Saturday, January 7, 2012

Back to School

Scott D. Parker

With all the talk about New Year's resolutions, I've decided to go to school. I don't mean real school. Let's call it “Traditional Mystery School.” No matter what you want to do when you grow up, you have to have an education to do it. Writing and reading are no different. If you want to learn how to write, you could enroll a university course with a professor and a syllabus and spend a semester (or longer) learning the mechanics of how to write. If you want to understand reading, you can enroll in the course about any type of literature and spend a semester or more learning how to read better.

But the type of class I want to take is not necessarily offered in a university setting. You see, I want to learn about books and authors who wrote in the traditional mystery style. That is, the Agatha Christie School of Mystery. For the longest time, the types of books I tended to read were gritty, urban crime stories while the type of TV shows I watched tended to be of the traditional mystery variety: Monk, CSI: Miami, and just about everything that masterpiece mystery aired on PBS. Moreover, the types of stories I wrote followed the gritty crime style, and frankly, didn't really work. Which got me to thinking: why don't I have a go at writing a traditional mystery.

The only problem is how to do it. Sure, I can say that I enjoy things like Foyle's War or Collision, but that does not necessarily prepare me to be able to write something like that that will be consumed by folks reading words. The only option to correct that is obvious: read and study books written in the traditional style. And I'm not talking only about books written decades ago. I want to read and study modern books written in the traditional style.

Where to start? A reading list. And that's where y'all come in. I'd like your opinion on good examples of modern traditional mysteries. Let me start you out with 2 titles that are on my list.

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
The Private Patient by P. D. James

My former colleague, John McFetridge, recommended the books of Louise Penny a year or so ago, and then Bury Your Dead won a few awards. Usually, I like to begin a series with the first book. For this, I didn't care. I wanted to read the award-winning book. I am almost one third of the way into this book, and I am completely engrossed.

I've known about P. D. James for a long time, but didn't give her much thought. I received a review copy of The Private Patient, and for that reason alone, decided to read it as my first P. D. James novel. If there are other, better recommendations written by James, I'd love to hear it. Besides, she writes one killer of an opening sentence:
On November the twenty-first, the day of her forty-seventh birthday, and three weeks and two days before she was murdered, Rhoda Gradwyn went to Harley Street to keep a first appointment with her plastic surgeon, and there in a consulting room designed, so it appeared, to inspire confidence and allay apprehension, made the decision which would lead inexorably to her death.
Which brings me to a stopping point. Where to go from here? Here's one clue: I thoroughly enjoyed the television adaptation of Val McDermid's A Place of Execution on TV. I also really enjoyed Anthony Horowitz's Collision. Both are BBC imports broadcast on PBS.

I like to get a list of 4 to 6 books, create a “syllabus” complete with questions that I hope to answer, and an outline. This may seem weird to some of you, but, then again, I can be a little weird.

So, what books would you put on this list?

Album of the Week:

The Hayden Project by the Emerson Quartet, disc 3. This bonus disc is where I have spent most of this past week. Since I work from home most of the time, I let my iTunes library play at random. A few days ago, it played a movement from a Shostakovich string quartet. The music was so interesting that I stopped work and just listened. I turned off the random, and listened to the rest of the tracks including selected movements from quartets by Dvorak, Ives, Schubert, and Bartok. The Dvorak piece is especially beautiful, and I have put more than one album of string quartets on hold at the local library. For me, the string quartet as an ensemble goes well with this winter spirit of contemplation. There's a quiet, deepness to the sound of four stringed instruments that you can't replicate with any other ensemble.

Tweet of the week:

Writing is time-consuming. The act of writing, of sitting down to write, is easy. But if you think about how long it takes to fill a page, don't think about it. That's my advice. Just right. One word, one sentence, one page, at a time.

––A. Lee Martinez

We all have writing tricks that get us to do that very thing. When you've fallen off the wagon as I did last year, anything to get you to write is a good thing. I am using the Streaks app on my iPod and tracking the number of days––in a row––that I have been writing. As of yesterday, that number is at 29. That's no big deal for many of you, but it has put me back in the habit of simply writing some amount of prose each and every day. The more days I write, the more Xs I have on my calendar, and the less likely I am to want to break the string of red Xs. I'll be hitting a month today, and am charging into this new year with a new, consistent writing habit.

Wine of the Week:

Pianello Rosso, Rosso Veneto

I am not at all qualified to write in glowing detail about wine. It's a goal I'd like to achieve, but I'm only able to speak to the basic fact: did it taste good or not. Our party of four opened this Italian wine New Year's Eve and drank it over a meal of grilled quail, grilled pork, baked Cornish hens, mixed potatoes, and country French bread with olive oil. The bottle was nearly empty by the time the ball dropped. A clean red wine with no bitter aftertaste, I have found a new favorite to add to my small list. Do you have a favorite red wine?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Gun Nut

By Russel D McLean

Photographs by Jeroen Ten Berge ( Any mistakes in terminology by Russel D McLean who is writing this post a little late at night.

As crime writers, we live a vicarious life. We fool people into thinking we know about the darkness in life. We create ersatz darkness and employ tricks to transport people into situations they may not otherwise know.

In short, we don’t have to live the life to write it.

In THE GOOD SON, a huge part of the climax of the novel relies on a gunfight in an old graveyard. The graveyard is real. At a recent event, someone told me that they had lived in Dundee all their life and never thought to visit this place until they read about in the book. This was a huge compliment to me and made up for the fact that, yes, I did make a few geographical errors here and there in the novel.

But while I knew the geography I was writing about, the truth was that I had never fired or held a gun before writing that scene. I did my research, of course. I made sure that the character handling the gun was as much of a novice as I, and I wrote from having read up on the gun types and the effects of firing them. I knew about the difference between shotguns and ordinary handguns. I had an idea of how much accuracy a shooter would have using the weapons involved.

But all the same… I had never fired a gun.

At Bouchercon, in 2011, all of that would change.

Zoe Sharp – one of the finest thriller writers you should be reading – arranged to take a group of us to a gun range. We were a mixed bunch. Some of us – the Brits, naturally – had zero experience of firearms. Some of us (ie, me) were terrified of the idea and yet determined to experience something outside of their comfort range (no one had told me there would be a simulated shooting range available at the Bouchercon hotel).

What was reassuring was looking at the website of the shooting range we visited. The extensive safety procedures were enough to calm me a little, but all the same, I knew that I would be holding a lump of metal that had the potential to kill someone. And that idea is more than a little unnerving and something one should never lose sight of.

When we arrived at the range, we split into small groups with an experienced shooter at the head of each. Our experienced shooter chose an appropriate gun. One lot had a Glock. Another had a Sig Sauer… and what did your beardy hero wind up with? A .357 magnum. Yes, that’s right, punk. Russel could have blown your head clean off.

Just the mention of the handgun was enough to terrify me. I knew the gun’s reputation, and it was to the be the first weapon I ever fired? Colour me frightened.

Which is the best way to be. The thing to remember is that you need to have a healthy respect
for your weapon. You have to always be aware of what it can do. It’s when you get blasé that things can go very very wrong.

When you go into a range there’s a whole range of forms to fill out. And then you have your safety goggles and your ear-protectors. Because, goddamn, those things are LOUD. Like, really loud. Even with the earphones on, a shot echoes round your head like nobody’s business. And you can feel it, too. The sound of a shot makes your muscles shiver. Maybe that’s a reflex reaction. A kind of fear thing, because you know what that noise represents. But it’s something you don’t forget in a hurry.

Loading the Magnum was an odd experience. As was raising it to point and fire. I remember thinking it was heavy. And I was afraid to let my finger near the trigger. Andy – my experienced shooter, and Zoe's husband – was standing just behind me. Coaxing me to fire. Urging me to keep my arms steady. To squeeze – not pull – the trigger. And I did that.

And nearly dropped the bastard gun.

It wasn’t the recoil – that was less than I expected, but may have been down to the kind of ammunition were using – but the sheer explosive noise that somehow seems more intense when you’re holding the weapon. But at the same time, there was a thrill that went through me. A feeling of power and of controlling that power (albeit not brilliantly) that was reflect in the fact a hole appeared in the target before me.

I put the gun down after one shot. Feel a little dizzy. But loving the feeling. It was an odd mix of exhilaration and healthy fear. I still was fully aware of what that gun could do, but I understood why people got off on firing them.

It was something I hadn’t understood before writing THE GOOD SON, but something that I would bear in mind from that moment on. And it was a sensation that became more palpable when Andy urged me to squeeze off the rest of the shots in the gun. And showed me how to reload.

I moved on to the other weapons. Almost ripped apart the connecting skin between thumb and forefinger when I first used the Glock (lucky for me Zoe noticed how I was holding the weapon and urged me to place hand further down the grip unless I wanted to be injured when the cartridge ejected). These other handguns – semi-autos – were a very different experience. In truth, I felt more comfortable using the Magnum. Something about that weight made it feel more like I was in control.

As time went on in the range, I began to get used to the idea of handling the weapons. I enjoyed the experience of squeezing off a few shots and trying to get them to cluster round the same area of the target.

Others in the group did not find the same, of course. Chris Ewan – author of the brilliant Thieves Guide To… series – has talked on his blog about how he was unnerved by the experience. And I understand why. That burst of adrenaline is a fight or flight thing and you don’t know how you’re going to react. But he got off a few good shots and threw himself into the experience as much as he could, even if he did draw the line when the H&K automatic rifle came out.

Now that was an experience and a half. A range-authorised instructor took us through even stricter safety instructions with that one and had to stand behind us when we used the weapon. While many of the others went to full automatic, I stayed on single shot after I had a great deal of trouble comfortably gripping the weapon (one of the pains of being ambidextrous). But I was proud of my grouping. I remained pretty tight for a guy who had never fired a shot before. But I was truly glad of the instructor’s presence behind me.

Would I go again?

Oh, yes. I remain fully committed to the ideals of strong gun controls. I really do. But I also understand the appeal of firing a weapon and the surge of adrenaline that goes through you when you do so. Its an amazing experience, even if you do realise the whole time precisely the kind of damage you could do with the device in your hands.

And I know that next time I write about guns, I can do so with an air of emotional authority I could never have got from merely reading around the subject. And I can finally claim to be “writing what I know” (at least a little).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Podcasting? There's Probably A Cream For That.

By Jay Stringer

If you checked in late yesterday you'll have seen we posted a new podcast. Well, sort of. We posted a bit of me talking.

We enjoyed doing the DSD podcast. It was fun, occasionally booze soaked, and more than a little ranty. Most of the DSD crew made some form of appearance, though there are a couple we still need to rope in, and we also had some great guests. Reed Farrel Coleman made Russel and I blush a couple of times, Tony Black talked to us from the bottom of a bucket, Chuck Wendig used some creative language, and we discussed crime comics for about six hours with two of my favourite podcasters. Oh, and Hilary Davidson came on and classed the joint up a bit.

Plus, let's not forget discussing Doctor Who, my obsession with getting a Watchmen reference into every show, and Dave's brilliant theme tune.

We had the idea of splitting the show into seasons. It seems to me a lot of podcasts out there either come out every single week and end up fading in and out of your ears, or have an erratic schedule that makes them easy to stop listening to. So we decided we'd do blocks, we had season 1, where we fudged the audio a bit, broke microphones, learned how to edit, and talked about pants. We had season 2, where we started inviting people into the play house and getting all chat show on your ass. Then we ended season two with the big Doctor Who special that made Dave jump up and down with joy.

And then...well.....there was.......

There was thing thing, see? The dog ate it. We ran out of gas. We had a flat tire. We didn't have enough money for cab fare. Our tux didn't come back from the cleaners. And old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole our car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. It wasn't our fault, we swear to god.

(Just ask Babs, she'll tell ya)

We kept meaning to. John Hornor Jacobs released an awesome book, and we planned to talk to him. Joelle released, I think, another twelve, and we meant to bring her back in. I wanted to do a big RAIDERS 3oth anniversary special. But it's tough getting the band back together when we're all writers and living in different time zones. We're like the Beatles, only, you know, good.

And as I look around, there are a tonne of good podcasts out there. There's shows like The Deceptionists for writing chat. There's Fuzzy Typewriter that covers films, TV, books and comics. There's WTF, which covers....most of everything else. Around Comics returned from hiatus, because my time was full enough already. And our buddy Seth Harwood is king of the pile at crime podcasting.

So, tell us, what would you like to hear from season 3? Are you up for another 8-12 episodes of DSD? Do you want interviews? And if so, who? Or practical advice? Or some kind of group therapy session? Do you want to join in? Or fill in? Do we want guest hosts?

Chuck Wendig and I briefly kicked around a few ideas last year that would have lead to the two of us co-hosting a podcast dedicating to writing and the profanity of language. But he's taking over the world, and I'm basically lazy. But I wonder if there's something in that, do we do a spin-off show? Say, DSD PRESENTS; THE HACKS. A monthly(ish) show where we get a round table of three or four writers to just sit and shoot the shit about craft, and about whatever books they've got coming out, and how they wrote them, and who was on the grassy knoll?

I don't know, it's over to you, dear reader. What would you like to hear?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Podcast

Head here for the deets or click here to just listen to the mp3.

Stamps -- A Fiction Interlude

By Steve Weddle

“Be sure to pack something nice, in case my mom wants to go out to dinner,” she said, loading deodorants, shampoos, nail clippers, toothbrushes into a bag.

He stood at the end of the bed, looking into the opened duffle bag, trying to decide what exactly “something nice” meant. “I have some brown pants and a white shirt. That all right?”

“Are they the tan pants or the khaki ones?”

“The light brown ones,” he said, pulling them out of the suitcase to show her when she stuck her head out of the bathroom door.

Robert Stokes zipped the duffle bag closed, dragged it to the other side of the house, to the front door. He took the stack of envelopes from the side table. The bills he’d worked on last night. He shuffled them into order, looking at the dates he’d written on the backs of the envelopes.

This one gets mailed the third. These two before the tenth. A clump that would wait. He turned around to the hallway. “We need to stop for stamps,” he said.

“What?” from the bedroom.

“Stamps. We need stamps.”

“We have stamps,” she said, coming down the hall to the bills. “In the basket.” She reached into the basket, pulled out three paper clips and a rubber band. “What happened to the stamps?”

“We need stamps.”

“I thought we had some.”

“We don’t. That’s why we need some.”

“Jesus, does everything have to be a fight with you?”

“What fight? I’m just saying we need stamps.”

“I know. You said that the first time.”

“And you said I was wrong.”

“I didn’t say you were wrong. Jesus Christ. I just thought we had some goddamn stamps. What is it with you?”

“With me? All I said was we need stamps and you have to come out and prove me wrong.”

“I was looking for the mother fucking stamps, Robert. Jesus.”

“We don’t have any.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Guest Post: Stephen Blackmoore

Mr. Blackmoore has been a friend of Do Some Damage for quite some time. His debut novel City of the Lost is out today. He has some words for you readers out there, so check this out:

My debut novel, CITY OF THE LOST drops today like a coked-up baby into a school prom trashcan.

For those of you who haven't been inundated with my incessant yammering about this book, CITY OF THE LOST is about an unrepentant thug, Joe Sunday, who gets murdered, brought back to life and finds himself in the middle of a whole bunch of Very Bad People who want the thing that raised him from the dead. Lots of violence, lots of blood. Lots and lots of swearing.

And I'm here today not only to ask you to shell out a few bucks to grab a copy, which I appreciate and know that it's a lot to ask, but to buy a copy from an independent bookstore.

Now I'm not the type of person who looks at some gargantuan retailer like Amazon, points and shrieks, "EVIL!" Questionable policies aside, they're businesses, like any other business and I'm not here to say one's better than another. I shop there. I even buy books there. I have a Kindle, after all. And my book's available on it. Nook, too.

But there are some things that a neighborhood bookstore can do that a place like Amazon can't.

Amazon doesn't have a face the way a bookstore does. There is no one there who you can walk up to and say, "What's good?" and have them shove a copy of something incredible into your hands.

It can't be a part of a local community. You can't browse the shelves, get lost in the smell of paper and glue, feel the rough pages between your fingers as you decide whether to pick up your latest passion.

You can't wander over to the Literature section, and try to nonchalantly impress that cute redhead in glasses thumbing a copy of Dostoyevsky only to realize later that the book you grabbed was TWILIGHT. And that you held it upside-down.

There are, after all, no cute redheads in glasses waiting for you between the pages at Amazon.

You will never have stories to tell about shopping at Amazon the way you will shopping at a bookstore. You'll never meet people, make friends and have coffee with someone as you both try clicking BUY NOW for the same book at the same time. They are not there to meet.

And so I'm asking you to get out of that comfy chair, go downtown to your local bookstore and buy a copy. And if they don't have it, ask them to order it. It will take about as long to get it as you would with Prime shipping and it'll help keep them in the black.

And, failing that, then click here and buy a copy from them on-line.

You see, Amazon's not the only on-line game in town. Indie-Bound gives you the chance to buy from and support independent bookstores.

And, because I love this place and these people, I'd really, really dig it if you'd buy a copy of CITY OF THE LOST from Mysterious Galaxy.

Indie bookstores are part of a community's fabric in a way that Amazon can't be. They hold us together as readers and writers and the only way we can keep them from going the way of the dinosaur is to shop with them.

So be a pal and shop with them, would ya? Thanks.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Crimes Condoned by Policy

2011 was the year of protest. We at DSD must be doing something right because nobody tried to occupy us. Either that, or our brain-washing techniques are just more effective. ;)

I'm typing this as 2011 is winding down, and what I feel at the end of this year is exhaustion. I paid next to no attention to Occupy Wall Street and whoever the 97 or 99% are and never once felt inclined to pick up a sign, although the Mid East stuff I watched with great interest, particularly as someone who's been to Tunisia and loves the country. Strike a match, see how far the fire goes.

No, it isn't until now that I wish there was a protest to join, but not for any of those things you read about people protesting over in the news.

So maybe I'll just ask the question here.

I'd like to know where to get the proper form to report concerns over a nine-year-old at our kids' school allegedly having sex with a ten-year-old are, and her alleged pregnancy.

You see, recently, in Baltimore, a family sued the school board. The reason? Their special needs child was bullied so much that the child had to be hospitalized. "The young boy was admitted to the hospital for 15 days to deal with the alleged bullying, his family said.

The student also told jurors that while attending two different elementary schools, he was beaten and choked until he passed out. He also said he was called names that he was not allowed to repeat. The boy's father claimed that school administrators were aware of the abuse."

Would it bother you if your child was choked and beaten at school?

It happened at two schools.

The family lost the case. Simplest explanation?

Administrators "never received a bullying harassment form from the family -- something the district administrator said every parent received and was told how to use."


Let me see. My child's been beaten. Passed out. Is terrorized and traumatized and afraid to go to school.

Hang on a second. Now, where is the proper form to report that?

I have a problem with this. A seriously huge blankin' problem.

I spent two years in BCPS. In one of my positions I had to file a minimum of 40 forms a day. I'm pretty well acquainted with relevant paperwork.

And I'd never even heard of this bullying form.

Never seen it.


Not in training. Not in in-service days. Not ever.

And at least one school I was at in the city is a good school. A really good school.

So, the girl-child recently came home, with quite a story to tell, about a classmate who's allegedly pregnant. She cited the source as the girl herself, who told her who she was having sex with, where, and prior to this there had been a discussion when the girl-child heard classmates talking about this girl 'sucking boys' wieners'.

We actually have addressed it to the school. Twice. First over the oral sex. Then over the alleged intercourse.

We've also addressed the repeated bruises girl-child's been coming home with, that she says are happening in P.E. class.

We've addressed the reports from girl-child, that she's been shoved to the ground at recess, and that she's constantly teased at school.

School's response?

Nothing. Been several weeks now.

Big, fat, nothing.

The bruising issue is now complicated by the fact that the ex admitted in court to rubbing the kids to make them look like they'd been hurt. It's one of the most bizarre, disturbed admissions I've ever heard, and I'm seriously concerned that without adult male punching bags to hit, smaller targets are now the focus.

But it doesn't change the other concerns about the school. So I'd like to know where the right forms are. The form for the bullying. The form for the oral sex. The form for student intercourse. The form for a nine-year-old allegedly being pregnant... Because it suggests something seriously inappropriate to me to even hear this story. I mean, it's detailed. I'm not sharing all the information I have - I'm preserving privacy. This isn't about dishing dirt.

It is, in part, about being really frustrated with our nine-year-old learning things about sex through sexual acts allegedly happening with elementary school students, things she didn't know about prior to this. Not from this house.

Which is what gives the entire story a ring of truth. Clearly, girl-child has started learning about oral sex and intercourse elsewhere.

And the source she's citing is school. And if this nine-year-old classmate of hers knows this much about sex, I have to wonder how. And whether there's something seriously wrong somewhere. It's not uncommon for abuse victims to become promiscuous as a way of minimizing their abuse.

Nine years old.

But the school conveniently hides behind bullshit policies like using the right form, or not using the right form. With girl-child's bruises and reports of being shoved down to the floor in P.E. and to the ground at recess, school policy seems to be to insist if they have a zero tolerance for bullying policy it means the alleged bullying can't be happening.

And when we ask where the teachers are, the kids relay what we've seen ourselves when we've been there. The teachers are standing together, talking. Not walking around, not dispersing, not seeing what's going on.

Oh, and I love this one. When kids try to tell about something, they're told not to tattle. Girl-child spent 2/3 of grade 1 repeating that to me every time she came home upset about being shoved and pushed down until I'd had enough. I explained to her that there's a difference between tattling and getting help to keep yourself safe. Tattling is about trying to get the other person in trouble. Telling because you're being hurt is about finding a way to keep yourself safe.

And YES, our children have a RIGHT to be safe.

Since nobody's been able to direct us to the right forms, and since nobody seems to give a damn about answering our concerns at all, and since we've taken it to the school board and they've done nothing, we sent it over to social services. I don't give a crap if I am "just" a stepparent. I'd step up for ANY child with sufficient concern. I'm a mandated reporter, which I take seriously. We've tried chain of command through the school to ease our concerns and been ignored. I'm done with them, and their bullshit. Now I'll take anything I know straight to social services every single time. While I may think the alleged pregnancy is probably just a story for attention, I can't deny the sexual knowledge the girl has, that she's now spreading to other nine-year-old kids at school. I have to wonder where that knowledge comes from, since sex ed isn't covered at this age. And there are other kids involved. There's the boy who's allegedly involved. If you were his parent (we aren't, but still) wouldn't you be concerned about stories going around about him having sex? Wouldn't you want those stories stopped? Or, even at this tender age, is that just a notch in a boy's belt?

Not in this house.

The problem is, when we send our kids to school, we expect them to be safe, and we feel we should be able to trust the school environment to be appropriate. I'm not being deliberately daft. I know the kids will learn things at school from peers. I know they'll have exposure to ideas and beliefs and things they might not hear about in this house. That's not always a bad thing.

But kids nine and ten, having sex, and sexual acts occurring at school.

I'd like the form to request that the school try to ensure that our nine-year-old won't walk in on kids having oral sex next time she needs to use the bathroom. Can someone help me find the right form, please? Please?

Now we hear that the grade 5 boys go around calling themselves rapists and say to girls that they're rapists and the boys think that's cool.

That's as sick as it gets. Worse still that kids 9 and 10 now know what it is to rape someone before they've even had sex ed.

The bullying is something I can't ignore. In my own case, it was so severe that I was transferred to a different school in a different town because school administrators felt they couldn't keep me safe. I was being beaten up by students who'd been expelled, who weren't even supposed to be on school property, and who I personally didn't even know.

Oh - and a little side-note, about BCPS. Here's one thing I can tell you. School board policy is to restrict the number of suspensions. Not because the suspensions aren't deserved, but because they want the numbers to look good. I have personally seen middle school kids go AWOL for hours, smash windows in classroom doors, beat other students with objects including belts and chairs, and try to stab a teacher with scissors, just to list a few of the incidents I observed. And reported.

Want to guess how many suspensions?

Not even a suspension for the student who threatened to come back with his gun and kill me and another staff member. Not even a disciplinary chat, or a social worker coming down to assess the situation and see if it was a credible threat. Not school police, either. When one of our students struck school police, they got arrested. When two boys pinned me down and struck me repeatedly, they got.... Nothing.

When I was a kid being bullied, my parents got involved. Social services got involved. And all that happened was that I was sent away, and those same girls racked up arrest after arrest when they didn't stop their behavior, and just found another target. It didn't stop the problem. It stopped my problem, but they just found another person to assault.

In my experience, I died a little. There are times I think about how I used to be, and then I think about how my personality changed, because of bullying and assaults and living in fear.

It isn't hard for me to imagine how hard it is for kids at some schools. I've seen first-hand how bad it is at some schools.

Our recent issues with our kids' school aren't the only concerns we've had. A substitute teacher struck a student in girl-child's class, and the school blew it off as a joke.

FYI, Maryland does not permit corporal punishment in schools. You have to go to Idaho or Colorado, or one of the other 19 states that permit corporal punishment OR YOU CAN'T HIT KIDS AT SCHOOL. Not your kid, not another kid, not ANY kid. It wasn't our kid that was hit, but it was our kid who came home, scared a teacher might hit them one day, too.

And then there was the classmate who brought a knife to school. And we aren't talking inner city schools here. We live in the county people move to in order to get away from city school issues like guns and knives and sex in the bathrooms and drugs in the halls.

Big fat joke on all the parents who think it's going to be so much better when they move to this county.

I'm sorry, but I have no respect at all for administration that has people hide behind policy as a way of doing nothing when children are being threatened. Oh, wait. No. I'm not sorry. I have nothing to apologize for because protecting our children, and every child I'm aware is having their safety threatened, is my moral obligation. I don't know what kind of piece-of-shit person can just ignore a safety threat to a child.

But anyone who wants to work full-time with kids who then doesn't give a crap about protecting them? That's a worthless human being in my book.

I wonder how many times we have to read about some kid pushed to the edge, who can't take it anymore and commits suicide? Or goes to school with a gun?

Bullying is a serious problem in schools.

But what people don't even consider is that by hiding behind policy and ignoring concerns about the safety and well-being of students in their care, some administrators are creating an environment where bullying can thrive. I know I have no confidence whatsoever in the administration at our kids' school to do anything to protect students there.

Thing is, in our experience, nobody's going to do anything. Yes, when a kid gets killed, or raped, or assaulted, and it goes public, we'll tell the media everything. Hand over the emails about the student hit in class, the knife, the sex and oral sex. But it's sickening to come to terms with the fact that we can't do anything to prevent more assaults and more abuse.

"I guess it's hard for some people who are so used to things the way they are, even if they're bad, to change and they kind of give up.

"When they do everybody kinda... they kinda lose."

It's sickening to have to accept the fact that we can't do anything to prevent more assaults and more abuse. I think of Tunisia, and the Middle East, and how one person stood up against a government, and literally changed the world.

I so badly want to believe that I could at least stand up for our kids and make things better for them.

For now, I guess we'll be taking a photo of the girl-child every time she arrives and departs, so we can document the bruising. I guess if it continues to be a problem, the only place left for us to go now is the police.

A long time ago, I used to hear things, read things, and wonder where the parents were. Didn't we all ask that after Columbine? How could those parents not know?

Now, I wonder how many times the parents did know, and did say something, and the real reason the tragedy wasn't averted was because the schools ignored all their concerns and did what some of them appear to be best at doing.

Nothing at all.