My First Character Profiles

Toys_scriptwriting“If we experienced life through the eyes of a child everything would be magical and extraordinary. Let our curiosity, adventure, and wonder of life never end.”              ~Akiane Kramarik

Many times I have been asked when I first began writing and at what point did I want to become a writer. As a child, we have many hopes and dreams. And sometimes, these dreams do come true, but maybe not exactly as we had envisioned.

I have loved books for as long as I can remember.  I would spent weekly visits at the library and would borrow as many books as my little arms could carry. Stories about animals were my favorite. It was no secret, but I was a child of the dreaded “flashcards” phenomenon, which meant that I could read and add and subtract equations before I attended the first grade.

I was about four-years-old when I devised a new slant for my tea table guests. You see, I did not like to play with dolls, but rather I would play with my stuffed animal menagerie. Imagine if you will, that I would arrange my animals from my favorite bears, dogs and wild cats around the table. I did not stop at that – I took tiny pieces of paper and wrote simple lines for each character. It was perhaps simple chitchat or a silly comment. I guess that was my first rough draft of a screenplay!

I guess the moral to the story is that you never know when or how you will become a writer, author, and yes, even a criminologist when you are young. The tricks is to stay young at heart and always see through the eyes of a child.

Would love to hear your comments on how you see the world and writing as a child.

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Research and Writing Tip:

The next time you are outlining a new storyline, try to imagine what your characters would say to each other if they were sitting around a table. It does not have to be a child’s teatime table of course; it could be a boardroom table or a quiet corner table in a restaurant. Then turn the tables and imagine your characters as children. What would they say or do? What would their mannerisms be? Would any of them get up and leave. It is a great way to begin to profile your characters. You’ll be amazed by the growth and depth that will emerge from your characters.

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Corruption and Incompetence: Crime Labs Gone Bad

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Photo courtesy of corruptionblogdotnet.wordpress.com

The American justice system is designed to not only keep us safe from criminals, but also – to protect us from the potential intrusions of the state.

So, when we hear stories of systematic corruption and incompetence in state mandated forensic labs, it should cause all of us to stop and ask this one vital question. Who can we trust?

Although state-level corruption is nothing new, over the past decade or so, there has been an increased awareness of crime lab corruption and incompetence.

Due to the recent advances in forensic science, it is now easier to determine the supposed guilt of someone. But, it is also easier to determine if a particular lab was erroneous in its findings, and whether such error was simple negligence, or whether it rose to the level of criminal fraud.

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Image courtesy of: artinliverpool.com

Recently, there has been a slew of cases involving serious crimes committed by seemingly highly-regarded lab technicians. Here are just a few examples of this widespread epidemic of corruption.

  • In St. Paul, Minnesota, the crime lab recently underwent an independent review, at which time it was determined that there were major errors in almost every area of their work. Between filthy equipment, faulty techniques, and lack of knowledge of basic science, the lab had an abysmal record of extremely deficient work. In fact, it was discovered that the lab technicians were sometimes using Wikipedia as a ‘technical guide’ and they would often store crime scene photos on a computer that was not password protected.
  • In Massachusetts, thousands of drug convictions that led to imprisonment of thousands of people have been called into question. Why? Because a crime lab chemist admitted to faking tens of thousands of drug cases. Fortunately for the state’s residents, the chemist is now behind bars.
  • And, finally. In North Carolina, it was discovered that crime lab agents either withheld exculpatory evidence or distorted evidence in over 230 cases. This reprehensible behavior occurred over a whopping 16-year time period. The most horrific aspect of this travesty is that – three of the corrupted cases resulted in execution.

Based on these examples and numerous others, it is clear that our current system needs an overhaul. One of the main criticisms of the current state of public crime labs is lack of neutrality. These labs are intended to analyze evidence in an un-bias manner. However, even if there is no intentional corruption, there is often a cognitive bias that leads to skewed findings.

There is clearly a dire need for drastic improvement in the way these labs conduct their work. What’s your thoughts on a solution?

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DARK PURSUIT Received SECOND PLACE in the 2015 East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards

2ndPlace_EastTexasWritersGuildBookAwards2015DarkPursuit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am so honored and excited that my latest Emily Stone Thriller DARK PURSUIT received the Second Place Award from the 2015 East Texas Guild First Chapter Book Awards.  It was open to all genres and published books.  Thank you so much Venture Galleries and East Texas Writers Guild for the opportunity and award.

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DARK PURSUIT

An Emily Stone Thriller

Vigilante detective Emily Stone has covertly hunted down killers and closed more serial cases than most seasoned homicide cops combined. Her exceptional profiling skills and forensic techniques, along with deductive crime scene investigations, have made her a compelling force that cannot be beat.
She has reached her ultimate breaking point and now must face her toughest opponent yet – her biggest fears.

With preciseness, the Tick-Tock Killer has taken his next child victim and promised to dump the body precisely four days later, mocking police and the community. Stone struggles to balance her inner demons and ghosts from the past, against the wits of a brutal and cunning serial killer in an all-out battle of psychological warfare.

Can Stone save the next child in time? Dark Pursuit is an action-packed cat and mouse game that will take you to dark places rarely explored.

You can view the first chapters of DARK PURSUIT on Amazon

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The New Face of Crime

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Photo courtesy of policeoracle.com

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”              ~ Walt Whitman

The ability of law enforcement to maintain order has always depended on its capacity to outmatch the technological advancements of society’s underbelly. From the early days of systematic photography, to polygraph machines, to the ultra-modern technology of facial recognition, forensic science always strives to remain one step ahead of the criminals who prey upon the law-abiding population.

Although facial recognition technology has existed for over a decade, it has had its limitations. Until recently, criminals were able to beat facial recognition if the image of them was not fully captured, i.e. profile or partially covered face. (The recent failure of facial recognition in the Boston bomber manhunt is a great example of that limitation.)

This inadequacy may now be a thing of the past, as facial recognition technology recently underwent a significant milestone. According to Face Forensics Inc., its software now has the ability to match only a portion of someone’s face on previously uploaded full faces. This is bad news for the Phantom of the Opera.

But, seriously.

This is a huge advancement for law enforcement officials who have extensive databases of full faces, but have had problems linking those faces to partially captured facial images. How amazing would it be if this technology could make a match by using only a nose? Or an eye? Or an ear?

The ability to identify criminals at large will dramatically increase. If a camera could simply capture a glimpse of a perp, and then let the facial recognition software match the partial image to a full face – it will prove much more difficult for criminals to evade cameras by simply averting their full faces from known surveillance cameras.

While facial recognition was primarily developed for law enforcement purposes, there are also other surprising uses for this technology. Hotels use it to greet guests. Casinos utilize it to identify problem gamblers. And dating sites use it to help their members find soul mates.

The reality of our world is slowly catching up to science fiction. And, it seems to be only a matter of time before all of our faces will be under constant surveillance. I am not so sure that’s a good thing. How about you?

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Vigilante Detective Emily Stone Answers 5 Questions #NewRelease #Thriller

closeupEmilyI receive many questions about the heroine in my Emily Stone Thriller Series.  I thought it might be fun to ask her a few questions.  She was my inspiration and creation after a personal experience with a real psychopath.  But enough about me, let us ask Emily Stone a few questions.

(Interview reposted by permission from Emily Stone)

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Jennifer Chase:  Thank you Ms. Stone for taking the time to stop by to answer five questions.  I know that you have never given an interview because you work covertly and wish to remain anonymous.  First, tell us a little bit about your working background.

Emily Stone:  I was a police deputy sheriff for almost eight years in Indiana.  I worked patrol, special investigations and was overlooked for SWAT.  My primary interest was to work child cases.  I felt it was where I could make a difference.  I studied forensics and criminal profiling intensely through college courses and police seminars.

JC:  Now you are working on your own hunting down serial killers and child abductors.  What made you decide to quit the police department and work on your own? Was it something that happened to you? Did they make you quit?

Emily Stone:  I have the background, training, and determination.  It’s a calling, or need if you will, that I feel strongly about.  Why I quit the department is a personal decision that I’m not prepared to discuss right now.  EmilyStone_EI find that I could do more work effectively behind the scenes as a ghost detective unrestrained by police politics in order to assist various law enforcement agencies.  They’ve never questioned my anonymous emails or where my complete investigations came from.  In fact, they are relieved to have assistance and most of the time the forensic evidence helps to find a serial killer or child abductor.

JC:  It must be dangerous work.  Do you ever worry about your personal safety? 

Emily Stone:  Of course, but I plan ahead, make deliberate decisions and do not act on impulse or emotions.  Well… at least most of the time (softly laughs).  I’m an expert with firearms and self-defense. EmilyStone_workoutI am always learning new techniques to keep me alive.  I’m also fortunate to have someone on my side – so I’m not alone now.  I don’t know if I would have quit or found another way of conducting my investigations if it weren’t for him. (Her voice faded as she thought about Rick)

JC:  I’m familiar with serial crime and what potentially drives the various types of serial killers. Give us an example of your method of finding a serial killer.

Emily Stone:  That is a complex question, but I will give you a quick overview in the time I have available.  I start at the beginning with the crime scene or crime scenes. I ask myself many questions.  Why this particular area to kill or dump the body?  What does this area mean to the killer? What behavioral evidence is evident from the crime? Quite often, police overlook the areas that are indeed part of the crime scene, such as the areas that transport a person to the actual dumping ground.  I make the crime scene areas much larger in my investigations than the police initially conducted theirs.  Almost like clockwork, I find subtle clues that helps to give the beginning insight into the killer’s motives, behavior, modus operandi, signature, and if and when he’ll kill again.  Every case is different, but my methods are always the same. That’s what makes it work.

JC:  Ms. Stone where do you see yourself in the next few years?

Emily Stone:  That’s your sixth question.  I’m sorry, but those cases haven’t been written yet and I’m not prepared to discuss them with you.

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As you can see, Emily Stone seems to be capable and matter of fact when it comes to her covert investigative work, but her anonymity is imperative for her to be effective with these types of cases. If you would like to find out how she handles herself in forensic investigations and what happens when she’s confronted by the bad guys, check out her newest case in Dark Pursuit.

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Here’s a sneak peek of a case and you can watch Emily Stone in action:

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To Lie or Not To Lie

liedetectorYears ago I had an interview with a police department for a forensic position.  I had already been fingerprinted, interviewed by the supervisor, had an in-depth background meeting with the background investigators trying to catch me in a lie from my thirty plus page application of my background, and the investigator even visited my home.  I still wasn’t done with the interview process yet!  The final phase of the interview was the infamous lie detector test.

I’m a fairly easy-going, straight to the point kind of person with nothing to hide, but I have to admit I was a little intimidated by the thought that my stress might make the lie detector test blip a bit.  Maybe make me look guilty for something I did or didn’t do.  Was that possible?

I met with a patrol sergeant who was certified in administering the lie detector test to police department applicants.  I was escorted into a small interrogation room.  We are talking no thrills, small metal table, two uncomfortable chairs, and a rudimentary sign on the wall that read: check your firearm before entering.  Yeah, it was one of those rooms where the cops questioned suspects with hardcore investigative techniques.  My writer’s brain went through all types of wild scenarios, and I wondered if they had questioned a murder suspect in the very chair I was seated. Now I was sweating and fidgeting.  I expected to be wired up with numerous plastic suction cups with a strap across my chest as shown on television, but instead, my lie detector test was one tiny clip with a microphone affixed to my shirt.  The one cord was linked via USB connection to a laptop computer as the sergeant watched the modest size screen.  It was a voice stress analyzer that would detect any inconsistencies (or stress) from my voice.

And so it began… I kept thinking that my voice sounded funny, almost hollow, as I answered the routine questions.  It was like someone else was talking, but it was most likely my perception inside my head along with my nerves.

Once the interview was over, I asked half-jokingly, “So did I pass?”

The polite cop answered, “I just have a question that I need verified from someone else.”

I just stared at him.  Was he kidding?

To make a long story short, I passed all of the tests and was offered a position.

So what the heck is the standard lie detector test?

It’s actually called a polygraph, which is administered by a certified polygraph examiner.  A polygraph is a combination of medical devices that are used to monitor changes occurring in the body.  As a person is questioned about a certain event or incident, the examiner looks to see how the person’s heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate and electro-dermal activity (sweatiness) change in comparison to normal levels. Fluctuations may indicate that person is being deceptive, but exam results are open to interpretation (if the subject is deceptive) by the examiner. ­

This is where the whole polygraph thing gets interesting.  The questions, answers, and responses are all subjective to the “interpretation” of the examiner.  It leaves room for some seriously grey areas in my opinion.

Can people really beat the polygraph?

According to Russell Tice, the National Security Agency whistleblower who blew the lid open on warrantless wiretapping conducted by the federal government on U.S. citizens post-9/11, says a person can trick the tester on “probable-lie” questions.

These are the basic questions that the examiner gives to the recipient before the process actually begins, like “have you ever stolen money” or “have you ever cheated on a test”, etc.

Tice goes on to explain, “To trick the tester, a person should lie in response to these questions like most other people would, but also bite their tongue hard while doing so, which will set off other physiological reactions in the body. The tester’s “needles will fly everywhere,” says Tice. “And he will think, This guy is a nervous nelly. He has a strong physical reaction when he’s lying.’”

What about psychopaths?

If these types of individuals don’t see anything wrong with lying in the first place and have no bodily changes in the process, then this test would deem inaccurate and at the very least highly incomplete.

How accurate is the lie detector?

Some interesting new research published in May of 2013 from an international team of psychologists has shown that people can actually suppress incriminating memories.  What happens when certain individuals do this is that they avoid detection in the brain activity with guilt detection tests.  It sounds simple enough, but it’s based on the logic that criminals have specific memories of their crime stored in their brain.  Once the criminal is confronted or reminded of these details, then the brain will automatically recognize these details and the bodily changes occur.

Contrary to this assumption, some individuals can intentionally suppress unwanted memories.  It wasn’t clear from the article if psychopathy was studied as well, but I would guess that sociopathic and psychopathic individuals would/could be a part of this memory suppressor group.

Dr. Jon Simons, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge stated, “Our findings would suggest that the use of most brain activity guilt detection tests in legal settings could be of limited value. Of course, there could be situations where it is impossible to beat a memory detection test, and we are not saying that all tests are flawed, just that the tests are not necessarily as good as some people claim. More research is also needed to understand whether the results of this research work in real life crime detection.”

(originally posted 7/23/2013)

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Fun Fact:   The polygraph was invented in 1921 by John Augustus Larson, a medical student at the University of California at Berkeley and a police officer of the Berkeley Police Department in Berkeley, California. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the polygraph was on its 2003 list of greatest inventions, described by the company as inventions that “have had profound effects on human life for better or worse.”

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Check out Emily Stone’s approach to the polygraph. She doesn’t wait for the answer.

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A Knife for Vigilante Detective Emily Stone

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I am always looking for ways to add to Emily Stone’s arsenal when she goes on her covert investigations hunting serial killers. I wanted to add a knife as back up to her Glock and Beretta, so I decided to ask the expert who would completely know what she should carry. Benjamin Sobieck is the go-to weapon’s guy for writers. I got my answer and MORE! I’m so excited! I’ve already outlined some scenes for the next Emily Stone Thriller using her new back up weapon.

Check out this guest post from Benjamin Sobieck for great insight and be sure to visit his site: CrimeFictionBook.com.

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GUEST POST

by Benjamin Sobieck

Jennifer Chase popped by my blog, CrimeFictionBook.com, the other day to request a recommendation for a knife for her Emily Stone character. I was more than happy to play the part of Q to Chase’s vigilante protagonist.

Step One: Profile the Character

The first step is to get a sense of Emily Stone. I’ve read Emily Stone books before, so I have an idea of her, but this super cool video Chase produced last year drives it home.

Stone is a professional who knows how to fight, although Chase mentioned to me her sidearm is sometimes knocked away by an antagonist. The knife would be used as a backup in a last-ditch situation.

Step Two: Identify the Requirements

Given what I know about Stone now, I’d say her knife requirements break down like this:

  • Fast deployment (meaning the knife can be drawn quickly)
  • Small and/or concealable
  • Sturdy construction
  • Ergonomic

Step Three: Select a Knife Type

Flashy knives with folding blades, such as switchblades and assisted openers, are tempting. After all, what opens faster than a switchblade?

Actually, that’s a trick question. A fixed blade knife (meaning the blade doesn’t move) will always open faster than any folding knife. The blade is always open. That leaves room within the design for a solid grip on the handle.

Fixed blades can also take a beating without fail, unlike folders that can become jammed after hard use. A character like Stone needs something she can count on in any situation.

The trick will be to find fixed blades that are concealable. Fortunately, there are plenty of options out there.

Step Four: Choose the Knives

Back in the days when I worked for a survival magazine, Living Ready, I learned about an old saying that rings true for this situation: One is none, two is one. If you know you need something important, bring an extra.

So I’m going to recommend not one but two knives for Stone. She’s a Class A ass-kicker, so a backup to her backup is in order.

Primary Knife: Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Knife

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The Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Knife is designed for exactly the type of last-ditch defense Stone needs. Despite its name, it’s available to both civilians and law enforcement.

The TDI is lightweight and small, yet rugged and ergonomic to an extreme. Once Stone wraps a hand around the TDI’s curved design and thoughtfully integrated jimping (grooves for a better grip), there’s no letting go. She can hold the knife in almost any position, too, which perfectly matches her martial arts training.

This knife is best worn in a sheath fixed to a belt around the waist. A shirt could keep it somewhat hidden, but that’s where the secondary knife comes in.

Secondary Knife: Brous Blades Silent Soldier V1

Brous Blades Silent Soldier V1

If the going gets really tough, Stone can reach for the backup to her backup knife, the Brous Blades Silent Soldier V1.

Once Stone slips her fingers into the V1, she’ll have to lose her hand before it’s forced away from her. It’s small and sports sturdy construction, with aggressive jimping along the spine of the blade.

Those are admirable features, but the real kicker is where it’s worn. This is a neck knife, meaning it slips into a sheath that’s worn on a lanyard. Stone could wear it around the neck and under the shirt. If she needs it, deployment is as easy as reaching up her shirt from below and tugging out the knife.

The bad guys won’t know what hit ’em.

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Benjamin Sobieck is the author of The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books) and several works of crime fiction. Check out his website at CrimeFictionBook.com.

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