That New and Fresh Voice

Agents, editors, and publishers always watch for that new and fresh voice. They believe the next bestseller—the next blockbusting author—is out there, a voice just waiting discovery.

Voice is a hard animal to describe. It has various definitions. Technically, (in writing school 101) voice refers to “the rhetorical mixture of vocabulary, tone, point of view, and syntax that makes phrases, sentences, and paragraphs flow in a particular manner.” Non-technically, it’s like a Supreme Court judge said in a ruling on pornography, “It’s hard to describe in words, but I know it when I see it.”

New and fresh are easier concepts to grasp, and I recently connected with a lady who I sincerely believe has a great voice—a new and fresh voice—and has the whole package to become a highly successful crime writer. Normally, a writer’s bio would appear at the end of their article but, in this case, you’ll better appreciate her voice by me introducing her first.

Jennifer Pound is a recently retired police officer where she thrived in various traditional and non-traditional policing roles. She spent years as the face of the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) as a communications director. Her recent role was with IHIT, Vancouver’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team — the largest homicide unit in Canada — where she saw the worst of people and helped to bring justice for the victims that died at the hands of evil.

As a result of her time on the job, and the darkness that comes with it, Jennifer suffered with PTSD. She continues managing this daily. Writing is part of her healing. It’s her outlet—a way to connect with others. As a forum for mental health support and awareness, Jennifer created a blog for all first responders fighting the same battle.

Through this blog, Jennifer Pound realizes her passion for writing and the vulnerability needed to share such personal stories. This passion continues with healing through a focus on crime writing, and she’s currently working on her first novel. It’ll showcase how endless homicides take their toll on even the strongest cops, and sometimes the effects are difficult to recognize — they’re dangerous and lingering…

Please welcome my friend, Jennifer Pound, to the Kill Zone with a post she wrote on her personal blog at STAY ON THE LINE — Social Support for all First Responders.

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The Lasting Effects by Jennifer Pound

The lasting effects of the job, I believe, is an area where first responders suffer in silence. Right out of the gate, recruits/cadets should know what to expect potentially.

We’re trained extensively and continuously for physical combat. We can negotiate and manipulate various situations to uphold the security of our country. We even know that, should we have to use deadly force, it could have the potential to sit with us in ways that are ugly and altering.

But what about the day-to-day stressors of the job that we carry with us, even when off duty?

The damaging and lasting effects run deep.

Hypervigilance is a bitch. I haven’t known a retired police officer yet who hasn’t carried it into retirement. It’s ingrained into us. Always look for the threat. Always look for evidence of evil. Trust no one. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s the reality and it’s exhausting.

Retired — I find myself trying to enjoy things I once really enjoyed. Hikes, bike rides, walks, swims, nature. I will force myself to do it because my body likes it, but my head is on a swivel, and my imagination is like a kid in a candy store, although, unlike the candy store, my mind runs rampant looking for the next magnificent piece of disaster.

Many police officers think the absolute worst; it’s a gift we’ve so graciously received, or perhaps more like a curse. Few of us can drive by a bag of garbage or a rolled-up carpet on the highway and not think about the nightmare that must live within. I’ve often wondered if it was just me, but I know with certainty, it’s not.

I’ve been working hard on trying to negate these feelings. I force myself to tell a positive story about what I see. Maybe the rolled-up carpet is to give a little extra decor to the highway, or the garbage bag is full of bustling butterflies that are ready to wow the world, or maybe it’s just a bunch of assholes littering. Sadly, my brain quickly tells me to ease up on the bullshit, and the worst-case scenario wins out most of the time.

During my hikes lately, I’ve been forcing myself to tackle my demons. I see a sock in the bush, a garbage bag torn and tattered, an abandoned baby stroller, or a single shoe. For the rest of the hike, I get lost in negative, unhealthy thoughts or memories of terrible moments throughout my career. This past month I’ve switched it around a bit, and during my walks, I’ve taken photos of the things that look sketchy and cause concern. When I get home, I study these photos to a point where I feel ridiculous for letting my mind wander, (except the baby stroller, I can’t spin any good into that one.)

The part that saddens me is this. Seeing the beauty of a park or enjoying a nature walk or ravine hike has not been standard practice for me for quite some time. I will not enter these places and feel the serenity that, for many, nature represents. It will rest in the back of my mind that darkness is there somewhere, lurking, waiting for an opportunity to prove my paranoid, pessimistic self, right.

I force myself to make decisions that I feel are “normal,” particularly around my kids. I don’t want to raise paranoid kids. I want them to be smart, safe, and savvy but not neurotic and scared of the world through the eyes of their Mother.

I remember just a few months back; I had an appointment in the morning during school drop off so I couldn’t drive my kids to school. I reluctantly let my two younger girls, 12 and 10, walk the near-mile to school. This distance pales in comparison to the walk I would do to get to elementary school. It felt like I left at 3 am to make it on time.

Ted Bundy’s VW Beetle

One morning, when I was about 11 years old, I woke up, got myself breakfast, scurried out the door, and at the halfway mark my brother and friend (for the sake of their privacy we’ll call them Brad and Todd) drove by me just about the same time I was avoiding a British Columbia puddle after a week’s worth of rain. They drove through the pooling puddle, leaving me soaked, muddy, and cold. After that, I always kept an eye out for that stupid, orange Volkswagen. The joys of older brothers, but I digress.

My girls ended up walking to school, and when I made it home from my appointment, at about 8:30 am, I realized I had missed a call from my daughter. In her message, she told me someone followed her and her sister to school, or so she thought. Her message then said she had to go because the bell rang.

The BELL!!??

How could the bell be relevant right now??

At this point, I had already geared up in what camo I had left in my closet. It turns out it was just a belt and some PJ’s, but I wore it anyway, and I jetted out the door to talk to her. Thankfully she called me back and filled me in on the rest before I had to get out of my car. The details… she provided… were as follows:

My girls left home and noticed a man following them a short time later. He followed them a good while when the oldest started to wonder if it was just her imagination. Maybe he was just an ordinary hoodie-wearing man, carrying a hubcap, walking through our neighborhood before school.

To test the theory, she made a bit of a detour. She turned down a cul-de-sac with few homes that only residents that lived there would need to access. She walked for a bit and then did an about-face, like she forgot something, crossed the road, and turned back. Hub cab carrying, douchebag guy continued to follow them. At this point, she was terrified. She grabbed her sister’s hand, and she ran. They ran until they reached the school and she lost sight of him. That’s when she called me.

Now, it took me quite some time to process this. My immediate thought was she’s F#$%ing with me because she’s mad I couldn’t drive them this morning, Once she mentioned him carrying what she described as the silver part of the inside of a tire, I knew it was no story. I felt guilt and fear for not trusting my gut, which initially told me walking to school equals danger.

My brain rewarded me by keeping me awake all night to play over the what-ifs in my mind—a super non-restful night.

I woke up looking and sounding like the chain-smoking aunts, Patty and Selma, from the Simpson’s cartoon. The next morning my husband and I provided the girls with a double police escort, followed by surveillance and light interviewing. I was now in a place to say to my positive, trusting self, “I told you so!!” The world is full of trauma, just waiting to happen.

As you can imagine, this all required an expedited visit to Mark, my psychologist, to let him know that he’d been wrong all this time and I knew I was right all along. The world truly has no good. I intended to leave his office feeling vindicated. But instead, I went with a sense of peace and realization that my girls, all my children, are way smarter than me. It was one of my favorite sessions, one where I learned so much in one little hour.

He helped me realize my girls knew what to do and then some. Their actions exceeded my expectations for grown-ups, let alone children. It turns out my daughter gave a rockstar statement and a substantial description of the guy when the police came to our house to interview them.

What Mark had made me realize is that they are okay; they are smart and full of common sense and ability and fight. I never once factored any of those things into my fear, and my fear is what has the potential to hinder my children’s growth and my own.

My perspective changed that day.

Yes, I was terrified and vengeful, but I didn’t let the fear catastrophize. I didn’t create the movie reel in my head that always ended badly. I stopped thinking about what-ifs and concentrated on how proud and relieved I was to know that they negotiated that situation beautifully, and I was so proud of them.

Don’t get me wrong, I still sit in my car every morning waiting to jump douchebag guy, but that’s for a different post. A big part of my recovery has been retelling the story. Had that incident happened a year ago, my reaction would have been much different and lasting, and my girls would still be locked in the house and homeschooled.

Much like my nature photos, I’ve created a movie reel that is more based on reality rather than my own knowledge and work experience. I’ve shifted my movie reel from say, a Quentin Tarantino film to a James Cameron film. It’s much easier on the soul.

For those of you who connect with these words, and are driven slightly crazy by your mind and anxiety-inducing moving reels, I offer the above, not as a solution, but as a step in the right direction towards a more peaceful you. If you are looking to ease the anxiety and decrease your racing brain’s impact, then work on retelling your story. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you for it, well into your deserved retirement.

From The Kill Zone’s Garry Rodgers: In my opinion, that’s voice. Jennifer Pound is fresh and new to the crime writing world, and I know she’ll kill it with her debut novel. Let’s welcome Jenn into our Kill Zone family, and I’m sure supportive comments are coming.    ~Garry

37 thoughts on “That New and Fresh Voice

  1. Jenn, welcome! Thank you for sharing your poignant observations and experiences with us this morning. You had me “in the moment” from your first sentence.

    My children are all adults but I still worry about each and all of them (as well as my teenager granddaughter! Mon dieu!) on a daily basis. The demons that were out there when they were children are still present, simply in different shape and form. I wish it would get easier but it doesn’t.

    We’re looking forward to your first novel. Please be sure to have Garry let us know when your debut novel is published. Or better yet, maybe he’ll host you here once again. Be well.

    • Good morning, Joe. Thank you very much for your support. Parenting continues to be the most challenging job out there. You never really understand how much emotional energy these little people will consume. My oldest is moving across Canada to attend school in a couple of weeks and I’m resisting the urge to move there myself. Who will take care of her?
      I will continue on with writing and challenging myself with this crime novel. There is so much to learn and know, it should keep me busy, to say the least.
      Thank you again for your support and feedback.

    • Thank you for the gracious welcome, Terry. I’m honoured to have this opportunity to connect, and very grateful to Garry for introducing me to this community.

  2. Welcome to The Kill Zone. Jennifer. Thanks for sharing your story. I love the way you’ve chosen to deal with your PTSD – by helping others deal with the darkness this world is buried in. Good luck with you blog. And good luck with your first novel. Tell Garry to let you come back to The Kill Zone to announce your book when it is published. That will be an enjoyable break from Garry’s encyclopedic posts. (Just kidding, Garry. We love your encyclopedic posts!)

    • Thank you for your message, Steve. It’s been a challenging journey. Policing takes its toll on the spirit, and it takes a big fight to come out of the fog of it. It’s been an eye-opener for me to see how many first responders are struggling with PTSD, and with very little help. I’ve found there is strength in numbers and sharing the pain has created so much gain. It’s a good feeling to be moving on and focussing on the things I enjoy, including my novel. So much to learn, but I’m having fun along the way. I would love to come back here and share with you someday soon.
      Your support is very much appreciated.

  3. Another sincere welcome to TKZ, Jenn. Looking forward to that first novel’s appearance here. “It’ll showcase how endless homicides take their toll on even the strongest cops…” Reminds me of that line we talked about from Joseph Wambaugh: “The best stories are about how cases work on cops, not about how cops work on cases.” Maintiens le Droit, my friend 😉

    • Thank you very much, Garry. Your support has been key, and I so appreciate the time you’ve taken with me. That line from Joseph Wambaugh really struck a cord with me. Being able to write about the crime and showcase the damage the crime can have on some cops is very rewarding and healing. It’s hard not to get lost in it, in a good way.
      I appreciate the time you’ve taken to connect me to this community and for the interest you’ve shown in my writing. I will continue to learn from you and take away so many valuable points. Thanks for being my Mr. Miyagi 😁

  4. Welcome, Jenn!

    Some writers have fascinating stories to tell but the style clunks and bumps.

    Other writers have a riveting voice but their stories are meh.

    You have both. Wow. Just wow. Thank you.

    Count me as a sale when your novel is published.

    • Thank you so much for the kind words and feedback, Debbie. It’s difficult to know how my writing comes off to others as I am just starting out, and sometimes struggle with how it might read. I just write from the heart and see where it lands, so your feedback is invaluable to me and very much appreciated.

  5. Welcome, Jennifer! As Garry said, you have a fresh and unique voice, but more importantly, you’re writing about an important subject. It’s a dangerous world today, and we’re all concerned about the safety of our family members. Best of luck with the novel!

    And thank you for your service in law enforcement.

    • Good morning, Kay. Thank you for your message. I agree, the world can be a dangerous place. Our responsibility to keep our families safe is never ending and the emotional toll can be exhausting. Worrying about them comes as naturally as breathing, and in today’s day, there seems to be a never ending list of concerns. One of the hardest tasks for me is to sit back and let my kids learn for themselves. The control side of me fights this pretty hard, but it seems to build my trust in their abilities to navigate their own journey. I’ve found writing to be a clean canvass where I get to leave my thoughts and fears behind. It’s been so therapeutic and freeing, and I look forward to forging ahead. Thank you for your support, Kay.

  6. I can never tell anyone what voice is, only that I recognize it when I see it. And sista, you have voice! Can’t wait to read your book. And I hope Gary lets you come back sometime. 😉

    • I hope Garry invites me back too, Patricia. This has been such an honour to be introduced here, and to receive feedback such as yours. Thank you very much for your message. I have a ways to go, when it comes to knowing what I’m doing, but so far I’m enjoying every minute of this new journey and only looking ahead. Thank you again for your positive words.

    • Thank you, Sue. I appreciate you saying so. I have much to learn from experts like yourself, and every bit of feedback certainly helps. I’m excited to take this leap and set foot on a new path. So much to learn.
      Loved your cereal killer post 😁

  7. Wow, Jennifer. What a story. It is easy to overlock how the day to day activities of so many people have lasting effects. And you can’t just push through them.
    Looking forward to hearing more of your story and your writing.

    • So true, Tim. You never know what kind of day you’ll wake up to and what events you’ll be impacted by. Once impacted, the day-to-day can tend to become more difficult, that was the case for me. It’s been so rewarding to set my sights on my writing goals. It’s been good for the soul.
      Thank you very much for your message.

  8. Jennifer, welcome to TKZ! Thank you for sharing this post – your voice reeled me in right from the start and you are writing about important subject matter here, so I was grateful to hear your perspective. All the best for the novel and we hope to see you back here very soon:)

    • Thank you, Clare. I appreciate you taking the time to leave a message, and your feedback is very much appreciated. The subject matter is near and dear to my heart, so I find that writing about it comes naturally. It’s an important topic to talk/write about. The more we talk, the less stigma will exist. There’s still a long way to go to lower or eliminate the stigma, but we are chipping away at it, one success story at a time.

  9. Thank you for such an inspiring post, Jenn. I was a municipal police officer in the mid-1980’s and suffered from PTSD but we didn’t call it then and I didn’t get help for it for quite some time. Your career lasted much longer than mine but brava to your courage in healing and helping others to do so too! I’m looking forward to reading your blog and your debut when it’s ready.

    • Thank you for your message, Laurie, and for your service. I’m sorry to hear about your battle with PTSD. It’s a terrible injury to suffer with, particularly in a time when it wasn’t recognized or talked about. The suffering happened in silence which, I can imagine, only exasperated things for you. Recovery isn’t easy and the management of it is a lifetime commitment. I hope you’re well, and found healing along the way?
      Thank you for your message and, again, for your commitment, service and sacrifice.

  10. Welcome, Jennifer. You definitely have a voice. And while I’m now a long-time published writer, for many years I was the voice on the other end of that police radio, so I have a feel for what you went through. A lot of things you shrug or laugh off, but some things no amount of gallows humor will quash. Ever.

    Congratulations on the new venture, and more on having raised aware kids. I’ll be watching for the novel when you’re ready!

    • Thank you, Justine, for your message, and for your sacrifice while on the job.
      I’ve said many times that being a call-taker is one of the most damaging careers. Every call creates a picture in your mind of what is occurring. Much like a good book, the visual we create in our head is, in many cases, much stronger than the reality. This strong visual is sometimes all the call-taker is left with before you’ve moved on to the next call. The trauma caused by this routine can run deep. Thank you for being a part of such an important piece of public safety and congratulations on your writing success.

  11. Hi, Jennifer, welcome to KZB. One of my mentors liked to say, there’s only one rule of fiction: You must make the reader feel. You did that with the post. I was gripped from the start. Moreover, you created great deal of empathy with your voice and your words. Even though I don’t have anything like your background, I know what it’s like to be hyper vigilant, and that came across in riveting fashion in your post.

    I think you’re going to knock it out of the park in your first novel, and in your second, and subsequent books. Enjoy the writing process. It’s the one part of this business that we control (more or less 🙂

    Thanks for a very compelling read this morning.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read it, Dale, and for such positive feedback. Hyper vigilance has been the most difficult thing for me to get past. I find it mentally and physically draining and it leads to isolation, at least it does for me. I despise going into grocery stores. It felt like my birthday when they created on-line grocery shopping. I’m their biggest client.
      “you must make the reader feel”
      Love that 👆 it’s the biggest hurdle I’m finding with writing my novel. With my blog, it was easy, I wrote from my own fear and pain. With writing my book, I’m noticing a big difference in telling the story from a deep place. I’m working on that part daily. So much to learn, and I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to do so, and with support such as yours. Thank you.

  12. Welcome, Jennifer. Thanks for sharing your riveting story. We get a different perspective when reading a story told from a law insider’s view.

    I’m looking forward to enjoying (and learning from) your blog and wish you sweet success with your novel.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Suzanne. I’m always happy to provide the perspective of a police officer, particularly to those young folks looking to start out. It chews you up from time to time, but I wouldn’t change my career choice, it’s brought me to where I am today. I’m thankful to Garry for introducing me to such a supportive, motivating and talented group.

    • Thank you, Marilynn. Garry has been a fantastic mentor throughout this experience, and has given me so much to think about. His talent and expertise has been unparalleled. Thank you for your comment.

  13. Thanks, Garry and Jenn! I’d never thought about the head games cops and other first-responders might play after retirement…

    And, BTW, it’s not just cop moms who play these games. The world is a scary place right now, and I have 24 grandchildren who I constantly worry about, and imagine really bad scenarios. Stupid, but there it is…

    • 24 grandchildren. Holy smokes!! Well done, Deb. I can only imagine how fun and overwhelming your family get together’s are. So great.
      It’s hard to trust the world when you have so many valuable people in your life. There’s too much to lose, so our minds play out the dark. For me, It’s a mindset of expecting the worst, and being pleasantly surprised if the worst doesn’t happen. I try so often to retell the what if’s, and spin positive into it. I’m getting better, but it’s an uphill battle. Our work as worriers is never done.
      Enjoy all those people you’ve been blessed with. Thank you for your comment, Deb.

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