Weekend Update: August 23-24, 2014

fallsbooks1Next week at Maine Crime Writers there will be posts by Barbara Ross (Monday), Vicki Doudera (Tuesday), Lea Wait (Wednesday), James Hayman (Thursday), and Al Lamanda (Friday).

In the news department, here’s what’s happening with some of us who blog regularly at Maine Crime Writers:

Lea Wait: Saturday, August 23, I’ll be speaking about my Shadows on a Down East Summer, in which Winslow Homer is a major character, at The Yarn Seller, 264 Route 1, York Maine, at 11 a.m. I’ll be bringing a few Homer wood engravings for “show and tell,” and will have copies of all my books available for purchase.

From the Kathy Lynn Emerson half of Kathy/Kaitlyn: I have news of another sort. Awhile back I wrote about 100 pages of what was supposed to be an Elizabethan thriller with (alleged) witches. It really didn’t work as a novel, but out of that 100 pages, I recycled two short stories about Old Mother Malyn, the local herb woman, and her granddaughter Joan. “The Blessing Witch” and “The Cunning Woman” both take place in 1570 and I’ve had the very good luck to find homes for both of them. “The Blessing Witch” will be in the next New England anthology, Rogue Wave, which will be published in November. “The Cunning Woman” has just been accepted by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. No publication date yet on that one. The moral: no writing is ever wasted. Heck, if I really look, there may be one or two more short stories in that 100 pages.


An invitation to readers of this blog: Do you have news relating to Maine, Crime, or Writing? We’d love to hear from you. Just comment below to share. Don’t forget that comments are entered for a chance to win our wonderful basket of books and the very special moose and lobster cookie cutters.


And a reminder: If your library, school, or organization is looking for a speaker, we are often available to talk about the writing process, research, where we get our ideas, and other mysteries of the business. Contact Kate Flora: mailto: kateflora@gmail.com


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The Use of Force Continuum

thKate Flora here, writing today about the use of force continuum, which will be explained, a bit, in the Wikipedia excerpts below. Before I became a crime writer, I thought that what writers did was to sit at their desks, exercise their imaginations, and make things up. But whether I’m writing cops as my main characters–as in the case of my Joe Burgess series, or a civilian, or amateur detective, as I do in my Thea Kozak series, there are many instances in which I need to know how the police function, and knowing when an officer can fire a gun is part of that.

At some point, several years ago, I met a police officer at the gym, and started peppering him with Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 4.20.26 PMquestions. His response was to encourage me to attend a citizen’s police academy. Since my town didn’t offer one, he arranged for me to attend the one in the city where he worked. One night, part of the lecture on patrol procedure was on the use of force continuum…that system cops use to assess what level of force is appropriate, and necessary, in any given situation. I don’t remember what they told us about some of the less threatening situations, but I clearly remember the scenario where someone is coming at you with a knife, and they asked: At what point do you draw your weapon? At twenty feet, they told us, the knife-wielding assailant can get to you before you can get your gun out of your holster.

Something else they told us, which has stayed in my mind ever since, is that that officer, in a dangerous situation, wants to go home alive at the end of the shift.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, because of the events in Ferguson. Because they’re talking Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 4.20.50 PMabout convening a grand jury way before they can possible have gathered the essential facts. Because there is so much angry talk about shooting an unarmed boy dead in the street when a detailed assessment of the situation is very complicated. I’ve been thinking about some of the videos police officers have shown me, and about how incredibly fast these things happen.

I’ve also been thinking about my husband’s question–a question that seems to have been fueled by watching too many westerns where the sharpshooter zaps the gun out of the bad guy’s hand. And about what we’ve been told when crime writers go shooting with the cops–always aim for center mass. If you’re at the point where you’re going to shoot, you want them to go down and stay down. Try for an arm or a leg and the person might not go down. Or stay down. Never mind how truly difficult it is to aim and fire under stress or to hit a moving target. So no, dear, if you’re at the point where you’re going to shoot, you’re shooting to stop that person.

So here’s a brief discussion of the use of force continuum, plus a bit from the Supremes on what the after the fact test is.

From Wikipedia:

A use of force continuum is a standard that provides law enforcement officials & security officers (such as police officers, probation officers, or corrections officers) with guidelines as to how much force may be used against a resisting subject in a given situation. In certain ways it is similar to the military rules of engagement. The purpose of these models is to clarify, both for officers and citizens, the complex subject of use of force by law officers. They are often central parts of law enforcement agencies’ use of force policies. Although various criminal justice agencies have developed different models of the continuum, there is no universal standard model.

The first examples of use of force continuum were developed in the 1980s and early 1990s. Early models were depicted in various formats, including graphs, semicircular “gauges“, and linear progressions. Most often the models are presented in “stair step” fashion, with each level of force matched by a corresponding level of subject resistance, although it is generally noted that an officer need not progress through each level before reaching the final level of force. These progressions rest on the premise that officers should escalate and de-escalate their level of force in response to the subject’s actions.

Although the use of force continuum is used primarily as a training tool for law officers, it is also valuable with civilians, such as in criminal trials or hearings by police review boards. In particular, a graphical representation of a use of force continuum is useful to a jury when deciding whether an officer’s use of force was reasonable.

The United States Supreme Court, in the case of Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, (1989), held that when engaged in situations where the use of force is necessary to effect an arrest, or to protect an officer’s life or that of another, a law enforcement officer must act as other reasonable officers would have acted in a similar, tense, rapidly evolving situation.[6] Such situations, once known as use of force incidents, are now commonly referred to as response to resistance incidents, because a law enforcement officer must respond to resistance offered by another. In order to determine what actions officers find reasonable in similar situations, some experts utilize surveys with law enforcement officers, who are provided with certain scenarios to determine what actions they would take if placed in certain situations. Experts such as Samuel Faulkner, former instructor at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, not only surveys police officers, he has spoken to and surveyed, civilian review boards, high school and college government classes, Rotary Club and Kiwanis Clubs, Optimist Clubs, emergency managers, and even some chapters of the ACLU. Knowing what other officers and citizens deem reasonable helps to craft a solid response to resistance continuum.[7]

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 3.52.15 PMAnd one thing I’ve learned, by spending some hours today reading up on this, is that there is a movement now from the step-like format of the continuum to a use of force wheel, and much discussion about whether having to analyze the steps in an escalating situation might be seriously detrimental to officer safety.


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In Other News…

DSCN0727Hello again from Sarah Graves, writing to you from Eastport, Maine, where if the world ends today we won’t find out about it for ten years or so, that’s how remote we are here. But we’re finding out plenty about one thing, all right: Now that CNN, MSNBC, and the other US “news” sources have discovered the intensely profitable clickbait that is Ferguson, MO, you’d think Ebola had been wiped out. Or that Israel and Gaza had made peace. Or that ISIS had decided to write children’s books. Or that…

Never mind, you get the idea. It’s all Ferguson all the time right now, at least in part, perhaps, because the newsDSCN0729 media folks think we all need to get with the program and start talking about this stuff, seeing it and knowing about it and maybe even doing something about it. (Which is what I think, in case that’s not clear.) But there’s a chance it’s also because they’ve figured out that people will watch live feeds of any kind of conflict, especially if there are guns and tanks in the picture and a chance of their being used. ‘If it bleeds, it leads,’ is still true, after all, and it’s true for a reason: the more people are watching, the more ads the network can sell, and the more they can charge for the ads.

So that’s another reason why we’re seeing so much of it, in my opinion. DSCN0725And since I have it on fairly good authority that the poor we shall always have with us, the strategy of profiting off conflicts that arise out of economic (and other kinds of) inequality will stick around for a while, too, probably. Or anyway it will as long as the “barrier” between advertising and editorial is so…well, I was about to say non-existent, but let’s be charitable and call it porous.


Eyjafjallajokull volcano


Or we could talk about volcanoes. As luck would have it, there’s one worth talking about right now, called Bardarbunga. It’s in Iceland, way the heck out in the sticks (which most of Iceland is, actually) under a glacier called Vatnajokull, and over the past week or so there’ve been earthquakes around it. Lots and lots of earthquakes, 2600 or so, in fact, enough to make the geologists think something’s about to go kablooey.

Last time an Icelandic earthquake went kablooey , in 2010, the ash in the atmosphere shut down a DSCN0733large chunk of European air travel for ten days. If Bardarbunga should blow, however, it won’t necessarily create an ash cloud. It could just melt a sizable portion of the glacier and cause a huge flood. People are already being evacuated from around the volcano, although at this point it’s only a precaution, so don’t worry. If enormous red-hot smoking boulders start flying out of the volcano called Bardarbunga, I’m sure the news media will let us know. Eventually.




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Susan Vaughan here. This post will complete my summer vacation travelogue of Rhine mysteries. Why are there so many castles along the Rhine?

Marksburg Castle

The morning of day four of our river journey, we went to Braubach and toured Marksburg Castle, the only Medieval castle on the Rhine to have survived intact. The oldest section, the inner keep, dates from about 1200. The great hall and the kitchen contain some of the original furnishings.

bBraubach11 - castle kitchen

In the afternoon, we cruised on upriver. Seen from a cruise ship’s deck, the Middle Rhine seems like a journey through history.

cMidRhine14 - Town, castle

In rapid succession, we gawped at a pageant of vineyards, walled towns, and hills topped with castles.

cMidRhine25 - Town, vineyard, castle

The ship’s program director announced their names, along with tidbits of history. Even though I still have the map and my photos, I cannot say for sure which castle is which. Ones I remember were the Sterrenberg and Liebenstein castles, owned by brothers who hated each other, so the pair were called the Hostile Brothers.

cMidRhine24 - Two castles

Thurnburg, or Burg Maus (Mouse Castle), gets its nickname for its diminutive size compared to Neu-Katzenelnbogen, or Burg Katz (Cat Castle). I can’t guarantee my photos match those names. Most of the many castles we saw were ruins, some only a tower and others a few walls.

cMidRhine35 - Castle

Centuries of European wars and wars between rival nobles burned the wood and tumbled the stone. My binoculars picked out some potted geraniums and patio umbrellas, where enterprising contemporary owners had turned semi-ruins into B&Bs or restaurants.

cMidRhine17 - Castle

The Lorelei is not a castle, but a fabled cliff which towers over a bend in the river, narrow at this point to 350 feet. Tricky currents and rocks spelled disaster to many ships and inspired German poets to invent the “Legend of the Lorelei,” which told of a beautiful girl whose seductive song lured mariners to their doom. A statue of her commemorates the legend.

cMidRhine21 - Lorelei statue

So why all these castles, which by my count number at least 20 in about 40 miles? Kings had their royal palaces, but many other nobles built castles and fortresses along the Rhine in order to defend their lands and enrich themselves. Along this narrow stretch of river, with steep hillsides blocking the wind, ships often couldn’t sail without help from land—animals pulling them along on tow paths. Knights and barons could fire cannons down on ships and demand taxes or cargo for safe passage. The origin of the term “robber baron.” So there you have the answer.

*** My newest release is a box set of the Task Force Eagle trilogy for your Kindle, price reduced August 26-30. You can find excerpts and buy links at www.susanvaughan.com.

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Meet Bette Stevens

John Clark sharing an interview with fellow Hartland author (and member of the library book discussion group), Bette Stevens.

Author BAS Blue text

1-Tell me about growing up–where, what authors influenced you, what are some of your strongest/most vivid memories from childhood?

I grew up in California (the early years) and later New York State. Our home was filled with books, magazines, pencils, crayons and water color paint and Mama had me reading, writing and drawing before I entered kindergarten. Fairy tales and Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes were among my early favorites. As the eldest of five children, I had a great deal of responsibility at home once babies started arriving (I was five). I was fortunate to spend several weeks each summer with my grandmother who taught me how to sew, knit, crochet, tat lace, make jewelry and create wood fiber flowers. Grandma regaled me with her stories of growing up in ‘the good old days’ when horse and carriage was the transportation norm and blizzards left snow drifts taller than two story houses. By middle school, I discovered Thyra Ferra Bjorn’s books at the local library, where I whiled away treasured quiet time with new friends (characters from Bjorn’s novels are a Swedish immigrant couple and their family). Papa’s Daughter was my first read from the series. I was hooked on historical fiction that helped me learn more about my family roots.

2-Coming to Maine, how did that happen?

The year was 1973—the year of the great oil crisis, when New Yorkers sat among the millions of Americans who were literally ‘sitting in line’ behind steering wheels on odd or even days, waiting to fill up their gas guzzlers. That was enough to make Dan and I put our home in Upstate New York on the market and head up to the land of “The Way Life Should Be,” where we’d been vacationing (tenting) for nearly a decade.

We already owned a parcel of land in Southern Maine. My husband’s maternal ancestors had been Mainers before Maine was a legitimate entity. Here’s the lineage link via Wikipedia: Simon Bradstreet, (baptized March 18, 1603/4[1] – March 27, 1697) was a colonial magistrate, businessman, diplomat, and the last governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Arriving in Massachusetts on the Winthrop Fleet in 1630, Bradstreet was almost constantly involved in the politics of the colony but became its governor only in 1679. He served on diplomatic missions and as agent to the crown in London, and also served as a commissioner to the New England Confederation. He was politically comparatively moderate, arguing minority positions in favor of freedom of speech and for accommodation of the demands of King Charles II following his restoration to the throne.

The Bradstreet family farmstead burnt over in the 1947 fire—a forty-acre plot where we built a home without a mortgage (that took nearly ten years to complete) when we set out as part of the ‘back-to-the-landers’ movement. We raised sheep, chickens, turkeys, pigs and a variety of other critters and plowed ten acres for pick-your-own fruits and vegetables. The girls were six and three when we ‘landed’ and we’re proud to say that we’ve been Maine land owners ever since.

3-What did you take away from your teaching career that influenced you as a writer?

Actually, teaching was a second career. The first was in business where writing, editing and desktop publishing kept me on my writer’s toes until 1994 when I left to earn a B.S. in Education from University of Maine Orono. I volunteered in local schools for several years and saw a need that I wanted to fill. Teaching for eight years (1997-2005) was a dream job. I believe that teachers have the privilege and the opportunity to read and write on a daily basis and also to inspire kids to enjoy reading and writing. Those are among the things I want my children and young adult books to accomplish. I also hope that they’ll inspire readers to be the best they can be and to help others to do the same.

4-How did you become a writer?

Writing began during our ‘back-to-the land’ farm days in the 1970s and ’80s.

Inspired by nature and human nature, I enjoyed writing nugget poems and short stories for the family back then. In the business world of the 1980s and ’90s, I interviewed fellow employees and wrote human interest articles for the company’s twelve-page company newsletter. I was also editor and desktop publisher for the publication that reached more than 1,500 families. By the mid-1990s, I was an undergrad at UMO, where I mentored peers at the Writing Center and had two of my articles published in ECHOES Magazine.

By 1996, the first edition of THE TANGRAM ZOO AND WORD PUZZLES TOO! was published by Windswept House Publishing in Mt. Desert, Maine. In 1997, I wrote the first draft of AMAZING MATILDA, A Monarch’s Tale and used it as a teaching tool for my students. By the time I retired from teaching in 2005, I decided it was time to publish AMAZING MATILDA and publish a second edition of THE TANGRAM ZOO. Of course, I had to learn how to draw on the computer for THE ZOO and complete the pen and water color artwork for AMAZING MATILDA which took about six months.

I invite you to visit my website/blog at http://www.4writersandreaders.com to find out more about my books and my blog, read some of my poetry and download some free stuff too. You can sign up for my (approximate/bimonthly) email updates (right hand column) to get pre-released stories/news, photos and find out when my eBooks are free/discounted on Amazon.

Bette and her books

Bette and her books

5-What have you written and what were the things that influenced them?

THE TANGRAM ZOO AND WORD PUZZLES TOO! is a hands-on activity book and a great resource for home or school that teaches and reinforces math, reading and writing skills.

AMAZING MATILDA—an award-winning picture book for children ages 5-10—follows the life cycle of a monarch butterfly and teaches kids, not only science, but life lessons about bullying, friendship, patience and persistence. As a writer, I advocate for monarch butterflies, a threatened species and for children and families, both on my blog and through my books.

PURE TRASH is a 1950s short story prequel to my soon-to-be-released debut novel—DOG BONE SOUP, A Boomer’s Journey. I wrote PURE TRASH as a short story for the YA/Adult audience to highlight the plight of a poor boy growing up rural New England. I believe the story is as relevant today as it would have been back then.

6-How have your books been received?

I’ve received a great deal of positive feedback from readers around the globe. Some of it is the form of book reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and Writer blogs. Kids love AMAZING MATILDA and I thoroughly enjoy visiting local classrooms, libraries, businesses and homes to read and discuss MATILDA’S story. There’s nothing that compares to watching and listening to my wide-eyed young friends!

7-What are you working on now?

My first novel:

DOG BONE SOUP, A Boomer’s Journey by Bette A. Stevens


Onion sandwiches and dog bone soup…
Shawn Daniels is leaving it all behind!

Boomers call them ‘The Good Old Days’—the 1950s and ’60s, when America was flying high. An era when the ‘All American Family’ lived a life filled with hopes and dreams come true.

Shawn Daniels isn’t your typical American boomer boy. No, Shawn is a poor boy. His father is the town drunk. Shawn’s family has no indoor plumbing or running water, but they do have a TV. After all, Dad (an alcoholic) deserves the rewards of his labor; while Shawn and his brother Willie keep the firewood cut and stacked, haul in water for cooking and cleaning, weed the gardens and shovel the snow. But when chores are done, these two resourceful boys discover boundless pursuits that are downright entertaining—and they don’t cost a dime.

On a bitter New England day in 1964, Shawn is on his way to boot camp to soak up the southern sun and strike out on a new adventure—one where it’s possible to make his hopes and dreams come true. Find out where this Boomer has been and where he’s going in DOGBONE SOUP: A Boomer’s Journey.

8-Has living in Hartland had any effect on you as a writer?

Being a writer inspired by nature and human nature, I’ve written several poems about nature since moving to Hartland and, yes, I’ve met lots of people. So, no matter where I go, there will always be poems to pen and stories that need to be told.

9-Best/worst experience as a writer?

Best? There is nothing that compares to getting that first copy of any book (proof or final). To this writer, holding it in my hands is worth a million bucks!

Worst? Reading a review by someone who doesn’t like my book, but even that has it’s upside—learning how to improve my writing.

Here's lookin' at ya kid.

Here’s lookin’ at ya kid.

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