Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hands Up and Hands On

My debut thriller, NEARLY GONE, is still six months from release. Now the real work begins... writing the sequel. Book 2 presents some unique challenges, as my protagonist, Nearly Boswell, accepts an internship in her local forensic science lab and ends up knee-deep in a series of bizarre murders. This book is taking me in some new directions, and my process so far has been steeped in research -- everything from forensics to criminal investigations to the visitation policies of our nation's most secure maximum security prisons.

In recent weeks, I've enjoyed some amazing hands-on, behind-the-scenes research opportunities, with the goal of making Nearly's next mystery as thrilling (and believable) as it can be!

Tour of the Northern VA Forensics Lab

In August, I toured the Virginia Department of Forensic Science Northern Lab in Manassas, VA, the exact lab where Nearly will become an intern in book 2. I was unable to take photos inside the building, but I had a chance to talk with firearms and tool mark experts, see inside a Latent Fingerprint Lab, peep through the glass windows of DNA and Toxicology Labs, and understand the chain of custody from the time evidence is collected, to the time it leaves the lab. Tours of the attached Medical Examiner's Facility (and autopsy suite) are no longer permitted, but I did get a much better understanding of how the M.E. and forensic examiners work together, and in what circumstances their work overlaps. The big takeaway lesson of the day was that evidence collection, body examination and retrieval, evidence processing, and the rules for retaining and/or disposing of evidence after an investigation are handled differently from state to state.

Writers' Police Academy

It was another stellar year at the Writers' Police Academy in Guildford County, North Carolina, and this year, we had a sensational turnout from the kidlit community!

CJ Omololu did hard time in the Jail Search class

This year's classes included: Building Searches, Blood Interpretation, Footwear Impressions, Fingerprinting, Use of DNA Evidence in the Courtroom, Criminal Drug Interdiction, Prostitution, Human Trafficking, Murder Typology, Fire Scene Investigation, Undercover Cops, Threat Assessments of Pre-Incident Mass-Shooters, Cold Cases, Chiefs vs Sheriffs, Gunfights, DWI/Texting While Driving, Criminal Investigation & Sexual Assault, Gangs, Underwater Recovery, Code Blue, Interview and Interrogation, Forensic Identification, How Criminals Get Their Guns, Secrets Behind The Secret Service, Women In Law Enforcement, SWAT Operations, Handcuffing Techniques, Killing With Microorganisms, and Crime Scene Lighting, Police Tools & Equipment, Jail Searches, and more...

Hands-on and live demonstrations included K-9 Demos, Vehicle Extrications, Hazardous Devices Bomb Detonation Demo, Fire Arms Training Simulations, Driving Simulations, and Felony Traffic Stop Demonstrations.

Guest speakers included NY Times Bestseller Lisa Gardner, world-renowned DNA expert Dan Krane, and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs, author of the series that inspired the hit TV show, Bones.

Fingerprinting Class

Live Nighttime Demonstration of a Felony Traffic Stop

Live Hazardous Devices Bomb Detonation Demonstration

Presentations and signings by Lisa Gardner & Kathy Reichs
(pictured left to right, Elle Cosimano with Lisa Gardner)

Live EMS Crime Scene Response Demonstration 

Fire Scene Investigation Demonstration

Anywhere can be a crime scene -- even the WPA Banquet!
(pictured left to right, Kate Bassett and Shelli Johannes-Wells)

Ride-Along with Guilford County Sheriff's Office

Elle rides-along with Deputy Rodney Walker
Four hours in the passenger seat of a patrol car, even on a slow night, was an eye-opener! Deputy Walker answered all my questions, from procedural and technical inquiries to the more personal/emotional aspects of his job. In that brief span of time, we visited a trailer park to fulfill an outstanding arrest warrant, issued a traffic citation, responded to a report of a domestic dispute, clocked radar, visited the field office, and provided support to another deputy on patrol. Deputy Walker also gave me a stern lecture on not taking on unknown (and potentially dangerous) individuals as hotel roommates. After seeing the photo from the Banquet (above), I guess I can understand why.

Want to conduct research for your own story, and not sure where to start? Nervous about contacting your local forensic lab or requesting a ride-along with your local sheriff's office? Want to know more about WPA? Point and shoot your questions about finding hands-on research opportunities here!

1 comment:

  1. It's really cool that there are things like this for authors to take part in! So many interesting things to learn :0)


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