Monday, January 16, 2012

How To Hook’em And Book’em Without Dialing 9-1-1

 It's our pleasure to welcome Joya Fields to our blog. Please leave a comment or ask a question after you finish reading.

Joya Fields, author
Joya Fields has had over 100 stories and articles published in local and national magazines and her debut novel, BENEATH THE SURFACE, a romantic suspense, released in January, 2012. LOVE DELIVERED, a romantic comedy is now available.
Over the years, Joya has taught arts and crafts, worked in public relations, owned a daycare center, helped her children raise prize-winning 4-H livestock, competed in three marathons, and even spent a year as a Baltimore Colts cheerleader. Joya loves spending time with her high school sweetheart/husband of over twenty years, two very supportive children, and a pug who follows her everywhere.

Thank you so much to the Greater Fort Worth Writers for having me with you today to chat about law enforcement for non-law enforcement writers.
No doubt about it, if you write suspense, you’re going to need to know about law enforcement. I’ve met a few ex-FBI agents, ex-police and ex-CIA at writers’ conferences. Some of them don’t even write suspense. They’ve lived that life in reality, and don’t find it an interesting escape to write about it. However the old adage “write what you know” makes suspense writing a natural fit for those who worked in law enforcement.
What about the rest of us? I started out to write contemporary romance. A nice, sweet story with some conflict and a happy ending. My characters had a different plan. On the very first page of my very first manuscript, someone was hiding in the shadows, watching my heroine.

So much for sweet contemporary.

But I had no idea how to depict a crime scene investigation. I had no idea how cops spoke to one another, or about proper protocol. I raised my hand to ask this very question of a suspense writer at a conference a few years back.

Me: “How can someone who doesn’t have experience with police work write a suspense and make it realistic?”
Famous author: “Walk up to a police officer, punch him in the face, and you’ll find out about our criminal justice system real fast.”

Lucky for me, he went on to explain some resources, web sites and books. After class, a guy tapped me on the shoulder and handed me his card. “Call me anytime,” he said. Then he walked away.

I flipped the card over. A policeman. And that was the beginning of an education in law enforcement. That wonderful man emailed me photos of guns, taught me about local human trafficking laws, and generally kept me on the right track.

My debut romantic suspense novel, BENEATH THE SURFACE, includes a lot of scenes with police and sheriff officials. Thanks to the Florida police departments I spoke with, I even found out what color uniforms these officers wear. I’ve written several romantic suspense novels now, and have learned a lot about how to get the law enforcement part right. Here are some things that have helped me:

1. First and foremost, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask a police department for help. Don’t dial 9-1-1, though. Call public affairs and they’ll likely direct you to someone who can help.

2. If your county allows, sign up for a police ride-along. In my county, anyone over eighteen without a criminal record can go along with an officer for a full shift. Absolutely nothing compares to seeing law enforcement in person. A cool perk is that you also get to run red lights and drive really fast.

3. Take on-line workshops geared to teach writers about law enforcement. These are given by former police personnel, retired FBI agents, and others. offers a wide variety of these courses.

4. Link: crimescenewriter is a terrific yahoo group that features law enforcement professionals and other writers who will answer your questions.

5. Books also make great sources.

Here’s a list of my favorite ones:
Murder and Mayhem: D.P. Lyle, M.D.
Forensics for Dummies: D.P. Lyle, M.D.
Never Suck a Dead Man’s Hand: Dana Kollman
The Crime Writer’s Reference Guide: Martin Roth
Mind Hunter: John Douglas

Thanks for stopping by today. I’d love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with law enforcement (good or bad). Don't forget to come back on Friday for a short excerpt of Beneath The Surface.

Find Joya on the web:

Follow Joya on Twitter: @joyafields

Buy link for Beneath the Surface:


Bryan said...

Thanks for sharing! Great advice on how to get information.. nothing beats milk straight from the udder. ;)

Jeff Turner said...

Another source of police contacts is being in volunteer groups like Citizens On Patrol and Citizens Police Academy. Plus CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). Fort Worth has all of them -- they are in parts of my second book BTW.

Joya said...

Good morning, Bryan! Hahaha, I love your comparison. Yes, I agree that nothing beats milk straight from the udder. Living it in person, and asking LOTS of questions, was way better than reading a book about police procedure.
Thanks very much for stopping by to read and comment. :)

Joya said...

Hi Jeff,
That's a fabulous suggestion. In fact, the policeman I rode with said most of the civilians who go on ride-alongs are the C.O.P. members. Great advice and very cool that you included that in your story.
Thanks for stopping by! :)

Anonymous said...

I would surely be in the same position as you were on knowledge of police procedure. Heck, I don't even know what they say if they stop you for speeding. I think riding around in one of their cars might be fun though.
Thorne Anderson

Joya said...

Hi Thorne! I think that's a very good thing that you don't know what cops would say if you were stopped for speeding--means you're a safe driver. Yes, the ride-along was a blast. We probably stopped about 30 cars for speeding that night, ran a dozen red lights, and ended up with a DUI arrest (young kid) at the end of the night. That was very scary to see that kid's life change forever. Young, smart kid who made a huge mistake.
Thanks for stopping by! :)

Ruby Johnson said...

This is a site that might be helpful to other writers.

Thanks for being a guest on our blog.

Joya said...

Thanks for sharing, Ruby. Great link! Great to be here today, and thanks very much for hosting me. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for listing the cool resources, Joya! Great blog!!
Beth W.

Joya said...

Hi Beth! Thanks so much for stopping by today. So glad you found the resources helpful. :)

Kate Dolan said...

Thanks for the great tips! When I wrote my first two mysteries, I felt I couldn't make them murders because police would be involved and I didn't know anything about how they operate. Knowing that there are so many resources out there should take the fear out of the equation next time.

NancyCWeeksAuthor said...

Hi Joya,
I have to say it: HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Great blog. I love the new resources listed in this blog. As a romantic suspense writer, I'm always looking for answers on police procedures. The Savvy Author workshops are great. I've taken John Foxjohn's workshop- You Have the Right to Remain Silent and he was great about answering all our questions.

Angi Morgan said...

Thanks so much for sharing. Awesome post! Great resources.


Joya said...

Hi Kate! So wonderful to hear from you. Very cool that you won't be afraid to include police in your next novel. You should really check out that police ride-along option, too. It's fun!
Thanks for stopping by today. :)

Joya said...

Hi Nancy! Thanks very much for the happy bday wishes and for stopping by today. I'm glad you found these resources helpful. I agree about John's class-he's a great resource, too.
Thanks for your comment and good luck with your writing! :)

Joya said...

So glad you found the tips helpful! Thanks very much for stopping by and commenting. :)

Laura said...

Hi, Joya,

Interesting post. Thanks for your great ideas - and the fun stories, too :D

Laura DT

Joya said...

Hi Laura!
Thanks so much for stopping by today. Glad you found the tips useful. Thanks for thinking the stories are fun,too. :)

George said...

Thank you for solid advice and a healthy reminder for never forgetting to research. I have to add -- you've had a heck of a career.

Joya said...

Hi George,
I agree about research, we need to make sure we get things right in books, and I think that's one of the best parts of writing. Writers learn SO much from our research.
Thanks very much for stopping by to comment and for your recognition of my career so far. Very nice of you! Best wishes for much success to you. :)

Caroline Clemmons said...

Joya, thanks so much for the links.D. P. Lyle also has a forensics blog that is helpful.

Teresa Hearl said...

I will check out these links. Thank you my MRW friend. ~Teresa

Joya said...

Hi Caroline,
You're very welcome. Thank YOU for the reminder about the blog. There's a lot of great information out there, and the cool thing is that most forensics experts, law enforcement officials, etc. are more than happy to share their knowledge.
Thanks very much for your comment. :)

Pat Marinelli said...

Lee Lofland's The Graveyard Shift is a great blog for anything you want to know about law enforement.

Joya said...

Hi Teresa! That's great that you'll check out those links. Hope you find them helpful. Thanks so much for stopping by to comment, my friend. :)

Joya said...

Hi Pat,
Wow! You all are leaving such great tips. I'm going to take notes from these comments to add to my arsenal of suspense resources.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Pat. :)

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