My guest blog, “A Day in the Life of My Character,” will appear Sept. 20 at

Since I write mysteries, I want to learn the details of police work so when I’m describing an investigation, my mysteries will have the texture policeand flavor of the real thing. Toward this end, I have begun the 12-week free course held by the Police Department to familiarize local citizens with police procedures and activities. Many police departments around the country hold similar academies.

I’m not shy about asking for the correct details. In my 90s Club mysteries about 90-year-olds at Whisperwood Retirement Village, I contacted the West Virginia Sheriff’s Department to find out what exactly a sheriff’s uniform in West Virginia looked like. I also asked a firefighter friend exactly what the protocol was when paramedics were called to the scene of a beating victim. He gave me excellent detail which made the scene live.

The Police Academy is another resource. It will include a ride-along with a police officer

on patrol, a firearms demonstration at the range (I learned that police officers here use Glocks—usable detail), demonstrations of the police helicopter, K-9 dogs, emergency vehicles, and the Taser; talks on gangs, fraudulent IDs, drug enforcement, and use of force; and tours of the Crime Lab/Forensic Services, the Consolidated Dispatch Center and the Emergency Operations Center.

On the first night we toured the simulation area, a block full of buildings made up to simulate a bank, a convenience store, an apartment house, and a hotel room. These are all for training purposes.

Even the Police Department’s Organization Chart was fascinating with its list including the Pawn Unit, Metal Theft Unit, Cold Case Investigations Unit, Fraud/Forgery Unit, to name just a few. I am going to enjoy this class.

BOOK LAUNCHING: Sally Whitney’s debut novel, Surface and Shadow, was launched recently with wine and cheese and a good number of attendees in the Annapolis Bookstore, Annapolis, MD.

This enjoyable read is full of details about the time and place, a small Southern town in the 1970s. It tells the story of Lydia Colton, smothered by her husband’s expectations and rigid gender roles. She becomes intrigued by the suspicious death of the son of the wealthy mill owner who controls the small Southern town in which she lives. Lydia defies her husband and the town’s opposition and looks for answers. Why did the son die and why has the family become so reclusive?

Sally writes about a time, not so long ago, when a woman could not have a credit card or buy a house in her own name. In this book, even Lydia’s library card has to be in her husband’s name. Like many other men of the time, her husband thought the solution to Lydia’s dissatisfaction was to buy her a large house (you could substitute baby for house) to keep her busy.

Thank goodness we’ve moved beyond that in most places in this country. The book is crafted well, the characters are well-drawn, and Sally has done her research

TIP: For book launchings, readings, and signings, be sure to send out invitations to family, friends, acquaintances, writing buddies, and anyone else who might be interested. You want crowds around you.