Well, here we are

The below is a letter from BCW president Patrick Stuart.

I’ve noticed some differences over the last few months walking our dog, Felix. Things that didn’t exist before. The traffic, for instance. In the middle of the day, it got to where I could cross 35-mph streets with impunity. I almost didn’t even need to look. My previous fear of meeting instantaneous death at the radiator grille of a primer-gray, 2005 Hyundai Accent, sporting a massive spoiler and driven by a sketchy Domino’s driver, bordered on hubris. The empty streets reminded me of the first scene of virtually every apocalypse movie (for me, I’ll pick the British “28 Days Later”). Or in another capacity, the days after 9/11. When you live on the flight path for John Glenn International, you notice when passenger jets suddenly disappear from the sky.

Other things. It was eerily quiet. Which highlighted the fact that everyone seemed to be getting their roofs replaced, or yards landscaped. The sounds of nail guns and lawnmowers was everywhere. Or maybe the lack of ambient noise just made it appear that way. There were also more people around. Not in cars, but out walking. Dog-walking. Jogging. Some wearing masks, some not, but everybody making a conscious attempt to cross the street and respect the six-foot rule when anyone approached. In my neighborhood, most people tend to take such matters seriously, and multiply it by three. “I’m supposed to give you six feet, but just to be safe, let’s make it eighteen.”

Then, just as everything slowly started to look like normalcy was on the far, far horizon, something else happened. The sounds of police helicopters appeared. We live a mile north of OSU, and just a couple miles north of outer downtown Columbus. Just when you thought a global pandemic couldn’t get any worse… fate finds a way.

Like you, everything over the last few months has affected BCW. We’ve had to cancel meetings since February, and the upcoming summer looks no different. Libraries are cautiously reopening, but we don’t know when they will allow for public events. Furthermore, we don’t know when members will feel safe gathering in groups. As a result, BCW has decided to take the summer off, rather than keeping everyone guessing if there’ll be an upcoming meeting each month.

Let’s face it – you all deserve it. Tentatively we’re now considering September as a restart for our monthly Saturday presentations. In addition, the BCW board has been active behind the scenes, looking at alternative ways to move forward. We’ve discussed the possibility of local Zoom meetings, and have announced other Zoom meetings with Sisters In Crime chapters around the country. We continue to provide links to resources, and started a short story exercise on the website for interested members. We’ve also been doing author interviews, and are providing fresh updates via email, Facebook and Twitter. We’re actively preparing for the future by keeping in touch with canceled speakers, and planning new speakers for the coming months. And we’ve sent out personal emails to each member, asking how they’re managing during these rough times. If you ever have any thoughts, ideas or comments, please feel free to contact us, anytime.

A Twitter comment I’d read recently said we’re now “living through a social studies chapter.” Indeed, these are historic times. But in order for them to become historic, we first need to get through them. I sincerely hope all of you are managing as best as possible, and your families are safe. I hope your writing continues, your skills improve and your perspectives widen. And because I can’t resist a good cliché, I thought I’d end this with another quote: a line from Margaret Atwood, the apocalyptic Canadian author of The Handmaid’s Tale, who came up with perhaps the best ten words to sum up recent events:

‘A word after a word after a word is power.’

Peace, and keep writing.

Patrick.

April showers…

A letter from BCW president Patrick Stuart:

…bring May flowers (or so the saying goes). Unfortunately, it has also brought more cancellations in our 2020 meetings. For May we were planning to help out with the Cincinnati Writing Workshop on Saturday, 5/16, the national “how to get published” workshop hosted by some of the former folks at Writer’s Digest. The workshop is, thankfully, still on, but instead of being in downtown Cincinnati it’s now online due to COVID-19. As a result, the BCW board will be sheltering in place in Columbus. However, if anybody’s still interested you can check out the details here: https://cincinnatiwritingworkshop.com/.

And as far as our events for June and beyond, we’re busily working on those. But be prepared for anything. Since our fortunes are tied to the Columbus Metropolitan Library and the Central Ohio Park System (where we rented a lodge for the day-long 6/20 meeting), we’re riding the waves along with everybody else, and we will keep you updated as we learn more. But in the meantime, as promised, we’re launching (drumroll): the BCW Writer’s Challenge! We changed it a little bit from the original concept, but that’s ok – change is good. In short, we provide the photo, you provide the story. That’s it. In 300–400 words, come up with something. Anything. Just a snippet of your imagination to keep those creative juices going. We’ll put your submission on the blog, along with the photo, then contact another volunteer at random. Note: we’re still accepting additional volunteers so if you’re interested please feel free to contact us. Otherwise, here’s the first installment to get things going: Rat Patrol.

So You Think You Know The ATF?

UPDATE: The March program has been cancelled.

All,

It probably comes as no surprise, but the Upper Arlington Public Library has cancelled all meeting room reservations and use of meeting rooms in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. We hope to reschedule our ATF agent/guest speaker for a future date. Stay tuned, stay safe, and stay well. And keep writing!

The original program information is below.

On Saturday, 3/21/20, 12:00 p.m., at the Upper Arlington Library (2800 Tremont Road), BCW is going to host (drum roll): Jon McPherson, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) with the Columbus Field Division of the ATF, a.k.a., the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. We at BCW (speaking in the first person plural here) tend to think of all of our events kind of like our kids, e.g., we love them all. But secretly, there’s always one that’s a little special. And this is that one. Because it’s the ATF! You know . . . that ATF!! Elliot Ness and Al Capone. The Atlanta Bombing. Waco. The Oklahoma City bombing. The people on the front line of some of the most serious shizzle going on, and they’ve agreed to talk! To! Us! So to prepare you, we’ve put together a little quiz to calibrate your knowledge of this federal agency:

  1. How many ATF field offices are there in the U.S.? A. 12, B. 18, C. 25, D. 30.
  2. A certain comic strip was based on the famous ATF agent Elliot Ness and his group (“The Untouchables”).  Which was it? A. Dick Tracy, B. Pogo, C. Superman, D. Dilbert.
  3. There are three levels of explosives defined by the ATF: high (e.g., dynamite), low (e.g., black powder, fuses), and blasting agents (e.g., ammonium nitrate-fuel oil). Can any of these legally be stored in a residence? Yes/No
  4. The ATF has a canine training center that trains dogs to sniff out explosives. What’s the name of the 80-lb. yellow Lab assigned to the Columbus field office? A. Kira, B. Andi, C. Martina, D. Opey.
  5. Elliot Ness began his career with the ATF at the tender age of 23. 10 years later, after cleaning up Chicago and putting away Al Capone, he resigned to become the Public Safety Director of which city? A. Cincinnati, B. Detroit, C. Cleveland, D. Milwaukee.
  6. Ohio ranked where out of all states in bomb threats (2016) and guns stolen from dealers (2018)? A. 1st, B. 3rd, C. 5th, D. 7th.
  7. The ATF is the sole federal agency allowed to trace guns used in crimes. True/False
  8. A typical ATF case is open (on average) for how many years? A. 2, B. 4, C. 5, D. 7.
  9. Basic training at the ATF National Academy requires 37 weeks of intense specialized training. Where is the Academy located? A. Quantico, Virginia, B. Oakland, California, C. Fargo, North Dakota, D. Glynco, Georgia.
  10. Although the ATF now investigates bombings, arson, acts of terrorism, trafficking of firearms, narcotics, gangs/criminal organizations, and provides criminal profiling and forensic laboratory services, its earliest roots are based on what? A. taxes, B. British spies, C. piracy in the Caribbean, D. cattle rustling.

Answers: 1) C, 2) A, 3) No, 4) D, 5) C, 6) B, 7) True, 8) B, 9) D, 10) A.                         

Score rating: 9 – 10 (Special Investigator), 7 – 8 (Agent), 5 – 6 (Rookie), 1 – 4 (Meter Maid)

Establishing a writing career

Happy New Year, everyone! Our next meeting is at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Old Worthington Library.

Your book is finally in print — hooray! It’s the end of the long, difficult process of writing and rewriting — then rewriting again. But are you really finished? What comes next?

Authors know that publishing a book is only the first step in establishing a writing career. Join us on Jan. 25 for a discussion with Connie Berry, author of the Kate Hamilton Mystery series (Crooked Lane Books) about publicity, marketing, networking with other authors, setting goals, and creating a productive writing life.



NaNoWriMo 2019

An airplane mechanic works on a plane's propeller.
It’s time to crank it up!

Me (BCW President Patrick Stuart):  Wake up. It’s time for NaNoWriMo! 

You (you):  NaNowuuuhhhhhh? 

Me:  You heard me; NaNoWriMo. National. Novel. Writing. Month. That time of year where you burn incense to the writing gods, sacrifice a Stephen King novel or two, and start warming up the Keurig maker. Because you’re going to be rocking that caffeine to get a 50,000 word rough draft done by the end of November.

You:  Hahahahaha! (wiping tears from eyes). I thought you said ’50,000 words.’

Me:  I did.

You:  Holy (word redacted). You’re serious!

Me:  Damn straight. We do this every year. It’s a 30-day writing marathon that started in 1999 with 21 people in San Francisco.  Fifteen years later there were over 400,000 participants. 

You:  And how many met their goal? (skeptical face)

Me:  About one in ten.

You:  That’s not very many.

Me:  It’s the journey, not the destination, grasshopper.

You:  I hate it when you do that pseudo-Buddhist (word redacted).  Besides, I’ll bet those manuscripts sucked.

Me:  That’s not the point. The point is to end up with a rough draft, or at least a good start on one. Which can then be refined into something beautiful later.

You:  Like what?

Me:  Water for Elephants , by Sara Gruen. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Or The Darwin Elevator series, by Jason Hough. All of those started as NaNoWriMo manuscripts.

You:  So you’re saying if I finish 50k words, I’ll soon be sitting on a six-figure publishing deal?

Me:  Hahahahaha! (wiping tears from eyes). That’s funny! 

You:  You’re a terrible president.

Me:  True dat. But NaNoWriMo is about starting, not finishing. Or as my grandpa used to say, when the ‘poop hits the propeller.’ So go to the Bexley Library, 2411 E. Main Street, Bexley, Ohio on Saturday, November 16, from noon to 4:00 p.m. BCW has the Technology Room reserved, so you can sit with your fellow writers and write your fingers to the bloody nubs. We’ll even have refreshments, and a cattle prod in case you fall asleep. Would you like a demonstration?

You:  Yeah, right (zzzzzzzzzzzz-snap). Sweet (several words redacted). That hurts!

Me:  Pain is just weakness leaving the body, grasshopper. See you there.

WhoDoURead&Y?

Gillian Flynn and Gone Girl.  Paula Hawkins and The Girl on the Train.  Lee Child, Patricia Cornwell, Jo Nesbø, Laura Lippman, Dennis Lehane, Sue Grafton, Stieg Larsson, or (insert your favorite author here).  But what makes them special?  Do the quirky British characters of Agatha Christie awaken your inner Anglophile?  Are the pages of a Carl Hiaasen book tinged with sultry weirdness, coconut oil and mosquito repellant?  Or does Janet Evanovich’s over-the-top bounty hunter protagonist make you secretly wish for big hair, hoop earrings and a Joisey accent?

(hint:  you know it does)

And more importantly, as writers how do we tap into this nebulous and diabolical vein of readership desire?  After all, we can string words together too.  But it’s concocting that #%$*& secret sauce.  That pinch of missing ingredient, to create the perfect combination of plot, dialogue, mood, character, setting . . . whatever.  Crafting the right proportions to make people feel.  Think about us on the subway ride to work.  Taking a shower.  Being trapped in a conversation with a boring neighbor.  Having that last, final conscious thought before drowsing off to sleep at night.  How do we occupy that space?

If you want to know, join us on Saturday, October 19, at the Hilliard Library (4500 Hickory Chase Way), from 12:30 – 2:30.  Together we will discuss our favorite authors, what we like about them, then list and compare those traits to (hopefully) create a roadmap for how to reach that same rarified level of Hamilton-like popularity.  Note:  whether you’re a reader, writer or both, novice or expert, this will be an interactive discussion so be prepared to participate.  Pinkie-finger-promise though, it will be an awesome, transformational and inspiring experience (or at the very least, a good way to kill a couple of hours).  And as usual, please feel free to join us for lunch afterwards, where we will discuss writing, the Buckeyes, home repair, Balinese shadow puppetry, or whatever else strikes our fancy.   But until then . . . keep writing.

So, you want to promote your book on social media, eh?

Writing a book is a huge challenge, of course, but once you get there, the next trick is – what to do with it? More importantly, how do you sell it? There are many answers (and all of them take some work), but one of the cheapest, yet hardest, is to promote it on social media.

Three of Buckeye Crime Writers’ members will lead this session on how to make the best use of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and will touch on some other methods, such as joining podcasts. These are all free (unless you choose to pay for additional advertising). Dan Stout (author of Titanshade), Eileen Curley Hammond (author of the Merry March series), and Jim Sabin (longtime journalist and public relations professional) will share their tips for finding your social media voice, knowing which social media to use (and how), and how to deal with the inevitable trolls. Join us at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Old Worthington Library, and stay tuned to this space for more details.

Let’s play Name That Bandit!

Quick, which writer invented the Church Lady Bandit?

How about the Droopy Drawers Bandit?

How about the Two-Hat Robber?

These are not characters from a cozy or the latest murder mystery. They were actually real people, though their nicknames were conveyed upon them not by some enterprising journalist, but by an FBI agent. Contrary to what you may have heard in Men In Black, FBI agents DO have a sense of humor that they’re aware of, and now-retired FBI Special Agent Harry Trombitas used his to humanize the bank robbers he was charged with catching.

Trombitas will bring those stories, and many more, to our next meeting, and we can’t wait to hear them!

Trombitas served in the FBI from 1983 until his retirement in 2012. He worked in Omaha, Nebraska, St. Louis, and New York before coming to Columbus in December 1991, and he served as spokesman for the Columbus office from 2003 until his retirement. Before that, he worked as a police officer and detective at Northwestern University and director of public safety at Creighton University. He has a bachelor’s in criminal justice from Ohio State and a master’s in counseling and psychology from Creighton, and is a lecturer in sociology at Ohio State. He is also the system vice president of security operations at OhioHealth and director of the Police Executive Leadership College for the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.

His wife of 40 years and his two children all graduated from Ohio State, so he’s clearly a Buckeye through and through.

Please join us Aug. 17 at the Old Worthington Library, 820 High Street, Worthington, at 12:30 for your chance to hear about Harry’s career and observations.

Too hot outside? Come learn about cybercrime!

Now that summer’s kicked off, we’re diving in, ready to soak up all the info we can about cybercrime! How DO criminals surf the web and use the internet to steal and wreck havoc on people’s lives?    On July 20, from 12:30 – 2:30 at the Bexley Library, our guest speaker, Jessica Kim, will supply the answers.

Description:As the public employs emerging technologies to prosper and improve the quality of life, criminals target and employ those same technologies as instruments of crime.  Since the early 1990s, cyber crime, also known as internet and high-tech crime, has rapidly increased, posing grave threats and corresponding challenges.  This presentation will highlight the following topics:   Social media and online investigations Cryptocurrency: a primer and current issues Theft of intellectual property Cyberstalking Phishing and business email compromise Cyber crime cases and coordinating with DOJ Obtaining electronic evidence in criminal investigations Venue in cyber cases (including international challenges)   The presentation will also highlight how to identify and investigate a crime, who is involved, and what roles different players serve, including the criminal, law enforcement officers, and attorneys.

Bio: Jessica Kim is an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Ohio, where she focuses on white collar crimes, public corruption, and cybercrimes.  Since December 2016, she has served as the district’s Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) coordinator for the Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton offices.  In 2018, Jessica was awarded the Attorney General’s Award for Outstanding Contributions by a New Employee for exemplary work as an AUSA, including the landmark prosecutions of the district’s first two cyberstalking cases.  She was also awarded the Federal Bar Association’s 2018 Younger Federal Lawyer Award, a national award for government attorneys who have exemplified outstanding legal ability and commitment to the community.   Prior to joining the USAO, Jessica served as a law clerk to the Hon. G. Steven Agee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the Hon. Edmund A. Sargus Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.  Jessica received her B.A. from Miami University in three years and her J.D., with high honors, from the Ohio State University.  Since 2014, she has served as an Adjunct Professor at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, where she teaches white collar crime.  Jessica also currently serves as President of the Columbus chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

And as a preview for August, we’re sticking with the federal law enforcement theme. Retired FBI agent Harry Trombitas, former leader of the Columbus bureau of the Bureau, will join us Aug. 17. Let’s just shatter any illusions of a stuffy federal agent, though; this is the man who brought us the Droopy Drawers Bandit and other colorfully-named criminals! The location will be announced soon.  

No sunscreen needed for this meeting. Hope to see you July 20!   The BCW Board

May meeting: Writing critique

It’s that time of year again.  No, not taxes, baseball season, Cinco de Mayo, National Scurvy Awareness Day (May 2nd, look it up), yadda yadda.  It’s the annual Buckeye Crime Writers writing critique!  Where you submit your work to a bunch of sadistic creeps your fellow writers!  To have them pick it apart and rip it to pieces carefully read it and offer constructive criticism!  So that you can go home and cry yourself to sleep gain useful advice and improve your writing!  Hey, wait!  Hold up!  Where you goin,’ Owen?

No, really, this is what you’ve been waiting for.  One of our biggest and most popular events of the season.  If you’ve been working on a manuscript, novella, short story, rough draft, revision, whatever, this is el momento de la verdad.  The way it works: 

  • Rule #1:  submit up to roughly 10 pages (more or less) of whatever you’re working on.  Send it to buckeyecrimewriters@gmail.com by Wednesday, 5/8/19. 
  • Rule #2:  if you submit, you will then receive copies of everyone else who submits material.  Why?  Because if you want to be reviewed, you also need to review.
  • Rule #3:  meeting is Saturday, 5/11/19, 12:30 – 3:00, at the Northwest Worthington Library (2280 Hard Road).  Show up with printed copies of everything you’ve reviewed, with your comments.  After each submittal is discussed by the group, you’ll give your copy to the particular author.  Hint:  using the ‘comment’ feature in Word and then printing submissions is an easy way of doing things.  Or you can print first and handwrite comments as you read.  Your call.
  • Rule #4:  be cool.  Critique professionally and accept critiques of your work with the same composure.  It’s all good, we’re here to help each other, and then we all go out afterwards to eat, drink and be merry.

Here are the guidelines:

  • Everyone who submits a writing sample will receive all the samples from each participant, and you’re kindly expected to provide feedback for each. 
  • Writing samples should be submitted in Time New Roman or Courier font, 12 pt., with 1″ margins.
  • Your Name and Title should appear in the header.
  • Pages should be numbered and double-spaced.

So that’s it.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.  Show your work to your peers, get some good advice and progress as a writer.  And remember:  we’re taking June off (our summer break) so you’ll have you’ll have lots of time to think, ponder and revise as you develop that million-dollar hit with your new-found knowledge.  So come out and waste a Saturday afternoon in the literary arts with us.  And until then?  Keep writing.