On August 2nd, 2020, Sisters in Crime/LA met virtually via Zoom.
On August 2nd, 2020, Sisters in Crime/LA met virtually via Zoom.
Ellen read from the opening of her new book, MURDER IN THE BAYOU BONEYARD.
Ellen’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won the Agatha award for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty awards for Best Humorous Mystery. Her new Catering Hall Mystery series, written as Maria DiRico, launched with Here Comes the Body and was inspired by her real life. She’s an award-winning playwright and non-award-winning TV writer of comedies like WINGS, JUST SHOOT ME, and FAIRLY ODD PARENTS. But she considers her most impressive credit working as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart.
In an interview with Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles Chapter Speakers Bureau Director August Norman, Kathy discussed her career as a forensic anthropologist, common mistakes crime writers make when dealing with forensics, her journey from aspiring writer to best-selling author, and her 19th installment in the Temperance Brennan series, A Conspiracy of Bones. Questions were then taken from the audience as time permitted.
Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead catapulted her to fame when it became a New York Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Her other Temperance Brennan books include Death du Jour, Deadly Décisions, Fatal Voyage, Grave Secrets, Bare Bones, Monday Mourning, Cross Bones, Break No Bones, Bones to Ashes, Devil Bones, 206 Bones, Spider Bones, Flash and Bones, Bones Are Forever, Bones of the Lost, Bones Never Lie, Speaking in Bones and the Temperance Brennan short story collection, The Bone Collection. In addition, Kathy co-authored the Virals young adult series with her son, Brendan Reichs. The best-selling titles are: Virals, Seizure, Code, Exposure, Terminal, and the novella collection Trace Evidence. The series follows the adventures of Temperance Brennan’s great niece, Tory Brennan. Dr. Reichs’ latest novel, Two Nights, was released July 11 and features Sunday Night, a tough-talking, scarred heroine. Dr. Reichs was also a producer of the hit Fox TV series, Bones, which is based on her work and her novels.
From teaching FBI agents how to detect and recover human remains, to separating and identifying commingled body parts in her Montreal lab, as a forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs has brought her own dramatic work experience to her mesmerizing forensic thrillers. For years she consulted to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina and to the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Québec. Dr. Reichs has travelled to Rwanda to testify at the UN Tribunal on Genocide, and helped exhume a mass grave in Guatemala. As part of her work at JPAC (Formerly CILHI) she aided in the identification of war dead from World War II, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Dr. Reichs also assisted in the recovery of remains at the World Trade Center following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Dr. Reichs is one of only 100 forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, and is currently a member of the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada. She is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
Dr. Reichs is a native of Chicago, where she received her Ph.D. at Northwestern. She now divides her time between Charlotte, NC and Montreal, Québec.
Paula Bernstein began her career with a PhD in Chemistry from Caltech. After several years of research, she escaped from her lab and went to medical school. Like the heroine of her medical mystery series, Hannah Kline, Paula has spent most of her professional life practicing Obstetrics and Gynecology in Los Angeles. After retiring from her full time practice, Paula unearthed all the first drafts she’d written over many years, found a great editor, and published the Hannah Kline Mysteries; Murder in the Family, Murder by Lethal Injection, Murder at a Private School, Murder in the Goldilocks Zone, Murder In Vitro and Murder on her Honeymoon. Her newest Hannah Kline novel, Murder is a Nightmare, will be published this year. Her short story, On Call for Murder, a Hannah Kline prequel, was published in the Sisters in Crime 2017 Anthology, LAst Resort.
She talked about writing suspense and her newest novel, The Lucky One.
Lori Rader-Day is the Edgar Award-nominated and Anthony Award- and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author of Under a Dark Sky, The Day I Died, Little Pretty Things, and The Black Hour. She co-chairs the mystery conference Murder and Mayhem in Chicago and serves as the national president of Sisters in Crime. Her new book is The Lucky One, set in a true-crime amateur online sleuth community.
Susan Angard read from the book, ON THE WINGS OF A LION.
Rachel Howzell Hall, Sheila Lowe, and Laurie Stevens – the editors from the previous Sisters in Crime/LA anthology, FATALLY HAUNTED – provided their insights about the anthology process.
Tori Eldridge talked about the art of “ninja marketing,” sharing her experiences branding herself as a new author. She also focused on taking advantage of your existing networks of people who share similar interests to yourself, and finding ways to tie that into promoting your works, as part of locating people who can become part of a grassroots marketing team.
The featured reader for the month was Wendall Thomas.
Wendall Thomas teaches in the Graduate Film School at UCLA, lectures internationally on screenwriting, and has worked as an entertainment reporter, development executive, script consultant, and film and television writer. Her first Cyd Redondo novel, Lost Luggage, was nominated for the Lefty and Macavity Awards for Best Debut Mystery of 2017 and her second, Drowned Under, has been nominated for a Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery of 2019. Her short fiction appears in the crime anthologies Ladies Night (2015), Last Resort (2017), and Murder-A-Go-Go’s (2019).
When Brooklyn travel agent Cyd Redondo’s former in-laws go missing on an Australian cruise, she helicopters Down Under, only to stumble over a dead body and a desperate plot to save the world’s last Tasmanian tiger.
Audiobook: Publishing’s Biggest Bright Spot!
Jessica talked about all facets of production, distribution, and contracting that goes into audiobook product, and trends with this format. Kaye also took questions from audience members about where to seek help in structuring deals; how to ask publishers for clarification on audio rights; and how to find voice and editing talent, should you decide to produce your own audio material.
Jessica Kaye is the current president of the SoCal Chapter of MWA, and both a lawyer and a producer/director of audiobooks. Kaye will speak about current trends in audio publishing; how contracts are structured for audio; what you should ask yourself when considering audio for your already-written book or one you plan to write in the future; and what the future of audiobooks holds for mystery, crime, true crime, and thriller genres.
In addition to her duties as president of the local chapter of MWA, Kaye oversees a law practice that runs a gamut of intellectual property issues, from copyright and trademark to negotiating or consulting about publishing contracts and audiobooks. Apropos of that, in 2019, Writer’s Digest Books published her business book, The Guide to Publishing Audiobooks. In 2006, she founded a digital distribution company for audiobooks, the first such company. It is still going and it is called Big Happy Family, LLC (www.bighappyfamilyaudiobooks.
Kaye is also on the board of the Audio Publishers Association.
Our reader for the day was Ellen Byron.
The Misdemeanor Prosecution System in the City of Los Angeles
Gita spoke about the misdemeanor prosecution system in the City Of Los Angeles: the court system, crimes that the office sees, nuisance crimes, vice crimes, homeless issues, etc. She also spent a little time covering the various roles in the judicial system, and the role of city agencies as well, with particular emphasis on the homeless as many attendees’ questions focused on this crucial area.
ABOUT OUR GUEST SPEAKER
Assistant City Attorney Gita O’Neill has been with the Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney since 1999. She started doing criminal trials and then was appointed to be one of the first Neighborhood Prosecutors in the innovative Neighborhood Prosecutor Program which placed a prosecutor in every police division in Los Angeles. She then transitioned the Civil Nuisance Abatement Program where she filed cases against problem property owners whose properties had gang, narcotics, nuisance and vice issues. Gita then was appointed to be the Supervising Attorney for the Neighborhood Prosecutor Program. She supervised the program as it tripled in size under the current City Attorney, Mike Feuer. Two year ago she was promoted again to be the first ever Director of Homeless Policies and Strategies for the City Attorney’s Office. Prior to working at the City Attorney’s office, she worked as an associate in the civil plaintiff’s firm, Girardi and Keese. Gita attended the University of Santa Clara Law School and completed her undergraduate studies at UC Irvine.
As we’ve previously mentioned, we will NO LONGER MEET AT THE SOUTH PASADENA LIBRARY COMMUNITY ROOM regularly. Also, the Pasadena Library is NOT a new permaent location; a different location will be announced for our March event.
Want to know what’s coming up next for Sisters in Crime/LA in 2020? Keep checking the Meeting Dates page of our website regularly, as meeting locations will vary throughout the year.
Laurie Stevens read from one of her books.
Special Agent Thomas J. Leighton: Unmasking Evil
by Shannon Muir Broden
Special Agent Thomas J. Leighton gave those in attendance an overview of the structure of the FBI. In addition, he provided a forum for guests to ask questions tailored to their area of interest.
He explained that while Headquarters for the FBI is in Washington, D.C., there are 56 field offices (of which Los Angeles is one of them). Today, the scope of what the Los Angeles field office covers includes Orange and Ventura counties. On a lower level, they have what are called Resident Agencies; this goes back historically to where individual agents worked out of their homes.
The formation of the FBI goes back to 1908, focused on dealing with crimes of a federal nature. One Herbert J. (later to be President) Hoover was named its first Director in 1924. The types of crimes that it has dealt with has grown and changed over the years. One thing Special Agent Leighton emphasized was that books, film, and television don’t always get it right to where the FBI comes in as having jurisdiction, but terrorism is clearly an area where the FBI would have jurisdiction.
The audience asked about DNA analysis, witness protection, white collar crime, and if the FBI ever hired psychics… just to give a glimpse into a few of the specialized requests for information. This was one of those events you really needed to be there for!
Keep checking our MEETING DATES page as well as the homepage for a list of upcoming events and their locations. WE WILL NO LONGER BE MEETING AT THE SOUTH PASADENA LIBRARY COMMUNITY ROOM BEGINNING IN 2020.
Authors Julia Bricklin and Jennifer Younger read from their short stories from the Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles chapter anthology, FATALLY HAUNTED.
Mike Befeler: Becoming An Author Has No Expiration Date
by Laura Brennan
At the age of 57, Mike Befeler, author of Paradise Court, Unstuff Your Stuff, and more than a dozen other novels, decided he would “retire into writing.” He began by taking fiction writing courses at the University of Colorado while he was still working, and he started writing. Persistence paid off: he made 112 submissions before his first fiction sale.
“If I’d stopped after 111 rejections,” Mike said, “I wouldn’t be here today.” He believes in the Stockdale Paradox, which can be distilled to having complete faith in a positive outcome while also being brutally realistic about how difficult your situation is. He focused on doing everything he could, from getting better as a writer to getting out and meeting people at conferences, and at the same time, he never expected the road to be easy.
His plan was to focus first on craft. He did this by taking university courses which not only helped him become a better writer, but forced him into a critique group experience, giving him a chance to learn from others. He also started going to conferences, and once again, decided which conferences to attend based on where he was in the process. First, he went to conferences focusing on craft. After his writing improved, he started going to conferences which taught how to sell your novel. Finally, he goes to conferences with tracks on PR and marketing, as he works to build his audience.
It worked! Mike sold his first book to Five Star at a pitch session at one of the writers conferences. He met another publisher through LinkedIn. His current publisher, Encircle Publications, was started by someone he’d met at Five Star, who branched out into publishing when Five Star cut back on its mystery imprints (it now focuses primarily on Westerns, with some historical mysteries). Encircle is now publishing all of Mike’s backlist in Trade Paperback.
Finally, Mike talked about marketing. He promotes his books by giving talks, meeting people, having an author website, building an e-mail list, and sending postcards to his snail mail list of friends and fans.
Mike demystified the process and proved his point: you can start writing at any age and become a published author. Keep the right attitude, expect obstacles, but plan for success.
Learn more about Mike and his work at http://mikebefeler.com/
Featured reader Sehba Sarwar read from her short story, “Railway Track,” featured in the anthology HOUSTON NOIR.
An award-winning writer and artist, Sehba Sarwar creates essays, stories, poems, and art that tackle displacement, migration, and women’s issues. Her poems and essays have appeared in New York Times Sunday Magazine, Asia: Magazine of Asian Literature, Creative Time Reports and elsewhere. Her short stories have been anthologized with Feminist Press Akashic Books, and Harper Collins India, while the second edition of her novel, Black Wings, was released in spring 2019 through Veliz Books.
Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan in a home filled with artists and activists, Sarwar is currently based in Los Angeles where she teaches, writes, and offers talks.
Learn more at http://sehbasarwar.com/
by Shannon Muir Broden
The story of “Clark Rockefeller,” the former San Marino resident who became a person of interest in the disappearance of John and Linda Sohus in the mid-1980s was one of two cases that local forensic handwriting expert Sheila Lowe walked the audience through. In this instance, she talked about the uncertainties regarding the authorship of several documents claimed to have been written by Linda Sohus. Sheila demonstrated patterns of consistency, as well as uniqueness, one would need to see as part of reaching a forensic handwriting conclusion. To have learned those specific secrets, you’d really have needed to been there, as much of this presentation relied on visual illustration!
Sheila also shared insight on another famous case regarding a couple called “The Ken and Barbie Killers,” plus gave the audience a few challenges for identifying the personalities behind handwriting samples. A key takeaway Sheila mentioned at the end of the talk is that patterns in handwriting can at best be predictors of behavior, not a guarantee.
Sheila is the author of nine mystery novels and six nonfiction books on handwriting psychology. Like her fictional character, Claudia Rose, Sheila Lowe is a real-life forensic handwriting examiner. The mother of a tattoo artist and a former rock star, she is a transplanted Brit who lives in Ventura. She’s published five nonfiction books on handwriting psychology, seven in the Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series, and two in the new Beyond the Veil Mysteries. Sheila is president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, a 50 year-old non-profit educational organization and is on the board of directors of the Scientific Association of Forensic Examiners. She is often seen in the media when there are cases involving high profile handwriting. Her latest novel, Proof of Life, is in her new series, Beyond the Veil Mysteries.
Pamela Samuels Young read from her book ABUSE OF DISCRETION, and specifically talked about how there is a teen version as well as a regular version of the book. This is because although the subject matter is appropriate, some people have not felt comfortable with teenagers having the original book even though the subject matter involves teenagers as characters.
WordPress for Authors
by Shannon Muir Broden
Anne Louise Bannon then did a compare and contrast of the two different versions of WordPress for authors – either getting a free site via WordPress.org, or paying for a site through wordpress.com. She outlined the pros and cons of each for an author in terms of development, maintenance, and public relations image. This was definitely one of those meetings that one could best benefit from by actually attending and seeing the demonstrations.
Her latest book is DEATH OF THE CITY MARSHAL.