6000 words transcribed, way more to go

Turns out that 20 pages of handwritten story in my Moleskine = 6,000 words when typed into a word doc, which gives me a word count I can claim in the future. So when I tell you that I’ve written a page of Casebook 10 (not started, don’t get too excited) you will know that means about 300 words.

I feel like I’ve just created my own google currency convertor except it’s my Angela-font-handwriting-convertor. THE POWER!!! The universe is mine to command – to control!!


And now back to transcribing.

Researching a cop killer’s psychology

The very saddest image that I would use for this post (some of the others were too offensive — not that this one isn’t)

It’s weird, but I’ve had the honour of reading my friend Rami’s developing book lately, and because it is so descriptive in the violence of a few scenes (I hope I’m not spoiling anything Rami!) I feel like researching cop killers is no big deal.

Odd that violence so quickly becomes ‘normal’ to us.

Regardless, I have been reading up on Mr. Lawrence DeVol, a well-known murderer and cop-killer from the era (if not the area, he committed his crimes in America). I think that is the direction this latest casebook is taking me, so I am willing to walk down that dark path for a little while.

I’ve also been reading about Ned Kelly (who some identify as a cop-killer, and some a folk-hero) and his crimes.

The psychology of cop killers (well of most pre-meditated murders) is complex to say the least. I am trying to avoid some of the obvious linkages (I hate cops because cops killed my father/mother/brother) and make this a more nuanced story. I’m going to try to link the death of Chief Inspector Dillon Breen Archer to this cop-killer, so stay with me, more to come as I get further into Casebook 9: No Matter How Improbable.

Top 5 tricks for writing for a time period

Speeches are a great source of inspiration for dialogue!
Speeches are a great source of inspiration for dialogue!

One of the hurdles of writing dialogue for a story based in the past (in my case 1930s London) is that you have to keep reminding yourself of how people talked way back then. Everything from slang to formality of language has to be kept in mind — even for the simplest scenes.

So here is my Top 5 List of tips:

  1. Read as much non-fiction as you can from the time and place you are writing about. This can include newspaper articles and magazines, but in the case of really really bygone eras, may include translations a limited number of books preserved from that period.
  2. Read published speeches, honestly, though more formal than your dialogue is going to be, I find the way people wrote things that they then spoke aloud to an audience is a great source.
  3. Read other writer’s fiction that is based in the same era (so people like us!)
  4. Use the internet as a resource (obviously). I for example have two dialects to keep track of — Portia’s which is based out of 1930’s San Francisco and everyone else she interacts with (who are very much based out of 1930’s London). I like to use University Libraries, like this one to get ideas about how people wrote to each other and spoke about events happening at the time.
  5. Watch movies from that era (if you can) or about that era (in the hopes that the filmmaker did HER due-diligance in researching the dialogue before committing pixel to film). For the 1930s in London, Wikipedia has a lovely list I have been culling through of films released in this time period. I find after watching one of these movies I am usually inspired to re-write a scene of dialogue to try and make it even more authentic.

What are your tips and tricks friends?

Re-reading and Analysis

yes, I know he was a jerk, but he said some smart things too!

OR “Is that your final version?

As part of my refocus on writing, I am starting by re-reading my first eight casebooks in order. It has been almost a year since I wrote the first one, so I want to make sure that I’m up-to-date on Portia’s trajectory as a detective.

I find that everytime I read one of my old stories I find something to ‘fix’ — now I’m not talking spelling mistakes or grammar issues, but a scene that needs a little more dialogue or a description that needs more detail.

Is that your experience as well? Do you ever regret adding and finessing?

Shifting into high(er) gear

You know that old ‘I Love Lucy’ episode with the conveyer belts and the chocolates? Remember how Lucy is just fine wrapping up those tasty treats until the speed overtakes her production and she starts stuffing them into her mouth so that the ‘extra’ chocolates don’t get past her (a crime for which she will be fired)?

Ok, so that is NOT what I am planning for Monday morning when I go from writing in my spare time around a full-time job to writing full-time. The conveyer belt needs to speed up but the rate of production needs to match it!

Creative Juices: a finite resource

Creative Juices: a finite resource
a finite resource

It is true my friends, there is a finite amount of creative juices and for the past few weeks, I’ve been deploying all my juice towards non-writing projects.
No, it’s true, I admit it!
First, it was my husband’s birthday and I threw myself into building a BBQ Buddy™. Yes, I am trade-marking that name because I [drumroll please!] invented it. Or at least I could not find such a thing at Home Depot, so I created one from scratch. It is a combination chest/table that sits next to our BBQ that can hold items such as charcoal and also be a resting place for plates and utensils. You can see the final product here if you are so inclined.

In addition, I have been attending a mosaic class to ascertain just how hard it would be to create a mosaic for my upstairs bathroom. NB: It is HARD. ‘Nuff said on that topic.

Finally, my parentals require my arms and Tetris skills in helping to build their outdoor patio (out of patio stone, hence the Tetris reference) so I have been spending any spare moments at their house hauling around 16×16″ stones with them.

Suffice to say that poor Portia has been sitting glumly on a streetcorner in downtown London waiting for me to refill my juice box and apply it to her latest casebook. As soon as I do, I will be back here fellow-bloggers, I swear. Until then, I hope you are all well, that you are enjoying the beautiful weather and that the juice is still flowing into your respective projects!

Character Profile: Asher Jenkins

It’s been a while, but since he plays a part in this latest casebook I am writing, I thought I would give a bit of backstory to ‘Bruiser’ Jenkins next (the full list of Character Profiles can be found here).

'Bruiser' Jenkins
‘Bruiser’ Jenkins

FULL NAME: Asher ‘Bruiser’ Jenkins is a retired professional boxer, and semi-retired thief. Bruiser was his name in the ring.

AGE: in 1929 he is 76-years-old, born in September, 1853.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Of African descent, though born and raised in England. Big, close to 200lbs, about 6’2″ tall, with developed muscles, even for his age. He has cataracts, and has fractured the bones in his hands so much over the years that they cause him constant pain.

LOCATION: Brixton, London. In the downstairs apartment of a three-story house.

EDUCATION: Grade school in London, dropped out before grade 9.

HMV gramophone: model 109.
HMV gramophone: model 109.

PREFERENCES: Prefers beer, smokes copiously, eats well, and enjoys food. Good with his hands, and therefore takes off jobs in construction and building. Likes dogs, racing, gambling and women. His prize possession is a gramophone and his growing record collection.

SOCIALLY:  Parents both dead, no spouse or children,very loyal to former partner (and perhaps paramour, that is yet unclear) Irene Jones (nee Adler), and protective of her granddaughter Portia Adams. He has spent some time in prison, probably in his twenties, and has many friends from his old life.

The Black Dragon Award

The Black Dragon award as created by Rami the Writer
The Black Dragon award

My lovely friend Rami over at Rami Ungar the Writer has nominated me for the first ever Black Dragon award!

These are the rules as listed on his post:

1. You must have written something scary or featuring something scary in the past year. (This can range from being a simple murder mystery to a full-on zombie novel with a wizard and serial killers mixed in for variety). Note that whatever work you’ve created will be the subject of several of the questions below.

2. You must thank the person who nominated you and then link back to their  blog.

3. You must answer the 10 questions below on your own blog post.

4. Finally, you must nominate at least 5 other authors for the award and then notify them of it

FIRST and most important, here are my five nominees for The Black Dragon Award:

Scary Structures
Waiting in the Kingdom
James McKenna
The Author’s Blog
The Real Sherlock

And now, in answer to the questions (and I encourage you to go read Rami’s answers to his questions here)

1. What is the premise of the novel you’ve written? Portia Adams is a young woman who has suddenly and mysteriously inherited 221 Baker Street. Her first year in London encompasses the first three cases in the book, and involve her discovering the linkages to the famous offices, and the development of her skills as a detective.

2. How long did it take you to write it? My books are divided into casebooks rather than chapters, so the first casebook called ‘Jewel of the Thames’ I wrote in about a month.

3. Which character(s) are you most like? My sister says I am most like Portia Adams, but honestly I think ALL my characters have facets of my personality – I’m analytical and social inept like Portia, I’m loyal and stoic like Brian, I’m a journalist like Annie, I’m sometimes sneaky and anti-establishment like Adler, and I can be rude and abrasive like Sergeant Michaels.

4. What’s the scariest thing you’ve read/seen lately? The news sadly. I can’t think of anything scarier than all the stories about these poor girls being raped and their attacks being taped and posted on social media.

5. What’s something you’re reluctant to write about? I guess gore? I’m not great at writing gore, and not great at reading it.

6. If you could take characters from other works and insert them into an original story of your own design, who would you take and what would you have them do? OOh, interesting one. Since I already have a couple of characters from Conan Doyle’s stories… I would love to somehow pull in villains from other stories I have loved. If I could figure out how, I would love for Portia to go up against one of the more intellectual Sith from the Star Wars books (not the movies where Sith are all physical) or a Lex Luthor type from the Superman stories.

7. Do you envision a sequel to your novel? Like I said, since my books are compilations of casebooks, there already is a series. I’ve written 8 casebooks listed here.

8. What first got you into writing? And what got you writing scary subject matter? I’m a writer, first published at 14, it’s what I do. In terms of writing scary stuff, unlike my nominator Rami, it’s not my primary genre, but part of writing mysteries is the subject matter, which has of course meandered into the murder/death/violent side over the course of cases. I enjoy reading scary stuff though, and have since I was a kid.

9. What scares you personally? Spiders, snakes, rats, wolves, the usual of course. Falling off high buildings. Losing my loved ones.

10. What are your future plans? Good gosh, who knows? Trying to get an agent and get published is the current plan, though as time goes by, I am more attracted to the idea of self-publishing as well.

What kind of death is this?

The second brother from the animation of the Deathly Hallows from Harry Potter
The second brother from the animation of the Deathly Hallows from Harry Potter

Doing some more research on suicide tonight (my first post about it was back in January, you can read it here)… this time with a focus on how to tell the difference forensically between a suicide and, well, not a suicide.

First: the method (jumping off a building)

According to a really interesting site I found called ‘Lost all Hope’:

The most important factor in suicide by jumping is height. Stone2 states that jumping from 150 feet (46 metres) or higher on land, and 250 feet (76 metres) or more on water, is 95% to 98% fatal. 150 feet/46 metres, equates to roughly 10 to 15 stories in a building, depending on the height of one story. 250 feet is the height of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

The LAH author got his information from a book by Geo Stone called Attempted Suicide: Methods and Consequences, and you can read more about that here:

So interestingly, for a 95% chance that you will actually be killed by your attempt, you need to fall 10 to 15 stories from a building.

Second: the body (what is the injury pattern)

Without getting into too much gruesome detail, I looked around for some data that would help me with the physical forensic evidence from a suicide-by-jumping and found this article from the US National Library of Medicine.

The most common injuries were fractures of the thoracic and lumbar spine (83.0%) with a preference for the thoracolumbar junction. Fracture of the lower limbs occurred in 45%. The most frequent injuries were fractures of the os calcis (64.4%) and the ankle joint (26.6%). Twenty-five percent of all patients suffered from fractures in the upper limbs with a preference for the distal radius (56.6%) and the elbow (44.0%).

The article goes on to say that only 27% of the people they studied for their report died from head injuries… which of course begs the question if that didn’t kill them, what did?

Another interesting article about this kind of data is: The Study of Pattern of Injuries in Fatal Cases of fall from height

Third: the after-effects (legally and religiously) of suicide

I’m not a member of a christian religion, but I believe in 1930s London, most of the population was, so I am going to make this character a Catholic. Catholics seem to have very clear beliefs when it comes to suicide, so if this death is ruled a suicide, the character will not be allowed to have a burial with a priest at his church.

Legally, I cannot find evidence in British Law that changes how the heirs to inherit from someone who committed suicide VS someone who died by some other cause. What is clear that suicide and natural causes will fast-track the fulfillment of the will, while any suspicion of foul play will delay everything as the truth is worked out.

I feel a little Whedonesque

ImageThose of you who are Joss Whedon fans probably understand my blog title, but those of you who don’t here is a little graphic to help you understand:

I just killed off my first major character. I feel a little gross and kind of omnipotent.

Hoo boy, let’s see how this goes!