Friday, June 29, 2012

Here is the first 10% of the second story included in Book One of the Cuffed series.

Stop or I’ll Shoot!

Officer Lance Yandell placed his coffee mug in his car's cup holder when his radio crackled to life. The 911 operator had a problem for Lance to solve. The 911 calls went through the local dispatch center, where the operator answered the phone and sent the police to emergencies.

"Dispatch to 109 and 106," the operator said. Lance was number 109 and his buddy, Jonathan was number 106. Whatever the dispatch center wanted, two officers needed to respond. Something serious, then.

Lance checked the time on his dashboard. 1:30 am. The local bars were still open, so maybe he had to go to a bar fight. Lance liked sorting out bar fights. "109 to dispatch," he answered. Time to find out what he needed to do.

The dispatcher continued, "Entry alarm at the Renwick Shoe Store on Columbia Avenue. The alarm company reported broken glass." A burglary! Lance liked solving burglaries too.

Renwick Shoes had been robbed before. Each time, the thieves stole expensive shoes and the money in the cash register. Sometimes criminals found robbing a particular store so easy and profitable, they returned again and again. After four break-ins in two months, the owner of the shoe store promised to install a silent alarm system. Tonight, that new alarm system may have caught a burglary in progress. Most alarm calls were false, but each needed to be checked out.

Excellent! Time to fight crime. Lance considered himself a man of action. His buddies called him "Quick Draw", because he'd size up a situation and draw his gun while the other officers were still figuring out a plan. As many times as he'd drawn his weapon, though, he'd never actually shot a person.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I've decided to publish the first 10% of each of the stories in the Cuffed series here as an example of the work. Echelon Press has contracted to bring out six books in this series, each containing two stories. The first three books are out now and are available on,, and smashwords. The fourth book is due out on July 15th, 2012.

This first story tells how Bill Howe discovered his abiding fear of heights. Names, of course, have been changed to protect the ridiculous.

Out on a Beam (Cuffed, Book One)
By Bill Howe and Suzanne Rorhus

When people are scared, they call the cops. Burglar in the bedroom? Dial 9-1-1. Rabid dog ready to bite? Call 9-1-1 again. Involved in a horrible car crash, then the other driver punches your nose, takes your wallet, and steals your car? Yep, 9-1-1 once more.
Who is a cop supposed to call when she’s afraid? 9-1-1?
No way. An officer’s job is to race to the rescue in her patrol car with lights flashing and sirens blaring, then fight the criminals with courage and a nightstick. She can never show fear or the bad guys will attack and the other officers will laugh.
When Officer Kim Brunetti applied for a job as a police officer, the interviewer asked if she was afraid of guns, of huge criminals who wanted to fight dirty, or even of driving fast. The interviewer didn’t ask if she was scared of spiders, small dogs that bite ankles, or snakes. As it happened, almost every officer in Brunetti’s department was afraid of snakes, except her.
Sometimes a person doesn’t know what she’s afraid of until she meets it. Turned out Officer Brunetti was afraid of high places. Who knew? Tonight, though, Officer Brunetti was more afraid of getting her uniform dirty than anything else. She'd already changed her uniform three times, and she was hoping her fourth uniform would last the rest of her shift.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Love Is Murder Conference

Once again, the folks at Love Is Murder put together a fantastic conference. The multi-published and multi-talented Luisa Buehler was the lady in charge this year, and everything ran smoothly. After Luisa spoke to our local Sisters in Crime chapter, she invited Bill to present a two hour fingerprint session as one of the expert witnesses.

We prepared a great deal of information on fingerprints and created several displays.
We also put together a crime scene to provide a context for the fingerprints. The designated corpse is Lily. My family made her Christmas afternoon, and she is stuffed with gift wrap.

Bill began with an hour lecture on various aspects of fingerprinting. The audience had many questions on how fingerprints could fit into their works-in-process.
Then we moved to a nearby room for the hands-on demonstration. Chicago officer and writer Michael Black helped us staff the various stations.

Here Bill is "fuming" for latent prints. Basically, a few drops of superglue on top of a tin can over a lightbulb in a fishtank will evaporate in moist air and stick to the prints. Pretty cool.
I helped session goers dust CDs for prints. Fun but a bit messy. Glad I had the attractive latex gloves.
Finally everything was finished and it was time to enjoy the evening. At the author signing, Bill, Lily the corpse, and I had some free time, since ebooks are hard to autograph. Lily kicked back with the latest book from New York Times bestselling author Julie Hyzy, Affairs of Steak.
That's Julie standing next to David Morrell, the creator of Rambo. He's a fantastic guy. On his other side is author W.S. Gager. We drove down to the conference together and shared a room. She also tore her right rotator cuff, so we made liberal use of the hotel's valet service.
Bill and a couple guys posed in all their macho glory. That's Bill on the left, then undercover officer and author Marco Conelli, Chicago cop and author Michael Black, and Chicago author Raymond Benson (Bond. James Bond.).
Eventually, all good things had to come to an end, so we called the valet.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Award Winning Bill

Well, I'm very proud of my co-author. In addition to being a great guy, an upstanding citizen and family man, and clever and funny to boot, he's also award-winning. I am pleased to announce that Bill Howe has been awarded the 2011 Simmons Award.

The Battle Creek Chamber of Commerce awards the Harley Simmons award every year as part of its Silent Observer program. Mr. Harley Simmons was treasurer of the Silent Observer committee for many years before his death.The award in his honor is given to the individual who significantly contributed to the safety and security of the citizens of Battle Creek. It recognizes that person's efforts to reduce crime and aid law enforcement in preventing crime.

Bill, based on his decades of fighting crime and educating future crime fighters, certainly qualifies! Here's the article from the local paper about the award ceremony.

Next, here's a photo of Bill giving a thank you speech. Now, one thing you gotta know about Bill is that he's a pretty modest guy. Public recognition is torture for him, so he's probably pretty uncomfortable during this speech. I wouldn't know for sure, because Bill was too modest to invite me to the ceremony, even though I'd told him I wanted to go. Not a spotlight kind of fellow.

He did at least invite his family, so here's a photo of him with his wife and one of his sons. His other son was actively fighting crime at the time and was not able to attend. The Simmons family is also in the photo.

Congrats, Bill! You deserve this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Police Shooting

I've been struggling with finishing a story for the second installment of our series, and couldn't figure out why I was having such a time with it. I think the answer is that this story involves the shooting of a police officer. I need to tell this story in a way that is appropriate for a young audience without glossing over its serious nature.

To some, a police officer represents the current regime. If one has a problem with our society, our country, or our government, he might see the police as an occupying army, a symbol of the enforced status quo. Or, if one is simply a criminal and determined to get what he wants without earning it, he may see the patrol officer as a barrier in the way of ill-gotten gains, no more valuable than a padlock. Either way, a cop is just a badge with shoes.

An officer has another side, too. These people have chosen a profession serving the public, often because they have an aspect of their personality that calls them to improve other people's lives. Cops fundamentally want to improve life for citizens.

No point being too idealistic about it, of course. Officers settle into their jobs and lose that focus edge, just as the rest of us settle into our everyday lives. I like subbing in high schools because I think teens are at a cool age, at the beginning of their adult lives. That doesn't mean that when the hundredth kid wants to go potty in the middle of a lecture, I don't get annoyed. Of course I do. Cops get frustrated helping people whose problems seem almost entirely of their own creation.

Officers also have private lives. The person at the heart of the story I'm working on is a blend of two officers who have been shot on duty. I've met one of them. He's a family man trying to provide money and societal safety for his wife and young son. When I think about someone shooting him because he closed down a drug house, I get furious. Although he was "just wounded", that shooting had a profound effect on his life. It nearly cost him his faith, his career, and his marriage. Re-stablizing himself took all his skills.

Couple years later, the same cop killed a man to save a fellow officer. This time, he left police work. Taking a life is a soul-draining responsibility. Cops don't just shoot up the place then go out for a beer.

Before I took Bill's criminal investigation class and met real cops, I wrote mysteries without much regard for the actual awfulness of murder. Cops in my stories created corpses without qualms. Cops were wounded without consequence. Dead bodies littered the pages without feeling real. They weren't real; they were just dead words printed on dead trees. I think I'm starting to get it now. I've met these people who place themselves in dangerous situations that would have me cowering under the sofa. I also see them marrying, having children, hosting exchange students, having the grandkids over for Christmas. There's a real person behind the badge, and I think that makes their actions that much more heroic.

Now I have to write the story of this police shooting using vocabulary and imagery appropriate for younger readers without making the shooting seem trivial. I have to show them the horror without horrifying them.  I want them to see the person wearing the shoes, standing behind the badge.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Future Officers on the Case

I helped Bill this past week with his Criminal Investigation class. He teaches at the local police academy, and every semester he has to create a mock crime scene for the students to process. He lays out a dead body, with ID and drugs in its pockets.

The students have to capture a footprint, fingerprint, tool mark, and gather the evidence. They have to write a report on the call. They have to measure the location of each piece of evidence and sketch the scene. It's a lot of work for the students, but setting up the thing is quite a bit of work for Bill, too. He's always relieved when it's over.

My First Review!

I gotta tell you, the past two weeks have been rather exciting. In addition to signing the contract with Quake for those 12 police stories with Bill, I have also had a short story of my own published by Untreedreads.

"Cereal Killer" is available at electronic stores near you, or you can buy it straight from the publisher here. It's a humorous romantic mystery. "Elizabeth Hart enjoys her high-powered job and her lakeside home but is tired of Officer Andrew Baird's hands-off policy. A mere ten year age gap is no reason for refusing romance, is it? As Andrew searches for the motive behind a young woman's death, Elizabeth carefully plots her revenge against the handsome man who treats her as a younger sister. By using Andrew's penchant for practical jokes against him, she learns how to pursue truth, justice, and the handsome cop next door."

There's already a review of the story online, and it wasn't even written by my mother. In fact, I've never met the lady (author Gail Farrelly) who wrote it, though we do hang out on the Short Mystery Fiction Society yahoo group together. I'm going to quote her review here, because she said I could and because it's my first ever:

"I didn't want it to end! I really enjoyed this story. Although it's a complete story, it left me wanting more. Much more. The two main characters are warm, funny intriguing people. I'd love to meet them again (in other short stories and/or books) as their relationship develops."

Pretty cool, huh? And again, she's not even my kin. The internet is truly amazing.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Cop's Fears

Happy Halloween to one and all! On this spookiest of all days, there is much to fear. For example, my eldest daughter left this morning for sixth grade camp. I don't understand how she's old enough for this. Just yesterday, it seems, she was an infant wearing a tiny pumpkin costume, and now she's a half-grown preteen off to spend the holiday with her classmates. Who will fix her hair when she puts on her costume tonight? Who will suggest that she has already consumed enough candy for the evening and should possibly pace herself?

Cops have fears too, though they seldom admit to them. Bill and I are working on the second in our series of twelve police stories for Quake Publishing. This story discusses cops' fears and how they handle them. (Hint: by razzing each other mercilessly). Turns out Bill is afraid of heights, so the night he found himself suspended in the dark inside the construction skeleton of the Kellogg Company was not one of his finer moments.

My poor dog is afraid of just about everything, so Halloween isn't her favorite holiday - all those scary looking little kids ringing her doorbell and demanding candy. She looks awful cute in her little jockey costume, though!

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Contract in Hand

Today Bill and I have received a contract from Quake, a subsidiary of Echelon Press, to publish a series of short stories. Quake will publish twelve of our short stories as a series of six books, each appearing two months apart. These will be electronic books for the young adult reader.

In case you haven't met Bill, he is a seriously funny guy who served with the Battle Creek (MI) police force for 25 years. Or more. I'm not that great with numbers. Anyway, we've taken true tales of the bizarro things that have happened to him during his career and created these stories.

I'll give you an example of the type of experience he's had. Bill attended a prestigious high school in Detroit, then set off for college to become a teacher. Degree in hand, he found his first job as a substitute teacher in a Detroit high school. (Note: I am currently employed as a substitute high school teacher in Battle Creek.)

One fine afternoon, as Bill dragged his young charges through their math lesson, one of his students set a paper airplane on fire and sailed it toward the teacher. Being more athletic than academic, the young man hit his target with his plane and set poor Bill alight. Being modest, Bill said later that it was "only a little flame".

Apparently the flame was large enough to change his life forever. Bill gave up the hazards of substitute teaching and joined the police force because he wanted "safer" work while he raised a family. It proved to be a good move for him: in all his years on the force, no one ever shot him in the line of duty. Or set him on fire, for that matter.