Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It's April First

First, Thanks to Pat Stoltey for her great post yesterday, and to everyone who stopped by to leave a comment.

So, are you wary of anything you see, read, or hear today? Do you play jokes and pranks on unsuspecting friends? Are you like me, who forgets what day it is and takes everything at face value? This year, April 1st marks the first day of three months of hubby's enforced semi-retirement, followed by full retirement. Wish it was really a joke, but we've been dealing with this next phase of our lives and it's about to become real.

According to Wikipedia (hey, it's only April Fool's Day, so why not use a less than reliable source?) ...

The origin of April Fools' Day is obscure. One likely theory is that the modern holiday was first celebrated soon after the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar; the term referred to someone still adhering to the Julian Calendar which it replaced.

In many pre-Christian cultures May Day (May 1) was celebrated as the first day of summer, and signalled the start of the spring planting season. An April Fool was someone who did this prematurely. Another origin is that April 1 was counted the first day of the year in France. When King Charles IX changed that to January 1, some people stayed with April 1. Those who did were called "April Fools" and were taunted by their neighbors.

In the eighteenth century the festival was often posited as going back to the times of Noah. An English newspaper article published on April 13th, 1789 said that the day had its origins when he sent the raven off too early, before the waters had receded. He did this on the first day of the Hebrew month that corresponds with April. A possible reference to April Fools' Day can be seen in the Canterbury Tales (ca 1400) in the Nun's Priest's tale, a tale of two fools: Chanticleer and the fox, which took place on March 32nd.

Some all-time classic hoaxes and pranks include the following:

A Cranky Old Woman's View ...

This week, my guest at Terry's Place is author Patricia Stoltey. Welcome, Pat.

A Cranky Old Woman’s View on Aging and the Politics of Speaking Out

Let me begin by saying that I’m not calling my mom a cranky old woman in this blog. The politics I discuss have nothing to do with political parties or government, but rather the complex relationship between individuals and society that governs behavior. And speaking out refers to an individual’s right to express his opinion and assert his rights in a reasonable and non-threatening manner without fear of verbally abusive or physically dangerous attacks in response.

That’s a high-falutin’ way of saying I plan to talk about cranky old folks who speak their mind.

My mom, who will turn ninety in May, believes she has earned the right to say anything she pleases, any time she feels like it. She told me this herself. Speaking out was the thing she looked forward to for years, the thing that kept her brain synapses firing as she stored up opinions on everything from politics to washing your hands. Once she reached that certain age, however, she discovered her opinions weren’t always well-received. She was confused. Why did people (her children, for instance) shush her, or exchange tolerant glances or, worst case, tell her she was wrong and angrily try to set her straight?

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I witnessed one of those bizarre confrontations when I went to visit my mom last summer and accompanied her to a doctor’s appointment. While we sat in the waiting room, Mom mentioned that I’d have to find something else to do while she and my brother watched the NASCAR race that weekend. A thirty-something lady sitting on the other side of the room threw herself into our conversation as though she doubted Mom’s true fan status, demanded to know which drivers Mom liked and, by the way, what she thought of Earnhardt.

I was getting nervous. This can’t go well, I thought.

Mother, knowing full well she was treading in dangerous territory, spoke her mind. Elder sports fans can be just as scary as thirty-something sports fans. Mom was indignant; the thirty-something was outraged. Both were too loud.

I didn’t know what to do.

But here’s the thing. Even when I was young and less tolerant of cranky elders speaking their minds, I never engaged those folks in a rude exchange, even when their opinions ridiculed my own. I may have thought I knew everything, but I still treated my elders with respect and always listened to opinions and advice.

Well, okay, I didn’t always accept the opinions or follow the advice, but I did listen politely.

During this Nascar incident, I was conflicted. On the one hand, I wanted to hush my mom and end the fuss. But there was also a desire to speak out, defend Mom’s right to say what she wanted to say (no matter how she said it), and chastise the thirty-something for putting my mom down in such a nasty display of disrespect. I didn’t care if the young lady defended her point of view, but this was Nascar, for Pete’s sake. Why not argue with a wink and a smile? I calmed the exchange as best I could with a pointed look at the thirty-something, saying, “It’s all in fun, right? This discussion is all in fun?” For a while, however, it had not been fun at all.

My mom is a wonderful example of an elder with incredible life experience. She grew up during the depression, the daughter of a Norwegian immigrant. Her father was not a successful man, and he suffered from discrimination, especially from his in-laws. Mom’s parents eventually divorced. Mom graduated from high school before she was eighteen and headed for Chicago to go to nursing school. She married my dad during World War II when he was in the Army, and after his discharge from the service, they became tenant farmers. Mom spent as much time driving a tractor and butchering chickens as she did nursing, cleaning house, or fixing big farm meals. My dad studied real estate and farm management and eventually ended up owning his own business. My mother often worked nights at the hospital to keep us afloat as they struggled to become financially secure. She knows so much and expresses it so well.

So I understand where my mom is coming from when she says she’s earned the right to speak up and say anything she wants. I’m more like her each day. Granted, as we get older, some of us find our tongues have developed sharp edges while our sensitivity filters have disintegrated. We have wonderful stories to tell and great wisdom to share, but we occasionally forget the things we crave from others: respect, courtesy, and compassion. It’s no wonder we’re seen as cranky old women or curmudgeons.

On the other hand, there is something tremendously satisfying about doing and saying Cranky Old Woman stuff. I’ll tell you about that some other time.

So, do you have any stories to share?

Patricia’s August 2009 mystery release, The Desert Hedge Murders, features cantankerous ladies of a certain age on a deadly vacation in the southwest. Visit Patricia’s website at http://www.patriciastoltey.com. She invites you to e-mail her at plynnes@patriciastoltey.com

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cop Out Monday

What I'm reading: Fault Line, by Barry Eisler

It's a cop-out post today. I've got a cold--nothing really bad, but annoying enough so I spent the weekend doing the bare minimum in the way of household chores, and added nothing new to my manuscript. Instead of coming up with something clever or deep and meaningful for my post today, I dug into my email.

First, some quotes from my Quote of the Day collection:

The opinion you need to trust is your own. I'm not saying that presenting your work to others is a bad idea. I'm saying other people's opinions should not substitute for your own. You can't depend on others to tell you what you've done, or not done. You can't depend on others to make your work harder or feel better about your work. You must learn to depend on yourself. How? By not giving away the responsibility to others. ~Lauren Kessler
The Writer, Aug 2008

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Writing for adults, you have to keep reminding them of what is going on. The poor things have given up using their brains when they read. Children you only need to tell things to once. ~Diana Wynne Jones

It makes one hope and believe that a day will come when, in the eye of the law, literary property will be as sacred as whiskey, or any other of the necessaries of life. It grieves me to think how far more profound and reverent a respect the law would have for literature if a body could only get drunk on it. ~Mark Twain

How can you hate the actual writing? What is there to hate about it? How can you hate the magic which makes a paragraph or a sentence or a line of dialogue or a description something in the nature of a new creation? ~Raymond Chandler

Next, some vocabulary words from my Word of the Day collection

pinchbeck \PINCH-bek\, noun, adjective
inanition \in-uh-NISH-uhn\, noun
velleity \veh-LEE-uh-tee; vuh-\, noun
thaumaturgy \THAW-muh-tuhr-jee\, noun

And finally, a clip hubby sent. Yes, it's been around, but it made me laugh out loud, and maybe it'll bring a smile to someone else as well.

And by all means, come back tomorrow. Author Patricia Stoltey is going to talk about Cranky Old Women. One way or another, I think we can all relate.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Homicide - Hussey: The Macintosh 15

Here's another story from the files of Deputy Mark Hussey. Enjoy.

In the early 1970's an incredible building boom took Central Florida by storm. Following the opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando in 1971, industry and people streamed into Florida, making it the fastest growing state in the U.S. With this mammoth growth came all the problems, crime, crime, and of course, crime.

There was no housing for the thousands of people moving into the state daily. The facilities in place in the sixties could not handle the growth of the 70's. Traffic had become a nightmare and just about everything else was in transition or total chaos. The 26th amendment to the United States Constitution was voted in, lowering the legal voting age from twenty-one to eighteen. Newly elected President Richard Nixon announced his new economic policy which included a ninety day wage freeze, imposition of a 10% import surcharge, and an indefinite freeze on the conversion of dollars to gold. The news caused the Dow to jump 33 points.

The city of Lakeland, located just west of Orlando, with a population of 50,000, was also booming. A new civic center had been built and revenue from big name rock concerts like Chicago, Marshall Tucker, and The Rolling Stones was pouring in. The city prided itself in having a top-notch police department. The then 80 sworn officers were trained in tactics, and equipped to handle any emergency. In reality, they were ill equipped and under trained to handle some of the problems that would confront them in 1975. There was no riot gear, except for a few helmets that had been bought as an afterthought. No shields, no tear-gas, no gas masks. The sixties were over and things had been quiet for nearly six years. The war in Vietnam was ending and everyone seemed ready to go back to work and take advantage of the prosperous economy.

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Many of the people moving to Florida were migrating from big city areas like New York and Detroit. Workers there were accustomed to large hourly wages, great employee benefits and union shops. What they found in Florida were companies that would spend millions of dollars annually to break unions, keep wages at a minimum, thus keeping their costs down and their profit margins up. They also found something unheard of: governmental entities, such as police agencies with poor or no retirement and no disability or medical benefits.

In the spring of 1975, the city had broken ground on the east side of town for the Macintosh Power Plant, a new coal burning electric power plant. Workers were hired on site, and most were local people looking for a job. Many were relatively unskilled.

On Monday morning the phone rang at police headquarters and a very upset city manager asked to speak to the chief of police. It seemed that a large group of individuals were causing a problem at the site of the new power plant and city workers were being kept from work. It was unclear what all this meant, but the chief, having come from the north, was relatively sure that this was some kind of union activity. He was right.

The "Boiler Makers" local 386 had gotten wind that non-union workers were being hired to build the new state-of the-art power plant. A few pickets and protesters were sent to force the city to hire the union to complete the project.

The forty-one men, all around 6' tall and well over 200 pounds, were meant to be intimidating. I'm sure they were some type of organized goon squad. Initially, they didn't seem to be much of a problem. The first 40 weren't. They just stood around and made some quasi-threats. The workers refused to cross the picket lines, and work on the new plant stopped for a time. The first eight cops to arrive was the entire day shift, excluding one old-timer left in the city to handle any emergency which might arise.

The mere sight of the cops, seemed to cause some emotional rise in the crowd. It also seemed as if some of the non-union workers had made their way over to the union crowd. It was getting hard to tell who the players were. For some time, the cops just stood around smoking cigarettes and talking. Then the Captain arrived on the scene. As he walked into the group of officers and began shaking their hands, everyone from LPD knew there would be trouble. This guy had no people skills whatever. The sight of him and the sound of his voice pissed people off.

"I brought you guys some gas," the captain said. "I've got it in my car."

Well, maybe that would help, they thought.

By mid-afternoon it was the general consensus that nothing was going to happen. Most of the 41 original demonstrators had gone, and some of the construction had resumed. At around 4:20 pm three unmarked tour buses made their way out Lake Parker Drive and pulled onto the property adjacent to the power plant construction area. The buses began to unload, and it was evident that now there was going to be real trouble. As the nearly 400 men assembled, they yelled threats and obscenities at non-union workers and the police. The Captain, who had been preparing to leave for home, went to a telephone and briefed the Chief, asking for reinforcements.

The department was on some kind of alert. Guys were called at home. Some were poolside, drinking heavily. Others were preparing for shifts later in the day. The Sheriff was notified and asked for any help he might be able to spare. The crowd grew increasingly more hostile.

A sergeant arrived who had seen some National Guard action as part of a riot squad in Miami during the Democratic National Convention. He gave the guys some tips and formed them into some crowd control lines. Then someone remembered that the Florida Highway Patrol had some experience with crowd control in Miami at that same convention. A call went out to them.

Cops began to arrive from all over. They all asked the same question: "Who's in charge here?"

"I am," the Captain would reply. It was nine hours into the operation and a plan had not been formulated. Most of the guys had not eaten or had any water. The union provided their people with food and beverages.

The Sheriff arrived, and not wanting to miss an opportunity to win a few votes, strolled off into the hostile crowd, tipping his cowboy hat and shaking hands. He told them how he supported the unions and would need their votes in order to implement his labor polices. He wouldn't "mind" seeing a union in his own department, he told one sweaty, bearded man. This of course was an out and out lie. When the Sheriff had taken office amid a scandal in the previous administration, he had fired nearly three-fourths of the department without giving a single reason. It was totally legal. Deputy Sheriffs in the state of Florida in those days, according to Florida statutes, "served at the pleasure of the Sheriff." The Sheriff continued his politicking as the crowd became larger and more dangerous.

As dinnertime came and went, someone brought water and ice for everyone, and later some sandwiches arrived. The crowd was becoming more organized and finally a leader approached. He was around 6' 3" tall and weighed approximately 280 lbs. His massive arms stretched the white tee-shirt at the biceps, both of which were adorned with several tattoos. The man carried a two foot length of pipe in his right hand. Fifteen nervous Lakeland Police Officers put their hands on their guns.

The Captain decided it was time for action. These were reasonable people, and certainly they knew the reputation of the Lakeland Police Department. The Captain reached inside his car and turned the selector switch to the "PA" position.

"Gentleman, this is the Lakeland Police Department. We are prepared to use force if necessary to maintain order. We will allow you some time to disperse qui—"

That was all he got out. From somewhere in the back of the crowd came a projectile about the size of an orange. The object, which turned out to be a steel ball bearing, struck the Captain's car windshield, shattering it and throwing glass fragments on several officers.

Many thought a shot had been fired, including the Captain. Sixteen revolvers came out of their holsters and pointed at the seething union members. The Captain had belly-crawled to the back seat of his cruiser and retrieved a canister of "CS" gas. Like an extra from the movie, "Sands of Iwo Jima" the Captain yelled "Clear" and pulling the pin, heaved the can high into the air and into the middle of the crowd of angry union members.

One of the other officers seeing this thought the Captain could use some help deploying the rest of the gas. He opened the back door and looked for the other canisters.

"Where's the rest of the gas?" he asked the Captain.

"That's all there is," he replied with a worried look on his face.

"Are you shittin' me?" the officer asked.

The Captain didn't answer. The gas canister, billowing the tear-inducing smoke, crashed noisily on the hood of the Captain's car, causing a dent and several nearby cops to retreat. Someone in the crowd had picked up the lone gas canister and thrown it back. The crowd advanced and took some additional ground.

Reinforcements for our side began to arrive and a plan was made to advance on the crowd in a line formation. Anyone who approached the line would be arrested and handcuffed. The sheriff sent a paddy wagon for prisoner transport.

The line of about 30 officers began to advance on the crowd. They were equipped with riot helmets and their nightsticks. The model 64 Smith & Wesson revolvers were holstered in the old border patrol type rigs with one snap across the hammer. The guns were easily removed from the holster by a hostile suspect. As the line advanced, utter pandemonium took over.

Whatever they had tried to organize was lost. An all-out slugfest ensued which by some accounts, lasted for hours. In reality it was probably only 30-45 minutes.

What kept the cops alive is unknown. Nobody was seriously injured, and nobody really went to jail. No firearms were lost, although several nightsticks were taken and not returned.

The National Guard was contacted and advised that the Governor would have to give the order. They did assist by providing a large tent, known as a "GP large" to be used as a command post. Some cots were also donated and some of the guys took turns sleeping. Some additional sandwiches were brought out and some changes of clothing were delivered. The scene for all practical purposes resembled a military outpost.

No one had any idea how long the standoff would last or what actions the crowd would take the next morning. Sometime during the night, Officer Kenny Hendrix got cold and decided to light a fire to warm himself. Some branches and scraps of wood were gathered and stacked near the door inside the canvas army tent.

"Maybe you'd better build that outside," one of the rookies suggested.

"Who said that?" Kenny glared at the rookie. The rookie knew his place and shut up.

The fire was started and did provide some warmth. Elsewhere, Officer Mike Butler, a former Indiana State Trooper was standing a post on the perimeter road. The orders were not to allow anything but police vehicles down the road to the power plant. There was no food, no water and he had been on his feet for nearly 24 hours. The only thing that kept Mike going right now was the earlier promise of a couple of hours of sleep in a tent donated by the army, and a couple of sandwiches. As Mike peered into the distance he could see red lights flashing. They seemed to be coming toward him. As the lights got closer, Mike realized the vehicle was a fire engine.

Officer Butler tried to find out where they were going, but the truck didn't stop. The engineer just waved as he passed.

About thirty minutes later, the fire truck passed M.P. Butler on its way out. The engineer again waved and smiled. Mike waved back. About a half-hour after that, one of the new guys relieved the weary officer. As he got into the patrol car and rode the ½ mile back to the command post, he couldn't wait to lie down on that cot and rest a little. As the police car made it around the corner, Mike noticed several officers standing in a group around a large smoldering patch of grass.

"What the hell happened?" Mike asked the driver.

"That fuckin' Hendrix set the tent on fire. Nobody got hurt, but it burned to the ground, cots and all."

Mike just sat there, seething. Finally, he got out of the car. Before he got a sandwich and something to drink, he chased the bewildered Kenny Hendrix around the command post at gunpoint, threatening to shoot his balls off. He was actually too tired to kill Kenny—he didn't feel like doing the paperwork today. But there would be another day.

The power plant standoff continued throughout the week. By Friday, the union realized the city was not going to bend and hire union workers. The crowd dispersed and the Lakeland cops went back to patrol work. That week in March became forever know as the "Power Plant Riots." The captain that week became forever known as "Captain Gas," and Kenny Hendrix was thereafter known as the "Flash".

Because that's exactly what happened when the fire caught that canvas tent. There was a flash and ten cops were sent scrambling and cussing for safety. And the guys became forever known as "The Original Macintosh 15."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thoughts About Thinking

What I'm reading: Certain Prey by John Sandford

This came from a friend yesterday. I thought it was worth sharing. (Make sure you read the final entry--it's my favorite as well. Which one is yours?)

Quotes about thinking (and lack of), prompted by this Niels Bohr's quip: No, no, you're not thinking, you're just being logical.

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. ~Soren Kierkegaard

Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting. ~Edmund Burke

Some people get lost in thought because it's such unfamiliar territory. ~G. Behn

Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once a week. ~George Bernard Shaw

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Sometimes I think and other times I am. ~Paul Valéry

Men who borrow their opinions can never repay their debts. ~George Savile, Marquess de Halifax

Brain, n. An apparatus with which we think that we think. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. ~John F. Kennedy

"I don't mind your thinking slowly, I mind your publishing faster than you can think." Physicist Wolfgang Pauli.

How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress. ~Niels Bohr

And, the grand finale:
Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again? ~Winnie the Pooh

And yes, since tomorrow's Friday, look for another story from Homicide - Hussey

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Plots, Characters and Genre Blending

What I'm reading: The Kissing Game, by Suzanne Brockmann

First – Thanks, thanks, thanks to Lee Lofland for sharing that piece of his life yesterday. (If you haven't read it, scroll down.)

Next month, I'll be on a panel with a group of mystery writers at the Romantic Times convention in Orlando. Our moderator has given us some flexibility with our discussion topic, and I think I'm going to talk about expectations of each genre, and how to blend them, especially since most of the other panelists are straight mystery writers.

In the broadest sense:

Romance: hero and heroine meet, fall in love and have a happily ever after (or promise thereof) at the end of the book. What happens in between is what makes the readers care.

Mystery: some kind of crime is committed, someone figures it out, and the bad guy is caught.

Obviously, those are simplistic explanations, but if a book is on the romance shelf and the hero and heroine don't fall in love and have a potentially happy ending … well, someone put the book on the wrong shelf. Move it to the "literary" section. If the detective doesn't solve the crime by the end of the book, readers will be upset.

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I'm well into chapter 3 of my new manuscript. I'm establishing the mystery first, so I can structure the story around it. It's still blurry, but I'm seeing some shapes forming in the mist. It's not going to be a straight detective story, but a cop showed up in Chapter Two, so there's going to be some kind of investigation. I have almost pinned down the Secret From the Past which is going to be the underlying connection that will tie everything together. I don't need all the details yet. I know there are plotters tearing their hair out, but I'm establishing back story for two secondary characters and The Secret will be in there.

As the author, what I have to figure out is why the secret needs to be kept a secret. It's got to be believable for the reader. So why does my character need to know this secret? What does he lose if he doesn't find it? What does he gain if he does? And why do the characters keeping the secret need to keep it hidden?

Let's face it—there's no story if Character A says, "Hi, Granny. You know that book in the attic with the silver pendant with the funny inscription hidden inside? I need it or someone will kill me. Can I have it?" And if Granny says, "Sure, dear, help yourself," then the book is over right then and there. Characters have to have choices. And they have to be tough ones. If I do A, then this happens which is bad news. But if I do B, then that happens, which is worse."

So, once I have the basic premise sketched out, I need the characters. I know my heroine. Usually the hero comes first, but for some reason, I'm connecting with her. If I look at my computer files, the last 3 books have been in folders bearing the hero's name. This one says "Megan."

In a romance, readers want both the hero and heroine's stories. I remember being at my first SleuthFest and waiting around for my agent appointment, chatting with a mystery writer. He could not understand how you could write a book with TWO main protagonists. He was of the mindset that you had a detective who solved a crime, and there was your story. His eyes glazed over as he tried to grasp the concept of separate but equal protagonists, each with an individual character arc AND a mystery plot.

Okay, 'separate but equal' isn't quite right. In any romance, even with both hero and heroine sharing the page, it's going to end up being more one character's story than the other. Not by much, but it's going to be a 'his book' or a 'her book.' The one I'm writing is definitely leaning into 'her book' territory.

That might be directly related to the fact that I'm not sure who the 'his' in this book is going to be yet. I've got two strong male characters, each with his own problems to deal with, and the heroine is connected to both. I've added a third POV character for the first time.

I did pick up one trick at SleuthFest that I think I'm going to try (especially since I have all the components). Kris Montee (half of the PJ Parrish team) did a workshop on pacing, but she started by explaining that she hated to plot. Her sister, on the other hand, plotted everything. The technique they ended up using was to write the necessary scenes and plot points on sticky notes. Different colored notes for each POV character. Then, by moving them across a white board, they could see where each piece of the puzzle had to fit.

There are some 'givens' in any romance, and likewise, in any mystery. In the former, there's going to be a meeting of hero and heroine, they'll have their first kiss, and so on. In a mystery, there's going to be the discovery of the crime, the suspects, lots of clues and red herrings.

Since I have only the barest of outlines when I start, but lots of ideas for 'stuff' that should happen, I thought I'd give this technique a shot.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It’s Not All Donuts and Paperwork

I'm proud to host guest blogger Lee Lofland today. Some of you may already be familiar with his mega-popular blog, The Graveyard Shift. Lee's bio would be as long as his post, so suffice it to say, the man has credentials. Today, he's sharing some of his experiences working in law enforcement.

It’s Not All Donuts and Paperwork

I got my start in law enforcement as a corrections officer in a maximum-security prison. In our facility, all new C/Os (corrections officers) were required to start out working the graveyard shift, which I did. My sergeant on the midnight shift was a great guy, always filling in for officers who called in sick, needed to go home early, or for those who simply wanted a night off. My boss’s generosity toward his subordinates was quite unusual for a security supervisor in the prison system.

Normally, the white shirts (supervisors wore white shirts; line officers wore blue) working the late-night shifts spent their entire eight hours trying to find things officers had done wrong so they could “write them up.”

I once saw a supervisor crawling on his hands and knees, sneaking up on an officer, hoping to catch her sleeping. My sergeant was quite the opposite. If he could help anyone out of a jam, he did. I’ve even known him to assume a sleepy officer’s post so they could take a break and gather a second wind. Working graveyard in a prison, watching people during their slumber, can be a very monotonous, mind-numbing job.

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My sergeant was a fine man, liked by everyone who’d ever had the pleasure of working with him.

I worked in the prison system until the county sheriff hired me as a patrol deputy, a job I’d had in my sights since my teens.

I’d only been out of the police academy a few months when I received a particularly disturbing emergency call from the dispatcher. She told me a male teenager had barricaded himself inside his house, and was threatening suicide. My heart sank when I heard the address. It was the residence of my former sergeant at the prison. The troubled teen was his son.

I arrived at the house and found my old boss standing in his front yard. He was in uniform, ready for work, and he was extremely distraught. He fought back tears when he told me his son was inside with a loaded shotgun. Then I asked him where he’d last seen his son, and for a detailed description of the layout of the house. He said he hadn’t heard a sound since his son forced him outside. No blast from the shotgun, which was a good thing.

I used the sergeant’s key and went inside, where I found the young man seated on the living room floor. He held the barrel of the shotgun firmly against his chin. His thumb rested on the trigger. The safety was clearly off. His knuckles white from gripping the weapon. And he was crying.

I approached the boy slowly, talking about anything that came to mind—mostly gibberish. But the small talk distracted the boy, allowing me to take a seat on the hardwood floor beside him—no easy feat for a guy my size, wearing a gun belt, a Kevlar vest, and polished dress shoes. In a matter of seconds, I was sweating profusely. Every nerve in my body stood at attention. The gadgets on my belt dug into the tender flesh at my waist.

I was uncomfortable, but I didn’t dare move a muscle. I talked to the kid for twenty minutes, or so, with my eyes fixed on the trigger and the thumb that rested on it. He’d bitten the nail to the quick.

Finally, he relaxed his grip for a second and I made my move, grabbing the shotgun barrel with one hand and his trigger hand with my other. In one motion, I slid the shotgun across the floor and handcuffed the teenager.

I sat him upright and then he collapsed against me, crying uncontrollably. I held him until the tears stopped, and then we talked. I listened to his troubles, and then I explained what had to happen next—he’d be going in for a psychiatric evaluation. I also told him to call me if he ever felt the need to harm himself again. I let him know that I was there for him, as his dad had been for me, many times.

When he was ready, we stood and went outside. I don’t think the air had ever smelled any fresher, nor had there ever been a brighter moon.

Lee Lofland, a former police detective, is the author of Police Procedure and Investigation, A Guide For Writers, a 2008 Macavity nominee for best non-fiction mystery. He is a nationally acclaimed expert on police procedure and crime-scene investigation. You can learn more about Lee at his website, or at his blog The Graveyard Shift

Monday, March 23, 2009

Can you be TOO Positive?

What I'm reading: Draycott Eternal, by Christina Skye

Finding a Top Pick review for What's in a Name? from Night Owl Romance was a great spirit lifter for the weekend. It's easier to find the bright side when you start with something positive. But, as a reminder that there can be to much of a good thing, I thought I'd share this clip.

And, because I had a great brainstorming session with friends yesterday, I'm going to tackle some (ugh) plotting. It's back story, but I need to know what happened in the past to bring the characters together. We had great fun playing "What If?" And the story seems more complex, both in the mystery and the romance threads. In fact, I haven't quite decided who the hero is yet. However, it's clamoring for a third point of view character. So, this is a short post. I have work to do.

Be sure to check back tomorrow when my guest is Lee Lofland: retired cop, award-winning author, and host of a highly rated blog, The Graveyard Shift.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Homicide - Hussey: Cop humor - Blue Moon

And here's the conclusion of the chapter Detective Hussey entitled "Blue Moon". It was a very long chapter, so I broke it into 4 parts. Billy is back again -- if you haven't read the first three segments, I suggest you do so first.

Several years after the death of John Thileson, on a brutally hot Friday night in August, a sixteen-year-old girl was spending the night with her girlfriend. According to police reports, the girlfriend's step-father crept into the guest room and sexually assaulted Cynthia Parnell. It was a crying Cynthia who called her father at 1:10AM and brought him and several officers from the police department.

Shortly after the step-father's arrest for sexual battery, a sleepy Lieutenant Andy Yatchesky, who was now in charge of the department's Criminal Investigation Bureau, fumbled for the telephone. "No, I just got to sleep," he wearily told the dispatcher. "I'll be right down."

The midnight shift was now in charge, and one of the colorful and sometimes unbalanced members of that shift was Officer Billy Hyatt. He had recently transferred to the night shift so he could be left alone. Tonight was Billy's turn to answer the PBX switchboard and man the front desk. Usually the desk was worked by a trainee, someone who was injured, or in this case, the next man in the rotation. It was considered mundane duty, and no policeman worth his salt wanted to be inside on the midnight shift.

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It was nearly 2:30 when Lieutenant Yetchesky came in—bleary eyed, carrying his jumbo cup of 7-11 coffee. He nodded at Officer Hyatt and climbed the stairs to the bureau offices. Andy unlocked the door, turned on the lights and took a seat at the secretary's desk.

The old C.I.B. offices were located at the top of a stairway on the second floor of the police department. When you got to the top of the stairs you saw an opaque glass door with "Criminal Investigations" emblazoned in large orange letter. To the left of the door were two 4'x 8' clear glass windows, painted green from the floor to about 3 feet high. This allowed people coming up the stairs to see the secretary seated at her desk, and in turn it allowed the secretary to see anyone who might be approaching the C.I.B. offices. Also in this office vestibule were two metal chairs. The backs of the chairs were placed against the glass windows, facing the secretary's desk. This allowed the secretary to continue watching for anyone coming in, while keeping an eye on suspects and witness who might be seated in the chairs, waiting to see detectives.

It was at this secretary's desk that Lieutenant Yetchesky had positioned himself. His office was cluttered with paperwork from the day before, and although he would normally have conducted an interview in what would undoubtedly be a high profile case there, he was relatively sure he would be undisturbed this time of the morning.

One of the new patrol officers escorted the victim and her father upstairs to the detective bureau. Andy did not know the patrolman. God, they look so young, Andy thought.

The girl and her father were ushered into the chairs in front of the desk. Both looked as if they'd been crying. Andy knew it would be a long night.
The interview continued well into the morning. It was painful for all involved, and Andy was unsure of the time. He was however, vaguely aware of some movement on the stairwell landing outside the windows. He was deep into the interview.

As the lieutenant looked up to ask another pertinent question, he realized what he had heard. There, in the window, between the heads of the victim and witness was the face of a balding, veteran police officer. It wasn't his normal face though—it was contorted, tongue lolling from one side of his mouth and—What the hell was hanging from his nose?

This is all I need, Andy thought. Billy Hyatt continued to change his facial expressions from one to another. The lieutenant continued the interview, trying not to acknowledge the presence of the officer outside the window.

Now one thing Billy hated worse than anything was being ignored. It hadn't worked at home when he was a kid, it hadn't worked in school, and it didn't work now. Billy had always been a force to be reckoned with. He wasn't happy until someone was begging him to stop.

Andy actually had more questions, but decided to cut the interview short. "Do you have anything to add?" Andy inquired of the victim's father? Billy's face had left the window. Thank God, Andy thought, breathing a sigh of relief. He'd have to have a talk with Officer Hyatt.

As the father continued to describe the fate he hoped awaited the rapist of his daughter, the Lieutenant noticed more movement outside the windows. Hyatt was back. This time he had pushed the back of a chair, carefully and quietly, up against the window. What the hell was he up to now?

Andy didn't have to wait long to find out. A feeling of sickness traveled through him. It seemed like the temperature in that room had gone down twenty degrees. He could no longer concentrate on the words of the witness. There, outside the glass windows of the C.I.B. offices, a police officer in full uniform had removed his gun belt and was undoing his pants.

"I can't fuckin' believe it," Andy muttered to himself.

"What?"the startled father asked.

"Nothing," Andy said quickly.

All of a sudden Andy Yatchesky's worst fears were realized. There, in the window, and at the same level of the faces of the people he was interviewing, was the hairy, naked backside of Officer William Hyatt.

The Lieutenant panicked. He was biting his lip, he was shuffling papers, he was trying to think. Maybe he could get them into the back without them seeing it. No, surely when they stood up they'd see it. How would he explain it?

Of course when all was said and done, Andy realized it would end up his responsibility.

The sweaty, brown asshole remained pressed against the glass for what seemed to Andy like an eternity. His mouth was dry by now, and he had resigned himself to the fact that any minute, the little girl would look up, see the unthinkable, scream, and his career would be over. Then just as suddenly as it had appeared, the rear end was gone. As Billy climbed down, the back of the chair banged against the window. Cindy's father turned his head to the glass.

"What was that?" he asked.

"Don't know," Andy said hoarsely, looking down, wiping his brow, and knowing his career was over.

The interview was concluded and a very shaky, weary, Lieutenant Yatchesky locked the door to the bureau and escorted the Parnells downstairs. Officer Hyatt was seated back at the desk and talking on the phone. As they passed by, Billy waved and said, "Have a good night."

Mr. Parnell remarked what a nice officer he was.

"Oh yeah, a real peach." Blue Moon.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Being a Writer

What I'm reading: Stranger in Paradise, by Robert B. Parker

I met an aspiring author friend at my local Barnes & Noble yesterday. I arrived early, so I stopped to chat with the store's Community Relations Manager, who sets up book signings and other events. Our RWA chapter has a group signing scheduled for May 9th, and I wanted to check to see if there would be problems getting my books. Sadly, there often are, as they're not with the big NY publishing houses. However, the CRM is very good about supporting local authors, and makes every effort to accommodate them. I have to admit, it impressed my friend, when he said, "I want to see your book on the shelf." We walked back to the Romance section, and I headed down the alphabet. He stopped and said, "Here it is!"

And there it was...

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We talked about the writing business. The process of being published. We talked about story structure. He showed me his first few pages on the novel he's been reworking. We chatted about writing in first versus third person. How much harder it can be to confine yourself to one character's head. I offered a few suggestions on ways to make the thoughts sound like they truly came from the character and weren't on the page so the author could sneak in what the guy was wearing. He started making notes.

We talked about openings, which, coming right on the tail of Tracy Montoya's workshop, were fresh in my mind--not to mention that's where I am in my current project. He said exactly what I'd said, and what so many beginners say. "But I have to show you who the character is, what he does, what his life is like, so you'll understand what he does when the exciting stuff happens."

I told him I'd cut the first eight chapters down to three in one of my earlier books. That yes, the details were important, but to ask himself, "Does the reader need to know this NOW?" And that "It gets good in chapter 4" wasn't going to work if he was trying to hook an agent, editor, or even an impatient reader. Get chapter 4 into chapter 1 and filter in all the other stuff as the need arises. He scribbled more notes, and I had this panicky feeling. What do I know? I'm a newbie myself.

But he said he'd had many people look at his work, but I was the only one with 5 books published. My words had credibility. He also, thank goodness, seemed strong enough in his convictions to ignore me if he thought I was wrong, "credentials" or not.

Before long, an hour and a half had sped by, and we both left feeling better about being writers.

But just to make sure I didn't get too cocky about being a real writer, I got home to an email from my agent with another rejection letter. However, this is the year I resolved to be more like Frankie Castor in When Danger Calls, and find the bright side. The letter said, "consensus was ..." Consensus. That means more than one person looked at it. That it didn't hit some assistant's desk and get trashed immediately. It took more than one person to decide on, "no thanks."

Back on March 5th, I mentioned I was an "ambassador" for the "Go Green, Read e" project. I've blogged about Carbon Footprints at GreenBookFriends today.

Be sure to come by tomorrow for the next installment of cop humor from Homicide Hussey!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday Wanderings

What I'm reading: Secret Prey by John Sandford

Did you enjoy yesterday's post on Body Language? Want to read Part 2? Lise Fuller is continuing her article at her blog, Danger Zone. More great stuff. Thanks for starting here, Lise.

When writing, we're often told to be careful about references to current slang, celebrities, fashion--anything that might date our work and shorten its appeal, not to mention that taking shortcuts by describing characters as looking like a particular actor will fizzle if the reader (often me) doesn't know what the guy looks like.

We've been catching up on classic movies with our Netflix subscription. Last week it was Citizen Kane. Hubby and I both kept looking at each other, saying, "This sounds like today, not 1941." I guess there are some things in human nature that will never change.

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Although I'm still revising one of my earlier books, I've been toying with a totally new manuscript, not exactly sure what direction to take, and dealing with the inevitable doubts. Should I write more of the same? Try something new? I browsed my collection of writing quotes. A few seemed timely.

You must actually sit at a desk and do the hard work of pounding out words on a keyboard or scribbling them on to paper. You must keep at it from page one to the end. You must commit.
~Katie Merz (editor). Writing and Selling Your First Book (2003)

In my opinion, what makes a writer is the doing it. Day after day, it's the hunger to be better. To create. A willingness to take the knocks when they come. To work through the days when it feels like you are doing the writing equivalent of pushing a turnip through a fine sieve. And then, again, it's about loving the writing when you hit a groove that makes the process feel pure magic.
~ Natasha Oakley, Living the Creative Life

That's it for today - I'm meeting a writing colleague for coffee. It's nice to chat with someone who understands the writer's life.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Body Speak

OK, the green in this intro is about as far into St. Patrick's Day as it's going to get here. If you're celebrating, enjoy! Today's guest is author Lise Fuller. There's more to language than words. See what she has to say about Body Language.

Why to Include Body Language in Your Writing

When most people hear the term “body language” they think of the visual – movements that some other person makes while speaking. However, there is so much more. And some, but not all, of it is hardwired in our brains. Still, face-to-face communication involves all the senses—sight, smell, sound, touch, taste. More than that, it involves culture, sex, and varies in meaning across generations.
But first and foremost, it involves you. How you perceive what is going on. Communications is a two-way street—even if a person isn’t speaking. It involves sending and receiving, and how the messages are interpreted between the parties involved. This is important. The ‘what’ of how we perceive speaks to us. According to some studies, the body itself actually says between 50% - 90% of all face-to-face communication. And if you need proof, think about this. Everyone knows you shouldn’t be texting or calling on your cellphone while driving because it’s dangerous. Why? If you have a passenger in your car, you talk to them? You glance at them, banter with them, sometimes even hold their hand or more if they’re a significant other.

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But the difference is this: When another person is in the car, he or she sends signals to you other than in the words of what they say, and your body, whether you consciously recognize it or not, picks up these cues. If something is happening, you catch the clues of the body from another pair of eyes, and you react to it, making the driving safer. The gasps, the laughter, the sight of someone gripping the handle that hangs from the top (yes, the one you put your dry cleaning on). You read these, at least some part of your mind does. You don’t have this from a cellphone. The other person can’t see where you are or where you’re going. There are no non-verbals or paralanguage (voice modulation, etc.) from them that speak to you. That’s what makes the conversations on a technology dangerous.

Now, again, the “speaking” isn’t just the visual. It’s all the senses. Think of a phone conversation. You can’t see the person, but often you can hear the emotion in their tone. Their voice cracks or hitches if they’ve been crying, or they emphasize words in a particular way that lets you know they’re upset or happy. Hey, we all were children at one point. Remember your mother yelling at you? I wouldn’t see her, but if she yelled “Lise!”, man, I knew I was going to get it.

Here’s some more: Everyone’s heard of pheromones and their role in sex, but did you know that scientists have now documented some herd responses in humans, such as really smelling fear, to the extent that others respond to this? And what about handshakes? Is the person’s grip hard? Firm? Weak? Everyone judges others. It’s a survival instinct. So when someone shakes your hand, what does that tell you? What does that mean between cultures? In the USA a firm handshake is the best. It says you’re confident yet not so controlling, but that isn’t true across the globe. Then there’s taste. Did you know that women will often decide a guy isn’t right for them after they’ve kissed them? Why? Because there’s something in the way the guy tastes.
These are just examples. And most of you, whether you recognize it or not, are actually pretty good at reading the signals. So, why should you put them in your writing?

Several reasons (and I’m sure you can think of more):
1. It makes the story more tactile, more real
2. It can be used to put the reader in the characters head and emotions
3. Use it to move the story forward
4. Use it to enrich the character
5. Use as a character tag

And you want to make sure you use power words & phrases. Instead of “anger welled within him”, you could say, “he beat the brick wall until his hands bled.” That’s pretty descriptive.

That’s it for now. Thanks for following with me.

Note: If you would like to know more on using body language in your writing, check out the Danger Zone authors blog Wednesday, March 18th.

Lise Fuller is the multi-published author of action adventure romantic suspense. Her titles include On Danger's Edge, Intimate Deceptions, and Cutting Loose. Visit her at her website, www.lisefuller.com

Monday, March 16, 2009

Boys and Their Toys

Weekend reading: Night and Day, by Robert B. Parker, I'll be Watching You, by Tracy Montoya, Invisible, by Kimber Chin

I've updated my website, which now includes my Dialogue Basics handout. Of course, I'll still email a PDF version to anyone who requests it. Just send me an email. And, until my limited supply runs out, I'm running a personal special on personalized, autographed books. Buy both Finding Sarah and the sequel, Hidden Fire and get a deep discount off the listed retail prices.

Other recent happenings. Our son and a colleague hit Florida for a photo vacation. He brought more toys than Santa, but he got some great shots.

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Of course, if there's a great place for photography, others will find it as well.

Hubby joined them for the weekend. They were out after birds.

Great Egret

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret


Red-bellied woodpecker

And then, we got to watch a totally different kind of bird -- this shot of the shuttle launch from our driveway.

Join me tomorrow when special guest Lise Fuller will discuss Body Language.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Homicide - Hussey: Cop humor - part 3

Welcome back to the continuation of last week's post from Homicide Detective Hussey. If you missed it, you'll want to read it first to refresh your memory about Billy, the practical joker and the rest of the players And perhaps it's a fitting post for a Friday the 13th--the second in two months.

Where we left off ... Also in November, Sergeant Andy Yatchesky was working internal affairs out of the office of the Chief of Police. Andy was growing accustomed to the chief's daily tirades and was always looking for a way to get on his good side. Officer Billy Hyatt knew that the Sergeant would love some information that no one else had. Billy formulated a plan.....

"Mornin Sarge," Billy said as he met Yatchesky in the lobby.

"Officer Hyatt, how are you?"

"Okay," Billy replied, "but did you hear about Inspector Thileson?"

"No." The Sergeant looked interested.

"He died this morning." Billy's voice trailed off and he tried to look sad.

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"Who told you?"

"His wife called me early this morning. He just fell asleep and didn't wake up. We were really close." Billy's face was stone sober as he laid it on.

"I'd better tell the Chief," Andy said and walked briskly away.

Billy found some paperwork to keep busy until the Sergeant returned.

"Thank you for the information, Billy," Andy said. "The Chief hadn't heard the news. He called the City Manager and funeral arrangements are being made."

"Holy shit." Billy jumped up out of his chair. "You didn't tell the Chief that shit did you?"

Andy turned ghost white. "What are you saying? Oh my God Billy, I'm not taking the fall for this. If this is another one of your sick jokes, you're through. I'll kill you."

Billy didn't hear the rest. He was running out the back door and getting into his car. The sergeant was still screaming when Billy squealed out of the parking lot at 9:05 am.

A number of calls were left with Billy's wife that day with instructions to call as soon as he returned. An APB was broadcast to all units with orders to bring Officer Hyatt to the station immediately upon contact (DEAD OR ALIVE). But Billy Hyatt was nowhere to be found. He had just disappeared.

That afternoon at 3:28 PM, in the oncology ward of the Lakeland General Hospital, Inspector Jim Thileson "succumbed to a prolonged illness," or so the obituary read.

Andy Yatchesky will tell you, though he has no proof, he believes Officer Hyatt, who has no alibi to this day for his activities of that fateful afternoon, had a hand in the coincidental death of the much maligned Inspector.

Andy wasn't too upset though, because the Chief and the City Manager had the funeral plans already in the works and came off like the heads up guys that they were. Although the Chief saw the time on the death certificate and remarked to his secretary that it must be a mistake, he never questioned it. Sergeant Andy Yatchesky became Lieutenant Andy Yatchesky and decided to keep his mouth shut too.

The men of the Lakeland Police Department especially the midnight shift got their revenge also. After taking a ten-eight, they would drive to the Spur gas station, where they would consume copious amounts of black coffee. Between two and three AM, when their bladders could stand the pressure no longer, they would make their way to the city cemetery.

As they drove through the large wrought iron gates, they would kill the lights to their cruisers and stealthily coast to the rear of the cemetery and find the final resting place of Inspector Thileson. Each night without fail, several of the faithful would gather there to relieve themselves on the grass and headstone, which bore the inspector's name. Sometimes there would be a line. It became a ritual among those who had known him well.

As one patrolman said, "It is a fitting tribute."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What's in a Label?

What I'm reading: Rogue's Challenge, by Jo Barrett

In case you're not aware, this is Read an E-book Week. If you're not familiar with reading digital books, this might be a great time to give it a try. A lot of publishers and e-bookstores are making free reads available. Not sure you're ready for an e-book reading device? Try a short story, more easily read on a computer.

The way I see it, digital books shouldn't be thought of as a way to replace print, but rather, to give readers an alternative. A choice.

Onward ... Today at the Y, I got into two very interesting discussions.

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The first was with a woman who knows I'm a writer. Now, she's an avid reader and volunteers at the library, so it's not that she's someone (although I still can't understand how they exist) who just doesn't read.

She read a few of my Wild Rose Press short stories, but says she doesn't read my genre enough to be interested in trying one of my novels. But today she stopped me and told me I'd be interested to know she was reading a "trashy book."

I smiled and mentioned that we all have our own definitions of "trash", and that there are different levels for different readers. I told her I write what I consider to be mystery books, but because there's a strong relationship that ends on a positive note, they're called Romance, even though they're not the short Harlequin category books, which is what most people think of when you say "romance."

She went on to ask who decided what kind of a book it was. I told her that ultimately, it's the publisher's decision. When Danger Calls is action adventure, and if it was lying on a table, the cover would definitely not say, "This is a Romance."

Finding Sarah is another book that I think is as much mystery as romance. The cover (which I really like) doesn't scream "Romance" either. The sequel, Hidden Fire, which to me is much more of a mystery book, definitely says "I'm a Romance."

Next, I bumped into a couple, also a bit older than I am--but not that much -- who had bought When Danger Calls. The gentleman said he'd read the book and was a bit confused. I asked him to explain. He said he was about halfway through before he realized he just might be reading a ... romance. He enjoyed the book, but we got back into that label discussion I'd just had. (Yes, I did actually work out -- these conversations took place before and after.) His wife has just started the book, and I'm sure she's going to read it differently.

Does it matter what you call it if it's a good story? The gentleman will probably never admit to anyone that he read and enjoyed a ... romance. But he did.

Come back tomorrow -- I'll be sharing part 3 of Cop Humor, provided by "Homicide - Hussey"

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tracy Montoya on Openers

What I'm reading: Highlander's Challenge by Jo Barrett

Yesterday's guest brought out lots of nostalgic food memories. Thanks again to Jennifer Johnson for sharing.

A couple of promotional bits -- I'm one of the featured authors at The Romance Studio for March. The interview, featuring When Danger Calls, is here.

Also - if you belong to a book club and are interested in reading When Danger Calls for discussion, the publisher is offering a very nice discount. Email me for details.

And, if you missed the post where I offered a copy of my Dialogue Basics handout, you can email me and request that one as well.

On Saturday, our RWA chapter hosted author Tracy Montoya who spoke about openings, pacing, and compelling scenes.
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She shared "The Worst Novel Opener in the World" -- her own designation, and since she wrote it, she's not harming anyone's reputation.

If you're an author, you want your reader to be dragged into the story on page one. Paragraph one. Even sentence one. If you're trying to sell, you want that agent or editor to keep reading. And if you ask agents and editors how many pages they read when they get submissions, they'll say they read until there's a reason to stop. If they're not caught up, that might be after the first paragraph. No use in saying, "It gets really good in chapter seven." It's got to be that good on page one. An opening sentence can bias the editor's opinion of what comes next.

Start in the midst of the action, Tracy recommends. Caveat: you want the reader to be curious, not confused. You want them to ask compelling questions. You want them to care about the characters and want them to wonder what's going to happen next, right from the opening paragraph.

OK -- I'm not a plotter. And as I'm reworking one of my novels, I'm playing with a new one. Since my agent recommended holding off on writing another Blackthorne, Inc. story, I figured it might be a good time to start from scratch. My approach tends to be, "write something and see where it takes you. Then develop the characters, then the story."

So, after the workshop, I went and looked at my opening few paragraphs. Are there any questions that arise? What do you think? Are your questions the 'good' kind, or do they fall into that, "Why should I care?" category?

Lights flashed on her phone like lightning bugs on steroids. Megan pressed the intercom button. "Crystal, I've got to get this proposal finished for Mr. Davidson. Can you please handle these calls?"

Damn, Megan missed Sandi. Consoling herself that her efficient and unflappable secretary would be back in two weeks, Megan kept most of the aggravation out of her tone. "Tell them I'll get back to them."

"I'm sorry Ms. Wyatt. I tried, but they insisted it was important. I said you were away from your desk, like you told me, but they kept saying they'd hold. Like they knew I was lying."

Of course they did. The kid couldn't stretch the truth, much less lie, even over the phone. Crystal seemed on the verge of tears, as if she'd shatter like her name. Again. That's what Megan got for letting Human Resources send her a wet-behind-the-ears temp instead of someone inside the company to fill in while her secretary was away. So what if it was Sandi's honeymoon. She should have been able to predict that March would be hell month before she picked her wedding date.

Megan took a cleansing breath. "It's okay, Crystal. Who do I have waiting?"

There was a shuffling sound, as if Crystal was consulting her notes. Good. At least she realized her memory wasn't reliable.

"Mr. Holland, Miss Breckenridge, Mr. Davis or Davidson or something like that, and … and someone named Angie, who said you'd know who she was and to put her right through. I told them all you'd call back, but they—"

Shit. Angie? Calling her at work? She stared at the flashing lights. "Which line is Angie?"

Thoughts, anyone? Is there any reason to care about Megan? To wonder what happens next? Or do you put the book back on the shelf and pick up another one to sample? And why?