Interview with DJ Williams

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by Claire O’Sullivan

 

DJ Williams

 

I’m pleased to let you know I snagged an interview with DJ Williams, the author of The Auctioneer (which was très cool, along with a copy of the book) which is right here. Sorry, not the book, but the cover… 

The Auctioneer DJ Williams

Here’s the link to purchase it:

‘The Auctioneer’ by DJ Williams ↵ 

Claire: Hi DJ. Thanks for giving this interview and it’s a pleasure to chat with you. I can’t wait to talk about your new book, The Auctioneer. First, I have to hear about your background and your bio– ‘with the DNA of a world traveler.’ Can you tell me a bit about that? 

DJ: My parents were missionaries in Hong Kong where I was born. I was fifteen when the family moved back to L.A. I’ve been in Los Angeles ever since. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to travel to many countries, but it was when I found myself in Zambia along the Zambezi River that I realized my dream of storytelling from the age of eight after reading Treasure Island, was the next step of my journey.

Claire: Zambezi! That’s where the Zambezi River was flooding just this month. How incredibly devastating. What you saw and experienced shaped your first novel, The Disillusioned. How so? 

DJ: I don’t want to give away the entire story but it does revolve around human trafficking. It wasn’t until a few years after those three days on the Zambezi River, that I finally sat down and began writing what would eventually become The Disillusioned. I didn’t tell a soul, not even my wife! I finished the first draft and sent it to executive writer/producer Judith McCreary of Criminal Minds, CSI, and Law and Order: SVU. She was gracious enough to read the book, with the caveat that if it was terrible that only the two of us would know it existed. When she called me back a week later she gave me the thumbs up and a year later the novel was published.

Claire: Your readers are certainly glad you talked to Ms. McCreary! You also have been involved in music, production and directing. That kept you busy. I understand you have directed episodes of The Restoration Road with Mitch Kruse. 

DJ: Yes, I was part of several indie record labels, and later worked at an entertainment company in Los Angeles, before branching out on my own to produce and direct. I’m currently in production on Season 16 of The Restoration Road with Mitch Kruse, as well as developing other projects for film/television.

Claire: I’ve watched The Restoration Road and a videocast with Mitch on his site, with a picture of two rows of classic cars in the background. Was Mitch an inspiration to The Auctioneer?

DJ: Mitch and I have been friends for nearly twenty years, beginning shortly after he sold his auction business. He is one of the greatest auctioneers of all time. With the many stories he’s shared over the years, he was definitely an inspiration to spark my crazy imagination.

Claire: It’s not cut from the same cloth, plot-wise as The Disillusioned and Waking Lazarus. You have some very colorful characters and a terrific twisty/turny plot.

DJ: I’m always working to become a better storyteller, and when Chase Hardeman emerged in my imagination I knew this series was going to be a departure from my first two novels. It’s a different world, more along the lines of Jason Bourne meets James Bond meets National Treasure with plenty of thrills, chills, and espionage. I also wanted to write characters that could go the distance, i.e. Harry Bosch, Jack Reacher, Jason Bourne, so that the world would evolve with each novel.

borsch

Claire: The Auctioneer is a fast-paced novel that grabs you in the first sentence until the last. That last line was killer so I must know, will there be a sequel?

DJ: I’m in the first draft stage working through the details of the plot and developing the characters so readers will go deeper into the world that began with The Auctioneer.  

Claire: Excellent news! For our writers, are you a planner, panster, or plantser? And any other tips for writers?

DJ: While I wish I could say I’m a planner, the reality is that once I sit down to write all the plans seem to disappear as the story comes alive on the page. So, I’d be more of a pantster. Storylines and characters evolve and take me along the adventure. Now, I will say that I do know how the story begins and ends before I write a single word. If not I’d be writing with no end in sight.

Claire: You went the independent route, right? 

DJ: Yes, I used resources from Reedsy where I found a great cover designer and publicist. With my past experience building businesses and entrepreneur DNA, I’ve found that it’s become the best outlet to get my stories to the world. Now, when the right time comes there may be an agent or a publisher who partners with me, but for now, I’m proud to be an indie. The Auctioneer launched in February 2019 and has quickly climbed the charts on Amazon Hot New Releases, ranking #21 (Espionage Thrillers), #22 (Vigilante Justice) and #30 (International Mystery & Crime).

Claire: You have a great imagination and ability to weave a tale, and your background is so varied, I definitely can see why your books shot to the top. I already purchased The Disillusioned and‘Waking Lazarus, so it looks like I’ll be emailing you for another interview. I can’t thank you enough for your time to see into your brain, and where you get your inspiration. 

DJ: This was fun, and I’m looking forward to hearing how you like The Disillusioned and Waking Lazarus.

***

I had a great time interviewing DJ. Now, let me first tantalize you with a bit of The Auctioneer. 

Starting off, as a writer, DJ makes every word count in a well-written, tightly-packed action thriller. A great way to see action, dialogue and setting with the ability to bend rules. If you’re writing a thriller, crime fiction, underworld intrigue, grief, loss, betrayal, mystery, and a clean read, you’ll enjoy The Auctioneer. This novel’s difference is in how his main character overcomes not really understanding his father’s world to understanding it perfectly within the setting of priceless classic cars in underworld trading and solving a murder all at the same time. And, there’s a hint of romance. 

As a reader, The Auctioneer is a pure thrill ride. A young man takes on the mantle of his much-loved father. Chase Hardeman is the son of an ethically-challenged auctioneer and one-time politician. The ex-special ops soldier returns home after his father’s death, only to realize things were not bad. They were worse. Not simply his father’s shady business dealings, but things at home are about to take a turn. 

Within these pages, you’ll find a complex page-turner with twists you won’t see coming. Chase’s life is in constant danger because of the… oh wait. I hate spoiler alerts, so… that’s all about you get for now.

car

 

For a link to ‘The Disillusioned’

And to ‘Waking Lazarus’

A portion of his work goes to the Wounded Warrior Project. You can read more about DJ Williams here: djwilliamsbooks.com

 

wounded warrior project

Dale Amidei’s – ‘A Garden in Russia’

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a garden in russia

I swear, Dale Amidei is/was an assassin. Perhaps, married to one. Ahem. His knowledge and research are frighteningly real, vast, and varied. Dale, does the CIA know about you? Are you like, a consultant to the intelligence community?

Okay, besides that… I just read ‘A Garden in Russia,’ his fifth in the Boone File series. Dale is adept at writing strong female characters, tough guys, nurturing men and women, and villains in the end, who have far more to do with what is the lethality of politics and intrigue than a shadowy character with a knife and evil intent.

I’ve read all of the Boone Files, and this does not disappoint. After #4, while I awaited #5, I started at the beginning, ‘The Anvil of the Craftsman,’ which I pressed here previously. A writer, reader of well, any genre can see the ability of Dale Amidei’s writing as complex, intriguing and well-crafted. I honestly hold my breath often, wondering who is going to be shot? What will happen here?

The powers and money behind what happens in the U.S. affects what happens in Russia as well. Like I said, more real than not. Read the paper, watch the news, then you tell me, how did he nail those details so well? Dale’s writing? Never a disappointment.

Something I could imagine seeing in Boone’s bathroom

bathroom pic

Okay, so that’s my bathroom. Romantic comedy, right?

‘Pursuit’ by Indy Quillen

I am relatively new to Indy’s writing, I confess. However, having read the first two in her Fox Walker series, I’d say I’m hooked.

I’ve read ‘Tracker,’ and last night finished ‘Pursuit.’

pursuit indy quillen

I would have to say, she has done her research, and it shows. Not simply in crime and investigation,  the FBI, local police, retired profilers (which is daunting in itself), but again in her research of First Nations ways.

I suspect she has put all of these tracking, hunting, cooking culture into practice. Bow hunting. Walking from toe-to-heel (that one from ‘Tracker’). Cooking with mud. Who knew? I stopped to take notes… And much, much more.

‘Pursuit’ is a gripping tale of Walker tracking a murderer who has deadly skills. His question is, why did the FBI not send their own? Fox, armed only with a knife and sharp skills finds more truth than he was prepared for.

Great writing. Next book is on my list!

 

6 in the Styx – Brad Carl

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This writer is insane. I MEAN, imaginative and a bit um, yes, disturbed. But a man of many talents, he can write full-length novels, non-fiction and short stories.

So I hate him, I mean love his writing. 6 in the Styx is six (hence the title) short stories that are fun to read. I was up to the wee hours finishing the stories, thinking, oh this guy is so screwed (the character, mind you) to laughing too loud.

laughing spit out coffee

*Unappreciative husband told me to use my inside voice. Pfft.*

Anywho, 6 in the Styx is now available on Amazon for $2.99. Cheaper than answering a stranger’s cellphone in an airport. Yes, there is something wrong about doing so, and Brad will tell you all about it.

Don’t miss it, even if you are a full-length novel reader only. You’ll be entertained, disturbed (he is weird did I mention that?) and in stitches laughing.

 

6 In The Styx - Brad Carl

Brad. He needs prayer… I mean, a long life to write more.

Brad Carl

 

Reading Boone

Quote

via Reading Boone  

Dale Amidei: Leading into next month’s release of Boone’s fifth and epic title, A Garden in Russia, I have the opportunity to hand off the forum to a pair of her biggest fans, Rebecca Johnson and Claire O’Sullivan. Ladies, the floor is yours:

Rebecca: Firstly, thank you, Dale, for allowing us to guest post on your page. Claire O’Sullivan and I are here to nag Dale Amidei about his newest book discuss Dale Amidei’s first female heroine in his Boone series of espionage thrillers, a sort of international/ political Tales from the Dark Side. Dale writes complex, powerful novels that pull his characters into unthinkable situations, which is why I have temporarily given up paranormal fiction in favor of devouring his books.

Claire: Readers and writers alike, no matter their preferred genre, would find Dale’s geopolitical intrigue novels exemplary.

Rebecca: That’s some mighty highfalutin language there, but I think you’re absolutely right.

Claire: All I’m saying is that, as primarily a romance reader, I find his books a delicious departure from my usual reads, just like you do.

Rebecca: Can’t argue with you there … but about Boone: How do you relate to her character?

Claire: I think she’s a bad-arse, and I mean that in the “holy-crap-if-she-was-real” sense (and maybe she is). I wouldn’t want to get on her bad side. Respect her, yes. Mess with her, no way. I would actually like to be Boone. What about you? How do you see her?

Rebecca: Well, you know, every woman has those days when everything jells, right? The makeup and hair work, the clothes fit perfectly, the job rolls on smooth wheels. Then there’s the rest of the time, when the mirror and the closet are your enemies, and the job develops a square wheel and just clunks along, and the kids track dog poop all through the house ten minutes before the party. Those kinds of issues are hiccups in the greater scheme of things, I know, but they seem like disasters at the time. 

And then there’s Dr. Rebecca Boone Hildebrandt’s world. She’s an intel operative who deals in—how to say it?—correcting political situations detrimental to independence and freedom. She takes on the jobs no one in the real world wants to think about. Her profession involves stealth, constant situational awareness, and occasionally sudden death: both other people’s and possibly her own. She has to be good at what she does, just to survive. Dog poop on the floor is the least of her worries.  And yet, even with her youth and strength, she is full of flaws and desires. She has the same soul shadows and asks the same questions we all do: “What have I become? Did I ever have a choice?”

Claire:  I’ve read all four of Dale’s Boone’s File novels, and I’m waiting for the fifth one, A Garden in Russia. Taken together, they chronicle Boone’s journey from a flawed, confused enforcer of justice to a clear-headed confident woman who manages to reconcile her profession with her soul. She’s a cool, aloof bad-girl trigger mama in the first book, truly someone you’d not want to disrespect. But she changes as each novel unravels another of her protective layers, and she begins to thaw into something more human and fragile.

Rebecca: Exactly! And I think the title of the first Boone book, Absinthe and Chocolate, describes her perfectly. Chocolate represents everything Boone is: rich, lush, exquisite, and extreme.  Absinthe, nicknamed the “Green Fairy,” symbolized a changing social order in 19th-century Paris, a new generation of free thinkers and transformative ideas. The Green Fairy was also the embodiment of rebellion, especially female rebellion. Boone is nothing if not transformative and rebellious.

Claire: Well, you’re just chock full of weird information. But why am I not surprised? Dale’s first book hooked me into the series. It really showed Boone’s skills as well as her flaws. But in the second book, The Bonus Pool, Boone learns from a persecuted Chinese Christian pastor how to find peace in her life, and that we all “go from darkness into the Light.” Dale is a master at crafting Boone’s reflections on the old man’s words, as she moves from her internal conflict toward peace.

That starts the ball rolling for Boone. By the end of the third and fourth books (One Last Scent of Jasmine and Meat for the Lion), she’s moved away from her despair and doubt, and into a more clear-headed sense of her purpose in life.

Rebecca: Seeing her transformation made me want to say, “Maybe I can do that, too. In my own way I can be better, if I remember that every move is always from the darkness toward the Light.” In these days of turmoil both here and abroad, that’s a good way to think, not only for Boone but for the rest of us who are still cleaning up the dog poop.

Claire: But regarding the writing—you know, Dale writes so well that there are days I wonder why I even bother. And did you ever ask yourself, how does he know so much?

Rebecca: After reading his novels with all those Special Ops and gun-related details, do you really want to ask that question?

Claire: Well, maybe no. But I do enjoy his books, because they’re not just complex in terms of characters and storylines. They address the human condition, whether it’s Boone or another character discoursing on current global and political issues. And in Boone’s case, he manages to hold up a mirror to her soul, so that she—and we—can see her heart laid bare.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.’
-Paul of Tarsus (or 1 Corinthians 13:12)

I feel like I know her better now.

Rebecca: Well enough to mess with her?

Claire: You think you’re so funny. .. 

Rebecca Johnson was born and raised in the southern United States, mostly in North Carolina with brief relocations to South Carolina and Virginia. She is by education a medical technologist, graduating with honors from N.C. State and UNC-Chapel Hill, and by preference a calligrapher, needlework designer, and graphic artist. She writes paranormal romances by night when no one is watching, and hides her manuscripts under quilting and needlepoint projects during the day. In her spare time she beta-reads for other writers, searching for nitpicking errors. She believes that God’s purpose for her life is to cause as much trouble for as many people as she possibly can, and she spends at least part of each day fulfilling that purpose. 

Claire O’Sullivan was raised in corn and cow country in the Midwest where she learned the nuances of ‘moo’ to PhD level (piled higher and deeper). She attended the University of Wisconsin at River Falls (aka Moo U) with a major in psychology, and changed minors every other week. She left Moo U and attended Lutheran Bible Institute and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biblical studies. She has fiddled with writing forever, and currently has several crime/romances in the works, including a comedy noir. She’s pretty sure that Rebecca is indeed fulfilling her purpose by tormenting her daily… er, helping Claire endeavor to write.

Thank you, ladies. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Boone’s novels may be found on the sidebar:
AmazonAppleNookKobo
and other places where ebooks come alive.

Brad Carl Does it Again!

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I had the utmost pleasure of reading 6 in the Styx, a collection of short stories by Brad Carl. Brad has skills. The launch date for 6 in the Styx is coming soon. So scribble it down on your wish list.

6 In The Styx - Brad Carl

And for this, I hate him. NO.. just kidding. I really enjoy his lighthearted morbid sense of humor that I have also found in Grey Areas, the Saga, novel length.

Grey Areas - The Saga - Brad Carl

But back to 6 in the Styx. It’s a collection of short stories that follow the worst moments of six different people, and some don’t even realize it. When you read these stories, you’ll likely think the same things I did. My reactions to their situation, hapless, hopeless, cluelessness, my schadenfreude and near-reverence for Brad’s writing style.

God, I hate him… No.. aah, just kidding.

hate you again congratulations

As a writer, I read everything in my path, including Lysol cans and other deadly poisons…

wide eye

I MEAN.. books. But reading a wide variety of styles not only improves your vocabulary, it can give you bumps, chills and a very odd sense of humor.

Of course, you could be born that warped. I am pretty sure Brad was. No. He was.

wonder

You can find Brad Carl here: http://bradcarl.com/

Twitter: @BradCarl22

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BradCarlAuthor/

Brad Carl

And in my possession is Craft Beer Burning, a murder mystery. I can hardly wait to open the pages. In the meantime, readers, you have your mission. And… you will accept it. Because… you know you want to.

mission impossible

Unlike this one, this WordPress message will self-destruct, like… never.

mission impossible self destruct

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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