Friday, October 30, 2009

Bouchercon 2009

October 14 was my mother’s birthday, and I spent it flying to Indianapolis for Bouchercon 2009, the premier event for mystery lovers. (Don’t worry about Mom. I called her and sang “Happy Birthday” over the phone during my Memphis layover. Good thing I can sort of actually carry a tune because several people stared at me like I’d sprouted a second head.)

Anyway, my flight to Indianapolis was relatively uneventful. Except for losing my boarding pass somewhere between Mobile and Memphis...on the freaking plane. I guess the gremlins stole it. Regardless, once I arrived in Memphis, I found my departure gate, explained what happened to the very nice clerk working the desk, and she printed a new pass for me. Next stop, coffee shop! I positioned myself where I could people watch while I waited for my next flight. People watching in an airport is a favorite hobby. I like to try to figure out where people are going, where they’ve been, what their life is like, etc. based on the way they dress and what luggage they bring with them. Yes, even when traveling, my mind is ever in the creative author mode.

After arriving in Indianapolis, and suffering through a sudden fit of coughing while at the baggage claim (Note to the security guard and other travelers who kept eyeing me during this time: I was not and am not contagious! Dust from the baggage carousel got caught in my throat.) The ride from the airport to the hotel was strange. Indianapolis is a big city and I’d expected to see more traffic on the roadways during the middle of the week. The streets were strangely empty. It was kind of freaky, actually.

The hotel was great. The lobby was a huge open-air atrium deal with glass elevators. I loved riding the elevators because I could easily see who was milling around in the lobby before I arrived. It was a helpful perk when searching for my pals Kelli Stanley, Rebecca Cantrell, Andrew Peterson, and Laura Benedict.

This was my first ever Bouchercon and I had a blast. Not only because I was able to reconnect with a lot of my friends or make new friends but because everyone was so friendly. I also didn’t have any panels, sessions, or workshops to prepare for so that left me completely free to enjoy myself and the company around me.

In addition to having a great time at Bouchercon, I was able to hang out for a bit with the fabulous Charlaine Harris and some of her fans, which I am at heart ‘cause I totally love Charlaine! (Thanks, Debi and Becci, for inviting me to join the festivities! I had a great time and look forward to seeing y’all at Romantic Times in April.) I also went on a forced march, uh, make that “self-guided walking tour” of downtown Indianapolis with Rebecca Cantrell and Tana Hall. We saw some amazing architecture, had a lot of fun, and walked...and walked...and walked. The most important fact is that we had a lot of fun.

Another great thing about Bouchercon was that I got to see my wonderful editor. We talked about BLOOD LAW, “Book 2”, and cover art. (Yes, it’s on the way. As soon as I get official word it’s available for release, I’ll post it. Patience, minions, patience.) Also, another of Ms. Editor’s authors, Brett Battles, won a Barry Award for Best Thriller (The Deceived) at Bouchercon. Congrats to Brett! He’s an outstanding author –- a well-deserved win.

Bouchercon was wrapped up on October 18 and I flew home the following day. Once again I had a layover in Memphis. I admit I was people watching again in hopes of having a “sighting” of a certain singer, but alas...

Next year’s Bouchercon will be held in San Francisco, home to my good friend and author extraordinaire, Kelli Stanley. I’m hoping to attend but haven’t fully committed yet. It’s still a year away so I have a little time. :)

So, that pretty well wraps up my report of Bouchercon. Next up, a quick lunch break and then I’ll be back for more catching up.

Catching Up

The past few weeks have been crazy. I'm playing catch up now and have finally moved on to updating the blog. Yay!

Expect multiple postings in the near future. Consider yourselves warned. :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

BLOOD LAW available as e-book!

I'm happy to announce that BLOOD LAW will be available in paperback and e-book formats! Check my Random House Author Page for more details.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bad boys... Bad boys... What'cha gonna do?

I didn't post after the last two Citizen's Academy nights because I knew I would be hitching a ride with a Mobile patrol officer, and I wanted to save my blogging for the "good stuff."

First, let me catch up on the Citizen's Academy goings-on. Basically, anyone can make a complaint to the internal affairs division. Whether that complaint is actually handled by IAD as opposed to the officer's direct supervisor depends on the seriousness of the complaint. Vice squad handles the drug and prostitution stuff. The K9 unit...all I can say is this: Do NOT mess with the dogs. If you're ever in a situation where cops bring in the dog and tell you to "Come out or we send in the dog, and you will be bitten!" -- believe them. The juvenile/youth crimes division has one of the hardest jobs. I won't go into detail as to what they investigate, but it's not only heartbreaking but frustrating for them to deal with it all.

Now...on to the "good stuff."

I arrived at the Second Precinct in time for roll call. The officers were discussing some of the issues/calls they'd seen the previous night. This past weekend was Bayfest here in Mobile -- big music festival -- and the calls were numerous and varied. Everyone hoped for a quiet night. As often happens, talking about these hopes led to the opposite.

My assigned officer and I received the first call within moments of leaving the precinct. We were heading to the Tillman's Corner area for the night and answered a call about dogs running loose in a neighborhood. The dogs had allegedly attacked a neighbor's dog and chased a couple of kids down the street. We arrived on the scene to discover what appeared to be a German Shepard and a great Dane had managed to get out of a fenced yard. There wasn't much to do other than watch the dogs to keep them from going after anyone else until animal control arrived. We were off to a rousing start.

Second call was to go pick up a shoplifter. Another officer provided backup, which seems to be standard procedure for any call, and actually transported the suspect to Metro jail. We then proceeded to regular patrol.

Patrolling is exactly what it sounds like. The officers ride around for 12-hour shifts, responding to calls as they come in, and actively looking for suspicious activity. Naturally, these guys know the "hot spots" and check them frequently. I can honestly say that I've seen parts of the Mobile metro area I never care to see again. It didn't take long for the first of the "Code 3" * runs to come across the radio.

A call came in regarding a young child jumping from a vehicle at a red light only to be snatched up again by the driver.

There's something both exciting and frightening about speeding through nearly empty, darkened streets at 90 mph with blue and white strobe lights reflecting off pavement and surroundings. The siren echoes off the buildings in places and on the radio when other officers call in their positions while they have their sirens activated. Plus, there is the X-factor of not knowing what you'll find once you arrive on the scene. Lots of thoughts run through your mind...and if you're blessed with an overactive imagination as I am, none of them are good.

Fortunately, this call turned out to be a case of a kid being pissed off at his mother and showing the poor judgement of "I'll show you and run away right now, right here in the middle of the street." Thankfully, the mother caught him before he was harmed. Thankfully, the kid was frightened enough by all the cops showing up that maybe he won't do something so boneheaded again. (Although the officers did offer to shackle him and run him into Metro, but his mother declined the offer, opting to "deal with him when we get home.")

From there, we returned to our appointed area of patrol. Actually we were on our way to respond to burglary call when we spotted a speeder and got to have a little bit of a chase. Nothing major...a few blocks and speeds under 100, mainly in the 80 range. Ticket issued and we were on our way.

Once we, and the backup unit, arrived at the burglary call, I was very impressed with the professionalism both officers exhibited. They asked a lot of questions, checked the point of entry and the area from which the items were taken, dusted for prints, gathered as much information/evidence as possible, and treated the homeowners with both respect and compassion while maintaining their authority. My assigned officer was very accommodating when I asked questions later about the process I witnessed, the next steps, and even the paperwork he was required to complete. In fact, he readily answered all my questions, although I tried not to ask too many or distract him while he was driving at high speeds...which leads us to the next series of calls.

We were patrolling when a call of a fight was made to 911. The caller said the individuals involved were armed to the point it sounded like a near riot. Naturally, everyone headed to the area. Luckily, by the time we arrived, the fight had broken up...and it wasn't as big as it was described. Mainly a family dispute and it was back to answering calls and patrolling.

It was while we were in the southernmost areas of the precinct's coverage that a call came over the radio of shots being fired with injuries. This was the first call where I felt really apprehensive. Because we were so far out, we had to literally burn rubber to get back. I can verify that there is very little traffic on the streets of Mobile in the wee hours of the morning, or on I-65. Good thing. As we headed back into town, we traveled north on I-65 with speeds hitting about 110 mph. The suspects, unfortunately, evaded capture and it was later learned the victim wasn't as seriously injured as initially thought. Things calmed down and it was back to routine patrol.

We answered calls regarding assaults, 911 hang ups, loitering, and other "minor" stuff for a while. Then another call of shots being fired was issued and we were off and running again. If you've ever watched the TV show "COPS" and seen instances where a bunch of units arrive on a scene and the cops have guns drawn, pointed at a suspect on the ground, and are actively searching both a house and the was one of those. I chose to remain in the car for this call. When my officer got there and reached for the shotgun that hung over my head, you better believe I'm staying out of the way. He and his fellow officers have other things to worry about than me.

The scene was cleared and as we where leaving, a call of a possible wreck and/or shooting came over the radio. You guessed it. Light, sirens, the smell of burning rubber. I know understand why all law enforcement patrol cars tend to look a bit battered and sound like they are halfway to their vehicular graves. They never stop moving for more than a few minutes at a time and even when they're parked, the cars are normally left running...locked...but running.

By this time, it was only an hour or so away from the end of the shift. We returned to the precinct in order for paperwork to be filed before the official end. I parted company with my assigned officer at this point.

The night was interesting, informative, fun, exciting, and at times, scary, and I'm so happy I did it. I'd love to do it again one day and maybe I will. But for now, I'll be content to stay in front of my computer and leave the "good stuff" to the professionals.

* "Code 3" is when an officer response to a call with full lights, siren, and speed.