• Can Your Character Survive Multiple Attackers? Info for Writers w/ Terror Expert Rock Higgins

    Hello Fellow Writers,
    Today, my friend Rock Higgins is here to help me with a scene where multiple attackers gang up on my heroine.

    Many of you have probably read some of my other interviews with Rock; but if not, let me tell you why he's my go-to guy for all scenes that save my girl.    Rock is an Executive Protection Officer. He is a Certified Anti-Terrorism Specialist who trains businesses in anti-terrorism procedures. He also teaches civilians, law enforcement, military, and bodyguards in close quarter combat.

    To work through this plotting issue, we are using this tape of an actual attack.

    Fiona - 
    Okay Rock, can you walk me through this? What were the options? Mistakes? Did the victim do anything right?

    Rock - 
    Ok at 17 seconds he is surrounded by 5 guys to the front and left and right but no one to the rear, his escape route.

    The next act is typical, no cognitive thought of escape and tunnel vision sets in. (to read about tunnel vision go HERE) He argues with the short guy to his right, exposing his back to the fat guy on his left. He had to expose his back to someone, and the fat guy was the best option as he was not going to run too far or too fast. This on the victim's part though was not a planned move.

    What he did:
    He pushes the short guy but closes with him at the same time so they are holding each other's arms so he cannot get free, at 23 seconds the rest are on him because he did not create space.

    What he should have done:
    Violent push on the short guy to; if not send him sprawling then to create space and then run full speed to his right, his rear previously. No pre-emptive strike in this case, if it didn't work there would be no space created and no time to correct the decision and run.

    He breaks away at 30 seconds. He is either not a very fast runner or more likely he is dazed from the previous blows.

    At 37 seconds they have him again up against the wall. He is standing square onto them trying to cover up, head down arms over his head. Here he cannot see where his attackers are, where the blows are coming from and cannot mount an attack from this position.

    I have been in a similar position before, more attackers, and I was not alone.

    I ended up with my back against the wall next to a friend with around 7-8 guys around us. Both in combat stances and fighting back anyone who ventured in. Effectively fighting back puts doubt into those attacking you, by effective I mean you seriously hurt one of them. They are then unsure whose turn it is to attack next.

    To get to this stage you have to weather the initial attack by fighting and making space so that from everyone attacking at once it slows down to limited sporadic singular attacks.

    All the while you are looking to escape. We escaped by both going on the offensive against one person, creating space and running as fast as we could.

    Fiona - 
    I was wondering about getting her back to the wall so at least she could see her attackers. What do you think about her getting in a doorway? Is this a trap or does it protect her on three sides?

    Rock - 
    I would not choose the doorway option as you are hemmed in and there is still going to be at least two attacking, more if the doorway is larger and the only escape is through the attackers. But if you are protecting someone, your spouse for example then a doorway would be a better option as you need to be in front of them to defend them anyway. But these are best or worst case scenarios, depends on how you look at it.

    You could argue that the wall will protect your back, it does but again you have to work at your escape route.

    With gang and multiple attackers you will more than likely not have the choice of where to stand your ground. Running at the earliest option is the best plan.

    You can see from this and other clips how fast it all happens and how much ground the fight can cover in a short space of time. Each move and stop will bring different escape options.

    Fiona - 
    I was taught to turn a block into a shove aiming at shoving one bad guy into another if possible and the number one move was flee - but I was thinking also, of protecting a child or someone who could not flee.

    Rock - 
    Yes if your attackers are standing in such a fashion that you can use one as a shield or push them into each other then great. But here we have to remember that if we can grab them then they can grab us.

    If your character is protecting someone, it is going to be a big problem. They're just going to have to run the gauntlet, sorry more like walk the gauntlet. It's going to be a fighting retreat. Your character and who your character is looking after are going to get hurt maybe more than normal because you cannot escape as fast when on your own. They're going to be in the contact area a lot longer.

    Fiona - 
    At the dojang, we drill with the kids in the hopes that if push did come to shove, their bodies would know what to do even if their brains turn off. We make it a game. In real life, out of the blue, adults should expect the kids to do the wrong thing - Freeze in place. Try to protect their parent. Not hear or follow directions. 

    Rock tell me, what if a character knows her family is a target, can you go through some training scenarios that that family might engage in with their kids without terrifying them?

    Rock - 
    We do a drill for guys looking after young kids who are too old to be carried because of size. 

    Because of the sensitive nature of this drill, the violence, it's not something that you can easily train for with the child. There has to be a lot of talking with the child first for them to understand what is happening, why it is happening and how they can help.

    We have one person playing the child, one acting as the BG (bodyguard)/ parent and one acting as attacker. One variation is where the attacker has to get to the child but not attack the BG the BG can only push the attacker away. The BG also has to give orders to the child.

    Another is where the attacker can attack the BG to get to the child, much harder. Then we put in multiple attackers, weapons and different locations, open spaces, getting in and out of vehicles, corridors, lifts, in fact most locations.

    At all times you have to be in touching distance of the child so you can feel where they are. Difficult part for parents and child is telling their child to run when it is safe to do so while they cover their escape.

    Most instruction only covers the physical aspect but if the child is (and will be) traumatised, frozen in place, then the training is useless.

    A good game for the kids is to play this with both parents with no mention of what the game means. One tries to catch the child and the other defends. You could encompass trying to take the rag from the child's back pocket for instance.

    Training can be done both armed and unarmed, single BG /parent, single/multiple kids lots of combinations.

    Fiona - 
    Fighting takes fitness.

    Rock -
    It's not pretty, and it's very tiring. Most people do not realise the amount of fitness you need for a situation like this. By the way, if your readers can make it to Orlando Florida in February, I'll be in the States with hands-on teaching.

    Fiona - 
    WOW! That looks like an amazing opportunity - not just for writers, but for my readers who personally want to know how to stay safe.

    Thank you, Rock for your help writing my scene.

    You can catch up with Rock at:

    Thank you all for stopping by. If you have questions or comments, please leave them below. Remember, I moderate for spam so it won't show up right away. Also, if you like my blog, you'll love my fiction! Why not give it a try? Until next time, happy plotting!


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  • Judgemental! Info for Writers with Judge Bill Hopkins

    As many of you know, I've been in front of my share of judges. I used to work as a court-mandated interventionist for families at risk. 

    I'm typing confidently along on my newest MS, when I stopped. Wait. I think I know judges because of my job, and my TV watching. When it comes to my job, I basically nodded my head and said, "yes, ma'am." From TV... well if you're a ThrillWriting reader you know better than to get your facts from TV. So I looked up Bill Hopkins whom I've had the pleasure to meet at WPA events over the years and asked him if he'd mind setting us straight.

    Judge, would you introduce yourself to everyone?

    Judge Hopkins- 
    My name is Bill Hopkins and I have been in the legal profession since 1971. I have been a civil attorney, criminal defense attorney, prosecutor, administrative law judge, and trial court judge, all in the state of Missouri.

    Fiona - 
    Thank you

    Can you explain how one becomes a judge? What credentials MUST be on their resume?

    Judge Hopkins - 
    State judges are selected in various ways, depending on the jurisdiction. Sometimes they are appointed by a governor or panel of officials (such as other judges). Sometimes they are elected. I was elected a trial court judge.

    My personal opinion on what makes a good judge is common sense. It's great to know the law, but if you're a judge without common sense, you're a bad judge. If you're a lazy judge, you're a bad judge. And, of course, a judge must be moral.

    One thing I always tried to do was give people a chance to talk. I've found that if you give a person about six minutes of uninterrupted time to talk, that's about all it takes. I may've thrown a person in jail, but I let them talk first. People want to talk. A fellow judge said to me once, "Everyone needs to vomit before you get down to business."

    Fiona - 
    That was colorful.

    Would you please expound on your good and bad attributes that you started above? If I am an author painting the picture of a judge, what types of personality qualities would make me a good one? And conversely what if I were writing a judge who absolutely should not be sitting on the bench - what kind of personality attributes would I give her?

    Judge Hopkins -

    Good judge: 

    A listener . That doesn't mean the judge lets the lawyers or parties run over him. (I'm old fashioned. The masculine pronouns are shared by males and females. Females, on the other hand, get their very own pronouns!) It means that the judge will look the person in the eye and give them the chance to say something.

    Also, common sense. Once I had a fight between a male lawyer and a female lawyer in Saint Louis City. The problem was that someone had issued a garnishment in a child support case for $90,000.00 but it should've been $9,000.00. I asked them both, "Do you all agree that this was a clerical error?" They both said yes. "Then," I said, "get it corrected and stop wasting my time. Next case." The clerk later told me (privately), "My judge would've let them argue that for two hours." I wanted to say, but didn't, "Then your judge has no common sense."

    A third thing that makes a good judge is following the law. Once I told a city attorney that he best not be filing charges under an ordinance that said no political signs were allowed in the yard of a house 40 days after an election. "Why not?" she asked. I said, "It's unconstitutional. If I want to put a sign in my yard that says VOTE FOR GEORGE WASHINGTON, you can't stop me."

    A fourth thing is remember that the law is a bunch of jargon that most people (including lawyers) don't understand. Explain it to people. You can't give them legal advice, but you can tell them when they need to get a lawyer. Once I was arraigning a fellow for car theft. I read the charge and it said he'd stolen a Plymouth. "Judge," he interrupted. "It was a Dodge." I said, "Shut up and don't talk to the cops till you get a lawyer."

    Bad judge: 

    There are judges on the take . With private probation and parole, the legal system profits with more people who are in jail or are on probation or parole. That leads to corruption of judges. It happens and it's hard to root out.

    Bad judges also belittle lawyers and parties in public. This is despicable as far as I'm concerned. I would've treated Charles Manson with politeness. I have nothing to gain and everything to lose by being the idiot behind the bench in the courtroom.

    Bad judges are lazy. Once I was holding divorce court in Saint Louis County on a Friday. The cops kept bringing me arrest warrants to be signed. After signing the fifth one, I said, "I don't mind signing warrants, but I'm a visiting judge. Why don't you have one of your own judges sign these?" The cop said, "You're the only judge in the courthouse."

    Fiona - 
    Just how much power do you have as a judge? Are your parameters pretty tight? Where do you have leeway?

    Judge Hopkins - 
    A judge controls the courtroom. 

    A defendant appeared before me with porn tattooed on his arms. I said, "When you come back, have your arms covered." He said, "The First Amendment--" I finished for him: "Does not apply in my courtroom. Mr. Bailiff, please help the defendant find the exit."

    Also, if someone shows contempt for the court, the judge could send that person to jail without a hearing or without a lawyer. A woman was called for jury duty and didn't show up. I had the sheriff drag her into court, and she didn't have an excuse. I threw her in jail for 24 hours. No one ever missed jury duty after that.

    Judge, you are now also a writer, can you share with us your newest book? What can we look forward to? 

    Judge Hopkins -
    BLOODY EARTH: After he witnesses the prosecutor tumble to his death on the steps of the Common Pleas courthouse in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Judge Rosswell Carew immediately suspects his archenemy Nathaniel Dahlbert of murder. 

    None of the authorities believe Rosswell because of his troublesome background. When he teams up with his reluctant “research assistant” Ollie Groton, unknown hiding places, untold secrets, and unsolved crimes push Rosswell to the brink. If he can’t convince the cops who the murderer is, his own life, along with the lives of his family and friends, may also come to a grisly end.

    Fiona - 
    Very fun. I look forward to reading that.

    Here on ThrillWriting, it is tradition for guests to share their favorite scar story and to that can you add a funny judge story? Hopefully they are not one and the same.

    Judge Hopkins -
    I was in Saint Louis County. I held court up there and came home after a few days.

    I got a call from one of the clerks up there. "Judge, we found an extra robe up here but we don't know whose it is. Would it be yours?"

    "What color is it?"

    Silence for a long time. Then, "Judge, it's BLACK."

    "Nope. Not mine."

    Fiona -
    Ha! I would have liked to have seen the perplexed look on his face!

    Judge Hopkins - 
    My favorite (and only scar) runs across the hairline of my skull horizontally. When I was four years old, I found an inner spring mattress leaning against a tree in the yard. (A picture is attached because young people don't know what that is and I doubt have ever seen one.) Why this lethal item was leaning against the tree has never been explained to me. I suspect it was a trap set by my parents or perhaps my three sisters. Anyway, like any good little boy, I started climbing up it and it fell backward and split my head open. This has been good for me in lots of ways since it's always been a convenient excuse to explain away some of my actions in later life.

    What we old-timers used to call a goodnight sleep - inner coil mattress

    Fiona - 
    What do you wish that I had asked so people would FINALLY know/understand about being a judge, and they can write it right.

    Judge Hopkins -
    A few things: 

    Judges do NOT wear a robe off the bench, unless you're on the national news and some big shot talking head is interviewing you. 

    Second, the next person who says to me (because I've heard 173,492 times), "Here comes the judge" will be shot. I am armed and dangerous. 

    A third thing is that circumstantial evidence can send you to the death chamber. The circumstantial evidence of dog prints in the mud outweighs the eyewitness testimony of ten thousand angels that no dog passed this way.

    Fiona -
    And just so you know, I was going to name this article, "Here Comes the Judge." Knowing that it is indeed true that Judge Hopkins is armed and dangerous, I have changed it, for self-preservation's sake.

    Thank you so much for joining us today, Judge.

    I also want to thank our readers. Remember, when you buy my books, you're seeing this research in action, and supporting this blog, so I can continue to bring you interesting articles.

    If you have questions or comments please leave them below. I moderate for spam so they won't show up right away. If you have friends with plot lines that might benefit from a ThrillWriting article, I've put social buttons below so you can share. Until the next time, happy plotting!

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  • SEALED FILES: Plot Twisting with Kara Piazza, esq.

    Hand-folded letter sealed with wax and stamped...
    . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    Today, I am sharing with you an interview that I needed in order to write part of a plot point in my novella, Mine.

    I sought the expertise of writer/lawyer Kara Piazza. First, since Kara is a very thorough lawyer (which we love) please read the disclaimer:

    DISCLAIMER - This is a non-political site that is geared to help writers write it right. I am presenting information to help develop fictional characters and fictional scenes. In no way am I advocating any position or personal decision. All Kara's answers will be general and she cannot give specific legal advice in such a broad setting. She can give general statements and also it should be known that there are many nuances and exceptions in the legal realm so even the answers she does give might not always be the outcome in every legal situation.

    Fiona -
    Hey there, Kara, thank you so much for stopping by and helping today. Would you take a moment and introduce yourself?

    Kara -  
    I attended DePaul University College of Law (Chicago, IL) with my Juris Doctor degree. I then sat for the bar exam in Phoenix, and I am now a licensed attorney in the great state of Arizona. 

     In order to be permitted to practice law you must attend and graduate from an ABA (American Bar Association) accredited law school. You must take a number of required courses including Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, and Torts (to name a few). Then you
    are allowed to choose which courses
    you would like to take. 

     I chose to take courses that emphasized litigation (in court proceedings) and business law. I have a little over a year experience in the prosecutor's office where I spent much of my time in the courtroom.

    Fiona - 
    ThrillWriting is so pleased to have you and your expertise here today. One of the topics that I find confusing when it comes to reading about courts is the FILE. Is a court file available for public scrutiny? If yes, how would someone go about obtaining one?

    Kara - 
    Generally speaking, court files are considered public records once the court clerk has officially filed them. 

    It may be different from place to place, but from my understanding, most places you can obtain copies of the records through the clerk's office at the courthouse where the case was heard. It may be called something other than clerk's office at different court houses, for example some might be called the recorder's office instead or variations of those two words. 

    Usually, there is someone in the courthouse that can direct you if you tell them you would like access to a public file. Some clerk's offices will have a database that you can search (which is often cumbersome and not very user friendly) and some places you will have to tell the clerk's office what file you want. You will need the date the case was heard and/or the names of the parties involved. Generally, they use the last names (if the parties are individuals) or company names (if the party is a corporation).

    Fiona - 
    So these files have all the information in them for example, the victims name and address? The names and addresses of the witnesses? What about social security numbers, phone numbers, email, and so forth.

    Kara -
    Ok, so there are rules for the way things work in court. In law school we study what are known as 'Federal Rules of Civil Procedure' (FRCP) which gives us the rules of the game so to speak. These rules are binding in Federal Courts and most State Courts adopt their own set of rules but many are similar if not exactly the same as the FRCP. 

    There is a FRCP that states that sensitive information like social security numbers, Tax ID numbers, birthdays, account numbers even the name of minors, should be redacted from the public file. This is as close to a black and white rule as you're going to get though again there may be exceptions where the court or parties may choose not to have this information redacted. With this information redacted, the rest of the file is then placed in the public record.

    Fiona - 
    Okay good - but a perpetrator who gets off on a technicality could find out the address of the victim? Her employer? I'm just thinking how exposed a character might feel to have the villain "knows her stuff."

    Kara - 
    That is the kind of information a judge would "seal" especially in situations of people that have previously been victimized by the defendant or if they can show the judge that such information could be dangerous if not kept out of the public record. 

    However, both attorneys generally have access to the information and there have been instances of unethical attorneys passing on sensitive information like that to their clients even though they were not supposed to. 

    If the court "seals" a file though, most times such information is kept away from such perpetrators (again generally speaking). For the sake of drama for a story, it is possible for a court to decide the information is not worth "sealing" and it is also possible for the information to slip out if it is sealed. But under our rules of ethics it's a huge no-no.

    Fiona - 
    Is it true that juvenile cases are sealed when they are 18?

    Kara - 
    Generally speaking juvenile cases are sealed.

    Also, I should note from my answer on juvenile records that some states automatically seal those cases but some states don't. The states where they don't, the juvenile (once they reach the age of maturity, or sometimes they have to wait a few years after) can ask to have the file sealed and the judge takes into consideration a number of factors like the age they were when the crime was committed, what the crime was, and others.

    Fiona -
    What if it is not a criminal case - it is a civil case - If I was suing Mr. X for killing my man would that fall under the same sealing regulations? "I want his money for depriving my of my husband's income - but you can't know who I am?" 

    Which leads me to a second question: do you have to tell your name in court in front of the accused can you be called "Jane Doe" for safety reasons?

    Kara -
    A defendant has the right to know his accuser so the person who files against them must be named. In cases such as child abuse, the accuser is typically the state which is why the children's name is usually replaced with just their initials. For witnesses, it can be a different story, here is where you can get away with using "Jane Doe" if you can convince a judge that it's necessary. It is generally left to the judge's discretion.

    The court can seal both criminal and civil files. And right, that is a very common scenario for informants to be kept confidential with the use of the name "John/Jane Doe" for that specific reason.

    Fiona - 
    Right because - who wants to come forward and rat on the gangbanger, and then find his homies standing in her living room the next day?

    What are other reasons that a file could be sealed - my thoughts are going to the government secrets - the military... ?

    Kara - 
    Reasons a file might be sealed. 
    1. Birth records for "closed adoptions." 
    2. We've already mentioned witness protection and child abuse but sometimes custody cases might be sealed as well to protect the infant (under 18 in legal lingo) 
    3. Trade secrets are another biggy. And then of course 
    4. What you're looking at state secrets. 
    **This list is not exhaustive but these are usually the big ones.

    Fiona - 
    What did I not ask you about sealed files that you think we should know?

    Kara - 
    Hmm that's a good question. I think that the law is extremely unpredictable. 

    In cases of record sealing, the judge is granted a lot of discretion. If you are wanting the information to be leaked (for dramatic effect or plot advancement) it is possible, and it is also possible that the judge will decide not to seal it in the first place. 

    The right to face your accuser is a heavy burden to overcome and sometimes a judge will decide that the perceived threat against someone's safety is not enough to overcome this burden (or maybe the judge thinks there is no threat at all). It's such an uncertain thing but I think that is helpful in writing, it can really add to the drama and suspense.

    Fiona - 
    And finally, your favorite scar story. . .

    Kara -
    Haha I could probably write a whole book about it!
    I have a Y shaped scar on my forehead from when I was a senior in High School. I went to a small school, and it was the first year we had a football team so for homecoming, the junior and senior girls did a powder puff flag football game. 

    I'm super competitive so when we were playing, I was going all out. The final play of the game, I was running towards my opponent who had the football. I was reaching for her flag, when she slipped past me, and I realized too late that my teammate and I were on a collision course. I remember waking up a few moments later, lying on the ground, forehead bleeding profusely with my hand triumphantly clutching the flag. My teammate was bleeding next to me in the grass, moaning. 

    The circle of people standing over me was swaying as I tried to focus. "How many fingers am I holding up." One of the teachers asked. "She wouldn't know that anyway," my friend quipped helpfully. The teacher rolled her eyes and asked, "Do you know where you are?" To which I replied, "I'm pretty sure this is hell." Another eye roll, and I was asked, "I need to make sure you don't have a concussion, do you know who you are?" At which a smile spread so wide across my face, I felt it in my head wound. "I'm batman."

    Fiona - 
    Okay, Batman, you obviously love drama - can you tell me about the novel you're working on?

    Kara - 
    I am currently working on a YA novel series. My first novel will be the Seeker Initiative. I am nearly finished and then will be querying literary agents with the hope of being published in the traditional manner. 

    My novel is about a young girl named Alitheia Seeker who is faced with a very difficult task in the year 2215. The world has been enslaved by a powerful, tyrannical group called the Static. However, a more pressing problem exists: no one seems to know who these mysterious people are and most of the population doesn't even know that such overlords exist. Alitheia must decide whether to free the minds of every adult on the planet and risk an untold number of deaths, or ignore the disappearances and deaths of anyone who disagrees with the tyrants and leave the world at the mercy of these rulers. Alitheia and her friends are put in danger when they begin to ask questions the Static has worked so hard to suppress for over a hundred years. Overwhelmed by the answers they are finding, the young friends get help from an unlikely source, a group of black market traffickers. Known in secret circles as the AT, these renegades offer to join forces to bring down the Static. Just as it seems hope has arrived, the teens start to wonder if the traffickers are giving them better solutions or just a different set of troubles in disguise. Do you have the courage to ask the difficult questions when no one else is willing? If so, you might have what it takes to join the Seeker Initiative.

    Fiona - 
    Very fun! Best of luck. Thank you so much for your help. You can reach Kara at: Her Blog and on Facebook.

    And thank you for stopping by, I love having you here. Remember, w hen you buy my books, you're seeing this research in action, and supporting this blog, so I can continue to bring you interesting articles.  

    If you have any questions or comments you can leave them below. I moderate for spam, so they don't show up right away. There are some handy social buttons below if you think your friends would benefit, as well.  Until next time, happy plotting!


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  • CELEBRATING a Half- million Readers with PRIZES!

    English: Toy balloons Русский: Воздушные шарики
     (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    At eighteen-months-old, 
    I am so excited to have had over a half-million readers stop by ThrillWriting

    My goal has always been to help you get to the research and the experts that will make your plotting-craft easier.

    ThrillWriting came into being as I looked at the stacks of information I had collected in  my own fiction writing process, and I thought, wow - it would have been nice to have had a one-stop-shop to gather all of this together. So I decided to share all of those long, long, long hours of research work with you.

    Along the way...

    I've met incredible people who have been enormously generous with their time and talent. Many of these experts have become fiction writers themselves, and I have enjoyed reading their novels and stretching  my reading arms out to works that would not normally have crossed my path. I even read my first zombie books.

    I have had so much fun with writers who have had questions about their plot points -- yes, the video I made of escaping from having my hands tied behind my back got me some offers that...well, it'll be a while before I do one of those videos again. But hearing about what you're writing and what's going on for you is a bright spot for me.

    And yes, I have introduced much of my research into my own fiction writing.

    When you buy my books, you're seeing this research in action, and supporting this blog, so I can continue to bring you interesting articles.

    Along a more traditional route is my novella MINE which is now a part of the UNLUCKY SEVEN collection.

    Along a MUCH less traditional route, I did some experimental fiction with English ex-pat John Dolan in CHAOS IS COME AGAIN - and no we never have met and yes, even on Skype he wears that hat. I'm assuming it comes off at least when he showers and sleeps - but he's in Thailand doing those things.

    And this spring, I am thrilled to finally be bringing you my LYNX series. Serial killers, black ops, spy games, psychic links, special ops guys, and a kick-ass heroine Lexi Sobado who is Unschooled - Unconventional - and Unstoppable. All kinds of fun!

    Thank you for joining me on the ride. I truly appreciate each of you for coming by for non-fiction information, and then for supporting me by reading my fiction, as well. I adore the friends I've made, and I'm looking forward to getting to know you better as we head down the literary path together.

    This is my Little Bear  :)
    Just a last note before I get to the prizes - some of you know that I had a terrible and long-winded hassle with Twitter's robo-glitch earlier this fall. I had no way of telling you all what was going on and giving you my newest articles - to prevent this, I've started a newsletter (which will be more about writing life - and you get to meet my sidekick, Little Bear). I hope you'll consider signing up. You can do that HERE  and if you want to watch my little film it's  HERE

    A BIG SHOUT OUT to the ThrillWriting Celebration WINNERS!
    First Prize - Dorothy Birtalan
    Second Prize - Diane DeMasi Johnson.
    Third Prize - Diane Capri.

    Many thanks!
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  • International Terrorism: Info for Writers with Cpl. Allen Norton

    US Navy 020312-O-0000X-001 Homeland Security A...
     (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    ThrillWriting is pleased to welcome back Corporal Allen Norton. Cpl. Norton graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell with a certification in Homeland Security and also graduated from Columbia Southern University with a degree in Criminal Justice. He attended the National Center for Bio-medical Research and Training through Louisiana State University and recently graduated from the University of St. Andrews, and obtained a Global Certification as a Terrorism Specialist. In addition, he is a recognized Certified Homeland Protection Professional (C.H.P.P.) Cpl Norton obtained this certification through the National
    Sheriffs Association and the National Domestic
    Preparedness Coalition.

    Fiona - 

    People have been wreaking terror across borders since time immemorial. At what point do we draw a distinction between raiding and terrorist activity?

    Cpl. Norton -
    When it comes to International Terrorism the oldest in existence (The Father of Modern Day Terrorism) is the Irish Republican Army or IRA. Interesting enough, they actually formed in New York City during the late 1800s as the Finian Force.

    Fiona - 

    When I think "terrorism" my mind jumps to the Middle East - and parts of Africa. Is that because those are our only threats, and the IRA etc. target other countries, do you think?

    Cpl. Norton 
    Probably, but when it comes to the IRA more Americans willingly donate to that terrorist organization over any other. Most from the Boston-NYC region. Interestingly, you bring up the Middle East; did you know that the first terrorist organization there was Jewish?
    They were known as the Irgun and very active in the 1940s against the British. One of their prime leaders was Menachem Begin.  

    Fiona -  
    I had no idea. So you do a lot of training in the area of terrorism, can you tell us what are the main ingredients in our "stay safe soup"? 

    Cpl. Norton - 
    The United States does plenty. Overseas partners with other countries (Jordan is VERY good) is vital. The CIA does a good job also.

    The Terrorist Screening Center, which was established after 9/11 has become a vital tool also for the US local authorities

    Fiona - 
    You can check it out with this Video Quick Study. Inside a secret U.S. Terrorist Screening Center CBS News.

    Cpl. Norton, if I was a writer putting a character in a situation overseas - an American citizen -  would the American government do anything to help me? Would this be public? Would they work behind the scenes? And any chance that a SEAL team might go in and save me?

    Cpl. Norton - 

    They would, but with politics today I guess it would matter how important the person was if it would be public or not. SEAL Teams have obviously been used before, but that is usually a last resort.

    Fiona -  
    When you are reading books/watching shows and movies about terror - and I know you are stepping carefully in this interview - what are the holes in the cloth of the story line. What are the writers getting wrong based on false understanding or even cinematic expedience?

    Cpl. Norton  - 
    I think one of the biggest issues, and we discussed this in the Domestic Terrorism interview is that nothing is solved in 1-2 hours. It's not always as exciting as Hollywood or the newspapers make it seem. 

    Probably one of the biggest pet peeves I have is that the investigations in shows are illegal for the most part. A lot of the techniques that people use are just impossible to use in real life, whether because you just can't or because it's illegal. Plus a lot goes into an investigation; it's not just one thing that solves an incident. It's many building blocks that add up to a case.

    Fiona - 
    Can we discuss the concept of terrorism as a career choice? One of the things that struck me when I attended your lecture was the educational levels of the people who are recruited.

    Cpl. Norton  - 
    Sure, to be anything in a terrorist organization a college degree is mandatory. I'm talking bio-chemistry, biology, chemistry, computer science, economic, business, etc. You pretty much have to be fluent in multiple languages. It takes a lot of smarts to run a terrorist organization or to be anything important in one.

    Fiona - 
    And there are perks to your enrollment. You indicated that terrorist organizations work on a business model and even have sick leave and vacation time... can you speak to that and then my question would be - do they see themselves as professional terrorists? Soldiers? What?

    Cpl. Norton  - 
    To become a terrorist, there's an application process. They get paid vacations, holiday pay, health insurance, etc. just like we do. They also can apply for certain positions within the organization, Al-Qaeda is probably the best known group for doing all this, though others do it also.

    They would consider themselves professional freedom fighters. Rarely would a terrorist ever say they are a terrorist. They actually consider us the terrorists, so it's all in the eye of the beholder.

    Fiona - 
    My final question for you - Can you talk about familial impact? How does being in the family of a terrorist impact life and what happens if the terrorist martyrs himself? 

    Cpl. Norton  -
    That's a great question Fiona. It's important to realize that some of the families of members of terrorist organizations do not support them or want them to be a part of it. Look at Osama bin Ladens family, they disowned him and excommunicated him from the family because they didn't support what he was doing. That's why terrorists hide their faces, it has nothing to do with cowardice, they are just protecting their family from retaliation. Whether the family supports them or not. 

    Sometimes poor families will sell their children into terrorist organizations because they need the money, food or shelter that these groups promise. Other families are promised the world if a member blows themselves up for the cause. What's amazing about terrorist organizations is when they promise a family something they always deliver, if they didn't families would stop doing what they are doing for them. So actually, a terrorist organization is very trustworthy, weird as it sounds.

    Fiona - 
    Was there something I missed that you're dying to tell me?

    Cpl. Norton - 

    When it comes to terrorist organizations Hamas has the largest infrastructure of any foreign terrorist group on US soil. They have never intentionally attacked a US civilian or installation though, they are basically here for fund raising.

    There are approximately 500 different foreign terrorist organizations on the earth right now. Only 58 are recognized by the U.S.

    Fiona -  
    You have been unbelievable kind to help us writers write it right.

    Cpl. Norton  - 
    Thank you so much for the time speaking with you, these three interviews have been very enjoyable. If anyone has any questions or wants up to date info that is posted, please visit our Facebook page at GDSI Intelligence and Training and like us. Information is updated regularly.
    Fiona - 
    Thank you for coming by, as well. If you have questions or comments please leave them below. Remember, I moderate for spam so they won't show up immediately. And too, if you find my blog to be helpful, please share my link with your friends. I put some buttons below. Until next time, happy plotting!


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  • Thermal and Night Vision Tracking: Info for Writers with Deputy Jay Korza

    English: Soldier wearing night vision goggles.
     (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    Fiona - 
    ThrillWriting is happy to host author Deputy Jay Korza who works as a first responder with fourteen years of experience as a deputy as well as military experience under his belt.  

    Jay, I'm writing a scene where the good guys (and gals) are using night vision goggles. I've asked around and no will let me play with them. Boo. So I'd like to ask you some questions to make my scene believable, please.

    First up, what is the biggest mistake you see writers and filmmakers making, so I can bypass that mine field.

    Jay - 
    I have a lot of experience and training with thermal imaging. That is THE MOST messed up thing you see in movies and TV. Thermal imaging does NOT do what they portray it to do.

    It can not see through walls.

    Thermal imagers detect the temperature of the surface of whatever you are pointing it at except glass.

    For instance, if you were looking at the hood of a car with the engine running, the hood would be hot. Now, take a piece of ordinary scotch tape and place it on the hood of the car. That scotch tape will show up in the imager because it's surface is a different temperature than the surrounding metal. Eventually, maybe even only several seconds, that tape will heat up to match the temperature of the surrounding metal and it may disappear in the image. But if that tape is even one-tenth of a degree different in temperature, you will still see it on the hood of the car. So, if the imager can't see through a fraction of a millimeter of tape, do you think it can see through a wall? Nope.

    Also, thermal imaging is relative in what it shows. If I had two ice cubes sitting on a frozen plate of metal and the metal was 20 degrees and the ice cubes were 25, the ice cubs would be blazing "hot" in comparison.

    It will see through smoke though. I can see through bushes, sort of. If a bad guy is behind a bush, his heat goes through the spaces in the leaves and branches and comes out the other side and forms an image for you to view.

    Glass and most kinds of plastic reflect heat. So you can't see through glass at all with thermal. You see whatever is on your side of the glass, usually yourself.

    A lot of things retain heat from the day so at night, you get a lot of, "Holy shit, there's someone over there. Oh, nope, it's a barrel cactus."

    But what's funny is, when you see a person, you NEVER mistake it for anything else, and you know that. But barrel cactuses will still get you excited even though you know that people are obvious. At least at ground-level handheld imaging. Planes and ariel images are less obvious because of distance.

    Fiona - 
    How does this differ from green spectrum night-vision goggles?

    Wikipidia public domain

    Jay - 
    Night vision goggles are infrared viewers. To be totally accurate, thermal imaging is also infrared viewing. But the two are in different infrared spectrums. So it's easier to separate them and call them NVG (night vision goggles) or Thermal to distinguish between the two.

    Fiona - 
    Which do you feel is the more accurate when you use them for work?

    Jay - 
    NVG takes a certain portion of the IR spectrum that is usually invisible to us, and enhances it. Or it takes low-light images and makes them brighter for us. That's the basic answer, though I'm sure an engineer who builds NVGs would pull his hair out at the oversimplicity of my description.

    Fiona -  I have an engineer ex- I would say much of what I said made him pull his hair out - poor bald fellow, LOL (kidding.)

    Jay - 

    Thermal is way more accurate. But it's also WAY more expensive. There are pros and cons to each. That's why for the last five years they have been working on blending the technology into combined imagers. I had a $19k imager that I used for a couple of years, and I loved it! It was NVG with thermal overlay. Or you could use either one independently. I tended to go with thermal only. Though one night during training, I was on point in a desert operation, we were searching for the "bad guys". I took a knee to look around, and I heard a distinctive rattle. I looked around to find the snake, and I couldn't. I turned from thermal to NVG, and he was about eight inches from my leg. He didn't show up on thermal because he was cold blooded and took on the temperature of his surroundings - he blended in on thermal.

    Fiona -
    YIPES! awesome detail!

    Jay - 
    Check out this article on the recent flaw found in USB stuff. I read a similar one the other day and it goes along with your security questions. HERE

    Here is a thermal imager that we have on SWAT. It's an older one but it works. It's not a dual overlay. HERE

    Fiona - 

    Last quick question, which do you prefer for water searches thermal or NVG? How is water affected by thermal?

    Jay - 
    Water reflects heat. So when you look at water it usually shows as extremely cold no matter what its temperature is because it's reflecting the temperature of the upper atmosphere which is cold. So searching for a person in water with thermal is easy because their little head shows up as REALLY hot compared to the water around them.

    Video Quick Study - (1:01) Watch this thermal vs NVG video. 
    Video Quick Study - (2:01)  Anti-nightvision camouflage (I'd definitely want to be the "ghost"!

    Hey ThrillWriting readers, Jay has a new book out.

    2.99 on Amazon
    Sebastian Giustina has a rare talent. Scientists call it hyperosmia, but other officers vying for the top spot in the NYPD Homicide Detectives' rankings call it an unfair advantage. Sebastian has a nose for crime - with a heightened sense of smell and a photographic scent memory, Sebastian can detect evidence at crime scenes that would otherwise go unobserved.

    When a female serial killer crosses the U.S. to target her prey in New York City, she unwittingly leaves evidence that only Sebastian can uncover. It's a race against time and a match of wit and will for Sebastian and his partner to save the next person on the murderer's list from becoming yet another victim.

    Thanks for stopping by. Any questions or comments can be left below. Please remember, I moderate for spam. It will be a short while until you see your comment. If you like my site, please share. I put some social buttons below for your convenience. Until next time, happy plotting.


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