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Michael Thompkins
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Guest Article: Getting It Write with Rick Anderson

by Michael 5/23/2012 1:44:00 PM

Once again, my friend and fellow writer steps into our guest spot -Michael

Getting it Write 

The great thing about Michael's site is the resource it provides for writers that want to write about cops—and for cops that want to write. To be more precise, writers can find opportunities to inject authenticity into the cop characters that they're creating. I'm retired after a almost four decades in public service, capping my career as a federal agent. I met Dr. Michael Thompkins two years ago at the Southern California Writers Conference in Sunny Sandy Eggo. We were teaching separate workshops but our topics had connections to police characters. Comparing notes later, we were encouraged by the large turn-outs that revealed a deep desire among writers to keep their characters honest. There were Q&As following the lecture portions and the questions came fast & furious. One example: "Can my hero use a silencer on his revolver?" The short answer is, no. Or consider this question: "My protagonist is a police officer. She has to take on four punks in a dark alley. What're her options?" I replied, "Multiple," and explained a few. 

Michael's premier novel Gun Play reveals the great effort he put forth to bring to life vivid characters that not only talk the talk, but walk the walk in all things related to the world of cops & robbers. His characters are original, their credibility as working cops faultless. And how did Michael accomplish this? Through research, by riding with working officers, and through social contacts. As a result he's nailed the procedures, the talk, and equally important, the attitudes. This last quality is important because cops do have attitude—and good cops have very healthy ones that enable them in their work.More...

From What If to Being Published! by Claudia Whitsitt

by Michael 8/1/2011 11:03:00 AM

The thing about being a writer is that you automatically belong to a world village of writers and...it takes a village to write a book. 

Here's my friend Claudia Whitsitt  (see Shrinking Fiction in Palm Springs: Story Consulting and Writer Coaching with Michael Thompkins Leads to a Debut Novelist in the Shrinking Character Archives 2/2010) with herstory from What If to Being Published.

I began writing THE WRONG GUY three and a half years ago.  The idea was born on the beach in LaJolla, California, after I turned over my first novel for edits.  As I sat in the streaming sunlight digging holes in the sand, I thought back to a time of change in my life.  College.  I attended Eastern Michigan University on the heels of the arrest of John Norman Collins, the suspected killer in a series of brutal murders of co-eds that attended either Eastern Michigan or the University of Michigan.   I played “what if”.  What if the cops had the wrong guy?  What if there was another guy? And my brain took off!  THE WRONG GUY is loosely based on the Michigan Murders. The escalating deaths shocked my peaceful life and affected who I was and how I behaved.  For a lifetime.  My dorm mates and I were cautioned at every turn to travel in two’s, preferably with a male, to carry mace and whistles on our key rings and to never go anywhere with a strange young man we did not know.  Seemed reasonable.  But this was college, right?  Weren’t we trying to meet guys?  Weren’t our lives supposed to be carefree?  Not for co-eds at Eastern Michigan University or the U of M.More...

Shelly Frome Returns on the Writer's Art: the "What-if?"

by Michael 2/18/2011 8:50:00 AM

 And here's a new article by an old friend, fellow writer, and New Englander Shelly Frome about the by now classic in the Art of Writing--the "What-if?"  Shelly's bio can be found in the archive under Shrinking Character--Shrinking Fiction: Meet Shelly Frome.

Stalking the springboard for a crime novel  by Shelly Frome

            Someone once told me that you don’t have the necessary ingredients of a good crime novel unless one of your basic assumptions is threatened or, at the very least, you  have to come to terms with some facet of ongoing reality that’s really troubling you. The noted screenwriter and novelist William Goldman put it another way: “You write for revenge.” Be that as it may, though it may have a lot to do with the aforementioned comments, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what sets me off. Take my antic, edgy Hollywood novel. While staying at the Avalon at the corner of Olympic and Beverly Drive doing research for my book on screenwriting, everyone behind the reception desk was quick to note they were really actors or would-be screenwriters; the waiters and waitresses told me they were actually undiscovered talent. In no time, a short walk up the street revealed a paunchy middle-aged man standing in front of Al’s outdoor news-stand yelling into his cell phone, “Listen to me, Harry!  I’m telling you the me you think you know has breached the barricade. I’m gonna be taking a meeting, pitching a sure-fire idea for a vampire flick. I kid you not!”  And this, as they say, is just for openers.  

While all this was going on, despite the countless pipe dreams and illusions I encountered, there were signs that something approximating reality might be percolating beneath. At the park fronting the Santa Monica Pier, a shaggy-looking drifter in his early thirties was telling a well-tanned homeless man, “I tell you, you better watch out, you know?  It’s going down tonight.” And though she was reluctant to talk about it, my sister, who has a home just off La Cienega and Orlando, had bars installed on her windows after someone hot-wired her car while it was parked in her driveway and drove away into the night.  In addition, my mother’s house, about ten miles east, had been fitted with iron bars that were even more foreboding.More...

Holocaust Frauds et al. as a New Literary Genre by Colleen Fitzpatrick

by Michael 5/1/2010 10:33:00 AM

Guest Byline from Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick , Forensic Genealogist

Story line:  Child orphaned during Holocaust. Alone, must depend on fate to survive while millions perish.  Unexpected savior appears. There is hope. Child survives war implausibly.  Setting is foreign country decimated by Holocaust. Child relocates to new country.

 

Child grows up.  Child writes autobiography– redefining the word “incredible”. Doubts arise about authenticity of story. Yet book becomes bestseller based on public emotion. Skeptics are squashed.

 

Forensic genealogists move in, discover evidence believed inaccessible, disproving story. Child is busted. Much adverse publicity followed by much face-saving in press.  Movie producer is hung out to dry.  Publisher claims no knowledge of fraud, withdraws publication, moves on to next project that may include a second book glorifying lame excuses for child’s deceiving millions of readers.  The phrase “to make a lot of money” is never mentioned.

 

Does this scenario describe

 
  1. Misha Defonseca’s Surviving with Wolves
  2. Herman Rosenblat’s “Apple story”
  3. Both of the above?
 

There is no law against publishing a book as nonfiction when there are suspicions that it is a fabrication. It may even be desirable to do so. Marketing a story as autobiographical can be more lucrative than marketing it as fiction. Public controversy over the truth only boosts sales. 

 

Both Misha’s and Herman’s stories would have made good reading as fiction, but the job of big publishing houses is not truth-in-marketing.  Their job is to make money. And once a work of non-fiction is exposed as a fraud, there is usually no requirement to return the money to the unsuspecting public.  Embarrassment is often enough to cease publication of the work and move on to the next project.  In the present cases, the publishers maintained their innocence, claiming they were taken in by the con as much as the public, and did the best job they could with the difficult task of fact-checking a Holocaust story when documentation was so hard to come by.  Yet if forensic genealogists could find evidence conclusively debunking the stories,then why couldn’t  multi-million dollar publishing houses?

 

A fraudulent autobiography can be lucrative for its author too.  After James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces was exposed in 2006 as fake, he was invited by Oprah to appear on her show to explain himself– displacing countless other authors more worthy of airtime.  Late in 2007, James Frey received a seven-figure advance from a publisher for his next three books.

 

As I remarked to my colleague, “We’re in the wrong business.  The real money is in creating the frauds, not debunking them. Since we are experts at how literary frauds are constructed, why don’t we create our own?” 

 

Are there others Holocaust frauds there?  Probably.  For the last year, I have been investigating Mark Kurzem’s The Mascot, an international bestseller about his father Alex, an orphan who survived the Holocaust thanks to circumstances that give yet a new meaning to the word “incredible”. The savior offers hope of a happy ending, only this time the story takes place in Belarus, Latvia, and Australia. The same indications of literary fraud are evident, including continual adjustment of the “true” story apparently for the sake of embellishment and to evade questions by skeptics. Not surprisingly, the subject of the story was experiencing financial difficulties around the time the book was conceived.  Of course the movie rights have been sold, even as true Holocaust survivors voice concern about the lack of authenticity of both the story and the storyteller.

 

Without the support of publishers, the autobiographical fraud industry would wither.  While there is so much money in publishing falsehood, there is little incentive to tell the truth. If you still want to enjoy a good story, please don’t believe everything you read in the paper, nor the paperback. If a story seems too “incredible” to be true, it usually is. For those of you who wish to take a stronger stand against literary fraud, I offer further advice.  Don’t buy the book, and I wouldn’t wait for the movie either.

-Colleen Fitzpatrick,  www.identifinders.com

 

 

Boy, this one is close to my psychologist turned author heart.  I can hardly wait for the comments to roll in.     -Michael  

   

 

Three Years After-- Christmas 2009

by Michael 12/21/2009 8:49:00 AM

Three years ago this week, I was busy setting up a booth at Village Fest in downtown Palm Springs to give away promotional t shirts with the Shooting Shrink logo along with the first copies of Gun Play. I reflect with gratitude on the hundreds of fans I have met since that night. Sales of Gun Play have been extremely rewarding for a first novel and Big Island Play, v2 Shooting Shrink Series, will be published soon.

Thanks to all my fans and folks who have helped me begin this series. Special kudos to my editors and police officer friends. Salutes to two Palms Spring's police officers for their unfailing support of a rookie author. Finally, bouquets of appreciation to a friend, who I refer to as my Palm Spring's CIA station chief, because she knows everything and everyone in Palm Springs. I hear the expression 'self-made man' often. In my opinion there are no self-made writers--it takes a village to raise a writer. These friendships are priceless.

.

 

Plans for this website are expanding. In order to create room for my growth as a writer, the URL of this site will stay the same and change. The soon-to-be new  URL will be michaelthompkins.com, the website for author Michael Thompkins. The shootingshrink.com URL will still get you to the website. This move will allow me to start a new series of novels TBA, and expand the site to include any topic that relates to my writing. Enough for now-- more later.

August Update: Summer in the Northwest

by Michael 8/26/2009 9:06:00 AM
Finally, he writes.

I spent the entire month locked at my desk doing polish on the MS Word master of Big Island Play because that’s how an agency in New York wanted to read it. Little did I know that I had happily typed away at my keyboard  unaware of such things as  tab indents, spacing by spacebar, and any random format symbols that are not allowed in their submissions.  I could have avoided this work by having the format symbol switch turned on as I write but I simply didn’t know. Live and learn. I finished yesterday and it’s off to them.

Next week I go to Palm Springs to do a radio show, ride with my cop friends,  and work with a student who is writing a novel about a San Diego couple who time travel to the Peloponnesan War. Good concept.

I am still waiting for the Irish government to process my joint  US/Irish citizenship papers. My next trip to Ireland will be as an EU citizen. I have a list of literary prizes only for Irish citizens that I lust after. I just finished writing a magazine article about Finding my Irish Writer Roots. The full book will, of course, wait until I actually get the citizenship.

This summer has been the best summer in 20 years in the Northwest with lots of sun and lots of 70+ degree days.  I give you the following pictures as proof.

More later.

 

 

 

Judith and I found this guy out for a walk at 6000 feet on Mt. Rainer

 

Judith at 7500 feet at Pebble Creek beneath the Muir Snowfield

Finally, this is a picture (sent to me by Irish relatives) of my grandfather, Michael Reynolds, who was an Irish police officer before immigrating to the US in 1904. Considering I write crime fiction, I think it is safe to say that it's in my genes.

Writing Rivers with Craig Anderson

by Michael 4/27/2009 2:53:00 PM
     Here's a new addition to our little literary opus-in-progress, Shrinking Character: Richard Craig Anderson. After the February Southern California Writing Conference in San Diego, I planned on inviting some hot new names in crime fiction to write some pieces for shootingshrink.com.   Rick and I were emailing back and forth in March so I just up and asked him. Rick is a retired Maryland State Trooper, who I met at the SCWC workshop for crime writers, where participants learned about tactical training scenarios, "Shoot, Don't Shoot" scenes. The first two volunteers (no names mentioned,) both managed to shoot an unarmed citizen played by one of us. Rick's debut blog for us is about writing his new novel Rivers of Belief, which I read and loved.   

“Writing Rivers” by  Richard Craig Anderson  

Hi everyone.  My name is Rick Anderson and Michael Thompkins invited me to discuss my latest novel, Rivers of Belief.  Like Michael’s Gun Play, it’s a crime fiction thriller with an emphasis on edgy characterization—characters fleshed-out until we see their souls, their dreams and even their nightmares—traits that humanize us all.  It’s not a new concept of course, but there is a twist and that’s what I want to talk about.

I met Dr. Michael Thompkins during the 2009 Southern California Writers Conference in San Diego.  We’d been invited as lecturers, our paths quickly crossed, and we formed the basis of a growing friendship.  As I read Gun Play, it became evident that he and I had parallel spirits—we’re both determined to write with authenticity, and we believe that crime fiction must explore more fully the idiosyncrasies that we experience as human beings.  Gone are the formula, two-dimensional caricatures; welcome instead irregular characters made strong by the very weaknesses they fight to overcome—and by the dreams they dare to live.More...

Amtrak Explosive Detection K9 Retires

by Michael 3/16/2009 9:24:00 AM
I opened my email over the weekend to find this note from a friend who handles an Explosive Detection K9 for Amtrak in the Los Angeles Metro area: 

"Mike, just thought you would like to know that they are retiring Benny. He will be living with me and my family.

Let me know when your next book is done, I can't wait for it.

Thanks

Dr. Phil & Benny

Amtrak Police Department"

 

Officer Phillip Clark and K9 Benny

Amtrak Police Department

  

 

K9 Benny on the "Job" and on an Amtrak train

From these pictures, which Dr. Phil (to his friends) included, we can see that Benny truly enjoyed his job; he had a good role model in his handler. I know for a fact that Officer Clark loves his job and that he will miss Benny at work.  The good news is that Benny and Dr. Phil will still be partners in Benny's retirement and promotion to family dog.

Shrinking Writing: More from Shelly Frome

by Michael 3/16/2009 9:00:00 AM
Turning Personal Experience into the Hollywood Crime Novel 

by Shelly Frome

 

            It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what prompted me to write an antic, edgy novel about L.A..  I could start with Oscar Levant’s vintage remark:  “If you keep peeling away the tinsel, you can finally get to the real tinsel.”  In my case, I found myself stripping away  the illusions I encountered wondering if there was some way to get to something that actually mattered.

As for the illusions.   Once, when visiting an executive I knew at Paramount, she became antsy about moving her pricey sports car.  It seems the vast parking lot doubled as a pond and waterway; a situation she accepted as routine under the near-drought conditions and blazing sun.  At the same time, the mother of my nephew’s best friend was busy a few miles south stalking the sidewalks of Melrose.  This too was routine, trying to waylay Jay Leno and talk him into putting her on his show as a brazen housewife.  Either that or, if worse came to worse, getting him to feature her son Howie who, well past the age of thirty, still hadn’t been alone with a woman.  Anything to connect to the entertainment industry.   My brother-in-law, the pharmacist, was not only impressed by her dogged pursuit, he was still brandishing photos of a movie star who’d seen better days, one he’d corralled a few years back while filling her prescription.  It soon became no surprise when staying at the Avalon at the corner of Olympic and Beverly Drive, everyone behind the reception desk was quick to note they were really actors or would-be screenwriters; the waiters and waitresses undiscovered talent.  It goes without saying that most of those congregating around the adjacent pool were flaunting an outlandish outfit and hawking their charms and winning smile or a script or a new wrinkle for a project.  In turn, the object of their affections was trying to convince the hawkers and flaunters that he possessed an untold pipeline to instant success.  Later on, a short walk up the street revealed a paunchy middle-aged man standing in front of Al’s outdoor news-stand yelling into his cell phone, “Listen to me, Harry!  I’m telling ya the me you think you’ve known has breached the barricade. I’m gonna be on the back lot taking a meeting.  I kid you not! All this, as they say More...


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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions.