Evidence

Evidence

Evidence | Guy L. PaceEvidence is a funny thing. Sometimes, what you think is evidence, isn’t.

As a jounalist (See SPJ’s Standards), attribution was always part of presenting facts. When you could not attribute information to a reliable source, an authoritative individual, or a direct witness, it became hearsay. When you reference an act and relate it to a possible perpetrator, you always use the word “alleged.”

For example: “Joe allegedly took the candy bar and left the store.” You don’t say he allegedly stole the candy bar, that would define the act. The act of taking the candy bar and leaving the store is an act of theft. However, the journalist is not law enforcement, nor judge and jury. The journalist is the conveyer of information. So, you don’t define the alleged act.

I won’t detail how certain recent New York Times articles completely ignore the SPJ’s standards.

Hearsay

As we move further into the story, we bring up more information.

“A witness said someone who saw Joe take the candy bar told them that Joe did actually take the candy bar.”

The above statement doesn’t name the source other than as a “witness.” Worse, the witness claimed that some other un-named person else actually saw the act. This can only be classified as hearsay and should have little or no place in the story. It encourages pre-judgement without direct evidence.

So, someone called the police, who arrest Joe and gather evidence. After review of the evidence, the police drop charges, and Joe goes home with his candy bar.

What Happened?

Well, evidence. There are rules of evidence and you can find them at these links:

Cornell Law

Rules of Evidence

I’m not going to go into great detail here, but the primary measure on evidence is relevance (See Rule 401). Hearsay does not stand up to the relevance standard.

If a journalist references third- and fourth-hand information (hearsay) without direct attribution, he or she did not do their job. So, they missed the part where the cashier told the police that Joe handed her a dollar before he left the store, and the part where the store security camera recorded the event completely (two examples of direct evidence collected by the police). Direct evidence shows “… the existence of a fact in question, without the intervention of the proof of any other fact ….”

Forensics

In my study and practice of digital forensics, my role involved identifying an actor and placing that person in a seat or in front of a device at a specific time. There is a rougher term for it I won’t use here. This involved gathering direct evidence from the device, from devices and/or services connected to the device, and from devices or equipment in the area (video cameras and recordings).

The important thing in the digital investigation was “chain of custody.” All devices and evidence gathered are carefully recorded, preserved, and the custody tracked. Any gap or mis-step that affected the chain of custody invalidates the evidence, and a judge will throw it out. Not only would a judge dismiss a case over a breach in chain of custody, your professional reputation as a digital forensics investigator could be ruined.

Relevance

So, what does this have to do with writing?

You must analyze a situation, scene, action in your fiction to make sure it reflects accurately any evidence, hearsay, and forensics practices you might use. Using these elements correctly, even in fiction, helps make the story more real, more believable.

Keep all this in mind, if you watch the television series, Wisdom of the Crowd. Crowdsourcing evidence is a slippery slope and violates so many of the rules of evidence, chain of custody, and promotes hearsay. So, exercise care and caution when exploring these topics.

Keep writing.

 

 

Write

Write

write | Guy L. PaceTo write, or not to write–that is the question:
Whether ’tis wiser in the heart to suffer
The stings and barbs of reviewers and readers
Or to take up pen against a sea of paper
And by writing, satisfy them.

(Apologies to Shakespeare.)

Okay, I promise not to hack The Bard any more.

Carolina Dawn is in the second round of editing with my editor. It’s been a year since I started the project during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I went through the rough draft a couple of times to fix a few things, make sure my timeline wasn’t all messed up, and polish it up. Then I let it simmer for entirely too long. I know. It was a busy summer.

I’m not working on a project this year for NaNoWriMo. I’ve done three NaNo’s, and produced three books. That’s a pretty good score for now. I plan to work on more short fiction and maybe put together a small collection. I may compile the Spirit Missions into a single, special volume and include the two short stories (Amy’s Lesson and The Gift) published here. That might be fun.

When I get closer to a publication date, I’ll keep you all posted and fill the Events page with readings, signings and all that. I hope next spring gets very busy with this third book out.

One of the best parts of writing, I found, is getting to meet readers. Especially young readers.

Keep writing.

 

Done

Done | Guy L. PaceDone.

Nothing is ever–really–done. Especially writing.

I see places in Sudden Mission and Nasty Leftovers where maybe I could have written them a little better. Why? because I keep going back and re-reading parts. I read parts for events. Nothing brings a rough passage, a poor choice of words or phrase to the front like reading it aloud in front of an audience.

As I work through the first round of edits on Carolina Dawn from my editor and my “first reader” (wife) I find little phrases to improve and events to make more exciting. That means the editor will need to see these. And, I’ll have to go through it to review and accept the editor’s changes when it comes back.

You have to have the will and determination to stop. You must put the work down and move on to production. The whole point is to get it to readers. But, you want to get the very best possible story to your readers. So you give it one more pass through.

The problem with this is that every time you make changes, you have to run those changes before another set of eyeballs. You need that third party to look it over to make sure you haven’t made a horrible mistake, misspelled something, or made hash of a paragraph.

At some point in the process of writing, editing, rewriting, revising, and editing some more … you have to stop. Accept the editor’s changes, save the file and start formatting it for e-book and print. If you don’t, you’ll be stuck in this cycle forever.

Keep writing.

(Note: If you haven’t read the first two books, it might be a good time to do so. That way, you’ll be ready for Carolina Dawn when launchsd.)

 

Prison

Prison | Guy L. Pace

This is not a current cell in the Montana State Prison. This image is from the old prison.

Imagine, if you will, spending every day, every week, every month for years in a cell ten feet by six feet. You have a limited view of anything remotely resembling the outside. Your only contact with fresh air is the small time you spend in the exercise yard each day.

You might share this cell with another person. Your accommodations would be the metal frame bunk beds, a sink, a toilet, and a small desk with a cupboard. No privacy. One wall is just bars and a barred door.

My last post was about the Old Montana State Prison and my grandfather. Since then, I contacted the Montana State Prison and the prison librarian. I’d offered to donate a copy or two of my books to their library. She was very open and happy to get some new books. But, could I send four copies of each, please? See, the prison has four libraries in the different parts or security levels of the prison. I’m glad to do it.

Prisons Need Books

Montana State Prison needs lots of books, Wendy said, and they especially need dictionaries. The libraries Wendy oversees even have a Christian section and they could use more good fiction in that area. If you have new, or good used, books you can donate, please send some to:

Montana State Prisons Libraries
400 Conley Lake Road
Deer Lodge, MT 59722

Attn: Wendy Zunes

If you can, send four copies of each work. That helps.

I wasn’t certain how to get books to prisoners until a friend linked an article here. Granted the article is a few years old, but the information seems current. The article is a good guide to what to, and what not to donate. The Books Behind Bars organization often just wants cash to help fund the requests by prisons. Those books (usually used) get funneled through a couple of bookstores (one in Seattle, I understand).

But, sometimes, you can contact a prison directly and get books to them, as I did with Montana State Prison. With any prison, there are protocols to getting anything from the outside to them. I figured I could afford to donate a few copies of new books to the prison. I may contact a facility here in the Spokane area, too.

If you contact a local prison directly and have some success, you might post a comment here with an address like I did above. As mentioned in the linked article, prisons are for punishment. But they can also be places for second chances.

Keep writing.

(Note: Wendy said one of the most popular SF authors is Harry Turtledove and his alternate history books.)

 

Desperate Times

Lee Frank Harrison

Old Prison | Guy L. PaceThat’s the name of my maternal grandfather. According to Social Security and Montana death records, he passed away in August, 1978, in Browning, Montana.

Let’s start at the beginning. Lee Frank Harrison was born in Green Prairie, Morrison County, Minnesota, to Henry and May (Edden) Harrison on December 15, 1896. For some reason I have yet to discover, the family move west and landed in Montana in 1902. Grandfather was about five, and Henry Harrison (great-grandfather) was about 40. Grandfather had a brother, Henry George Harrison, who would have been about three in 1902. There was a sister, but I don’t have good information on her.

Something happened in Montana. Evidently, great-grandfather and Henry George continued west to Leavenworth, Washington. For some reason, Lee Frank Harrison stayed in Montana and the trail for May Edden vanished. I suspect there may have been relatives in Montana that took grandfather and his mother in.

Grandfather | Guy L. PaceAs of this writing, I have no good information about grandfather until 1921. This is in part because I haven’t known where to look. I got a windfall recently when I stumbled across a prison admission form for the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana, for one Lee Harrison (aka L. Frank Harrison, Frank L. Harrison, Frank Harrison, Lee F. Harrison). The photo here is the mug shot for the 1931 admission form. This form included information on a previous sentence.

Burglary

In September 1921, grandfather went to Montana State Prison sentenced to two to four years for a burglary in Phillips County (located north of Fort Peck Lake in north central Montana). Lee Frank was about 25. He earned parole a year later and probation until November 1924. He would be 28 that December.

Between 1924 and September 20, 1928, he met and fell in love with my grandmother, Opal B. Russell. He was 32 and grandmother was 19, and a judge in Butte, Montana, performed the marriage. After they married, Lee Frank got a tattoo on his upper left arm of a horse, with a scroll and flower. On the scroll: “O. B. + L. F. H.” The horse likely representative of Opal’s love of horses and her skill as a rider. Grandfather was a ranch hand as I understand it.

My aunt, Nancy Ellen, was born on May 26, 1929. Of course, the stock market crash was coming and things would get desperate for everyone. The family lived in Wise River, Montana (south and west of Butte), in a log cabin that is no longer there. Grandfather was working for a rancher in that valley. My mother, Verna Jeanne, was born on December 18, 1930. The economy continued to decline and weather hammered the little village of Wise River.

LFH Warden | Guy L. PaceThings got desperate. Grandfather, with an associate named Pietila, committed highway robbery (armed robbery) for the sum of $7.80 on the streets of Butte. They were caught and grandfather pled guilty. Montana State Prison admitted him on June, 3, 1931, to serve a six-year term. The image here details his eye and hair color, shoe size, education, and religious preference.

This left grandmother and her two children without a breadwinner. She moved the family to Butte.

Moccasins

During this term in prison, Lee Frank took advantage of the craft and art resources provided to prisoners. The prison encouraged the arts and crafts and often the prisoners earned money making horsehair tack and other items. He made and sent home moccasins for his daughters. My mother kept a pair in her cedar chest for many years and I think one of the grandchildren has them now. One of my sister’s children also has a charcoal drawing he made. We don’t know if he did this in prison or another time, but grandfather evidently had some artistic talent.

From here, we have information mostly based on my mother’s memory. She remembered that he moved the family back to Wise River some short time later. I may get further information on Lee Frank’s second term in prison from prison records. He may have paroled in a couple of years so my mother would not know why he was gone. This lasted until my mother was about six, and in first grade. Then, grandmother took the girls to Helena, Montana, and left them at the Catholic orphanage. She evidently divorced Lee Frank, but I can’t find records. Opal ran off with a rich man, Bert Dolbeer, who didn’t like or want children around.

My mother and aunt stayed in the orphanage until about eighth grade when they went to Great Falls for high school. Grandmother would visit periodically. My mother didn’t have a regular relationship with her until after graduation.

Lee Frank may have ended up in Spokane, Washington, with his sister, but there is nothing to verify that. Yet.

Research

We as a family dug around looking for information about grandfather for years. It just turned out that we weren’t looking in the right places. My mother always wanted to find out more about him, even reconnect if that were possible. Opal, though, cast a lot of misinformation on the waters while she was alive, making it difficult for my mother. Still, persistence pays off.

My father, in his effort to find my mother’s birthplace so we could scatter her ashes this spring, came across some folks in the Wise River area who knew of Lee Frank and the little family in the cabin. This led him to a death record online.

The death record was the key to finding other information about Lee Frank, including the prison record. The prison record led to information about his brother, and possibly his father (I’m still working on that). Believe me when I tell you there are many Lee, Henry, and Frank Harrisons in the genealogy, census, and other records. Grandfather made some of the search a little more difficult by using aliases (L. Frank, Lee F., Frank L., etc.).

The information is out there, and likely linked to relatives I don’t know. I’ll find it eventually.

The Story

Research like this is slow and difficult. Records are not always accurate or available. Genealogy records are often fraught with misspelled names and incorrect birth, marriage, and death dates. US Census data is excellent, when you can figure out where ancestors were living during one of them.

But, what comes out as a result of all this effort is a story of a person’s life. I have much more to learn about Lee Frank Harrison and I intend to continue digging. I want to know more about this man, his life, and what happened to him.

He was, after all, my grandfather.

Keep writing.