by Dave Lager

Aaron Copland on “writing”

“The whole point of composing is to feel inevitable.”

Aaron Copland (1900-1990) – Composer and conductor

Although he was writing about his world of music, it seems to me just as germane concerning what we do as writers.

Settings #12 – A re-introduction

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

I changed my mind…

Last fall I started a series of blog posts that I called “Settings,” the idea being they would be more detailed descriptions of geographic locations in my Ro Delahanty novels than I could legitimately fit into the story narrative. The emphasis was initially going to be on the geography of Fort Armstrong County.

I then thought I’d start another series of posts called “Places,” this time focusing on buildings – Ro’s apartment, the Delahanty’s home, and so on.

But then it struck me that the difference between “settings” and “places” was semantical nit-picking at best, to say nothing of confusing for the reader, so, I decided to merge them into one expanded “Settings” series, since they really are all “settings.”

This is a re-introduction of that series; the remainder of these “Settings” posts is now going to include:

Settings #13 – Ro gets her own place

Settings #14 – The Westwynd Apartment Complex

Settings #15 – Ro’s specific apartment

Settings #16 – Her study

Settings #17 – The York Ridge Lane house where Ro grew up

Settings #18 – Her childhood bedroom

Settings #19 – Atti’s childhood “studio apartment”

Settings #20 – Tuck’s condo in downtown Lee’s Landing

Settings #21 – The old sheriff’s department headquarters in the courthouse in downtown Lee’s Landing

Settings #22 – The new Regional Law Enforcement Campus, which included & sheriff’s HQ…

Next: Ro decides to take her life in a different direction

© 2019 Dave Lager

The ADHD story-teller

In my long ago youth I was a newspaper reporter… That is the only time I can think of when I’ve been able to function as a straight linear story-teller – you go to a meeting, you report on the facts of what happened….done The writer of fiction, however, is rarely, if ever a linear story-teller – for example, I am currently at work on the fourth Ro Delahanty novel, “Twists and Turns,” as well two novellas, “A Sniper’s Day” and “The Neshnala Saga” – definitely an ADHD approach.

Words matter

“Words are sacred, they deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world.”

Tom Stoppard (1937-  ) – Playwright, screenwriter

Unfortunately, that coin has two sides; when someone consistently twists words and cynically uses them with disrespect, well, they can nudge the world toward the dark side.

Settings #11 – Trader’s Island: Canoes to towboats

Trader’s Island is a nearly 600-acre island (about a mile-and-a-half long and a half-mile wide) in the Mississippi River near the Iowa shore, several miles west of Lee’s Landing.

It got its name because it was where white traders in the late 1700s and early 1800s put their canoes ashore to meet with local Native Americans to trade goods like cooking pots, axes, blankets, steel knives, traps, rifles, tobacco and whiskey for fur pelts. It was once heavily wooded, with open meadows where the Native Americans would set-up their camps for trading.

However, because the main channel of the Mississippi River in the area favors the Iowa side, it became a spot where steamboats and later towboats and barges would tie-up and load and unload. In fact, today’s island is cluttered with dozens of buildings and warehouses − some as big as half a football field, others like the large pole buildings you see on farms − parking areas, docks and storage and loading yards. There is a maze of roadways that often dead -end at buildings or rails spurs, or jog right or left around fenced storage yards.

Entrance to the island is at either end from River Road via combined railroad and roadway bridges.

The island is officially owned by the U.S. Government through the Army Corps of Engineers, with the occupants all paying long-term lease fees. However, because the Corps has only a very small police force, whose main job is to check campers in corps developed campgrounds up and down the river, they have contracted with the Fort Armstrong County Sheriff’s Department to provide law enforcement on Trader’s Island.

In effect, the government contract reimburses the county for a part-time deputy who is supposed to patrol the area occasionally and respond to calls when necessary.

In the early Ro Delahanty novels the island is part of Ro’s regular assigned patrol area, the western third of the county.

But I have the kernel of an idea for a future Ro novel in which Trader’s Island would play a significant role. Stay tuned…

Next: We’re taking a holiday break; the next Settings post will be January 2nd

© 2018 Dave Lager


My apologies to you, Mr. Green, but I somehow incorrectly added three decades to your age in yesterday’s post of your writer’s quote – your actual birth year is 1977, not 1948. I honestly don’t know where I came up with that other date.

And thanks, Sandra Schehl for giving me a heads-up on this…

Settings #10 – Fort Defiance Institute: The “new” police academy

The first time Ro Delahanty went to Fort Defiance Institute of Law Enforcement and Tactical Sciences – an accurate, if cumbersome name that was always shortened to a simpler “Fort Defiance” – was in early 2003 for her eight-week police academy training before being sworn-in as a deputy.

She was back in the fall of 2005 for the two-week SWAT basic training and a follow-up weeklong designated marksman (sniper) specialization. Her third time was early in 2006 for a one-week armorer school, while the fourth was in the fall later that year for the one-week SWAT advanced training.

And each time it looked and felt to her more and more like a college campus.

Ro had loved earning her bachelor’s in law enforcement online, working in her own study according to her own schedule and pace. And while she hadn’t missed the on-campus experience for that program, she found she very much enjoyed the on-campus atmosphere of Fort Defiance. It was for her like the best of both worlds; the academic, learning side, but with all cops and para-military types, in other words, her people.

In fact, while she’d shared with a few folks that maybe in ten years or so she might go for her master’s in law enforcement, what she hadn’t shared, because it was still only a vague idea on her part, was that she might someday teach at Fort Defiance.

Fort Defiance was, in fact, a college, or more precisely, a private, for-profit, technical school providing basic, advanced and specialized coursework for law enforcement and tactical personnel like private contractors and security-types; private citizens could also sign-up for selected classes / workshops.

In the 1990s two opposite forces converged that led to schools like Fort Defiance.

One was an increasing emphasis on professionalism in police work; it was no longer acceptable just to send somebody to a few weeks of police academy, hand them a gun and send them out on the street. In other words, there was a growing need for more specialized law enforcement skill training.

The second was that for budgetary reasons many states, including Iowa, closed their state sponsored police academy programs – usually run by the state police – a job Fort Defiance and its counterparts were more than happy to take on.

Fort Defiance was opened in 2002; Ro’s was part of the school’s third police academy class.

Located on 450-acre campus near Estherville in north central Iowa, it was named after an abandoned Civil War fort that had been in the area. Their logo was crossed AR-style rifles over a silhouette of a fort’s blockhouse with “Fort Defiance Institute” surrounding the graphics. A gift shop in the main administrative building offered a variety of logo-festooned products – hats, sweatshirts, T-shirts, coffee mugs, duffle bags. By the mid-2000s, Fort Defiance coffee mugs in police department coffee rooms and T-shirts or ballcaps on off-duty cops were a common sight.

Fort Defiance was, in fact, designed to look much like a traditional college campus, with buildings set in expansive lawns around curved driveways, connected by a network of paved paths; there was even a large manmade lake, really the borrow pit for the earthen berm surrounding the outdoor shooting ranges.

When Ro attended her police academy the campus included:

– A central admin building, with the gift shop.
– A pair of single-story classroom buildings.
– A two-story dorm with two wings off a common lounge – seating area, TV, billiard table, vending machines – with a capacity to house a hundred students. The dormitories were like most college dorms, two-person rooms with central bathroom and shower facilities on each floor. The rooms had a pair of single beds, two closet / drawer combinations and two desks. Each dorm floor was single sex; any sexual contact on campus was not allowed, similarly, alcohol was strictly forbidden.
– A stand-alone cafeteria serving three meals a day.
– A standard twenty-five-yard indoor pistol shooting range, with sophisticated computerized target simulator system, and a fifty-yard outdoor pistol range.
– Both indoor and outdoor tactical operations simulators.
– A nine-hundred yard (half-mile) outdoor rifle/sniper shooting range.
– A half-mile outdoor running track and physical training fields.

Three years later, when Ro attended her armorer school:

– Another two-wing dorm had been built and a third one was under construction.
– There were two more classroom buildings.
– A recreation building – gym, basketball and handball/racquetball courts – had been built.
– The cafeteria had been expanded, including a coffee shop.
– Both the indoor and outdoor tactical operations simulators had been expanded.
– And they were building an addition to the administration building, with a two-bed medical/emergency clinic.

© 2018 Dave Lager

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