Writer's Notes

An Interview with Thonie Hevron

By David Alan Binders

This interview appeared in David Alan Binder’s site David Alan Binder’s site today.

Thonie Hevron interview with David Alan Binder

Bio from her website:    In 1973, on a dare, Thonie tested with San Rafael Police Department for Parking Enforcement Officer. Yes, she got the job and became Rita the Meter Maid for three years. Six months after promoting to Dispatch, she married an officer and left police work.

In 1981, she got a job with Petaluma Police as a Community Service Officer and shortly after, divorced. For PPD, she took reports, directed traffic, spoke to groups about Crime Prevention and assorted duties. After seven years, she traded jobs with a dispatcher and went inside.  In 1988, she married a Petaluma Fire Captain, Danny Hevron. In 1991, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office recruited her as a Records Supervisor for the Central Information Bureau. With budget cuts looming, she left in 1994.

 In 1994, Danny and Thonie re-located to Bishop, California and worked as a dispatcher for the local police department in Inyo County. Then, in 2004, she again, was offered a job she couldn’t refuse–dispatcher for Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety. Danny and Thonie were thrilled to be back in Sonoma County and she finally retired in 2011. She concentrates on fiction writing, but takes a break with fitness workouts, cycling and kayaking with Danny and riding horses.

 Thonie’s job history gives her a rich and textured understanding of the complex life of the men and women behind the badge. She looks forward to penning the stories she has lived in law enforcement.



Good Reads:



1.     How do you pronounce your name? 

a.     I get that question a lot. It’s pronounced, “Toni.” I was named after my Norwegian grandmother. I’ve heard that Thonie is an old-fashioned name that means a musical note. Pretty ironic, though. I can’t carry a tune in a handbasket.

2.     Where are you currently living?

a.     I’m in Petaluma, California, a suburb of San Francisco with an agricultural identity all its own. This is Sonoma County, a major force in California wines as well as micro-breweries. The restaurants here are amazing and the setting is dairy pastures and vineyards.

3.     What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

a.     No question about it: Keep working.

4.     What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?

a.     I used to have to light a specific scented candle but I’ve outgrown that.

b.     I used to like to write to classical music or Jim Brickman, but I find it distracting now.

c.      I won’t drink wine while I am working or anything but water or coffee.

d.     Pretty boring, I’d say. Sometimes, those quirks become excuses for not putting my butt in the chair.

5.     Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

a.     I’ve done both and each has plusses and minuses. Self-publishing has more author control. I recall after my first book, By Force or Fear, came out, a review said that the reader found very few editorial mistakes. That was a major accomplishment! Then, I got a small press publisher (who eventually published my first book) for my second thriller, Intent to Hold. After Intent was published, a friend called me to tell me he wanted to give the book five stars on Amazon reviews but couldn’t because there were so many editorial mistakes. There was a whole printing that had most of the Mexican words underlined (the correct formatting to indicate italics). Yikes! I’d been give the galleys to check but that slipped by both me and the publisher. I had to destroy a whole $hipment.

b.     Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located? My former publisher was Billie Johnson of Oak Tree Press (OTP) in Hanford, Ca.  She is currently on hiatus, recovering from a stroke. She has offered the rights back to her OTP authors who want them. I chose to take advantage and now have both the above books and the forthcoming, With Malice Aforethought.


6.     Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

a.     My books are available as eBooks although Amazon still has a few print copies left from an OTP run. I’ll put out With Malice Aforethought in eBook first then the print copy. Then I plan on going back to tighten up By Force or Fear. I like to have both the bases covered, print and electronic. I have yet to do audio books but that’s on the (endless) list of things to do.

b.     For alternative versus conventional publishing: it depends on your genre, your book, your audience, and many other things. I write traditional police procedurals/crime thrillers so an alternative publisher probably wouldn’t work for me. But other authors could be well served by this medium. Bottom line is you, as an author, have to educate yourself on the business. Literary agents would be helpful here.

7.     Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?

a.     First, write and produce a marketable product.

b.     Second, get the word out: enter contests, query literary agents and publishers until you find what you need.

c.      Thirdly, but not least, market yourself and your work. Public relations is one of the most daunting aspects of today’s publishing world. But if an agent or publisher looks at your work compared to another author and you have a solid, thriving platform, chances are good they’ll look harder at you. After all, they only make money if your books sell. If you’re engaged in selling them, too, and the other author isn’t, you’re the better bet.

8.     How did you or would you suggest acquiring an agent?  Any tips for new writers on getting one?

a.     After my experience with a small press publisher, I am working on it. This is what I do:

b.     Query, query, query.

c.      Go to writers’ conferences (volunteering is a great way to get in cheap sometimes), join a writer’s club (I belong to California Writers Club/Redwood Writers-an incredibly active club that has helped set goals, organize, write better, learn to market and so much more).

d.     Go to club workshops, pitch sessions, and volunteer to help at events or the leadership level.

e.      I also joined Public Safety Writers’ Club, Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers. All offer scoops on agents currently looking for new projects.

f.       Sometimes the agents attend the club conferences looking for new clients.

g.     Subscribe to blog newsletters like Funds for Writers: mystery writer C. Hope Clark offers a free version with agent info. I check that every week.

h.     Find a book in your genre that you like, find the author’s agent, research and pitch/query him or her.

i.       Subscribe to QueryTracker or one of the many online (free!) programs to put you in touch with agents and/or publishers.

9.     Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?

a.     Write: put your butt in the chair and write—even if you toss it tomorrow, there may be something there that gives you an idea for something else. Write. If it takes a schedule carved in stone, getting up at 5 A.M., or finding a place outside the home: write.

b.     Develop a thick skin: know that when you ask your mother about your newest work, she’s going to tell you it’s a masterpiece. Not so with the rest of the world. I joined my current critique group ten years ago and have learned so much; become a better writer because of their criticisms. I wouldn’t trade any of them. On the other hand, fifteen years ago, I took pages from a new crime thriller to a group I didn’t know (about 20 people of all genres including poetry). They blasted it; said my character sounded whiney. Turns out they were right but the experience soured me on critique groups for years. Had I toughened up and found another group sooner, I might be farther along on my writer journey.

c.      Speaking of critique groups: join one. Find a group of people with similar goals (not necessarily similar genres) to cheer you on, to point out better ways to say it, to give you ideas when you’re stuck, challenge you to dig deeper, but one of the most cogent arguments for a critique group: to produce ten pages of work every meeting.

d.     Join a writer’s club, even if you have to do it from a distance (meaning online). Nothing beats glad handing with other reclusive writers (you want me to meet other people???). These days writers who publish are so much more than writers. They’re speakers, experts, bloggers, marketers, and so on. Like it or not, the Hemingwayian prototype of the writer as a hard-drinking, ascetic is history. Nowadays, writers network.

10.                        What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

a.     That I could do it. I never doubted that I had the skill to write, oddly enough. My reservations lay in setting and achieving a goal. Typing “The End” on the manuscript. When I finally did, I had to polish it—heavily.

b.     I had to learn new skills such as social media, blogging and public speaking (what??? Not me, the girl who couldn’t get up in front of a crowd to be her best friend’s bridesmaid!). Not to mention formatting, even if I’m traditionally published, the editor requires the text to be just so.

11.                        How many books have you written?

a.     Four: By Force or Fear, Intent to Hold both on Amazon.



b.     With Malice Aforethought to be published sometime later in 2017 and a fourth book, working title: Walls of Jericho. That one is still being polished.

12.                        Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?

a.     I try stay current with what my genre is producing.

b.     I keep a stock of writing craft books on hand so when I get stuck at a denouement (for instance), I can research Stephen King, David Corbett, Nancy Kress, Jordan Rosenfeld and more.

c.      My quick go-to is my critique group. They are awesome with ideas.

13.                        Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?

a.     I think: what is the opposite of what I think should happen?

b.     How could it get worse? Then, I get ideas.

14.                        What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?

a.     Because my topics are so authentic, they tend to be dark. But I have the cop-survival mechanism of humor to defuse the tension. I think the blend is unique.

b.     I also love to make the setting a character. Whether it is Sonoma County or Puerto Vallarta, I like to take readers there: how does it feel (humid or damp)? Smell (jungles are full of growing things that give off scents)?

15.                        What are some ways in which you promote your work?

a.     I like to use social media to get to audiences. I market heavily to cops so belong to Facebook groups and post my blog links.

b.     I do readings. Our local bookstore, Copperfields’ has partnered with my writers’ club, Redwood Writers, and host many literary events at which I’ve appeared.

c.      I appear at local fairs and festivals where I meet lots of potential customers. I give out freebies like bookmarks with my book info on them.

16.                         What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?

a.     I would have started sooner. I began writing in the fifth grade but never had any serious direction. It wasn’t until I was in my fifties that I decided I’d better do this if I wanted to write a book. Marketing wasn’t on the radar then or I probably would have been scared off! Basically, I would have believed in myself sooner.

17.                        What saying or mantra do you live by?

a.     Put your butt in the chair and write.

b.     Quitting is the sure road to failure.

18.                        Anything else you would like to say?

a.     Nope, I think I’ve covered it all.

More Street Stories

A Commentary from a Friend

By Joe Mariani, a retired Marin and Sonoma County teacher and administrator

re-posted from Facebook, with permission 


First of all, I love to read your Hal Collier stories.

But what sad news last night!

As a school administrator for SRCS [Santa Rosa City Schools] I regularly worked with the SRPD [Santa Rosa Police Department] & SO [Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office] and Probation. Several years before I retired in ’99 and then for the following decade when I was an on-call substitute administrator at all of the secondary schools in SRCS, we finally got 5 campus based PD officers who would split their time between our five high schools and their five feeder middle schools. As a building administrator I also attended the monthly Sonoma County gang- related meetings with the the same three groups at the SRPD main, where we would discuss the previous month’s gang activities & share intelligence.

Most regular citizens don’t have a clue about the dangerous and hard job that police & sheriff officers face every day, and how much we rely on them for our safety.

Also, it was always so great to see the paramedics & fire truck roll up – please no code 3! – when we had a badly injured or really sick student down. I go crazy when I see all if the bad press that today’s cops are getting, when I know from personal experience that all of the people who I worked with were good guys & ladies. And I also know that there is a “rest of the story” about the people who cops deal with every day/night that usually gets glossed over in the news. I dealt with middle & high school kids, non-students coming on campus, and adults for over 3 decades in a zillion “rest of the story” situations. It was so great to call or finally have a designated police officer to help with my 1056 [suicide/attempt], 415 [peace disturbance- can be a domestic or dog barking and everything in between], 242 [battery], H&W [Health and Welfare Code-known also as Welfare and Institutions Code-violation usually pertains to laws specifically to protect children’s welfare] , & even occasional 245 [assault with a deadly weapon], et al!

So my heart & prayers also go out to one more member of our “thin blue line, his Department, and his family.

More Street Stories

Dispatcher Appreciation Week

Petaluma PD dispatch
Petaluma PD dispatch

This is National Dispatcher Appreciation Week. So far, I’ve attended a luncheon in Petaluma for Sonoma County Dispatchers and will attend a CHP sponsored BBQ in San Luis Obispo tomorrow. All around, agencies are celebrating their employees. I heard a staggering statistic today: only one percent of the American population is capable of doing this job.

It’s a pleasure to see department heads, division commanders and managers show up to honor those people who are the first line contact with the public. I am proud to have been a dispatcher.


More Street Stories Tales from the Barking Muse

Congratulations and You’re Holding Over!

Petaluma, CA, Petaluma Blvd
Petaluma, CA, Petaluma Blvd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Gerry Goldshine

The brass ring for pretty much any rookie officer is that final day or night in their department’s field-training program. They’ve gone through the hiring process, completed the academy and are now at the end of twelve to fourteen weeks of having their FTO painstakingly scrutinize every citizen interaction, every arrest, every citation and every report. As a Petaluma officer, I finally grabbed my brass ring on a Saturday night in December of 1980. At that time, the Petaluma Police Department’s field-training program was about 12 week long, broken down into three, four-week phases. The last week of the program was known as “Plain Clothes Week”. During this phase, your training officer wore street clothes and was along only to evaluate you; they were not to assist you in any way though you could ask other officers for help. In essence, this was the police department’s final exam to determine your abilities to solo as a police officer.

Officer Dave Long had been my training officer for my final phase, working the Swing Shift, which ran from 1630 hours (4:30 PM) to 0230 hours (2:30 AM). On this memorable Saturday night, the swing shift sergeant had called off sick. Since Dave was the senior officer working that night, he had to fill-in as the acting Watch Commander. Dave asked Officer Tom Swearingen, another FTO, to take his place as my training officer. Dave then assigned us the busy downtown beat just to make sure I had an “active” final night of training.

As I recall, it was definitely very busy that night but one incident in particular still stands out in my memory; the party on Elm Street (no, not that Elm Street). Somewhere close to 0200 hours -2:00 AM- I was beginning to let myself think about finally reaching the finish line when I heard dispatch sending units to investigate several anonymous reports of a loud, disruptive party in the beat next to mine. A few of the people calling, complained that there were more than a hundred attendees and that some of them were tossing beer bottles and cans into the yards of neighboring houses. Other callers said that there were minors consuming beer and hard liquor. I knew officers, an hour or so earlier, had already warned the people throwing the party to quiet things or we would have to order it shut down.

A few minutes later, Officer Long requested all available westside units to respond to the Elm Street situation and meet up with him. The first clue I had this was not going to be a simple operation, was the legions of parked cars lining both sides of the street and throngs of people making their way down the sidewalks to the party, several blocks before I got even close. I pulled in behind a line of double-parked police cars, in time to see other officers putting on their riot helmets. I wasn’t exactly sure what had transpired before I got there, but I had a hunch that the first requests to shut the party down had been met with less than enthusiastic compliance.

There were about a half dozen of us standing out in the street, waiting for Officer Long to tell us the plan of action when a car drove up and parked in the driveway of the party house. Now you would think a bunch of police officers wearing riot helmets, in front of that same house, might be a clue that something was amiss. Apparently not to the occupants of this car, because the passenger, later identified as ““Stu Pidteen”, got out of the car holding a glass containing some type of beverage. Given the circumstances, Officer DJ Phimister, who was nearby, suspected the beverage might contain liquor and asked the young man to wait a moment. Ignoring DJ, ““Stu”” continued walking towards the front door, which, under the circumstances, seemed to be a rather impolitic course of action. DJ then ordered the teen to stop and in response, “Stu” sent the glass he had been holding, hurtling at DJ’s head, before running inside the house. Happily, it missed Officer Phimister, who took exception at coming close to testing the efficacy of his riot helmet. Naturally, he ran after “Stu” and since I was close by, I followed behind.

Just before making entry, I distinctly remember looking back at Officer Swearingen; he was, after all, my training officer that night. He had one hand raised, as if he were about to offer some sage FTO advice but then realized it was too late. Following DJ down a hallway towards the backyard, I couldn’t help from noticing the scores of people crammed inside that house; in fact, it was standing room only. I remember thinking that more than a few of the young men I ran past appeared to be on the very large and athletic side – as it turned out they were members of the Petaluma High varsity football team.

DJ managed to lay hands upon “Stu” just as he was about to scale the back fence. No sooner had DJ put the “habeas grabus” on him than one of the nearby partygoers decided he wanted a “piggyback” ride…on DJ’s back. Not prepared to play horsey, DJ reflexively let go of “Stu”, who attempted to make a beeline back to the inside of the house. I was close enough to grab “Piggyback Rider”, pull him off DJ and throw him to the ground. He lunged back up at me and I drilled him in the solar plexus with my baton, ordering him to stay down on the ground.

DJ was less than amused and “Piggyback Rider” suddenly found himself the focus of his attentions. As DJ was handcuffing “Rider”, I watched his back to prevent a replay because there were now about twenty very unhappy belligerent people moving to surround us; not a particularly good sign. While this was happening, some other officers managed to snag “Stu” just before he made it inside and he was quickly hustled out to the front yard.

So much was happening; I began to feel as though I were in a three-ring circus especially when I caught sight of another officer turning in a circle, spraying mace at about six or so people who had him surrounded.  As if that weren’t enough, I saw another officer holding his 36-inch long riot baton in such a way to keep another portion of the crowd from moving past him to prevent DJ from arresting “Piggyback Rider”. At the same time, he was trying to keep an avenue of escape open to us. From out in front of the house, Officer Long asked over the radio what our status was in the backyard.

It was then that this officer holding back the crowd with his riot baton immortalized himself as a master of understatement. He calmly replied over all the noise and tumult, “It’s building!”

Finally, someone made the wise decision that was time for us all to “get the heck out of Dodge City” and make our way back out front. Officer Phimister somehow maintained custody of “Piggyback Rider” as we made our way back through the house. I think we were fortunate there were so many people crowded inside that house because none of them realized what had just taken place in the backyard.

A cacophony of noise greeted us when we got out front again. Sirens filled the night air, as units from the California Highway Patrol and Sonoma County Sheriff arrived to help us shut down the party. Up and down this section of Elm Street, you could hear the clipped voices of dispatchers and officers blaring from the various portable and car radios. Adding to the hubbub was the loud animated voices of the partygoers themselves, as they poured out of the house and into the surrounding neighborhood. In the resulting confusion, “Stu Pidteen” got into a scuffle with yet another officer and made his escape into the night, though he was thoroughly sprayed with Mace for his efforts.

In the midst of all this, I heard Officer Long calling me on the radio.

“Lincoln 36…Congratulations…You’ve successfully completed training…Now I need you to hold over for two hours.”

I quickly looked down at my watch and saw that it was 0240 hours; Swing Shift had officially ended! I was at last, exactly where I wanted to be. I wisely resisted the temptation to respond with a loud, ‘Yahoo”!

Epilogue: Since several officers knew “Stu Pidteen’s” identity from prior encounters, the District Attorney filed an assortment of charges and the Court issued a warrant for his arrest. In a town of just slightly over 30,000 people, it didn’t take long for us to find him and serve the warrant. With the passage of time, “Stu Pidteen” eventually became a far wiser adult.

As for the phrase “It’s building!”, for several years after, it became almost obligatory to describe any situation, large or small, that seemed to be spiraling out of control.

More Street Stories Tales from the Barking Muse

Wine Country 5150s or They’re Coming To Take Me Away*

By Gerry Goldshine

Mental health
Mental health

In his most recent ramblings, Hal has been talking about 5150s, so I thought I would continue the topic but from the perspective of a much smaller police department. There were times that it sure seemed like Petaluma, with a population of just over 33,000 in 1980, was the 5150 capital of the San Francisco Bay Area. From my very first call with Petaluma Police to the completion of my “rookie” year, I was convinced that the dispatchers had conspired to assign me every 5150 call the department received including one where the bipolar lady forgot all her English and would only speak in Italian.

(In 1983, one of my sergeants insisted that there was a giant tuning fork under the city. He might have been right–Thonie)

That first call came in while my FTO and I were still in morning briefing. Our sergeant wanted us to Petaluma Valley Hospital and relieve a graveyard shift officer, who had been standing by an injured suicidal man who was on a 5150 hold. The man, in his mid–twenties, and went by the name of Raincloud Mudball. I’ve only slightly changed the name that was on his Driver’s License. Bear in mind, this is the San Francisco Bay Area after all.  He had declared to those who would listen, that he was Jesus, or something like that. He was having the urge to visit his father in Heaven. In order to do this, he proceeded to strip off all his clothes and then flung his body at passing cars on Highway 101 until one inevitably hit him. Surprisingly, he sustained relatively minor injuries, considering a car going 55 MPH had struck him.  While he was being treated in the Emergency Room, Raincloud was completely lucid, refusing any pain medication or local anesthetic while the doctor stitched him back together. He even called his mother, who told us that her son was a schizophrenic and had obviously stopped taking his prescribed medications. Our job was to follow the ambulance carrying Raincloud to the psychiatric facility at Napa State Hospital just in case he got the urge to visit heaven again. It was our good fortune that he did not.


Patients in an Insane Asylum--February 1946, Ohio, USA
Patients in an Insane Asylum–February 1946, Ohio, USA

Back in the 1980s, all law enforcement agencies in Sonoma County took those being held under 5150 WIC to the county psychiatric facility in Santa Rosa, known as Oakcrest. While much smaller in size compared to the University of Southern California Medical Center’s psych ward, the attitudes of the people working at Oakcrest were similar to those Hal described. I got to know a lot of dedicated Psychiatric Technicians and some of the Psychiatrists. Sad to say, because of funding cuts, staffing shortages and an overload of patients, many of these dedicated people suffered from job burnout. Some of them no longer cared about what was best for the patients, while others made due the best they could but just went through the motions.

Far worse, were those arrogant techs and doctors who viewed police officers as ignorant, uneducated “jack-booted thugs” who couldn’t possibly have an intelligent inkling of what constituted mental illness. They were the ones “outraged” when it took four of us to bring in a combative person in the violent throes of some type of a mental breakdown. Usually, they would purposely delay us by rejecting the 5150 paperwork we had completed, either because they discovered some picayune mistake or because they just felt like it. They were also the ones who insisted we immediately remove the handcuffs from a “patient”. I learned the hard way before developing Hal’s mindset; the cuffs don’t come off until the combative patient is in a secured room, all the paperwork is approved and I’m on my out the door.

Unfortunately, many of these “patients” were released well before the 72-hour hold period had expired. Sometimes, this was a result of someone deciding that they were no longer a danger to themselves or others, based on a 5-10 minute intake interview. On other occasions, they simply walked out the front door because there had been insufficient staff on duty to watch over them. More than once did I discover that in the 20 to 30 minutes it took me to get back to Petaluma, someone had released a 5150 I had just taken to the facility or they had walked out the front door. It was frustrating, not only to me and other officers but to the subjects’ family as well. In many cases, the family had exhausted all means to get their loved one help and the 5150 hold was their last refuge.

In the case of a “walk-away”, sometimes the good folks at Oakcrest would actually take the time and notify the Santa Rosa Police or us. More often than not, they didn’t and before the individual could make their way back to Petaluma, their behavior would bring them to the attention of law enforcement in whatever jurisdiction in which they happened to be. That department would then have to initiate a completely new 5150 hold. Sadly, once and awhile an early release, regardless of how it came about, would have tragic consequences.

One October, about three or four days before Halloween, a very despondent man walked into the garden section of a local “Paymore” Drug Store. He opened a bottle of Malithion insecticide and proceeded to drink the contents. Fortunately, someone witnessed what he had done and had the store manager call 911. Police and Fire responded and took the man to the local hospital. In the Emergency Room, he told everyone that he had been trying to commit suicide, the reasons for which I no longer recall. I think most would agree that anyone doing what this guy had done, was in need of some serious mental health treatment. He obviously met the criteria for a 72-hour 5150 WIC hold, assuming that he survived, which to everyone’s surprise, he did. Before the day was over, he was well enough for an officer to take him to Oakcrest. However, someone at the facility, made the decision that downing a Malathion cocktail in a drug store was insufficient evidence that someone posed a danger to himself. They released him well short of the 72 hours.

Come Halloween night, at around 10 PM, dispatch sent Officer T and me to check the welfare of a male subject whose family had been unable to contact him; however, we were to call dispatch on the telephone before responding. Officer T and I met up near a payphone – this was in the dark times before cell phones. We learned that the man whose welfare we were supposed to check was the same individual who had swallowed the Malathion a few days earlier.

The man’s house was a run-down old Victorian with a large detached garage; both were completely dark. Naturally, there was no response to our knocking at the front door, which was locked. As we started around to the back of the house, several kids who were Trick or Treating asked us if the house was haunted. That’s how creepy the place looked. Luckily, the back door was unlocked. Being the smaller officer, I did not relish having to climb through a window. None of the lights inside worked and the “décor” was in a state that you would expect from someone seriously depressed. It was a two-story house and of course, every damn tread on the staircase creaked loudly with each step we made. I half expected to find Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Freddy Krueger or Bela Lugosi around one corner or another.

I can’t say we were tremendously relieved at finding nothing inside the house, because that still left the garage, which was even more dilapidated than the house. The back door to it was open with the obligatory cobwebs all around the frame. Stacks of boxes, scraps of lumber, furniture, auto parts and parts of old wooden shelving blocked the view from outside the door. Officer T discovered a light switch just inside the door but, as was the case inside the house, it didn’t work. As we made our way around inside and past one stack of boxes, we both looked at each other wide-eyed when we suddenly heard a long low creaking emanating from the darkened unseen depths of the garage. Finally, our flashlight beams played over the corpse of a man, hanging from the rafters by a rope tightly noosed around his neck. At his feet was a car battery and it was gruesomely evident that he had drank its liquid contents before hanging himself. Clearly, this man had really wanted to die.

Of course, this begs the question; would a longer stay at Oakcrest have prevented this from happening? For several years afterward, I thought so; however, with experience on the job, I gradually came to understand there are some people, whose minds are so broken, that no amount of psychiatric intervention is going to help. These people see death as the only solution and their only salvation.

I never did learn what ultimately happened Raincloud Mudball. Napa State Hospital has long since closed its doors. I hoped that once he regained an even keel, he continued to take his medications. At the risk of corniness, I like to think that the world is a much more colorful place with someone going by the name of Raincloud Mudball, in it.


*Apologies to: Napoleon XIV – They’re Coming to Take Me Away

Writer's Notes

The Setting

As I hammer out the eleventh hour re-writes on the prologue, I fall under the spell of the setting of my novel, Sonoma County, more precisely Forestville and the Russian River area. The scenery and weather have roles as strong as any character. In fact, in my first draft, the climax occurred as the heroine battled the antagonist while her house was being shattered by a monstrous mudslide. Exciting but a bit predictable so I changed it. The story takes place over a period of two months–winter months, complete with rain, flood and a mudslide (not at the climax).

Thought you might like a summary of the story. Heroine Meredith Ryan is a Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy wrestling with an unraveling marriage damaged by her career and an officer involved shooting. When her husband is killed in a  seemingly random hit-and-run accident, she turns to her former partner for help. Superior Court Judge Stephen Giroud witnessed Ryan’s heroic shooting incident and becomes more than infatuated with her. Promoted to detective, her first homicide case promises exciting chases–in vehicles and on foot–shoot-outs and more!

It is my hope that the reader will be entertained throughout the twist and turns in this story. Rest assured, Isabel Allende won’t lift an eyebrow of concern. This is not a literary masterpiece but a fun ride to escape your daily drudges!

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