I wanted to let you know, I’m still married after another NaNoWriMo! Tim is always supportive of my writing.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
I’m so happy to have Sherrinda join us today. She even agreed to answer rapid-fire questions. Here we go.
What’s the title of your new book?
His to Keep
What’s your elevator pitch?
Yikes, I didn’t think of an elevator pitch. Let’s see… A Scottish knight receives a castle as an inheritance, but must marry the woman within—a woman who has sworn to never let a Scot pass through her gates.
Do you prefer college sports or professional sports?
I like watching college sports better. They seem to have more “life” to them for some reason.
With three boys at 6’5”, 6’7”, and 6’4”, I prefer basketball. That’s the sport I know best from sitting in the stands at the hundreds of basketball games through the years.
Return to Me is one of my favorite romcoms. I just love the chemistry and all the secondary characters. Of course, I do love Pride and Prejudice—almost every version of it.
Do you have a favorite book of the Bible? Maybe tell why, or not.
This is hard! But I think I would have to go with the gospel of John. I love the gospel of John. I’m not really sure why, but it seems more narrative—and I love story.
Where’s your favorite spot to write? Is this a different spot than before COVID?
I have an art/writing room with a fun lounger there. I wrote most of His to Keep there. But since COVID, I have been sitting on the couch in the living room more. I don’t know … maybe it’s because it seems more open and bright. I need that right now.
Who has inspired your writing?
I got started reading medieval romance when I found Lynn Kurland’s books. She writes clean medieval romance with time travel, and I adore her writing. I kept thinking of story ideas while reading her books and thought I’d give it a try.
Did you have a favorite book as a child?
I loved the Chronicles of Narnia and have read those many times. My grandmother also gave me The Girl of the Limberlost, and it is one of my favorites.
Why do you write historicals?
I like historicals because they are interesting. I love the research, and I love finding unique stories that stir the imagination. I used a piece of history to give my hero, Ian, a way to steal into the castle in His to Keep. It is gross, but brilliant!
I’m sure you’re curious about His to Keep. Here’s what you need to know.
Title: His to Keep
Tagline: He’s fighting for his inheritance—she’s marrying her sworn enemy.
Back Cover Copy:
When Ian McGowan attempts to claim Whitfield Castle as his rightful inheritance, he finds himself barred by a tempestuous lass who is entailed to be the bride of the castle’s new owner.
Claire Beaumont, the orphaned ward of Whitfield, has good reason to hate Scots, and she is not about to let a Scot enter her beloved home. But when the handsome knight steals into the castle and proves his claim on the land, she must face her ultimate nightmare—marriage to her sworn enemy—in order to save those she cares about most.
Restoring the failing Whitfield Castle while wooing his defiant intended proves more challenging than Ian anticipated. His struggles reach a crisis when his nemesis arrives at the castle, and he must overcome his past demons to prove his worth. He must fight for what is his to keep—and it could well cost him his heart.
Sherrinda Ketchersid is a lover of stories with happily-ever-after endings. Whether set in the past or present, romance is what she writes and where her dreams reside. She resides in Dallas, Texas with her preacher husband and scruffy dog, Phineas.
I’m excited to spend some time with my friend, Sharee Stover. She writes romantic suspense for Love Inspired. Sharee and I met through ACFW, and we’ve been in the same critique group for years. She’s a beautiful friend both inside and out.
Colorado native Sharee Stover lives in Nebraska with her real-life-hero husband, three too-good-to-be-true children, and a ridiculously spoiled dog. A self-proclaimed word nerd, she loves the power of the written word to ignite, transform, and restore. She writes Christian romantic suspense combining heart-racing, nail-biting suspense and the delight of falling in love all in one. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Nebraska Writer’s Guild. Sharee is a triple Daphne du Maurier finalist, winner of the 2017 Wisconsin Fabulous Five Silver Quill Award, and her debut, Secret Past, won Best First Book in the 2019 National Excellence in Romance Fiction Awards. When she isn’t writing, Sharee enjoys reading, crocheting and long walks with her obnoxiously lovable German Shepherd. Visit her at www.shareestover.com.
Discovering buried evidence makes her a target.
At a prehistoric site, forensic anthropologist Taya McGill uncovers a recently buried body days before Christmas—and finds herself in a killer’s sights. Now on the run with undercover ATF agent Keegan Stryker, she must rely on him to guard her as they figure out why someone would kill to keep this murder unsolved. But can they unearth the truth before someone silences them both for good?
Sharee was gracious enough to share an excerpt with us:
Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead. Forensic anthropologist Taya McGill disagreed with Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote. In her experience, the dead were horrible secret keepers. Rather, she’d dub them mysterious pirates hoarding a treasure trove of clues. And as a general rule, far more reliable than most living people she’d encountered.
Taya cherished the incredible honor of speaking for the dearly departed, even when an active crime scene overtook her nonexistent Christmas plans. The excavation freed her from the holiday hustle and bustle she detested more than the insufferable game and parks officer reigning as security over the site.
He’d gone, for now, but if his previous behavior was any indicator, there’d soon be more rounds in futility. Those who misjudged Taya’s petite five-foot, ninety-pound stature for weakness learned the hard way that her stubbornness came packaged like dynamite and equaled her determination.
Dr. Taya McGill would never again succumb to a uniformed bully.
“It’s just you and me, friend. You’re safe to share your secrets,” Taya said, brushing back dirt from the exposed skull. Her coworkers mocked the unconventional method of talking aloud to the victim, but the process worked for her. And since she spent the majority of her time alone, who did it bother, anyway?
Unpredictable weather had hindered the recovery of the human remains, hindering the dig’s progression. The frigid winter temperatures had banked at a high—if that was a relative term—of negative four degrees. The radical increasing wind speeds over the past hour had further complicated things. No overhead streetlamps illuminated the onyx sky. Rolling hills and the occasional farm nestled in an endless snow-covered landscape surrounded over three hundred acres of Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park in the northeastern corner of Royal, Nebraska.
She shivered and tugged the zipper of her down-alternative parka as high as it would go, tucking her nose in the warmth. It was after midnight, but Taya’s ongoing battle with insomnia provided her the excuse to continue working. The victim buried in the shallow grave deserved justice. As did those mourning her.
Taya leaned down and paused with her brush midair. She’d already exposed most of the skeletal form and prepared to collect the remains for transport to her laboratory at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Something red near the thoracic vertebrae peeked through the earth. With a delicate swipe, she uncovered the object. A small deflated latex balloon.
Taya sighed. The find wasn’t unusual. Addicts ingested the balloons as a method of muling illegal drugs. Was that this victim’s story?
Thanks for joining me as I celebrate the release of Bag of Bones. It’s the third book in A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery series.
Curious what it’s about? Here’s the blurb:
Does one good turn deserve a murder?
Despite all her good intentions to focus on a healthy lifestyle and leave crime solving to the professionals, Andi Grace Scott has run right smack into another investigation—literally. Who’d have thought caring for stray cats and a healthy morning beach run could lead to murder?
Andi Grace has found another body and a young woman who needs help. Solving this puzzle will come with a cost. This time, catching the killer will require Andi Grace to confront her past relationships and truths about her deceased mother.
I would love for you to join Andi Grace Scott on her third adventure.