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John M. Wills

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EDITING TIPS

My good friend and fellow writer, Marilyn Meredith, has recently written a postMe at Danas quilt containing quick editing tips. Marilyn is an award-winning author and prolific novelist with decades of experience. Whether you’re writing your first book or your twenty-first, these quick tips are a great guide or reminder on how to make your work stand out.

First off, if you are self-publishing do not leave an extra space between paragraphs.

Indent for paragraphs. Take a look at a book on your shelf and see how it looks inside.

Read books in the genre you are writing in.

Start your book with something exciting happening to your main character(s).

Make sure the reader can tell right away who the main character is. Don’t wait for several pages to introduce him or her.

Don’t begin with pages of back story, the back story can be added in appropriate places along the way.

Eliminate most exclamation points. Don’t ever put one in the narrative. And if the dialogue is exclamatory enough, you don’t need the exclamation point.

In most cases, stick to “said” and “asked” for dialogue tags–better yet, use action and description as a dialogue tag. Example: “Get out of my way.” Pete shoved the big man in the aisle.

Use the word all right–not alright.

All pronouns refer back to the last person or thing mentioned.

For a quote inside a quote, use a single quote mark. Example: “My dad told me ‘Get out’, and I did.”

Eliminate the word “that” when you can. It, like “just” are often over used. Often that isn’t necessary. There are synonyms for “just”.

Take a look at see what other words you overuse–like “so.” Do a word search to replace some of your “favorites” with other favorites.

Use descriptive actions words rather than adverbs. Look in your thesaurus for other words for walk, run, look etc. Find the word that best describes you character’s action.

Weave your dialogue, action and narrative together. Show us what’s going on.

Never have a character tell another character something he/she already knows.

Don’t use parenthesis in a novel. If something needs to be explained–explain it in the narrative.

Be sure to self-edit. When you think it’s as good as you can make it. Hire an editor.

Snow Angel by Jackie Taylor Zortman

My fellow author and good friend, Jackie, has just released her new novel. You won’t want to miss another Max Richards mystery because it guarantees to hold your attention and have you fully invested in the story.

Here’s a preview:

Snow Angel Cover on AmazonWhen homicide detective, Max Richards, and his sister suddenly inherit their mother’s estate, they find an old wooden box on a shelf in her bedroom closet.  It reveals a secret she kept carefully hidden and connects them to an abandoned Victorian house in Snowflake, Colorado where Max and his wife already own a remote cabin.

During Christmas they fly to Snowflake to investigate the empty and abandoned old house.  Following their tire tracks in the snow, the new city police chief is introduced into their lives and quickly becomes an important part of their tight knit circle of friends.

After the holidays, Max returns to the city emotionally restless. He retires from his thirty year homicide job, pulls up roots and moves permanently to Snowflake where he quickly becomes part of the small police force. Unexpected twists and turns take control of their lives and changes things in ways they never dreamed.

Find out what was in that box that had such power and what paths it led Max, Sami and his sister, Willow, to follow.

About Jackie

Jackie Taylor Zortman is the author of a non-fiction book “We Are Different Now”, first Jackie by Amyplace award winning fiction novel “Footprints in the Frost” and award winning novel “Snow Angel”. “Footprints in the Frost introduced homicide detective Max Richards and explored his life on and off the job. “Snow Angel” continues his story.

She has written and had published numerous articles and short stores for various publications for the last 26 years.  She is a Charter Member of the Public Safety Writers Association and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. A contributing author to the anthologies “Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides”, “American Blue”, “The Centennial Book of the National Society of Daughters of the Union” and “Recipes by the Book, Oak Tree Authors Cook”.  She also writes poetry, genealogy and history. She has won 10 writing awards in the last four years.

She lives in a bustling quaint tourist town high in the beautiful mountains of Colorado with her husband and Siamese cat. When the deep snows of winter blanket the terrain surrounding her home, it becomes the perfect spot in which to write.

Learn more about Jackie and her books at Jackie’s Mountain Memos – www.jtzortman.wordpress.com.

Great New Author

It’s always exciting to discover an author who has the ability to capture your attention immediately and then hold it through 400 pages. That’s exactly what happened when I began reading Shot To Pieces by Michael O’Keefe. I initially balked at the length of the story, thinking it might bog down simply because of its page count. I was wrong. O’Keefe turns out to be a terrific writer who has penned a fantastic murder mystery/thriller.

A1Oen5HN44L._UX250_O’Keefe’s protagonist, NYPD Detective Paddy Durr, is a multi-faceted individual. In a sense, he’s a throwback to the days when cops did what needed to be done and damn the bosses and political correctness. His gruff aggressive nature turns some people off, but no one can question Paddy’s heart or his ability to get the job done.

Paddy has a myriad of problems in his life that complicate his world. From his relationship with his wife, to the bureaucracy of big city policing and interference from politicians, his daily journey is a minefield that threatens to explode with the smallest misstep. He has no tolerance for any colleagues that don’t give their all or who take shortcuts. When Paddy is on a case, be assured he won’t rest until he solves it. His total attention to his job, while being a positive attribute professionally, means his private life is practically nonexistent.

Complicating matters is Paddy’s inability to forgive himself for past transgressions. He so desperately wants to please his estranged wife that he convinces himself the only solution is to let her go. Since she has always been the love of his life, he’s wracked with guilt and self-recrimination. He sees no possibility of reconciliation, thus he lives day to day with the proverbial dark cloud hanging over his head.shot to pieces

It’s easy to see that O’Keefe is a tough street-smart cop. Shot To Pieces reads like non-fiction. The characters, settings, and situations jump off the page. The author has a gift for storytelling—allowing the reader to visualize every character, from the punk on the street to the mayor of New York. The scenes and locations are beautifully written so that readers almost feel like they’re watching the action unfold as he writes.

Not only does O’Keefe do a masterful job in describing the murder investigation, but in describing several scenes with his wife I had to reach for a tissue. This tough ex-cop has a romantic side to him that puts him right up there with romance novel writers. To be able to go from describing a brutal murder to developing a tender love scene with a spouse is a remarkable gift. Such talent!

Based on Michael O’Keefe’s debut novel, I predict much success for this writer. It’s hard to imagine that his work can get much better, but I have to believe that we’ll be hearing many good things about him in the future. Well done, Michael!

 

Shots Fired: The Misunderstandings, Misconceptions, and Myths about Police Shootings (book review)

Today’s newscasts and papers are rife with reporting on police involved shootings. Preliminary coverage seems to always be negative, insinuating that police were wrong or perhaps too quick to use deadly force. Even worse, when deadly force is employed the news is quick to opine that it was either not justified or too much force was used. We still see those insane questions from some reporters and journalists—“Why didn’t they shoot him in the arm or leg?” Insanity. Social media is the worst. Monday morning quarterbacks and cop wannabes analyze and criticize decisions that an officer has a split second to make.

In that regard, Joseph K. Loughlin and Kate Clark Flora have authored a book that is long overdue. In Shots Fired: The Misunderstandings, Misconceptions, and Myths about Police Shootings, the authors offer a clear answer as to why cops are forced to respond to situations using deadly force. They illustrate why at times even though an officer’s decision is totally justified and within the parameters of law and department policy, some are pilloried by politicians, the news, and citizens. Recall the Ferguson, Missouri incident involving Michael Brown. Officer Darren Wilson acted within the law, yet calls for his indictment sprang up before many of the facts of the case were even known to those investigating the shooting. The rationale was Brown was unarmed. However, as police officers we know that any altercation is always an armed one by virtue of the fact that we ourselves are armed, and that weapon can fall into the hands of the subject we’re involved with.

In their book, the authors present a lucid view about the reality of police-involved Shots Firedshootings. They break the book down into four sections: Myths and Misconceptions; Training and De-Escalation; Stopping the Threat; and Loss and Redemption. To bolster their claims regarding the misreporting and misconceptions about police shootings, they offer many actual cases and court rulings. One of the most important rulings comes from the Supreme Court of the United States which said, “The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be viewed from the perspective of a reasonable officer at the scene, rather than with 20/20 hindsight.” And that “allowance must be made for the fact that officers are often forced to make split second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular incident.” (Graham v Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).

Shots Fired points out a misconception the general public has regarding officers’ use of force training. While training academies offer intensive firearms and judgmental training for their students, once the officer graduates and hits the street the intensity and frequency of training is greatly diminished. Many departments only require a yearly qualification with a firearm. Unless an officer is in a specialized unit like SWAT or a tactical team, enhanced or dynamic training is not available. Thus, the officer is forced to employ deadly force with very little and infrequent training. The public might wonder why this is so, and they’d be surprised to learn that it’s mostly a function of budget constraints. Yes, people, if you want a highly trained department, the only way to get that is through taxes.

It may also be useful for the public to know about fear and perceptual distortions (Chapter 11). Even though people suffer the same effects when they’re scared, e.g., being alone at night and getting lost, an auto accident, a family tragedy, they rarely equate their confused behavior with those an officer faces in a deadly force situation. Fight-or-flight instincts are triggered in everyone who confronts a threat. Cops are no different—except they cannot flee. They must stay and take control of whatever threat faces them. And they must control the situation despite the changes they experience via the autonomic nervous system. Tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, slow motion, etc., all combine to hamper the performance in a potential life and death struggle.

What many don’t realize is that some officers that have been involved in shootings carry some mental baggage with them for years. PTSD is a frequent by-product of officer-involved shootings. Officers may suffer from sleep deprivation, acute anxiety, crying, appetite loss, nightmares, and even thoughts of suicide. They worry about possible future litigation and the moral questions surrounding taking a life. Recent postings on social media allude to officers enjoying shooting people. Nothing could be further from the truth. On the flip side, lately it seems these unsubstantiated accusations have spawned a spate of ambushes on cops resulting in deaths and injuries.

Shots Fired is another of those books I must add to my personal collection. It contains much food for thought, as well as actual cases reinforcing the topics discussed. Moreover, this book is ideal for anyone who has questions about officer-involved shootings and deadly force, particularly the general public.

The Sniper Mind (a book review)

Being a former sniper, I was immediately attracted by the book’s title. I was under the impression that this book was an in depth look at what makes snipers tick. It is, however, once I began reading The Sniper Mind by David Amerland.I realized it was about much more than snipers. Although the author examines how and why snipers are so successful at their craft, he then uses their techniques and tactics to illustrate how anyone can be successful in life by using the same techniques snipers use.

David Amerland meticulously examined his subject matter for three years by studying Sniper_Mind_book_cover.5a4b612c9f8a9neuroscientific research, and by conducting interviews with more than a hundred current and former snipers. Each chapter contains a story about a sniper which serves as a segway to a cogent point regarding improving one’s own performance in life and/or business. He then asserts that the snipers’ elite performances that allow them to excel under extreme conditions can be used by anyone to improve their own skills in business, communications, relationships, and their personal lives.

There are many remarkable stories about the feats of snipers throughout the book, how they manage to complete their mission despite overwhelming odds such as long hours, hostile conditions, and lack of sleep and food. The reason they’re successful is they’ve trained their minds. Amerland contends the mind has an ability to sharpen its focus over time through training. He demonstrates, via the minds of snipers, how ordinary people can do extraordinary things, exhibit self-control, and make complex difficult decisions under the worst conditions imaginable. He then asserts that these same tactics can be utilized in personal lives and the business world.

In a vivid descriptions of the sniper’s ability to control his mind and emotions, Amerland says, “The strength and power of a fully developed sniper mind comes from the ability to harness and control feelings and emotions constructively, creating an empowering, motivational platform from what most people would be demoralized and demotivated by. It’s no mean feat. It means being able to grope into the empty space from which despair should normally spring and manage to pull out hope.”

If you’ve ever competed in sports, or been tasked with delivering an important address or presentation, you know the anxiety that accompanies such a task. The author has a section in The Sniper Mind that describes, “The Navy Seal’s List Of Mental Tricks.” SEALS endure the most rigorous of all military training and tests. They are stretched to their individual limits and beyond—sleep deprivation, hunger fear, injuries, etc. Many don’t make it, but the ones who succeed do so by using four simple steps:

·        Set Goals. As in life and the business world, everyone sets goals. However, the SEALS break down their goals into micro goals, short-term goals, and long-term goals. Thus, nothing becomes unobtainable, and they simply take things one step at a time.

·         Visualize The Outcome. Just as an athlete sees himself scoring the winning touchdown or crossing a finish line first, so also do the SEALS train themselves to “see” the outcome they are aiming for. Amerland tells us the SEALS prime their brains for success, which in turn is reflected in the attitude with which they approach each task.

·         Cheer Yourself On. This tactic is particularly useful during their infamous Hell Week. They constantly give themselves pep talks and rationalize that many have endured the same rigors before them and succeeded.

·         Self-Control. SEALS train themselves to control primitive instincts such as anger and fear. Once they are able to do that, they become more confident in their ability to adapt and overcome.

The author concludes that these four mental tricks are adaptable to the business world as well. Furthermore, “Resisting stress, developing a strong will and mental resilience, and maintaining fortitude against adversity are desirable characteristic for any person, not just a warrior.”

The Sniper Mind is a great read for anyone, whether they’re military, police, fire, or civilian. The book is set up so that each chapter describes how to develop or improve a specific skill set and explains the science behind it. At the end of each chapter is a summary of what was contained therein. The book is actually a handbook on how to become exceptional in whatever path you choose by understanding how your brain works.

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