Posts Tagged With: writers homicide school

Umm… A Few More Things? – A Review, A Seminar, and the end of the draft is in sight…

Alright. No laborious preamble tonight. Let’s get straight to it.

First – Blessed are the Dead by Malla Nunn. If you’ve been following this blog (and why aren’t you if you aren’t?) then you should know by now that my tastes in mystery and crime can be a little… random. Much like my taste in music, really. Anyway. Blessed are the Dead is a pretty good one I feel comfortable recommending. Nunn doesn’t go in for flashy sentences or sparkling paragraphs. She just weaves a fascinating little tale about a former WWII Veteran turned detective in South Africa circa 1952. The victim is a beautiful Zulu girl found on a hillside with no apparent injuries, which is really too bad because the Colonel in charge of the homicide was – of course – hoping for a flashy white victim to elevate his status before his big wedding day.

Politics and race play a huge part of this tight little thriller. And when I say politics I mean tribal politics. The way Nunn weaves together Zulu, Africaan and English prejudices is fascinating and vivid. Add to that mixture the desire for status and how to achieve it in various different and competing cultures and you have a fine stew of exotic interests meeting in homicide and intrigue throughout.

Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper is perfectly serviceable as a lead detective – driven by inner demons – that sort of thing. It’s a pretty standard back story for him really BUT in Nunn’s hands it’s a got a bit more zip than it has most other places mainly due to his mixed background, the accusation of being half black that nearly derailed his career, and the haunting Scottish sergeant who occasionally makes his spectral presence known. The real kick comes from Cooper’s partner, Native Constable Shabalala. Nunn wisely keeps her narrative closely focused on Cooper and his investigation but the presence of Shabalala is enigmatic, flitting here and there, toeing the line of apartheid rules, silently – and distantly – interviewing witnesses we readers will never be privy to except in his wonderful bits of exposition. We never really get to know Shabalala throughout the story but man did I find myself wanting to.

Anyway. If you’re looking for something a bit different with maybe just a tiny hint of fantasy to it I’d recommend Nunn’s work. Not that there really is any fantasy to it but with her sparse yet gorgeous descriptive flair it can feel somewhat fantastical at times and thrown in a ghostly Scottish soldier popping in now and then and… well…

Second order of business and this one is really exciting. I know I’ve gone on about the Writers Homicide School a few times already but that’s just giving credit where credit is due. I tend to do that when something has filled my head with more material than I really know what to do with. Well I got a bit of great news today that I can’t do anything with so I’m hoping one of you readers will be able to do something about it. April 27th and 28th the Writers Homicide School is coming to Knoxville, Tennessee! If you’re anywhere near the area, fancy yourself a mystery writer, or just have a hankering to get the real inside scoop on how it is from a real former homicide detective you can’t miss it. Oh and did I mention it’s discounted? Yep. If you reserve before April 11th it’s only $199. If that sounds like a lot to you… well… cough it up. It was worth it at the ridiculous price I paid – but then I did get a trip to LA out of the deal. And this one appears to come with EVEN MORE audience participation! Sigh. And I’m damned well going to miss it. Why? Because I’m heading back to LA at the beginning of April for another conference involving LAPD. Ah well…

But before I lament my pitiful state any further lemme just give you a little taste of what you’re going to get:

NEW FOR 2013! – By popular request and demand (threats by some even) I am now including practical exercises to the Writers Homicide School. We will be seeing blood fly in motion, doing some basic experiments and for those who aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty, we will be doing some latent lifts with black powder too!

I mean seriously. How can you resist? I can only resist due to some fairly poor decision-making and a woefully empty pocketbook.

Anyway – head on over to the Writers Homicide School blog right now and find out more.

And finally, to toot my own little horn just a tad: Meg Brown Mystery #6 is almost finished in its draft form. It has a long way to go to be edited and ready for publication and I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it when that happens (do I self publish again? Do I begin the long, arduous and aggravating hunt for representation?) If anyone has any suggestions I will happily take them. The big thing with this one is that I would like to donate the proceeds (whatever they end up being) to charity. I know. You just heard me say I’m not rich but I want to donate the book to charity. Well… there’s a good reason for it. First, I didn’t really write the thing for me to begin with. And second, I’d do the writing anyway. ‘Cuz that’s what I do. Full stop. It’s not like I’ve been paid riches before and work is work. You know you really mean it when you give it away.

If you haven’t read the other Meg’s please do. I’m pretty proud of them. Even if they didn’t have the benefit of a professional editor and all the good cheese that comes with a major publishing house. Here’s a link to all of them: Here. Don’t let the rather dire cover design fool you. I’m working on that.

Categories: Meg Brown Mysteries, Mystery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Some New Seminar Updates – Sign Up Immediately!!!

So a while back I wrote about the simply amazing Homicide Writing School that I took in LA last year. If you haven’t read about it go over and take a look here. It’s really the best induction into the world of the homicide detective that you’re likely to get without actually knowing a homicide detective and picking their brain 24/7. Not a day goes by in my little writing world where I don’t put it to use and I’m constantly thinking about it while writing. I’m pretty sure I don’t get everything perfect, not being a detective myself, but it sure does rattle around the old noggin enough.

Well today (way early for a new post on the mystery blog, I know) I have a bit of an update. For starters the Homicide Writers School is coming to Chicago! Right in my own back yard! (sort of) From what I hear of Chicago these days, if Detective Sergeant Pacifico isn’t careful he may find himself drafted. It’s coming to the Windy City March 29th and 30th courtesy of the International Screenwriters Association and the Tribeca Flashpoint Academy. The price is $350.00 or $250.00 with the discount code. BUT – and here’s the exciting thing – if you happen to be nowhere near Chicago on the 29th and 30th you can still attend (sort of). The Homicide Writing School will be broadcast online!

If you’re tapping your chin with your writing pencil right now and thinking ‘gee that’s a bit steep’ well then you’re in the same boat I was in when I went. If you have the available cash and care to get the real dirt on writing homicide from a real homicide detective you must go. Pacifico covers nearly every topic you could hope to learn about – from department organization, to blood spatter and interrogation with enough real life examples to make the whole thing stimulating, fascinating and invaluable. Just as a personal example I’m pretty broke and risked my job to attend the seminar in California. In fact I had to quit my job in order to attend (but managed to save it because they desperately needed the personnel) and it was entirely worth it.

And if that wasn’t enough excitement for you scribbling sleuths, slaying screenwriters, etc there’s yet more news! Sgt. Pacifico will also be holding a FREE teleconference on March 9th covering interrogation and interview! If you don’t know that there’s a difference then you’d better sign up before you finish reading this paragraph. How often have you seen the TV cops tear into a possible suspect in an interview room trying to badger them into fessing up? Probably so often that you have this unnatural instinct that that’s exactly how it’s done. I, for one, get a little aggravated at watching interrogation after interrogation like it’s some silly revolving door of verbal abuse. Why not learn how it’s really done? And why not for Free? did I mention it’s free? Did I mention I’m pretty excited?

I’ve said it before in the other blog but I would easily pay another $250.00 for a two-day seminar only about interrogation and interview. The stuff we learned in that segment was absolutely fascinating and leads me to believe I never want to play poker against a homicide detective. At least not a real one. Give me one of the TV one’s any day. With the lessons I learned in that segment I think I could beat David Caruso out of a paycheck.

Registration for the Seminar on the 29-30th can be found here:

Registration for the free Interview/Interrogation teleconference can be found here:

And Sgt. Pacifico’s website for future conferences and his crime writing consultations can be found here:

Get out there and register while spaces last. You won’t regret it.

Addendum: I don’t know why but my comments aren’t showing up under the posts in the manner i’d like so i thought i would add this little bit courtesy of Sgt. Pacifico himself:

What also needs to be mentioned is the price of the online webinar is only $95 if you use the discount code ISACWC when signing up. In house guests get the bonus of personal interaction between breaks and the ability to play with some of the props and/or interact with the exercises, plus they receive a discounted rate after hours one-on-one consultation (first come first serve on these as there are only so many hours in the day.)

I really appreciate your support of my seminar. You can tix for either the Chicago in-studio event or the webinar at

Thank you sincerely,

Derek Pacifico

Hear that folks? 95 dollars for the webinar but i still highly recommend personal attendance if you can swing it. The interaction is absolutely priceless – not just for the much vaunted networking but the question and answer is excellent and the moments of audience participation really bring it all together in a way nothing else can.

Categories: Mystery, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

More Seminar News – Crime Writers Seminar in Santa Monica

Well i missed last weeks regular mystery writing post. Oops. In my defense i was diligently trying to construct a flat packed entertainment system. There were… ahem… complications. It took two days and by the time i was actually done the whole week was a wash. I hate hate hate hate weeks that i don’t write. It hasn’t happened in a while. I tend to get a little testy – particularly considering i have such a crap load of projects to make it through.

Anyway, i recently brought you news about the Writers Homicide School which you absolutely MUST attend if you are to write fiction in which folks get dead. I’ve recently had the misfortune of reading a short novel from someone who clearly DIDN’T attend this seminar and… yeah. It wasn’t pretty. In fact if you reverse pretty, dip it in sewage, light it on fire, and dress the results in a vomit caked tutu this little story is what you’d get. Rancid potatoes smell better. Derek Pacifico, who runs the Homicide School also offers crime writing consultations. I haven’t had the resources to avail myself of those particular resources yet but i certainly would if i could.

Anyway. This here blog isn’t about that, though. It’s about a new seminar that i’ve recently heard about taking place April 13-14th at the John Adams Middle School in Santa Monica, CA. It’s being put on by the Filmmakers Junction. Which means you’ll likely meet some filmmaking types. If you’re a midwesterner like myself these folks are fascinating in and of themselves. Take notes on the seminar. Take notes on the people attending the seminar. Go to the Starbucks and hang out and wait for semi famous folks to show up. Network. (I saw Hugh Dillon of Flashpoint there, which is incredibly ironic as i’ve got his picture in Scrivener attached to the lead character for one of my novels. Unfortunately, i didn’t talk to him. I was a bit confused as to the proper etiquette being from out of town and all.)

Seeing as i’m currently unemployed it doesn’t appear likely that i’ll be attending. But i’m trying gosh dernit. Mainly because Santa Monica is gorgeous and i love it and would like very much to get away from the snow and the cold but also because it’s a fantastic opportunity.

This is direct from the email i received about the event:

The Crime Writers Weekend will be two days of discussions with former and current members of the LAPD and LA Sheriff’s Department. The speakers will be from various departments such as Gangs, Murder for Hire, SWAT, Undercover, etc. and will give you insights into how their jobs really worked. The hope is that it will help and/or inspire you to come up with new and better scenes for your screenplays and novels.

If i can i’ll be there. Maybe i’ll suddenly get a job. Maybe my efforts at my own writing will suddenly take off and everyone will be reading and buying copies of the Meg Brown Mysteries by then. More likely i’ll be attending on a worn and cat chewed shoe string if i make it at all. But for the rest of you well heeled scribblers, scribes, writers of stuff it might be a good opportunity. If, by some miracle, it directly results in a paying gig keep me in mind while you’re enjoying the palm trees – and get me the hell out of here! (he says after shoveling out for the fourth time today.)

Categories: Mystery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Writers Homicide School – Where you NEED to go if you intend to write murder.

I’ve been fretting a little bit about what to officially open the new mystery blog with. I’d thought i might kick it off with a review of Seeking Whom He May Devour – a Commisaire Adamsberg book by Fred Vargas that i recently finished reading but then i relented and figured something a little more writerly would be appropriate. The Adamsberg review will probably be next week, then. But in the mean time i thought i would do a little bit about the Writers Homicide School, a excellent traveling seminar put on by former Detective Sergeant Derek Pacifico of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s department.

A couple of months ago, in October actually, i had the pleasure of attending the Writers Homicide School in Los Angeles. Seriously, folks. If you intend to write homicide at all, ever, you NEED to take this two day course. It could have lasted another two days and i still would have been sitting on the edge of my seat, furiously writing notes and getting aggravated at the high level of audience participation.

Pacifico is the sort of homicide instructor you want. The guy knows his stuff and he knows how to impart it in a way that is useful to writers, which isn’t always an easy task. Let’s face it – we can be a bunch of idiots. We think we have something great and then it’s off to the races, crafting elaborate byzantine nonsense to back it all up. Pacifico allows us to take a step back and appreciate the craft of mystery and thriller writing not as an exercise in narrative absurdity, but as a job we can have characters do. The seminar, more than anything else, opened up the narrative space of what is usually a very stereotypical process.

Many many years ago now i read the terrific David Simon book Homicide: A year on the killing streets. If you haven’t read it, do. It was followed by a pretty good television series, which gradually turned stupid as the cops got prettier and the stories got more idiotic, but for a while there it was one of the best shows on TV. I say this only by way of introduction because the first thing you get from Homicide is what you get from the Writers Homicide School: that this is a job. It’s a very serious job, at times, but it’s a job. This may sound pretty simple but way too often we watch our cops grimly track down clever, whitewashed bad guys with absolutely ridiculous motives and we get so wrapped up in the story of the plot that the characters themselves become something static and stupid. They are terrible caricatures of people, only interesting insofar as they manage to find the douchebag de jour and invoke their hackneyed sense of sanitized justice.

This can make for some fun nights, and Pacifico isn’t beyond presenting the fun of it – the unintentional comedic menu of detective offerings. He’ll present examples of some of the great travesties of crime writing, CSI, NYPD Blue, and humorously eviscerate them with reality which, as usual, is WAY more interesting and potentially entertaining.

You’ll learn a lot of very specific and very useful information in the Homicide school: Blood spatter, swipes, wipes, how to roughly determine the distance from the wound that a weapon was fired, interview, interrogation, lying, basic investigative procedure, police organization and administration, all the basic things that most of us overlook when we’re crafting our first stories. These are what you pay for. These are the things that make you sign up to begin with. It’s the things that aren’t on the syllabus, though, that really make it a valuable experience – the humor, the grind and the perspective on crime and criminals from a veteran detective that elevate the whole thing to something excellent.

The seminar is loaded with real world anecdotes about the actual day to day job of police work and through them we get the impression of it as a job and a life independent from and including the investigation of untimely death. Shockingly enough, and much like Simon’s Homicide, many of these anecdotes and stories are laugh out loud funny, though always framed by tragedy. There are no grim pronouncements while dramatically whipping off your sunglasses, no blazingly idiotic one liners. There’s a job. I can’t stress that enough. What Pacifico does so well in this seminar is tell you about his job. Like your job, really. Only his involves people dying.

The Seminar is also crammed with audience participation. This was where it bogged down just a little bit, but i think it may have been due to the audience in question rather than any formatting issues. I’m a mild mannered midwesterner. We raise our hands when we have a question. I get the impression that the folks in LA do not have that concept very well ingrained in their behavior. They blurted out questions rapid fire and constantly, occasionally dragging everything down to a still fascinating crawl. It made getting through the material a little difficult, however, and truncated portions of the seminar that i would have liked to have seen in a little more depth.

That said there were moments in which the audience participation was even more hands on and i can’t stress enough how invaluable it was to watch interview and interrogation techniques actually being demonstrated right in front of you and with your active participation. I’ve said it to others and i have to mention it again – i’d take a full two day class about interrogation and interview all on it’s own if it were offered. It was easily as fascinating as all the technical stuff on blood evidence and there’s nothing quite like watching it happen right in front of you on video or in person to hammer all the points home.

In a nutshell, go to this seminar if you can. It’s being held in various locations all over the country. I’d provide a schedule of it but apparently i can’t find one right now. I’d recommend keeping an eye on the offerings for the Writers Store (where i signed up for mine) The Writers Homicide School will also be offering the seminar on DVD soon, from what i hear. I can’t wait. Even though i’ve been there in person (and i fully recommend you go too) i will certainly be buying a copy of it.

Categories: Mystery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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