5 Tips for Writing Authentic Crime and Legal Fiction

Writing about a highly technical topic, like crime or law, can be intimidating. In the world of criminal law, there are innumerable rules, practices and procedures. Criminal lawyers speak their own language. To write a good crime or legal story, a writer needs to have credibility.Credibility comes from working within the rules of criminal law and speaking the criminal law language. But you don’t have to be a cop or lawyer to write about crime or criminal law with authenticity. Here are some tips to get started:1. Brainstorm: As in any genre, a good story with interesting characters and plot twists must be the starting point. Physically write out brainstorming ideas without regard to order, quality or completeness. Just start writing, and let the ideas flow.2. Get Inspired: Inspiration often comes from outside sources, often unexpectedly. Read great books, and watch great movies, especially crime and legal drama. Read about crime in the news. Follow interesting trials. Watch true crime stories on television and read true crime books. You never know when some small tidbit will spark a story in you.3. Outline: Everyone has their own methods of and opinions about outlining. Whether organized by chapter, act, scene, character or plot point, outlining is a critical tool to organize a story. The more complex the story, the more important an outline can be. Outlining can be especially important in a crime novel or legal drama because your story needs to fit within the rules of the criminal law world.For example, if you want to have a piece of exculpatory evidence discovered at the end of act two, you will have to know what stage of the legal proceedings the case is in to help determine how the evidence could realistically come to light.4. Educate Yourself: Read up about real criminal law on the internet and in books. Look for information specifically targeted to the non-lawyer. Watch real trials when they are televised. Watch true crime shows. Although they often cut out a lot of detail, especially the procedural stuff, they usually get things right. Read news stories and true crime books. The same warning goes for these sources: they are usually accurate but often leave out details you might want to know.Do not rely on talking head lawyer commentators on television. They usually speak off the tops of their heads and often get things wrong. They also often have an agenda that they are pushing and speak of things from that point-of-view. Finally, do not rely on other criminal law fiction. Crime fiction in television, movies and books are often completely, eye-rollingly off the mark.5. Consult an Expert: When in doubt, ask a question. As you brainstorm, outline and draft, keep notes of questions that come up. Consulting an expert, usually a criminal lawyer, can be costly, so try to know what you want guidance on before you contact someone. Also, be sure to speak to someone who is able to explain things simply and clearly, and who is willing to admit when they do not know something.Following these tips will give a writer confidence to create within the world of criminal law and to begin writing crime and legal stories with authenticity.
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Top 10 Personal Finance Myths

Unfortunately, one of the factors that will prevent many people from becoming financially successful is their own false beliefs about money and their personal finances. Take a look at my top 10 money myths, and hopefully you can avoid the consequences of believing in them.1. If I get a raise that bumps me into a higher tax bracket, I’ll actually take home less money.
Buzz – WRONG! Moving into a higher tax bracket only increases the rate of tax paid on the last dollars you earn. For example, let’s say you’re filing single, your old salary was $40,000 a year and your new salary is $43,000 a year. According to the Canada Revenue Agency’s 2010 federal tax rate schedules, when your salary was $40,000, your federal marginal tax rate was 15% and now with a salary of $43,000, your marginal tax rate is now 22%.The key to unlocking this personal finance myth is the definition of the word “marginal.” In this situation, your first $40,970 of income is still taxed the same way it was before you got your raise. With a $40,000 income, your take-home pay was $34,000 ($40,000 less 15% in federal tax). If you make $43,000, you will take home after federal tax a total of $36,407.90. This is because it is only the extra $2,030 above $40,970 which is taxed at the 22% – not the whole $43,000.2. Renting is like throwing away money.
Do you consider the money you spend on food to be thrown away? Or, how about the money you spend on gas? Both of these expenses are for items you purchase regularly that get consumed and on the surface they appear to have no lasting value, but they are ultimately necessary to carry about daily activities (unless you can walk or take the transit everywhere). Rent money falls into the same category.Even if you own a home, you still have to “throw away” money on expenses like property taxes and mortgage interest (and likely more than you were throwing away in rent). In fact, for the first five years, you are basically paying all interest on your mortgage. For example, on a 25-year, $300,000 mortgage at 5% interest, your first 60 payments would total about $105,000. Of that you “throw away” about $71,000 on interest payments and you only put $34,000 into equity of your home.3. You always get what you pay for.
Higher-priced items are not always higher quality. While there is sometimes a correlation between price and quality, it is not necessarily a exact correlation. A $2 chocolate bar may be tastier than a $1 bar, but a $10 bar may not taste significantly different from a $2 bar. When determining an item’s true value, look past its price tag and examine the true indicators of value. Does that generic Tylenol stop your headache? Is that home well-maintained and located in a good neighborhood? When doing a proper analysis, you’ll know when paying the higher price is worth it or alternatively, when it isn’t (and you’ll be on your way to understanding the principles of value investing).4. I don’t have enough money to start investing.
It’s true that some brokerage firms require you to have a minimum amount of money to invest in certain mutual funds or even to open an account. The truth is, it is easy to start investing with very little money thanks to online savings accounts. While traditional bank savings accounts generally offer interest rates so low that you would barely notice the interest you accrue, an online savings account will offer a more competitive rate based on how the market is currently doing. As of April 2010, it is common to find online banks offering 1-2% interest. With recent news that interest rates in Canada will be going up, we could be in the 3% range within a year or so. A 3% return is a pretty good return on your low-risk savings account investment when you consider that stocks historically return an average of 7-10% annually. Also, some online savings accounts can be opened with as little as $1. Once you’re in a position to start investing in stocks and mutual funds, you can transfer cash out of your online savings account and into your new brokerage account.Alternately, you could open a brokerage account with minimal funds through one of the online trading companies that have cropped up. However, this may not be the best way to start investing because of the fees you’ll pay each time you purchase or redeem shares (generally $10 – $30 per trade).5. Carrying a balance on my credit card will improve my credit rating.
Carrying a balance and paying it off slowly does not prove your credit worthiness. All this will do is take money out of your pocket and give it to a credit card company in the form of interest payments.If you want to use a credit card as a tool to improve your credit score, all you really need to do is pay off your balance in full and on time every month. If you want to take it a step further, do not charge more than a small percentage of your card’s limit because the amount of available credit you have used is another factor involved in the calculation of your credit score.6. Home ownership is always the best way to invest your money.
Just like all other investments, home ownership involves the risk that your investment may decrease in value. While commonly cited stats say that housing appreciates at somewhere between the rate of inflation and 5% per year, if not more, not all housing will appreciate at this rate. Owning a home is a major responsibility and there are easier ways to invest your money, so don’t buy a home unless you are attracted to its other benefits.Another factor is the psychological element – I once heard a partner of a large accounting firm say that he credits much of his wealth to the fact that his mortgage payment is “forced savings.” So, that’s true.. if you don’t think you have the discipline to invest the money you save from not having a mortgage… you’re probably not going to be better off financially.7. “I’ll save more later when I make much more money.”
That’s just another excuse for not saving, in fact, that’s a really lame excuse. Claiming that a higher income will be your source to good financial habits, is simply lame. You can need to take control of your own finances, now… not later.8. The stock market is tanking, so I should sell my investments and get out npw before things get any worse.
When the stock market goes down, you should really keep your money in the market. This way, you can ride out the dip and eventually sell at a profit. In fact, stock market lows are a great time to invest even more. Many seasoned investors consider a decline in the market to be a “sale” and take advantage of the opportunity to pick up some valuable investments that are only experiencing a temporary dip. You might want to do some reading on Benjamin Graham or Warren Buffet – who are both proponents of this method. A common expression out of Buffet’s mouth is “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful”.9. Timing the market is easy
You always hear successful stories of those who have timed the market and have made fortunes. We rarely hear of the thousands who time the market but lose fortunes. Studies and reports show that marketing timing does not work for 95% of us, unless you have money to burn, don’t try to time the markets.10. I’m young – I don’t need to worry about saving for retirement yet… or, I’m old – it’s too late for me to start saving for retirement.
The younger you are, the more years of compound interest you have ahead of you. Compound interest is like free money, so why not take advantage of it? Someone who starts saving and earning interest when they are young won’t need to deposit as much money to end up with the same amount as someone who starts saving later in life, all else being equal.On the flip side, you shouldn’t worry if you’re older and you haven’t started saving yet. Of course, your $100,000 nest egg may not grow to as much as a 20-year-old’s by the time you need to use it, but just because you may not be able to turn it into $1 million doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try at all. Every extra dollar you invest will get you closer to your goals. Even if you’re near retirement age, you won’t need your entire nest egg the moment you hit 65. You can still put money away now and make a considerable sum by the time you need it at 70, 80 or 90.

What Are The Greatest Changes In Shopping In Your Lifetime

What are the greatest changes in shopping in your lifetime? So asked my 9 year old grandson.

As I thought of the question the local Green Grocer came to mind. Because that is what the greatest change in shopping in my lifetime is.

That was the first place to start with the question of what are the greatest changes in shopping in your lifetime.

Our local green grocer was the most important change in shopping in my lifetime. Beside him was our butcher, a hairdresser and a chemist.

Looking back, we were well catered for as we had quite a few in our suburb. And yes, the greatest changes in shopping in my lifetime were with the small family owned businesses.

Entertainment While Shopping Has Changed
Buying butter was an entertainment in itself.
My sister and I often had to go to a favourite family grocer close by. We were always polite as we asked for a pound or two of butter and other small items.

Out came a big block of wet butter wrapped in grease-proof paper. Brought from the back of the shop, placed on a huge counter top and included two grooved pates.

That was a big change in our shopping in my lifetime… you don’t come across butter bashing nowadays.

Our old friendly Mr. Mahon with the moustache, would cut a square of butter. Lift it to another piece of greaseproof paper with his pates. On it went to the weighing scales, a bit sliced off or added here and there.

Our old grocer would then bash it with gusto, turning it over and over. Upside down and sideways it went, so that it had grooves from the pates, splashes going everywhere, including our faces.

My sister and I thought this was great fun and it always cracked us up. We loved it, as we loved Mahon’s, on the corner, our very favourite grocery shop.

Grocery Shopping
Further afield, we often had to go to another of my mother’s favourite, not so local, green grocer’s. Mr. McKessie, ( spelt phonetically) would take our list, gather the groceries and put them all in a big cardboard box.

And because we were good customers he always delivered them to our house free of charge. But he wasn’t nearly as much fun as old Mr. Mahon. Even so, he was a nice man.

All Things Fresh
So there were very many common services such as home deliveries like:

• Farm eggs

• Fresh vegetables

• Cow’s milk

• Freshly baked bread

• Coal for our open fires

Delivery Services
A man used to come to our house a couple of times a week with farm fresh eggs.

Another used to come every day with fresh vegetables, although my father loved growing his own.

Our milk, topped with beautiful cream, was delivered to our doorstep every single morning.

Unbelievably, come think of it now, our bread came to us in a huge van driven by our “bread-man” named Jerry who became a family friend.

My parents always invited Jerry and his wife to their parties, and there were many during the summer months. Kids and adults all thoroughly enjoyed these times. Alcohol was never included, my parents were teetotallers. Lemonade was a treat, with home made sandwiches and cakes.

The coal-man was another who delivered bags of coal for our open fires. I can still see his sooty face under his tweed cap but I can’t remember his name. We knew them all by name but most of them escape me now.

Mr. Higgins, a service man from the Hoover Company always came to our house to replace our old vacuum cleaner with an updated model.

Our insurance company even sent a man to collect the weekly premium.

People then only paid for their shopping with cash. This in itself has been a huge change in shopping in my lifetime.

In some department stores there was a system whereby the money from the cash registers was transported in a small cylinder on a moving wire track to the central office.

Some Of The Bigger Changes
Some of the bigger changes in shopping were the opening of supermarkets.

• Supermarkets replaced many individual smaller grocery shops. Cash and bank cheques have given way to credit and key cards.

• Internet shopping… the latest trend, but in many minds, doing more harm, to book shops.

• Not many written shopping lists, because mobile phones have taken over.

On a more optimistic note, I hear that book shops are popular again after a decline.

Personal Service Has Most Definitely Changed
So, no one really has to leave home, to purchase almost anything, technology makes it so easy to do online.
And we have a much bigger range of products now, to choose from, and credit cards have given us the greatest ease of payment.

We have longer shopping hours, and weekend shopping. But we have lost the personal service that we oldies had taken for granted and also appreciated.

Because of their frenetic lifestyles, I have heard people say they find shopping very stressful, that is grocery shopping. I’m sure it is when you have to dash home and cook dinner after a days work. I often think there has to be a better, less stressful way.

My mother had the best of both worlds, in the services she had at her disposal. With a full time job looking after 9 people, 7 children plus her and my dad, she was very lucky. Lucky too that she did not have 2 jobs.