Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hail to the Emperor!

A light moment in court today. The judge was swearing in a witness, asking her to promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And, in accordance with tradition, the witness held her hand aloft and took in the judge's words. When he'd finished, tradition was abandoned for a moment, perhaps elevated:

"Do you, Willamina Witness, swear.. blah blah blah...?"
"I do swear to. . . " Pause. "Yes, Cesar."

Silence descended on the courtroom, then the judged looked around and smiled. "Well, I've never been called Cesar before."

A giggle was had by all.

Turns out the young lady had started to recite the entire oath and her lawyer had whispered in her ear: "Saying 'yes' is easier."

Which she heard as, "Say 'Yes, Cesar'."

So she did.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The final puzzle piece.

Or, put another way, how an author goes from having an agent to having an actual book. This author, specifically.

But first, a plug for a fellow prosecutor, blogger, and author. Her name is Allison Leotta and her second novel comes out in July. Her first, Law of Attraction, is released today in paperback. Today, how timely is that?! She's already on my blogroll so check her out, maybe see if there's room on your shelves for a new paperback. Oh, and here's the cover (since I can't show you mine yet):

Now then, back to me. We established in the previous segment that it took about six months to snag my agent. Well, it took a lot longer to snag a publisher. The business move at molasses pace and agents typically submit to publishers in groupings, three to five, at which point you sit and wait for responses. I got some good ones from some of the biggest publishers in the business, including:
  • this is a very well-written, sophisticated murder mystery and no one can argue with the fabulous setting. Pryor does a very nice job setting up the suspense and keeping the narrative moving swiftly.
  • the writing was good and I found it to be wonderfully evocative in its description of Paris and what makes the city so interesting and beautiful.
But ultimately they all passed and Ann went on the hunt once more. I think from the time I signed with her, it took almost two years to find a publisher for The Bookseller. But what's cool is that she found one who really, really likes my books. Not only did he want The Bookseller, but also the sequel (The Crypt Thief) and the third, which I have yet to finish.

That is even better, to me, than having a one-book deal with a huge publishing house because I know that whatever happens, however the first one sells, two more will hit the shelves. A lot of authors get dropped if their first book doesn't do well but it looks to me like Seventh Street Books is in it for the long haul. I am eternally grateful, and eternally optimistic.

As for the process, well, what happens after you sign is that the wheels of production begin to turn, and each revolution feels to me (and to other authors I've spoken to) like the turn of Ferris Wheel - incremental, but incredibly exciting. After each contact with a copy-editor, marketing whiz, or art person I think, "Wow, this is really happening!" Yeah, I know, a grizzled prosecutor turns into a giddy schoolgirl. But you know what? I'm happy to do so.

As of now, we're finalizing the cover, the marketing blurb is being tweaked, and I'm joining International Thriller Writers, Inc.

Release date looks like being in the fall of this year, nothing set in stone as yet. But don't worry, when I get a firm date you'll be among the first to know. But of course.

Friday, March 23, 2012

On the mean streets of Austin

So it happened, I had my first ride-along on Thursday night.  I began at five in the afternoon and went through the end of the shift, at midnight.  Here are some observations.

1.  You know how, when you speed, you eyeball cars stopped at the side of the road to make sure they aren't cop cars?  You know, you tap the brakes until you're sure it's just someone broken down or out of gas, maybe an abandoned vehicle.  Well, guess what?  You still do it when you're riding in a cop car!  Yep, we'd be cruising along and I'd check out cars parked facing the road, then realize, Hey!  I'm in the cop car!  Sorry, "unit."

2.  Texting is dangerous.  You know how I know?  There we are, tootling along a downtown street and I look to my right, into the car of the woman driving beside us.  She's texting while driving beside a police car, which, as you can tell by my outrage, is not allowed in Austin.  Be clear: my outrage is not at the fact that she was breaking the law, but that texting is so obviously distracting that she didn't even see the cop car beside her.  Honestly, that moment (looong moment) really crystallized how absorbing texting must be if she had no idea we were there.

3.  People are funny.  Take, for example, the old boy (picture a gold prospector or sheriff's sidekick in a western movie) who told us all about the band he was in, the $250,000 he was being paid next week for playing at the White House, the weed he smoked with Willie Nelson last week.  He was the band's drummer, he said, then proceeded to sing through whistling teeth some unrecognizable song.  My cop (okay, I don't own him he just kept me safe all night) listened politely, respectfully, and nodded along.  (I, on the other hand, wanted to respond to the singing with, "No wonder you're the band's drummer.")

4.  Police officers can hold entire conversations in numbers.  Seriously, they don't even know they are doing it.  The Sgt. emailed me before the ride-along and said to "21 her when I got to the sub."  In some alternative communities, I'm lead to believe that's quite an invitation.  Turns out she just wanted me to call her when I got to the station.

Well, that's all for now.  Any questions?  I'll be riding every week so I don't want to 86 my 91s.  Or 22 my 38s.  Whatever, you know what I mean.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Aspen - where even the criminals are polite

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, very probably, but my brother is the police chief in Aspen, Colorado. (Amusing side note: he's a very law-abiding, serious, white Englishman by the name of Richard Pryor. And he rarely sets fire to himself.) We've talked many times about the differences between crime in a place like that and a larger metro area like Austin, but this little nugget came to me over the radio this morning and not from him:

A drunk in Aspen stole a bike to get home, then left it on the courthouse steps with a note of apology. The owner, delighted to have it back, had no interest in pressing charges. Full story here. That the thief (borrower may be a better term) signed it "Drunk" makes it that much better.

Tomorrow night my ride-along begins, so Friday I hope to have an interesting tale or two to share. And if I get the result of ADA John Hunt's "Bite Me" case, I'll let you know that, too. Hopefully if he loses he won't be in the dog house...

EDITED TO ADD:  Guilty.  Great work, John Hunt.  And the story by your local newshound (hehe) Steven Kreytak is right here.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A word in your ear

Do you like to play with words?  This came to me when I saw a donkey on TV with my female dog lying beside my chair.

And I have three little kids, one of whom was involved in a conspiracy with a neighbor's kid to write a rude word on a wipe-clean piece of plastic.  Which the little geniuses forgot to wipe clean.

But these things got me to thinking what store we put in words, good ones and bad, and how a single word, the exact same word, can be utterly harmless or hair-raisingly shocking.  Exhibit A:

"I met our neighbor today, Richard."
"Oh, cool.  Is he is a Rich, or a Richie, or..."
"No, he's a Dick."
"Excellent.  Is that his yard I can smell from here?"
"No, it's his ass."
"He has a donkey?"
"He sure does.  Chickens, too."
"Brilliant, I wonder if he'll give you some eggs."
"Probably, he already offered me his cock."
 "I see. Please explain."
"In case I want to have chickens, too.  He said I could borrow his rooster."
"Oh, phew.  But then I knew he was an animal lover, he and his wife."
"Oh, you saw his bitch?"
"I did.  His wife was walking her and the other labrador this morning."
"What were you doing out this morning?"
"Chasing my neighbor's pussy."
"It escaped again?"
"Yep.  Still on the loose, too."
"Well, you better find it.  Can't have your neighbor's pussy in with my neighbor's..."
"Oh right, that donkey might step on it."
"Precisely what I was going to say."

Offended?  I nearly am...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bite me.

A prosecutor walked into my office this week and during our chat revealed that he's our official "dog prosecutor."

Which set my mind a-whirling.

"Please state your name for the record."
"And is it true, Mr. Rover--"
"Not Mr. Rover. Just Rover. I'm a dog."
"Ah, very well. Is it true, Rover, that on December 25, 2011, you bit someone."
Shrugs. "I bite a lot of people. I'm a dog."
"Yes, but most dogs bite toys, not people."
"Pffft. They ain't dogs. They're pets."
"Maybe, but it's illegal to bite-- What are you doing, sir?"
"Cleaning myself. Didn't have time for a shower before court this morning."
"We prefer witnesses not lick their crotches while testifying, if you don't mind. Now, I was asking whether--"
"Hang on. If you don't want me washing, can I assume you don't want me peeing, either?"
"Good heavens, no!"
"Okay, it's just that I need to go and that's a might tempting hydrant."
"That's not a hydrant, Rover, that's the court reporter...."

Well, turns out he doesn't actually prosecute the dogs themselves, just their owners, which is much less interesting. Important, though, because he was telling me about the injuries people have sustained -- very nasty indeed. He has three cases, and they all have one thing in common, can you guess what that is? I'll let you fill in the blanks, it's two words:


First case is a bench trial this coming Monday, as it happens. (The original story about the incident aired on Fox, click here to read/see the story.)

It's going to be interesting but I'll tell you what, I would've paid good money to see the prosecutor, John Hunt, cross-examine a dog.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A tin star for DAC?

We have this new program at the DA's office where prosecutors ride with APD officers when they are out on patrol.  I assume it's so they can find out how awesome we are, and we can give them lots of pointers as to the stuff they are doing wrong.  No doubt, they are terribly grateful for all the input, don't you think?

Naturally, I'm thinking of joining in.  A dash of excitement, a chance to meet the troops, and I assume they'll give me a tin star, a ten-gallon hat, and a six-shooter for when we're trapped in Gravel Gulch.

Oh right, Austin.  The year 2012.

Still, I think it'll be interesting.  The only ride-along I have ever done was in England when I was a newspaper reporter.  I got bored after about three hours and asked them to take me home because one speeder and a broken tail light didn't give me much to write about. Or stay awake for.  And English cops don't even stop for fish and chips while on duty.  Very weird.

I'll be sure and let you know if it happens, I'm betting it'll be good blog fodder.

Those police cars are bullet-proof, right?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Monkey (and whale) business

I think I need to monkey with the blog a little.  As you can see, I have my own domain now, like a grown up.  But I still like to play with colors and pictures, so please bear with me while I fine tune things here.

Maybe this weekend.  You see, the plan was to go camping but we have major storms rolling through and storms + tents = disaster.  So I think it'll be a writing weekend for me, which can include tinkering with my upcoming website and the blog.

In the meantime, I would like to discuss how some do-gooders saving the whale will impact my TV watching.  Seriously.  I'm all for whale-saving, absolutely.  Wonderful creatures.  And when I'm watching the show Whale Wars I totally root for the saboteurs (I checked, it's not a violation of my doing-justice oath.  For one thing, they're in international waters not Lake Travis, and second, as long as I don't, myself, disable a Japanese whaling boat, I'm okay).

But see, that is an awesome show, a highlight for me and my kids.  But now the saboteurs have gone and succeeded in chasing those nasty whalers off.  What are they going to do, have an entire episode where the anti-whaling crews go around high-fiving each other?  Maybe admiring the beauty of the Arctic Sea (where whales are now free to roam but how would you know cos you can't see them?).  For an hour?  I think not. 

Although we have discovered a show called Top Shot, which turns out to be as addictive.  People shooting at stuff, using shotguns, machine guns, and cannons.  How come no one ever thought of that before?  Bloody brilliant.

But back to the successful saboteurs, to whom congratulations are in order.

I suppose.