Monthly Archives: April 2011

Photo Friday

I’m not much of a photographer, but I do like to snap a shot here or there. This past week, one place has been on my mind a lot: Las Vegas.

The Fountains at the Bellagio

I’ve been working on a little project that takes place in Sin City that should see the light of day this summer. That, and thinking about CSI when I blogged on Monday, have left me dreaming of the hot desert weather and bright lights of Las Vegas.

Where would you like to be today? In London, celebrating the royal wedding? On the slopes, skiing? Or on the beach, soaking up the sun?

Happy Friday!

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Committing a Criminal Act: Forensics 101

I highly recommend this for anyone including crime in their writing

When I sat down to listen to D.P. Lyle lecture for two hours on forensics for writers, I made sure I was on the aisle so I could duck out if I started to nod off. Now, I love science and have watched a ton of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, so I wasn’t sure I’d get too much out of the workshop. But Lyle is an entertaining speaker with his hint of Southern drawl and quick wit, and his interpretation of the science of forensics is definitely what I needed as a writer. Here’s just a few things I picked up.

Gil Grissom isn’t waiting in the wings

The lecture started out with one fact overlooked by many authors: there isn’t a high-tech crime lab in every city. Yeah, I know, DUH. But stop and think a second. That means that if I wanted a character to get a DNA profile on blood found at a scene in a tiny little town, they’d have to send it out to a larger lab, probably the FBI. When would they get the results back? MONTHS later. Is this a good thing? Depends on your story line – but as a writer, knowing what’s real and what’s not is priceless.

Forensic scientists don’t interview witnesses or carry guns in the real world, they analyze evidence. I’d guess most do wear lab coats, though.

Coroner vs. Medical Examiner

Did you know that anyone can be a coroner? No medical experience or forensics knowledge is required for a position with the title coroner. The person must only be appointable or electable! Remember that blood drop in the tiny town? If they only had a coroner, the guy might be a garbage man who just happened to be around when the mayor needed to appoint someone. Wow – does that open some doors plot-wise. Maybe it closes a few, too.

A Medical Examiner (ME) is another story. As suggested by the title, some medical experience is required, and quite possibly some training in forensic science. When faced with the blood drop, I’m guessing he’d have a few more ideas about what it means and what to do with it than the local trash man.

As always, there are exceptions to the rule, but I’d never considered the difference before.

Time of Death

Something I took for granted was estimating the time of death. Things like rigor mortis, lividity, body temperature – those are all indicators that make it easy to pin down the time of death, right? Um, sort of. Temperature, whether the body was moved, humidity, weather…those are just a few of the variables that affect how long it takes for rigor or lividity to set in. In short, unless there’s some other definitive evidence is found (like an eyewitness or in the case of my book, Whirlwind, the pre-programmed sprinklers coming on), a window of a few hours for the time of death is pretty darn good. For a body found in the woods days or weeks after death, the estimate may be just that: a range of days or weeks.

Two tenets of evidence became very clear, very early in the workshop. First was Locard’s Exchange Principle. Basically, when two objects come into contact, there will be an exchange of matter, each leaving a trace of themselves on the other. This applies to objects, animals, and people. Everything leaves a trace.

Second is the idea that evidence, by and large, excludes, rather than incriminates. If our friend the blood drop turns out to be type A, then everyone who is not type A is excluded. The DNA profile will exclude everyone who doesn’t match – but if your suspect has an identical twin, then there will be at least two people with that DNA. (Fun fact: did you know that even though identical twins have indistinguishable DNA, they don’t have the same fingerprints?)

This is just a little snippet of the information covered in this workshop. Lyle discussed everything from DNA to poison to gunshots to search warrants to search patterns to fibers. I stayed for the full two hours, and when it was over, went directly to the bookstore and purchase D.P. Lyle’s book, Howdunit Forensics. More comprehensive than his more recognizable title, Forensics for Dummies, Howdunit Forensics will sit next to my Chicago Manual of Style as one of my favorite reference books.

Meet an Author Monday

Be sure and check out Meet an Author Monday, hosted on the lovely Lisa Sanchez’s blog. Just click on the photo below to check out what other authors are blogging about. Are you an author? Join the hop with us and meet new readers!

Meet an Author Monday

Click here for the Author hop

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RT Roundup – the Last Day and Loot!

Day 4 of RT meant only one thing for me: the Book Fair, which didn’t start until almost 11. That left us time in the morning to pack and get out of the hotel for a few minutes. We tracked down an Ihop a few blocks away and had a real breakfast for less than the $30 I know some people paid in the hotel.

Of course, being L.A., we didn’t have to walk a block before we caught a film crew:

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I have no idea what they were filming, but they were using the beautiful L.A. Public Library as their setting. Gotta love California!

Packing meant I had to find places to stow all the loot I’d collected. I promised you a picture…and for reference, this is Killian’s queen-sized bed:

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What are you looking at? How about 36 free books? If I’d paid full price, I would have spent $381.74 for them.  That almost makes up for the conference fee right there. In the bottom half of the picture you see all the goodies and promo pieces. Bookmarks, postcards, sample reads, pens, pencils…those were the standard fare. Can cozies seemed to be pretty popular, I took home 4 of those. Other items included paperclips, reflectors, a hot pad, candles, rubber duckies, a coin purse, playing cards, rulers, even a bicycle horn. My favorite (being a practical person) was the pen-sized lint brush from “Between the Sheets.” That went directly into my suitcase!

I did actually buy 3 books at RT.  The first, Howdunit Forensics by D. P. Lyle, I bought at the bookstore after attending his workshop. I did catch him later and got it autographed. The second, The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade, I bought at the Expo. It’s a YA that she’s gotten good feedback on by high school boys, so I’m hoping my son might like it. (Finding books for teenage boys is HARD). The third, Undertow by Cherry Adair, I bought at the Book Fair.  Cherry gave me lots of encouragement, and lit a fire under me to get this second book done!

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The Book Fair itself was huge–something like 5 times bigger than the Expo. I don’t know how anyone could possibly see all the authors in just three hours. Unfortunately, I didn’t have nearly that long, and since I wanted Cassandra Clare’s autograph, most of my short time at the fair was in line for her.  I did see Cherry Adair, and picked up one other little souvenir, a squishy horse that reminded me of Buckeye that has found a home in my daughter’s room.

Do I wish I’d had a table at the Book Fair instead of the Expo? No. I’m pretty sure just about everyone who came to the Expo passed by my table. With something like 20 rows of authors at the Book Fair, I think most of the attendees headed straight for specific authors and didn’t browse too much. Maybe I’m wrong, though.

Overall, the Convention was an awesome experience. I learned a lot, met a TON of people, and was so blessed to spend the time with two ladies I love, Lisa Sanchez and Killian McRae. Never have I had such an easy time with roommates, and I look forward to our next trip.  Anytime, any place, ladies, just give me a buzz!

Upcoming Giveaway

Now that you’ve seen all the loot, how would you like to win some?  I’m putting together a contest for May that will involve a drawing from comments here on the blog. If you like romance and free books, keep your eyes open at the end of this month for instructions on how you can win your own basket of RT goodies!  And I’m sure a familiar title *cough*Whirlwind*cough* will be included.

Meet an Author Monday

Speaking of my good friend Lisa, be sure and check out Meet an Author Monday, hosted on her blog.  Just click on the photo below to check out what other authors are blogging about.  Are you an author? Join the hop with us and meet new readers!

Meet an Author Monday

Click here for the Author hop

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RT Day Three

…aka The Grind. After two days of convention, exhaustion was setting in. And yet we all managed to get up in time for the Kensington mixer…and free Mimosas. Thankfully they were weak, otherwise I think I would’ve just gone back to bed!

That would’ve sucked, too, because I would’ve missed Lisa’s raffle win. She won a basket – well, collander – full of books and baking goodies. Check it out on her site, http://calicheermom.com.

The first workshop of the day was Peeling Away the Layers of Romantic Suspense. The premise was to analyze the movie Body Heat but ended up being a great discussion of pacing and dialog in suspense novels. Cherry Adair is awesome, and I made a point of finding her at the Book Fair. But that’s not until Day 4…

The following workshop, Plotting and Setting Your Mystery, was a little dry, and spent a fair amount of time discussing pantsters versus plotters – something that wasn’t new for me. Yes, I took off early…but I didn’t want to be late for lunch with my publisher.

It was a treat to have lunch with Omnific owner, Elizabeth Harper, and Acquiring Editor, Lynette McCann. More than professional acquainances, Elizabeth and Lynette and I go back quite a ways, and I was fortunate to be able to renew our friendship at RT.

Also joining us was another Robin, an aspiring writer and online friend. I love meeting the people I’ve encountered online, and especially someone so nice who has such a great name! 🙂

After lunch, the plan was to drop off the books I had for sale at the Expo and catch another workshop, but things were a little disorganized. Instead, I waited in line a lot longer than I’d planned. Rather than crash the workshop halfway through, I went back to our room and freshened up before collecting the rest of the stuff for my table at the Expo. A half-hour before the Expo, the three of us headed back down, and got ready for the crowd.  Here’s my table at the Expo:

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The Expo itself was FANTASTIC! It was a pleasure to be seated between authors Jess Dee and Genella DeGrey, and we traded goodies and laughs throughout the Expo.

And that was the point of the Expo, I feel: to connect with people. Readers, writers (both published and aspiring), publishers, booksellers, agents, promoters…all kinds of people stopped by. My sparkly ribbon bookmarks seemed to be pretty popular, and the avenue through which I introduced everyone to Whirlwind. The highlight of the Expo was when Erin Quinn bought a copy of my book – she’s a NY Times Bestselling Author! Thanks, Erin, for supporting a budding author!

After two hours of talking in a large, noisy room, Lisa, Killian and I decided to skip the Avon mixer (which I heard was great with margaritas), in favor of a quiet dinner of Chinese food. Orange Chicken never tasted so good – and it was nice to give our voices a rest!

The day ended with the Vampire Ball. Having never gone to an RT convention before, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The entertainment was a skit that was sort of a parody of a variety show and was a little hard to follow. The best part was we shared a table with Mr. Romance contestant DeLonn, an actor and model who was also very funny and of course, smokin’ hawt! Wicked Little Pixie has a photo and bio of DeLonn HERE. DeLonn, you rock!

We did score even more books at the Vampire Ball, adding to our hoard. Tomorrow I’ll show you the loot…it’s a sight worth seeing!

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RT Day Two

Day two followed the same path as day one…more workshops, more free books, and more parties. I’ll admit my feet are not really happy at this point since tennis shoes don’t really go with my business attire!

Day two started with a mixer (otherwise known as “free food and books”). The Mystery Chix and Private Dix mixer provided me with breakfast and some new mystery reads, which I love. Thank you to all the groups hosting mixers – avoiding the expensive hotel food is a real gift…and the goodies are fabulous.

Next was the infamous 5 Times a Night? Really? Workshop. It started off with a bang, with statistics about a man’s…er…equipment, and a lot of snide comments, but unfortunately, the title question wasn’t answered. But the panel was amusing, and as you can see, one of the few panels filled with men!

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After taking a break (the trick to conference attendance is pacing yourself) we had lunch and stopped in the Fabulous Forties mixer. The gift books weren’t about the 1940’s though-they were sizzling hot for women in their forties! And those who are *cough* 29.

The last workshop of the day was Boys Don’t Cry: The Male POV. This was the gem of the day, with a discussion of how the man’s mind works. I’ll blog more about it soon, but I really enjoyed it. Two of the authors wrote in genres dominated by men – thrillers and epic fantasy – which added an even deeper level to the discussion.

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The rest of the day included an awards ceremony (another bag of books), the Samhain Steampunk Tea (the BEST food so far), and the Faery Ball (another free book). We didn’t stay for the dancing this time – we were too tired!

Tomorrow I’ll show you all the loot we’ve collected…if I can get it all in one shot!

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