Follow by Email

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lie Detectors

Even though scientists question the accuracy of lie detectors, the CIA, FBI, and other federal agencies use polygraph machines to screen applicants and to hunt for lawbreakers. There are many researchers and defense attorneys who say polygraph is prone to a higher number of false results. Despite this it has emerged as a tool in the CIA’s effort to identify suspected leakers of government anti-terrorism tactics.

The polygraph machine measures various physiological changes such as blood pressure, respiratory rate, heart rate, and electro-dermal activity (sweat). The point is to determine when subjects are getting anxious. The idea is that deception involves an element of anxiety. The clincher is that an emotion (anxiety) can be triggered by many factors other than not telling the truth. As a result the experts feel that the tests can overlook smooth-talking liars while indicating innocent people who are simply rattled.

Polygraph tests results are generally inadmissible in federal courts and most state courts. On the other hand, statements or admissions made during the course of the test can be used in court. Some people seem to feel some of the polygraph’s value is in prompting people to tell the truth.

Questions which focus on whether people have memory of a certain event give far more reliable results than screening tests which rely on emotions triggered by a wide range of factors.

Polygraph examinations are designed to observe significant involuntary responses going on in the person’s body when that person is subjected to stress, such as the stress associated with deception. The exams are not capable of detecting if the person is lying.

How do liars beat the test? The exam is started out with baseline questions which provide the examiner with baseline physiologic responses. The liars simply increase their physiologic responses with exciting thoughts, altering one’s breathing pattern, or biting the side of their tongue. All these measures increase all the physiologic parameters that are being measured, thus providing these false numbers as their baseline. When later in the exam they tell a lie, these increased parameters are compared to the false baseline parameters and are viewed to be normal.

If you use the lie detector in your story, you may want to keep in mind how it is viewed, how it works, and how it can be beat. Lie detector results are not considered as valid by some and are not allowed in most courts. Remember that it cannot detect a lie, only if there is possible deception. And most of all, that the lie detector can be beat by someone who knows how.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:  The Bible Murders
Member of: Sisters in Crime
                    Writers on the Move

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Sophisticated Writer

There are a few tricks to not appearing as an amateur writer, and it is the desire of every writer to sound like they have been writing for many years.

 One of the most mistakes a young writer makes is using -ing words and as. Now don’t get me wrong. An occasional use of these is not a bad thing, and sometimes it is necessary. However, most of the time the ing words and as can be dropped or moved to elsewhere in the sentence. It can be placed in the middle or at the end of the sentence.
  Pulling the books off the top shelf, Meg knocked the vase over.
            Meg pulled the books off the top shelf and knocked over the vase.
            As Cassie picked the bag of groceries up, the bottle of juice fell and broke.
            Cassie picked up the bag of groceries. the bottle of juice fell out and broke.
  Another way to avoid appearing like an amateur is to eliminate as many -ly words as possible, even those in dialogue. Where there is an adverb, there is a weak verb. Drop the adverb and replace the weak verb with a strong one.
            Angrily she put the file on the table.
            She slammed the file on the table.
            There are exceptions to this rule. Though not a perfect solution, it does provide effect.
            Eyes cold as steel, she lifted gun--slowly, deliberately.
Clichés. What can I say but no, no way, and forget it. If you use a cliché to describe a character, you run the risk of making him appear like a cartoon character or, at the least, unreal.
There are some other small items you need to consider. Commas, for instance. If you’ve ever listened to people around you, you will notice they don’t always talk in sentences. They often string their sentences together. Doing this in dialogue could make your character sound more real, though it doesn’t have to be just in dialogue. How do you string sentences together? With a comma instead of a period.
            “Come on, I’m in a hurry, we need to leave now.”
  Some small things which make a writer sound amateurish are: emphasis quotes, exclamation marks, and overuse of italics. Need I say more?
  And my favorite the flowery, poetic figures of speech. Use this method of writing very sparingly or chance losing your reader (he’s probably dying of laughter).
  Metaphors and any phrase that draws attention to itself rather than what is actually being said is not sophisticated at all. The more subtle approach can convey the idea and allow the reader to use his/her imagination, and your reader does like to do this.
  Profanity is acceptable only if it is appropriate to your character. Otherwise leave it out.
Writing is an art, and it takes a lot of hard work to perfect it. However, it is not impossible to be a sophisticated writer.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:  The Bible Murders and Sarah’s Secret
Member of: Sisters In Crime
                    Writers on the Move

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The History of Fingerprinting

            As I dug into the history of fingerprinting, I was amazed at how old the art was. Now as writers we are generally more interested in how fingerprinting is used in crime situations, but how it all came about should give you an appreciation of it.
            It surprised me to learn that the art of fingerprinting came into being back in 1000-2000 B.C. and was used an clay tablets for business transactions. My guess is this was their form of a signature. It was in 14th Century A.D. that a physician notices that no two fingerprints were alike.
            In the 1600’s the microscope was invented, and in 1686 at the University of Bologna in Italy a professor takes note of the spirals, loops, and ridges in fingerprints. It was not until 1823 that Johannes Evengelista Purkinje, a professor of anatomy with the University of Breslau in Prussia, wrote a thesis detailing a full nine different fingerprint patterns. Fingerprinting was a standard use for identification, especially on documents and contracts. In 1882 Gilbert Thompson, employed by the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico, uses his fingerprints on a document to guard against forgery. In the 1800’s Sir Francis Galton started studying fingerprints and in 1892 published a book, Fingerprints. It was the first of this type book which detailed the first classification system called Galton’s Details for fingerprints. This system is still to an extent used today. This same year Juan Vucetich, an Argentine police official, started the first fingerprint files based on Galton’s Details. He made history that year by making the first criminal fingerprint identification.
            In 1896 Sir Edward Richard Henry, a British official instituted a fingerprinting program for all prisoners. In 1902 the Director of the Bureau of Identification of the Paris Police made use of the first criminal identification of a fingerprint without a known suspect. In the meantime the testing of the first systematic use of fingerprints in the U.S. is performed by Dr. Henry P. DeForrest. After that the use of fingerprinting spreads, and by 1911 the first central storage location for North America was established in Ottawa by Edward Foster of the Dominion Police Force. Today it is maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. By 1924 the Identification Division of the F.B.I. was created.
            The 1990’s he Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems had widespread use around the country. Fingerprinting of children became the vogue by 1996 for investigative purposes.
            I was totally amazed that the history of fingerprinting went back as far as Babylon. Once it was discovered that no two people have the same fingerprints, the significance quickly accelerated over the years until law enforcement had one of the most important investigative tools known to man.
            There is one thing I would like to mention. As fingerprinting advanced to greater technology, criminals also became innovative in erasing their fingerprints from their fingertips with acid. Painful but effective.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders
                              Sarah’s Secret
Member of: Sisters In Crime
                    Writers on the Move

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When Women Kill

Though there have been female killers throughout history, it was in the 1970’s that an increase in homicides committed by women was noticed. Women’s Liberation was blamed for this.
Female killers are difficult to spot, causing the number of known female killers to be minimal. Women killers are pretty much not noted by the public because they are quiet killers. Mass murderers of the female gender are rare. Wild killing sprees also are rare, but the few there were suffered severe psychosis.
Despite what people think, female serial killers are just as deadly, and sometimes more deadly, than male serial killers, and can be more efficient. This can play a part in them keeping a low profile for long periods of time.
Women who are serial killers fall into three categories:  black widows, nurses, terrorists and assassins. Black widows kill husbands, children, relatives, boardinghouse tenants, and employees. Nurses target those they take care of and are referred to as “angels of mercy” or “angels of death.” Terrorists and assassins are more hard-hearted. They kill for money/non-personal reasons such as political or murder-for-hire. They do not know their victims.
These women in all of the three categories are a minority among murderers. The body count of known women killers averages 8 to 14 victims for each offender. This is higher than for male offenders.
Women serial killers are usually young and intelligent with killing careers of 10 years before discovery, ranging anywhere from a few months to over 30 years. Most are white and middle to upper class. Female serial killers who have been abused do not, in general, kill their abusers, nor are their motives for killing related to their abuse.
Throughout the centuries poison was the preferred method for murder. It is still today the favored method of murder, being used in 50% of all cases.
Research found that female killers are a product of their environment. Interestingly, just as there have been few cases of female serial killers, there have been few treated for severe mental disorder.
  Psychosis is the main cause of women killing their children or even other children. More than half of these women told others prior to their murders that they were afraid they would kill, but then “pleas for help” were ignored.
  Other characteristics that these women can have are:  insincerity, amoral, extremely impulsive capable of dominating other people with manipulative charisma and superficial char, lacks insight and any form of conscience, unable to learn from mistakes, is irresponsible and unpredictable, volatile, disregard for truth, above average intelligence, very selkf0destructive, takes frequent high risks, can mimic normal behavior if they have to, always blames others for their failures, and has no life goals. Women who are team killers are most often followers, but in other cases, they are the dominant partner.
  Female terrorists/assassins kill for three reasons:  pursuit of dreams of a better life for people, a desire to help those in need, or a desire to change social or government policies. Female terrorists are more ruthless and persistence than male terrorists.

Reference:  Malicious Intent                                                                                                                                       
                   by Sean Mactire
                  Published by Writer’s Digest Books

Faye M. Tollison
Author of:  To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:  The Bible Murders
                             Sarah's Secret
Member of:  Sisters in Crime
                    Writers on the Move


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bookcover Award

My book, To Tell the Truth, has won the Books in Sync bookcover award for August 2012! This bookcover was illustrated by Heather Paye, a young and talented illustrater located in New Mexico. I'm very excited about this award!

Faye M. Tollison, Author

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


There are a number of websites where a writer can find a bookcover for his/her book. They are pre-made covers and can range in price anywhere from $150.00 to $600.00 at best.
So what is the disadvantage to these bookcovers? They do not reflect your story. Generally generic, they can be used for any genre. Of course, if this is what you want, then you will probably be satisfied with it. But if you want your book to stand out from the rest, a bookcover that reflects your story will be much more satisfactory.
Stop and think about it for a moment, and you will see what I mean. The first thing a person looks at when searching for a book is the title. If the title does not grab them, they move on to the next book. Once they find a title that draws their interest, they pick up the book and look at the bookcover. Now you should be able to see why it is important to the sale of your book. The title and the bookcover are the first two things that give the reader a good idea what the book is about. Those two things will convince the reader to read the blurb on the back cover and even open the book and read the first page or two.
Now I have seen a number of well-known authors’ new books on the shelf, and their bookcovers are so plain and boring that it is a good thing they have already made a name for themselves. Otherwise they probably would not sell very many of their books.
People who read are visual. We learn to write in such a way as to draw a visual picture in their minds. That is what the bookcover picture should do for your title. It should draw a visual picture of the written title as well as the basic story, hence giving the reader a better idea of whether or not they would be interested in it.
Your illustrator should be someone who is willing to work close with you to achieve the perfect bookcover for your story. If they are not willing to do this, they are probably not worth the money you are paying them. Once you find the right illustrator, you will find satisfaction on several different levels. One, you will obtain a bookcover with which you will fall in love. Two, you will have a bookcover that will help sell your book. Three, you will have a good friend who will, the longer you work together on different projects, know just what you like or dislike; and you will develop a good working relation.
At this point, I would like to give credit to my most wonderful and talented illustrator who has put up with me with utmost patience. Her name is Heather Paye. She will amaze you with her talent. Her website is: htpp://
Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:  The Bible Murders
                             Sarah’s Secret
Member of: Sisters In Crime
                                Writers On the Move
                                Books In Sinc

Friday, May 18, 2012



Most books on writing or self-editing tell you to never put a prologue in your book. I do understand this since most prologues are very boring and way too long. This can lead to the reader giving up on the book before they even have a chance to read it. An interesting prologue can easily be your first chapter. However, I have noticed more and more books with prologues.
            The most justifiable form of prologue is the backstory prologue. Of course, even this can be interspersed into the main story a little at a time or placed as the first scene of chapter one.
            The second type of prologue is the flash-forward prologue. The name tells you what it is. Once again this prologue can be placed as the first chapter or the first scene in chapter one.
            Another type is the body-on-page-one prologue. Even though you do need to introduce the murder within the first 100 pages, the prologue may be a bit premature, causing our chapter one to fall flat. It is not necessary to open the book with the murder. There is something to be said for building up to it.
            Lastly is the summary prologue. This is where the narrator looks back on the experience about to be told, summarizing the lessons learned. In other words, this is the story’s theme. Not essential to the book itself, but some publishers do as for this when considering your book. So take it out of the book, and it will never be missed.
            If you use a prologue, make sure it is useful and serves a well-integrated purpose which is necessary to the story.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:  The Bible Murders and Sarah’s Secret
Member of: Sisters In Crime
                    Writers on the Move

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Where There's A Will

C. Hope Clark was the speaker at the Greenville Chapter of Sisters in Crime this past Thursday, April 4, 2012. Originally from Mississippi, she has quite an impressive background. Writing her first novel, she faced rejection after rejection. So she put her book in a drawer and reconsidered what she could do which would involve writing.

Mrs. Clark started a newsletter service, which reaches almost 45.000 writers. This site,, was recognized by Writer's Digest magazine in its annual list of 101 Best Web Sites for Writers for the last 12 years. She has been published in The Writer magazine, Writer's Digest, Chicken Soup as well as many trade and online publications. She is a member of SC Writers Workshop Association, Sisters in Crime, and MENSA.

She gave a very inspiring talk to our local chapter of Sisters in Crime, holding her audience spellbound. I think she should add inspiration speaker to her vast resume.

Low Country Bribe is her first mystery novel and is the first in her Carolina Slade Mystery Series. Her writing is as impressive as her speech. I foresee this lovely lady to be a big success with her book. I just do not see how she could be anything but.

Faye M. Tollsiln
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders
                            Sarah's Secret 
Member of: Sisters in Crime
                  Writers on the Move

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Purposeful Paragraphing

Have you ever read a book where the paragraphs seem to go on and on? Or a book with paragraphs so short you look around to see where they disappeared to? There is an art to paragraphing.

If your paragraph/s are too long, you may be telling instead of showing. Ask yourself if there is a way to show rather than tell. By showing you can break that long paragraph up into several small paragraphs, whih will be much more interesting to the reader. Paragraphing frequently can also add tension to a scene.

Long paragraphs can be boring to your reader, especially if there are many of them in a scene. You need to break them up to give your reader a rest and maintain his/her interest in your story. Watch for paragraphs that run longer than a half a page.

A long array of short paragraphs can be just as tiresome as a lot of the long ones, so be careful to have a balance of both and put them in the proper place in the scene. For instance, short sentences to build the tension; but eventually you reach the peak of that tension. Then you need a longer paragraph to give you reaer a chance to relax from all that tension.

Another purpose for a short paragraph is to focus attention or put emphasis on an important development by placing it in its own short paragraph. Also, if you have a scene that seems to drag, try paragraphing more often and have more dialogue between your characters.

Throughout all this shortening and lenthening your paragraphics, you must be careful that everything you write be essential to the story and to the flow of it.

In conclusion be aware of your paragraphs. There is a purpose for long and short paragraphs. Be mindful that balancing them can make or break your scene.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders and Sarah's Secret
Member of: Sisters In Crime
                    Writers on the Move

Sunday, February 12, 2012


What distinguishes one's writing from someone else's writing? Voice. One of the most important things you can give your story is your voice, and everyone's voice is different.

The author's voice, of course, generally belongs to a character, generally the main character. But you are not born with this voice. It has to be honed, developed, and used unconsciously. If you spend your efforts concentrating on your characters and on your story, your voice will come through more naturally. It takes time and lots of practice.

Spend time analyzing your writing. Is it flat, strained, or awkward? Does it seem forced or vague? Check the sentences before and after. Read your work out loud. Does it ring true or false? Highlight areas that you feel need work and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Listen to your characters, know them intimately. Why? Because not only does your writings carry your voice, but each character has his or her own voice.

Self-editing demands that you keep rewriting until your voice as well as each character's voice sounds right. If you listen, you will hear your voice.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders
                            Sarah's Secret
Member of: Sisters In Crime
Member of: Writers On the Move

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


When writing my book, To Tell the Truth, there was one of many elements I forgot to include. It was the hardest for me to correct, my efforts at best mediocre. So as a result, I've become rather conscientious about lining up the timeline.

Differentiating between day and night was the last thing I thought of; and when I did, I realized I needed a timeline. It would help my book to make sense in the reader's mind, plus it helped me keep up with things and where I was in the story. But most of all it was for my reader's sake.

Why is a timeline important? As I mentioned before, it helps keep things straight and prevents confusing your reader. You should orient your reader to whether or not it is day or night or whether or not it is Monday or Saturday. You don't have to be too specific. Subtle hints can be given or it can be mentioned in a dialogue. But however you do it, your reader needs to know or they could get lost and stop reading your book.

Some writers choose to put it at the start of each chapter. Example: Monday, 8:05 a.m. This method can be used to build suspense. You can also use this method to set a location for that chapter. Example: Monday morning, Lambay Park.

A timeline can also help your reader to add visual clues about the changes in light throughout the course of the day. Your character could search for sunglasses to put on, letting the reader know it is daytime. Or you could mention the lengthening shadows of dusk. Your character could find it difficult to read street names or house numbers. Smells can also be used such as the aroma of bacon and eggs being cooked, indicating it is breakfast time. These points should be mentioned briefly. It is not necessary to get too detailed. This could bore your reader.

Little things do matter and can also be used to orient your reader to the timeline. Not allowing your character to meet human needs can make your character seem less real. So allow him/her to take a shower in the morning before starting work, or take a bathroom break, or stop for a cup of coffee and a quick breakfast. In my second book, The Bible Murders, John meets Detective Tony Reeves for a quick lunch and talk about the case at a favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant.

It is a good idea to keep a record of the story's timeline. Just make sure it is a means of recording that will work for you. I believe in keeping it as simple as possible. This leaves less room for messing it up.

Faye M. Tollison, Author
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:  The Bible Murders
                               Sarah's Secret
Member of: Sisters In Crime

Monday, January 16, 2012


In this day of self-publishing and e-publishing, I have noticed a relaxing of the proper use of point of view. I've read a number of books where the author switches their POV character back and forth at random. This is easy to do. I have done it myself. So a review of the basics will be covered here.

As we all know, there are three basic POVs which a writer can use: First person, third person, and omniscient. The first person is the "I" voice. This is written as though the narrator were speaking to the readers. The first person narrator is one of the characters, not the author. This POV can give the reader a good deal of intimacy with the viewpoint character as it allows the reader to get into the head of the viewpoint character and literary allows the reader to see the world through that character's eyes. This first person POV character has to be a strong character in order to keep the readers interested because he will be limited to only what he knows, sees, or hears directly or immediately. This can prove to be very limiting as the book will be through one character's viewpoint.

All narrative summary is written in the omniscient POV. With the omniscient POV you do lose the intimacy and warmth that you have with first person POV. The omniscient POV is the author speaking.

The third person POV is, of course, the one most authors use and the one that most publishers seem to prefer. It has the most advantages because it allows the readers both intimacy and perspective. Also, with the third person you can move from character to character, giving the reader the ability to view the story from different angles. The biggest problem authors have with this POV is being consistent throughout each scene. It is very easy to change the POV character within the same scene without even realizing it.

Another problem with third person POV is that some authors cannot resist the temptation of having too many POV characters, and they ten to switch between these characters so frequently that the readers lose interest and are apt to not finish the book. It would be more effective to stick with a single POV and show the other characters' feelings through dialogue and actions or, at best, keep the number of POV characters to no more tan two or three. And if it is necessary to change your POV character, you need to end the current scene. You do that by inserting a line space (this can be done with asterisks or simply spacing down four lines) and starting a new scene from the POV character that you need. Also, be sure to establish who the POV character is in the first paragraph of the new scene.

Remember that a POV falls between two consecutive lines of dialogue. A POV does not particularly mean a break in time.