Guest Post: Are you born with knowledge? I think not. by Terry Korth Fischer

Can Rory find the mental and physical strength to up his game and bring the criminals to justice before disaster strikes? — Gone Astray by @TerryIsWriting 3/8

Are you born with knowledge? I think not.
by Terry Korth Fischer

A well-publicized piece of advice given to writers is to write what you know. I think Hemmingway, or Twain, or whoever offered this tidbit meant well, but really? I write murder. I am not a murderer. I refuse to write about missing socks, grocery aisles, or twenty-five years in the cash register industry. Not that I will not admit I have been there; done that. The world is full of wonder, diversity, and opportunity. What is not in my first-hand knowledge base, I can learn. After all, there is the internet, YouTube, libraries, and hundreds willing to share their expertise. 

When I began writing Gone Astray, a small-town police detective story, my knowledge of policing was from reading novels, watching TV, and going to the movies. I was not foolish enough to believe all detectives were Columbo, Virgil Flowers, or Inspector Clouseau. As much as I loved Barney Fife, he was not my idea of a deputy, nor was Sergeant Lewis. What did I know about police departments and detectives? Not much.

Could I write a believable novel without experience? My problem was solved when I ran across a notice in the local newspaper. Have you ever wanted an inside look into the police department? In the interest of gaining personal knowledge, I enrolled in the 37th Citizens Police Academy, an eleven-week course offered in a city near me. The police department was too large to match the small-town police department I had created for my novel. I decided to attend anyway. Fortunately, they accepted me into their class. During the eleven weeks, I learned in an environment presented from a law enforcement point-of-view. Invaluable. I saw first-hand operations, went into places off-limits to the average citizen, and got a feel for police culture. It was not the stuff I had gleaned from watching movies and TV.

One of the pleasures of being a writer is the ability to expand your world through research. Offered as a public relations program, the 37th Citizens Police Academy contained certain amounts of self-promotion, but it fit the bill. The lessons exposed the class to numerous facets and challenges in policing. We covered topics from gangs, bomb squad, and SWAT to investigations and crime scene procedures. I sat with the 911 operator, did a patrol car ride along, and detonated a bomb.

To be accepted into the academy class, I had to give a reason for seeking admission. My class included people interested in neighborhood watch, spouses wanting to understand what the job entailed, recent widows, wishing assurance on safety, and militia types. I was the only writer. I lied…well, let me say, I kept that fact to myself. While everyone listened spellbound to the lectures, I frantically took notes on future plot ideas, characters, and where I needed to make revisions in my story.

I graduated, along with the others in the 37th class. And then, being a Citizen Police Academy Alumni, I went on to help train the explosive-sniffing dogs at an international airport. Please remind me to tell you what it was like to go through airport security with a dog at my heels and C2 concealed in my pant cuff. 

I supplemented my academy experience with several field trips to a city borough police department, thanks to my brother-in-law, Sergeant Jim, which was precisely the fictional department’s size in my novel. Between the academy and Jim’s patience, I felt prepared to write. And I wrote what I knew.

So, I offer my own tib-bit on writing. Do not limit your field. Take advantage of the vast amount of resources technology has to offer. Be bold. Be adventurous. Are you born with knowledge? I think not—but don’t let that stop you. 

About The Book:

A heart attack sends detective Rory Naysmith reeling. Too young to retire, he accepts a position in small-town Winterset, Nebraska. Handed an unsolved truck hijacking case, with the assistance of a rookie, Rory sets out to prove he is still able to go toe-to-toe with younger men. When the body of a Vietnam veteran turns up, he dons his fedora and spit-shines his shoes. But before he can solve the murder, an older woman disappears, followed closely by a second hijacking. He doggedly works the cases, following a thread that ties the two crimes together. But can Rory find the mental and physical strength to up his game and bring the criminals to justice before disaster strikes and he loses his job?

Buy Links: Amazon – B&N Bookshop

About The Author:

Terry Korth Fischer writes mystery and memoir. Her memoir, Omaha to Ogallala, was released in 2019, S&H Publishing, Inc. Her short stories have appeared in The Write Place at the Write TimeSpies & HeroesVoices from the Plains, and numerous anthologies. Transplanted from the Midwest, Terry lives in Houston with her husband and their two guard cats. She enjoys a good mystery, the heat and humidity, and long summer days.

Author Links


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  1. Life is full of lessons for all of us, whether we want to learn them or not.. Like Terry, her Detective Rory has many new skills to acquire, many new perspectives to adopt, in order to understand and meet their respective challenges in dealing with small town policing, 21st-century style. But he is determined to learn what it takes to overcome effects of his new (post-heart attack) physical limitations, while also mastering the demands of a new job and workplace taken-on in middle-age. And Terry is learning fresh tricks of the novel-writing trade to keep us readers engaged and on-the-edge-of-each-page-turning-surprise — eager for good guys like Rory (and good story-tellers like Terry) to have the last intriguing, unexpected, enigmatic word — hopefully, a final, satisfying, home-team hurrah! We did it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Thanks for the comments, Pat. I’m all for satisfaction and a home-team hurrah! Thanks for stopping by.


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