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Use common sense and be aware of your surroundings.
In a restaurant, sit with your back to the wall. Watch the doorway and the cash register.
Before getting into your car, look in the back seat to make sure nobody is lying there. My note: Also be wary if there’s a van or large vehicle parked alongside your driver’s side. Somebody could slide their door open and grab you.
Look inside before entering convenience stores, banks, or other businesses.
Think about where you’re going when you are walking or driving. Pay attention to your surroundings. Is anyone following you?
Don’t go down a dark alley or dead-end street.
Think three steps ahead of everything you’re doing.
When in a room, note where everything is located, including exits. Observe who enters. Do a “threat scan.” Note where to hide and where to escape.
Re Schools: Schools today have codes they can use over the PA system. Teachers may be allowed to lock doors to keep intruders out.
Active Shooter Situation
Be aware of your surroundings prior to, during, and after an event.
Don’t get fooled by “NIMBY”—Not In My Backyard. This can happen anywhere.
Flee if you can. Use all available exits, not just the place where you entered. Follow the exit signs. This also applies to a fire.
Before the shooter takes control of the room, consider throwing anything handy to distract him or tackle him with intent to disarm. Do what feels right and comfortable to you, but don’t try to be an untrained hero. It’s better to be an excellent witness than a dead hero. Also, don’t get in the way by running at the bad guy. You might be blocking another person who is armed and who can fire a clear shot at the shooter until you block his aim.
Obtain cover when possible rather than concealment. Taking cover, like crouching behind a table that you’ve flipped over, may stop a bullet. Concealment will hide you but will not stop a bullet.
Be wary for a lookout or accomplice.
If you’re in a hostage situation, don’t look a shooter in the eye or you might set him off. Better to be a nobody.
When the police come, assume a non-threatening pose. Preferably lie down with arms spread out on floor or hands behind head. Don’t make any threatening moves. Don’t jump up and yell.
Tear gas: Pull clothing over your face.
Flash/Bang grenade: Super bright flash and concussive hearing loss. It’s a “ball-like” grenade. It flashes upward so be on the floor and cover your ears if possible.
Taser range is up to 20 feet. You shoot a wire from a distance. This wire has sharp barbs. In contrast, a stun gun needs physical contact.
Q: Re a taser, if you’ve been shot with one, is it all over? Is there anything you can do?
A: Pretty much. It’s pretty brutal in that your nervous system contracts and shuts down. For a short time afterward, you’re disorientated as well.
Q: How about if someone is following you? Is it better to make eye contact to let them know they’ve been noticed?
A: Again, that’s a situation by situation decision. Sometimes confronting them (even something as simple as eye contact) makes them re-evaluate their goal.
“While I hope this helps someone with their writing, I also hope it helps people become more aware, and less victimized.”
Disclaimer: Any errors in interpretation are my own.
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Saturday at Bouchercon began with the New Author Breakfast. Anyone could attend, but each table ideally held one or two debut authors with a centerpiece of books. The authors were introduced one at a time, and each had a few minutes to tell us about his book. A list was provided on each table with the authors’ names and their debut titles. I checked off the ones which interested me, and I hope to add those titles to my TBR list.
That afternoon, I attended a panel on Danger and Death in Suburbia. Speakers included Greg Herren, Mary Sutton, Meredith Anthony, and Lori Roy, with Katrina Nildas Holm moderating.
These stories involve a dichotomy, with beautiful settings where nothing bad should happen but crimes do occur there. We have expectations of people who live in suburbia. You’ll often hear, “He was the nicest man,” about a neighbor who commits a crime. Suburbs are not as peaceful as they appear.
People believe marriage is forever. Then you live together and experience the pressure cooker of constantly being with someone else. This togetherness can inspire crimes.
These types of mysteries often involve ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. The highest stakes come from your loved ones. Romantic suspense involves things that frighten women. These are more internal stories.
Why do people keep secrets? Shame is often the motivator. People will kill to hide their secrets, so others will not think badly of them. There is also the pressure to succeed. If we all work hard, why aren’t we at the top? So we cast blame on others. We say, “She slept her way up the ladder”, or “He must be corrupt.” We’d like to believe successful people are not as perfect as they seem.
The Anthony Awards Ceremony capped the evening.
As for the rest of the time, I hung out and schmoozed. Here are photos of my writer pals.
From left to right, starting at the top: Rebecca Swope, Olive Pollak, Suzanne Baginskie; Rebecca Swope; Carla Norton; Cheryl Hollon, Nancy J. Cohen; Con Lehane, Sandra Balzo, Nancy J. Cohen; Dirk Wyle; Don Bruns; Don Bruns, Con Lehane, Sandra Balzo; James W. Hall, James O. Born, J. Kingston Pierce; Nancy J. Cohen, Heather Graham; Toni L.P. Kelner; Rick Wymer, Mary Lou Benvenuto; Neil Plakcy, Nancy J. Cohen
Mystery Writers Key West Fest
Friday, August 14, 2015
Mystery Writers Key West Fest started on Friday with a presentation by a crime scene investigator and a detective. “We witness what other people shouldn’t have to witness.” Regarding crime scene shows, the detective said they have most of the technology right but not the timing for things like DNA results.
[Disclaimer: These statements are my interpretations of what I heard or scribbled down and may not be totally accurate.]
Who shows up first at a crime scene? The lead investigator, civilian techs, detectives, and responding officers. The latter’s job is to secure the scene, identify and control any dangerous individuals, and assess the environment. Approach/Survey/Notify. They’ll call for emergency care of injured persons without contaminating the scene. Crime scene work “is almost like an art when you do it for a long period of time.” The team must secure and control people at the scene and document everyone who is present in a crime scene log. They must gather physical evidence to aid in prosecution.
Processing the Scene
The team’s composition is decided. This may include a dive team, SWAT, K-9, M.E., State Attorney, other officers or affiliated agencies. A command post is set up. “We document every single step in a crime scene.” Documentation includes photos, video, sketches, notes, and measurements. The purpose is to collect, preserve, inventory, package, transport and submit evidence.
Different types of sketches are done. A Perspective sketch depicts a view of the scene along with positioning of evidence. “It’s like pieces of a puzzle that you put together for your best guess at what happened.” A Projection sketch is a viewpoint from above. A sketch or photo of blood spatter on a gun can be revealing as to whose blood it is, the angle, etc. Another sketch may be taken using two fixed objects and measuring the distances to various pieces of evidence and/or the body.
When searching an area, methods deployed include the Lane or Strip Search, Grid Search, Zone Search, and Spiral Search.
Biological evidence will be collected after photos are done. The investigator has to keep changing gloves so as to not cross-contaminate the scene.
Investigators following up on a burglary will look for the same types of evidence. Unattended deaths are treated as a homicide until signed off by a personal physician or the M.E.
The M.E., and not a coroner, determines cause of death. [I think this is what was said, but you’d better verify my statements before using them in a novel. And different states might have different laws.]
The Sheriff’s office supersedes the local police, but they work together. Everyone in CSI is cross-trained to engage and work in different situations.
Physical evidence can include body fluids, blood, ignitable liquids, bombs, stains detected by forensic light sources, sexual assault kit results, ammo, tool marks when there’s been a break-in, tools found in the trunk of a car. Footprints, shoe and tire impressions. Electronic and digital items. Documents that can be checked for sweat, blood, and prints. And of course, fingerprints.
Plastic degrades DNA. Use paper bags to hold evidence. Shelf life of DNA is 500 years. There are only three types—black, white, and Asian.
“Love, hate, and greed are the three reasons for murder.”
Social Media with Irish Author Laurence O’Bryan
Laurence said he’d acquired blog and Twitter followers before he got published. When he sold a book, his publisher put the number of followers on his sell sheet. So get started tweeting and blogging before you’re published. “Authors must be online and accessible.” Extend your novel via maps, pictures of locations in your novel, research posts, and other online extras. Tweet items of value. Re blogging: Show pictures with your posts, use short paragraphs and a bigger font. “Engagement with other people is the Holy Grail.”
I didn’t stay for the talk on Audio Books as I had to catch the shuttle downtown to make the opening ceremonies at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon. This was a pleasingly informal setting to chat with friends and meet new ones. So many people to greet! Florida chapter MWA members present included myself (chapter president), Gregg Brickman (chapter treasurer), Heather Graham, Don Bruns, Britin Haller, Sharon Potts, Sandra Balzo, Michael Haskins, Vicki Hendricks, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Becky Swope, and more.
As we got rained out, I passed on the subsequent bar stroll. It was getting near my bedtime anyway. More in the next post.
See the photo album on my Facebook Page. Please Like the page while there.
Contest Alert! Name a Character in my next Bad Hair Day Mystery! Or win one of two runner-up prizes: a signed paperback of Hanging by a Hair and a deck of Marco Island Playing Cards, or a signed paperback of Shear Murder and a deck of Tropical Drink Playing Cards. Enter Now
Do you want to write a mystery but don’t have a clue where to start? Or maybe you’ve begun a whodunit but are stuck on the plot? Perhaps you’re already writing a series, and you need tips on how to keep track of your material?
After hearing numerous aspiring writers ask for advice on how to write a mystery, I decided to compile an easy-to-read instructional booklet on this needed topic.
What makes a cozy different from other crime fiction? How do you plot the story? Where does your sleuth originate? How do you plant clues?
The answers to these questions and more are in Writing the Cozy Mystery.
This title is now available on Amazon but will appear soon in multiple digital formats, including Nook, Kobi, iBooks, & SW. A print edition is coming next. Please keep watch on my website for links to these editions.
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And here’s another reason to celebrate: I just finished, as of this morning, my first draft of Peril by Ponytail, #12 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries! Yes, I actually typed “The End.”
Watch for my Valentine’s Day contest coming soon. In the meantime, enter our Booklover’s Bench anniversary contest to win a Kindle Paperwhite or 1/8 free books by our authors, including an advance reading copy of Hanging By A Hair, #11 in the Bad Hair Day series. http://bookloversbench.com/contest/
At a recent meeting of MWA Florida, we heard a CSI investigator from North Miami PD speak about her experiences. “Our day begins when yours ends,” she quipped. A beautiful woman who is married with five children, she could be a TV star of her own show. She proceeded to differentiate what’s real and what isn’t from what we see on television. The “CSI Effect” is what people expect from watching these shows, like immediate test results. That isn’t what happens in reality when it might take years. However, these dramas are good for bringing attention to an underfunded field. Private labs might produce quicker results, but she’s not allowed to use them for legal reasons.
Why doesn’t she drive a Hummer? This is one of the questions she’s been asked. She drives a van because it’s large enough to hold her equipment and has storage space. She never parks in front of a business unless she’s on a case because that would drive customers away.
DNA testing can take months. Florida is number one for the best hits on CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). You must have been arrested to be on this database. In Miami, they have one year from date of entry to make a hit with a suspect. Otherwise, the statute of limitations runs out. Two types of DNA concern them: Mitochondrial and Nuclear. The latter contains a cell’s nucleus and goes back to a single source while the genetic pool is larger for the former type of DNA.
IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System) is fingerprint storage and retrieval. Usually it’s the latent examiner who makes the hit, although this can be subjective. Prints come from people who’ve been arrested. Other sources for prints can be places like jobs that require them, immigration, etc.
She says investigators specialize in certain areas, and the science and technology are constantly changing. They look for signs of foul play. For example, if you are sick or injured, you may curl on your bed into fetal position. You don’t lie prone in a closet, where a body was found. It was later determined he died from a broken neck. A migrant worker renovating the house was guilty of murder.
With Live Scan, ink isn’t used for fingerprinting. The old method often resulted in operator error—too much or too little ink, not rolling the prints properly. There are 150 points of identification on each finger. Patterns can be a loop, arch, or whorl or a combination therein. Footprints have similar characteristics. Fingerprints develop at 7 months in the womb. Changes may occur with scarring, like musicians who grow calluses. How long do prints remain on the scene? Forever, unless they are removed.
They give every case a name, like the Lemon Case where a guy supposedly fell on his knife when paring fruit. She’ll look in the kitchen, in the garbage for clues. It turned out the man’s girlfriend stabbed him, and friends helped her cover it up. But they neglected to erase the footwear impression where someone had stepped on the knife.
As a mystery writer, it’s important to get the facts straight. We can’t rely on what we watch on TV.
Disclaimer: These are my notes and they are subject to my interpretation. Any errors are not intentional.