Saturday, March 17, 2018

Leslie Wheeler Book Launch of Rattlesnake Hill

Leslie Wheeler, who is a fellow member of Sisters in Crime and the Mystery Writers of America, recently had her book launch for Rattlesnake Hill, her latest, at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA.

There was quite a crowd- those other seats were soon filled in, and it was SRO.

Famous fellow writers in the audience: here's Ray Daniel and Gary Braver.

Leslie is introduced to the crowd

Leslie talked about the origin of the book- a great story in itself!

More writers-
Clea Simon next to Hans and Judy Copek.

Afterward, Leslie had to sign a number of books- here's one for Clea.

And some stock for the store to sell afterward

And an accidental fan, who came in for something else, but was intrigued by the talk.

 And Leslie had support from the family.

A good night, with encouragement from a great local bookstore.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Interview With Forensic Expert Geoff Symon

Recently, a few lucky local attendees got to hear a talk by noted Forensic Expert Geoff Symon.
(Writeup here)

It was sponsored by the Sisters in Crime, and as mystery writers, we were enthralled to hear about the everyday workings of a real-life pro who examines crime scenes for clues. And we learned a lot!
As you can see, he has quite a resume:

Geoff Symon is a 20-year Federal Forensic Investigator. His participation in high-profile cases includes the attacks on September 11, 2001, the War in Iraq, the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion, among countless other cases. He has direct, first-hand experience investigating cases including murder (of all types), suicide, arson, kidnapping, bombings, sexual assault, child exploitation, theft and financial crimes. He has specified and certified training in the collection and preservation of evidence, blood spatter analysis, autopsies and laboratory techniques. His Forensics for Fiction series has become the go-to resource for genre authors.

Let's find out more about his work...

Q. Tell us how this profession chose you, and why one should choose a major carefully.

A. My origin story is literally one of being in the right place at the right time. With an economics degree, forensics wasn't on my radar before it fell into my lap. The story itself is too involved to recount here, but the highlights include: Taking a US gov't job in South Korea, transporting a dead soldier's body to Okinawa for autopsy, a forensic pathologist taking note of me and a federal forensic program seeking recruits.
Today is much different than 25 years ago. Now my all-encompassing forensic training and experience doesn't really exist anymore. Today, most forensic jobs are incredibly specific, and one must choose to be an evidence technician, a lab specialist, or specialize in a particular case type. Also, most agencies tend to promote their own folks into forensic positions. This way, they instill loyalty in those that they invest the training so that those specialists stay on with that agency.

Q. What are your forensic specialties?

A. I've had a very blessed career. I've had jobs that specialized in crimes against children, crimes scenes and evidence collection, autopsies, blood spatter analysis, and so on. Many of my jobs required close work with forensic lab work, so I also have a solid knowledge of the laboratory side of things, including toxicology, histology and DNA analysis. My cases have involved firearms, explosives, kidnappings, death, blood, poisons, injuries, arson, pathology, sex crimes and thefts.

Q. What's a professional achievement you're proud of?

A. I was honored by the head of NASA after the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy. I was part of the multi-agency task force set up to deal with the multi-state scene. I was in charge of the astronauts' remains retrieval and identification. The head of NASA wrote me a personal commendation and presented me with the mission patch. It's one of the most emotionally valuable items I own.

Q. What's the top few things TV/films/books get wrong about forensics?

A. - Time of Death estimations ("He died between noon and 12:15").
- Investigator's roles (Access to records/field work vs lab work/working around the system).
- Investigative procedures (Quick resolutions/interview techniques/not wearing proper protective equipment)
- Overreaching forensic advances (Super computers/holograms/incorrect specialty application)

Q. Do they get anything right?

A. Some do. It depends on the show. For the most part, though, most forensic-oriented shows rely on the drama side of things over the boring science-side. Ratings speak and that makes sense. Production always wins over realism.

Q. What are your favorite films or TV shows depicting your work?

A. For realism? I love Forensic Files, Medical Detectives and the like. They do a pretty good job condensing real crimes down to their interesting parts. I pass on most on-going dramatic series, though. I spend too much time thinking "nu-uh!"

Q. What top three things should authors know about forensics?

A. 1) Although story requirements necessitate that only one character does all of the forensics, in reality "forensics" is covered by a multitude of specialists.
2) That stories have law enforcement agents (detectives/sheriffs/troopers/agents) and lab analysts work one case at a time. A story tends to focus on one crime or culprit because anything more is distracting. In real life, detectives and lab techs work multiple cases at once. They have to. There's too much to do to focus solely on one investigation until its completion. Rarely can an investigator drop everything for the sake of one case.
3) Forensics is not quick. Most stories require a building of tension which means as the reader gets closer to the finale, the ticking clock speeds up and hearts beat faster. So, their forensic work and results occur in a rather expedient fashion. In reality, forensics takes time. Processing crime scenes for evidence can take hours or days, and lab work can take months before results are reported.

Q. At social events, do some people pull away when they hear what you do?

A. I seem to have one extreme or the other: either they shy away or they can't get enough!

Q. How did you end up in the writer's arena?
A. I live with a writer, so I've lived the writer's spouse's life for a long time. I've seen the turmoil that is writing firsthand. I've seen the frustration. I've answered the "what kind of death would..." questions. Soon fellow writer friends started asking questions. One day, on one of my many "that would NEVER happen!" moments, my partner suggest that I offer my expertise to writing groups. Shortly after, I started presented at author conventions and meetings.

Q. What services do you offer to authors?

A. Whatever they need. I'm always available to answer basic or direct forensic questions for any author. If the question becomes more involved, requires research on my end, or is more plot focused than a simple question, I offer consultations for a small fee. In those situations, I'm at the author's disposal with whatever help they want/need for their story. I also provide in-person classes at various conventions and author groups, as well as online classes for those who can't physically attend. I've also started my Forensics for Fiction series, in which each book covers one forensic topic as a one-stop research tool for authors.

Q. Is there a question authors ask that you dislike?
A. Yes, and unfortunately it's my most common question. Often, authors will approach me and share their entire book with me, explaining how they created the cleverest, most difficult crime. They tell me they're at the point they need to wrap things up, and ask how they can solve their crimes. Sometimes, we can come up with something, but mostly, when writers write an unsolvable's unsolvable. Having the perfect evidence that resolves everything magically appear so that the story wraps up nicely, often times is unbelievable. Why wasn't that evidence found before? How can it be that conclusive? It opens the story to logic leaps, which, in my opinion, is the fastest way to lose the reader. I always advice writers should SOLVE THE CRIME for their stories BEFORE THEY COMMIT it (on paper). That way the evidence needed for the solution can be addressed early in the book, even if it's overlooked or misinterpreted.

Q. Is there a particular audience member that you prefer in your presentations?

A. I strive to be helpful to anyone who wants to learn about forensics. Crime can be found in any genre, so I try to be accessible to all authors, whether they're writing pure police procedurals or merely intend to spend a single chapter on their crime. Those intending to be awed by bloody pictures tend to be disappointed when they learn I'm not a lecturer that provides an overabundance of images. A big portion of my audience are those who want the information without having to view the gore. Pictures should aid a presentation, not BE the presentation, in my mind. So, I only use images if they are necessary for the topic. For those wanting a more visual experience, google is a wonderful continuation.

Q. Tell us about your books.

A. My Forensics for Fiction series is a forensics resource written with the author in mind. In each book, I tackle one forensic topic and share with the writer how that specialty works in the real world. I explain the specifics and history of the topic as well as describe who does the work. I explain valid terminology and provide real-life case studies, all with the goal of assisting authors understand how they can use the specialty in their writings. I have three books out now: Crime Scenes, Blood Spatter and Autopsies, and hope to have the next one, Arson, out this summer.
Updates can be found at the site.

Q. What fun fact should we know about you?

A. I'm a complete geek/nerd/dork. I'm a comic book collector from way back and frequent comic conventions. Every new superhero movie that debuts is followed by a call from my brother who wants to know who the characters are, how accurate the movie is to the comics, and what the hidden Easter eggs are. Also - Buffy? Perfection.

You can reach him at

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Sherlock Talk

Here at the Chelmsford Center for the Arts (who generously donated the space for the event), the Sisters in Crime hosted a great lecture on Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle by aficionado Bob Fritsch, a dedicated Sherlocian, with an extensive collective of things related to the fictional character.

I had talented artist Donna Berger sitting near me, and (sketchy) Bob is what she sketched in just a few minutes. I'm stunned at what some people can produce.

The Center hosts many fun events like this, and is a big part of the arts scene in this area.
Check out their schedule and come take in a show!

So we had some fellow authors and members of the Sisters in Crime. 
Here's Arlene Kay, in the center.
To see an interview with Arlene, click here.

And Ursula Wong (center)
To see an interview with Ursula, click here.

And Edith Maxwell with our presenter
To see an interview with Edith, click here.

And Lisa Haselton, who made the event happen, and worked to get us the green light

There were prizes galore

Our first winners!


Tasty snacks were provided

Both Bob and I belong to the Nashua Mystery Book Club.
Here some of the members come out in support

And the crowd was happy to hear about a favorite subject, and we all learned quite a bit more about the most popular detective in the world!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Lee McIntyre Launches Post-Truth

Author and Philosopher Lee McIntyre launched his latest book, Post-Truth at the Newtonville bookstore.
It's a non-fiction, non-partisan examination of how and why our current society is shredding the concept of facts, science, and objective knowledge.
Yes, it is required reading for every thinking person.
Yes, it will help you to maintain composure when someone starts talking about "alternative facts."
To see an interview with Lee, click here

The bookstore is a jam-packed space with thousands of good reads.

Make sure to pay them a visit and pick up a copy of Lee's latest, like this gent, who got the first copy of the night.

So there was a great crowd

And Lee, waiting (lurking) for the introduction 

 Which was well done

And he is a polished speaker and presenter

The crowd was well-engaged, asking good questions and coming to a better understanding of why we're in this state of being.

And celebrities came out! 
Here's Lee with the wonderful Hank Phillippi Ryan with hubby Jonanthan, 
as she purchases multiple copies

And another local author, Len Rosen

And then they all get in on the act
Front, L to R: Elisabeth Elo, and Editor Exraordinaire Karen Salemi, 
with Joanna Schaffhausen in red.
Back: Len, Jay Shepherd, me, Ray Daniel, Hank 
To see an interview with Joanna, click here
To see an interview with Ray, click here

And Lee signed a lot of copies for eager buyers

And then had more to sign for the store to sell

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Meet Mystery Author Don Kaplan

Mystery Author Don Kaplan is a fellow member of the local chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, and has a new book out. He's an interesting character, as you can see.

He had a recent book launch at the New England Mobile Bookfair for Thief Executive Officer, the second book in his Dizzy Gillespie series.

If you'd like to catch Don in action,  he'll be at the Library Room of the Historic Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, MA on March 15, 2018, from  6:30—8:00 pm.
He'll offer Readings, Signings, Live Music, Q & A, and Refreshments.

So let's find out more about him and his work, in his own words.

Briefly, I started as a high school teacher (history, social science, constitution, etc.) and loved it. However, I promised myself that I wouldn’t limit myself to one defining role in my obituary because I’d never know what else I might love. I wanted to keep informing, teaching, and writing, so I got into publishing shopper’s guides where I wrote articles and reviews. I had to create and sell advertising advertisers to generate revenue. My customers liked the ads so much that they asked me to develop all their ads. I started full service advertising agency and called it Kaplan & Stuart Inc.  We grew from one to ten people and worked with hundreds of clients over a 10 year period. I wrote all the copy, directed the creative, developed and produced TV and radio ads.

In the early 90’s, I decided to expand the epitaph one more time and became a strategic marketing consultant. I fed my writing addiction by creating strategies, ads, and a blog called DK4M which is now in its third decade.

In 2003, I began research on a little known, long-ignored incident in American history when Andrew Jackson murdered two British traders. Work and life intervened I and in 2013 I realized while important, the story might not interest a lot of readers. I also realized that mysteries were a great diversion that I had in common with a lot of people. So I wrote The Devil’s Jury. I liked the lead characters so much I wrote TEO: Thief Executive Officer.

A number of issues intersect in Thief Executive Officer.  It explores the complexity and risks of whistle blowing and the ethics of business as well the ease and dangers of producing and distributing opioids and counterfeit prescription medicine.

I think like most authors of fiction I could imagine and wish that my books could be made into movies.  Unreasonable dreaming can be motivating.  Beyond storytelling, I have discovered that developing this story has intensified my interest and probably knowledge of human nature. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sisters in Crime Presents Geoff Symon Forensics Talk

Thanks to our local chapter of the Sisters in Crime, we had a great seminar of Forensics for Fiction by expert Geoff Symon. For more than 20 years as a federal law enforcement special agent, Geoff Symon has been using his expertise and experience to put away the bad guys. Now he's begun lecturing and consulting with authors in genre fiction communities to help bring verisimilitude and meaningful detail to the depiction of crime and investigation.
What a great class it was. Those who write mysteries and crime should know the details of crime scenes and forensic evidence.
If you couldn't make the class, you can still get Geoff's books on various subjects.
Here's Edith Maxwell, local SinC chapter President and Lisa Haselton
They put this event together and made it a great day!
To see an interview with Edith, click here

Here are books published by local Sisters in Crime members in the last year. 
Note the awesome cover for A Sharp Medicine, Top center on the left.
Thanks to Hans Copek, who puts these posters together.

Many good writers in attendance.
Here's Connie Johnson Hambley, being helpful
To see an interview with Connie, click here

And Arlene Kay, foreground
To see an interview with Arlene, click here

And debut author Joanna Schaffhausen
To see an interview with Joanna, click here

We had a full room of interested authors and guests

Geoff is an active, polished, and engaged speaker who likes to move around

While we got to sit and ask thousands of questions.

Then Geoff got to meet his new fans.
Here's Ursula Wong
To see an interview with Ursula, click here

To see an interview with Marian, click here

And with Connie

Then others got in on the act, getting books signed and continuing to ask questions