Blood Will Tell

I feel like a proud parent

When I first left my day job and was scrambling a bit for money, I taught an 8-week mystery-writing class at my local bookstore, Annie Blooms Books.  I've also taught one-off classes here and there for a long time, more as a way to give back than to make money.

Sometimes i don't even make any money. For example, on July 18th I'm teaching a class on plotting as a fundraiser for Write Around Portland.  It costs $35 and all the money goes to the organization.

This year, I've also taught that class for Left Coast Crime and for Oregon Literary Arts.  A few years ago, I taught a class on how to start a series.

Well, one of the guys who was in that class, Curtis C. Chen, came up to me after my signing at Powells, and told me he had just made a two-book deal and had been going over the old notes from my series class to help him approach his series.



And then today, I saw that another one of my old students, Lisa Alber, had also made a deal:



And last year, Cindy Brown, a woman from one of my original classes who went on to be my friend, made a three-book deal.  The first book, MacDeath, is laugh-out-loud funny (a rare thing) and I'm in the middle of reading an advance copy of her second, The Sound of Murder, which is even funnier.

Blood Will Tell

Haven't I seen you someplace before? Nearly identical covers of girls gazing with hands clasped



I usually feature dueling covers with similar but not identical images. Not so here. The Revenant came out from Knopf. Sweet Madness comes out in September from Merit Press, where Jacquelyn Mitchard is the editor. (Aside: she once took a picture of me with Sherman Alexie at a book festival.)

Those houses/imprints are so high profile that I wish this nearly identical image wasn't being used for both books. (Thanks to deenaml for the tip!) 
Blood Will Tell

It the book birthday for Blood Will Tell!

Today is the book birthday for Blood Will Tell, the second in my Point Last Seen series inspired by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Searcn and Rescue team. Nine months ago, over 100 people signed up for the lastest round of clases. They underwent hundreds of training, and during that time the unit provided over 30,000 hours of volunteer work. It’s a tough course - just 53 finished and 33 completed all 87 requirements for graduation.

Two things make MSCOSAR different. One is the group is teen led and made up primarily of teens. The second is that about 30 percent of what the group does is search for crime scene evidence.

This book features the same three friend as were in Blood Will Tell. Alexis, whose mother is mentally ill. Ruby, who understand things far more than she understand people. And Nick, who desperately wants to prove that he is as strong and brave as he longs to be.

Real-life roots
Blood Will Tell was inspired by two true stories. Back in 1987 in Colorado, a bicyclist checked out what he thought was a mannequin in a field and discovered it was really the body of 37-year-old woman. She had been stabbed in the back and died from blood loss.

But before the bicyclist realized it was really a body, a 15-year-old saw also saw it while walking to school. Thinking it was a mannequin left as a prank, he did not report it to the police. After his father told police that his son usually walked through that lot, the police pulled the teen, whose nickname was ”Toothpick,” out of class.

He was questioned for hous alone, but always said he was innocent. Still, they zeroed in on him because he had never reported the body to the police. There was no physical evidence. They did find hundreds of violent drawings, a couple of knives, and a newspaper clipping about the murder.

Eventually, he was tried for the murder and convicted. It was covered on a lot of “real-life” TV shows, with titles like Drawn to Murder and Murder Illustrated.  In the end, DNA evidence proved his evidence and he won millions from the state of Colorado.

Can DNA lie?
The other case was in San Fransisco. A millionaire was tied up and robbed. He ended up suffocating on the packing tape used to keep him from crying out. A forensics team found DNA on his fingernails that belonged to an unknown person. The sample was put into a DNA database and turned up a “hit” — a local man with a long criminal record.

Arrested and charged with murder, that men spent more than five months in jail with a possible death sentence hanging over his head.

Then his defense realized he had been hospitalized the night of the murder. But how did an innocent man’s DNA end up on a murder victim?

I won't give away the answer, but I will say that for 15 years, German police searched for a serial killer they called the “Phantom of Heilbronn” — an unknown female linked by traces of DNA to six murders across Germany and Austria. Police had found her DNA on items ranging from a cookie to a heroin syringe to a stolen car. She had been involved in over 40 crimes, rangning from murder to a car-dealership robbery and a school break-in,

In 2009, the police found their “suspect”: a worker at a factory that produced the cotton swabs police used in their investigations. She had been accidentally contaminating them with her own DNA.

Those two cases really make me wonder about our reliance on the infallibility of DNA evidence. After all DNA can’t tell your when it’s been left or under what circumstances. It may  not lie, but it may not tell the whole truth either.
Blood Will Tell

It only took me months to get this! A stripe on my belt in jiujitsu

I am the wrong sex (F) and age (56) for Brazilian Jiujitsu, but I still freaking love it! I'm getting to train a bit extra for a month at Alive MMA (normal school is Westside Academy of Kung Fu) and today I got a stripe on my belt.

Me! A stripe!

When I was a kid, I used to walk home from school reading a book (with brief interruptions when I ran into things). The only reason my high school GPA was less than 4.0 was because of Cs in PE. In my senior year, we played round-robin tennis and I was beaten by EVERYONE, including the mainstreamed developmentally delayed girl and the girl with juvenile arthritis so bad she couldn't even use one hand.

You have no idea how proud I am of this stripe!

(Photos of everything but stripe courtesy Rich Kolbell.)
Blood Will Tell

Throwing knives (and hatchets!) and getting black eyes



My kung fu school is offering a knife-throwing class. It is very satisfying when you stick one. The throwing knives are heavy-about a pound each.

I got asked to stay after Brazilian jiu-jitsu class today to demonstrate my technique for the blackbelt but did not get a stripe on my belt.  I'm close though, I can feel it.  My partner was 22 years younger than me and weighed 250 pounds. (He also hasn't been doing it very long, so it's not as bad as it sounds.)  I got kneed in the forehead Wednesday (by a different partner) and kept waiting for the bruise to show up.  It finally did, mostly in a small black eye around my tear duct.

I am feeling very bad ass these days!
Blood Will Tell

I'm flabbergasted

I was on ebay tonight - I buy almost all my clothes there - and out of curiosity typed my name in the search box.  Lots of books and audio tapes and a few ARCs (kind of makes me wince, but whatever).  And then this:

Why? Who would want a photo of me with my first book? Why can't I still look that young?  What happened to that shirt? I loved that shirt.  And it's being sold by Historic Images. Does 2000 really count as history?

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