Blog

COMPASSION

Definition of compassion according to Merriam-Webster is sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

The Bible has many verses on compassion.

1 Peter 3:8 says, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is well known for his compassionate nature.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
― Plato

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
― Aesop

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

In 2020, we saw horrible events in the news. In 2021, I plan to reflect on compassion. I may not change the world, but maybe I can help one person.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Life won’t change the minute our clocks and calendars turn to 2021, but I hope it’s a better year for all of us.

Thanks for sharing the joyful times with me in 2020.

Dreams came true when my first three books were published in 2020.

Let’s all continue to dream and look forward to a new year. Happy New Year!

Newsletter

This year I’ve tried to find the best way to reach out to readers. I’ve started a newsletter, and I’d love to hear what you think about it.

The December newsletter will include a favorite family recipe for apple casserole.

Do you read author newsletters? Or are they one more thing to delete from your inbox? Would you rather learn about authors on social media? What’s your favorite format?

Here’s the link to sign up for my newsletter if you’re interested. I’ll only email you once a month or less.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Recommended Reading

I’d like to thank all of you who’ve recommended my books to others. Whether you’ve done it by word of mouth, social media, Goodreads or Bookbub, thank you. If you’ve left me a comment on book-selling webistes, thank you. I appreciate your support!

Recently Sherida Stewart posted a recommendation and review on Bookbub. I don’t have a big marketing budget, and it means more than you can imagine when readers step up with reviews and recommendations.

Sherida even listed her favorite quote: “You push me to be a better person, without even realizing what you’re doing.”

https://www.bookbub.com/reviews/2598016861?source=link_share

NaNoWriMo 2020 Results

I wanted to let you know, I’m still married after another NaNoWriMo! Tim is always supportive of my writing.

We took walks on the beach in November.

Besides writing, we were able to meet our newest grandson, we hung out with my youngest son and his wife, and I even got to play disk golf with my oldest son. Considering we’re still living through COVID-19, I felt blessed to see part of my family.

Here’s the newest member of our family. He’s got a sweet temperament, and we’re all in love with the little guy.

It’s rare for my kids to get together now that we’re so far apart, making this time even more special.


Bill taught me to play disk golf and never complained about how bad I was.
In case you’re not convinced I finished writing 50,000 words on the fourth book of A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery series, I did complete NaNoWriMo! Normally my books are 75,000 words, so I continue to write. But I consider November a success.

I hope you had a blessed November!

Forensics: Facts and Fabrications

By Jennifer Graeser Dornbush

I met Jennifer Graeser Dornbush a few years ago at an ACFW conference. She held us spellbound, and I immediately bought her book Forensic Speak: How to Write Realsitic Crime Dramas. Am I a fan? You bet I am, and this is going to be fun!

Have you ever wondered if coroners really eat sandwiches while doing autopsies? Or if investigators wear low cut dresses and high heels to investigate a murder? Can you always find DNA at a crime scene?

There are many common forensic misconceptions portrayed in crime fiction (on screen and on the page). Let’s go behind the scenes to examine why these forensic shortcuts are necessary and how writers fudge forensics in order to make their stories more entertaining.

Forensics is popular in tv, film, novels etc. Is forensics often portrayed accurately in pop culture? What are some popular misconceptions about forensics portrayed on TV?

Here are a couple of my favorite examples of faux forensics in storytelling. And why they work!

The first one I call the Tick Tock Effect. Writers fabricate time in crime stories. Meaning, crime stories have to be compressed for time’s sake. We have to accomplish a great deal of storytelling in a very short time (just minutes for TV or pages for novels!). We have to reveal the crime, the characters, evidence, and investigation, and resolution.  We have to introduce a case, weave a story around the event, and get out. We absolutely have to compress time and select exactly which elements of the case and evidence we want to reveal in order to tell the story.

In real-life forensics, investigations take a very, very long time. Months to years to decades. Even lifetimes. Case in point, the Shannon Siders cold case, which Hole in the Woods is based on, took over 25 years from crime to conviction. But I’ve told the story in just over 300 pages. Tick tock!

The second forensic faux pas I find fascinating is what I call, Trigger Happy. This is the myth that all types of investigators carry guns and go around wielding their weapons. Have you ever noticed how in crime storyland investigators do a lot of shooting and get into a lot of gun fights?  In fact, many climax moments of crime stories culminate in a gunfight. And Hole in the Woods is no exception to this! I admit I fully leaned on this forensic trope!

In real life, however, only sworn investigators carry guns. CSIs, coroner’s, and M.E.s do not. Also, gun fights on the field are the exception, not the rule. Gun fights are more rare than commonplace.

And if you’ve ever been around gunfire or shot a gun, you know that the sound is deafening without earplugs. Most people involved in a gun fight would have temporary deafness, ringing in ears, or limited hearing right after a gun fight. But on screen or on the page, this is rarely addressed or has any effect on the people involved in the gunfire.

The excessive use of guns is a popular forensic faux pas (or trope) in crime fiction for a couple reasons. First, when your protagonist wears and handles a gun, it depicts power and authority. You want your protagonist to be the power player. And second, gun fights are a dramatic way to increase the stakes of your story because they immediately threaten your protagonist’s life.

Those are just two examples, but you get the idea. Writers should always try to be authentic in their forensic facts. Yet, we need to keep entertainment value at the forefront.

What forensics were used in your latest novel, Hole in the Woods?

I hand selected a few pieces of forensic evidence from the real Shannon Sider’s case to use in my fictional version of it. And then, I made up or massaged a few other pieces of forensic evidence for entertainment purposes.

In the novel you will find the use of DNA detection and witness testimony (but I don’t want to say who from!). There are also several personal articles of identification that help the case forensically.

What are the three biggest mistakes new writers make when writing in the crime genre? How can they best fix them?

Three things. Not spending the time, energy, or research to get the forensic facts right.  Thinking that what they see on TV or in movies is correct procedure. Writing crime scenes that come off at cliche, plastic, or static (in action and dialogue!).

Fix it #1  Shameless plug! But please… get yourself a copy Forensic Speak. It’s my labor of love for crime writers! There are over 300 forensic terms, plus, a list of over 50 resources that will make your crime writing better.

Fix it #2 Make friends with a cop, coroner, toxicologist, or crime scene investigator who can show you the real ropes. Get first hand knowledge. It will make your story more authentic and exciting. Always!

Fix it #3  Know the correct forensic terms and how to use them. Don’t over use terms. Layer in the facts of the case/evidence to keep the plot moving, but center the focus of scenes around character conflict, tension, and emotional needs. Focus on great storytelling first. Then go back and authenticate where you can and must. 

Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us today.

Readers, here are some links if you want to get to know more about Jennifer.

Website: www.jenniferdornbush.com

Hole in the Woods on Bookshop

Facebook: Jennifer Graeser Dornbush

Twitter: @JGDornbush

Instagram: @JGDornbush

And Jennifer graciously sent me this infographic about fingerprints!

Thanks for spending time with Jennifer and me today.

Be sure to check out Hole in the Woods!

12 Days of Cozies

On December 1, the 12 Days of Cozies begins. You can join the fun on Twitter and Instagram. It’s an opportunity to have fun and enjoy cozy mysteries. There will be daily giveaways on Twitter starting at 8:00 AM EST. In the evenings there will be Author chats from 8:00 to 9:00PM EST. On December 3, I will be leading the chat.

There will be prizes, reading sprints, and daily Instagram challenges. There are Bingo cards too!

This is the place to be to connect with other readers, authors and friends. Spread the word, and I hope to see you soon!

Happy Thanksgiving

This year Thanksgiving looks different for most of us. My husband works every other year on Thanksgiving, and I usually join him for a special lunch at the retirement community where he works.

There are so many lovely people who live there, and I get to visit with them. One special lady tells me stories of living in France around the time of World War II. She and her mother ran down a street and finally escaped the Nazis riding a bicycle. Later she was on the first ship of war brides to leave Europe and come to the United States.

Some residents share my love of reading. Master garderners live here and have created masterpieces at their homes. Many take vacations around the world. One lady and I share a birthday in common, and she turned one hundred this year and invited me to her birthday celebration.

Other years we visit our family. Many years we hosted Thanksgiving at our home. After eating, we played football outside then other games inside, and then we’d eat again. I don’t know about you, but the second meal always tasted the best because there was less stress.

This year Tim will go to work, and Heinz and I will stay home. Weather permitting, we’ll go for a walk on the beach and visit our families long distance.

I’m so thankful for you my friends and family. Wherever you are, I hope you have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are.

National Novel Writing Month

There’s nothing that will make my husband cringe faster than when I announce my plans to participate in NaNoWriMo.

The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

That’s 1667 words per day if you don’t take a day off. I started slow, so I’ll need some powerful days.

I’m working on the fourth book of A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery series.
The tenative title is Bark and Seek.

If I write 50,000 words, I’l be 2/3 finished. If I don’t try, it won’t happen. So if you don’t hear much from me this month, you’ll know I’m writing.

Authors and Thanksgiving

I asked a few of my author friends what they’re thankful for this Thanksgiving.

You met my friend Carol Ayer a few weeks ago. Here’s what she said.

I have a lot to be thankful for—family and friends, the sweetest cat in the world, a place to call home, and the opportunity to pursue my love of writing. But this year I am particularly thankful for firefighters. The wildfires in California get worse and worse every year and there doesn’t seem to be any relief forthcoming. As I write this, we are under another Red Flag warning and more fires are expected. This past summer, my mother and I evacuated to Sacramento during one of the huge fires started by dry lightning. As it turned out, the firefighters did a fantastic job of keeping the fire away from the city limits, so we were able to return home the next day. I am in awe of how these brave men and women spend weeks putting out fires that grow to thousands of acres. As a thank you, I am incorporating a fire-related storyline into my next book.

We were so excited to be together a few years ago.

Another good friend is Sherrinda Ketchersid. Here’s what she said. I’m thankful for so many things, but as a writer I find I am most thankful for the friendships I have forged along the journey. Nobody “gets you” like a fellow writer. They have all the same joys, same frustrations, same fears, same everything as you—and let’s face it, all writers face these things on a continual basis. I am particularly thankful for my critique groups, who take my writing to a higher level and teach me what I need to know along the way. They have encouraged me and provided the icing needed after a good “kick-in-the-pants”. They spur me on!

Leah Bailey and I became friends earlier this year. Here’s what she shared.  I am thankful I have had time to concentrate on areas of my life that are important to me, like my family. It’s been a blessing to spend time with my loved ones. 
Lane Stone is another cozy mystery writer and a new friend. Lane said, “I’m grateful for my blended, extended, extraordinary family.”

Thanks for stopping by and meeting some of my friends.

I’m thankful for my family, my friends, and you my readers. I’d love to hear something you’re thankful for this year.