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Archive for the tag “mystery”

Schooled is free this week

Have you been waiting for the perfect opportunity to try the Lexy Cooper mystery series? There’s no time like the…present.

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From December 7 through 11 the digital version of Schooled (Lexy Cooper 1) is absolutely FREE!

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What’s Schooled about?

Lexy Cooper is a Community Manager at Xenon Corporation, maker of the Xenon24/7 videogame console and Xenonline gaming service. When a young woman’s nude body is discovered on the Xenon corporate campus, Lexy’s uncle, homicide detective Mike Malick, catches the case. As Malick investigates the crime, Lexy works the case from inside Xenon and discovers more about the seedy underbelly of the games industry than she ever wanted to know.

What do readers say?

“Filled with great characters, and a twisty-turney perfect murder mystery plot.”
“Witty, empowering, and deeper than you think.”
“Lexy is a character I find myself thinking about even weeks after finishing the novel.”
“A captivating thriller that introduces you to the inside of a big company that sells widely-loved entertainment products.”
“An awesome mix of humor, action, sex and more.”

Download your copy and tell your mystery-lover friends!

 

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My new book is out!

This is a proud moment for me seeing the first three Lexy books under one cover. Also new: this one released in eBook and paperback simultaneously. The book is a big ‘un: it runs over 600 pages and weighs more than 2 pounds. Slip one under the tree of your favorite reader. Super duper thanks to Team Lexy: Editor Marti McKenna, Proofreader Stacie Magelssen, and cover artist Brett Parson (aka Blitz Cadet).

Lexy Cooper: Triple ThreatTriplethreatColorFinalsmall copy

Explore a world of sex, lies, murder, and video games in this Lexy Cooper collection which includes three novels and bonus content:
Schooled (Lexy Cooper #1)
Pwned (Lexy Cooper #2)
Griefed (Lexy Cooper #3)
I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa (Lexy Cooper #2.5)
First chapter of Summer Wind (Mike Malick #1, Lexy Cooper #3.5)
Foreword by Jenn Frank, winner of the 2013 Games Journalism Prize

From the Foreword:

“She might wear pigtails and short skirts, and she may casually use words like “noob” and “pwn,” but she’s cut from the same cloth as any flawed noir hero. She shares as much in common with Sam Spade as she does with Nancy Drew.”

Free Books!

schooled coverIn honor of the return to school, the first Lexy Cooper mystery is free this week. Download the Schooled eBook through September 6 for the price of sunshine!

Here’s what readers are saying about Schooled:

“Filled with great characters, and a twisty-turney perfect murder mystery plot.”
“Witty, empowering, and deeper than you think.”
“Lexy is a character I find myself thinking about even weeks after finishing the novel.”
“A captivating thriller that introduces you to the inside of a big company that sells widely-loved entertainment products.”
“An awesome mix of humor, action, sex and more.”
“Lexy Cooper is THE sexy heroine for the gaming generation”

Back to Schooled prizeAnd if you’re into free stuff, you can also enter the Back to Schooled giveaway for a chance to win a pretty cool prize pack that includes signed paperbacks of the first three Lexy Cooper books (Schooled, Pwned, and Griefed) plus two bottles of Jones Soda with custom Lexy labels. (Strawberry Lime and Berry Lemonade flavors!) Enter through September 6!

Bringing out your dead: When to drop the first body.

POLICE INVOLVED SHOOTINGConventional wisdom dictates that mystery/crime novels offer up a body early on. Think about every episode of every incarnation of Law & Order. There’s the discovery of the victim, then the iconic “DONK DONK” (also called the “clang”) followed by the theme song/opening credits. Then the detectives are on scene and the process of discovering whodunnit begins.

As a reader, I’ve been known to say “If I don’t see a body by page 30, I give up on the book.” I chose a mystery or crime thriller because I want a dead body and a bad guy and a chance to solve a puzzle. Give me a body. The exception to this rule are writers that I know and trust will tell me a great story. Writers like Ruth Rendell, Tana French, Chelsea Cain, Minette Walters, or Susan Hill can pace their books however they want–I want to go where they take me. Hmm, that’s interesting, isn’t it? Let me check something… Okay, yeah, I do have some male mystery/crime writers I read without question: Benjamin Black, Colin Harrison, and Michael Robotham.

griefedcoverSMALLAs a writer of mystery/crime novels, so far I’ve followed the rules on pacing: In Schooled, the body of Callie Caldwell is found by a security guard on page 2. In Pwned, I left it a little later, having Lexy stumble on the body of co-worker Declan Brown all the way on page 6. In Griefed, I was back at the front of the book; Detective Malick is called out to the suspicious death of Fletcher Grey on Page 2.

Lexy Cooper #4 is going to be a little different. I’m about thirty pages in, and…no body. In fact, the murder hasn’t even happened yet. Why? Because for this story the reader needs a prior knowledge of the victim and his/her history before he/she is killed. It’s essential for the reader to understand the conclusions made by the investigating officer and everyone else in the Lexyverse.

So what the hell is happening in those first thirty pages? It’s Lexy stuff. It’s catching up to where she is since the events in Griefed. And it’s laying the groundwork for the characters and events in the story. It’s…pretty dark. But I’m going to let Lexy go as low as she needs to. Why? Two reasons:

  1. Protagonists that never change and are unaffected by the things that happen to them become stale and boring.
  2. In my experience, any time you ask yourself Gosh can I take my readers there? Can I get away with that?, the answer should always be YES.

TL;DR

Drop the first body very early to grab your readers’ attention. Unless you have a good reason and have built a character or series strong enough that readers will give you the benefit of the doubt.

Course Correction – When a work-in-progress isn’t working

titanic-shipLast week I wrote a long post lamenting the shitty state of my new novel Summer Wind. If you want to read the whole boohoo thing it’s here. The short version is: It sucked. My main character Detective Mike Malick was stiff and uninteresting. One of the solutions I pondered was “Try switching to the first-person POV” but I quickly nixed that as a “cop-out.”

My hesitation went deeper than a knee-jerk reaction. I wasn’t sure I could write a whole book from a man’s viewpoint. I’ve written brief scenes from male points of view in my Lexy Cooper series, but never in the first-person. I don’t know what it’s like to be a dude. Will Malick, channeled through me, come across like a chick in a false mustache? I was afraid.

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But then I tried it.

And it flowed pretty well. Better than I expected. I rewrote a chapter of Summer Wind changing the third-person past tense to first-person present tense, and compared the versions side-by-side.

And yeah, I liked it. And my alpha readers liked it too. One of them said, “I already love it.  his dry noir wit comes comes through even when he’s taking the high road on the outside,” and another said, “seeing it through Malick’s eyes is much more telling about who he is.” So it was decided. Now I just had to do a complete rewrite on a by then 37,000 word novel-in-progress. I estimated it would take nine days to fix and then I’d be able to go forward and write the rest of the book.

SW Old v New side by side

What I hadn’t really considered is how much I would end up cutting. About 5,000 words actually. The entire prologue (which I wasn’t sure was going to be in the final version anyway), scenes in Officer Yi and Officer Rogers POV, and while I was at it a clue that was too obvious too soon and a scene with a character that I’d sent out of the town in the previous chapter (logic fail.)

Here are a couple examples of how I did the rewrites. In scenes that were orginally in Malick’s POV (most of the book) it was an opportunity to add a little more stream of conscious personality. I changed this scene, when Malick wakes up and houseguest Lexy Cooper is burning breakfast:

She had twenty-nine years on her, but looked five years younger and acted ten years younger. He blamed part of it on her job. She worked in video games as something called a “community manager” which as far as he could tell involved writing stuff for the company website, traveling around making videos that streamed on the company’s online gaming service, and being subject to startling levels of harassment and abuse. That’s sort of why she was here. Had been here for weeks sleeping on his sofa and burning his bacon.

To this:

She has twenty-nine years on her, but looks five years younger and acts ten years younger. I blame part of it on her job. She works in video games as something called a “community manager” which as far as I can tell involves writing stuff for the company website, traveling around making videos that stream on the company’s online gaming service, and being subject to startling levels of harassment and abuse. That’s sort of why she’s here. Has been here for weeks sleeping on my sofa and burning my bacon. I keep buying it, she keeps burning it. Hope springs eternal, right? At least when it comes to salted meat.

The part of the rewrite that stung the most was eliminating the Cricket Yi and Mark Rogers scenes. I was especially fond of the scene in which my young redheaded cop interviews the murder victim’s daughter, who is sunbathing on the deck.

“Soooo if you want to ask me questions or whatever, I should probably put some clothes on. If you’re just here for the view…”
Rogers looked down, ashamed. “No, I…”
“I meant the view. You know, the valley and shit?” She swept an arm across the horizon and Rogers felt like a bumbling teenager. He pulled out his notebook and mechanical pencil so she wouldn’t see him blush.
“Go change and I’ll meet you back inside. You know gingers can’t take too much sunshine.”

How do I keep the gist and the flavor of the scene but make it Malick’s? This is what I did:

“Soooo if you want to ask me questions or whatever, I should probably put some clothes on. If you’re just here for the view…” She rolls her shoulders, suggestively.
“What? No, I…” I’m surprised at how offended I am.
“I meant the view. You know, the valley and shit?” She sweeps an arm across the horizon and I feel like a dirty old man. This is not going well. I pull out my pen and notebook and attempt to get control back.
“Go change and I’ll meet you back inside.” When she disappears behind her bedroom door, I call Rogers and tell him to get his ginger ass up here, pronto.

Once all that was done and all the “Malick”s and “he”s had become “I”s and “me”s, I got back to writing. In the first-person present tense. And man, do I feel better about the book. I’m so glad I decided to stop and check the map instead of just blundering along in the wrong direction. Sure, I’d probably be 10,000 words closer to finished, but it would be a shitty book. I’m behind schedule now, but only by a week, and the difference in the story, the character and my confidence in the book is more than worth the short delay.

If your book isn’t working, stop. Not forever, but long enough to assess the problem, mess around under the hood a bit and find a solution.

Why is this book taking so long to write?

My first novel, The Sleepless Nanny, took nine months to write. It wasn’t a long book, or particularly complex. I wrote it for one hour each night, most of the time with a toddler on my lap.

Second novel (Schooled)? Three months. Ditto with the third (Pwned). This, the fourth book, should be the quickest/easiest yet, shouldn’t it? Here’s why my fourth novel (and third in the Lexy Cooper series) should have been a breeze to write:

1. It’s the fourth book! At this point I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words! I should have this down!

2. I’ve known how this book would end when I wrote the very first bits of the first book in the series. It’s the conclusion of a three-book story arc and a set up to the next three books in what will be a six-book series.

3. I know these characters as well as I know my children. Better! Because they do what I tell them and share all their secrets.

Despite this, take a look at my writing record for the last seven months. This shows weekly word counts for May through November 2013.

Writing May to November - Lexy Cooper

Looking at this, a couple of reasons for my lack of progress on Lexy #3 jump out at you: I published Lexy #2 and also wrote and published a seasonal short story, I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa. That lull in mid-June? That was when I was working with my editor and proofreader to finish up Pwned. That little spike in word count in July? That’s when I discovered the Ommwriter app (which I wrote about here). The big lull in September? Started a new consulting gig. Giant uptick in gettin’ shit done in October? Gave up a year-long consulting gig, giving myself back two days a week to write. The fuck-all I got done last week? Um…holidays?

I’ve gotten to the point now in Lexy #3 where I’m running up against a deadline, which is December 30. I have about 15,000 words to go. I know what those words need to be. It’s all outlined out with snippets of description and scraps of dialog. The last three chapters are already done–I wrote those after returning from my Roswell research trip.

So what’s the problem? Why am I sketching out new projects and blogging and reading spy novels when I should be FINISHING THIS BOOK? It turns out that the book I thought would be a breeze to write is more difficult than I thought. Why?

1. Expectations. Originally this was going to be the final Lexy Cooper book before I had trilogy creep. If I get hit by a bus, I want this book to be a satisfying end.

2. Two storylines. Yes, there’s a dead body on page two (or three) and that is a mystery that must be solved. But there’s a second…um…criminal activity going on that also must be resolved. Figuring out how the plot points and revelations happen in each line of investigation so that the pacing is compelling and they both come to some kind of conclusion at almost the same time (the end, natch), is challenging. There’s so much going on with Lexy and Malick and…bad people…that some secondary characters are not getting as much play as they have in the first two books.

3. Sneaky shit. I’m introducing themes and characters that will be important in book 4 and book 5. So I’m having to make decisions that I didn’t think I’d have to make yet. It’s scary.

4. The death of a character. Yes, someone always dies in Lexy Cooper books (except for the Christmas short story), but this is different. This is a character that has been around since book one and this character is pretty important. It was heartbreaking to kill off this character. Many many tears were shed. When the book is done, I will never get to spend time with this fictional person again. In that way, I’m losing the character twice and…it’s harder than I thought it would be. Hard, but necessary.

5. Pressure. People  have pre-ordered Lexy #3. People have paid lots of money to have characters named after them. With Lexy #1 and #2, if I dropped the ball and said “fuck it” — well I would have had some disappointed readers, but this time? It would be fraud or theft or something. I have to finish it. There’s no giving up.

And so, I press on.

Breadcrumbs: the art of leaving clues

large_A-Trail-of-Breadcrumbs.-Hansel-and-GretelWriting is hard. Anyone will tell you that. Just sitting down and squeezing your brainthoughts onto a page via your fingers freaking HURTS. And I’m sure that non-fiction has its own hellish idiosyncrasies and each genre no doubt has its unique challenges. Sci-Fi writers probably struggle to think of cool names for non-existent tech, and fantasy authors most likely struggle with…I don’t know, how pointy elf ears should be.

The mystery genre of course, has a set of rules within which the author must work. We have a contract with our readers. If you follow me through this created world I will reveal to you the evildoer. He or she might be killed, arrested, or skip town and get away, but you will know whodunit by the end. Agatha Christie in 1926 [spoiler comin’!] turned this on its ear by having the first-person narrator of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd turn out to be the killer. She flipped that shit around, but she didn’t break the promise of revealing the killer.

roger ackroyd

Another rule of mysteries–that not all writers follow–is that it has to be possible to ascertain the identity of the killer. The reader must be given all the evidence available to the sleuth. Otherwise it’s not a fair game. Now this evidence may be tainted, witnesses can lie, and mistakes can be made, but part of the appeal of the genre is that the reader gets to actively participate in the story.

The murderer also must be available for suspicion. By that I mean that they have to be on the page before their guilt is revealed. They may never be an official suspect subject to police interrogation, but you can’t, in the final chapter, pull a murderer out of your ass. “Oh wow! It turned out to be a guy never introduced and never suspected! He just appeared on the courthouse steps and confessed.” The only way that scenario would work is if it’s a false confession that allows the real killer (a character who has already appeared) to escape detection for a while longer. That’s a twist. Otherwise, it’s just a ripoff.

Going back to the huge twist in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, if you read the book a second time the signs are there all along that the narrator is the killer. Christie didn’t screw over her readers, she just fooled them in a very clever way. Maybe some portion of readers figured it out, but I didn’t. And I was one of the people who took one look at Jaye Davidson in The Crying Game and said, “That’s a dude.” By leaving these clues…this trail of breadcrumbs I call it, Christie may have surprised readers, but she didn’t break the rules.

So when writing a mystery, you’ve gotta leave the crumbs. And it’s difficult! If they’re too obvious, you give away the game. When I figure out a mystery early in the book, yes I feel very clever, but then I’m just slogging through the rest of it wondering why the detective is such a dumbass. And if I think your sleuth is a dipshit, I’m not likely to read the next book in the series.

The reverse is also true. If the breadcrumbs you leave are too subtle your reader will miss them completely and feel just as ripped off as if you hadn’t put them in at all. They have to notice them, but not register as clues until the end.

The trouble is that reader perception of your breadcrumbs is subjective. What seems middling obvious to the writer can be completely missed by a reader. One of the things I ask my alpha readers is, when did you figure it out? I like readers to figure it out…just not too soon. Sometimes I ask early readers to stop every couple of chapters and write down who they think the killer is. That’s a good way to track how my breadcrumbs are working. In my second Lexy Cooper book, Pwned, I edited out a breadcrumb that I hadn’t thought was very obvious when a reader told me that was the point she knew who the killer was.

The perfect breadcrumbs are ones that you can only see when you know what to look for, preferably on that second reading. And then you have a good chuckle and say I can’t believe I missed that! And you tip your hat to the writer that hid those clues in plain sight and managed to surprise you at the end.

Casting the Novel: Herding Your Characters

Whoopee ti yi yo, git along little dogies!

Whoopee ti yi yo, git along little dogies!

I always knew that at some point I would need to create some system for tracking characters in my Lexy Cooper series. I just didn’t know it would happen this soon–by the third book. Actually if I’m honest, it would have been helpful to have something in place while I was writing Pwned, the second book in the series. What was that intern’s last name? Was that marketing chick married? Most often though, I couldn’t remember exactly what flavor of 1337 that Lexy’s hacker friend used for his Skype name and had to search frantically through the Word doc of the first book.*

It was while I was working on the third book that I stumbled across the style guide that my fantastic editor Marti had put together during the editing of Schooled and added to during Pwned editing. It was a great resource for her and for my equally excellent proofreader Stacie. As it turned out, it was pretty awesome for me as well. For the life of me I couldn’t remember a character’s last name–or if I’d given her one. Sadly there are a couple of recurring characters (Mandy the marketing “Barbie” and Kim’s boyfriend Thomas) that still have no surnames. Maybe they’ll get lucky in Lexy #3.

Well, seeing Marti’s list of characters complete with nicknames, Twitter, and Skype handles made the lightbulb come on for me. Durrr, here was the perfect place to keep track of who was who. And keeping it in Google docs means that when it comes time for Marti and Stacie to work their magic they can access it as well.  There is one little spoiler, so don’t look too closely if you haven’t read Schooled yet…

Tucked into little boxes like good characters.

Tucked into little boxes like good characters.

So I went about filling in the details, including new characters as I add them. One of the perks for my Indiegogo campaign is to have a character named after funders, so I make note of that (because at some point I may not remember that Luther the freelance cameraman is named after a real person and not a name I pulled out of my ass. Sorry, Luther!) . At first I only added a notation if a character was important in the book. For example, I had Xenon CTO Jimmie Vath as appearing in 1, 2.5, and 3, but not 2. He do anything vital to the action in the second book but he WAS in it. He gave a speech at the Helium launch party at the Garage in Seattle. That’s enough to count.

Some characters are only last names. Barnes, the forensic tech at the crime scene in Pwned. Swanson and Hicks, security muscle in I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa Claus (aka 2.5). Is it silly to put them on the list? Maybe, but what if I want to flesh them out later? What if No-First-Name Barnes goes on a killing spree in a later book? Or dates Officer Yi? Or loses some vital evidence and takes an ass beating from Detective Malick? Hmmm, I’m giving myself ideas here….

My planned story arc for Lexy continues for six books. After that, there could be more–or not. But it seems like a good idea to herd my cast of characters into little corrals where I can keep track of them. Because who knows? Maybe the series will be Grafton or Evanovich-length (Sue Grafton just released her 23rd Kinsey Milhone mystery, and Janet Evanovich’s 20th Stephanie Plum mystery comes out November 19). Or maybe Cricket Yi will get a spin-off series. Who knows?

But I mean to be prepared, and this low-tech, simple method is working for me so far.

* Kemp, no, and Vi0L8r

Bad as I Wanna Be – Character or Heroine?

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Lexy Cooper is the protagonist of my mystery series set in the videogame business. You’ll notice I didn’t use the word “heroine.” There’s a reason for that. She’s not heroic. She’s not a role model. I don’t want Lexy to be a good girl. To always do the right thing. To know all the answers. That’s boring as hell.

Remember Gone with the Wind? Author Margaret Mitchell said that Melanie was the true hero of her book–genteel and loyal and long-suffering. Not Scarlett. Seriously? Who the hell ever gave a crap about Melanie except maybe to wish she’d hurry up and die so Scarlett could have Ashley and realize he was a dumbass? But, I digress.

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Scarlett O’Hara is about to throw down.

Scarlett is more interesting than Melanie, and much more fun to read about. Even when when she’s doing stupid, obnoxious things. Even though you think, “Ohhhh Scarlett, stay away from your sister’s boyfriend…” you can’t help but root for her and be fascinated.

Lexy’s a Scarlett. Not a Melanie. Lexy’s not quiet and shy. She won’t do the right thing even if it hurts. She’s going to do what she wants. What feels good. What’s easy.

When I was about a third of the way through writing Schooled, a friend of mine read it and his feedback surprised me. He said “Lexy’s a character and I want her to be the heroine. She does not require the same flaws and foibles we possess. Characters need to be better than us.”

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“Lexy Cooper makes you love her because of her flaws, not in spite of them.”

I disagree. I write the kind of stories and characters that I’d like to read. And I don’t want to read about perfect people. Perfection is dull. Flaws are what make people interesting, and Lexy’s got a whole host of flaws. Not one gimmick flaw like she’s an alcoholic or illiterate or narcoleptic. She’s just a normal-ish woman who is a bit immature, rather selfish, frequently tardy, and almost always up for a good fuck.

When she does bad things she doesn’t do them because she’s dumb, and doesn’t know better but because she wants to do them. She chooses the bad thing.

Here’s what some readers have to say about Lexy–good and bad:

  • Lexy’s the chick girls want to be and the chick every guy wants to do.
  • A character that isn’t afraid of her sexuality and wields it well is quite refreshing.
  • Smart, tough, mean in a good way, sexy, fearless.
  • Lexy’s sex life is just as interesting as the murder she is trying to help solve
  • the main character is, at times, hard to like
  • Lexy is the epitome of strong female who knows what she wants and gets it by any means possible.
  • She’s able to use her femininity and sexuality without losing her dignity
  • Lexy Cooper is a smart, sexy, but very human heroine
  • Lexy is a flawed and irreverent heroine that you can’t help but like.
  • Lexy Cooper is highly intelligent, unabashedly irreverent and charmingly flawed
  • Lexy is a bit like a latter-day femme fatale turned gumshoe, something the old hard-boiled detective stories never imagined.
  • she’s perfectly willing to use her sexuality to get what she wants, and she participates in the cliche of falling for “bad boys.”
  • Lexy is a character I find myself thinking about even weeks after finishing the novel

Readers have a love-hate relationship with Lexy. Which I think is awesome. And it’s a challenge, too. How far down can I take Lexy and keep readers willing to follow? I guess we’ll find out. In closing, I think this reviewer summed up best what I’m trying to do with Lexy Cooper as a character:

“You’ll cheer Lexy on and you’ll say ‘WTF are you doing, Lexy?,’ because Lexy doesn’t read like a character, she really feels like a three-dimensional person.”

The side-effects of being a mystery writer

I write mystery novels. This is a fairly new occupation. I published the first book in the Lexy Cooper mystery series in November, the second is now in the process of being edited by the fabulous Marti McKenna and will be available in June, and I’m writing number three right now. (Okay, I’m procrastinating writing number three by blogging, but whatever.)

When I’m not actually writing I re-fill the creativity coffers by reading mysteries, watching movies and TV shows about murder, and researching everything from cyber-stalking legislation to poisonous mushrooms.

And this has had some unforeseen side effects.

 

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A scene from “Suspicion”

I wouldn’t say I’m paranoid, exactly, but I often question the motives of the people in my life. Sure, Mom says she’s working in her garden, but what’s she REALLY doing? Getting rid of evidence? My friend and her son skipped soccer practice last weekend. Did they know something I didn’t know? Was something bad going to happen at soccer?  That white sedan with Michigan plates has parked next to my car in the lot six out of seven days this week. Is he following me?  Okay, maybe I’m a little paranoid.

TheRavine069
I just CAN’T drive past a wooded ravine without thinking “There’s a good place to dump a body.” However, this does pre-date my mystery writing. I live in the Pacific Northwest which is not only damp and lush with ground cover it was also the stomping ground of notorious body-dumpers Ted Bundy and The Green River Killer. But now, I note the potential body dump with an extra interest. My mysteries are set on the East Side of Lake Washington, so if there’s a great place to stash a corpse along, say, Redmond Way, I may put a body there in book #4.

forensic_evidence_group

Forensic evidence is everywhere. Hair, fibers, fingerprints. Just looking around my desk I think: You could get DNA from my Diet Coke can or the hairs stuck in that comb. My prints are all over the keyboard, the pens…everything! Yesterday I saw a guy throw something away in a gas station garbage can. He didn’t look particularly dodgy, but I thought. “Dude, your prints are all OVER that.” It’s a good thing I don’t have some sort of germ phobia or I’d be freaked out all the time.

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I’m going to specify in my last will and testament that my surviving loved ones clear my browser history. Sprinkled in between my bookmarked macaroni and cheese recipes and swimming lesson schedules are pages devoted to poisonous plants, the care and feeding of a Glock 26, mental disorders, and investigative techniques for determining time of death. I don’t know for sure how closely the government is monitoring mostly law-abiding citizens, but if some red-flag pops up at the FBI or my local sheriff’s department when someone Googles “faking an alibi” “creating a false identity” or “how long does the human body take to dissolve in acid” then I am surely fucked.

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