Who’s who?

Tucker card front

People who have read my books and who know me, come up all of the time and tell me that they know who the characters are in my books. Like they are in on the conspiracy, wink wink, nod nod. It is interesting who they think that the characters are, considering that I don’t know who they are. Yes, I will admit that certain characteristics of certain people find their way into my characters. It would be pretty hard to write a novel and take particular care not to base any of the characteristics of the any of the characters on anyone I’ve ever known. But there is one character in my novels who is based on real life. That would be Tucker. You know, first book, therapy dog named Tucker gets dognapped. Case of the Missing Tucker.

I got the idea for that novel before I even thought about Tucker, and there were other dogs who belong to friends and relatives who popped in and out of my head while I was thinking about which dog would be my missing dog, but Tucker stuck. Tucker was the perfect dog for the story. And while in real life Tucker has never been dognapped and held for ransom by some ne’er-do-well named Higgins, Tucker does live with my cousin Beth, and he is a famous therapy dog.

My cousin Beth sent me one of his recently printed trading cards. A therapy dog with trading cards. If he had had trading cards when I wrote that book, I certainly would have figured out a way to incorporate it into the story. But he didn’t. I guess I could just write another novel with Tucker and his trading cards in it. Maybe, we’ll see.

There is one other character that is based on a real live person. That person said that she wanted to be a character in one of my novels, so I wrote her into one of the stories that has been published, and I just wrote her into another that is coming soon. She makes a good character. I’ll let you all figure out who that is on your own.

Printer woes.

We arrived at our place in San Juan on the fifteenth of January, just in time for the San Sebastian street festival, and considering that we live on San Sebastian Street, called Calle San Sebastian down here, our first weekend was riotous for sure. We had great fun, but when the festival was over it was back to work.

When we got here, I had but four or five chapters to go with Case of the Welch Avenue Wizards. Those last chapters always go fast. I’ve got most of the story told by then and I know how it is going to end. The trick is to let it end. Sometimes I push it and then when I go over it later I have to massage it. It feels better to nail it the first time through. So I finished the first draft in short order. All in all, the rewrite went pretty smoothly. There were some rough places, but that’s to be expected. Then came the first edit, some more polishing, and then we came to the point in the process where we format the manuscript and print out a copy on the printer to go over together before I upload it to the online builder where it becomes a book eventually. That’s where the woes begin.

The last time we were down here was in September, so the printer has been sitting here dormant for many months, first of all. Secondly, we don’t know how much black ink was still in the cartridge when we left, but regardless, we were not getting any ink to come out of it. No problem, they carry printer ink at the Walgreens down the hill a half dozen blocks.

So down we go to Walgreens. No problem, and we had to send a postcard from the post office on the way. Yes, Walgreens has printer ink, every cartridge it seems but the one we need. That’s too bad, but what the heck, it means a trip to Office Max, which is next to the mall. In San Juan, we live in a big city, and like most big cities parking is at a premium and public transportation rules. Between busses, taxis, Uber and walking, we get anywhere we want to go quite easily without our own car. So we Ubered to the mall, spent a couple hours there, then walked over to Office Max. Great, we got our ink cartridge, caught an Uber back, and we are in business.

Yesterday Denise got the whole book formatted, searched for some possible errors in consistency, and printed the manuscript. That’s when we learned something. We learned that the standard ink cartridge for our printer down here will print 250 pages. Welch Avenue Wizards is 295 pages. Dang, looks like another trip to the mall.
In the meantime, I started writing my next novel, Case of the Femme Fatale. I’m three chapters into it already. But for now, the Welch Avenue Wizards is on the way. We are close. All that is left is the final touches and a cover, and we are up and going. I think that if you are a fan of the G&B Detective Agency, you are going to like it. I’m excited, both to get Wizards done and available, and to sink my teeth into Femme Fatale. That one is going to be fun.

New books, Edgar Awards, and a nice note from a friend.

Here is an update on what is going on at the G&B Detective Agency. I finished up the first draft of The Case of The Welch Ave. Wizards. I’ve started on the rewrite and it is going pretty well. It should not take long. After that it goes through editing and then I will polish it up.

Edgar Awards Nominees 2019

The official list of nominees for the Edgar Award came out, and yours truly is not on it. Honestly, it is a truly prestigious award and I’m glad that I entered. There is always next year. On the up side, my Kindle Select account showed a very noticeable uptick in all of my books shortly after I sent Case of the Cold Case in for judging. I can only hope that some people took notice of my writing. Anyway, it was a good experience.

Here’s where I stand now with the G&B Detective Agency: I’m going to put Case of the Cold Case back for a little while. I might enter it into another competition if I can find one that is a good fit. The Welch Ave. Wizards is coming along nicely and I hope to publish it soon. I’m shooting for April or May. The seed for G&B Detective Agency: Case of the Femme Fatal has been planted and it is starting to sprout. I’m anxious to get my table cleared and to start writing it.

“Hi Rollie! I read the 3 books in a row and I loved them! They are so funny and engaging! I particularly enjoyed the insights on police work. I read a lot and I found these so interesting and refreshing! Thank you for creating such wonderful characters! Already waiting for the next one! Say hi to Denise!
Edlyn”

Thanks all, for the support. I recently got this very nice text from a friend and neighbor of ours in Puerto Rico. She read all three of my books back to back. I am so happy that people enjoy them, and I’m especially happy when they get back to me with such a nice note. I’ll try to post a little more often and keep you all up on the latest.

And now a word from my editor.

 

When it comes to being an indie author I’m pretty lucky. Indie authors generally have to send a fully formatted and edited book to the publisher. They also have to supply their own cover art. If an indie author wants to compete with the traditional publishers who have their own in-house editors and artists, they are going to have to find their own editor and pay for those services. Unfortunately, a lot of indie authors forego these two most important steps in the process to save money, and it shows. This is where I’m lucky. I want to introduce you to my editor.

Denise actually lives in Ames, so that is convenient. She is a native of Story City, IA and an Iowa State University graduate. She holds a BA and an MA in English. For a time she worked as an editor for ISU Press. She then went to Engineering Animation, Inc., as a technical writer, then to Quester IT as Manager of Content Development, and then to Phasient Learning Technologies where she served as a Director of Content Development and retired as VP of operations. Quite a good resume for a guy like me to snag up. The luckiest thing about it though is that Denise is my wife. If you want to keep publishing costs down, marry your editor. I will add that Denise’s sister is a graphic designer for a grocery chain, and also my designer for the covers of all of my books. So you might say, when it comes to in house editors and artists, the big boys got nothing on me.
I asked Denise to talk a bit about our editing process:

For us, editing begins as Rollie is outlining the story in his head, often before he even sits down at the computer to write. He talks about what Max and Skip and the gang are doing, and we talk through ideas of how that might go. So I know the story from the outset.

By the time Rollie publishes one of his books, I have read it at least three times. I start the substantive edit before he finishes his second draft, reading two or three chapters at a time to catch inconsistencies in the storyline, discrepancies with characters and places, any flow issues and grammatical errors that catch my eye. I follow the Chicago Manual of Style and keep a style sheet for consistency both within and across the books. We discuss things like flow and character development, and I might suggest alternate wording or even changes to scenes if it feels necessary. I perform this edit on the computer, right in the chapter files. Small edits I just make, while larger things I either flag for discussion or we hash out as I go. We don’t always agree.

Once the substantive edit is complete and all the changes accepted, I compile the separate chapters into the template to make the book. It took us a while to find a process that works best, but by Where the Hell is Angie? I feel like we have a system that catches most problems. For the first copyedit, I print out the book and we read it side by side at the dining room table: I read each page, marking each change on the page and flagging the page with a post-it flag, then Rollie reads the page and tries to catch anything I miss. When we get through the entire book, I enter the changes in the document and Rollie uploads the book to the printer and orders a proof.

When the proof arrives, we do a final proofread together. For Case of the lonelyfarmer.com, we happened to be on a road trip at this stage, and we discovered that me reading the book aloud to Rollie caught errors that my eyes alone didn’t catch. So now we take a vacation at the proofread stage so we can take advantage of long stretches of time together. (Does this practice also make the trip tax deductible? I must remember to ask Eric, our tax preparer!) For this stage, I again make edits in the book and flag pages with post-it flags. By this point, we hope to find only typos and misplaced commas, but this time we found a spot where the two bikers (you’ll have to read Angie to see who I mean) eat lunch twice on the same day, a few chapters apart. Oops!

Max, Skip, Monica, Milton and the rest are old friends by now. I look forward to each new book so we can catch up.

Where the Hell is Angie?

The creative process of writing a novel is just one part of the equation. I always enjoy writing them, but at the end of the last chapter, I know that my work has just begun. It is actually kind of a letdown. I get done writing it and for a moment I think, wow, I actually wrote a book, a three hundred page book, then the realization hits me, I’m nowhere near done, I actually have to work on it. But when it is all re-written, edited, re-edited, the art work for the cover is chosen, the layout is finished, everything is sent to the publisher, checked and checked again, and then I get to see my book for sale, it is all worth it.

The third novel in the G&B Detective Agency series is written, edited, published and available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. It is titled G&B Detective Agency: Where the Hell is Angie? The official publish date was September 5.  It usually takes a little while after it is published for everything to fall into place. What I mean is that when the book is published and goes into distribution, it goes through a week or so where it just roams around out there in the web finding its way. But it has settled in and now it is easily found, easily gotten.  It feels good to get it done and out to readers.

Just to let you all know, book four, Case of the Cold Case, is started. I’m a little more than halfway through the first draft. People ask me if there is another one coming, and so yes, there is. It is looking pretty good. I think everyone will like it. Here’s a teaser: Case of the Cold Case is a bit dark. I felt like Where the Hell is Angie? got a little more intense than the other two, but Cold Case is going to be, without a doubt, darker. That’s all I’m going to say about it for now. You’ll just have to wait.

It is all about me.

Getting my books out there to people and getting them to read my books is harder than writing them. Since the Facebook Community Boost seminar early this summer I’ve been putting some effort toward expanding my base. One thing that I’ve been told is that people now-a-days want to get to know the author better. So I am going to write about myself today. Now most of you probably already know me well enough. I appreciate all the support that I’ve gotten from you all, but I’m asking a favor today. I’m asking if you can share me with people who might not know me as well. I want everyone to read my books, and I need some help.

Let’s get right to it, I’m from Iowa. I was born at Mary Greeley Hospital on June 2, 1950. I grew up just outside of Shipley, Iowa and attended Shipley school through 6th grade, then I went to school in Nevada, the town, not the state. I lived in Council Bluffs after I graduated from high school while I attended school there for a few years, I did a hitch in the Navy, lived in Jacksonville, Florida for a few years, and then came back to Iowa. That’s it in a nutshell.

I believe that education is next. I graduated from Nevada High School in 1968. I went to trade school at Iowa Western Community College and got an Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic certification. When I was in the Navy I took correspondence courses through the University of Rhode Island. Then I went to Florida Junior College and graduated with an AA in journalism. I went on to Iowa State University and graduated in 1981 with a BA in English. I might add that in there somewhere I graduated from the Des Moines Police academy. I’ve done a lot of graduating it seems.

Now, a list of jobs I’ve held down, hopefully in order: farm boy, construction worker, ranch hand, airplane mechanic, sailor, campus security officer, auto parts salesman, welder, college student, construction worker again, police officer, airplane mechanic again, probation officer, aquatics center supervisor/lifeguard/lifeguard instructor, and detective novel writer. That’s all of the jobs that I can remember right now.

Next is hobbies. Well, I would have to put writing detective novels at the top of this list. I know that I put it in the list of jobs, but really it is more of a hobby that has gotten out of hand. Ukulele player. Yes, I am a ukulele player and a passable singer. I tell people who ask me about my music that I’m not great as a ukulele player and singer, but I’m good enough. I have a few other hobbies that keep me busy. I like to ride my bicycle and I get out once in a while metal detecting. I used to do some hunting and fishing, but not so much anymore. But most of all I like to write.

So that is about it for me. This is actually a little longer than I wanted it to be. I guess there is more to me than I thought. But the bloggers these days say that if an author wants to get their books out there they have to let people get to know them, so this is who I am.

Marketing

Marketing. If you could see me right now you would see a guy who doesn’t want to think about marketing. Every time I think about marketing I wonder if I had chosen to go the traditional publishing route instead of going the indie route, if I would still have to market my books, or if my publisher would just do it for me and I could spend all of my time writing detective novels. I’ve been told that it would be much the same, and that I would still be out there peddling books, but then it is other indie authors who are telling me that, so I don’t know.

A friend has told me many times, in fact every time we talk about it, that what I really need is for Oprah to read my books and then recommend them to her audience. Then I would sell hundreds of thousands, if not millions of copies, become rich and famous, and then I guess live happily ever after. Great idea for a novel, actually, but while I’m waiting for Oprah, I probably need to continue to work on the marketing myself.

While the Oprah plan would be the great way to make money, so would winning the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. I wouldn’t have to do any marketing. I could just be rich enough to write books and not worry about it. I’m not counting on either one of those, though. Whenever I am working on marketing, I think about why I’m writing the novels in the first place. I mean, fame and fortune would be nice, but from firsthand experience, I think that anyone who writes books just to become rich and famous would be just as well served to play the lottery twice a week and save the time. I’ve been talking to other authors recently, and I’ve started looking at it from a more realistic angle. Sure, I’m not getting rich, but every month a royalty check gets deposited in my account. Not enough that I can buy a beach house in Nantucket, but I’m richer than I would be if I hadn’t written them. Sure, Oprah’s people are not calling my people, but there is the nice review of Lonelyfarmer,com that Michael Tidemann wrote last week that then got picked up by a half dozen or so newspapers around Iowa and southern Minnesota. So fame has not completely eluded me. Fame is relative, and while I’m not yet quite Oprah famous, I’ll take it for now.

So the question is, if not for fame and fortune, why write them? And the answer to that one is easy. Just last week I happened to walk into Café Milo for a cup of coffee. Café Milo is, of course, the coffee shop that I use as my inspiration for the fictional Filo’s Coffee Shop in my books. (As a side note, my books are for sale at Café Milo if anyone is looking for one.) As I got in line to order my cup of coffee, the man in front of me turned and said, “I really like your book. I’m reading the first one and I’m looking forward to the second.” That’s enough. For me, that is all the fame and fortune that I need.  I’m writing them so that people can read them and enjoy them. Even if Oprah does discover me one day, that will still be what it is all about.

The Ten Code

When Max and Skip left the police department, the department was still using the ten code to communicate with dispatch and among officers. The ten code is a series of 99 numbers preceded by a ten. For example, 10-1 is that the radio signal is weak and that it is not being received well enough to understand it. Any cop who has been around a while will start talking ten code, even when they are at home. One cop might casually call another and ask, “ten-six?” They are asking the other officer if they are busy at the moment. Sometimes they will leave off the ten, and just use the number. “Twenty-five me at the Hilton” means “meet me over at the Hilton parking lot.” So the conversation would go, “one-twenty-eight,” (the other officer’s call number), “are you ten-six?” The other officer answers, “negative,” then the first officer says, “twenty-five me at the Hilton.” Then the officers meet to supposedly exchange some information, but really they are just going to shoot the shit.

Cops don’t always use the ten code, though. Often they use plain speak, which is just saying what they want to say. There are some ten codes that are not always best used. For example, 10-21, send me a wrecker, and 10-22, send me an ambulance, can easily get confused, especially when the officer calling it out is all pumped up on adrenaline, performing CPR and trying to stop the blood flow on an accident victim who is bleeding out on the pavement in the middle of the night on a busy street. The last thing they want to do is to make a slip and get a wrecker instead of an ambulance. So they will dispense with the ten code and scream over the radio, “we need an ambulance.”

Max never understood why the department used the ten code. If it was supposed to be a secret, it wasn’t. Even back in the early eighties, before the internet, every police groupie out there had a scanner in one hand and the ten code in the other. Anyway, sometime after Max and Skip retired, the ten code started to go by the wayside. Today most of the younger cops have never heard of it.

Some of the most-used ten codes when Max and Skip were still patrolling the streets, which they still use today in their daily conversations, are in bold type below.

The Ten Code.

 10-1 Signal weak, Cannot copy
 10-2 Status is OK
 10-3 End transmission
10-4 Message received
 10-5 Relay
10-6 Busy
 10-7 Out of service
 10-8 In service
10-9 Repeat
 10-10 Fight
 10-11 Dog
 10-12 Standby
 10-13 Weather / Road conditions
 10-14 Report of prowler
 10-15 Civil disturbance
 10-16 Domestic Disturbance
10-17 Complainant
 10-18 Complete assignment
 10-19 Return to ….
 10-20 Location
 10-21 Call by phone
10-22 Disregard
 10-23 Arrived at the scene
 10-24 Assignment complete
10-25 Meet with Somebody
 10-26 Detaining subject to expedite
10-27 Drivers license information
 10-28 Registration information
 10-29 Check for records or warrants
 10-30 Illegal use of radio
 10-31 Crime in progress
10-32 Gun (Unless specified as other Weapon)
 10-33 Emergency
 10-34 Riot
 10-35 Major crime alert
 10-36 Correct time
 10-37 Suspicious subject
 10-38 Traffic Stop
 10-39 Urgent – use lights and siren
 10-40 Silent run – no lights and siren
 10-41 Beginning tour of duty
 10-42 Ending tour of duty
 10-43 Information
 10-44 Request permission to leave patrol
 10-45 Animal carcass
 10-46 Assist motorist
 10-47 Emergency road repairs needed
 10-48 Traffic signal needs repair
 10-49 Traffic light out
 10-50 Accident F – Fatality PI – Personal Injury PD – Property Damage
 10-51 Wrecker
 10-52 Ambulance
 10-53 Road blocked
 10-54 Livestock on highway
 10-55 Intoxicated Driver
10-56 Intoxicated Subject
 10-57 Hit and Run Accident
 10-58 Direct traffic
 10-59 Convoy or Escort
 10-60 In the Area
 10-61 Subject Near Officer
 10-62 Reply to message
 10-63 Prepare to copy
 10-64 Net clear
 10-65 Net message assignment
 10-66 Message canceled
 10-67 Clear to read net message
 10-68 Dispatch information
 10-69 Message Relayed
 10-70 Fire
 10-71 Advise nature of fire
 10-72 Report progress on fire
 10-73 Smoke report
 10-74 Negative
 10-75 In contact with
10-76 En-Route
 10-77 ETA (Estimated time of arrival)
 10-78 Assistance is Needed
 10-79 Coroner
 10-80 High speed pursuit
 10-81 In-view patrol
 10-82 Reserve lodging
 10-83 Welfare Check
 10-84 If meeting, advise ETA
 10-85 Will be late
 10-86 Request authorization for overtime
 10-87 Pick up checks for distribution
 10-88 Advise present telephone number
 10-89 Bomb threat
 10-90 Alarm
 10-91 Unnecessary use of radio
 10-92 Alarm
 10-93 Blockade
 10-94 Drag racing
 10-95 Subject in custody
10-96 Mental subject
 10-97 Check signal
 10-98 Jail break
10-99 Wanted or stolen

Skip tells you when to call it in.

Calling it in to the PD.

Someone comes home to find that their ceramic planter that their kids gave them for their fiftieth wedding anniversary is missing off their front stoop. They go over where it was and look around. Nothing to see but a ring of dirt where it used to be. They decide that there is no need to bother the cops about it. They’ve already looked around, and there isn’t anything that the cops can do about it. The next day they clean the dirt ring off the stoop and try to forget it, but they feel just a little vulnerable now.

The weather is getting warmer. It is Friday, and a college student is walking to her apartment from the bus stop after a day of classes. She decides that she is going to pump up the tires of her bicycle so that she can start riding it to class. When she goes to the bike rack, her bicycle is gone. The chain has been cut and is laying on the ground where her bike used to be. She calls her dad. When he is done with all his questions, the student asks him if she should call the cops. “What can they do?” he asks. “You don’t even know when it was stolen.”

A man goes out on a Saturday to do some gardening. He notices that his shovel that he left leaning against his backyard shed is missing. He also notices that there are pry marks on the door, which is padlocked. It appears that no entry was gained. The man curses himself, convinced that it is his own fault for being so careless and leaving his shovel out. He promises himself not to make that mistake again.

Dozens of crimes like this happen every day, and most of them go unreported. Most of the victims are convinced that the cops can’t do anything. And in each individual case, they might be right. The cops probably are not going to launch an all-out search for a stolen planter, a shovel, or a bicycle that ended up getting taken sometime over the winter, because there is nothing to go on. But collectively, these cases are important to the safety of the neighborhood. Because if they go unreported, they continue to take place, but when they are reported they begin a process that helps the cops solve them.

So what happens when these small unsolvable thefts and attempted thefts get called in? The city is divided up into areas and an officer is assigned to each of them. When Max and I were police officers, the city was divided into four areas. That’s a lot of ground to cover for four officers, so each officer will try to get as familiar with their area as they can. They check the reports each day. They look for similarities. They look for the parts of their areas that are being overlooked. If at briefing they find out that a ceramic planter was taken from one residential neighborhood, that a shovel was stolen from beside a shed just around the corner and that the latch of that same shed had been pried, and that a bicycle was stolen from the bike rack at an apartment complex that sits on the edge of that same residential neighborhood, all these cases that the victims thought were so unimportant alert the area officer to the fact that someone is prowling the neighborhood and stealing whatever they can easily get their hands on. The officer starts to concentrate their efforts on that neighborhood. They talk to the victims, ask questions. Who is coming and going? Who belongs there and who doesn’t? Who is just passing through? Who is loitering around? They get the utility officers who are not assigned an area to help patrol the neighborhood. Over time, as more of these seemingly small crimes are reported, they take on a pattern. The cops start connecting the dots, and eventually they identify a suspect, serve a search warrant, and lo and behold, they find a ceramic planter, a shovel, and a bicycle, all reported stolen. Sadly, they also probably find a lot of other stolen items that didn’t get reported and will never be returned to their owners, but thank goodness for those who did report them.

So no crime is too small to call in. Make your neighborhood safe: report them.

Skip

It lives, it lives.

I had hoped to write this a few weeks ago, but a series of unfortunate events prevented it. I won’t go into detail; it was an arduous journey to get this second book in the G&B Detective Agency series into print. But it is here now. After one re-write and nine edits, for one of which Denise and I printed out the entire book on our office printer, sat down together, and over the course of several days read the entire book, passing the pages from one to the other while we did so. And then there was the cover. We went through four covers before we got it where we wanted it, submitted it, decided that it needed more changes, then submitted it two more times before we were happy. But as of this morning, G&B Detective Agency: Case of the Lonelyfarmer.com is for sale on Amazon. It is also available through an expanded distribution network for bookstores and libraries to pick it up. So if anyone out there knows a bookstore owner, pass it on. It would be appreciated.

Enough of the complaining over how long it took to get Lonelyfarmer.com published. It is a pretty good book. I like it a little better than the first book, I think. But it builds off of Missing Tucker, and shares a lot of the same characters, so without that I’m not sure it would feel the same. Some teasers here: Monica and Milton seem to be spending a lot of time together. Everyone has their own idea where that is going to end up. An ex stripper and a cop? We’ll see. Also, a couple of characters that you might have thought you had heard the last of find their way into this story as well. It all ends up just as surprising for Max, Skip, and Monica, as it does for the reader. So I think you will like that.

That’s it for now. I don’t want to give anything away. I want you to read it. I posted a link in the sidebar to get to the book on Amazon, below the link to Case of the Missing Tucker. I hope you enjoy it. One more thing, there is another book written but not quite ready to go. For now, it is titled G&B Detective Agency: Where the Hell is Angie. Now that I have Lonelyfarmer.com done and available, I can buckle down and get Angie re-written, edited, and published. So stay tuned for that.