#1000Speak Building from Bullying: Two True Stories

I learned today that tomorrow, March 20, is a blogging event for #1000Speak, an organization whose byline is "1000 Voices Speak for Compassion." Contributing bloggers are writing about looking at bullying from a positive viewpoint. My first reaction was, "Huh? How can bullying ever have a positive slant?"

I thought back to several incidences when my husband, or the two of us, dealt with bullies in our business life. After giving those experiences some thought, I realized that both ended up being constructive -- one in direct way, the other in a roundabout way.

Almost Caving in to a Bully's Demands

My husband practices criminal defense, and occasionally he will have a client who has a significant rap sheet. Sometimes Shaun isn't aware of the extent of these criminal histories until much later.

Mr. X was one such client. He wasn't happy that Shaun hadn't performed miracles in his case and demanded Shaun pay him back not only the full retainer, but three times that. We're talking extortion. Didn't matter that Shaun had worked many free hours above and beyond the retainer, Mr. X wanted money. A lot of it. Left a threatening message one day on my husband's car.

My husband grew concerned about our safety. I suggested he contact our good friend, a lawyer, and talk it over. This lawyer has practiced law nearly 40 years, just as his father had before him. After Shaun told him the story, the lawyer said, "He's bullying you. One thing about bullies, you need to call him on his bluff, not run scared and give in to his demands. Calmly agree to set up a formal mediation over the money he's attempting to extort. He won't like a reasonable, professional venue to air his threats because he likes working in the dark. Do this and he'll go away."

Which is exactly what happened. Just goes to show, no matter how old you are, you can still learn valuable life lessons.

Slipping, Sliding Toward a Bully

This is a lighter story, one that started out with what appeared to be a bullying situation.

My husband loves his cowboy boots. Wears them with his suits to court. One day he and a judge sang a Merle Haggard song together -- Shaun in his suit, the judge in his black robes -- both of them in their cowboy boots. Wish I'd been there to hear the song and to see the looks on people's faces in the courtroom!

A month or so ago, Shaun was walking downtown through snow and ice in his cowboy boots when he saw a police officer shove a man to the ground. Shaun didn't think twice, just starting running toward them, yelling "What's going on?" and waving his hands. He was on a mission to stop perceived violence. Problem is, those cowboy boots have slick soles.

He hit a patch of ice and and started sliding toward traffic, just as several police units squealed around the corner, lights flashing. Shaun kept slipping and sliding toward the busy street, unable to stop, his heart pounding, realizing he was going to be run over...at the last minute, he grabbed onto a parking meter...and fell face down in a pile of snow between two parked cars, the whoosh of cars and crunching tires a foot or two from his head.

Strong arms helped him to his feet. It was the police officer who'd shoved the guy.  "You okay?" he asked. As Shaun brushed snow off his face and clothes, they talked. Shaun learned that the guy who had been shoved was a felon with an outstanding warrant. He'd turned violent, resisted arrest, and the officer had been trying to subdue him, not abuse him. Meanwhile, in the background, the felon was handcuffed and being placed in the backseat of one of the units.

Then, to Shaun's surprise, he learned the officer is a sergeant in the police department of a nearby jurisdiction where Shaun is moving his law practice. Even more small world, the sergeant is a former private investigator who worked for the lawyer whose office Shaun is taking over! Their paths will be crossing even more in the months and years to come.

Shaun ran to halt what he perceived to be bullying, but instead ran toward a valuable connection in his future. 

To read more stories with positive outcomes and lessons regarding bullying, check out the hastag #1000Speak on Twitter.

My New Saturday Addiction: Reading #SaturdayLibrarian

I look forward to Saturday mornings because that's when I read #SaturdayLibrarian, the tweets of dozens of librarians, some of which are snarky-hilarious. For your amusement and entertainment, below are a few choice tweets from this morning.

#SaturdayLibrarian: Read 'Em & Laugh

From @LousyLibrarian: First rule of #saturdaylibrarian: don't talk to the #saturdaylibrarian.

Another from @LousyLibrarian: "Do you have the book 'How To Kill a Mockingbird?'" "I'll look it up. I assume it's instructional. And disturbing." 

(I'm cheating a little here -- these next two are from Friday, but they're too good to not include...plus they're from the one and only @LousyLibrarian):

From @LousyLibrarianShake your sillies out or as God is my witness I will shake them out for you.* *Why they don't let me do storytimes

From @LousyLibrarian: It became clear when she took out her phone: asking for cat books was just a pretext to show me pictures of her cat. This I can't forgive.

(Now back to #SaturdayLibrarian...)

From @FakeLibStats: 34% of today's #saturdaylibrarian wanted to have a Pi day program but library administration said it was irrational

From @amydieg: 3yr old girl, out of the blue: "Compost is SO IMPORTANT."  #saturdaylibrarian

Another from @amydieg: Same girl is now appalled we do not have blankets in the library. #saturdaylibrarian

From @niee87: Kid runs up to a decorative mirror and pushes against it before announcing sadly, "Not magical." #librarylife #saturdaylibrarian

It’s funny that we think of libraries as quiet, demure places where we are shushed by dusty, bun-balancing, bespectacled women. The truth is, libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy and community. Librarians have stood up to the Patriot Act, sat down with noisy toddlers and reached out to illiterate adults. Libraries can never be shushed.
— Paula Poundstone

From @This_Journey: Sometimes getting my rant down to 140 characters is more frustrating then the actual patron/problem. 

From @sarazet: Child looking at a display of sparrow eggs: "Are these DUCKBILL DINOSAURS??" #saturdaylibrarian

From @thesubliminator: Doing an Instrument Petting Zoo program today. So. Many. Trumpets. #SaturdayLibrarian #librarylife


I really must stop reading #SaturdayLibrarian tweets now...I mean, I have a life, right? (Back to reading  #SaturdayLibrarian tweets)

Have a great Saturday, Colleen


Before You Copy & Paste an Image, Think Copyright!

Last month, I commissioned a graphic artist to create a logo for my writing career and paid him for his talent and skill. To your left is the logo he created, for which I own the copyright. 

I don't think anybody would want to copy and paste this logo as my name is on it. If anyone was curious as to who owns the copyright, they could run a reverse image search via Google to see where the image pops up -- after matching the words on the logo (Colleen Collins Books) to the website name (colleencollinsbooks.com), they would likely assume that I own the copyright, but to verify they could contact me via this site to ask. This is one example of locating a copyright holder. There's a free ebook link at the bottom of this post, written by a business attorney, which explains other ways to research copyrights among other topics about legally using images.

The Point Being...

Don't copy and paste without first checking if there is a copyright.

Otherwise, you might be violating copyright laws. I know, lots of people copy and paste stuff off the Internet, but sometimes people get caught and end up paying lots of money to lawyers and the copyright holders. That happened to romance writer Roni Loren a few years ago, and she wrote a blog about it: Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued for Using Pics on Your Blog - My Story.

People Copying & Pasting A Copyrighted Image

A few years ago,I worked with another very talented graphic designer who had a background creating images for video games, comic books, TV and movies. Such a talented guy, and I was honored that he was willing to create a logo for me (a private eye sitting at a computer, an image I wanted to use for my book How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths)

He and I brainstormed the image and worked together on several revisions -- one of our brainstorming sessions is shown in his sketches on the yellow piece of paper to your left.

I paid him for his expertise, and I now own the copyright for the final black-and-white image, located below the yellow page of sketches.

Unfortunately, people started freely copying and pasting the image into blogs, articles, books, Facebook pages, as avatars on forums, and other online places. I didn't know this until one day I ran a reverse search on the image, and oh boy...it showed up in several dozen Internet sites! I didn't work with a professional illustrator, and pay him for his services, for it to be an Internet freebie!

Copyright 2011 Colleen Collins - Do not copy or distribute without prior written permission.

Copyright 2011 Colleen Collins - Do not copy or distribute without prior written permission.

I Wrote a Cease and Desist Letter

My husband is a lawyer, so he helped me craft a cease and desist letter. I didn't want to play the heavy...I simply asked that the person credit the graphic. But if they did not wish to add a credit, then please remove it from their site.

Free Images in the Public Domain

There are numerous sources for professional images and illustrations that are free and within the public domain, and copying and pasting these images do not violate any copyright laws. Below are a few of these images. The two Japanese prints, the orange flowers and the man and goldfish, are via the Public Domain Review; all other images are courtesy of the Getty Museum Open Content Program:

Free eBook on How to Legally Use Images

The below ebook has more links to public domain images, plus it provides all kinds of useful information about types of copyrights, sources for researching copyright owners, even a sample permission-request letter to send to a copyright holder. Author is Helen Sedwick, a California business attorney and author:


Have a great week, Colleen

In Honor of World Book Day: Humphrey Bogart, Movie Star & Avid Reader

Humphrey Bogart in the 1934 film trailer for Petrified Forest (public domain)

Humphrey Bogart in the 1934 film trailer for Petrified Forest (public domain)

Bogie and Books

Did you know Humphrey Bogart loved to read? Although he was was a poor student, and was eventually expelled from the prestigious Phillips Academy, he had a lifelong love of reading, and could quote Plato, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Shakespeare.

Some of his best friends were screenwriters, such as Nunnally Johnson and John Huston. I've always admired Huston for his directing, even his acting, but did you know he also wrote over 20 screenplays, including the adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon

By the way, here's a wonderful write-up about John Huston and his writing and directing of the The Maltese Falcon (via Word&Film): John Huston and the Making of the Maltese Falcon.


#Kindle Countdown Sale March 1-6, 2015! A Lawyer's Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms

Put together with the user in mind, this intelligently organized handbook for practicing writers will make you sound like a practicing lawyer. Use it to transform your courtroom characters from stereotypes into engaging people.
— Warwick Downing, former DA in Colorado and author of The Widow of Dartmoor, a sequel to Hound of the Baskervilles

A Lawyer's Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms is a Kindle Countdown Deal, starting March 1! The earlier you purchase it, the more money you save. For example, if you buy it on the first day (March 1) the price is only #99cents, a 88% discount. Buy it the second day (March 2), the price is $1.99, a 75% discount. 

Below is a breakdown of dates and sale prices:

March 1, 2015: 99 cents (88% discount)

March 2, 2015: $1.99 (75% discount)

March 3, 2015: $2.99 (63% discount)

March 4 + 5: 2015: $3.99 (50% discount)

March 6, 2015: $4.99 (38% discount)

March 7, 2015: Back to regular price $7.95


#writetip Witness Interviews: Tips from a Private Investigator

Interviewing is more than asking a set of questions. It’s an art. Even with all of today’s whiz-bang technology, people’s words are still the most powerful declaration of where they stand – and what they know. Even the words a person chooses not to speak can still speak volumes to his/her motive, who they might be protecting, and what they're hiding.

Interviewing People Who Don't Want to Be Interviewed

Maybe a person is angry to be dragged into somebody else's problem, or frightened to give testimony in court, or even scared that what they know will hurt someone they care about. There's also the possibility that the individual is nervous about being subpoenaed to court because he/she has failed to show up in the past for their own court date, and therefore might be taken into custody for their own issues, right there in the courtroom, which is a very real concern. 

Which means a private detective must be attuned to people and skilled at persuading them to share what they know. We've all seen the private eye movies where the PI rants and threatens or even slams some guy into a wall to get him to open up. In real life, if a PI wants someone to open up and spill the beans, the investigator needs to be part shrink, part confidante, part actor -- all with the goal of gaining that person's trust.

"I Don't Care That He Said No -- Get the Interview!"

Years ago, I worked for a tough-taskmaster defense attorney who taught me that my job was to get the interview. Period.  Didn't matter if someone had just slammed a door in my face.  Didn't matter that I was nervous about interviewing a subject who had possible ties to organized crime and who also had a pit bull for a pet, I was never to say, "I couldn't get so-and-so to talk," because he'd snap, "I don't care -- get the interview."

Of course, I could have simply stopped working for this lawyer, but he remains to this day one of the top defense lawyers in the state and I didn't want to lose my spot as one of his investigators just because I was too chicken to nail an interview. As to the guy with the pit bull, we made arrangements ahead of time that the pit bull was to remain in the backyard, and although the dog stared at me the entire time through a window, the interview itself went quite well.

Several years ago, I wrote a column titled "P.I. Confidential" for Novelists, Inc.'s newsletter NINC that offered tips to writers crafting sleuth characters/stories. Below is a link to one those articles about interviewing witnesses that covers such issues as:

  • What might a PI do if the interviewee later claims the investigator misrepresented his story?
  • What does the interviewer do if the recording device decides to die just as the interview starts?
  • What if the subject starts talking about something that is seemingly off-topic?

Article link:

The Art of Interviewing: The Pitfalls, Pratfalls, and Shortfalls










What Librarians Tweet About on Saturdays...Get Ready to Laugh

How some of these librarians apparently feel...

How some of these librarians apparently feel...

This morning on Twitter, I discovered the hashtag #saturdaylibrarian...then spent the next few minutes laughing at librarians' snarks while at work on Saturday. To be fair, not all librarians were snarking, but those who did had some really good reasons for why they were. 

Below is a sampling, enjoy!  Oh, and give your librarian a high-five the next time you visit a library.  

#Saturdaylibrarian Tweets

From @LousyLibrarian: Opened the doors and nobody came rushing in. Are we supposed to be open today? Has it all just been a horrible dream? #saturdaylibrarian

Another from @LousyLibrarianHardest #saturdaylibrarian question today: Did Janet Evanovich's "Fearless 14" come before or after her "Top Secret 21?"  #letmethink

And one more from @LousyLibrarian: "Are you guys open today?" "Nope. I'm just answering the library phone because my doctor said I needed a hobby." #saturdaylibrarian

From @librarianbrie: I was just asked for tweezers.  #saturdaylibrarian

From @bobtimmermann: Today I discovered that the people who set up events at library are shadowy figures who can't be reached by normal means #saturdaylibrarian

From @curmudgeonylib: "Can you domesticate Walruses?" "How about Manatees?" Yup it is one of those afternoons... #saturdaylibrarian #librarylife

Another from @curmudgeonylib: & now the ques "Is it still scrimshaw if you don't use whalebone?" I'm helping a 19th cen sea capt, it seems #saturdaylibrarian #librarylife

From @Superdan042: Yes it is all our fault that the IRS tax prep service is down nationwide. #SaturdayLibrarian Also we told the IRS to not send out tax forms.

Another from @Superdan042: Also it's my fault you don't know your passwords.  

From @helgagrace: 9:15 on a Saturday seems like a great time to try to understand reference services models. *eyes cross* #saturdaylibrarian #librarylife

From @hek5598: Ma'am, I told you we don't have the DVD you want. I'm not sure how you thought driving here would change that. #saturdaylibrarian

From @farre: "You've seen Deliverance, right?" "No." "But you know about it right?" "Yes, that's why I have never seen it." #saturdaylibrarian

From @amydieg: Shouting across the room for your kid to be quiet is kind of counter productive.... #saturdaylibrarian

Another from @amydieg: this kid is mere minutes from meltdown and i can tell he's the 'pull everything off the shelves' kind of fit thrower #saturdaylibrarian

And another from @amydieg: These two families here on winter vacation are killing me. KILLING. #saturdaylibrarian