I heard about the Public Safety Writers Association conference in Las Vegas through other Oak Tree Press authors. Lots of them were going to the conference, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to network with them and meet my Editor, Billie Johnson, and Sunny Frazier, the Acquisitions Editor who signed me.
Only 4 ½ hours drive from our summer place. Take in a show. Yeah. That was the plan. Attend. Talk and stalk. You know--normal conference behavior.
Who knew I would learn so much? Well, I guess my fellow authors did, but at this stage of my life, after dozens and dozens of conferences, I didn’t expect much.
The PSWA may be the best-kept secret in the writing of mysteries. I had never heard of it. Shame on me. The better known organizations/conferences like Boucheron, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Left Coast Crime, and so on attract large crowds of various flavors of mystery and thriller writers.
Not so PSWA. This small, intimate conference was packed with information and expertise. Almost all the presenters have backgrounds in law enforcement and public safety fields. Oh, and they write books, too!
Seriously. I sat next to Pete Klismet one day. He had been on a panel and had moderated another one. He was with the FBI for 25 years and was in the first group of psychological profilers trained. Yeah, he writes books, too.
Guy Painter, who was on a Homeland Security panel, does airport security, so I hit him up for help with my paranormal book’s airport security bid problem. He gave me his personal e-mail for future questions.
Sue Vondrak is an Illinois CSI who had me clinging on with fingernails during her fabulous DNA presentation. She also helped with the accuracy of a plot point for an upcoming culinary mystery book. Oh, did I mention she writes books, too?
Joe Haggerty presented jaw-dropping information about prostitution and the prosecution thereof based on his years dealing with the streets in D.C. He was more than generous on more than one occasion to help me with my Streetwalker series questions. He has a great book about a pimp.
Oh, and there were so many more. Thanks to all the unnamed from whom I learned as well!
Additionally, PSWA hosts a listserv so if you have a question like “Where could an ordinary person buy a body bag?” or “What is an undetectable poison during a normal tox screen?”, pose it and people will jump in to help. Wow! Just, wow!
The goal of all these sessions and informal conversations was to help me and other authors portray public safety workers and procedures accurately. Membership is the best $55 you’ll spend if you are writing mysteries or thrillers. Check it out at http://policewriter.com/wordpress/