Crime Scenes for Writers: Introduction

Today’s juries are savvy. Today’s readers are as well. Writers of police procedurals, detective stores, and courtroom dramas need to know their subject. As readers become more sophisticated and enamored of shows like CSI, they expect the authors they select to provide factual information.

Devoted genre readers already know that television has its shortcomings. Though tests and lab procedures are getting faster and more accurate all the time, they are rarely instant, and always subject to the case load ahead in the line. The TV shows only make it look fast and easy.

Not all court cases include plentiful forensic evidence, particularly DNA. Other forms of evidence are just as important in determining guilt or innocence (or even the degree of guilt). This series will cover the most common types: the crime scene, finger prints, blood evidence, ballistics, trace evidence, and DNA recovery.

Just to debunk a few of the most prevalent myths before we get started:

  • Blood does not stay red or liquid for long.
  • Bodies begin to decompose immediately. They don’t stay normal-looking and “pretty” for the camera.
  • Rarely does a pathologist, criminologist (lab technician specializing in forensic testing related to crimes) or medical examiner participate in the detective work.
  • Crime scene technicians are their own department in most jurisdictions and do not work directly for the detectives or the medical examiner.
  • The position of coroner is an elected one in many communities. They aren’t always required to be a doctor.
  • Most autopsies are performed by pathologists. The ME acts as oversight and reviews both lab reports and autopsy results.
  • The Y incision you see on TV is usually inaccurate. I’ll cover that more clearly in the next series on the body of the crime.
  • While tests are getting faster and more accurate with advances in technology, most smaller communities don’t have forensics labs and must rely on state labs to handle their cases. It can take months to get test results.

These posts are intended as an overview. I am the first to admit I am no expert, but I’ve done my share of research and was fortunate enough to have conversations with police officers, a forensic dentist, and a former “lab rat” criminologist. I’ll try to provide links for more information if anyone is interested in launching your own research, and please keep in mind that procedures can vary by country. Also, should my information be out of date, I’d love corrective comments, questions, and shared information so we can all learn together and make our stories better.

Investigating crime may rely on the lab, but it always begins when your detective or officer steps onto the crime scene. Next time we’ll look at what can be determined from reading the scene itself.

As a writer and/or reader, how detailed do you like your crime scenes?

Crime Scenes for Writers: Introduction

Crime Scenes for Writers: Reading the Scene

Crime Scenes for Writers: Fingerprints

Crime Scenes for Writers: Blood Evidence

Crime Scenes for Writers: Ballistics

Crime Scenes for Writers: Trace

Crime Scenes for Writers: DNA and  Biologics

Indie ReCon and the Self Publishing Summit

indierecon logo Summit logo final cropped

Two weeks ago I attended the Indie ReCon online. If you are interested in publishing, I highly encourage you to bookmark or get on the mailing list for next year’s ReCon.

The event is a nice mix of video and post and included such indie powerhouses as Belle Andre & Barbara Freethy, Joanna Penn, H.M. Ward, many others. There were also several Twitter Q & A sessions using the #indierecon hashtag.

I believe everything is still available at the website. Registration allowed attendees to enter for prizes and I won two: Indie and Proud by Christine Fonseca and a year’s subscription to the Bublish dashboard, which I’m really looking forward to exploring.

Topics ranged from marketing to income to a wonderful Thirteen Reasons You are Not as Successful as You Should Be.

The Self-Publishing Summit was also ongoing in April, with another set of video interviews put together by John Tighe, author of Crush it With Kindle.  Most of the videos are available on his YouTube channel.

The best part about these free, online events is that you are not required to attend live. Both of them provided emails to alert you to a beginning session or provide you with the link for the playback. I did attend as many as I could in case I had questions for the guests, but watched just as many on playback.

If you aren’t sure you are interested in publishing (writing is a calling. Authorship is very much a business), it’s worth your time to check some of the presentations and educate yourself on what is involved. If you know already that you want to publish, you’ll find information for both beginners and those already on the path along with a nice mix of practical tips and strategy.

I’ll put up another announcement next year when registration opens for those who are interested. In the meantime, check out the contents of these events at and Self Publishing Summit.


Did you attend either event? What was your biggest takeaway?

Nuts & Bolts of Publishing

TSM Recommends: Podcasts for Writers

The Sarcastic Muse supports all paths to publishing, from traditional to self to indie press. For those considering the authorpreneur route of publishing, the crew at Sterling and Stone has put together a series full of useful information.

If you aren’t familiar with the Self Publishing Podcast or Garrett Robinson, this series is a collaboration. The video series includes the things not often talked about on blogs such as how to compile a manuscript, how to upload it, and  practical things that anyone interested in self-publishing has to know. I had to work most of it out on my own, but there’s no reason you have to. It’s a good series and not  yet complete. It’s also a mini-course on Scrivener (in terms of using it to help publish), which is good, useful information.

Here are the videos completed so far:

Authorpreneur Nuts & Bolts #1: Introduction

Authorpreneur Nuts & Bolts #2: Learn How to Self-Publish

Authorpreneur Nuts & Bolts #3: How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book?

Authorpreneur Nuts & Bolts #4: How to Use Scrivener (the Basics)

Authorpreneur Nuts & Bolts #5: How to Format Front Matter in Scrivener

Authorpreneur Nuts & Bolts #6: How to Format Back Matter in Scrivener

Authorpreneur Nuts & Bolts #7: How to Use Scrivener Collections

The series won’t be complete for a while, but wanted to let you know about it now so you can catch the videos.

What is your favorite go-to source for publishing information?