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You’ve probably never heard of the Writers’ Police Academy (WPA), but that’s about to change. The WPA has been an annual event where authors or aspiring authors converge to learn about a variety of law enforcement-related proceedings so writers of crime fiction can be accurate. It was started by a police detective who was frustrated by all the mistakes he came across in the novels he read.

When signing up for the WPA, attendees ranked their preferences for courses. It was tough to decide, as so many were interesting, but we were limited to six. The event was centered in Appleton, Wisconsin, although day classes were held in nearby Green Bay.

The first afternoon was the “Touch a Truck” event, where a large room containing public service vehicles was open to registrants. There was a firetruck, hazmat truck, swat vehicle, and ambulance we could photograph and look over to our heart’s content. Firefighters, police officers, EMTs, and other personnel stood by to answer all our questions and demonstrate how some of their high-tech gadgets work, including drones, police robots, and Tasers. I learned that the way the wires from a Taser accordion after being fired can be used to determine how far away the police officer was from the suspect at the time of discharge. Other equipment was displayed, including a door ram which happened to be used in the latest novel I had written. I learned door rams are applied differently than I had imagined, necessitating a minor change just before I sent the novel to my publisher.

That evening we all gathered for a talk by a photojournalist who had covered the trial of Darrell Brooks, a man who intentionally ran over spectators at a parade in Waukesha, WI, killing six and injuring many. We learned interesting facts about the trial and gained knowledge about how photojournalists work. Getting a great shot can take a lot of time and planning.

The next day started early. We all piled into buses and were driven to a venue in Green Bay for our classes. Before we entered the classrooms, we were entertained by a demonstration showing a SWAT team take-down of a suspect, culminating in a police dog attack (the officer playing the bad guy was wearing protective padding).

Then it was time for school. I attended A coroner's Life, Crime Scene Investigation, and Firearms. I took lots of notes which will come in handy later in my writing. Other classes offered at that time, but which I couldn’t attend, were Forced Entry: The Search for, and Capture, of Armed Suspect; TI Training: Interactive Use of Force Simulator; and K9 Emergency Aid.

We returned to our hotel in Appleton on our buses, had dinner on our own, and spent the evening with Steven Spingola, who can be seen on Cold Justice, a true crime program on the Oxygen channel. He spoke of his time on the team that investigated Jeffrey Dahmer. He had lots—and I mean lots—of photos of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims (parts of them, anyway). I doubt there is anyone reading this who doesn’t already know who Jeffrey Dahmer was and what he did. I think Mr. Spingola overdid it with the photos. How many pictures of bones, heads, and other body parts are needed to get the point across? I don’t know exactly, but in my opinion, he far exceeded it. Maybe I've seen too many photographs by forensic pathologists to have found it interesting.

The following day again started early, with a bus ride to a different Green Bay facility. I took classes titled Cold Cases (where I learned cases are never closed until they are solved, as demonstrated by the recent arrest of a man suspected of the Gilgo Beach murders over ten years ago), Homicide 101, and Vehicle Contacts. The other classes offered at that time were Death by Powders and Pills (I would really have loved to attend that one), Emergency Vehicle Operations (where participants got hands-on experience driving around training grounds), Handcuffing, and Virtual Reality Police Training Simulator.

Once finished with classes, we again boarded buses and were taken to a lecture hall to hear Dr. Katherine Ramsland, a noted forensic psychologist who now teaches at DeSales University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Ramsland has appeared in numerous crime documentaries, been a consultant for several TV shows, and written numerous articles and books in her field. She spoke about the young, malleable men who were manipulated into aiding Dean Corll, the "Candy Man," who raped, tortured, and murdered at least 27 young men and boys in the 1970s.

That evening we attended a banquet where author Hank Phillippi Ryan was honored. She started off as a TV journalist and is now a bestselling psychological thriller author. She gave an engaging, fast-paced run-down of her journey from reporter to writer. Afterwards, presenters sold books and signed them. I bought several books, including one by Katherine Ramsland in which she detailed her numerous interviews with Dennis Rader, the BTK killer. When she signed my book, I asked her about Bryan Kohberger, accused of murdering the four Idaho University students. I had read that she had taught him previously while he studied criminology. She told me she was Mr. Kohberger's advisor and thinks he is a wonderful young man, intelligent and hard-working. She has interviewed numerous horrific murderers, but is convinced her previous student is innocent. Time will tell.

On the final day, we all got to sleep in before a two-hour question & answer session with many of the presenters. All good things come to an end, and, sadly, noon marked our “End of Duty.” Afterwards I rode the hotel shuttle to Appleton Airport, where it took less than a minute to get through security. Waiting for my flight at the small, midwestern airport with little security, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the people waiting with me for their flight were murderers who hadn’t been caught.

First, an update about what’s new in my world of writing.

All three of my Erica Rosen MD Trilogy titles are now available on Audible. I think those of you who enjoy audiobooks will find the narrator, Onyx Volcan, to be quite entertaining. Each book is between nine and ten hours.

Another short story of mine, Secrets, is serialized on Kindle Vella. Kindle Vella stories can be read directly on the Amazon site. One chapter will be released each Monday until all twelve chapters are published. The first three chapters are free. After that, there is a nominal charge. Most of the proceeds will go to provide Jeff Bezos with more funding for his outer space ventures or perhaps another yacht.

Links to short stories and novels are on my website, under “short stories” and “novels”, respectively.

Now for a little follow-up on He Jiankui. You may not know who he (or should I write “He”) is. It’s confusing as He’s last name is spelled the same as the pronoun “he.” I surely do know who he is, and I recently learned that He’s back in the public eye.

As many of you know, the first novel in my Erica Rosen MD Trilogy, Unnatural, was about children who were genetically engineered in a secret Chinese government program. Note that this is a novel, i.e. fiction. When I wrote it, I thought that while possible, no one had dared to do such a thing— perform human embryonic stem cell genetic engineering— but it would make a good story. Certainly no one would actually do such a thing for years to come because of the risks involved as well as the world-wide moratorium on such a practice.

Boy, was I wrong. As I was editing the completed first draft of the book, the news of He Jiankui’s announcement spread quickly. A Chinese scientist, he proudly claimed to have performed human genetic engineering on three embryos, implanted all of them in women, and the resulting infants were about to be born. Needless to say, this changed the nature of my book’s plot from something original, that had never been done, to something that had already been performed. I swore a lot, thinking this made my story less compelling. A few days later, I had a change of attitude. My story was still interesting, but I would need to insert something about He's work. I did that, and in the end didn’t feel like his work detracted from my novel. It only reinforced the reason I picked China to be the site of the first embryonic stem cell gene editing—a country with an authoritarian government, but with advanced scientific capabilities.

While He didn’t edit the same genes targeted in my novel, there were some similarities between what he did and what happened in Unnatural. The gene He targeted was not life-saving. He claimed he wanted to make the children resistant to HIV, but the real reason was probably different—mutations in the gene he altered are thought by some to improve intelligence and/or memory (in rats it has been shown to improve cognition and memory after strokes and traumatic brain injury). A mutation of this gene occurs naturally in some people of European descent, and when they have two copies of this gene, they are resistant to many (but not all) viruses that cause HIV. On the other hand, they appear to be more susceptible to death from West Nile Virus, and, possibly, influenza.

He received world-wide condemnation. While the health and well-being of the children is kept secret, scientists analyzing the data supplied have concluded that mistakes were made. The changes in the targeted gene do not result in the same change found naturally in Europeans, and it is unknown what effect this “new” protein will have. In addition, there is great concern that off-target changes were made in the DNA of the embryos.

Very recently, He Jiankui has reappeared in the news. He supposedly served a three-year sentence in China, with some sort of confinement. I’m not sure if this is true, or just a public relations ploy carried out by the Chinese government. While at first, those in charge professed outrage and promised severe punishment, possibly a death penalty, the sentence was much less severe. It later came out that there is evidence the Chinese government funded He’s experiments. Perhaps, due to the world-wide reaction, He became the scapegoat.

He now admits that mistakes were made—he performed the procedure without considering the downside. His lack of caution may have been due to the fact that he is not a physician. Like the children in my novel, the victims of his gene editing scheme will need to be monitored for life, as they are at risk for unintended consequences. For all we know, they may already be showing signs of something that went awry, possibly suffering from the consequences of He’s recklessness. Only time will tell if the world will ever learn the truth about the condition of these three children. One thing is for sure—we haven’t heard the last of efforts to edit human embryos.

As 2022 draws to a close, I thought I’d update you about what I’ve been doing in the world of writing.

Unnatural, the first book of the Erica Rosen MD Trilogy, is now available on audio through Audible. I’ve enjoyed hearing my characters come to life through the voice (or should I say voices?) of the talented narrator, Onyx Volcan. If you are curious, you can hear a short clip of the book for free on the Amazon site. Onyx is almost finished narrating the second book of the trilogy, Unwitting. I’m hoping it will be available by the end of this year. Narration of Unforeseen, the final book of the trilogy, will begin in early January 2023.

Most of you probably haven’t heard of Kindle Vella. I recently familiarized myself with this platform for publishing short stories and novellas electronically. Authors can post serialized works on the site, and readers can access episodes on the web at or by using the Kindle app. For each story, the first three episodes are free. Subsequent episodes can be unlocked by redeeming tokens which are purchased at various prices, depending on the quantity. Longer episodes require more tokens to unlock. I have a number of short stories saved that I was planning to publish as a collection. Not knowing when I would get around to that, I decided to try Vella. Five episodes of my six-episode story, Pennies from Heaven, are available now. The sixth episode will be published this Friday (remember, Vella allows you to read the first three episodes of each story for free).

Lastly, I want to mention that I’m working on my next book, a stand-alone suspense novel. The first (and second) drafts are done, but I still have more work to do. I hope to publish it in 2023.

Happy Holidays!

Hope to catch you again next year.

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