Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WEDNESDAY'S BURNING QUESTION

Cry Ellen Hart writes:

I admit it. I like books that make me cry. In fact, if an author is able to successfully tug at my emotions, it’s more likely that I’ll recommend the book to others.

Wed Burning Question How about you? When you set out to write a novel, do you intend to leave people with a specific emotion? Is emotion important in your writing? Reading?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Brother At The Helm

by Michael Allan Mallory

Captain at helm In January I became the first male president of the Minneapolis/St. Paul chapter of Sisters in Crime.

And the world did not end.

Nor should it have. Nothing fundamental had changed. Heck, nothing at all had changed except for the person calling the meeting to order and leading the group. That person happened to be me, one of the Y chromosome members. Like other men who’ve led their SinC chapters, I’m trying to keep the club sailing smoothly on course, not veer off toward uncharted waters. I’m not looking to change anything; members aren’t required to chomp on cigars and spit during meetings just because a guy is at the helm.

Scales Yes, there are brothers involved with Sisters in Crime, though that isn’t well known to the outside world because SinC itself isn’t an organization on the average person’s radar. To the general public I’m an odd duck. When I mention to some people that I’m a member of Sisters in Crime I often get curious looks in return, as if they think I’ve infiltrated some Dan Brownian secret society of women. After I explain what SinC is about and that most of our guest speakers come from local law enforcement, I’m apparently deemed okay.

Granted, I didn’t get these odd looks when I belonged to Toastmasters or the years I studied and taught Wing Chun kung fu. Yeah, it’s because of the word Sisters. But I don’t care. Sisters in Crime offers a venue for learning and professional development that transcends gender. As a writer, my involvement in the chapter has allowed me to become acquainted with mystery authors in Minnesota and elsewhere. During meetings or contacts made at meetings, I’ve become aware of venues and services useful to all writers. Oh, and I get to talk about mystery books to people who love them as much as I. Plus we hold our meetings in a really cool mystery bookstore!

Kung fu panda I will add that Sisters in Crime has some advantages to the other groups I’ve mentioned: there’s definitely less speechifying than in Toastmasters and far less hitting than kung fu.

Friday, March 26, 2010

First Looks Can Be Deceiving . . .

You might want to watch this video until the bitter end ... because looks CAN be deceiving.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

WEDNESDAY'S BURNING QUESTION

Ellen Hart writes:

Wed Burning Question As an author, do you ever daydream about the movie that will one-day be made of your books/series? Have you ever cast the characters? And for readers, if you love a book, do think about who might be perfect to play this or that character? Be specific. (For example, I’d like to see Queen Latifah or Kirstie Alley play Cordelia Thorn in my Jane Lawless series. Yeah, right. Still in the daydream stage.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Once Upon A Book Club

by Julie Kramer

MotherDaughterBookClubLogoW I spoke to my first mother-daughter book club the other day.

Back in fifth grade they'd discussed stories like Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn Dixie. But now the girls are high school seniors and had selected my debut, Stalking Susan, a thriller about a TV reporter who discovers a serial killer targeting women named Susan.

The moms confided they were pleased that their little ones are now reading grown up books and they can discuss them like peers. The daughters seemed seemed happy, too. In fact, two of them were also writing book reports for school credit about Stalking Susan. So we discussed the theme of how grief changes people, the behind the scenes operations of newsrooms, and my own path to publication.

Texting Some of the girls explained that they'd actually had a book club pre-discussion texting each other as they stayed up late, turning pages. One kept texting, "Wht happns nxt?" Another responded, "U hav 2 finsh 2 fnd out."

The mothers said the biggest reward of their book club over the years has been how it has helped them form relationships with their daughters. They've been able to bring up issues like curfew, bad friends, or future careers without getting personal.

In the past year I've spoken to more than twenty book clubs about either or both Stalking Susan or Missing Mark. The smallest club had six members. The largest, more than a hundred. Each book club has their own dynamics. One group dressed up as the characters from my book. Okay, it was close to Halloween. Another club wore orange jumpsuits. Okay, they represented a captive audience - inmates at the Minnesota women's prison.

For authors, book clubs are the new way to tour. Having your characters or plot debated by a group of readers is an enormous compliment. Some mostly want to hear me talk. Others have a format with a moderator and questions, and sometimes I even learn new things about my books during our discussions.

If a book club lives far away, I sometimes invite them to come to me. Once, eight of us piled in a big SUV and drove around my town of White Bear Lake while I pointed out real life locations where fictitious events happened. Places where bodies were found. Places were love was declared. We even drove across the ice on White Bear Lake so we could get a good view of the house where a final confrontation between heroine and villain occurred.

Missing mark When discussing Missing Mark -the story of a wedding dress for-sale want ad that leads to a dangerous missing person case - I bring up a woman's sentimental attachment to her wedding gown and play a game with the book club. I ask, how many still own their dress? Some of the audiences are relatively tame, and all have their silk or satin garments tucked away in an upstairs closet. Other times the book club members learn something new about each other. Once a woman conceded she still had both her wedding
gowns. Another time two of the women present had actually burned their
dresses as a ceremonial end to their marriages.

No such emotional flares at the mother-daughter book club. One bonus for me, I got to gauge two generations of readers' reaction to my prose in one sitting. And after I left, they voted to read Missing Mark next.
---------------------------------
Julie Kramer is a winner of the Minnesota Book Award, and the RT Book Reviewer's Choice for Best First Mystery. She has also been a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark, Anthony, Barry, and Shamus Awards. Her third book, SILENCING SAM will be released June 22.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Do you know what your sales are?

One of the perks of belonging to Sisters In Crime is access to Publisher Alley (part of Baker & Taylor).  What's that?  A way to find a portion of your book's sales.

Baker & Taylor is the world's largest book and entertainment distributor. They work with publishers to provide their book product to all markets including retail stores, libraries, and Internet retailers.

Publisher Alley allows subscribers to see what titles bookstores, libraries, and web shoppers are buying on a daily basis. 

Book sales data serves several needs:

o Easily produce market research for book proposals, based on sales of comparable titles. Approach the right publishers for each project.

o Evaluate the potential of projects for self-publication: learn what sells in which markets, and at what price points.

o Locate expert authors as sources for newspaper or magazine stories, or identify trends related to world events.

To learn more about Publisher Alley, please visit their 5-minute flash demonstration at www.puballey.com/flash.

To sign up for this service, click here.

And remember:  knowledge = power.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

WEDNESDAY'S BURNING QUESTION

Sandra Parshall asks:

In these difficult times, is it best to stick with a series or a type of mystery you've had reasonable (but not spectacular) success with or take a gamble on "breaking out" by going in a fresh direction?  

Has all the bad news out of publishing made us overly cautious?

Monday, March 15, 2010

WARM UP YOUR PITCHING ARM

By Nancy Martin

For the last couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough to be part of SinC Summit Team—the group that travels to visit various publishing entities to learn the latest industry news and report back to the membership. If you’re ever asked to be a part of this team—do it! The first year of my service, we went to NYC to meet with agents, editors and publishers to learn what was happening in our genre. The following year, we decided the industry was in too much of a state of flux in New York, so we chose to go to the Midwest to learn more about the distribution part of the biz.  I recently found some of my trip notes, and a common theme emerged—one I hadn’t noticed before.  It seems only right to share it with my SinC siblings.

I’ve been writing books for nearly 30 years.  My first book was published in 1983, and my most recent, OUR LADY OF IMMACULATE DECEPTION, is almost my 50th book. (Honestly? I’ve lost track.) I’ve had 3 agents in those 30 years, 10 editors and 8 publishers.   Because writing pays the mortgage, I keep up with the business. I pay attention to trends and what makes a difference in a writer’s career.

Right off, let me say that DIY PR bores the heck out of me.

So I was happy in 2008, when we met with one agent who voiced the opinion that an author can’t do much, PR-wise, to help her career—except write a great book.  And another and another.  In an era when some desperate publishers ask authors to be bloggers, Tweeters, filmmakers, web designers, stand-up comedians, marketing whizzes and let’s not even mention the hours required to build a social network, it’s a relief to hear somebody say that our time is probably better spent doing what we do best—writing books.

But here’s the newsflash: Over and over, we heard about the importance of another writerly skill—pitching.  You know—telling someone about your book in a concise and entertaining way. It’s not just a skill used for acquiring an agent anymore.

After meeting with the opinionated agent in 2008, the team walked through the lobby of a publishing house auditorium where the house’s Sales Conference was taking place.  In the lobby, dozens of nervous editors were practicing their presentations. Over the years, I’d heard a lot from my editors about the dreaded Sales Conference.  It’s the day when all the editors appear in front of a panel of sales and marketing staff from their own house to do the song and dance of pitching our books to them.  From the info heard at Sales Conference, the sales and marketing people take the best material to advertise ours book in the company catalog, to pitch it to distributors and booksellers and eventually sell our books to the public. 

How funny is it that years after we authors have successfully pitched our books to our agents, the same material is used to sell the book down the food chain?

One word came up over and over in our other meetings, too:  Positioning.  It means finding your book’s “position” among other books. Whose books are similar to yours?  (And can you get a blurb from that author?) What sub-genre do you belong in? Where would the book be shelved at Barnes & Noble? What kind of cover might best signal your position? What kind of cover copy?

What can authors do to help communicate what a book is? Provide the best words possible. The communication begins when the author conceptualizes her book at the beginning of the writing process or perhaps as late as a query letter. I even use my pitch when I’m featured at a book signing and trying to encourage readers to buy. It’s brief, catchy and entertaining. But everybody else connected with your book needs a pitch, too. 

When pitching, I include:

    The genre (Which will imply plot.)
    The protagonist (Summarized in very few words.)
    The problem of the story.
    The world of your book.
    An X-factor (Something that sets it/you apart)
    Your platform. (Why you’re the best person to write this book.)

All that in a sentence.  Two at the most.

What pitching isn’t? Telling the story.  It’s not even picking out the major plot points. Can you define your book in a high concept way? Use contemporary cultural references to show how your book fits into the current climate. Employ cultural idioms, make comparisons to bestsellers or what’s happening in TV, film or music. Use key words that establish the world of your book. Above all? Entertain.

If you can’t do that . . . well, for godsake, try. Because we’re the ones with the words, dear siblings. We need to help the rest of the publishing team sell our books.

====================================

Nancy Martin is the author of nearly 50 popular fiction novels, including the bestselling Blackbird Sisters mysteries. She serves on the board of Sisters in Crime and teaches writing workshops around the country. OUR LADY OF IMMACULATE DECEPTION, a chickaboomboom thriller, features Pittsburgh bad Roxy Abruzzo, who rescues people who can’t go to the police for help. “It’s a good time in a bad neighborhood,” says Harley Jane Kozak.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

SinC into Great Writing!


isters in Crime is holding their annual SinC Into Great Writing 2010! one day prior to Bouchercon By the Bay in San Francisco. The workshop will be held at the Hyatt Regency where the conference will take place. You do not need to be registered for the conference to attend this one day workshop. Sisters in Crime has discounted this workshop for its members. The cost for the entire day including dinner is $50.00. The charge for non-members is $150.00 so join Sisters in Crime and save money!

Spots fill up fast and we can only seat 120. Register now!

SinC Into Great Writing 2010! is sponsored by Sisters in Crime. Sisters in Crime will not be able to issue refunds. To make reservations for Bouchercon By The Bay please go to http://www.bcon2010.com/welcome.php. You will be able to receive the conference rate for your hotel room if you need to come in a day early. All arrangements need to be made with the Hyatt Regency.

October 13, 2010, Wednesday 1:30pm - 9:00pm, dinner and coffee break included in $50/$150 registration fee. Check in will begin at 12:30pm in front of the workshop room. An e-mail will be sent to you with the room name at a later date. Special dietary requests will be honored. Please e-mail Beth with your request at sistersincrime@juno.com.

Featuring: Elizabeth Lyon
Triple-header pre-Bouchercon workshops with teacher and freelance editor Elizabeth Lyon, author of MANUSCRIPT MAKEOVER, A WRITER’S GUIDE TO FICTION, AND THE SELL-YOUR-NOVEL TOOL KIT.

Elizabeth Lyon is the best-selling author of six books on writing fiction, nonfiction, revision, and marketing: Manuscript Makeover, A Writer's Guide to Fiction, The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write, The Writer's Guide to Nonfiction, and National Directory of Editors & Writers. Elizabeth Lyon lives in Springfield, Oregon. The December issue of "The Writer" magazine selected Manuscript Makeover as one of "10 Great Writing Books in 2008"and "perhaps the most comprehensive book on revising fiction." Lyon has worked as a freelance book editor since 1988. Her editing clients have published over 60 books--nonfiction and novels. Her website is www.elizabethlyon.com.


MANUSCRIPT MAKEOVER: FROM ROUGH DRAFT TO READY

Schedule

Bring the usual­ paper and pens, some of your manuscript in progress, and get a good night’s sleep to be ready for these information- and exercise-packed, practical workshops. There will be wireless Internet in the workshop room for your use. You don't need to bring your laptop but you are welcome to have it on hand.

1:30pm-4:30pm (with afternoon snack break): MOVEMENT, MOVEMENT, MOVEMENT

Underlying effective characterization is movement. Underlying effective plot is movement. Movement is created by far more than action. You’ll learn how to create it through actions, reactions, emotions, reversals, subtext, and raised questions. Multiple sources of movement improve pace, increase suspense, and deepen characters. Apply your newfound skill with this much-overlooked element of craft and see your writing soar.

4:30-5:30: REVISION FOR INNER AND OUTER SCENE STRUCTURE

Novels are constructed primarily with scenes, yet book editors find that most manuscripts have weak structure. Learn how to craft strong scenes, including big scenes. We’ll cover the details of inner scene structure, including subtext. Get your structure right and your writing will be transformed.

5:30-6:30 Break for dinner

7-9:00pm: REVISION FOR STRONG CHARACTERIZATION AND DISTINCTIVE STYLE

A successful character is so fully developed and memorable that he or she outlives the author in the minds and hearts of readers. Yet, most writers unknowingly leave their main characters, especially their protagonists, underdeveloped. This workshop will provide you with revision guidelines for deepening characterization: adding multiple levels of motivation, and tapping the power of metaphoric language. You'll take away techniques for bringing forth your individuality and strengthening prose through changes in syntax, diction, word choice, power positions, and imagery.


SinC Into a Good Mystery!


The mission of Sisters in Crime is to promote the professional development and advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Type Matters!

Think all books look alike? Think again. And then watch this interesting video about how typefaces are chosen for particular books.









Wednesday, March 10, 2010

WEDNESDAY'S BURNING QUESTION

Ellen Hart writes:

When my second book came out, I did a signing at the Upper Midwest Booksellers Association annual convention. I was assigned a helper by my press, a young man who worked for a book distributor. While we were getting set up, I asked him if he’d ever thought about writing.

No way “Yes,” he said, “I have. But that was before I became part of the book industry. Now, when I sit down to write, I start thinking about who would buy the book, who would read it, how difficult it would be to find a publisher--and it stops me cold.”

I can’t tell you how much that saddened me. At the time I thought to myself, why doesn’t he just ignore it? But now, I find myself in a similar position.

Wed Burning Question How about you? I think we can all agree that the book industry has never been in more chaos. Do you like to know what’s happening? Do you stay connected through PW, Publisher’s Lunch, various blogs, or is it ultimately just a distraction?

Monday, March 8, 2010

THE REVIEWER'S VIEWPOINT

By Hallie Ephron

Thanks, Sisters in Crime (and Ellen) for asking me put in my oar and share a reviewer’s viewpoint.

Each month, advance reviewers copies (ARCs) and final copies of anywhere from forty and sixty crime novels pass through my office. I have the great luxury of deciding which books to review in my monthly On Crime column in the Boston Globe. (My columns over the last year or two are on my web site, www.hallieephron.com - click on REVIEWS/COLUMNS.)

Here are answers to some of the questions writers often ask.

Opened book How much lead time do you need to consider a book for review?

Lead times for newspaper reviews are short, so as a long as I receive a book at least the month before its pub date, I can consider it. If I get it months before its pub date, I set it carefully aside with other books published the same month. If I receive a book after its pub date, I won’t look at it.


Does the press release that comes with the book influence you?

Most books come with a 1-page press release tucked in. I refer to it to find the book’s pub date and something about the author. For instance, I might be influenced to read a book that is a debut novel, or if trade reviews (reviews in Kirkus, PW, Library Journal often come out months earlier) are particularly favorable, or if the author has some interesting background, or if an author is local. I rarely read the synopsis.

I notice if a book arrives without a press release--that looks unprofessional. But I’m not impressed by fancy folders or glossy color copies of previous reviews. They go right into the recycle bin.

BS ARC What about the cover?

Covers matter, but it’s fine if an ARC comes with a plain cover. I notice if a cover doesn’t look professional. It’s easy to spot an amateurly-published book.


What about the author photo?

I try not to notice but I do. Photos that look like someone’s spouse took it in the backyard make the writer look as if he or she is not taking the career seriously.

What about blurbs?

I might notice a blurb from an author who I know is very picky about giving out blurbs. But as a writer I know most blurbs are from friends so I don’t take them too seriously.

What about the publisher?

I review books from large and small presses. My one criteria for considering a publisher’s books is whether bookstores can obtain and return copies (at a standard discount) through standard distribution channels like Ingram or Baker & Taylor. I don’t consider books that are only sold to libraries or only available directly from the publisher or only available in electronic media. I don’t review self-published books or books from vanity presses.

Do you consider paperbacks?

Yes, as long as the paperback is the original printing.

What keeps me reading?
-- surprise me
-- take me places I’ve never been, or show me familiar places in a new way
-- create a world that makes sense
-- make me laugh
-- don’t CONFUSE me with sliding viewpoints or unattributed dialogue or too many characters introduced too quickly with similar-sounding names and blah personalities
-- don’t gross me out before you’ve earned my trust

More questions? Pile on! I’m happy to answer...
==========================================
Hallie Ephron is the award-winning crime fiction book reviewer for the 'Boston Globe' where her 'On Crime' column appears the fourth Sunday of each month. Hallie is also the author of 'Never Tell a Lie' which is a finalist for the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark Award, 'Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: How to Knock 'Em Dead with Style' which was an Edgar Award finalist, and 'The Bibliophile's Devotional' and '1001 Books for Every Mood.' She teaches writing at conferences across the country. Hallie also blogs with the Jungle Red Writers. Visit her web site.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Elizabeth Gilbert: A new way to think about creativity

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love talks about creativity.



And after that, just for fun ...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

WEDNESDAY'S BURNING QUESTION

Ellen Hart writes:

Juggler Mary Higgins Clark once commented that the three main elements in writing a mystery were pace, plot, and character. She likened them to three balls. The writer’s task was to be a juggler, to keep those three balls up in the air at all times. If the writer allowed one to drop, the reader’s interest would also dip.

For years, I’ve felt that character was the centerpiece of my mysteries. But the more I write, the more I realize that Mary was right--that it’s all a connected web. Character driven books are great--as long as there’s good pace and plot. Plot-driven books are fine, too, as long as we’re given someone to really care about and a sense of forward momentum. And a book that’s all pace and plot (a thriller) Wed Burning Question can interest me, but not if the characters are so flat that if they turn sideways, you can’t see them.

What do you think of Mary Higgin’s Clark’s comment?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Murder--It's All In The Detail

By Cara Black

A big thanks to Ellen for inviting me to guest blog here at Sisters. My tenth book, Murder in the Palais Royal, of the Aimée Leduc Investigation series that's released today. But when I began writing I never thought I’d finish a book much less set it in Paris or write a series.

I wasn’t a doctor, a policewoman, a sketch artist or with the FBI. I was a mom, a preschool teacher and had old friends in Paris. The total sum of my qualifications apart from reading and loving mysteries.

Friends have friends, and their introductions in Paris opened doors. In my case doors to private detectives, police, and local cafe owners. Over the years I’ve built up these connections, nourished them with bottles of wine over dinner and running possible scenarios by these experts, some of whom have become friends.

I want you to get it right, a retired Commissaire once told me, if you’re writing a book set in Paris, a real city, you need to get the police system and all the details correct. I appreciate that and the time he takes meeting with me and talking. 


Okay, so many of us kill people on the page, some luckily for a living, but in my case it pays for my habit. Going to Paris and doing research. There’s so much I don’t know, I tell my husband, so I have to visit the archives, libraries, interview computer hackers etc. he just nods. “I know.”

In Paris walking on the cobblestones or riding in the Metro I get a spark of a story, a detail, overhear a conversation I’d never hear otherwise. Yet when I come home my research isn’t done. Experts abound here and it’s about forming relationships and making contacts to ‘get it right.’ Years ago, maybe book three, I met Dr. Terri Haddix through a referral from the SF Medical Examiners office when I had autopsy questions. She volunteered to talk to me - little did she know - and I haven’t let go of her since. She’s been an amazing resource, patient beyond belief, with a great sense of humor. Not only that she has two Corgis who send my family a Christmas card every year.

I’ve run ideas by Terri, asked her questions, proposed plausible and implausible medical scenarios and generally badgered her over the writing of many books. Terri holds two jobs and wears two hats. She is a forensic pathologist in a independent crime lab in the East Bay and at Stanford University works as a neuropathologist. 


A busy woman. The best time for Terri to talk happens during her more than one hour commute each way from home to each of her jobs. When I told her I’d like to blog about what she does and the common misconceptions of her job from shows like CSI, she laughed. In her work at the crime lab, she is most often asked to offer an opinion based on an autopsy performed by someone else. In her words, her ability to render an opinion is only as good as the documentation she receives. People don’t often know that, she said. And the cause of death is not the manner of death but quite different. For example Terri gave the example of a body found in water. Arriving at the conclusion that the person drowned is not necessarily difficult, but how that drowning came to occur is another thing – that is the manner Did the person voluntarily enter the water? Was that for the purpose of recreation or self destruction? Was the person in the water against their will – were they forced into the water or not permitted to leave? While she would look for evidence of a struggle or some other investigative information to help clarify this – sometimes an opinion to a reasonable degree of certainty cannot be reach and the manner remains undetermined. There is often confusion in the lay press between cause of death and manner of death. A manner of death of undetermined does not mean that the cause of death is unknown, just the means by which the death occurred cannot be determined.

She’s worked on many cases, given testimony and depositions in her vast experience. But I asked her about her most intriguing autopsy - was there one in which at first it looked one way and ended up totally different from her first impressions. Oh yes, she said and as she told the story, I heard pride in her voice. The true story was tragic, a relatively young man goes for outpatient surgery. He does well and returns home that day, the next morning he’s unresponsive and dies later that day. Terri was asked to give an opinion on the cause of death. The documentation given to her arrived in dribs and drabs – some indication that there was a brain hemorrhage. Her autopsy didn’t indicate that though.Through sheer persistence she kept requesting the complete medical records as the picture wasn’t clear. Finally, one of the medical records offered some insight – he had been discharged after the surgery with a pump for administration of pain medication. Nearly simultaneously the toxicology report returned indicating a high level of a pain medication in his blood. Eventually with multiple inquiries, the pump was found and a sample of the contained medication analyzed. The pump worked perfectly, but the original settings of the pump had been wrong resulting in an excessive administration of the medication. Terri had put together the evidence step by step and independently arrived at the premature cause of death of this young man. But she found the investigative aspects rewarding - going beyond the surface, asking and asking questions, following up and re-examining evidence which paid off. Like a real detective.

So I posed a real life scenario to Terri and asked her opinion. On my last research trip to Paris, I visited the Police Prefecture (Inspector Maigret’s old haunt) and was lucky enough to spend several hours with the Crime Scene Unit. One intriguing story came from Francois, the crime scene sketch artist/photographer. The juge d’instruction, like our DA, had asked Francois to recreate a crime scene and photograph the reconstruction. In this instance, the Metro (subway) station at Bastille and train tracks into the Metro tunnel. Francois showed me the digital photos of his reconstruction (taken at night after the Metro had closed) and related the events. A drug dealer, known to the police, had kept his stash in a crevice of the Metro tunnel just past the Bastille station platform. When what was left of the drug dealer’s body (no need for details but you can imagine) appeared in parts on the train in the next station the police began an investigation. The investigation went before the juge d’instruction and her job was to find out whether a homicide or an accident had occurred.

I asked Terri the options she would consider in this case - what would lead her to determine this man’s death an accident or homicide?

First, she’d look for the point of impact in the tunnel.
If that could be determined from trace evidence she’d try to determine from the recovered body if the person was lying down on the tracks which could indicate suicide or he’d been killed and left there. From the injuries she could discover if the body had turned away, the train sideswiping him indicating an accident. Most important would be to talk to the train driver and learn what he’d witnessed and when he’d stopped the train. Then do tissue toxicology on the remains to test for drugs. But even if this man was under the influence of drugs, it could be framed in many ways, foul play, a deal gone wrong or an accident. Terri again went back to the fact that an investigator can’t truly arrive at an informed conclusion without an integrated approach incorporating the crime scene reconstruction, physical evidence and medical findings.


By the time I heard Terri’s garage door open I knew we’d talked her whole commute! What about you? Do you have people in the field you consult and talk to?
=================
For more information on Cara Black and her books, visit her web site.