor-in-Chief for Southern Writers Magazine 


In certain religions and cultures, dragons have spiritual significance and they are revered. To some the dragon represents nature. Some even associate the dragon with wisdom.

Mice we think of as a small mammal. To some people they are pets. To large birds, they are food. These little creatures also invade our homes for food and shelter.

What do you think of when you think of a dragon? I will admit I certainly would not think of them as having wisdom. They are big, and fire pours out of their mouth creating havoc and poisoning the air.
Of the two, I think the mouse has more wisdom, certainly smarter; it sneaks into our homes for survival.

We humans are similar… either we come on so strong it turns people off or we are so timid no one hardly knows we are around.

For a writer it is important to find balance between being a dragon and a mouse. A shy writer needs to overcome their shyness, to tell people they are writers.

If the book is at your publishers announce it to the world, give them the release date, and give updates periodically and insights on the process. Express your feelings and the thrill of anticipating the book’s release.

Be a little more ‘dragonistic’ (I like this new word)! Just don’t go totally dragon on us and forget there are others who are writing too.

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Detailed Story Outline is Key



By Rich Ritter: The New Voice of the American West


I know what you’re thinking: “Why do I care about something as tedious as a story outline?” I understand. I’ve spoken with several authors who began a novel with only a minimal outline or (in one case) none at all. This approach may work for some, but I feel compelled to prepare a detailed story outline—likely because I am pathologically analytical. Recently, I heard a celebrity brag that it took over three months to write his book. I find this statement quite amusing because this is typically the length of time I require to write the outline. With this in mind, here are my suggested components of a detailed story outline:

1)       Book Titles. The first title that pops into your mind is usually not the best. Write it down anyway. And don’t stop there: record all potential titles, especially when they come to you in the bathroom.
2)      List of Characters. You have probably already imagined a number of characters. Write these down too, including when they were born, place of birth, interesting life experiences, psychological traits (especially pathologies), and anything else you can think of. Organize by primary and secondary.
3)      Chapters and Titles. I know this sounds painful, but you don’t have to come up with the entire Table of Contents in one sitting. List as many as you can, then give it a rest. If you keep thinking about it over the next few weeks, the chapters will automatically present themselves as your subconscious works it out while you’re asleep.
4)      The First Sentence of Every Chapter. At this point, you’re probably saying, “You’ve got to be kidding!” Well, I’m not. Just write out the sentences. Revise or replace them later.
5)      Outline of Each Chapter. This is why it takes months to prepare a detailed story outline (unless you’re a celebrity). If you can’t outline the chapters now, then you certainly can’t write them later.
6)      Research Notes. Mark Twain said, “The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.” Since I write edgy historical fiction, I always keep this in mind. Record any historical information relevant to your story, including sources. Insert links to Internet websites, articles, or news stories that will improve the authenticity of your writing. If you collect printed materials, organize for easy retrieval.
7)      Historical Photographs. I’ve used a single photograph to inspire a protagonist, an important event, or an entire chapter. Employ your favorite search engine to find photographs pertinent to your genre and story. Save with descriptive file names in a separate folder for each chapter. Make it a game and collect photos by the hundreds.

I encourage you to prepare the story outline in a series of increasingly improved drafts until you are deeply satisfied with your effort. When you finally begin that masterpiece, you will find that it nearly writes itself!
_____________________________________________________________________- 
Rich Ritter is the son of a father who worked in the aerospace industry and a mother who taught first grade. Born in the Midwest during the Korean War, his family moved to California before he began the first grade. He attended second grade through high school in Anaheim, and then California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. He completed his thesis year in Denmark, and while there met Kristine from Alaska—in the balcony of the Royal Danish Ballet during a performance of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. He moved to Alaska and married Kris a few years later. The author and his wife have two sons. Book titles: Toil Under the Sun: A Novel, Heart of Abigail: A Lyric Novella of Juneau, Douglas and Treadwell, Nor Things To Come: A Trilogy of the American West, Book One: The Perilous Journey Begins, Book Two: Gathering of the Clans, Book Three should be available in 6 months (or thereabouts). His social Media links: http://richritterbooks.com/  --   http://rphillipritter.blogspot.com/  --https://authormasterminds.com/rich-ritter  --   https://www.facebook.com/Rich-Ritter-The-New-Voice-of-the-American-West-162253087166472/?ref=bookmarks  --   https://www.linkedin.com/in/rich-ritter-281582124/





Friday, May 18, 2018

Writing Authentic and Accurate Law Enforcement



By DiAnn Mills


Some writers of suspense and crime fiction believe TV shows and movies provide accurate representation for local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Unless a professional is hired to assist the script and scene, the depictions on the screen are designed to entertain and move the story along, and may miss correct protocol.

Writers, this means the professionals want to help us create realistic stories about their critical roles.

While we enjoy the peace of mind of having a trained person carry a weapon and keep us safe, we also have the responsibility of supporting the courageous people who put their lives on the line for us. They can’t do their job alone. For this partnership to work, law enforcement agencies seek to educate the community on the how and why of their unique positions. They offer programs and immerse themselves into neighborhoods to listen to the needs of others.

Procedure, laws, jurisdiction, and terminology differ according to the agency. So how does a writer ensure a story’s research is factual?

The answer is to contact the law enforcement agency directly. Most all agencies have a media specialist or public relations person assigned to answer questions. When I began writing suspense, I had to move from my introverted self to an extrovert and make a few phone calls. I kept telling myself that the person on the other end of the phone could only say no. What I discovered is just the opposite! Just like I enjoyed talking about my life as a writer, I found the law enforcement agency representatives were excited to talk about their chosen profession.

Here are a few tips to help you reach out for the correct information:

1.          Establish what law enforcement agency will be featured in your book—local, state, or federal.
2.          Prepare questions for an interview. A writer wants to know what the person likes about his/her job, dislikes, a typical day, how the job affects personal life, hobbies, what the person does for fun, and the list goes on. If you have a characterization sketch, look at those prompts as guidelines to prepare the interview.
3.          Contact the agency and introduce yourself. Ask to speak to the public relations person. Explain what you need and schedule a physical, phone, or email Q&A. Thank the person.
4.          If the writer is fortunate to have a face-to-face with the expert, take the time to get to know the person. Many traits of our heroes and heroines rise from these conversations. Listen to how the person talks and the words used.

Many law enforcement agencies in bigger cities offer citizens programs to those who desire to help be liaisons between the agency and the community. Those involved in citizens outreach programs influence their own circle of people. The classes are approximately 6 to 8 weeks long with regular meetings to keep those in the program informed, educated—and have fun.

Understand some agencies can’t provide us with details due to the sensitive nature of their work. The following law enforcement agencies are known for their citizens programs and there may be more:

1.          Citizens Police Academy
2.          FBI Citizens Academy
3.          DEA Citizens Academy
4.          U.S. Marshals Service Citizens Academy
5.          State Highway Patrol Citizens Academy
6.          ICE Citizens Academy

Writers, step out of your comfort zone and search for the information to ensure your story is rich with facts.
__________________________________________________________________ 
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Mountainside Marketing Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on Facebook: www.facebook.com/diannmills, Twitter: https://twitter.com/diannmills or any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.