Saturday, October 19, 2013

Marilyn Meredith: The Importance of Weather in Writing

I am thrilled to welcome the talented, prolific mystery author, Marilyn Meredith, to discuss the importance of weather in writing. 

Marilyn is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area, including the nearby Tule River Indian Reservation. She does like to remind everyone that she is writing fiction. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and follow her blog at        

In Marilyn's latest novel, Spirit Shapes, ghost hunters stumble upon a murdered teen in a haunted house. Deputy Tempe Crabtree's investigation pulls her into a whirlwind of restless spirits, good and evil, intertwined with the past and the present, and demons and angels at war. Spirit Shapes is available directly from the publisher in all formats, and also on Amazon

The Importance of Weather in Your Writing
by Marilyn Meredith

Weather can play a big part in any mystery. At times it can be as important as a character.

In my previous Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Raging Water, too much rain creates havoc in the small town of Bear Creek, eventually cutting them off from the rest of the world.

Fog is a major player in Spirit Shapes.

Fog swirls around the deserted Wilkinson House adding to its haunted mystic.

Fog adds to the gloomy atmosphere.

Fog cuts down on visibility making the reader and the characters what it might be hiding.

Fog gives everything a gray, colorless appearance.

Fog makes the air damp.

Fog causes the temperature to drop—as does the presence of ghosts and evil spirits.

That gives you a taste of what one kind of weather can do and does in Spirit Shapes.

For all you writers out there, think about how weather can enhance your stories. And readers, pay attention to how the author of the books and stories you read use weather to add to the atmosphere and suspense.

Marilyn is offering a terrific contest for a lucky commenter: The person who comments on the most blogs on her blog tour will have the opportunity to have a character named after him or her in the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

Tomorrow, Marilyn will be visiting author J.R. Lindermuth's blog:  

Thanks, Marilyn, for visiting From Cop to Mom & the Words in Between as part of your blog tour, and for sharing your words of wisdom on the importance of weather in writing.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Baby Hope" Case Development

The New York Times has revealed that police have identified the mother of 'Baby Hope,' the name given to the corpse of a young girl stuffed in an iridescent blue cooler in a wooded area near the Dyckman Street exit off the Henry Hudson Parkway in Washington Heights on July 23, 1991. The young victim appeared to be between three and five years of age, malnourished, and subsequent tests showed she had been sexually abused.
For more than two decades, her identity has remained a mystery. No one ever came forward to report this young girl missing. In 2011, the medical examiner's office completed a DNA profile of the victim after exhuming her remains from St. Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx. Unfortunately, no matches were made when tested against a database of convicted felons or active missing persons cases.

As a retired police officer who worked in the Crime Stoppers unit for 13 years and a current volunteer who serves on the Board of Directors of Crime Stoppers of Suffolk County, Inc. (which I joined two days after my retirement in 2007), I have something to say (okay, a rant) about the information revealed in this article.

First, however, some information I'd like to share:

It is common practice in Crime Stoppers to profile an unsolved case on or near an anniversary date. There are several reasons for this; among them:

1)The news media refrains from airing/printing 'old news.' However, if a request by Crime Stoppers and the police emerges on/near an anniversary date, it justifies a valid reason to report, once again, on certain unsolved cases. Whether it's print, radio, TV, internet, the reporter/journalist/news broadcaster can say, "It's been X years since..." and include visuals that have been previously issued to the public, or in some cases, release a 'new' visual if one is available, and of course alert the public to the existence of the Crime Stoppers Tips Line.

2) Over time, relationships shift ~ and it's to law enforcement's benefit. Someone in possession of information who was once reluctant or afraid to come forward may now find him or herself in a different situation; it may be due to separation, death, divorce, health reasons, incarceration, a woman (or man) scorned, revenge, guilt ~ any number of reasons that a person with information may NOW feel secure ~ in some cases compelled ~ to reveal what they know. This is why it is vital for Crime Stoppers to periodically issue a plea for information, especially on an anniversary date.

3) When the plea is issued on/near the anniversary date, there's a chance that people who frequent that area during that time of year might see or hear the story, realize they can call (and now text or email) anonymously, and possibly be eligible for a cash reward, if they contact Crime Stoppers. For example, if a crime was committed the day before, after, or on a holiday ~ let's say Thanksgiving ~ if it's a habit to 'return home' to be with loved ones, the advertising of the crime might catch the attention of the 'right' people. Also, it may jar some people into realizing that the information they've held on to for so long is more significant than they realize ~ or they may even have mistakenly assumed the case was solved, and their information is unnecessary.

My years of experience in Crime Stoppers taught me this: If the 'right' person (meaning someone with information vital to an investigation) with a 'good conscience' (one who is willing to 'do the right thing') comes across the plea in whatever medium (a poster, article, blog, radio or TV news report, word-of-mouth, etc.), and becomes aware of the number to call/text/email anonymously to pass that information along, it's a formula for success.

A victim's family and friends, after years of enduring agony and heartache, might have a chance to obtain answers they've wished, hoped, prayed, and dreamed about getting.

This past summer, after the police issued a plea for information about the Baby Hope case, someone (the 'right' person) apparently came forward with information. The caller's information led to a confirmation of the mother's identity through scientific evidence.

Sadly, officials revealed the contents of the confidential tip, evidenced by the journalist printing exactly what the informant told Crime Stoppers. It's unfortunate that the journalist didn't realize the severity of the violation even if the source, the unnamed "official"quoted in this article, did not.

When I handled the tips line, my subsequent reports to corresponding units or agencies responsible for follow up did not even contain the gender of the caller, as is protocol.

The Wall Street Journal reveals that the mother has been identified and is cooperating with police. It also states that the police do not consider the mother a suspect: "...she appears to have been estranged from the girl at the time of her death."

This photo of the victim's grave was included in a tweet by Tim Fleischer from Eyewitness News:

Big break! #NYPD cracks 22 y/o cold case Baby Hope's mother found Live EWN @ 5 @eyewitnessnyc
— Tim Fleischer (@TimFleischer7) October 8, 2013

If you look closely at the bottom of the gravestone, there's a plea for information along with the NYC Crime Stoppers number. It promises, "All calls will be kept confidential."

I am absolutely thrilled that this case may be on its way to a successful conclusion, as the identity of the Baby Hope is now known to police, and the murder investigation can properly begin. However, I am deeply saddened that "officials" decided to violate the basic premise (and promise) of the Crime Stoppers program. Because of this violation, it may preclude future callers from reaching out, as they now know that a caller's information (and gender, which can certainly clue a murderer/fugitive/bank robber/drug dealer/kidnapper/rapist in to whom called the tips line) may be exposed by "officials" to the media. This is a serious breach of trust that could have a negative impact on such a valuable program.

The information may appear to be benign in most reader's eyes, but for anyone who's worked or volunteered with Crime Stoppers, it is a blatant infraction.

The information given could have easily been provided to the media without revealing the gender of the caller nor the content of his/her information; it could simply have been revealed that as a result of the publicity on the anniversary, information was received that has led investigators to the possible identity of the mother of Baby Hope. End of story ~ at least until the investigation has a chance to get underway and updated information can be released, while all along protecting the existence and identity of the anonymous source who came forward.

In the unlikely event the informant doesn't mind having his/her identity or information revealed, in the interest of protecting the program, it's still optimal for law enforcement and journalists to keep that information confidential. If there is an insistence to have one's gender or information revealed, at the very least, a statement should be included that it's against the protocol of the Crime Stoppers program to reveal an informant's gender and the content of his/her information, but with this rare exception, it's being revealed at the request, consent, and/or insistence of the informant. In this situation, future callers might then be assured that the confidential information they may provide would not routinely be released to the public, and that Crime Stoppers does guarantees anonymity.

An updated New York Times article online now reveals:
According to two law enforcement officials who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, the mother is originally from Mexico and at one point lived in Queens. She was interviewed by detectives and Manhattan prosecutors in recent days.
Follow me on Twitter @katcop13

Friday, July 19, 2013

Grand Central Noir

I have a post up at Women of Mystery announcing a new short story of mine, "A Primal Force," that appears in Grand Central Noir, an e-book compiled by Terrence P. McCauley, which was published by Metropolitan Crime in June 2013. It's currently available on Amazon for Kindle and Kindle Apps. All proceeds go to the charity, God's Love We Deliver.

Visit Women of Mystery to read all about it!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cleveland Missing Women Rescued: A Day to Celebrate!

How wonderful to have positive news to celebrate ~ the rescue of three missing women. Three separate kidnappings that occurred about a decade ago. It's a joyous day for all Americans, but especially for the family and friends of victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight; and certainly every person in law enforcement, past or present, who has had to deal with the nightmare of a kidnapped or missing person, and the tragic effect it has on their loved ones.
It certainly brings to mind the heartening returns of Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard, and Katie Beers.
During my 21-year police career, I spent several years working in the Public Information Bureau. I handled the media during the Katie Beers kidnapping in late December 1992 into January 1993. Just before leaving home to work a 4 pm to midnight shift on January 13, my mother called with news she heard on the radio that Katie Beers had been found. I held my breath, then asked, "Alive?" and to my biggest relief, she said "Yes." On January 13, 2013 (the 20th anniversary of Katie's rescue), her book (written along with Carolyn Gusoff), Buried Memories: Katie Beers' Story, was released.
Reunion of sisters Beth Serrano & Amanda Berry
photo via
The exciting reunions have begun. The NY Daily News reports that Amanda Berry reunited with her older sister Beth Serrano. Beth also got to meet the niece she never knew she had. Sadly, Amanda's mom died from heart failure in 2006, but Amanda's family never gave up hope.
America has a new hero, Charles Ramsey -- a neighbor who got involved by assisting a distressed woman and her child. This interview with Charles Ramsey is fantastic. His 911 call is quite colorful but entertaining. The Daily Beast assembled some of the most unique witness interviews with folks who became internet sensations, which now includes Charles Ramsey:
Former bus driver Ariel Castro, age 52 and two brothers, Onil and Pedro, have been arrested. How frightening to learn that this man had access to children. It's bizarre that all three brothers apparently engaged in this crime.
Mugshots via
I look forward to the media coverage in the days and weeks to come, as more details become known about how these women and a young child survived this ordeal.

I hope this rescue gives the family and friends of missing persons a ray of hope that in the very near future that they, too, may be reunited with their loved ones.
Take a moment to review the FBI cases of kidnappings and missing persons; you never know who may be in your very own neighborhood or have been assimilated into society under another name and change of hair color or style. The U.S. Department of Justice has a website called NAMUS (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.
God Bless these women (and Amanda's child) who have miraculously returned to their loved ones. May their futures be healthy, bright, and full of love and laughter throughout the healing days, weeks, months, and years ahead. Please say a prayer for the kidnapped or missing people who are currently being held captive so that they, too, may escape or be rescued by an attentive neighbor. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

National Poetry Month: "30 Days of the 5-2" Blog Tour

I'm happy to be celebrating National Poetry Month by participating in the “30 Days of the 5-2″ Blog Tour.
Editor Gerald So publishes an original poem in text and audio/video every Monday at “The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly."  Submissions of poems (crime-related, or the poet’s reaction to what he or she sees as crime), 60 lines or fewer per poem (any form or style) are open year-round. The 5-2 seeks original, unpublished work only. Read the complete submission guidelines for further information. Follow Crime Poetry Weekly on Twitter @poemsoncrime.
If you would like to help promote The 5-2 Blog Tour this month, use the hashtag #30OfThe52.
the_52_crime_poetry_weekly_mugDuring the month of April 2013, sales proceeds of poetry publications by The 5-2 will be donated to the non-profit American Academy of Poets to support poets at all stages of their careers and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry. Sales proceeds from The 5-2 Shop at will also be donated this month.
I would like to feature a poem by Christine Aletti, called "Sylvia Plath: Gaslight Left On," which was published on The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly on February 11, 2013 -- the 50th anniversary of the tragic suicide of 30-year-old Plath. She was the youngest person to receive a Pulitzer Prize posthumously; it was awarded in 1982 for her Collected Poems.

Sylvia Plath, via

I waited by the phone for you to call
the coals from burning, burning off the bed.
I suppose I never knew you at all. 

When clouds' rims reddened, rope began to fall
& overanalyzed lies swayed and pled.
I waited by the phone for you to call.

Itch my anger, the skin's started to crawl;
Crack the coating, the olive oil's bled.
I suppose I never knew you at all.

In the street, villagers started a small
affair, stomping and singing, but instead,
I waited by the phone for you to call.

There’s no enamel left here to enthrall;
Stroke heaven’s match on its gelatin head.
I suppose I never knew you at all 

This little note was just what I could scrawl:
I’m sorry. I didn't mean what I said.
I waited by the phone for you to call.
I suppose I never knew you at all.

Come follow me on Twitter @katcop13

Monday, March 11, 2013

Novelist Makes $1M Before Book Hits Stores

image via wow-womenonwriting
Talk about a Cinderella story! This is the dream of every self-published author, or even those who've been tempted to take the plunge of self-publishing. This success story might very well prompt reluctant writers to give it a shot.

The story has been covered (quite nicely, I might add) by The Wall Street Journal, and there's an accompanying video, too. Read and/or listen how author Hugh Howey, a 37-year-old college dropout, wrote Wool (which originally began as a short story in 2011), a post-apocalyptic thriller about the remnants of humanity living in a giant underground silo, and how he was vigorously pursued by publishers.

Check out some of Hugh Howey's short stories. For more information on Wool, check out Wired's GeekDad Book Review by Erik Wecks -- his pick for Best Indie Fiction in 2012 (you can follow Erik on Twitter @erikwecks)

Here's an illustration by Mike Sudal for The Wall Street Journal:

Twentieth-Century Fox and director Ridley Scott ("Alien") have optioned the film rights.

Print publication rights for this New York Times bestseller were acquired by Simon & Schuster, and tomorrow, Wool hits the stores; it will cost $15 for a paperback version, $26 for a hardcover, or $5.99 digitally. In a rare move, Howey retains the digital rights.

For tomorrow's U.S. launch of Wool, Hugh Howey will be appearing at Murder by the Book in Houston at 6:30 p.m.

Congratulations, Mr. Howey ~ and best wishes to the reluctant self-publishers out there. May you be inspired to take the plunge!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Monday, January 7, 2013

Zora Neale Hurston Quote

Folklorist, anthropologist, novelist, and short story writer Zora Neale Hurston was born in Alabama on this date in 1891. 

One of her quotes:

"If writers were too wise, perhaps no books would get written at all. It might be better to ask yourself "Why?" afterwards than before. Anyway, the force from somewhere in Space which commands you to write in the first place, gives you no choice. You take up the pen when you are told, and write what is commanded. There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you." 

Zora passed away from heart disease on January 28, 1960, and was buried in Fort Pierce, Florida, in an unmarked grave. In 1973, novelist Alice Walker and literary scholar Charlotte Hunt found the unmarked grave and marked it as hers.