Monthly Archives: August 2013

Crime and Science Radio begins September 7th

CSR 240x400-1

Jan Burke and I are launching a new internet radio venture: CRIME & SCIENCE RADIO. It will be aired bimonthly on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. Pacific on John and Shannon Raab’s Suspense Radio program on Blog Talk Radio. Of course the shows will be archived for later listening if the timing doesn’t work out for you. Join us for the program launch on September 7th.

On the first show we will cover crime scene, crime lab, and coroner/ME basics as well as some of the common mistakes writers and screenwriters make when writing crime fiction. The goal is, of course, to help writers eliminate these common errors. In future shows we will have guests from the science and the crime fiction worlds, talk about crime and science issues of interest to crime writers, cover the latest crime tech news, and most importantly have fun.

We hope to “see” many of you there.


Writer’s Digest U: Boot Camp With My Wonderful Agent Kimberley Cameron and Associates




When your submission materials – a query letter, synopsis, manuscript, or book proposal – arrive in an agent’s inbox, they land among hundreds of others. Our all-new August 2013 Writer’s Digest Boot Camp is designed to help you streamline your submission materials to stand out in a good way.  Attendees will learn how to write a dynamite query letter, tackle a one-page synopsis (for fiction) and a book proposal (for nonfiction). The instructing literary agents will also explain the importance of author platform in addition to basic etiquette in dealing with an agent and manuscript basics.

Lastly, all attendees will have an opportunity to interact one-on-one with an agent at Kimberley Cameron & Associates and submit 10 double-spaced pages of materials (in any combination–query, synopsis, book proposal, first pages of your manuscript) for valuable feedback provided by successful literary agents. It all happens starting Aug. 26, 2013. WD Boot Camps often sell out, and there is a limited number of seats. Sign up for the boot camp here.

Agent One-on-One: How to Craft Query Letters & Other Submission Materials That Get Noticed Bootcamp: 8/26/13 – 8/29/13. There are 175 available seats.

Here’s how it works: 

On August 26, you will gain access to a special 60-minute online tutorial presented by literary agents Kimberley Cameron and Elizabeth Kracht. This tutorial will provide nuts & bolts advice on how to help you streamline your submission materials—including the query letter, novel synopsis, nonfiction book proposal, and first pages.

After listening to the presentation, attendees will spend the next two days revising materials as necessary. Following the tutorial, writers will have two days in which to log onto the blackboard and ask your assigned agent critiquer questions related to revising your materials. The agents will be available on the blackboard from 1-3 p.m. (PDT) on both Tuesday, August 27 and Wednesday, August 28. By end of day (11:59 p.m., PDT) on Thursday, August 29, attendees will submit up to 10 double-spaced pages for review to their assigned agents. These pages can include any combination of double-spaced query, synopsis, book proposal, or pages of their manuscript.

The agents will spend one week reviewing all assigned pages, provide relevant feedback and offer suggestions to help attendees improve upon them. The agents reserve the right to request more materials if they feel a strong connection to the work and want to read more.

Sign up for the Boot Camp here!

Critique options explained:

The agents at Kimberley Cameron & Associates are allowing all attendees to individually choose exactly what they want to receive instructor feedback on. The total amount of material you can submit is ten pages of double-spaced material.

If submitting a query letter: Keep the query letter to 2-4 pages in length, double-spaced. (One single-spaced page is the recommended industry standard, which would be two double-spaced pages for the purposes of this boot camp.) While you can indeed turn in one single-spaced page of a query letter (equaling the same length as two double-spaced pages), submitting two double-spaced pages is preferred simply so that the agents can quickly verify the length of submitted materials to make sure that neither too much nor too little material was turned in.

If submitting a synopsis: Keep the novel/memoir synopsis to 2-4 pages in length, double-spaced. (One single-spaced page is the recommended industry standard, which would be two double-spaced pages for the purposes of this boot camp.)

If submitting book proposal text or manuscript pages: Please make sure to only turn in the exact number of pages allowed. For example, if you turn in a two-page query as well as a synopsis that runs on to a third page, the maximum number of manuscript pages allowed for critique will be five—thus equaling ten double-spaced pages total.

If there are questions about how to submit work for critique, please ask them during the boot camp’s multiple Blackboard Q&A sessions, and either an agent or WD staffer can help you with an answer. Please note that agents cannot edit materials a second time, so please do not send your revisions back to them for a second review, unless they have specifically requested more work from you in an effort to consider your book for representation.


Monday, August 26th: Online Tutorial

Tuesday, August 27th: Agent Blackboard Q&A 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM (PDT)

Wednesday, August 28th: Agent Blackboard Q&A 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM (PDT)

Thursday, August 29th: Submit Ten Double-Spaced Pages by EOD (11:59 pm PDT)

Thursday, September 5th: Agent Critiques Due

Only registered students can access the blackboards. You’ll also be able to ask questions of your fellow students. Feel free to share your work and gain support from your peers.

Please note that any one of the agents may ask for additional pages if the initial submission shows serious promise.

In addition to feedback from agents, attendees will also receive:

– Download of “Everything You Need to Know About Literary Agents,” an on-demand webinar by WD editor Chuck Sambuchino

– 1-year subscription to the literary agent database

Please note that all attendees should have ten double-spaced pages (of any combination–query, synopsis, book proposal, first pages of manuscript) finished and ready to submit to the agent prior to the beginning of the event. If attendees have a preferred agent they want to work with, please notify the assigning WD editor. Though not guaranteed, we will try to link attendees with a preferred agent if they have one.

About the Agents:


Kimberley was educated at Marlborough School for Girls in Los Angeles, Humboldt State University, and Mount St. Mary’s College. She began her literary career as an agent trainee at the Marjel de Lauer Agency in association with Jay Garon in New York and worked for several years at MGM developing books for motion pictures. She was the co-founder of Knightsbridge Publishing Company with offices in New York and Los Angeles. In 1993 Kimberley became partners with Dorris Halsey of The Reece Halsey Agency, founded in 1957. Among its clients have been Aldous Huxley, William Faulkner, Upton Sinclair, and Henry Miller. She opened Reece Halsey North in 1995 and Reece Halsey Paris in 2006. In 2009 the agency became Kimberley Cameron & Associates. Kimberley resides and works from Tiburon, California and Paris, France, with many visits to New York to make the rounds of editorial offices. She is looking for exceptional writing in any field, particularly writing that touches the heart, and makes us feel something. She’s been successful with many different genres, and especially loves the thrill of securing representation for debut authors. She represents both fiction and nonfiction manuscripts, with the exception of romance, children’s books and screenplays.


Elizabeth Kracht represents both literary and commercial fiction as well as nonfiction, and brings to the agency experience as a former acquisitions editor, freelance publicist and writer. Elizabeth’s career in publishing took root in Puerto Rico where she completed her BA in English and worked as a copyeditor for an English-language newspaper. When she returned to the mainland she found her “vein of gold” in book publishing. She thrives on working closely with authors and researching the potential market for new books. Elizabeth’s eclectic life experience drives her interests. She appreciates writing that has depth, an introspective voice or that offers wisdom for contemporary living. Having lived in cities such as New York, San Francisco and San Juan, Puerto Rico, she is compelled by urban and multicultural themes and loves settings that are characters unto themselves. In fiction, she represents literary, commercial, women’s, thrillers, mysteries, and YA with crossover appeal. She is intrigued by untrustworthy narrators, tragic tales of class and circumstance, and identifies with flawed yet sterling characters. In nonfiction, she particularly loves memoir and other narrative nonfiction projects that contribute to the well-being of the self or others in addition to niche projects that fill holes in the market, offer a fresh approach, or make her laugh. She also has a soft spot for nonfiction heroic pet stories.


Amy Cloughley came to Kimberley Cameron & Associates with a background in editing, writing, and marketing. She seeks authors with unique, clear voices who put forth smart, tightly-written prose. As a new agent, she is now actively building her client list with both debut and veteran writers. She enjoys literary and upmarket fiction of all types in addition to commercial—including well-researched historical and well-told women’s fiction. She also loves a page-turning mystery, suspense, or thriller with sharp wit and unexpected twists and turns. She has a soft spot for distinctive, strong, contemporary characters set in small towns. Amy always looks for an unexpected story arc, a suitable pace, and a compelling protagonist. She is interested in narrative nonfiction when the plot and characters are immersed in a culture, lifestyle, discipline, or industry. She will also consider a travel or adventure memoir. Amy has studied creative writing, journalism, and literature and holds a B.S. in magazine journalism. She worked in editorial and marketing roles in magazine publishing and corporate business before shifting her professional focus to her lifelong love of books. She leverages her background in both words and business to benefit her clients.


Pooja Menon represents both fiction and nonfiction for Adult and YA markets. Her passion for reading inspired her to acquire a BA in Literature and Media from England. Her love for writing then took her to Los Angeles where she pursued an M.F.A in Fiction from the Otis School of Art and Design. As a new agent, Pooja is looking to build her client list and is eager for submissions by debut novelists and veteran writers. She’s looking for writing that has an easy flow and a timely pacing, along with a unique perspective and a strong voice. In fiction, she is interested in literary, historical, commercial, and high-end women’s fiction. However, she’s most drawn to stories with an international flavor, vibrant characters, multi-cultural themes, and lush settings. In fantasy, she’s looking for original, layered plots with worlds as real and alive as the ones that were created by J.K Rowling and Tolkien. In nonfiction, she’s looking for adventure & travel memoirs, journalism & human-interest stories, and self-help books addressing relationships and the human psychology from a fresh perspective. In YA, she’s looking for stories that deal with the prevalent issues that face teenagers today. She is also interested in fantasy, magical-realism, and historical fiction.


Ethan Vaughan joined Kimberley Cameron & Associates after completing a summer internship with Folio Literary Management in New York. He is a lifelong bookworm who’s looking for that manuscript that will make him believe in magic again. In fantasy and science fiction manuscripts Ethan is very selective and particularly looks for believable characters, unique premises, and the integration of mythology into modern life (think the Percy Jackson series). He has a soft spot for quirky, under-the-radar stories like And Having Writ…and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. Ethan is also looking for literary fiction, horror, historical fiction, accessible historical non-fiction (Cleopatra: A Life is a good example), well-done political literature, and women’s fiction. Ethan graduated from George Mason University with a degree in government and international politics. First professionally published at thirteen, he has written for most of his life and before joining Kimberley Cameron & Associates worked as a journalist covering politics and popular culture. He is actively searching for new voices.


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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Writing


Elmore and Me

Today is a sad day. Elmore Leonard left us. A true icon in the western and crime genres. I learned something, usually many somethings, from each of his books—and I think I’ve read them all.





Many years ago I meet Elmore in Maui and had the opportunity to sit and talk with him at length. Still one of my best memories of the old Maui Writers Conference. One of the things we talked about was character development. I asked him how he created his wonderfully complex and unique characters, asking if he did sketches or character outlines or anything thing like that. He said he took weeks, sometimes months, coming with a name and that once he had the name he knew the character. The simple beauty of this is what he was all about.

I mean Chili Palmer could not be president or a neurosurgeon–he could only be a loan shark. Linda Moon must be a lounge singer; Ray “Bones” Barboni a made man; Dale Crow, Junior a criminal; and Rayland Givens a lawman. Much is in the name and in his hands it was so very true.

I still can’t get my head around the fact that there will be no more wonderful stories from this icon and fear for the future of JUSTIFIED—a show with his fingerprints all over it.




Posted by on August 20, 2013 in Writing


Facial Expressions and Emotions

Ekman Facial Expressions

Ekman Facial Expressions


Can you tell when your spouse or child or friend is angry? Or scared? Or worried? Can you simply look at their face and determine what they’re feeling? What emotions are in play?

Most people would say yes and indeed we have been taught that much of communication is nonverbal, meaning facial expressions, hand gestures, body language, and other cues that we constantly receive from others. Nearly half a century ago psychologist Paul Ekman “proved” that facial expressions revealed six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, and surprise. He further said that these expressions crossed all racial and cultural lines so that each human expressed emotions in their face in exactly the same way. Psychologists and police have used this technique for many years.

But is that true?

Lisa Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, thinks not. Here’s a fascinating article from Boston Magazine that discusses the uses and abuses of facial expressions in determining emotions:



Joseph Rivera: The New Andrew Luster?

Joseph Rivera

Joseph Rivera


In a case that seems to echo that of Andrew Luster, Joseph Rivera has been arrested and charged with multiple sexual assaults involving the use of sedative drugs. Exactly like Andrew. Andrew’s drug of choice was GHB and that might also be what Rivera used. No details yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s the answer.


Andrew Luster

Andrew Luster


GHB is one of the so-called Date Rape Drugs. Their treachery lies in that, unlike true intoxicants such as alcohol and the various narcotic and sedative drugs out there, the victim appears more or less normal. Maybe a little giddy but certainly not sloppy drunk. But the victim becomes very complaint and suggestable and has no memory of what happens while under the drug’s influence. Scary stuff.


Q and A: Can My ME Uncover Drugs in a Charred Corpse?

Q: I have two characters who are found dead in their house, having been at the center of a fire that turned into a wildfire. Before the fire, a hitman gave them some type of medication that he believed would not be detected in an autopsy to cause them to go unconscious or unable to move while he set the fire around them and escaped. The idea is that I want it to look — on the outside, at least — as though they accidentally caused the wildfire, starting in their home in the forest. Then, it’s discovered that they were, technically, murdered by someone giving them a strong sedative (or something) and they were burned in the fire.

When the medical examiner does the autopsy, what is he likely to be able to notice? I read that bodies are usually not burned completely in a fire, but what would the ME find? What kinds of things would he notice and talk about in the report?

Is there a drug that would have a sedative effect on the characters that would NOT show up in an autopsy? Or something that might show up with a particular test and what reasons could an ME have to run that test?

Kari Wolfe, Colorado Springs, CO


Iraqi Convoy Bombed During Persian Gulf War


A: You are correct that fires rarely destroy a body completely. The fire simply does not burn hot enough or long enough to completely destroy the body in most structure and automobile fires. The same would hold for wildfires. The body would likely be charged severely on the outside and for several inches down but deep inside most tissues would remain intact. This would allow the medical examiner to test the muscles, brain tissue, liver, blood, bone marrow, urine, and the vitreous humor inside the eyes for various drugs.

Almost any narcotic or sedative would work for your purposes but most of these are easily found with even simple toxicological screening and for sure by more sophisticated toxicological testing using gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy.

More sophisticated drugs are not revealed by a routine drug screen and therefore more difficult to find. Add to this the fact that the medical examiner might have no reason to go to the time and expense of looking for more esoteric toxins if all evidence pointed to the victim having died in the fire.

But what if the victim didn’t die in the fire? What if the victim was already dead before the fire started? This would change everything since in that case the medical examiner could not say that the cause of death was asphyxia from the fire but rather that something else must have killed the victim. In the absence of overt trauma or another obvious cause of death, the ME would likely do more complete toxicological testing.


How would the ME determine that the victim was dead before the fire? One clue would be the carbon monoxide level in the blood. If this is low, the victim was not breathing while the fire was consuming him. If the carbon monoxide level was high it would indicate that he was breathing and had inhaled carbon monoxide, which comes from the burning of wood and almost any other product. The normal carbon monoxide level is less than 5% but in victims of fire it can be 60 to 90%.

Also, if the victim was still breathing during the fire he would inhale soot and heat. The heat would damage the throat and airways and soot and other fire debris would be inhaled deeply into the lungs. Finding these would indicate the victim was alive while the fire burned and not finding them would suggest a prior death. This latter situation could launch a more complete toxicological analysis of the remains and ultimately lead to the lethal drug. Such testing could take many weeks, even months, so that you can delay the discovery of the true cause of death for almost as long as you need for story purposes.

Rare toxins you might consider would be succinylcholine, PSP (paralytic shellfish poisons), Rohypnol, GHB, and a few others.


DP Lyle “In Conversation” with Isabel Allende

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At the recent Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference I had the great honor of being “In Conversation” with the remarkable Isabel Allende. Isabel is smart, funny, quick of mind and word, and a very gifted literary writer who recently finished her first work of crime fiction. I am equally honored that she asked my advice with some of the medical and forensic aspects of this fun and gripping story.


Isabel on TED from 2007.



RIPPER will be out in January, 2014. Look for it. It’s a wild ride.


Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Writing

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