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Friday, August 26, 2011

Urban Fiction: Living it Out - Day Ten: A New Beginning

Nate Richards is my brainchild, and to some degree the child of my heart. The longer I have been back on the streets, the more I find the love; or rather that thread, that really is Nate.

For instance, ask yourself, what does a blown out tire, three warrants, marijuana, and a high-speed chase all have in common. If you asked Nate, he would say it was just a routine day at the office.

Let’s look at these one at a time in the light of how they might impact the world of Nate Richards. First the blown out tire. Once again, it’s a middle-aged woman drunk way beyond being polite company. Add a car and an almost empty parking lot…did I mention she was drunk? Any way once, twice, three times around and still not able to find her way out onto the populated streets. One raised curb later and a high-speed impact, yeap, a blown out tired and a trip to jail for one.

Then there was the guy who decided to drag race down main street only to cry and beg –after the stop—not to be taken to jail because he’s doing so well and turning his life around. The one thing that all these situations have in common is that they started with a single choice. So, as Nate would say, “You caught it, you clean it.”

But, with all that said, it did make for an exciting night. But then again if you’re gonna drink, don’t drive. And if you’re gonna drag race through the middle of town, don’t do it with three outstanding warrants for your arrest. And finally, if you’re gonna smoke dope…any kind of dope…DON’T…. Just saying.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Urban Fiction: Living it Out - Day Nine: A New Beginning

Special announcement: DRT is at the publisher. The cover is being set and the formatting is all in place. We’re talking a few more weeks and DRT will be out. Yeah! Praise God.

Now back to the program.

Last night’s shift was in a word…fast. My entire team rolled into briefing tired...heavy fatigue and ten long hours ahead of us. Then it happened. The calls began to pour in…one after another after another all night long right up until 06:00 hours. It is the best kind of night when you are tired.

My first call, a welfare check, is always set to be a surprise. When a citizen is concerned about a child or the living conditions they live in, a welfare check is dispatched. My job is to go into the home and make sure the environment is clean, safe, and healthy.

Last night’s call was a wonderful surprise. The house was small and cluttered, and the family was obviously poor, but the children were plump, pink and happy. No problems to report. I love calls like that. It’s just a pleasant change from the usual “stuff” I have to deal with….Just saying.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Urban Fiction: Living it Out - Day Eight: A New Beginning

In my first novel, N.H.I., I tried to show my readers a glimpse of what it is like to be a cop…seeing the world as it were from behind his eyes. I showed you how Nate and his fellow officer dealt with “that” segment of our society. Well tonight was one of those evenings that reminded me of just why cops build such shields around their hearts and minds.

Imagine a 50-year-old woman, alone and unemployed. Imagine that its 3:30am and she’s screaming at the top of her lungs. She’s partially nude and she’s vulgar. Oh yes, and she’s drunk…very drunk. Now that you see our lady, imagine that the neighbors are peaking out through windows and doors and upon discovering who and what it is that’s making all the noise, they shake their heads and slip back behind the cover of a chosen ignorance.

She screams, she cries, she begs her husband just to look at her, just to touch her like a woman; but all he does is look at her with mild disgust and some pity. She has thrown dishes, and food, and houseplants; and all around the small living room lay broken pieces of furniture and the frames where family pictures once hung.

This is the world of N.H.I. A place where humans have exchanged the glory of being made in the image and likeness of God to become something other. Something other than human in their expression. Some become predators and feast on the innocence of children and the aged. Others become violent and hurt anyone they deem weaker than themselves. Still, others become possessed by greed and will destroy a kingdom just to gain its gold. But, all share one very common trait. They have all reduced themselves to being less.

As a street cop working the grave shift, these are the people I usually deal with. This is the reason a cop, if not careful, will reduce the world to two sides…the good against the bad, the us against the them. This is where you have to remember that even when they are at their ugliest and they smell and look their worse, beneath it all is still a person for which Christ has died. Even when there are truly N.H.I.: No Humans Involved, we, the good guys still have to be….Human .….Just saying.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Guest Post: TL Cooper

As you can see, this was originally posted a few days ago, but I thought it so good that I decided to bring it to share with my readers. I hope you will find this as refreshing as did I. TL is a great writer and has over the few years I've known her become a good friend. I hope you enjoy it, I did...just saying.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Human Beings First, Forget the Labels

I write about the human condition for one main reason, we are humans. We live in this world together. We all have that in common every single one of us. Regardless of skin color, religion, political persuasion, sexual orientation, gender, class, or any other labeling apparatus we use to create division between us. In the end, we are all human beings.

The first time I had coffee with my friend and fellow author, Ray Ellis, I told him that my novel, All She Ever Wanted , dealt with racism. He looked at me for a minute then calmly and without judgment informed me, without having read a word of it, that it didn't deal with racism because there is only one race, the human race. It was a turning point in my life. I've never thought about racism the same since that conversation. That change in thought helped me find an even stronger conviction and desire to explore and understand the human condition.

As human beings we hurt, we dream, we work, we play, we laugh, we cry, we love, we hate, we fail, we succeed, and so on. Our feelings get hurt. Our bodies get hurt. Our relationships suffer obstacles. Our lives face challenges. This doesn't change because we happen to fall into any of those "labels" we use to divide.

As part of writing about the human condition, I research, examine, study, and analyze the human condition. I blog about my struggles to become the best me I can because I'm fairly certain others can relate. We all struggle to be our best selves. Some may think these posts are self indulgent, and I suppose some are to a degree; however, if I share my struggle with something and that happens to help someone else, then it's worth it. And, sometimes what seems to be about me is really about my observations of someone else's situation. Sometimes they are the things I wish I could say one-on-one, but I know won't be heard. Whether saying them in a more generic way reaches the person I wish I could say them to or not, maybe they'll help someone else in a similar situation.

I think all writers, especially fiction writers and poets, write about the human condition in one way or another. I tend to do it from the perspective of character growth while many write about it by wrapping the storyline around a social cause. Murder, rape, domestic violence, love, hate, romance, civil rights, and the list goes on and on are all part of the human condition. Even the criminal is human though in fiction it often seems like they're not. I've talked to and read authors who prefer to keep their criminals two dimensional, after all who cares what's going on in the criminal's head? There are readers who prefer the criminal not be humanized at all. I struggle with that. I can see their point... kind of. On the other hand, I have a real need to understand "why" even in a book. Even the bad guy had to come from somewhere. That's my need to understand the human condition.

When I write, I'm very interested in examining what makes the characters tick - every character. I want my characters to make people stop and think. Maybe to consider something in a new way. So I spend countless hours inside my characters' heads interrogating them, cajoling them, charming them, and listening to them. Sometimes I do this for days or even months before they make it to paper. Other times only for hours.

I think it would be safe to say I wrap my plot around my characters and the growth they will experience in the book. That's what excites me about writing. The idea of figuring out something new regarding the human condition and sharing it with others gives me a sense of fulfillment or at least purpose. Or even reminding people of something that has been lost in the stereotypes people tend to accept so easily. Or encouraging people to feel a little compassion and connection with a human being they might otherwise turn away from. I sure hope that my readers find my examinations of the human condition, whether in a novel, short story, poem, or blog entry, entertaining, interesting and enlightening.

Mostly though I hope my writing about the human condition helps people see that we really are all human beings inhabiting the same planet. We all have that much in common in spite of all the labels assigned us...

About Me

T. L. Cooper
T. L. Cooper grew up in Tollesboro, Kentucky. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University. Her articles, essays, short stories and poetry have appeared in books and magazines as well as online. She is the author of the novel, All She Ever Wanted.
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Friday, August 12, 2011

Urban Fiction: Living it Out - Day Seven: A New Beginning

You know, one of the most dynamic things about working the streets is that they are so…well, dynamic. You can go to work every day for a month and each day would be different. But, there is one thing about the streets that is consistently bad. Court after a midnight shift.

Imagine going to work at 21:00 hours, that’s 9pm for you civilian types, and working until 07:00 hours the next morning. Then imagine not getting off on time because you had a late call. Then imagine your having to be in court at 10:00am to testify about a case you worked. Then imagine that you have to be back at work again that same night at nine. That’s patrol.

At least that’s one aspect of patrol. You just never really know how the di will roll. Some days you go on and you can do circles upwards to a 100 miles driving around the city and not get into anything. Then you have the night where you might only drive 25 miles and go to jail twice and have been in a fight. You just never know.

But one of the hardest and best things about patrol is having the chance to affect the lives of people. Like the other night when I got a chance to help a mother in distress. What I really wanted to do was slip an arm around her shoulders and tell her it would be all right because I would pray for her. (Nate Richards probably would have done just that.) But instead, I walked the professional line and did my best just to let her know there were still good people in the world and that we care about what happened to her and her kids.

Then again, there’s the mom I found sleeping in her car because she’d lost her job and her house. Her estranged husband has her kids and all she had was a van and a blanket with which to cover herself. Yeah, the streets are a very interesting place. If you ever think you have it bad and things just can’t get any worse…well I’m here to tell you it can. Just remember the distressed mom or the homeless mother sleeping in her van. At least in my book Nate Richards always wins….Just saying.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Urban Fiction: Living it Out - Day Six: A New Beginning

A dark city…a quiet night…crying children and a moment of chance; these are the things that the thief-of-opportunity needs to drop a bomb of confusion into your life.

How many of you have seen the woman who is walking around the store checking the shelves, chasing kids and of course this one, the mother who is an entire aisle away. Or, how about the mother who turns to put the baby into the car seat while her purse is sitting in the basket at the rear of the car. I can only imagine how Nate Richards would handle this situation, but I always wanted to just grab the purse and walk away then turn and watch as the mother discovers her purse is missing.

To be honest, I did once, but that will have to wait for a different post. Smile.

So what’s the moral of this story? There are enough bad things and bad situations going around without our helping the bad guys out. But, if you leave your valuables laying out where “they” can grab it you’re just sticking your head in the lion’s mouth so to speak. But if you want to keep your stuff where you left it you might want to keep your eye on it…. Just saying.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Urban Fiction: Living it Out - Day Five: A New Beginning

Color me dense and put a bag on my head, but I just realized that many of you have never been inside of a police car. Duh!

No…I was referring to the front seat. There’s always one in the bunch.

Anyway, when you first get into the police cruiser, as it is affectionately known, you will realize that there is not a whole lot of space. Imagine going to your desk at work and pulling out everything you have in it and putting it in your car, then set it up so you can use it…while driving.

Inside the car, we have the MDT, or the mobile-date-terminal, which is a really complex PC. Only it does so much more. From that single terminal, I have access to DMV, NCIC, and the FBI records. But, mostly it allows me to be in constant contact with my dispatch center as well as fellow officers. The MDT even allows me to go online to verify obscure codes that I might not use on a regular basis.

Then of course, we have the police radio. This is probably the single most important piece of equipment I have other than my brain. The radio allows me to listen to my main channel and also to scan several others. This is done to keep me in the know. While in the field the one thing the street cop can never have too much of is information. We always need to know what’s going on in our city or what might be heading our way.

Then we have the lights. Now most of you have seen these from outside the unit, but to see them from the inside is a treat all in its self. We have the rear flashers, the takedowns, the side alleys, and the spot. And when we get serious, we turn them all on. Whooppi! Now that’s an e ticket ride. (Some of my younger reader won’t know what that means, so you older ones will have to explain.) Smile.

If you ever get the chance to go on a ride along –a program offered by most PD’s that allows civilians to ride along with an officer for a duty shift- it is well worth missing the few hours of sleep. Yes, I did say missing sleep. Smile. Sure, you could go during the day, but if you gonna be dog you might as well be a mastiff…. Just saying.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Urban Fiction: Living it Out - Day Four: A New Beginning

Working the graveyard shift changes your entire world. During the workweek, things may not seem so bad, but once you get to the weekend, that’s when it can go stupid…quick.

Even the simple question of when to sleep becomes very, very important. Just imagine that everything inside you is pulling on you with twice the force of gravity toward the bed, but everyone and everything else is on the up and on the bounce…. Not a good thing.

I don’t know how Nate Richards would handle this, but for this first week back on graves, I decided I would just transition back to the world of the day-dwellers for the weekend. Oh, that sounded so easy at the time. It sounded so good.

So this was me…just try and find the thread of common sense in this, if you can, drop me a post because I’ve seem to lost all mine. (Smile.) Friday morning, I got off a little early, around 05:00 hours and then spent some time in prayer and then had a good workout. So far so good, right?

But then I had a meeting with my editor scheduled for 10:30, so since by the time I finished my prayer and workout it was close to 06:30….(Why go to sleep right?) Well let’s just say we worked on the manuscript until 16:30 –that’s 4:30pm for you civilians – and then I had another meeting with a fellow writer at 18:30 so why sleep here. Are you starting to see the insanity slip in yet?

Well that meeting ended at 21:00 hours and I finally arrived home at about 22:00. I sat in front of the tube to relax. But guess what? I work the grave shift so my body and mind kicked into let’s go to work mode. Yep, that’s right, I was suddenly wide-awake…fully alert. Ready to go. Whereas that would be fine –this sudden alertness- for working the streets, not so much for going to bed.

So, I say all that to say this. Sometimes when you are working the grave shift, it’s just easier to leave the day dwelling to those accustomed to the light. The night is for playing…. Just saying.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Urban Fiction: Living it Out - Day Three: A New Beginning

As a keeper of the peace, and an enforcer of the laws of my city, I take great pride in the carrying out of my duties. I work the graveyard shift, so I’m a creature of the night. Checking dark alleys and suspicious vehicles and persons….Cars driving in locations where they should not be, mysterious persons in dark clothing ducking in and out of dead end streets…these are all par for the course as I patrol my assigned area.

So, can you imagine my chagrin when at zero dark: thirty… that’s police talk for in the middle of the night… I make a traffic stop, turn around to go back to my unit only to find that my police car is missing a headlight. Oops!

That’s like a Knight of the Round Table finding that his steed is missing a front leg. Well not quite, but you get the picture. What do you do? Do you give yourself a ticket for failure to maintain equipment? I know some people wish I would, but no. Actually, I took it back to the barn and put it away with a maintenance request attached. I said all that to say this, sometimes we officers may stop you to let you know that you have equipment that is malfunctioning. Sometimes a person really might not know.

Now, if you ever hear of someone being stopped for an equipment malfunction and then they somehow wound up in jail...I’m here to tell you that that someone just didn’t know when to just shut up. There is a thing called talking yourself into trouble. So for the guy who was riding his bicycle during the hours of darkness without a headlight and he wound up in jail…well I guess you see it, he just didn’t know when to shut up. I find myself wondering what Nate Richards would have done in this situation.

So, if the cop stops you and says he just wanted to give you a warning that you needed to fix this or adjust that, it might be better to just say thank you. Just saying.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Urban Fiction: Living it Out - Day Two: A New Beginning

What do you get when you combine a car, alcohol, and a one-way street? I don’t know what you get, but I got a DUI arrest. That’s Driving while Under the Influence for those of you who hadn’t heard that term before.

You see, the thing about alcohol is that it puts your brain to sleep so you don’t even know how drunk you are. This was the case with the person I…ah…er…met this morning. This person was drunk enough to drive the wrong way up a one-way street and perform some pretty strange driving maneuvers, and all the time not even know they were over the legal limit. In the state of Idaho, that’s only .08 percent blood/breath.

Anyway, back to the story. There I was just minding my business and doing my patrol thing when zip, bam, buoy –Don’t you just love the Batman sound affects?--- this drunk goes zipping through town. When I finally got them stopped and administered the three basic tests to them, I was amazed that they didn’t just put the handcuffs on themselves and go straight to jail.

Like I was saying, there are three basic tests. The gaze nystagmus, which is a test of the muscle response to stimuli after it has been affected by a CN depressant…i.e. alcohol. The second test is probably the most well know and is the walk and turn. Yep, the driver failed that one too. The last test was the one leg stand test and when done well it is beautiful to watch. When its not, its not. It can be rather scary, especially if you are standing near a busy road.

Needless to say, this little adventure ended with a trip to jail for our driver. The queerest thing however was not how they drove or even how they performed on the test, but rather that they didn’t even think they were drunk. Now that’s scary…remember the 4000-pound thing I talked about.

So with all that said, I’m thinking if you’re drinking don’t be driving. The two just don’t go together. Just saying.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Urban Fiction: Living it Out - Day One: A New Beginning

Boom! Crunch! Bam! No, it’s not a missing episode of the old Batman TV series. –Did I just date myself? – These are the sounds we usually associate with two cars trying to occupy the same space…at the same time.

On my last shift, yes, it was hot –almost 100 degrees outside-; I had the honor of serving a couple young people who had experienced just such a scenario. I don’t know if you knew this or not, but the average car is about 15 feet in length and weighs about a four tons. Think about it, that’s 15 feet of plastic, metal and glass and meat {Guess who gets to supply the meat? Yeap, you.} at four thousand pounds zipping around the highways and byways of this great land we call home.

Imagine you are driving a comfortable two car lengths behind the car in front of you, that’s about 60 feet. Nevertheless, if you are traveling at only 35 mph, you are covering up to 51 feet per second. Now if you happen to look up, down, or at your cell phone or even blink….BOOM! Crunch! Bam! And we have to take in consideration that it takes the average person 0.20-0.25 of a second to even react. See my point?
Believe me, I’m just a street cop, so this math thing is way over my head, but those who know say that at 60 mph you are covering 88 feet per second…that’s over two car lengths in the blink of an eye. There are 5280 feet in a mile….So, 5280 feet multiplied by 60 (mph) and you get 316,800 total feet. Now, divide 316,800 by 60 (minutes in an hour) and you get 5280 feet. The final step is to divide 5280 by 60 (seconds in a minute) and you wind up with 88 feet per second, or in most cases BOOM! Crunch! Bam!
Now I don’t mind coming to the aid of motorist on the road, but I would very much rather it not be as a result of the Boom-crash-bam affect. (Smile). Just saying.