Writing is something new to me. I didn’t grow up wanting to write a book or be an author. Prior to this book, I had mostly written term papers for college and police reports for work. I’ve never taken a class on how to write and, right about now, a couple of you may be thinking, “Yeah, I know.”
I’ve spent most of my life in public service. After graduating from Lakewood High School, I was awarded a Marine Corps scholarship to the University of Southern California. Those were four great years, and I learned a lot about the world and myself. I understood I was training to be a leader of Marines, potentially in combat. My Military Occupational Specialty was in tanks; it was my honor to lead a tank platoon for fifteen months. I also spent a year at the main rifle range at Camp Pendleton. This solidified my love of marksmanship and shooting, which I hope comes out in my books.
Although combat never came during my time in the Corps, it did help prepare me for my next career in law enforcement. I spent the next twenty-eight years at the Long Beach Police Department. Being a police officer is a rewarding career, but it’s hard and often thankless. You may be second guessed by the brass and the media for weeks on end for a decision you made in the blink of an eye. Some of my best days came as a cop, some of my worst too.
I spent most of my career in Patrol. I used to think I wanted to be a detective and I have great respect for them. However, I learned in my first year that working the streets was the most fun was for me. Patrol was where the action was. I’ve always loved dogs and the opportunity to work with them in police work was life altering. Early on, I got to see the handlers working their dogs, going yard to yard, looking for a suspect. I will never forget the first time I heard a K9 barking after locating a bad guy.
Before you become a handler, you start as a decoy, or as the handler’s refer to them, a “chew toy.” You learn a lot being on the wrong end of a German Shepherd. If you’re paying attention, you see how they use their nose to find the scent in the air, how they work it back to where you are hiding and how they bark and guard you, as if saying, “If you run, you won’t get away.”
My worst day as a cop came in 1989 when, while attempting to apprehend a suicidal suspect, my K9 partner, Asko, was shot in the face. We rushed him to an emergency veterinarian who managed to keep him from bleeding to death. It was a hard day for both of us, but he survived and almost a year later returned to patrol with me. Someday, maybe I’ll work that into one of my stories.
If you have read my books, you may notice that some of my story is like my characters. I read a lot and have attended several author book signings. I recall one author saying, “Write what you know.” I find that very helpful and use it in many of my characters. BUT, I am not JW North. Not on my best day am I half as good as he is. There are tiny pieces that could be me, but they could be others too. Many of my characters are composites of people I know and respect. They contributed to my successes in life and in my fictional world as well.
After promoting to sergeant, I left K9 for a few years, but was able to return later, without a dog this time. Being only a supervisor and not working with a dog wasn’t quite as much fun, but still a great job because of the team I worked with. Having great teams with strong personalities has always been important. I’m a strong believer that I don’t know everything, but if I put a good group around me, together we can accomplish anything.
While I was a K9 supervisor, I was directed to develop a bloodhound team. One of our officers as shot and seriously injured during a traffic stop. The Orange County Sheriff’s Bloodhound Team came out and ran a trail, which led us to a phone booth. We later learned our suspect had gone there and called a friend to pick him up.
That was the beginning of a multiyear journey of meeting a lot of dedicated people and learning a lot about dogs and scent. Just when you think you know everything, someone new comes along and calls you a rookie. These were great years, and we spent a lot of time working with a university to develop studies and procedures. The FBI got involved and we assisted them on several cases, including the DC Sniper and a serial killer in Alaska.
When I retired from Long Beach PD in 2009, something changed inside me, and I began running ideas through my head. I didn’t realize it then, but I had started writing what would become BIG DOGS: Book One In The 'Big Dogs Series.' I just needed to sit down and start typing. I had no idea what I was doing, but I had a muse driving me to put my thoughts down on paper.
What I thought was a prologue ended up being the first four chapters. I had no concept of the structural part of telling a story. But I learned. I hired a professional editor to help with my first book. She did a fantastic job. When I received her first round of edits, I went into mourning for a few days. Up until that point, everyone who read that book had fallen all over themselves telling me how good it was. Now, someone was telling me that maybe it wasn’t as good as everyone had said, but the important thing is that she could help me make it better.
After I regained my composure, I told myself to suck it up and get back to work. I’ve learned that in life, things are not given, you have to earn them. But in the end, it’s well worth it.
One thing I insist on in my writing is accuracy. If you’re looking for the standard Hollywood storyline where everything is all wrapped up neatly at the end of the book, then you’ll be disappointed. I don’t write that way because life isn’t like that. Sometimes you get lucky and get the suspect right away, and sometimes crimes take years to solve.
I have a group of people that make up my advance reader team. They are experts in given areas to make sure I get the details correct, or they know next to nothing about police work to ensure my story is not lost in a jumble of jargon and acronyms. Together, we do our best to make my stories real, my characters honest and believable, and the reader satisfied in the end.
Thanks for reading,