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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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/