Writing the Climax of Mailboat V… with the Lake Geneva PD!

Currently, I’m writing like a mad woman, trying to wrap up an epic climax sequence for Mailboat V. Guys, I think even *I* underestimated how epic it’s gonna be.

So, earlier this week, I enlisted the aid of my friends Sergeant Jason Hall and Lieutenant Ed Gritzner of the real-life Lake Geneva Police Department to draw from their expertise.

To be honest, I used to feel guilty about asking them to take time away from their real-life duties just to make-believe with me.

And then came the day Ed and I were working through the climax sequence for Mailboat III: The Captain’s Tale.

“One last question,” I said. “Where would you set up your command post?”

“The parking lot of the state park,” he said.

I thanked him for his time, and we hung up.

Two minutes later, he called me back. “I change my mind. The parking lot at the state park is too close to the action. Let’s put it at the middle school.”

I laughed, even as I updated my notes. The way he called me back so fast–he was acting like this was real.

And then I realized… he was basically treating my climax sequence like a training scenario.

Scenario training is something emergency personnel do in real life—and they make it as authentic as possible. The below photo isn’t a real car accident; it’s a training scenario I attended in 2016, put on at an event called the Writers Police Academy.

They pulled out all the stops for this, even landing a helicopter to carry away one of the “patients.” The entire thing unfolded as if it were real, and gave the emergency personnel involved a chance to practice their skills and use their equipment. That way, next time it is real, they’re ready.

Now that I equate my fictional emergencies with scenario training, I don’t feel so guilty about asking Jason and Ed for their time. And frankly, they’re usually delighted to help. (I keep having to remind myself that other people find authors cool.)

And after all the emergencies I’ve written into the Mailboat Suspense Series… you should feel very safe in Lake Geneva. I’ve prepped your PD for the literal worst, LOL.

But for the climax sequence of Book V… I might have thrown them a doozey.

When working through these “scenarios,” I’ll start by telling Ed and Jason what information they have at their disposal, and they’ll in turn tell me how they’d respond, what tactics and resources they’d deploy, etc.

Let me just say, the climax of Book V has a lot of moving parts–what my cop friends would call “a dynamic situation.” From an author’s perspective, I’m rotating between quite a few points of view, as well as multiple, constantly-changing locales; and in real time, everything would be unfolding in a matter of minutes. This scenario is pulling in more law enforcement officers than I even have names and call signs for. (Random name generators have been my friend. Don’t worry, I only use the good ones, and I lean towards German surnames, cuz southeast Wisconsin, amiright?)

How big is the climax sequence for Mailboat V? I think Jason’s reaction sums it up best:

I gave him the opening scenario. In response, he established a perimeter and sent in additional units.

I threw him a hard left.

“Oh, shit,” he said. “I lose my job.” Despite his initial pessimism, he adjusted quickly, creating an inner perimeter and calling in additional resources.

I gave him another hard left.

“Oh, God.” He considered a moment, then asked—hopeful, almost begging— “Is my outer perimeter in place yet?”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him… probably not.

Jason’s most frequent comment throughout the scenario? “It would be chaos… It would be chaos…”

LOL. I have too much fun with these books.

Also, don’t get any ideas about calling the LGPD so you can grill Sergeant Hall or Lieutenant Gritzner for spoilers. I haven’t even told them everything–like, the final, final showdown, which I felt confident to write without their input. In fact, I didn’t even tell them which characters were involved.

“I’m trying to think who’s who in this scenario,” Ed admitted.

Secretly? I’m really hoping to blow their minds once they read it.

So… Definitely tired over here from all the last-minute writing. Definitely feeling like my arm’s about to fall off. Definitely wish the writing was done already. And definitely watching the calendar and observing that this release is going to be down-to-the-wire.

But that’s pretty typical, TBH. I have no idea how I manage to release a book every year. Magic is real.

But now that the climax sequence is finally coming together… I’m more certain than ever that this could be my favorite book so far. If you haven’t reserved your pre-order yet, better get it in now! Or come meet me at one of the book signings on the 2022 Lake Geneva Book Tour. When you see me, you’ll know I put 110% into this release.

~ Danielle

P.S., if you want to help me over the finish line in a very real way… you can buy me a coffee! I can’t tell you how much that lifts my spirits, warms my heart, and fuels my writing.


Blue Pinwheels and Child Abuse

This week, my local county courthouse lawn was glittering with hundreds of small blue pinwheels. I assumed it was symbolic of something, but I wasn’t sure what.
I later found a story by one of our local news outlets explaining that the pinwheels are there to bring awareness to the fact that April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
My attention was caught. As you know, child abuse is a primary theme in my books, the Mailboat Suspense Series. And as I recently shared, I was myself emotionally abused as a child, into my adult years.
I love that it’s “Prevention” month and not “Awareness” month. The more I research broken families, foster care, etc., the more I ask what we can do to prevent children from ever being removed from their families in the first place.
In other words, what can we do to stop child abuse and neglect at home? What can we do to get help for the parents so that the children don’t have to suffer?
I know not every broken family situation can be saved. But speaking from my own experiences of childhood emotional abuse, I can’t help but believe that my life could have been markedly different if my mother had accepted the mental health options that were available to her. Instead, it somehow became more acceptable to ignore the problems than to address them.
That’s why, for me, the problem of child abuse begins with normalizing mental health care for adults. An unhappy parent cannot raise a happy child. An unbalanced parent cannot raise a well-balanced child.
But with proper mental health care, the future could be far brighter for both the adults and the children.
So… take care of your mental health, yo. If not for you, then for the kids in your life.
P.S., for more information on National Child Abuse Prevention Month, check out the resources at the Children’s Bureau, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And see if there are any events in your town where you can listen, learn, and/or volunteer.

Charles and I Are ScreenCraft Semifinalists!

Previously, I promised to keep you informed of progress toward a film or TV adaptation of the Mailboat Suspense Series. Well, Charles and I did a thing recently, and it turned into a BIG DEAL.

About a month ago, we put together a written pitch for the Mailboat story as a TV series and submitted it to the ScreenCraft Virtual Pitch Competition.

To be honest, we threw it together last minute, figuring that, at the very least, we’d get professional feedback and learn how to write better pitches in the future. And at best, there was a shot at landing the Grand Prize and being personally introduced and recommended to influential names in Hollywood.

Today, we learned that we made the semifinals. 

As I write this, ScreenCraft hasn’t released the official numbers yet, but if it’s anything like the last time they ran the contest, Charles and I are one of 100 semifinalists out of perhaps 900 total entrants.

Charles and I may have danced in the living room, and Angel may have run up and down with one of her favorite toys. Fergus opted to steer clear of the chaos.

To be clear, this latest development is entirely separate from the TWO prior inquiries into my film and TV rights for the Mailboat Suspense Series. I’m carefully nursing those along, as well.

Next in the ScreenCraft competition, Charles and I have to submit a short video pitch, which will determine whether we make it to the finalist round.

But regardless, we now get to add our semifinalist status to our credentials (my first, Charles’ THIRD), and Charles informs me… that’s a big deal in Hollywood.

There’s a lot of work left to do, but Charles and I are so excited! Wish us luck as we keep pushing forward. All of this is so much easier knowing I have you guys at my back, putting the wind in my sails.