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.

It isn’t all fun and games.

I truly enjoy writing G&B Detective Agency books. It is fun to sit down every morning and let Max, Skip, Monica and the rest of the characters take me off on their adventures. To me, it seems like I’m not writing books, but rather chronicling their escapades. So it isn’t a lot of work. I’m just following along. Then when they are done, I get to re-write the story, and it is fun to read what they did and tweak it. How often do you say in life, if I could just do it over again? That’s the rewrite, doing it all over again and doing it a bit differently. And I think the characters all appreciate me letting them do that. But then the work starts, the part that isn’t as much fun.

Right now I, myself, am in limbo. I don’t really want to rewrite Where the Hell is Angie and get that on my mind at the same time I’m trying to get Lonelyfarmer.com ready to publish. It just doesn’t work to start mixing the two. This is when Denise gets into the process, and I’m sitting around waiting for her. That’s not to say I’m not doing anything: I’m working on marketing, but all the fun stuff, like telling the story and putting together the cover, are done. As far as writing, this blog is about as fun as it gets for a while.

But back to Denise and Lonelyfarmer.com. She has already edited the manuscript once, after I did the rewrite. Then I went in and either approved or rejected her edits. That’s not really fun. I want to set the record straight right now: I usually accept that she knows more about punctuation than I do. Most of the time I press the accept button. But sometimes I don’t. By this time the book is written, and It is pretty monotonous work to go through the whole book and see what all she found that was wrong with it. But I get that done, get the cover set up, upload it to the CreateSpace builder, and then I order the first proof, and after that the second proof, and after that a third proof and after that…

If you don’t know what a proof is, it is the book. It gets printed, cover and all. I sit down with the actual book in my hands and read it cover to cover one more time before it is published and sold. If there are any mistakes, I go back to the formatted manuscript, correct them, submit the manuscript and order another proof, just to make sure one more time. And when I get that proof, Denise gets to read it cover to cover to see if she can find any mistakes. Then I go back, correct anything she finds and resubmit it. Then I order another proof, read it cover to cover one more time. This goes on until Denise and I are convinced that nothing has gotten past us. Toward the end, we may make only three or four corrections in the whole book, but we keep at it. I will read it cover to cover five or six times before I’m done. I had hoped to get this one out by the end of the month, but it is beginning to look like that was wishful thinking. But I owe it to all the people who buy my books and read them to give them the best effort I can. That is where I stand right now, still reading proofs. Don’t get discouraged though, I’ll get there eventually, and I promise it will be worth the wait.

The Timeline.

Books

On Thursday I was interviewed by the editor of the Nevada Journal about the Case of the Missing Tucker. It was a great interview and I enjoyed it. We talked a bit about Tucker, but actually we spent more time talking about the other three cases that are in the wings. Right now I’m waiting for the second proof of Case of the Lonelyfarmer.com, and hopefully that one will be available on Amazon by the end of the month. I recently finished the first draft of the third book in the series and the fourth one is outlined. One of the most interesting things about the interview was getting ready for it. Because with four books in the works I had lost track of time. I had to sit down beforehand and go through all my emails and word documents to make a timeline with a few notes. Looking at it afterwards was interesting. So I thought that I would share some of that with you.

January 2016: Started writing “Case of the Missing Tucker.”
March 13, 2016: Finished Tucker and sent it to Neal for review.
May 3, 2016: Started subplot.
June 21, 2016: Finished Tucker with subplot. Sent to Neal for review.
July 12, 2016: Submitted Tucker to Bourrett. (3 Month wait for reply)
July 2016: Started Lonelyfarmer.com.
September 2016: Finished first draft “Lonelyfarmer.com.”
October 14, 2016: Rejected by Bourrett. Began sending Tucker to other agents. (14 total)
January 2017: Started re-write and editing “Lonelyfarmer.com.”
July 2017: Talked to Neal about self publishing.
August 2017: Started “Where the Hell is Angie.”
October 6, 2017: Began process to self publish Tucker on CreateSpace.
November 2017: Finished rewrite and editing “Lonelyfarmer.com.”
November 30, 2017: Published Tucker.
December 4, 2018: Tucker paperback available for sale on Amazon. (Kindle a week later.)
January 3, 2018: Launch party for Tucker
February 6, 2018 Finished first draft “Where the Hell is Angie.”
February 12, 2018: Started publishing “Lonelyfarmer.com on CreateSpace.

I am hard at work getting Lonelyfarmer published soon and getting my marketing plan going. I am eagerly awaiting the article in the Journal; I’m pretty excited about that. I’ve had the privilege of reading most of it already, and I will not say any more about that, except that it is a pretty good piece of journalism, if you ask me. Look for it when it comes out.

 

 

Number four?

Book number four.

Long before I finished Case of the Missing Tucker, book number two came to me. I really didn’t want to think about it, as I still had to wind up number one, so I made some notes to help me hang on to the idea, and put it in a corner of my brain where it would not get in the way and I could go back to it later. It was the same with Case of the Lonelyfarmer: the seed for Where the Hell is Angie sprouted, and I had to put it away somewhere I could find it again so that I could focus on finishing the one that I was working on. As I was getting close to finishing Where the Hell is Angie, I started wondering where Max and Skip’s next case would take them, but they just weren’t talking to me. And last week when I typed the last word for Angie, I still had nothing.

Now, I don’t get writer’s block. I don’t always know where my characters are going, but they always go somewhere, and I follow along, writing it all down. I have to admit that I got a little bit of a panic attack when I realized that I had three books written and no place to go from there. I wondered if I was just going to write three books and never write another. It seemed like a short writing career. But I told myself that I had a lot to do, and maybe a bit of a break from writing would be good for me. I mean, I have to start putting some more effort into marketing Tucker. I have to go over the proofs for Lonelyfarmer, fix the typos and random blank pages that always seem to sneak past, get it through the publisher and on Amazon where people can get their hands on it and read it. And even though the first draft is written, I have a ton of work left on Angie. So when I started getting that anxious feeling that I had nothing more to write, I would just remind myself how much I still had left to do on the three that were written.

But then it happened. I was laying there last night thinking about something else, looking up at the darkness, and the next book jumped into bed with me. It flooded my brain and I couldn’t think of anything else. Four hours later I had it outlined in my head, start to finish. This morning I made some notes. Stand by, because G&B Detective Agency: Case of the Cold Case is on the way. I feel a lot better now.

Writing Books

Writing Books.

I just finished the first draft of my third book in the G&B Detective Agency series, G&B Detective Agency: Where the Hell is Angie. As it sits now, it is 79,143 words. The Case of the Missing Tucker was 77,462 words, which turned out to be 273 pages in the 5”x8” format when it was finally published. As far as books go, that’s a fairly decent-sized book, looking at it on the book shelf. I was kind of worried about that before I got it published; I didn’t want a skinny book. The Case of the Lonelyfarmer.com is 87,685 pages, and is sitting at the publisher right now waiting for a cover. That puts it at 302 pages, give or take a few, depending which font and size I decide on. As long as I’m throwing figures around, the total for the three books is 244,490 words at this point. That’s a lot of writing.

Back when I was going to college and I first had this vague idea that I might write a novel someday, there were two ways to publish. The first, most desirable, and for a serious writer the only option, was to get picked up by a publishing house. And to do that, it was almost imperative that you had a literary agent to peddle it around. The other way was called a vanity press. For a price, the vanity press would do a print run for the author. Then the author took their book and went around trying to sell it. It was hard back then to be recognized as a serious author if one went the vanity press route. But frankly, with the knowledge and experience that I have now, they were pioneers, those early independent authors.

Being from the old school, ISU class of ‘81, when I finished my first book, I went in search of an agent. It didn’t go as well as I had hoped, meaning literary agents weren’t lining up to represent me, something that I never expected to happen, but didn’t know what else to do. I read about people who had spent years and years sending their manuscripts to hundreds of agents before they were finally picked up by one. And then another couple of years before their book was sold to a publishing house, and then another couple of years before it ended up between two covers. That’s a lot of years. At my age, and especially with one book after another coming into my head, I don’t really have the time or the patience to deal with that. I gave it a year and I submitted the Tucker manuscript to sixteen agents, then decided to try the new way: self publishing on Amazon.

While in the olden days self publishing was something that an author was hesitant to admit to, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that isn’t true anymore. In fact, self-published authors are showing up on the New York Times best seller list quite often these days. The new name for people who self-publish is “indie authors,” for independent authors. They are authors who don’t have the time nor patience to wait for some benevolent literary agent to bestow their approval on the author’s work and take it from there. Indie authors want to keep ownership of their art. And not a few of those literary agents nowadays are prowling through the works of the indie authors and asking them if those authors might bestow their literary works on the literary agent. A role reversal is in the making. Who would of thunk it? So I decided that, instead of waiting for an agent, I would join the ranks and just publish myself. The hell with fame and fortune–there is no guarantee that would happen anyway, even if I did have an agent. I just wanted to get my stories in book form so that people could read them before the next one popped out of my head.

And that is where I am right now. Three books down: one published, one at the publisher, and a third waiting in line. I have no idea how many more are in me, but right now I’m satisfied to have actually written and published real books. I have done my part. At this point, it’s up to fame and fortune to find me, and not the other way around.

 

Milton’s Take.

When Max and Skip won the Powerball, the department came unhinged. A lot of people thought that Max would just stay around to see if he could get fired and how long it would take them to do it. Everybody pretty much figured Skip wouldn’t even go to the trouble of quitting, he just wouldn’t come into work anymore, Skip being the passive-aggressive one and Max the type to poke the hornet’s nest a little first. But that didn’t happen. They came in together, turned in their thirty-day notice, and then immediately started burning their vacation, sick leave and comp time. And then they just disappeared for a while.

A few people on the PD were glad to be rid of them. They had made some enemies in the twenty years that they had been there. Most didn’t care either way, and there were a few that would truly miss them. I guess I fall into that last category. Max was my training officer when I first came to the department and I liked him from the get-go. When he left, I was a little lonely out there on patrol. So when I heard that there were a couple of private investigators setting up shop out on Mortenson road and those two private investigators were none other than Max Mosbey and Skip Murray, I ran right over to check it out.

I’ll admit that I was taken aback when I walked through the door of the G&B Detective Agency and ran right into Monica Benson sitting there at the reception desk. She knew who I was as soon as I came through the door, of course. She gave me that big welcoming smile of hers that she had used to melt the hearts of those schmucks who used to sit in the front row when she was stripping on stage. I smiled back like I’d never gotten a smile from a pretty girl before. I was almost embarrassed that I smiled so big. Max and Skip were not there that day. Monica didn’t know where they were or when they were coming back. She didn’t seem to care, either. We chatted a bit about Max, Skip, the agency and about herself, for quite a while, then she chased me out the door, locked it up, and headed off to class at ISU.

Anyway, I started stopping in to visit a couple times a week, if I happened to be diving by on patrol and I saw Monica’s car parked out front. After a while I was coming in every day in the morning before she left for class and I would have a cup of coffee with her. I really like talking to her. And her kid is just as cute as they come. She’s going to grow up to be just a gorgeous as her mother, no doubt about that. Just as smart too.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that I was a little dubious about those guys hiring an ex-stripper to be their receptionist, but I also know Max and Skip pretty well, and I figured that they knew quite well what they were doing and it wasn’t any of my business. Over the months that passed, I realized that they picked Monica for good reasons. She was street smart, book smart, pretty reliable, and about as loyal to Max and Skip as anyone could be. You didn’t walk into G&B Detective Agency and speak disparagingly about either one of them without Monica showing you the door and giving you a hard kick in the ass on the way out. When it came to those two, Monica wasn’t messing around. And I started to respect her for that. She convinced me that they had no reason to worry about Monica running the front office.

So as far as Max and Skip are concerned, well it is nice to see them once in a while, if they are in when I stop. Sometimes they push pretty hard to get some information from my resources at the PD, especially when they got wrangled into actually working a case. For some guys that are supposed to be my friends, they don’t seem to mind putting me on the spot. If I won’t tell them something they get Monica to bat those sweet brown eyes of hers and give me that smile, all while she’s compromising me into leaking some confidential information that those two want. But all in all, they don’t get me in too much trouble, and the look of satisfaction that Monica gets on her face when she finally pries something out of me that I’m not supposed to be telling, it makes it worth the game.

Monica Speaks

Monica:

Skip comes in early every morning, puts on a pot of coffee, goes into his office and starts looking at the overnight stock exchanges. He reads the Wall Street Journal front page to back. Almost every day Max shows up later. Usually he has been across the street at Filo’s coffee shop. I don’t know why he goes over there to drink coffee when Skip has a pot on here, but he does. Skip takes a lot more interest in their investments than Max does. I think Max realizes that Skip keeps on top of the markets and just lets him do it. We meet regularly with the financial advisor. When we get done Skip will always go to his office and review everything. Max will always follow me up to my desk and ask me if I understood it all. If I just tell him yes, he will leave me alone. If I tell him that I didn’t understand everything, he has to get into this big discussion about what he doesn’t understand and start asking me questions that I can’t answer. Kind of like he is convinced that if I can just see how much he doesn’t understand, it will help me understand it all better. I just say that I understand it, even if I don’t.

I don’t really have much to do with the financials, other than the running of the agency, and for that I get a budget that I have to stay within. As for the rest of the investments, I just collect the documents and sort them out so that they can go to the financial advisor before the meeting. I keep them all in a file cabinet in Skip’s office. He feels like if they are in his office he is the CEO or something. Every once in a while Max will go over there and start sorting through everything in the hopes that he will get some sort of financial epiphany.

They also have a lawyer who comes in regularly. Honestly, I think that she is keeping an eye on me, and you know what? That doesn’t bother me. Hopefully she will catch anything that might get past me, and that can’t hurt. When you are sitting on top of a two-hundred-twenty-million-dollar Powerball empire, some checks and balances are a good thing. Anyway, she is a very nice person and I think that she likes the guys almost as much as I do. So we get along pretty well.

 

Monica

Monica:

I really like working for the guys at the agency. I call it the agency, or I just tell people that I work for a detective agency. I can’t bring myself to call it “G&B Detective Agency.” Do you know what G&B stands for? Guns and blades! Come on. Everyone askes me, “what does G&B stand for?” and I have to tell them, “guns and blades.” Uh, yeah, I work for Guns and Blades Detective Agency. I just think that they could have come up with a little more businesslike name. But it is a good place to work, and the guys treat me great. They treat my daughter Essie great, too. She loves the heck out of both of them. They’re sweethearts.

I feel like my job is to keep them on track. They both tend to do things without thinking, especially Max. Skip thinks that he is more on top of everything than Max is, but he isn’t. The biggest thing that I do is screen the calls that they get. They don’t want to work. I know: why even have a detective agency if you aren’t going to take cases? Because they don’t know anything else. I mean, they could open a cupcake bakery and not make cupcakes so they had somewhere to hang out all day, but that wouldn’t work because they don’t know jack about cupcakes. At least they know something about being detectives. So they have a detective agency that doesn’t take cases.

So back to the calls: when you win the Powerball, you get real popular. We get our fair share of scammers. I know they are scammers because they sound like scammers. You can spot a scammer a mile away. Haha, just joking. I sound like Delbert. Seriously, scammers are tricky, but I’m pretty good at hanging up on them. Then there are people looking for the guys to invest in some business venture. At first I used to listen to their pitches. There are some pretty creative people out there trying to make a buck. I used to like to hear what they had come up with, but honestly, the guys are not venture capitalists. It takes a particular business acumen to be a VC, and the guys just don’t have it in them. It is better for them to stay away from things like that. Commodities too: sometimes Skip starts thinking he is some kind of investment genius and starts looking at commodities futures. The nice thing is that he always comes up and runs it by me before he does anything, and I shut him down as quick as I can. I try not to be subtle about it. He needs to know that it isn’t a good idea. The financial and investment adviser and I keep a close eye on Skip.

Then there are the people looking for help. Those are the hard ones. Some of those are scammers, most are legit. The problem is who is who and where do you draw the line? So around Christmas every year, I sit down with the guys and we decide what charitable giving we are going to do for the following year. Then we give ‘til it hurts. That’s what Max says. It actually doesn’t hurt, it feels good. And once we get that all down on paper, that’s that. Of course, I can’t keep them from writing a check to the Boys and Girls club or the Battered Women’s Shelter, but those are just smaller donations, and it is good for the guys to be reminded that a little bit here and there can help someone out a lot. I actually fudge that into the charitable giving budget each year. But for the most part, I play the bad guy for them and screen the calls.

Who are Max and Skip?

Who are Max and Skip? I really don’t know. I have started this blog post a half-dozen times and not gotten anywhere with it, and I don’t usually get writer’s block. They just don’t want to talk about it. Max and Skip are two police officers who worked together on the same department for twenty years. They bought a Powerball ticket in the early hours of a Saturday morning for that evening’s drawing and hit the jackpot. They took a break for a while, they got bored, they wanted a place to get out of the house, so they started a detective agency. They hired an ex stripper for their receptionist, and the story goes on from there.

Probably the most important thing to understand about Max and Skip, and all the characters in the books, is that the story is not about them, but about the cases that they get roped into. They were created to tell the stories, but now they are constantly up to something. All the characters in the books live lives over which I have limited control, and my job is to tell their story. With all the characters in the books, as time goes by I continue to get to know each of them better, and for me, that is the most exciting part.