Thursday, March 27, 2008

Advice Column: Ask the Abbot of Writing by Robert W. Walker

Rob Walker can be a tongue-in-cheek kind of guy. His humor is unique and his opinions are never hard to decipher. He's written some of the best historical mysteries on the market, and knows more about writing than I can ever hope to learn.

Graciously, he's offered the following to Suspense Novelist.

Robert W. Walker, a graduate of Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois is the author of forty-five novels and six series detectives, including Inspector Alastair Ransom of the critically acclaimed City for Ransom, award-winning Shadows in the White City, and City of the Absent (HarperCollins between 2006-7). He is best known for his Jessica Coran ME series, the 11-book Instinct Series. Along with Rob’s 4-book Edge Series featuring Texas Cherokee Detective Lucas Stonecoat and psychiatrist Meredyth Sanger, he’s been busy with an array of eccentric late 19th Century characters debuting City for Ransom.

The City series refers to Chicago 1893 and the rough-hewn police inspector Alastair Ransom, a Prairie City pioneer in police science. The City series has garnered high praise among Robert’s peers and critics alike, included Chicago historians and twice featured by the Chicago Tribune, which called it “a mix of Twainian witticisms, the social consciousness of Dickens, and the ghoulish atmosphere of Poe.” City for Ransom was also selected as Poisoned Pen’s Pick of the month for January 2006. Rob has also recently negotiated publication of 12 titles being brought from the coffin of OP’s to E-book format with FictionWise, and these are: 4 from his Decoy Series, 4 from his Chicago ME Dean Grant series, 3 from BloodScreams, his Abraham Stroud archeological-horror series, and a stand-alone entitled Brain Stem, a book that goes between occult and police procedural when Detective Dennis Spears is possessed by the beautiful victim’s spirit. It’s “mod 70’s noir” when computers still used cards for input, and the oversized machines spat output on printers with an irritating noise.

Robert was born in Corinth, Mississippi, grew up in Chicago, and currently resides and teaches in Charleston, West Virginia. In between teaching, lecturing, and book touring, Rob is busy tackling his next several novels, which are looking for homes – *DEAD ON, a noir PI novel coming from Five Star Publishing coming early 2009. For a sneak peek at Dead On, contact Rob at inkwalk at sbc global dot net. Meanwhile this prolific author is also marketing several other novels—The Dirty Old Harry Squad, Cuba Blue, PSI Blue, and Flesh War, Visit Rob at his gas-lit, windswept, flashy pad at RobertWwalkerbooks. Finally, Rob offers online courses —Find Your Voice and Write to Sell. To work one on one with the maestro simply query.

*Also query for the copy that sold Dead On to learn how to sell an idea.

Advice Column: Ask the Abbot of Writing

Dear Abbot at Acme Academy
-- by Abbot Robert W. Walker

Query #1:

Dear Father Rob aka Abbot Author at Acme Authors -- “I've written so many versions and revisions of my opening chapters (one and two) that horror of horrors, I just don't know which versions now to go with, and it's driving me nuts. Help! What can I do to get clear?” – Confused in Connecticut

Quick and Dirty Answer from the Abbot:

Burn the thing as possibly Satanic, my child. Belay that! Just kidding, of course. Monk humor…not for everyone. This may sound outrageous but it is a choice: Submit each version on a rotating basis to as many agents and editors as you like, my child…and when one version gets a positive rejection as opposed to a really nasty one—a rejection that does not hate it—go with that version. You can do this with friends and co-authors as well. You need a cold eye to come down hard on yourself when in such a stew or at the academy here mush.

Contemplative Monk Reply:

My advice if you are writing and rewriting those first 2 chapters and have got yourself into a confusing bind or conundrum....couple of things you can do: Put these chapters away. (All that work?) Yes, sit down and rewrite from page one from your head....from your memory, which is more active and powerful than you give it credit. That memory is as good as any computer's memory when it comes to the broad strokes. It is like recapturing a dream and retelling it to someone. Think chapter one is organic and out of it grows chapter two, from which sprouts chapter three. (Yes, you can write as you go). Imagine if your computer drowned or was fried or was blown up by your kids in a strange, weird experiment. Rewrite from the beginning to recapture the story you had always meant to tell. Start fresh. It’s a helluva challenge but your mind is capable of it.

If this LEAP of faith solution terrifies you to the degree you simply can't attempt the exercise, then go back to the chapter you have, do rewrites that POUNCE on any of the LY words. If you cut out most or many of the Adverbs and Adjectives, you will streamline the story; it will move more clearly and quickly—not Patterson like but Hemmingway like. Or maybe I should have simply said FAST. Also examine every prepositional phrase, phrases beginning with in, out, up, down, over, under, back, to, with, etc and make sure the sentence can/cannot stand with/without these -- especially ending a sentence with one of these like the phrase "TO ME.” Often it can be said without adding “to me” or whatever tacked on. Prepositions are like tack-ons. Tack on more info and often it is UNDERSTOOD, and what editors chop out as wordy!

OK....having done this, you may find that there are also scenes you've TOLD--sometimes in flashback, sometimes in the NO'W story that could easily be rewritten as a DIALOGUE scene, and any time you can get your characters TALKING and interacting with one anther (as in a film or play script, see?), the main characters are defining one another and character is being illuminated, and the plot may well be pushed along by said dialogue as well. More and more I rely on dialoguing that scene. Don't TELL me, show me, and you can do that far more often than you realize in taking said block paragraphs of description of a person, place, or thing (info-dumps, which can become static if you stop your story to carve out a block of descript) and instead turning them into give-and-take dialogue lines. Speaking parts while your characters are digging up a body or planting one. Action does not have to stop to illuminate character or push the plot along or describe a setting.

Query #2:

Dear Father Rob aka Abbot at Acme – “You know what kills me, Father Rob? I'm great about editing and/or giving feedback on someone else's manuscript, but when it comes to my own, I'm completely lost. Guess I cannot see it objectively. So how can I become a better editor of my own work?” –Clueless in the Forests of Verbiage

Quick Dirty Reply from Abbot Rob:

If you are having pain in the joints, stay outta them joints. In other words, don’t read your own work. Just kidding, of course. Read it aloud!! Also read the reply above as much of it applies here…

Thoughtful Monk Answer:

Put the pages away for a goodly time, my child…at least a couple of weeks, maybe more. Go do anything else. Pay your bills. Go on a shopping spree. Go fishing or on a vacation. Get out of town. You may even want to literally “freeze” your manuscript; that is place it into your freezer as if hiding it from a thief—YOU. You need to get away from it for a ‘wittle’ while. Return from that vacation and “thaw it out” and look at the manuscript with a COLD EYE. This you can do because time has made you a better writer already these couple of weeks or this month, and you can look far more objectively at your “product” as belonging to that guy or young lady who created it some time ago, and now you are far more equipped to see and HEAR the problems. Any sentence can be written in any number of ways. Sentences you stopped with a period will scream to be attached, compound sentence will scream loudly to be rewritten so as to use a fragment at one end, folding or combining sentences come to the forefront of your mind. Or . . . or a sentence demands to be reversed so that the end phrase becomes the intro phrase. Complex sentence may demand to be redone as simple sentences. Simple ones may morph into complex ones. This is where you polish, spit, shine, re-think which all equals rewriting and at Acme Academy Writing is ReWriting. You get your best work done in post-production . . . in the rewrites.

A final word on rewrites – this is where you can identify all the scenes that slow the book to a dull murmur instead of having “heat” on every page. Here you can and will find whole sections that are telling instead of showing in such lines as: She knew she wanted to let him down easily, but she also knew she didn’t love him, and if she didn’t love him, she couldn’t go through with the marriage. That’s not only static, but filled with constructions of the sort where pronouns proliferate. If it’s first person it’s such constructs as: I knew I….or I felt I….or I sensed that I….and if second person it’d read, You knew you…you felt you…you sensed that you….and if set in third person it’d read just about as badly as: He felt he…she thought she…John knew he or Sarah thought she is an improvement….but another major sin authors fall into is too much reliance on the pronouns in first person – I, me, my, mine, myself until we get a “whiney tone” going. Pronouns overused in third person: He, his, him, himself can fall into the same sort of problem.

Make a checklist of items to seek out and destroy and the checklist should begin with overuse of pronouns, prepositions, adverbs (let the verb do the work), and adjectives (let the noun do the work). A common exercise to see how badly writers can write is to take any paragraph of Hemmingway and attach LY words to all his sparse language, to add to the verbs and to the nouns. Instead of – He rolled over in the ditch…He quickly and efficiently rolled over in the muddy, weedy ditch.

It was Mark Twain, speaking of “additive” words who said, “When in doubt, strike it out.”

Visit me at Acmeauthorslink;
myspace; or

Rob, my thanks to you for providing this post——and more, for helping me see bits and pieces of relativity in writing when you don't even know you're showing.

(And wouldn't everyone like to know what the puppy is wearing and why?)

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Book Review: WHITE SOUL by Brandt Dodson

Ron Ortega is a young, ambitious undercover agent. He’s playing a dangerous role in a perilous game with the very highest stakes—his life and his soul.

The agent has infiltrated one of Miami’s top drug operations, and now someone wants him dead. Compromising positions are leading to compromising decisions—and his learning curve is about to get steeper.

At home—in a world Ron can’t be an active participant in—is his wife, pregnant with their first child and dealing with life without enough money. Waiting for the day her husband returns.

Brandt Dodson brings us another well written, well researched novel in White Soul. Dodson isn’t afraid to deal with the dark shadows of a glittering city. Settings and characters are three-dimensional without distracting from the pace. Short, tight chapters keep the action moving.

If you are a fan of Dodson’s Colton Parker series, you’ll find a whole new reason for appreciating his style in White Soul.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Stakes, not Steak, for your Hero (unless it's for a black eye)

Becky Levine was happily going about her life when, in a moment of "liquid time", she turned around to discover she had been volunteered to Suspense Novelist as a guest blogger by Lee Lofland. To Becky's credit, she didn't miss a beat and stepped up to the plate.

To continue with the clich├ęs (me, not Becky) . . . drumroll, please . . .

Becky Levine is a writer living in California’s Santa Cruz mountains with her husband and son. She has finished her first middle-grade mystery for kids and is currently looking for an agent. She is the co-author (with Lee Lofland ) of The Everything Kids I Want to be A Police Officer Book, forthcoming from Adams Media. Becky also does freelance manuscript editing, helping other writers take their books to the next level. Visit Becky’s blog and her website.

What’s at Stake for your Hero? by Becky Levine

The other day, on my own blog, I was talking about the first scene. The very first scene of a book. You know, the one that’s sooooo easy? Yeah, right!

Jeannine Atkins, author of Anne Hutchinson’s Way, commented about how this first scene goes for her. She talked about how it’s always hard to write, how she has to go back and revise it a gazillion times, trying to get it just right. Then she mentioned the first scene of her current WIP. She has to get her main character, a young girl, ready to help rule a city.

Holy Moly!

That’s some job—for the writer and for the character. When I saw Jeannine’s comment, I instantly wanted to read her book. Why? Because she’s creating a character with something to lose.

Just think about it. This girl has to help govern a city. What if she can’t? What if she doesn’t want to? What if some other horrible person is lurking in the wings, waiting for a chance to take over? Can you just feel the tension mounting in your brain? Your stomach churning?

This is what we, as writers, have to do. We have to make sure that our heroes have a reason to succeed. A big reason.

A lot of writing teachers talk about identifying with the hero. You can do this by making your character have some familiar traits—maybe he’s a little bit shy, or she’s kind of clumsy. You can give your hero a goal. Maybe he really wants to make the best gumbo west of the Mississippi; maybe she wants to sing as beautifully as Joan Baez. This is good. Most readers have their own dreams and will recognize desire as a familiar emotion. Letting them see a bit of themselves in your character will catch their interest.

You won’t have them completely, though. A mild character flaw can make the reader like your hero, and a goal can get them interested. Neither of these is enough, though, to keep the reader hooked and turning pages. Neither is enough to keep the reader in suspense.

To do that, you have to ask a question.

And that question is...what will happen to the character if he doesn’t succeed? What if, when the hero is at the grocery store, his shyness won’t let him ask for the freshest okra? What if your clumsy hero knocks over the vocal instructor’s favorite vase, and he refuses to give her any more lessons.

Yes, I’m being silly. The question, though, and the answer, are serious. When you start out thinking about your hero, you usually know what he or she wants. Do you know, though, what failure will mean? What disaster—physical and emotional—will hit the story if your hero doesn’t get what he wants? If your detective can’t stop the murderer, someone else will die. Okay. Go further. What will that second death do to your hero? Will he lose his job? Will she have to ask her slimy ex-husband for more child support? Will he sink back into the deep depression he’s been fighting all along?

What is at stake?

It’s your job, as a writer, to figure it out and to put it on the page. You owe it to your hero...and to your readers.


I think that's why being a suspense novelist is so cool—our brains are automatically wired to make bad things happen. And we have so much to choose from! (Makes my husband wonder about me at times.)

Becky, my sincere thanks for taking the time to prepare something for Suspense Novelist.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Finding Your Process

Learning how I will put a book together is one of life's great mysteries.

I'm trusting it's one with a resolution.

The first two books I attempted to write were SOTP (Seat Of The Pants). I had a couple of ideas, but pretty much just sat my butt in the chair and typed. One has morphed into what I'm working on now, and the other I might pull out one day and take another stab at finishing. (My husband liked it and he's pretty miserly with high-praise.) But the lack of any kind of a road map left me freaked. I knew I'd be driving in wilderness without direction or pace. SOTP writing, when I got serious about finding My Process, wasn't gonna work.

I checked into the fine art of detailed outlining—if you're interested, check out the Snowflake Method—developed by Randy Ingermanson. Although a couple of the concepts intrigued me, I pretty much knew that was not going to be My Process either.

Over time, through trial and horrible error, I'm figuring out what works for me regarding the basic outline vs. pants question. It's a weird morph. It took me a while, and a little (no that's a lie—a LOT) of self-education, but that part of My Process, I'm putting into place. (I say "figuring out" because my next book might evolve the process even further. Writing, and how I make my little etchings, is fluid—not carved in stone).

But my plotting process, at least for now, is solved.

However, it doesn't stop there for me. Not by a long shot.

How do you handle re-writes? Or do you write such a clean first draft re-writes are unnecessary?

What do you do when your re-write (I'm assuming you're like me and less than perfect in your initial first draft) hints at altering things a bit?

How do you keep track of sub-plots? What about those little bits and pieces that deserve at least passing attention later on?

These are things I'm still feeling my way through. Today, I had moments of aha giggles followed by twisted consternation. Deleted scenes and one or two that sang.

It's a process. I love advice. Advice is pretty much what's gotten me as far as I am. But in the end, it's up to each one of us to figure out what works.

But through it all,

it's better with friends.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

When You Luse Your Muse

When you're under deadline, you have little choice. You suck it up and get the job done.

"I write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning." ~~Peter De Vries

But what about when the deadlines are artificially set? What about when life hands you something that trumps writing? What about when you feel like you've somehow managed to sink your creativity into a load of quick-dry cement? That it's vaporized into the greedy dry air of the desert of your mind?

What then???

Here are some things I find helpful (yeah, been there-done that):

Read. Read an author you love to read. It doesn't matter whether he or she writes in your genre. What matters is remembering what made you want to write in the first place. For most of us, that desire was born of reading.

Read. Read a magazine that focuses on writing. Those articles make me itch all over, and there's only one way to scratch that itch.

Read. Read one of your favorite books on the craft of writing. Get inspired and maybe even redirected.

Read. Read what you've already written. Get caught back up in the excitement of your story. Reacquaint yourself to those characters who blew you away. Imagine what they're driven to do next.

Walk. Lace up those athletic shoes and hit the streets. Move your legs and your arms and let the cobwebs clear out. Throw your shoulders back (and down) and check out the signs of the season. Then pull one of your characters into your head and push them around a little bit. See how they react.

Write. Try a short story for a change. Or write about what might be lurking in that icky dark corner of your storage room. Or, along the same vein, how that newest sign of aging makes you feel. Write everyday. EVERY day. Journal. Write gibberish. Free-style. Hit the keys and see what the monkey comes up with. You never know, it could be great. Or not. Doesn't matter.

Pray. Find some quiet time and listen. Sure, make requests—but listen. Get centered. Focused. Back on track.

What do you do to get back in the swing?

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

CJ Lyons: The Most Dangerous Day of the Year

CJ Lyons has hit the bookstores at a full run. She's been featured in several online interviews and has appeared on television talk shows to showcase her amazing debut novel, Lifelines.

Even with her whirlwind schedule, CJ is here on Suspense Novelist today sharing some good information for everyone, and giving us a peek into what makes her book so great.

Here's a little about CJ, who I've come to think of as a friend:

As a pediatric ER doc, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about. CJ loves sharing the secret life of an urban trauma center with readers. She also loves breaking the rules; her debut medical suspense novel, LIFELINES, is cross-genre to the extreme, combining women's fiction with medical suspense with thriller pacing with romantic elements and is told from the point of view of the women of Angels of Mercy's Medical Center. Publisher's Weekly proclaimed LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), "a spot-on debut..a breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller" and Romantic Times made it a Top Pick. Contact her at

Take a look at the two endorsements on the front of this. Wowzers! Tess Gerritsen and Lisa Gardner. Awesome.

The Most Dangerous Day of the Year by CJ Lyons

Thanks to Peg for inviting me! Peg asked me to talk about life in the ER and how it's different than the "normal" world.

One obvious difference is that for people who work in Emergency Rooms, holidays take on a whole different meaning than they do for the rest of the world. Here's a list of the five most dangerous days of the year to be in or around an ER.

Number 5: tie between Valentines Day and St. Patrick's Day
Valentine's Day has sloppy heart-broken drunks with suicidal ideations. St. Patrick's Day has more sloppy drunks puking up green beer and seeing leprechauns. Definite toss up (pun intended!)

Number 4: Christmas
Over the hills to grandma's—often while driving drunk on icy roads; stomach viruses, influenza, and respiratory diseases all hitting at once; curious kiddies surrounded by poisonous mistletoe and poinsettias; traveling out-of-towners who forget their heart, diabetes, blood pressure, or anti-psychotic medications….need I say more?

Number 3: New Years
More drunk driving, more icy roads, coupled with kids waking up before their parents and overdosing on left-over booze, add in a plethora of stroke of midnight kisses turned into date-rapes, hang-overs, and football bets gone wrong.

Number 2: Thanksgiving
Sharp knives do not mix with a once a year family gathering! Festering hostilities tend to surface, aided by liberal doses of wine and turkey.

Number 1: July 1st
Actually make that July 1st through the 4th. You see, for teaching hospitals, our calendar starts on July 1st. That's when the new interns—yes, the bumbling fools who were mere medical students on June 30th—hit the hospitals and start taking care of patients.

Add to that the age-old American traditions of drinking yourself stupid and shooting off explosives and/or guns while celebrating Independence Day and you have a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

Is it any wonder that my medical suspense novel, LIFELINES, takes place from July 1 through July 4th?

I remember my own Transition Day. Brand new, still not unpacked or moved in, barely finding the hospital parking lot (it was two blocks away in a gang-riddled, not-so-nice neighborhood) much less figuring out my way around the hospital and I'm suddenly on call, responsible for three floors worth of very sick kids!

No one died that night, not on my watch….for which I've forever been eternally grateful. I don't take credit for it—I think it was more likely because of the always-excellent nurses who were well aware of the dangers July 1st posed their tiny patients.

Of course, in my novel, things don't go quite so well for my main character. She loses a patient—the wrong patient, the Chief of Surgery's son. And she has no idea why he died….

If you want to learn more of what goes on behind the scenes at an urban medical center on the most dangerous day of the year, give LIFELINES a try!

Anyone out there with a favorite holiday disasters? I'd love to hear!

Thanks for reading,

CJ, my thanks once again to you for taking the time join us here. I'm excited to see what a fabulous liftoff LIFELINES has had. You go, girl!

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Where Does YOUR Story Start?

Well duh, Peg. Is this a trick question?

Um, no.

Okay, then. My story starts at the beginning.

Are you sure? I encourage you to take another look.

You can write the greatest hook in the world. Your first twenty words might be so hot your book flies off the shelves.

But if the next twenty pages are a buildup for What Happens Next, your readers aren't going to be too happy. I sure wouldn't be.

Your story probably really starts with What Happens Next.

But this stuff is important.

I'm sure if you wrote it, it is. But can the story get started without it?

In the manuscript I'm writing now, my protagonists have their story that bleeds into the one I'm writing. That part of their story took place two years ago. Believe me when I tell you it would bore you to tears. I ought to know. I wrote it. Want to read two years worth of family angst to build up to the real story?

Vigorous shaking of head.

Didn't think so.

I start with a murder. It's a 300-word prologue. The first chapter opens with my male protagonist reading a few obituaries. My reader gets the idea the two might be connected.

The previous two-years are there, but I'm not writing about them. The important pieces will get sprinkled in enough to fill in the blanks.

So what do I do?

One of the best pieces of advice I've received to date is to come in late and leave early. It applies to writing scenes. Every scene. And that includes the opener.

Start where the real story starts. Not the setup. Not the background. Don't let your reader down by opening with a hot hook, and then letting the fire die out because you're out gathering really cool fuel. Have bigger and bigger pieces of wood ready to load on that fire and keep it roaring.

In suspense, the reader doesn't want to see someone trying to light the fire. They want to walk into a blaze. And they like it to get blazier and blazier.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cop Talk with Lee Lofland

I asked Lee Lofland if he'd have time to write a guest post for Suspense Novelist. He really didn't, but he made the time anyway. That's just the kind of guy he is. (Plus, he says nice things about my all-time favorite cop, Sheriff Andy Taylor. Of Mayberry. Gotta love it.)

I'm putting his bio up-front, just in case you haven't heard of this guy. Oh. You'll probably also want to buy his book. I got mine through Amazon.

Lee Lofland is the author of Police Procedure and Investigation, A Guide For Writers and the co-author of the forthcoming children’s book Everything Kids: I Want To Be A Police Officer. He is a nationally acclaimed expert on police procedure and crime-scene investigation, a popular conference and workshop speaker, and he writes freelance articles for publications, such as The Writer magazine.

Lee is also a consultant for many bestselling authors and television and film writers and he recently appeared as an expert on a BBC television documentary called How To Commit The Perfect Murder. He’s a member of Sisters in Crime and he’s on the board of directors for the New England chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

You can learn more about Lee at

Writing About Cops – It’s Not That Difficult by Lee Lofland

How important is it for writers to be accurate about the cops in their stories? The answer to that question is simple. Be accurate, but don’t go overboard trying to feed unnecessary facts to your readers. They’re not buying your book as a study guide for the police academy.

A good way to judge how much fact is enough is to consider your own profession, writing. How much would you tell your fans about the equipment you use to produce a manuscript? Would you bore them with the details of the inner workings of your laptop? How about the dye lot of the ink in your pens? No, of course not, but that’s what many writers think they need to do to bring their detectives to life.

We, as readers of fiction and suspense, don’t always need to know that a Beretta 9mm is manufactured in Italy, but it is nice to read that the pistol is large and heavy – bigger than the LadySmith your female detective is used to firing—a fact that could be important. If a pistol is too large for her hands it could make her pull the weapon to one side, causing an inaccurate shot.

Fans want to experience the action, the rollercoaster ride of your hero’s struggle to make it to the final page. They want to feel what it’s like to step into a crime scene and smell death. Touching cold, firm flesh and hearing the yelps and wails of approaching sirens in the reader’s mind rings much truer than reading about 147grain plus P ammunition.

Cops are real people with real emotions and real families. They go to the grocery store and they go to their kid’s softball games. They’re not all drunks with poor eating habits, and it gets a bit tiresome reading that they are in nearly every police procedural. I say this as I complete the final pages of a novel featuring a troubled detective. However; there’s quite a bit of realism in this story. Still, I promise, my next protagonist is quite different.

It’s such an easy thing for writers to get their police facts straight. The first rule is to never, ever use television as a research tool. I can’t stress this point enough. Also, don’t use another work of fiction as a reference. The author may have used TV CSI as their main source of information, a double whammy.

The best thing a writer can do when conducting research about cops is to contact a local police department. They’re usually more than willing to help us out. Next, try using use online assistance, like my new blog The Graveyard Shift. But always verify the source of your online help. Ask fellow writers if they know the expert. Have you heard them speak at writer’s conferences, etc? There are many, many people out there who are offering advice and information and they’ve never set foot in a crime scene.

And for goodness sake, lay off the donut puns. Cops today are very health conscious. They eat well, exercise regularly, and drink bottled water.

Enough ranting and raving, it’s time to watch The Andy Griffith Show, the only realistic cop show on television. That’s why I named the last chapter in my book on police procedure CS I Don’t Think So.

Lee, my personal thanks to you for being such a stand-up guy and getting me this column.

For you suspense novelists out there, his book needs to be on your reference shelf.

Lee invites you to send him any of your questions to

It's all better with friends.