Monday, July 28, 2014

Speaking Anxiety by Gerrie Ferris Finger

 I make these plans months in advance — or my publicist the wonderful Patti Nunn does — to speak at conferences or festivals like the upcoming Decatur Book Festival in the suburb of Atlanta on August 30-31. The festival — the largest in the Southeast — is sponsored in part by The Atlanta Journal Constitution. I’ve lived and worked in Atlanta for over thirty years, twenty of which I spent as a reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. So I’m looking forward to giving a twenty minute speech, right? Well, I’ll be happy when I step off the podium, hoping that I have conquered the foremost of my fears.

Fear of speaking in public

Fear of what people think of me and my presentation

Fear of losing control

Fear of looking foolish

 Internet speech experts are good sources of advice, unless you’re a blithering case and then you  need a shrink. I’m not there yet.

For my next big presentation,  I’m going to take my cues from the Mayo Clinic:

Preparation is everything:

 I write my speeches and condense into bullet presentations. Nothing is more boring than reading a script. I’m not good at memorizing so I wing it between bullet points — knowing, of course, what my subject is — like introducing the characters in my latest novel, which is a series. Obviously, I know them very well. I know what my book is about, but sometimes my mind scrambles and I get carried away with “what comes next.”

I am as prepared as I can be, before anxiety overtakes me. So what do the experts recommend?

Exploit nervous energy:  

Nervous energy isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, research has shown that good stress helps the mind to focus more clearly. Also, getting the blood pumping sharpens the senses. Energy helps to engage audiences and exhibits passion. So if I turn my negative energy into positive energy, my audience will sit up and pay attention, unless I start pacing like a caged tiger.


If you can, find a speech coach, otherwise, a friend or family member can be your audience. Even practicing by video recording yourself and playing it back makes a difference. I made a critical error which contributed to my continuing anxiety. I did a presentation that was the first I’d given out loud. I was never comfortable during that time and that experience sticks in my mind.

Here’s the bottom line, everyone feels some anxiety before a speech.  Use these techniques to calm your nerves and don’t let speaker’s anxiety stop you from being an engaging speaker.

Cotton Mouth:

The more nervous I am the more water I need. The experts say drink water, take a few seconds to wet your whistle, but I hate to constantly sip from water bottles. Besides, I’m easily distracted from the nit I want to pick.

Be Calm:

The experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend exercise. They always do, no matter the day’s issues. They say even a quick stroll will help by alleviating anxiety in that it release endorphins that make you feel better.


At everyone you make eye contact with. Tell jokes if appropriate, look at happy photos. Social interaction calms anxiety and builds confidence. The day of the speech, I wake up nervous and get really anxiety-ridden right before it’s my turn to speak. So if  I can find a few happy photos of myself, those that have gotten my right side in profile, I’ll put them on the lectern next to my bullet point cards.

Breathing can cure self-awareness and self-consciousnesses:

Practice discreet, deep breathing while keeping a smile on your face, while looking relaxed.

Visualize yourself as happy:

Picture yourself walking up to the podium, smiling, calmly giving your speech, and then visualize the result you want afterward, such as people coming up to volunteer or congratulate you on your passionate speech. Hmmm.

Don’t put negative thoughts in your head:

Don’t dwell on past inelegant performances. Enough said.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare:
If you don’t prepare for your speech, you’ll end up stressed and anxious beforehand. Make sure you know what you’re going to say. Then, practice. Practice your first words more than any other part so that you can relax and focus on the audience instead of yourself. 

Have a good time. 

Conquer that need to be near an exit.

Bio: Retired journalist Gerrie Ferris lives on the coast of Georgia with her husband, Alan Finger, and their standard poodle, Bogey.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Working Narcotics Undercover- David Cropp

One of the most dramatic presentations at the PSWA conference was David Cropp giving an in-depth insider's view of what it's like to work undercover in the war on drugs. Cropp is a 32 year veteran of the Sacramento Police Department, holding many positions. He retired in 2008 as a detective sergeant.

He correlates the high crime rate to heroin addiction.

To be undercover, the person needs to build his character as a bad guy. He has to be flexible in order to be safe.

He needs to understand the client and have a Plan BE, knowing when to call it off.

He needs to appreciate different perspectives without accepting them.

Everyone needs food and shelter. Maladaptive environments create maladaptive behaviors.

If you're undercover, must have a cognitive filter.

When undercover, you must always be looking for rip-offs and weapons without looking like you are.

Listen to how the other person communicates.

You must understand the person you are dealing with.

Must have the smarts to go along with the flexibility. Must also have patience.

The more research done the better the  job. Take pictures of people and learn their behavior.

Learn who is on probation and whose on parole.

On the streets, no one is on time. No bed, no three meals a day. No getting wrapped up on schedules.

Everyone wants to make money or score.

Heroin users are predictable. Meth users are unpredictable.

You have to be a risk taker and thrive on excitement.

Need to be a team player, know what your back-up is thinking. What do they need you to do?

Some undercover cops may turn to alcohol. Some have ruined the lives by becoming alcoholics, turning to drugs. Some commit suicide.

Drug dealers are turned in  by friends and relatives, neighbors who are fed up.

There was lots, lots more, but that's enough for this blog.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mystery and Intrigue Book Signing

In case the printing is too small, the event is this Saturday, July 26 from 1 to 4 at the Clovis Book Barn on Clovis Ave., Clovis CA. (You did get that it's Clovis, right? I'm smiling, of course.)
Featuring several highly acclaimed local authors who specialize in tales of mystery and intrigue – including Tim Desmond, Marilyn Meredith, Garner Scott Odell, and Gary Wayne Walker – we’ll have an afternoon of discussion, reading, book signing, mingling and refreshments. The event is free and open to the public, so stop by, beat the heat, and enjoy the festivities! Clovis Book Barn, 640 Clovis Ave., Clovis CA.

Meet the Authors!

“The Doc” by Timothy Desmond

Retired high school science teacher Tim Desmond is an artist and author in Fresno. He has been writing since the 1970s and his first novel, For Thou Art With Me, published 2006, is a World War II love and war story. He was raised in Madera and on a rural California grain ranch. His scholarship to attend California College of Arts and Crafts, in Oakland, was the first art scholarship in the history of Madera. His influences were Heinz Kusel and Bob Trestrail. Later he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University Fresno, with a major in zoology, and has since taught at various middle school, high schools, and colleges throughout the Central Valley. The Doc is his second novel.

“Murder in the Worst Degree” by Marilyn Meredith

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Spirit Shapes from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Murder in the Worst Degree from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra.

“Emerald” by Garner Scott Odell
Garner Scott Odell, retired after fifty years as a clergyman, therapist, and chaplain on cruise ships. He and his wife have traveled over a million ocean miles to 175 countries, and now turns his passion to writing. After writing a successful historical novel, Sir David: The Life and Loves of a Welsh Knight, his written pages now open to thrillers surrounding the lust and intrigue that surround beautiful “rocks”. The first novel in this series, Emerald, is just off the presses. Garner lives in California with his wife Grace, also a published writer, surrounded far and wide with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. In between pounding away on his computer he eats Hagen Daz ice cream, prunes his roses and thinks up more chaos to commit to print.

“Vengeance Is Mine” by Gary Wayne Walker
Gary Wayne Walker was born in Los Angeles in 1941; the third of three sons, Gary grew up in North Hollywood where he attended public schools through the eighth grade. Following the death of his father in 1955, Gary was awarded a competitive four-year scholarship to Black-Foxe Military Institute in Hollywood, from which he graduated with honors in 1959. In 1963, he graduated from Occidental College with a BA degree in political science. Now retired in Fresno and writing full-time, Gary is a member of the Valley Writers and Artists Association. Gary’s debut novel, Vengeance Is Mine, has been available on since July, 2013 as a trade paperback and Kindle download. He is currently writing a sequel, Vengeance Unbound, which is scheduled for publication in November, 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

PSWA Panel on Weapons for Writers

Unfortunately, I didn't get a photograph of this panel. The participants were:

John Schembra, Rich Wickliffe, Dave Freeland, Mark Bouton and Ron Corbin. Mike Black moderated.

Mike began the panel by pointing out that Americans have a fascination for guns.

When one of the retired officers was in the LAPD, everyone carried a .38 special.
Detectives changed to Glocks.

These are the weapons that were described:  Smith and Wesson Semi-Automatic with 10 to 18 rounds.

Smith and Weston 357 Magnum

Shot Gun

45 Caliber pistols

FBI carried Glocks

Glocks are light and often carried by female officers

Officer learn to count the round.

Problems with movie and TV depictions:

A 2 oz. bullet doesn't fly through the walls.

Chambering rounds when there should have already been one in the chamber.

Poor weapon handling.

It only takes 2 seconds to empty an AR 15.

On the show 24, cellphones always has bars and a charged battery.

Guns still kick. There's a heavy drag on the first round.

Tailor the weapon to the character you are writing about.

When writing about a character in a different era be sure he/she carries the right weaon.

Not every police officer knows about every type of gun.

Police officers guns are inspected on a regular basis.

There is no safety on a revolver.

Mafia hits use 22s, the bullet bounces around inside someone.

This was an excellent panel--full of great information for writers.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Explanation of the Many Investigative Organizations of the Department of Defense

Mike Angley, a retired UAF Colonel and career Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigation (the USAF version of NCIS of TV and Mark Harmon fame). He is the author of the Child Finder trilogy.

He gave a great presentation on all the various investigative organizations within the Department of Defense--what they do and what they don't do. 

They respond to all felonies, murders, rape, etc. under their jurisidiction and do some counter intelligence.

Their are special operatives such as Navy Seals, Green Berets, and civilian special agents who can arrest both military and civilians.

They have concealed carry authority.

NCIS is all civilian.

None of them have a mortuary or crime lab. The Army runs the crime lab for all services.

(This means there is no Abbie or Duckie.)

They all do have forensic agents.

They all work together much better than they used to.

Of course there was a lot more--but if you want to know things like this, you should attend the Public Safety Writers Conference--all the experts attend.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Friday, July 18, 2014

Using Dialogue

This was one of the panels at the PSWA conference.

Moderator: Mike Black

Participants: Frank Hickey, Thonie Hevron, Ilene Schneider, Janet Greger, Barbara Hodges

Set the tone in dialogue

Eavesdrop to see how people talk

Try to put as much of the story into dialogue as possible.Give your characters tics and tells.

Use a light touch with dialects

Read the dialogue out loud

Must move the plot forward or reveal character

Leave out the mundane things we say.

(They talked about setting too, but I didn't take any notes on it. Have no idea why, possibly because someone was talking to me about something.)


P.S. There also was a panel on point-of-view which I've discussed several times on this blog.

Another topic was working with an editor and here's a few tips from that one:

Everyone needs an editor. 

Belong to a critique group and use a content editor.

An editor can make you a better writer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tips for Writing Your Novel

After earning degrees in sociology and law, Mark Bouton joined the FBI and nabbed killer, kidnappers, and bank robbers across America for 30 years. Now he writes mystery and suspense novels and is willing to share his expertise with fellow members of PSWA,

Here are a few of his tips about writing your novel.

Characters: Need to know more than the physical description, also important are their upbringing, needs and goals, education, habits, gestures, ticks, personality, how they dress, posture, and their moral character.

Begin you novel with conflict. Show tensions, action, disbelief, wonder, fear. Remember a plot may be man against nature, man against evil, and/or man against himself.

Grab the reader with fascinating sentence, idea, question, situation. Make the reader wonder what will happen next.

Dialogue is an excellent way to show character--and remember, the dialogue may include lies.

Scenes are the building blocks of the novel--followed by the sequel or reaction to the scene.

Voice is each writer's individual style of writing.

Setting should set the stage for the action.

Be sparing in minor character's description.

Narration used to give important information.

(Great tips, Mark. And of course there was much, much more.)

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith