What I’m working on now

By User:Orderinchaos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By User:Orderinchaos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In short, I’m working on Talked to Death. The second draft is done, and has been sent off to my critique crew; they’re in the process of reading it.

Talked to Death is a little unique, in that it takes place over just 48 hours, at a library conference. Jamie, Liz, and Jon are presenting together in Oakland, unfamiliar territory; Pete has come along for the ride.

Given that the action is so condensed, there isn’t much relationship stuff in this one. BUT Talked to Death will also include a following short story, called Hearts, that only deals with relationship and family issues.

I still anticipate that Talked to Death will be out by mid-May. That’s the end of our semester here at the college, and it’s a good time to wrap up projects of all kinds.

The next book after Talked to Death will be Avenged to Death, in early fall. Before that, though, we’ll be having a sort of Christmas in July – another short story, which I’ll be serializing here on the blog, that fills in some detail that needs to come out before Avenged to Death. There’s not enough for a standalone book, and Avenged to Death is going to be plenty long itself without adding a story to it.

So y’all get a gift – Christmas in July! :-)

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Forensics questions answered!

By Dioptaz (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dioptaz (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 When I signed up for the online Forensic Science class, I was hoping to get a few questions answered, in addition to learning some cool stuff. The instructors in the class held three live Q and A sessions during the course, through Google Hangout, where we could join in to ask questions.

Unfortunately, the live chats were held during my shift at the reference desk at work. No way to participate.

So, I turned to the textbook that they recommended as a supplement to the course – and I’m glad I did. That’s where I found the answers to the specific questions that I had for upcoming books.

Question 1: Is it possible to lift fingerprints from human skin? They did it once on CSI but I had no idea if that was actually possible.

It IS possible, but as the book says, “success has been limited.” It also says that human fingerprints last for about 1 1/2 hours on living skin – so they have to be collected from the deceased as quickly as possible.

Question 2: How would the police identify a Jane Doe through a missing persons database? Turns out there is a national database, NamUs, that links missing persons reports with unidentified remains. Kevin and Jon will be using that in an upcoming book.

Question 3: Is it possible to link ballistics findings across jurisdictions? If a gun is used in a murder in Los Angeles, can it be linked to an armed robbery in San Diego? Yes. The database is called NIBIN and is maintained by the ATF. It allows investigators to connect ballistics evidence across apparently unrelated crimes.

Question 4 was a question I didn’t know I had. What marks are produced on a victim’s neck during a strangulation by hand? The book has a whole paragraph describing the physical findings. That will allow me to make an upcoming strangulation much more realistic.

The book is called Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation, 8th Edition, by Barry Fisher and David Fisher. I got a used copy on Amazon. It’s going to be a great reference for me.

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How Kevin met Abby

I was looking for something else in my Google Drive files this morning, and came across this piece. I don’t even remember when I wrote it! It doesn’t fit into any of the upcoming stories, and it’s not long – so I figured, why not publish it here?

The setting: a baseball game, LAPD Centurions vs. LA County Sheriff’s Department. The date: July 2007.

 

“Batting next, Kevin Brodie, West LA.”

I nudged Pete Ferguson in the ribs with an elbow. “Kevin’s batting.”

“Hm?” Pete looked up from the book he was reading and gave me a weak smile. “Sorry.”

Pete was Kevin’s partner, but only for another two months. In September he’d leave LAPD and begin full-time study for a Ph.D. in criminal psychology at UCLA. He seemed to be getting a head start by reading every scholarly tome ever published on the subject. Pete himself had played for the LAPD Centurions for several years, but he’d left the team after last season.

The pitcher threw a curveball, low and outside. It didn’t fool Kevin. Ball one. On the other side of me my boyfriend, Nick Taggart, applauded and whistled. “Way to watch, Brodie!”

I grinned. Nick had just finished his MFA in cinematography. I hadn’t expected him to be a sports fan when I met him, but I’d been pleasantly surprised.

The pitcher wound up and threw a fastball, which Kevin smacked into deep left field. The two players on second and third scored, and Kevin ended up on second base with a stand up double.

The crowd went wild.

 

After the game we loitered around the stadium exit, waiting for Kevin. He walked out with a second player, a guy I recognized as being a K-9 officer from Pacific Division. There were a couple of girls waiting closer to the gate, and Kevin and K-9 stopped to talk to them. One of the girls wrapped an arm around K-9’s waist. The other was being introduced to Kevin. She shook his hand, and I saw Kevin grin.

I elbowed Pete again. “Kevin’s getting introduced to a girl.”

“Yeah?” Pete glanced up. “She’s cute.”

Nick squinted at the girl. “She looks familiar.”

I said, “Where do you know her from?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe work.”

The girl was cute. She was tall, at least 5’10”, and had auburn hair pulled into a French braid. She was wearing jeans and a sweater, but it looked like she had a nice shape.

Kevin could use a girlfriend. He’d been divorced for a year now and hadn’t dated much. He was getting snarly. A girlfriend might un-snarl him.

 

Abby Glenn had not wanted to come to this game. There was an armoire that needed an application of tung oil waiting for her at her sister’s house. But Carrie had insisted. “You need a girl’s night out, Abby. And there are lots of hot guys on the LAPD team. I bet Joe will introduce you to one.”

Carrie had been dating Joe, an LAPD K-9 officer, for about three months. Abby didn’t know about cops. All the ones she’d dealt with in the past, when she was married to Sean, had been assholes. But then Sean had been a scumbag coke head in their eyes. No wonder they’d been assholes.

So Abby had reluctantly agreed to come with Carrie. It hadn’t been bad. Abby liked baseball. Her dad had taken her and her sisters to Dodgers games faithfully when they were kids. And there were hot guys. The game wasn’t very good – LAPD beat the sheriff’s team 8-2. But Carrie had been right. It was nice to have a night out.

After the game Carrie stood. “Come on. We’ll meet up with Joe at the stadium exit.”

Abby followed Carrie out of the stadium. It took about twenty minutes, but finally two guys approached them from the stadium tunnel. Abby didn’t know which was Carrie’s boyfriend. One of them was sort of a stereotypical cop, with the bulked-up shoulders and the buzz cut. The other was a big blond guy with slightly longer hair that Abby recognized as having been the Centurions’ catcher. Abby didn’t remember his name, but she didn’t think it had been Joe.

The guys stopped, and the buzz cut wrapped an arm around Carrie. “Hey, babe.”

Abby cringed a little. She hated the word “babe.” But Carrie preened like an egret. “Hi, sweetie. Good game.”

Abby stifled a snort. Joe hadn’t had a good game – an error in the field, and 0 for 3 at the plate. She thought she was maintaining a pleasantly neutral facial expression, but the big blond guy was looking at her with a twinkle in his eye. Hm. She cleared her throat, and Carrie said, “Oh, honey, this is my friend Abby.”

Joe gave Abby a near-leer. Ugh. She said, “Hi, Joe.”

The big blond guy held out his hand. “Hi, Abby. I’m Kevin Brodie.”

Abby shook his hand. “Abby Glenn.”

Kevin’s smile blossomed into a brilliant grin. “I’m glad to meet you, Abby.”

Abby grinned back. “Likewise.”

 

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Whodunit?

"Mystery". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mystery.png#mediaviewer/File:Mystery.png

“Mystery”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mystery.png#mediaviewer/File:Mystery.png

The course that I’ve been taking online in Forensic Science comes to an end this week. Along with the weekly content, we’ve been following a developing case that is based on an actual murder that took place some time ago in Scotland. The first week they presented the scenario; every week since they’ve presented the evidence corresponding to the week’s topic (DNA, fingerprints, etc.). It’s been fascinating.

The scenario: A man called the British equivalent of 911, saying that he’d come across a man in need of assistance. When the police arrived, the guy who called 911 was still there; a car was by the side of the road, and a woman was dead inside. The husband of the woman was shot in the left arm, and said that they were attacked by robbers who shot his wife when she resisted handing over her necklace.

Only problem was, the wife was shot in the side of the head facing the driver’s side of the car, so the robber would have had to reach all the way through the window and across the driver’s side to do that. Doesn’t sound right, does it?

The husband’s story held inconsistencies, and most of us in the class had the initial reaction that he must have done it. His wife was shot in the temple facing his side of the car; he’s right handed, and his gunshot wound was in the left arm; and he’d been having an affair. The weapon turned up, tossed from a pier on the loch by which the car was parked.

But, the instructors’ reactions were, “Oh, of course you all think the husband did it, haha.” As if he didn’t. So I don’t know what to think. We won’t find out until Friday afternoon.

But the course has been great. I’ve been rewriting the crime scene in Talked to Death based on what I’ve learned, and I’ve gotten several questions answered about CSI procedure and what’s possible in forensics.

I’ll share those questions and answers later.

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Stoned to Death is here!

Woo hoo! I had a busy day yesterday, getting both Stoned to Death published to Kindle and Researched to Death finalized on Smashwords. But Researched went live yesterday, and Stoned is available now! Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00T87D6OI

Stoned to Death won’t be available on Smashwords for a while; I’m getting the older books on there in order, and I have to wait until they come off the Kindle Select program. Next will be Encountered to Death, in March.

Thank you all so much for reading! I appreciate you more than you can know.

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Researched to Death available through Smashwords!

Finally! Researched to Death, Jamie Brodie Mystery #4, is available through Smashwords. Here’s the link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/517151 

“Was it National Old Boyfriends Week, and I’d missed the memo?”
Librarian Jamie Brodie is looking forward to a week of vacation in Oxford, England, his first trip back in seven years. Before he’s even packed, though, a couple of complications arise.
The first complication is Jamie’s ex, Ethan Williams, who shows up at Jamie’s office with his new boyfriend and a request. Ethan’s going to Oxford too, and he needs Jamie’s help to find a rare 15th century book in the Bodleian Library. When Jamie tells his boyfriend Pete that he and Ethan will be in Oxford at the same time, Pete doesn’t react well. To say the least.
The second complication is Pete’s ex, Luke Brenner, who shows up at Pete and Jamie’s house. He lets Jamie know that he’s in town to get Pete back – but Pete doesn’t think Luke will try anything.
He’s proven spectacularly wrong, in one horrible moment.
Jamie leaves for Oxford, not sure where he stands with Pete, not looking forward to seeing Ethan. When he requests the book that Ethan needs, he learns that it’s been missing for three weeks – and the man who likely stole it is dead.
Then two more men die, and Ethan goes missing as well. Is he in danger? Or is he a killer? And what could be in an obscure medieval manuscript that’s worth killing for?

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Patience is a virtue…

And I am trying to be patient! My editor still hasn’t given me the final edited version of Stoned to Death. He does have another full-time job, so I’ll forgive him – but I’m as ready as you all are to get this book out there!

Hang in there. It’s coming soon. I’m sure it will be by the end of this week.

Here’s an excerpt to hold you over:

July 28

Oxford

Monday morning we made the brief walk from Niles’s semidetached on Woodstock Road to Wolfson College, where Pete’s cousin was a lecturer in art and archaeology. Stopping Pete from looking in the wrong direction when crossing the road was an ongoing challenge. When we were safely on campus I asked, “Remind me who this cousin is?”

“Duncan Thomson. We’re fifth cousins, or something like that? Robert Thomson was his great-great-grandfather too.”

“Your great-grandfather and his were brothers.”

“Yes. Robert had three children – Donald, Elizabeth, and Adam. Donald was the oldest, and he’s the one who emigrated to the States and became my great-grandfather. Adam was Duncan’s great-grandfather.”

I nodded. “Got it.”

Duncan Thomson’s office was a typical academic lair full of books, journals and papers. Duncan himself was behind his desk, and stood when we appeared at his door. “Pete Ferguson?”

“Yes.” They shook hands. “This is my partner, Jamie Brodie.”

I shook Duncan’s hand. He was tall, slender, blond and blue-eyed, with a Scottish accent, wearing a collared shirt under a sweater. A bike helmet was on a side table. Duncan tipped his head at me. “Brodie, eh? Of the Brodie Castle Brodies?”

“Back a few generations, yes.”

He nodded. “You look like a Scotsman. Tea?”

We sat in the visitors’ chairs and accepted a cuppa. Duncan said, “I was pleased to hear from you and your sister. We’ve always wondered what became of Donald’s descendants.”

Pete said, “We weren’t close to our Thomson grandparents. We didn’t even know Donald’s name, much less that he’d been born in Scotland.”

“We knew Donald had two sons, but once Donald died, we never heard anything else from the family.”

Pete said, “I know my grandfather’s brother was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.”

Duncan nodded. “Yes. We did know that one of Donald’s sons died in the war.”

“I was seven when Donald died, but I only learned that when Christine gave me the family tree. I wish I’d met him. All we ever heard about was the family ‘shame.’”

Duncan’s eyebrow went up. “Shame?”

Pete sighed. “That’s how my grandmother – Donald’s daughter-in-law – described Robert’s disappearance and the family’s falling apart. My mother got pregnant in high school with my sister, and her mother always said she took after the Thomsons. Bringing shame to the family.”

Duncan gave me an inquiring glance. I said, “A bloody Sassenach, his grandmother.”

He laughed. “I see. But -” He looked perplexed. “The family didn’t fall apart. What did she mean by that?”

Pete said, “We were told that after his father disappeared, Donald went to the States and the rest of the family went to Edinburgh.”

“Someone got it wrong, then. Rhona – Robert’s wife – never left Orkney. Donald did leave home, but to serve as ground crew for the RAF during World War One.” Duncan cocked an eyebrow. “Hardly the done thing, is it, a healthy young man deserting his country while it’s at war?”

Pete said, “No. I did wonder about that.”

Duncan said, “After the war, he’d saved money to help his mum and brother buy the croft they lived on. That’s when he went to the States. He’d met an American officer during the war who was impressed with his engineering skills, offered to pay for his education at the Colorado School of Mines.”

“No kidding.”

Duncan frowned at Pete. “I wonder how that tale of yours got passed on?”

Pete shrugged. “My family is a case study in miscommunication.”

I said, “Your grandmother may have adjusted the story to suit her own purposes.”

Pete said, “It sounds like it. She also told us that Donald never returned to Scotland. She left the impression that he was estranged from his relatives.”

Duncan shook his head. “Not true. Donald came back several times, for his brother’s and sister’s weddings, and for Rhona’s funeral.”

Pete said, “His brother was your great-grandfather.”

“Aye. Adam.” Duncan smiled. “He used to tell us tales of Robert and his archaeological pursuits.” His expression sobered. “He never believed Robert ran off. None of the family did. He wouldn’t have abandoned them.”

I said, “We’d like to look into the mystery of his disappearance.”

Pete said. “We’re mostly here on vacation. But Jamie’s a university librarian, terrific at research, and we thought we’d take the opportunity.”

Duncan was intrigued. “Where do you plan to search?”

“I thought I’d start with the library in Kirkwall. Go back to the newspaper clippings of the time, see what was reported.”

Duncan nodded. “My cousin Craig and his family still live and work on the farm. Their attic has a couple of trunks we’ve never opened. Maybe you could have a go at them.”

Pete said, surprised, “You’ve never opened them?”

Duncan shrugged. “They’re locked, and we’ve never found a key. One of those things we’ve meant to do when we had time.”

Pete said, “I’ve picked a few locks. If it’s all right with Craig, maybe we could open them.”

“I’ll speak to him about it.” Duncan smiled. “How long will you be in Oxford?”

“We’re leaving Wednesday morning.”

“Come to dinner tomorrow evening. My children would enjoy meeting an American cousin. I’ll call Craig this evening about the trunks.”

Pete and I looked at each other and grinned. Pete said, “We’ll be there.”

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