Are You GDPR Compliant?

Please check out Marilee McDonald’s blog. You may be required. No wait. You are likely required. If you have any contact with any person living in the EU, you are most definitely required.

https://www.maryleemacdonaldauthor.com/gdpr-compliance/

I am going to do what I can to put the compliancy check box here. It is already on my website, total pain. Next… Facebook. Then… LinkedIn.

author funny tease

Because the EU has nothing better to do than to crap on people’s lives. Idiots.

 

AND YES as I preview, it has my information in there. If you can, please edit that out, add a fake I mean ‘your’ name, optional for website, and check box if you want to receive updates.

Pfft.

-Claire

 

 

 

 

 

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The Burial Place by Larry Enmon Interview with Claire O’Sullivan

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The burial place

 

I had the privilege of a brief interview with Larry Enmon, author of The Burial Place.

 

Hi, Larry. Wow, I just finished The Burial Place. Really outstanding work, and I found areas terrifying for the victim, and others quite humorous, especially with your two detectives, Frank and Ron. Both complete opposites. I gave up two nights’ sleep to read. Also, you have an impressive background in law enforcement, as well as the Secret Service. This gives you an insider’s perspective to police procedure. Of course, you drew on those experiences. Was or were there any particular case or cases came that came to mind for the novel when you were with the Houston PD?

 

Larry: I worked for the Houston Police Department for six years. I had no case in mind when I wrote the manuscript. I was looking for a good engaging story and this felt right.

L Enmon pic

 

Claire: And I would agree that is engaging. The Burial Place is a fantastic crime thriller, non-stop. In your dedication, you mentioned that your daughter gave you inspiration for this novel. Can you tell me a bit about how this idea came about?

 

Larry: Several years ago she gave me the DVD True Detective, season one. I had been writing international suspense thrillers for ten years and no agent would give me asecond look. After watching True Detective, I said, “Hey, I could write something like that,” and so I did.

 

Claire: That’s fantastic, and you make it sound so easy. It’s always the unexpected things that get that creative motor started. The timing was perfect. The Burial Place your debut novel, though you’ve mentioned to me that you’ve written international suspense thrillers, yet to catch an agent’s line. Have you any plans to return to these at a later date? Of course, you’ve been busy with signings, I suspect, so those might be on a back burner.

 

Larry: I received training from the CIA on weapons of mass destruction during my time working in the Joint Terrorism Task.

 

Claire:

wide eye

 

Larry: I used this inside knowledge to craft four international suspense thrillers about attacks on the U.S. using these types of weapons. I’m doing revisions on my first one now. Perhaps we’ll see it in a couple of years.

 

Claire: As a writer, I always enjoy hearing about someone’s process of putting the story into its first draft and working from there. Do you have a man-cave you hide in to write or can you tune everything out?

 

Larry: My man cave is my writing desk in our guest bedroom. I shut the door and tell my wife not to disturb me unless someone is killed or the house catches fire.

 

Claire: Too funny. My husband posted a note on my ‘cave woman’ door for acceptable hours to work, and please eat some food. As a writer in The Burial Place, did you write with a message in mind for your readers?

 

Larry: I write with no agenda. My only purpose is to entertain my readers. If I can tell you a story, that after you finished reading it, you recall it as an actual memory you experienced and not a story you’ve read, I’ve done my job.

 

Claire: The Burial Place is well crafted, and with such attention to detail and the characters leap off the page. So, I would say you have certainly done your job. Speaking as both writer and reader, what is your process of creating ‘the perfect characters?’

 

Larry: Most of the characters in the book, and some of the events were taken from people I actually worked with. Frank, Rob, Terry Edna, the old sheriff of Sabine County are all real people I know. Not hard to write about people you’ve known for twenty or thirty years. As for as the bad guys, well I’ve known so many bad guys in thirty-seven years of law enforcement that’s not difficult either.

Larry Enmons The Burial Place from amazon

Claire: I can picture Edna giving the universal ‘get over here’ signal with her forefinger… You’ve added layers to the story, secrets, the past, all of which come as a surprise. The characters also share their contrasting spiritual beliefs. Frank and Rob challenge one another in this way, and there are some very humorous exchanges between the detectives: the very logical to the religious (yet not-so religious).

 

Larry: Frank is a man whose has lost his faith. He wants to believe in a higher power, but with his life tragedies and logical mind, he finds it difficult to believe in what he can’t see. Rob is very religious but not exactly a Bible scholar. He attends church and follows the teachings of the church like his parents and wife. Rob is happy and satisfied with the Catholic Church. Frank will never be satisfied with any religion.

 

Claire: Frank’s questions reflected that in dialogue, and because of the nature of the crimes committed one can certainly add to that logic. And as a last question, with the very surprising ending, will there be a follow up? And when?

 

Larry: I signed a two book contract with my publisher for another Rob and Frank novel. I’ve completed it and I’m working on the last revisions now. Look for it sometimes around the spring of 2019.

 

Claire: I’m definitely looking forward to it—but 2019 is an absolute killer to wait. The good thing is that The Burial Place and the characters are so memorable, I won’t have any trouble getting back into reading your work.

 

Thank you, Larry for taking time from your busy signing schedule—it is appreciated. Larry? Larry? Oh, he’s off to another signing…

 

If you haven’t read The Burial Place yet, and you are looking for an nail-biting book with engaging, realistic characters, plus a great plot, I recommend picking up The Burial Place.

 

You can read Larry’s biography on Amazon or here:

 

‘Larry Enmon retired from the U.S. Secret Service and started writing. During his career he acted as liaison between the USSS and FBI, working in the Joint Terrorism Task Force. He received special training from the FBI and CIA in weapons of mass destruction. For relaxation, and to get away from the city, he likes spending time at his ranch in rural Eastern Texas. With 200+ acres, private shooting range, a 2 ½ acre pond, and miles of woodland trails to explore on four-wheelers and RTV’s, it’s the perfect getaway. He swims four miles a week, holds a Divemaster rating with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors and has a black belt in Tang Soo Do karate. He is married with two children and lives in Tarrant County, TX.’

 

Contact information:

larry@larry-enmon.com (email)

Twitter@LarryEnmon

Instagram@Larry Enmon

Facebook www.facebook.com/larryenmonbooks/ 

Represented by the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency LTD, 36 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BU United Kingdom, David Haviland – Agent

 

In Absentia …

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May 1, 2018

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Claire O’Sullivan

Well, not really  ‘oops,’ but mercy, I have been busy. Halted work on Nobody Girl (WIP name that was once Forget Me Not: Non Compos Mentis) to fiddle with the (last?) of the edits on How to Steal a Romance.

Ya’ll remember that one, right?

In the meantime, with the edits, reading, and interviewing … I have posted much to my WordPress site. Ahem. Cough. I have been flying by social media. A post here and there.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Katrina McCain about her non-fiction, ‘Beyond Being Good,’ and I will say she has an acute understanding of the double life we may live as Christians. Check  here: https://cindy212.wordpress.com/2018/04/19/beyond-being-good-by-katrina-mccain-a-five-star-author/

If you understand this conundrum, please read her book and blog.

https://www.katrinamccain.com/blog

Wisdom from Kristen Lamb

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This is another good post from the insane, I mean … wise Kristen Lamb’s blog. These are editing tips you do not want to skip.

Why… Pay… More?

kill bill

So slash those sweet lil’ things you love so much. Hey, I had to, and it … sucked.

http://authorkristenlamb.com/2018/04/self-editing-writers/#comment-92608

Don’t blink. Save them in another folder if you can’t let go, but … <pulls pages from your hands> Just Do It. Stop thinking.

wonder

‘Beyond Being Good,’ by Katrina McCain — A Five Star Author

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Today I’ve had the pleasure to interview Katrina McCain on Beyond Being Good, her first breakout non-fiction that tackles the ‘trying to be perfect as an imperfect person.’

Katrina

Claire: Hi, Katrina. New author, how exciting! You’re from North Carolina, right?

Katrina: Yes–I grew up in Charlotte and attended college there. My younger brother lives in Texas, and I am married (5 years, now). My husband, Jarrett and I have a 2 year old daughter and another on the way!

Claire: You’re a busy mom, and congratulations. You have a fascinating past as a fashion model ~ what a different world than your ministry, Pearls of Hope. What is your ministry about?

Katrina: Pearls of Hope Outreach, is a nonprofit organization in North Carolina. We have 16 members between the ages of 20 to 35 years old. We engage in Bible Study and outreach ministries. It’s a wonderful way to connect with other Christian women in the area. I’ve really grown personally from the experience.

Claire: That’s terrific, getting young women involved in studying the Word and in outreach ministries. So, tell me a bit of your testimony, coming to Christ?

Katrina: It’s been a long road to Jesus. My parents are ministers and I admire them greatly, but I always felt like I was missing something. I knew right from wrong, but I struggled. Once in college, I reinvented myself, launching into a 9-year fashion career. I began to compromise for the sake of having friends. I did things I knew displeased God, yet did them anyway. I became hypocritical, because I lived one way around friends, but portrayed the “good girl” to family and church. It became exhausting.

Claire: Exhausting is a good way to put it.

Katrina: I guess you could say I was a “goody two shoes” type of person. People thought I was a Christian, but I knew I wasn’t. I had a lot of head knowledge, but not a relationship with God. Because of my upbringing, I determined to maintain my virginity, which by the grace of God, I did. But I found my friends’ lifestyle to be a huge hindrance on my dating life. I cut corners in my dating, which led me into a relationship with a boy with his own issues. Ultimately, he lost his life over his choices. He was robbed and shot 9 times and died in the summer of 2007. We were only 21 years old. I was devastated!

Claire: How heartbreaking!

Katrina: I felt so alone, ashamed around family. Even though they extended their love to me, I wasn’t sure if God was still there. For a long time I believed God was punishing me, but Scripture tells us that God is close to the broken hearted (Ps. 34:18) So, one night, I prayed this really sloppy prayer. I was so remorseful. I asked the Lord to forgive and change me, and though I wasn’t really sure what that meant or even what it entailed, I believed with all my heart that He could do it. That prayer was my first step to salvation, and I’ve been on this journey, ever since.

Claire: Very powerful testimony. A lot of heartbreak, too.  Who would you say was the biggest influence in your life’s path?

Katrina: My mother. Hands down. She has a heart for people and whatever you’re going through, she finds ways to understand with compassion. Nothing is off limits. She’s open to listening and discussing anything with any one. I desire to be like her.

 

Claire: It sounds like she really grounded you. Quite the variety from Mother Teresa type talking about Betty Crocker to Jerry Springer! I would love to meet her.

Your book is for every woman. But tell us a bit about Beyond Being Good.

Katrina book cover

Katrina: In the fashion world, the image of perfection can be debilitating. The expectations are outrageous. The same can be said in our personal lives. The pressure of perfection is one that God never put on us to carry. Salvation is a gift, not an object we have to work or prove ourselves worthy of. In Beyond Being Good, I share my mistakes and failures. People need to know that they are not alone in their imperfections. I’m very transparent, because pretenses only perpetuate the myth that perfection is necessary to live in abundance. What a lie!

Claire: Again, amen. Once we drop the veil of self-secrecy, we can live out ‘carrying one another’s burdens.’  

Katrina: Beyond Being Good is my gift to anyone who is in a place where she is tired of her past year, past week, past cuss word, past abortion, past lie, past drink, past mistakes holding her back from truly experiencing the fullness of God’s perfect love over her.

Claire: Well said. And you’re quite open and real in Beyond Being Good.

Katrina: That’s exactly why Beyond Being Good is my message to women of all backgrounds, that our goodness is not required for God’s love. I think church culture, subconsciously, teaches this error and many of us have been deeply wounded with confusion regarding God’s grace. But the Bible is filled with imperfect people who have been used by God in very dynamic ways!

Claire: –Oh, amen, amen. Who are some of your favorite authors, non-fiction and fiction?

Katrina: I’m not much of a fiction reader—there are movies to curb that crave. But my favorite nonfiction authors are John Piper, Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, Gary Thomas, Gary Chapman and, believe it or not, Malala Yousafzai (the youngest woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize).

Claire: Great authors, all. Who are some authors in your genre that inspire you?

Katrina: Jess Connolly, writer of Dance, Stand, Run, and Wild and Free. She has such a heart for women that I find captivating. She’s about my age, writes to women in our Millennial generation, but is still very relevant to older women, as well. Also, Stasi Eldridge. Stasi’s book, Becoming Myself, is a staple in my personal library! Each time I read it, I re-discover new aspects of myself as a woman and Christian. I hope to write books that produce similar reactions in others.

Claire: Something we can look for, reality in our lives, not shame. I love Dance, Stand and Run! Jess Connolly helps us ‘get’ that grace isn’t cheap indeed. And Stasi Eldridge is a terrific author with a difficult past. I read Captivating and believe it to be one of the most spiritually-awakening books I’ve read. Know you are on this edge is really exciting. What are some great books you’ve read recently?

Katrina: Recently, I’ve completed Fierce Hearted by Holly Gerth, And We Are Changed by Priscilla Shrier and Still Waiting by Ann Swindell.

Claire: Nice! Priscillar Shrier’s book is so raw, real, it is tear-provoking. And Holly Gerth reminds me of a 21st century Brother Lawrence, in Practicing the Presence of God. Great choices! So now, what do you do in your downtime?

Katrina: Ha, downtime! When I can steal a moment from mommy life, I love getting dinner with my friends! I love getting dressed up, going into the city and having a great meal with extra giggles! For family time, Jarrett, my husband and I, enjoy doing quiet things, like walks in the park or visiting a museum before dinner. Any time spent with him is great!

Claire: You definitely deserve rest! What sort of research did you do to write this book?

Katrina: I studied the scriptures, particularly Romans and James. I wanted to be sure that the words I spoke aligned with God’s Word. I believe, just as the human heart is flawed, so are human opinions. If my writing doesn’t line up with God’s Word, then I don’t want to risk being at fault in giving untruthful information.

Claire: Agreed. Too many opinions not backed by Scripture, and so many people fall for it, not testing the scriptures What are you working on now? Any chance of a follow up?

Katrina: Right now, I am working on carrying my baby girl, full term! She’s due in July Also, I am focused on sharing my book, loving my family and being available to my readers who reach out to me.

Claire: Oh, groan and excitement! I bet you are counting the minutes. Congratulations coming in July– and congratulations on your very well-received book.

I have so many more questions for Katrina, that we are going to follow up with more interviews on living for God’s glory, fully in His grace. Thank you, Katrina

*If you want to purchase Katrina McCain’s book, it’s available through Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Being-Good-Perfection-Imperfect/dp/1595557598/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1524007800&sr=1-1&keywords=beyond+being+good

*Katrina lives in North Carolina and blogs every Sunday on relationships, faith and her personal life lessons. To connect with Katrina and learn more about her, please visit http://www.KatrinaMcCain.com

 

Dopamine and social media

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OK

Gone for the day. Social media is sucking up what’s left of my soul and I have no desire to fall into pools or poles for that matter, no matter how awesome the text.

Can I go for at least an hour without  (addictive as heroin, cocaine, cigarettes) checking my sites? Not even texting.

See you in a few. Days. Maybe hours. Minutes?

Forensics -Computerized Reconstruction Webinar / and Part Deux of Autopsy for Fiction

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Always looking for something new and cool, I was sent this webinar registration coming up for the reconstruction of the fragments of skeleton remains. No, not the gif…

skeletons dancing

Reconstruction of complete skeletal remains has been notoriously difficult to do, and incredibly time-consuming for the ever-so patient puzzle reconstructionist, backlogged in many cases. The fragments are often shattered bone, nothing left intact. Think ‘Fargo.’

author fargo woodchipper scene

If you are fascinated / obsessed with forensics, you will want to see the latest of technology that will be available to the uh, FBI near you if you currently live on the East Coast (where it is first going to be available) … register and watch this webinar. Might wanna take notes. This technology comes from several sources, putting ‘Bones’ almost in the realm of reality.

I’m such a tease, but below is the information.

author funny tease

Coming in May: https://rticqpub1.connectsolutions.com/content/connect/c1/7/en/events/event/shared/1178106013/event_landing.html?sco-id=1222260295&_charset_=utf-8

Registration is free, but you get to go through the series of questions. I simply add that I am a writer… so don’t sweat it. But I’d recommend hurrying on that, and if you have police/crime scene background, please use that instead of writer/author, I’d hate to get the whole group kicked out ’cause of that.

***And … to continue from Part One of yesterday’s post on Autopsy. I went through dialogue with two views of an autopsy scene: first from the professional, the information to skull and on down. The second on the newbie’s near loss of stomach contents et. al. while presented with her first degloved head during the dissection.

Needless to say, later in the narrative between her and partner, keeping her eyes on the victim’s painted toenails prove some evidence down the line. Imagine that.

 author toenail polish

For the truly dedicated medical or non-medical writer … take the coolest, most old-school class from the recently passed Marian Diamond, who at 90 years old was one of the first to study Albert Einstein’s brain.. She taught anatomy and if you have an hour a day, watching her lectures are fascinating (and now, free). And yes, I went through the class (twice, because she is a legend). This is her class:

But for this portion of the Autopsy, let me break it down:

What reasons would the medical examiner, coroner, pathologist be required to be present (or at least, highly recommended) at the crime scene? Answer? Depends.

author ducky very good .. doctor

If the pathologist/coroner/medical examiner (these terms are not interchangeable, you may have to Google … or DuckDuckGo the terms…  (sorry I had an NCIS moment; I will be going with ‘Pathologist’ to cover all from here on) doesn’t follow up with correct procedure, well… imagine the media fallout, the legal ramifications, the civil lawsuits against the police station, the innocent imprisoned, the serial killer who goes free, the family who cannot have closure.

  1. The bizarre nature of the murder(s)
  2. Prominent/high profile victims (and suspect)
  3. Jurisdiction
  4. Difficulty in identifying weapon i.e. having to use an FBI weapons https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/about-us/lab/forensic-science-communications/fsc/april2000/schehl1.htm  (this is part one, there are more, another great resource).
  5. Serial/multiple deaths and backlogged cases that require immediate evaluation of the victim at the scene. You do not want your main character-detective evading the first walk-through without a pathologist at the scene
  6. Correct and quick collection of fragments of cloth for processing
  7. Deaths without clear determination
  8. TOD (aka Time of Death)
  9. Deaths that take place in a prison–this would be a state issue… your local coroner will not be an adequate resource. Perhaps one of the most scrutinized cases that must have access to a knowledgeable medical examiner (or group!)
  10. Recovery of unusual evidence (you’ll know it when you write it… or see it… or read about); supervise collection of teeth, bones; evaluation of victim, possibly being moved and fire death scenes.
  11. Crash scenes; airplane crashes will include the FAA and every other ABC agency so, get it right.
  12. Recovery of buried remains (important items may well be buried under the corpse/skeleton, maybe another body, perhaps clothes with viable (who knows?) DNA evidence.
  13. Educational for weird s*** (stuff) to show future / budding medical examiners.
  14. Any other case that the detective/CSU has questions about. There is so many reasons to have/must have a pathologist, one might just call the pathologist, anyway. Do not wake the pathologist up when a ninety-year old cancer patient in a nursing home passes away in their sleep. Don’t, just… do not. If you are writing from the pathologist’s point of view, and want to make him/her grumpy, that’s the perfect way to go about him/her hating the detective…

*Muy Importante!*

Rules!

author cartoon lecture no sense

Each state has it’s own laws… you may find these are standardized soon under the auspices of the FBI. permission to do an autopsy is not an individual’s verbal/written consent. The autopsy is performed based on findings at the scene per dictated by state law.

The Prelim:

  1. Don’t forget the written reports, the computer entries, x-rays, photographs from the scene. The body at this point has been moved to the morgue. The official autopsy begins here, while a cursory may be done (especially in fiction for sake of brevity) at the scene i.e. time of death determination.
  2. Let’s go with the external examination. Glove up and don the rest of your personal protection equipment per OSHA guidelines. This is the walk around. What does the victim look like at the scene? Now, the body is on the table before the clothes are washed, the finger/toenails evaluated, photographed and scraped? Before the particulates are removed and collected?
  3. Determine victim’s approximate age, developmental status, height, weight. Dental x-rays can be compared (if available) to the x-rays obtained at time of autopsy.
  4. Look for old injuries that are obvious, bruising. Photograph tattoos, identifying marks, tool patterns and evaluate the possible weapon. If your victim is killed while crawling in mud, the spatter and pattern of the weapon may appear different.
  5. Fingerprints can be collected (yes! No, not old school, not without some chemical help).
  6.  Collect particulates carefully from hair. Also… yay… bugs. If you have to, collect a lot of these bugs. You may need a lot. Later on the margaritas of collecting bug juices <watches people run to bathroom to vomit> Ya’ll back now? Okay.
  7. The walk-around complete, let you tech collect, bag and get your signature as well as his/hers, and time to be sent to the CSU lab. Remove your personal protection gear you are wearing, gown, gloves, clean up, and wait while your tech washes the body. Have your margarita…the correct one… j/k.
  8. While the wash-down is going on and you are not having a PB&J sandwich, evaluate the x-rays. Are there pins, screws, joint replacements, pacemaker? Old/new fractures? Any prosthesis surgically placed will have identifying information, in the event your story includes an unknown victim. Look for opaque objects, bullets, bits of metal.

Internal Exam: (Dear Lord in Heaven when was she going to get here?)

In most fiction, the prelim, while important, can be summed up with the words, “Didn’t find blah blah blah in the prelim. During the internal exam, however…”

If your crime-fighting hero/heroine is the main character, don’t forget the prelim. ‘Gathered are precious pearls hiding in plain view…’  Quote ~ (Not really) Yoda

The internal exam also includes evaluating external signs of rigor mortis and lividity.

You’ll recognize rigor mortis as soon as you see it, er your pathologist or detective, and lividity when the body is turned over. Rigor mortis (aka ‘rigor’) is muscle stiffening after death when the body stops making substances that keep you in motion and your muscles, joints movable. No, older people are not in rigor mortis. Yeesh. Unless of course, they are recently dead like, in the past two days.

Rigor begins the process at approximately two hours after death. Stiffening increases from eight to twelve hours at the peak, and gradually decreases over thirty-six to forty-eight hours.

Livor mortis (lividity) is something of great interest to your detective during the process of walking the scene. This process begins thirty minutes after the heart stops, and the victim’s blood follows gravity, appearing purplish. If your victim has lividity to the stomach yet you find him/her lying on his/her back, the body has been moved, because there is a time limit. Six hours, and lividity is fixed.

Now, evaluate the scalp to toes, noting head, neck, spine, thorax, abdomen for wound size, type: from a bullet? trajectory and ‘obvious’ wound tract’; then internally.

Start with a liver temperature. This with rigor and livor mortis helps the timeline. Bugs help, also. Ahem. But have your pathologist look for and obtain objects that do not belong in a body. Ever. Bullets, metal fragments, spears, surgical instruments or car keys left there during surgery (haven’t heard of car keys just yet), cellphones, surgical gauze (happens all the time) micro chips swallowed by the victim to hide evidence, jewelry, potatoes & other veggies… (found in nether regions), light bulbs (found), coke bottles (found again in the down under), drugs (and … done). I have seen some interesting things in fiction. ‘Sideways Eight’ by AJ Wallace comes to mind. Brow-raising and well, downright entertaining things found in places, well, thanks AJ, things one can never un-see.

If your story has a separate CSU department, they will receive clothing to serum. The will assess in depth, and for brevity, your story may diverge here: “The lab found animal blood on the clothes, dirt from the scene, but …” However, you know what’s gone on in your writer’s brain, and only add what pushes your plot forward. My medical examiner explains he found a substance in the vitreous humor, and your reader may not know what this is, so then, neither does the detective (for the reader’s sake) and has to ask, ‘what is the vit…?’ Grumpy pathologist reports ,’Gooey eyeball stuff.’ But what’s found in the gooey eyeball stuff plays into the story.

This way, you haven’t lost your reader to watch Marian Diamond’s lectures.

There are a few different techniques (Rokinansky, Virchow) on performing autopsies. I prefer to vary my pathologist’s methods largely because I want my characters, including the pathologists (whether main character or not) to have their own professional quirks. This means, some start with the cranial evaluation and work their way down, removing, weighing and measuring the organs, while another method leaves everything in place and evaluates right there. Both are fine, but there are pitfalls and benefits to both.

Leaving everything in place helps the pathologist assess each organ as it sits … and find the wound tract. But those organs are slippery little buggers, and the pathologist could potentially accidentally ruin a wound tract. On the other hand, removing each organ by snipping it loose can damage a portion of a wound not seen while removing organs; though evaluation of stomach contents, and other wounds i.e. to the lungs, heart, etc., are measured easily. Or with slightly less slippage…

(There are the med student clinical methods [dissections] that follow along with the anatomy class and are part of a year long anatomy class. [I have a website for that, too, if you are interested] but dissections are not the same as an autopsy. There is a thirty minute graphic Spanish speaking autopsy, well done, trust me, you will know what / how an autopsy can be done with a soup ladle, a measuring cup, a butcher knife, and a hammer… That is how it is done in parts of Mexico.

author soup ladle

And at the end of that thirty minute video you will know what the Y cut is, the evaluation of the viscera and organs, finding the wound tract, and where the bullet entered the heart. But you may want to know just where to get that Ginsu knife for your next Thanksgiving bird, because he was able to slice through the skull and still thinly slice that brain like a pastrami loaf… You’ll also know what [without needing translation] a degloved head looks like, like my detective in Nobody Girl and the pathologist in How to Steal a Romance.)

Now evaluate the wound tract. Make certain specimens are collected from the eyes (vitreous humor–contains chemicals that can be evaluated to compare to tissue, organs and blood). Collect hair from scalp, pubic hair. Collect all specimens there. Measure blood loss before or after removing the viscera (fatty material plus the small, large intestines), and the stomach. And if not done yet, evaluate the vagina and anus, as well.

Now ya’ll might be thinking, so why do I have to take tissue samples from everything when the dude was obviously hit by a bus and his head crushed?

Well, good point, Dr. Watson.

author dr watson thinks hes over it

But … you’re wrong. What if your victim was hit by the bus not due to bus driver’s menacing or careless driving but because he had a brain tumor that caused confusion? And lookie there, right on the street, your CSU can gather that brain matter up for you. Now how bad would you feel if Mr. (or Ms.) Detective determined, and judge/jury locked up some poor schmuck for murder when it had everything to do with the victim’s health?

And how would Mr. (or Ms.) Detective feel if she didn’t check for psych records, mental status with the family? Hmm. You see where I am going. PLOT TWIST! Because homicide … it ain’t easy.

plot problem

And yep. Another post in a few days on what follows when your pathologist is done slicing and dicing.

editor halloween style

 

 

 

 

Forensics… Boys and Girls, Get Ready…

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Last time I wrote, it was about fingerprinting old school. I promised to write about processing in the lab.

No. No. No. I am old and female, giving me the right, no, two rights… to change my mind. We are talking a bit about blood and guts today. The autopsy. This is for writers who want more realism (not CSI — fake, not NCIS, fake) in their fiction.

leroy jethro gibbs hitting dinozzo

So … you may ask. Go ahead. Fine by me. ‘Where do you get off thinking you are an expert?’ Well… okay, cool, be rude. Oh wait, that was my question, ahem. I’ve amassed over time search/rescue techniques useful; volunteer forensics with sheriff’s department, webinars, seminars, anatomy classes with gross dissection classes, and thorough training & bucks (and I mean a lot–spent a gazillion clams for FBI and National Forensic Science Training Institute).

In the medical field for 30+ years, I know the lingo, and writing about procedures in the hospital/trauma/office, I also have down. But, yes I was a CSI / NCIS junkie… but found out they had a lot of fakery going on in their shenanigans, and since I write fiction … I turned to the real world.

shocked

This information will give you a full autopsy — not you personally, but the lowdown. You’ll see procedures here that are real.

So, let’s begin … My main character, Catherine Cade (amnesiac) in How to Steal a Romance works as a volunteer (long story) and finds she has skills (again, long story). The first visit to the morgue (here, called the Dead Room), she performs an autopsy under the strict supervision of the medical examiner for legal reasons. Prior to this autopsy, he asked her to direct his every move on a Jane Doe. I left names and character interactions out:

I started. “Who have we here?”

“Unknown Hispanic male, found off the parkway, no ID. No tattoos.”

“In the big homeless campground?” I pointed at his hair and fingers. “He’s clean cut. Did you scrub under his nails?”

“Of course not.”

“His crew cut and clean nails don’t scream homeless to me. Who found him, and where?”

“Under the bridge by another homeless man. His clothes were filthy, torn up.”

I checked his hands. “It’s not conclusive. Callouses on his hands, some arthritic changes, consistent with manual labor. Musculature to upper and lower extremities are well-developed. What about trace evidence? Any dirt or grass from a different area under the bridge?”

“Tech is going over clothing and particulates. We obtained samples from the scene to compare.”

“X-rays? Did you get prints to send to IAFIS, swab for DNA?”

“All done.” He pointed to the films.

I stood at the old-fashioned x-ray box. “He’s had dental work.” I pointed. “Here’s a fracture of the nasal bone, some tissue swelling here, suggests fall or altercation.” I stepped to another light box and viewed the vertebrae. “Cervical fracture, thoracic and lumbar fractures. What’s this?” I examined an image of his leg. “Spiral fracture.”

“Good.”

“Not for this poor guy. Grab the mic and turn it on when I tell you to. Lower the table a bit, if you would.”

“Comin’ down.” He lowered the table and winked.

Gonna be a long autopsy.

He held the mic.

I turned to face my patient. “Talk to me John Doe. Tell me why you died. Okay, turn the microphone on. Adult, well-nourished Hispanic male, appears to be in his mid-thirties. External exam shows multiple bruising, over right posterior to anterior neck, right. Multiple abrasions right lower leg. Mic off.” I took more pictures and my eyes drifted past the medical examiner as I contemplated what I found.

“What?” He asked.

“I’ve seen this before. The fracture with the abrasion. I could be wrong, but I think he caught his leg in something like a chair or ladder, fell, causing a spiral fracture and fractures to his back and neck.”

You’ve seen this before?”

I didn’t know when and hesitated. “Sometime back. Here’s the x-ray—fractured nose and the surrounding tissue engorged with blood visible even on plain film. Cervical fracture is different. Any wood, plant particulates I want collected.”

“What do you think?”

Silent, except for recording the procedure, I made an incision from the mastoid process behind the ear, extending coronally to the opposite mastoid, reflecting skin and muscle away, one centimeter above the eyebrows. After evaluating, I exposed the occipital protuberance, and used the vibrating bone saw to cut horizontally on both sides from the center of the forehead to the base of the mastoid process. Further cuts and notches allowed me to remove the cranium, evaluate, and lift out the brain for closer inspection.

“Mic on. No traumatic injury noted to base of skull, despite fracture to cervical vertebrae three and four. Absence of bleeding to the brain and interstitial tissues are inconsistent with a fall. Bruising to neck, lateral, sternocleidomastoid to posterior. Mic off.”

“Well? Any ideas?”

“Yeah, music would drown out your voice.”

“Wow. Boss lady is snippy.”

I didn’t miss a beat. “Gee, wonder how many times I’ve heard that one. Mic on.”

I made the Y-incision from collarbone left to right, past the sternum to the pelvis. “Clip the sternum for me. I need you to grab the enterome above you, hand it to me when I ask.”

I snapped my gloved fingers, held my hand out, and weighed the organs. I used the enterome to shear them open. “Taking samples for biopsy of mouth, esophagus, stomach, colon, liver, trachea, lungs, heart, bladder, spleen. Mic off.” I handed the samples to the medical examiner after I weighed the organs and he put the samples in paraffin wax.

I asked, “What did homicide say about the scene?”

We both put a new pair of gloves on. “They wait for me to tell them.”

“What do you think?”

“Undetermined. Possible scuffle out of hand.”

“Microphone on. John Doe’s liver normal. No sign of cirrhosis, no enlargement.” I added what the m.e. told me. “Alcohol negative, awaiting other toxicology. Mic off.”

“Correct.”

“Mic on. He has a postmortem fracture to the base of his skull. Bruising on his neck, premortem. Blunt force trauma after death. Mic off. Why? Maybe a chokehold. Spit balling. It’s possible John Doe fell from a ladder and caught his leg, or someone helped him fall. Someone busted his nose and held him in a chokehold until he died. Then, a killer fractured his neck—but after death, there’s no blood associated with the trauma.” I hesitated. “We deal with the evidence, but my gut says this man was murdered.”

“You think the victim knew his killer, if you’re right?”

I paused. “Impossible to say. The fractured neck could mean anything.”

“We’ll toss it back to homicide.

 

I tossed my gloves into the hazardous waste trash, left the Dead Room and showered.

That, without the interactions and names is an authentic autopsy. Remember, a dissection is far different than autopsy, so if you are going for what a med student deals with, let me know. Got that, too.

From my second novel, Nobody Girl, I introduce my main character who as a cop, has never had a dead body in her rural town, nor seen a autopsy just like this. I’ve left names out at this point. This is with my agent:

The coroner unlocked the door to the cold morgue room, and pulled one of the three refrigerated body boxes toward us on a wheeled rack, revealing the victim’s remains. The putrefaction almost overwhelmed me. I gagged, and he handed me the peppermint. Tempted to stick the bottle up my nose, I instead put a small dot under my nostrils.

“Take a look at the x-rays. No other fracture except her right occipital lobe—and whatever tore through her.” (The coroner) pointed. “Let me show you what I found—beside the obvious.”

He walked to the table and uncovered the body.

Oh, no, I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing this. He had cut through the skin and skull and pulled her face and skin down over her neck. My knees wobbled. (My partner) stepped behind me and grasped me by the back of my jeans. He pushed his right knee between my legs. No doubt he’d bend his knees if a human chair became a necessity, or if I slid down and fainted.

(He) whispered, “Are you okay with me keeping you upright? I can let you drop, if you want. Toss you outside?”

“Whatever you do, do not let go.”

I prayed, hoping (my new detective’s) professionalism would carry me through this awkward and uncomfortable autopsy evaluation.

(The coroner) said, “I took the liberty of removing the connective tissue to show you this. I found small pieces of wood imbedded in the skin, not the bone, consistent with where we found her. More for my practice than needed. This happened premortem or perimortem, but I am sure that’s not the reason she is dead.”

“No?” I wanted to leave. I averted my eyes. The victim’s feet were visible, and if I could just keep my eyes there …. Her toenails, painted an off-white French nail-style, had otherwise clear glitter. The dirt cleaned away, her feet were something I would expect of her—perfect, but very dead—and thanks to our coroner, she was faceless. I shouldn’t have compared her feet to mine, but she didn’t have funky-looking runner’s feet. This mental exercise did keep me from looking at the degloved head.

(The coroner) pulled the sheet down to her torso. “This puncture wound. Perforated her saline breast implant. Whatever did this spiraled and decompressed and tore tissue, coring through. Nothing else except some tiny bits of metal. Didn’t see them until I re-examined the x-ray. I’ll let Duluth handle that. Looking at the entrance wound, I’m guessing a diameter of 6 inches.”

“What’s the ammo that could produce this?”

(The homicide detective) crossed his arms. “The JDJ .950 can produce an entry hole that large. Has a two-hundred pound kick. Small cannon. Largest rifle caliber out there. If that was the rifle used, it would leave bruises on the killer’s chest.”

(The coroner) shook his head. “The other conundrum is the wound tract, it has a pattern, just an uneven pattern. After the fatal wound, she fell, hit her head and fractured it, the tissue swelling said she didn’t die instantly. Someone took a rock to her face as she bled out. Poor girl suffered.” He glanced at me. “Check the edges of this wound, here. There was no surviving this. I estimated the exit wound is much smaller.”

(Detective) shifted. “Have you seen this before?”

(Coroner) removed his gloves, washed his hands, and rubbed his balding dome. “Son, I’m a family doctor and volunteer coroner. First time to deglove a head, too. So, no, I haven’t. It’ll take me some time to figure this one out.”

 

Next up … a visit to the Body Farm, including some scenes from How to Steal a Romance. Which will be disgusting.

Aren’t you excited?

And as always, please visit Kristen Lamb’s blog for writers: 13 Ways Writers are Mistaken for Serial Killers — Kristen Lamb’s Blog   http://authorkristenlamb.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loose Ends

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via Interview with Jennifer Haynie

I read this blog and clearly, will be reading this soon. The genre is ‘up my alley,’ and reading the interview has sent me to Amazon, on my wish list!

Check out the interview with Jennifer Haynie romantic/suspense

What? Fingerprinting? Old School, Man. Old School.

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For crime fiction writers, you won’t need all of this information. However, if it’s tucked away in your mind, what you do need on paper is available to you.

 

So… fingerprinting. You see it all the time on TV, watched as times have changed. I have trained in the ‘How To Collect Prints’ (the old fashioned way in a rural setting).

 

Here is an overview of the ‘new’. Technology has changed; a new standard of equipment is the portable scanner over one or more fingers. If you know anything medical, it’s not unlike taking someone’s finger oximetry (which I also know how to do).

The CSU team in the field or medical examiner does this work. The finger of the dead or live victim/suspect is placed into or on a scan, much like your biometric safe where we know you keep your guns…  And there are several new techniques even for scanning.

The scan is saved and uploaded to a computer, where the very accurate image is sent to local, state databases to send to AFIS, the Automated Fingerprint ID System (local, county or state) or IAFIS, which is nationally maintained through the FBI. Both AFIS and IAFIS store not just fingerprints, but criminal history.

So, you’d better have a spotless background check before you purchase a gun and/or concealed carry weapon… The DMV is now also sending your picture into state databases by the way, to match you and your prints together.

Yes, we all know that DNA trumps everything (except in identical twins, only fingerprints finalize identity). Circumstances, environment, clothing, and… the smoking gun. We love that smoking gun. Especially in reality. The ‘interview’ involving anyone around the crime scene, knows the victim, or saw everything can be recorded on tape and video without consent because after all, it’s just an interview, no Miranda rights needed (some interview policies are state-based). Good baseline gathering for your evidence.

Back to old-school prints still being used today.

Collecting old-fashioned prints is an art. It can take some time to master how to print, lightly dip into the powder of choice, and lightly twirling the ‘brush’ (I must make my confession. When I was in the learning process, one night after midnight … I printed the kitchen with black carbon powder. My kitchen. I then face planted into bed a good two hours later, and my early riser husband had… a … fit… it gets everywhere, on you, your skin, your dog, etc.).

First… inking the fingers. Use an ink pad and fingerprinting paper. Get the entire pad of each finger blackened and roll each—right after each finger printed. There’s a method to this messy madness.

Your suspect or victim must have clean hands/fingers so dirt particles and grease do not interfere with the process. Hold each finger for both ink and print paper. With the same, light pressure, roll the thumb from the outside to the inside. Fingers, roll onto the paper inside to outside. Outside to insideà if you aren’t sure what I mean, stick your thumb in the air like a thumbs up. Turn it to palm up, other fingers curled. Press the outside first and gently roll to the inside. The opposite for each finger. Make sure they are numbered correctly. Your nerves count. So does the suspect’s. A smudged print is pretty much useless. Palms can be printed, feet, even lips.

After learning to ink and clean fingers, you get to twirl the brush in one hand lightly. Trust me when I tell you , learn to twirl before you have powder on it. Then, dip the brush (for real) into your powder of choice (not too much). Powder of choice is that which you need to dust, and where in the house/scene to print. That’s just part of the job, because trainees practice on their friends, family, co-workers. You’ve got it down, right?

But wait! Before you leave, I have a free special!

 Yeah. No, you’re not done. Not even.

 Now comes the fun part. You have learned to print an individual walking through your door for a CC license, realtor license, etc. Even a suspect (if they are now in the interrogation and highly suspect… so to speak). Hallelujah.

 Now Ms. and Mr. CSU, you’re characters are working a real scene with the printing powder, dusting for latent prints (invisible) and the more *obvious* prints that develop best on porous areas and greasy and dirty hands. Windows, cups, paper. Different powders…

 What is print powder made of? Oh, great question. Because there are many types of powder and guidelines on what powder, what to do before the powder, and what to use chemically to enhance a print (to scan when done).

Keep this in mind: A lot of powders (okay, most) require a different, dedicated brush, some black, some white, some feathered. If you are going to use two different types of powders make sure you have a brush for each and a method to keep them separate, not contaminating another. Simple plastic wrap will do fine. Mark them lest you forget which is which.

First and before powder, your scene had better be marked, measured and a numbered placard place next to said print. Then, you photograph … twice. From above and a 45 degree angle, using a 35mm camera and a thumb drive to upload to your computer. Don’t worry about getting extra pictures …. just not of you and your friends at the site.

Done? No. You have your handy field guide to fingerprinting or your cheat sheet… and FBI manual in your kit. What powder to use. After the photos. After all the on site processes take place. Some require sprays or ‘superglue’ on a hot plate in a box… literally sticking to the print (basically this is how it works without all the fancy terms. Got those, too, but processing is another article.).

 Do not forget your print tape to lift and a designated placard number. I have two types of tape, but guess what? 3M tape works, not perfect but try it. You place your tape against the appropriate colored background paper and voila! Print in the field is collected–not the process required in the lab. You’ve processed the crime scene for prints. This is just one of the many things that CSU teams go through.

 

Some officers /CSU use the black, carbon based powder on just about everything, including porous surfaces. Meh, I like to go FBI-style. I have a full kit and every powder available. I have an extensive cheat sheet I made, and FBI handbook. My kit is almost twice as big as the sheriff’s office… and I saw them slathering. White powder is available and useful for windows, dark surfaces such as very dark countertops, chrome, plastic bags. Some are made with aluminum or titanium. Wear your masks for all powder prints, please.

Carbon-based black powder has been the standard until cooler stuff came along. Magnetic powders are my hands down favorite for porous, non-porous surfaces, plastics, Styrofoam and rubber (eyes wide open… don’t forget the tossed condom). For magnetic powder, no brush required, and is easy clean up. Magnetic powder (made from iron) sticks to the oily portions of a fingerprint. It’s truly outstanding. You use a magnet designed for the dropping the powder, and then cleanup… No muss, no fuss, not a lot of left over like carbon powder twirled onto the kitchen walls, plates, cups, wood, counters… ahem.

Special dyes are used for colorants in fluorescing powders to use your Alternative Light Sources with, but take care, these powders can over-process in the field, and yes, the prints are ruined. Got one print, and you just over-processed it? You will be called Dusty the rest of your days. And maybe a kick in the butt. The UV lights require yellow or orange tinted glasses, unless you want cataracts before you reach retirement. Yes, I have two light sources and two sets of glasses…  just in case my husband thought one was a flashlight (he did). It’s lost. Do not use fluorescent powders on large surfaces.

Photograph. Occasionally the fluorescing powder requires two people to photograph, and the reason should be obvious. One to shine the light the correct angles and one to get the photos.

Red oxide powders and magnetic oxide powders are used for either dark or light background surfaces, and work well on non-porous surfaces.  These are cool because of their versatility. Messy.

Coin box powders. Another fun animal. Use these on metallic surfaces, vending machine, pipes. They require one or two types of ‘smoking’ which are dangerous during lab processing. Leave this to the processing team. By the way, let the processing team work all the prints you’ve collected. Lifting possible ammunition, full or partial prints are best left for the processing team. However, for your fiction, you may get a partial print, thumb and forefinger prints that need special care. You only get one chance.

Brushes: using your feather brush, (different that your carbon based and magnetic brushes). These do well on countertops, wood, and household woodwork (like unpainted doorjambs, decks and lightly painted wood).

Uneven surfaces suck. But that’s where that handy dandy 35mm comes in after you’ve brushed or dropped the right powder. Sometimes they can be processed well with little or no warp.

I haven’t invested in spray powder but the powder spray covers the print more accurately and evenly. It doesn’t replace your powder, but is another cool tool for your kit. If you’re dipping too much powder onto your brush, it’s a mess and your print will be well, useless. That’s when the spray comes in handy.

 

What about wet surfaces? You see a print in condensation or a wet counter. Use a small particle reagent. This is a liquid powder, sprayed onto the print and the reagent will stick to the print.

The latest powder I do not have are supernano powders made with very fine silica that according to processors, improve print demarcation by 30%. They are processed differently, with lasers. These pick up so much more information than any other print powder that you will want it. Me, too.

 My next article will be on processing, including superglue… For now, get an ink pad, print paper (or your home ink pad, regular paper) and start twirling that brush with a bit of powder or dropping a wee clump of magnetic powder to play with. I recommend aprons, gloves and never past your bedtime.

Well, boys and girls, we got a lotta work to do in coming days, weeks, months.

Why is this in Romance tags? Because … what if your characters are in love but er, don’t know it? Bicker?

If you know of more printing techniques and / or glaring errors, that I have not covered, errors, do give me a comment on my website blog. I’ll hit up the stores for more to put in my kit, correct my work and give you the credit.  🙂

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