Lyn Perry on Ma Tutt’s Donut Hut


It has been a LOOOOOONG time since I’ve featured any authors on my site, and I’ve really missed it. It’s not that I haven’t read any books worth sharing lately (because I have), but just that I got busy and side-tracked doing other things. It is my pleasure to spotlight a new author whose book I have enjoyed.

You know how sometimes you pick a book by its cover? Well, for Ma Tutt’s Donut Hut, it was the title that got me. And the description–who can resist a magical cat? And THEN I saw the cover, which is beyond cute and fits the title perfectly. Cozy Mysteries are a genre I don’t read much, but I might have to start reading more, because if you can find a Cozy Mystery with quirky characters (like this one or Linda Kozar’s Until the Fat Ladies Sing series), then you’ve found a real gem.

The book is a compilation of four long chapters/short stories that are episodic in nature. Mack, the notoriously magical cat, gets Ma Tutt into and out of trouble. Sure to make you grin like the cat’s got your tongue. LOL

Now, please hunker down with your favorite soda, and join me in welcoming Lyn Perry to my site.

Me: The first question I ask everyone is this: do you consider yourself a Christian author or author of Christian fiction? What do you think the difference is?

LGP: I’ll clarify the first option so we’re on the same page – I’m a Christian who happens to like to write. I think the term author is somewhat static and so try to avoid it. I like the term writer. That is, ‘author’ seems to focus on who the person is instead of what they do (not a difference worth quibbling about, but the distinction has been helpful for me in my writing journey).

That being said, I am a Christian (my identity is in Christ) and what I do at this point in my life is teach middle school, write when I can, and drink coffee. As for what I write, it runs the gamut. I dabble in a wide variety of genres – including humor, speculative fiction, supernatural suspense, thriller, and now lately, with my first short novel under my belt, cozy mystery.

Although I might classify some of my fiction as “Christian” (often redemptive in nature, and touching on things of eternity) I presume most would consider it spiritually thematic, a looser term granted. It’s not that I dislike the phrase Christian fiction, but how that term is used in Christian publishing circles probably doesn’t describe what I currently write.

The difference, in my mind, is that ‘Christians who write’ is the bigger category. One genre in which Christians who write might find themselves is Christian fiction (where Christ is central to the lives of the main characters and the Gospel message is fairly evident). I’ve not yet published a story with this particular emphasis, but I’m open to it.

In fact, I’m collaborating right now with a fairly popular Christian author who writes Christian fiction and we’ll be releasing a cozy mystery in a few months. It’s set in Western Kansas and ties into some of her other previously published novels. I’m very excited, but will have to keep mum for now. Maybe we can do another interview when that one gets published!

Me: Only if it has something quirky in it. ;)

Now, tell me about the cover of Ma Tutt’s, because it is so very cute and appealing. How did it come about? How much input did you have into the design?

Thanks! I thought the cover really worked as well – it matches the cozy genre quite nicely and has a cat on the front! Who can resist a cat and a bakery? As an indie writer, I’m responsible for pretty much all aspects of the publishing process. Many self-published writers farm out their covers, and that’s a good option if it’s affordable for one’s situation.

Now I’m still on the ‘conservative’ (cheap) side, shall we say, so I find interesting artwork and photographs on and then will often, as was the case for Ma Tutt’s cover, send an image to my son-in-law along with some ideas for layout and then he’ll design the rest. He crafted a silhouette of a cat, placed all the elements, and found the right typography. I approved the cover and paid him real money (plus invited my daughter and him over for dinner!).

I plan for this to be a series (Mack the Magical Cat Mysteries), so I’ve already found other storefront bakery shots like the one I used for Ma Tutt’s Donut Hut. The other covers will be branded similarly but with different color themes and cat silhouettes. They should be very recognizable as part of the same cozy mystery series. It’s a lot of fun to see a cover come together so nicely.

Me: And what a bargain!

One of the most memorable characters in Ma Tutt’s Donut Hut is Donovan Huckly. I had a hard time telling if he was evil or just really annoying. How would you describe Donovan’s character? And what would he say to the question?

LGP: Donovan is a great character, one of my favorites. He was going to be an out and out villain, but he just never grew into that role and I ended up thinking that he’s really not a bad sort after all. Yep, he’s just annoying. He’s a nosy know-it-all with aspirations to become Mayor.

So he’ll continue to play the role of a quirky pain in the behind. He also has that bit of a cheapskate “huckster” feel to him as well, thus his last name. If asked how he feels about being thusly described, I think he’d be offended and then ask for a free doughnut.

Me: LOL. Yes, I agree that sounds like him.

Can you tell us something about Ma Tutt’s Donut Hut that you know but isn’t in the book? Maybe something about the Mayor, who we hear about often from Donovan but never get to meet?

LGP: I’m still deciding whether we’ll ever meet the Mayor or if he’ll be that “man behind the curtain” that everyone talks about but never really knows personally. I picture him in his 70s, however, and wanting to retire after his term is up next year (setting the stage for Donovan to run), but other than that, I don’t know much more about him to tell you the truth.

As for some other Sugar Pine Station tidbits (fictional mountain town Sugar Pine Station is the setting, north of real life Oakhurst, CA on the way to Yosemite), I think I can only say this. There is, like Donovan suspected, an abandoned gold mine near Ma Tutt’s Donut Hut. That basement has yet to reveal all of its mysteries.

Me: If you don’t produce the major, I’ll start thinking he doesn’t really exist and that he’s just a figment of Donovan’s overactive imagination…

What are you working on now?

LGP: Would it surprise you to learn I’m working on Ma Tutt’s Secret Spice – Book #2 in my Mack the Magical Cat Mystery series? I plan to structure it the same way as Book #1 and include five tales of baking madness, magical ingredients, and feline intuition tied together with an overarching story line that serves as the novel’s gentle mystery.

I say gentle because there are no dead bodies in either of these books and the “secret” isn’t very sophisticated. But I think the characters are winsome and their interactions are fun and lively; add in a bit of suspense and I think the whole things works really well. My goal is that the ending will leave the reader entertained and satisfied. You’ll have to tell me if I succeed!

Me: I can’t wait to read book 2! Yay!

And before you go, what is one thing you’d like your readers to know?

Well, my short bio is that I’m a middle school teacher, part-time preacher, father of two, husband of one, rent my house from two cats, and drink lots of coffee. More can be found at as well as an occasional newsletter sign-up form. Oh, and I’m a Steelers fan.


ma tutt

An excerpt from the book…

Ma Tutt’s Donut Hut sat empty on a Saturday morning. An assortment of fresh and tasty glazed, cake, and specialty doughnuts were arranged attractively in the window. Ma Tutt had gone out and approved the visual invitation herself. The sweet and enticing aroma of fried dough and sugar was present and accounted for. She’d even partaken of one or two (or maybe three) of her own creations that morning and her taste buds were still happy.

The only blemish, in her estimation, was that the log cabin-like Donut Hut wanted a bit of an exterior stain job. And an interior design makeover. A gas oven with four working stove tops would be nice along with a larger walk-in cooler. Oh, and a new fryer. Okay, so she’d bought a white elephant in her retirement. But leaving the Central Valley for small town mountain living had seemed so right at the time. And she’d been a competent baker in her previous life. So when opportunity knocked….

At least the shop had come with a mature tabby, a generic gray Mackerel, who was friendly enough, if a bit demanding. Uncertain as to what to make of him that first month, she’d allowed ‘Mack’ to follow her around as she took those few weeks to set up shop. He eventually wormed his way into her heart with his guttural conversations and was now her steadfast companion and confidant.

“I’m a failure, Mack,” she murmured, as she stared across the street at the Creamy Pie franchise that was doing a booming business.

Excerpt used by permission.

You can find Lyndon Perry around the web at his website, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, and Twitter.



I’m giving up on marketing and maybe you should too

At least for now. Possibly for good. 


Because I’ve lost my focus. My writing has become self-centered instead of God-centered.

I select blog posts based on what I think will attract people. People think forensics are cool? Let’s write about forensics!

I track the number of likes on my author page and obsess on how to get more. What if I post this? What if I post that? Which post gets shared most? 

I spend time on the computer when I could be doing fun things with my family. Just let me get past this deadline and it will get better…

I get stressed when I haven’t posted anything new in a while. Stressed – like can’t-get-to-sleep-and-then-wake-up-early stress. Acid reflux stress. I’m going crazy stress. All self-induced because I’m worrying about reaching self-imposed goals that no one but me cares about. And really, people won’t notice if I post or not.

So, I need to refocus on God. It’s right there in the Bible: God’s solution to marketing and all your other problems:

photo credit: mkhmarketing via photopin cc


Who wants to help keep me accountable?


why convicts HATE DNA testing


CODIS, or the COmbined DNA Index System, is the interconnected local, state, and national DNA databases of convicted offender profiles, arrestee profiles, and forensic profiles. 

A convicted offender profile is a DNA profile collected from a person who has been convicted of a crime. Which crimes qualify depends on the state. Some states are “all felons,” where a DNA sample is collected from anyone convicted of a felony. Other states may require a “qualifying offense” such as murder, sexual assault, or other crimes. These samples stay in the database indefinitely.

An arrestee profile is similar to a convicted offender profile in that it is a DNA profile collected from an actual person. This time, the person has not been convicted of a crime, but arrested for the commission of a crime. These profiles must be removed from the database if the charges against the person are dismissed or the person is found not guilty/acquitted.

A forensic profile is a DNA profile that comes from a crime scene and is thought to belong to the perpetrator of the crime. DNA profiles that are found at a crime scene but come from a witness or complainant or victim cannot be entered into the database. In essence, CODIS houses DNA profiles from perpetrators and suspected perpetrators.

And this is how it works:

photo credit: Lauren Paulsen via photopin cc

photo credit: Lauren Paulsen via photopin cc

Let’s say that someone broke into a car by smashing the car window. You find blood on a piece of broken glass where he cut himself. The blood is collected onto a sterile swab (think Q-tip) and sent to the crime lab for testing. The lab obtains a male DNA profile from the blood sample and enters it into CODIS where it is searched against the other profiles in the database. This is a forensic profile.

The forensic profile can either make a case-to-case hit if it matches a crime scene sample from a different case (another forensic profile). This type of hit would link the two cases together. Case-to-case hits are helpful in identifying serial perpetrators (serial burglars, serial sex offenders, serial killers, etc.). Or if an unsolved case hits against a solved case, it could link the unsolved case to a perpetrator. The forensic profile could also match a convicted offender or arrestee profile. This type of hit would provide the name of the person associated with the DNA sample to law enforcement. The officer would then need to collect a sample from that individual and bring it to the lab so that they could confirm the hit and write a report associating the two samples.


photo credit: Johnny Grim via photopin cc

photo credit: Johnny Grim via photopin cc

Processing property crime samples for DNA (burglary, theft, burglary of a motor vehicle, etc.) has reduced crime rates in cities such as Denver. In 2005, Denver did a pilot study to determine the cost-effectiveness of using DNA to process burglaries versus a typical police investigation. Not only was DNA more effective and cheaper, but it led to amazing results. Per the Denver DNA Burglary Project (


  • More than 95 prolific burglars in the Denver area were caught and convicted
  • The burglary rate in Denver dropped 26%
  • The use of DNA evidence in burglary cases results in average 14-year prison term (compared to an average 1.4-year jail sentence for cases without DNA)
  • The project showed that in property crimes, the presence of DNA can be paramount to successful prosecution. In cases that include DNA evidence, the prosecution filing rate is approximately 42%, which is more than eight times the rate of prosecution in cases without DNA evidence.
  • Annual savings to citizens in Denver are estimated at more then $29 million to date.

Of any type of crime, property crimes are the most likely to result in a CODIS hit because burglars are the most likely to be serial perpetrators. Some people make a living off of burglary. “Habitual burglars commit on average more than 240 burglaries a year.”  

The unfortunate truth is that many crime labs don’t have the personnel or budget to process property crimes. They are backlogged and struggle to keep up with personal crime casework (crimes against persons like murder, sexual assault, aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, etc.). But more on that in a future post.

Want to learn more about CODIS? You can visit the FBI’s CODIS page.

Now you: what have you heard about DNA databases?

Top 10 Favorite Classics


I’m doing Top 10 Tuesday through the summer. Topics provided by The Broke and the Bookish blog ( Today’s challenge is to list your favorite classics of all time (however you define classics). These are the ones that came to me first. 

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Love the book and the movie

2. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Long but so worth it.

3-5. My favorite Jane Austen’s: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility 

6. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien: Probably should have been #1 on this list

7. Just So Stories and Rikki Tikki Tavi (from the Jungle Book) by Rudyard Kipling

8. Watership Down by Richard Adams: not sure if this one counts as a classic since it was written in my life time, but it should. ;) Same thing with A Wrinkle in Time. Meant to add it to the collage but missed it. :(

9. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

10. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

11. The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe: OK, so not ALL the tales and poems, but definitely some of the tales, and that nevermore raven poem. 

How many of these have you read? What did I miss?

why convicts LOVE DNA testing and hate eye-witness testimony


photo credit: sunface13 via photopin cc

photo credit: sunface13 via photopin cc


DNA testing is a powerful tool in the world of forensic science because of it’s ability to link people to crimes. But it’s DNA’s ability to exclude people from crime scene evidence that makes it so indispensable, particularly to the innocent sitting in prison.

Yesterday, the NY Times reported that 5 innocent men stand to gain $40 million for the time they spent locked up in a New York jail. They were convicted of attacking a women in Central Park in 1989 when they were only 14-16 years old. Their convictions were based on coerced confessions by law enforcement. Later, it came to light that not only had a convict confessed to the crime (and confessed to acting alone), but there was DNA evidence in the case that linked the confessor to the crime and exonerated the five who were wrongly convicted. 

According to the Innocence Project, there have been 316 post-conviction DNA exonerations to date in the US. That’s 316 innocent people that have served an average of 13.5 years behind bars for a crime they didn’t commit. Can you imagine? How many made-for-TV movies or big-screen thrillers have we watched with this as a plot line? How many books have we read?

It might interest you to know that the single biggest cause of wrongful convictions is eye-witness testimony. In 73% of the cases where DNA was used to set an innocent person free, that person was convicted because someone identified the wrong person.

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

I had the opportunity to hear Barry Scheck speak on the failures of eye-witness identification and ways to conduct an unbiased line-up at a law school a few years ago. It was fascinating and completely common sense. Curious to know what he said? From my memory banks…

If you’re going to have a line-up (either photo or real people), you should tell the eye-witness that the perpetrator may or may not be in the line-up. Seems reasonable, right? But think about it: if someone showed you 5 guys and said, “Which one of these guys did it?” then you would pick the guy that looked most like what you remember. And because you might not have seen him for very long, it’s possible that the person from the lineup that looked like the real guy, would now be stuck in your memory as the perpetrator just because you had seen him more recently. But if the eye-witness is told, “the perpetrator may or may not be in this line up,” then the eye-witness might respond, “It could be #3, but I’m not sure.”

If you’re going to have a line-up, then the people in the line up need to look the same. Take our picture above. If the perpetrator were wearing all black and a black helmet, who do you think the eye-witness is going to select? Now what if the the person was wearing all white with a white helmet? Which guy would they choose?

Or picture this. A woman was outside a convenience store that was robbed at gun point. The perpetrator knocked the woman down as he was running to get away. Thanks to the security cameras at the quicky mart, the police have a pretty good idea who the perpetrator is. So they bring the woman to the station, line up 5 guys, one of whom is their suspect, and ask her if any of them are the guy who knocked her down. The first one comes forward, faces to the side, and gets back in line. The woman says, “No, that’s not him.” The second guy comes forward, faces to the side, and gets back in line. The woman says, “No, that’s not him.” The third guy comes forward, faces to the side, and gets back in line. The woman says, “No, that’s not him.” This time, her police escort says, “Are you sure?”

Who do you think their suspect is?

The point being, that it is important that the person conducting the line up not know who the suspect is so that he doesn’t unwittingly clue the eye-witness. Want to read more? Check out the Innocence Project’s article on Eyewitness Misidentification.

Care to test your eye-witness capabilities? Do this: Tell me as much as you can about the last cashier that checked you out at the grocery store. Gender, age, sex, height, weight, distinguishing features, clothing. Go!


Top 10 Books on my (summer) TBR list

Have you ever heard of the site Me neither, but they do this cool meme thing on Tuesday where they give you a top 10 theme to write about. I saw it on a new blog I’ve been following, Today’s theme – top 10 books I want to read next. Love it! I can’t write about books until the cows come home (whatever that means). So here they are:

1. Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee

I recently met Tosca at a writing conference (Realm Makers) in Philadelphia. I’d had my eye on her book, Iscariot, for some time because a story from Judas’ point of view grabbed my attention. What an interesting premise. I finished it a couple of days ago and Oh My WOW! I’ll write about it later, but it is a great book! So Demon is on my list and I will be reading it as soon as I get it in my hot little hands. Plus, I’m taking my final seminary class this summer on Angelology, Anthropology, and Hamaritology (that’s angels/demons, man, and sin for the rest of us). I’m interested to see how Tosca handles the subject.

2. Spirit Bridge by James L. Rubart

I won this book on Angie Brashears’ site and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve heard a lot about the author but have never read any of his books and now I have the chance. Sure, I’m picking up in the middle of the series. Hopefully that won’t trip me up too much. ;)

3. That Wasn’t Chicken by Linda Kozar

This is the 4th installment in the Until the Fat Ladies Sing cozy mystery series. I’m so glad that Linda wrote another one because these books crack me up. They’re set in small town Texas featuring large women with even bigger personalities. They remind me of a clean Janet Evanovich story. The characters get into funny fixes and do crazy things and I can’t stop reading about them.


4. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

I read the first book in this series, Cinder, and really enjoyed it. Cinder was a cyberpunk retelling of Cinderella, and left unfinished. Scarlet brings in the story of Little Red Riding Hood complete with some werewolf stuff going on (I think). Looking forward to reading more of these stories.




5. Dreamlander by KM Weiland

This has been on my radar for a while and I picked it up on kindle for free back in January. I enjoy KM Weiland’s blog for writers and want to see if her story delivers as much as her writing tips do. Looks like it will.




6. Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen

I enjoy the sci-fi/fantasy books in Zondervan’s Blink line. I haven’t read this one yet, but I plan to this summer.




7. Son of Truth by Morgan Busse

This book is a sequel to Daughter of Light. I look forward to reading more of this series.




8. A Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr

I keep hearing wonderful things about this book and it keeps gathering awards and nominations for other awards. Definitely need to read this one soon. :)



9. A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz

The only book I’ve read by Kerry, Amish Vampires in Space, was exceptional. If you haven’t read it, you should. Kerry’s a great guy and a wonderful writer, so it’s time I read some of his pre-AViS stuff. Can’t wait.



10. Jill Williamson

OK, I’m cheating here on #10, but there are quite a few books that I haven’t read by one of my favorite authors, Jill Williamson. I love her Safe Lands series, and her stand alone Replication:The Jason Experiment. I haven’t read her Darkness series or her New Recruit series, but I have them queued up on my Kindle ready to go.

Now I ask you: What’s on your to-read list? Any of these or something else? Have you seen anything here that’s jumping on your TBR pile?




Crime lab bias

medium_4426655557When I worked in the lab, we would receive offense reports from law enforcement containing information on the crime. While it would be ideal not to have to rely on reports/allegations for testing in order to remove all potential for bias, it’s just not practical. The lab needs some idea of what might have occurred to know which biological fluids might be important. In some cases it is obvious; in others, you have no idea.

Let’s say a woman was attacked by a man and her clothing was submitted. You know nothing about the case, so you do the normal analysis for blood and/or semen and find nothing. But the offense report says the woman was bit on her shoulder before managed to get away from her attacker. Now the lab would know to look for evidence of saliva on the woman’s shirt. If you find it and the stain yields a male DNA profile. Voila! If the lab didn’t know that the complainant had been bitten, they might have missed an important stain.

Now, does that mean that the saliva stain on the woman’s shirt is the only stain that should be analyzed? Not at all. It should definitely be analyzed, but other positive stains should be analyzed as well. This is the most likely place you’ll run into bias in a crime lab. Because laboratories deal almost exclusively with detectives and prosecutors, and because many crime laboratories are under-budgeted and understaffed, some labs only analyze “the most probative samples” (i.e. samples likely to have the highest evidentiary value in court) to cut down on the time and expense of case analysis.

The problem with this picking-and-choosing approach is that only a portion of the results are reported. If several swabs from a sexual assault kit are positive and only one item is tested, what about the others? What if they would have given a different result? Another male profile? Or what about our case example from above. What if the man’s semen was found on samples taken at the hospital? Could it be that the woman was trying to cover for a clandestine affair that she didn’t want her husband to know about? Instead of fessing up, what if she fabricated a “crime”? 

photo credit: West Midlands Police via photopin cc

photo credit: West Midlands Police via photopin cc

There have been rogue forensic scientist who have made up results or testified beyond the limits of science in order to aid the prosecution. A few notable examples are Joyce Gilchrist from Oklahoma and Fred Zain from Texas and West Virginia, among others.

Crime lab bias is the main reason why some believe that crime labs should not be under the administration of police departments or law enforcement agencies. If the lab’s “clients” are law enforcement, then it is natural for the lab to want to “help” officers and attorneys. And sometimes that help can get our of control, as in the case of Joyce Gilchrist and Fred Zain, among others. If the lab answers to the Chief of Police, can you see the potential for bias in high profile cases? 

In my experience, crime lab staff, law enforcement, and prosecutors are more interested in what the science says about the crime than in having the science match what they think occurred. No one wants to put innocent people behind bars. Forensic science is a tool to aid law enforcement in tracking down the truth.

Next time, we’ll talk about DNA exoneration and the Innocence Project. Stay tuned. :)

But for now – what questions do you have?

What if the biological evidence disproves the crime?


photo credit: jared via photopin cc

photo credit: jared via photopin cc

In honor of the fact I’m doing some forensic DNA consulting, I’m allowing people to pick my brain about real-life forensic science. Simply ask your question in the comments, and I’ll either answer it there, or expand in a blog post. We’ll go as long as you guys have an interest.

The question for today was submitted by Loraine Kemp, a fantastic writer and illustrator. She wants to know,

Did you ever have to report on a case where the evidence was presented to you/the lab with a story of what had happened in the crime scene and you had to disagree based upon your findings?

The short answer is, yes. That happens pretty often. If you’re a good forensic scientist (one that is not biased), you don’t have a vested interest in the outcome of a case. It’s your job to analyze the evidence to the best of your ability, and then report those findings back to law enforcement to help them do their job. The great thing about DNA is that while it is a powerful tool that can be used to link people to a crime scene, it is equally powerful in exonerating individuals who are under suspicion.

Let’s say that a woman was attacked by an acquaintance. Maybe she had just met him and was at his apartment. She manages to get away after he falls asleep by taking his keys and leaving in his car. She reports the assault (or attempted assault) to the police. Maybe she goes to the hospital and they collect her clothing and biological evidence from her body to submit to the lab.

What happens if the man (now a suspect) calls the police department to report his car stolen?

What happens if law enforcement finds out that this woman has made multiple claims of being attacked by different men and taking their cars as a means of escape? Or that she claims she was assaulted to cover up her serial joyriding fetish?

Let’s say that a certain biological fluid was found on the woman’s shirt by the laboratory (use your imagination, I’m trying to be PG here). If the biological fluid was consistent with the DNA of the man, what would that tell you? Would that mean she had been assaulted by him? Or might it mean that they engaged in some mutually consensual activities before she stole his car?

What if the DNA results showed that the biological fluid was NOT from the man with the car? Would that mean that he didn’t assault her? What if there were multiple stains on the woman’s shirt, and each produced a different male profile, neither consistent with our alleged attacker? What would you think then?

photo credit: LauraLewis23 via photopin cc

photo credit: LauraLewis23 via photopin cc

Hopefully you see the point I’m trying to make. There are two sides to every story. Complainants don’t always tell the truth. Maybe they’re embarrassed about what happened. Maybe they’re mad at an ex-boyfriend and want to try to get him in trouble. Maybe they’re trying to divert attention from their own illegal activity. Or maybe they’re underage and brought to the hospital by a concerned parent. You never know.

The best thing to do is analyze the evidence you have and report the results you get. Forensic scientist don’t determine guilt or innocence; that’s the purview of the jury should the case get that far.




The boring life of a forensic scientist

photo credit: dhammza via photopin cc

photo credit: dhammza via photopin cc

I’m up to my eyeballs in life. So much so, that I can’t find any time to write. Not a blog post, not a critique, not an email, not even a Facebook post. So I’m squeezing this post in while printing reams of case file. Why? Because I’m consulting on a large criminal DNA case.

In my past life, I used to be a forensic scientist. Not the cool CSI kind that goes to crime scenes, analyzes evidence, confronts suspects, and solves the case all while the detectives look on with interest, but the real kind–the one that wears a lab coat, works in a lab, analyzes evidence, writes reports, and sometimes testifies. No cool dialog. And only some of the cool toys you see on TV.

I told my critique partners I was going to be taking a hiatus until I get this case review finished and they were jazzed. They want me to write murder mysteries and cool crime things. If I write a story about working in a crime lab, it would be a great bedtime story for its soporific effects. (In common lingo, it would put you to sleep). Nonetheless, while my printer keeps malfunctioning, it does give me time to pontificate about my ex-forensic science status, and I was looking for something to post, so…

Let me give you a brief idea of what life was like, and then you guys ask me questions and I’ll answer them. Just keep in mind, I can talk in general about cases, but I can’t give out details of cases I’ve worked. Also keep in mind that I worked in a DNA lab, which meant that about half of our cases were personal crimes (assault, sexual assault, homicide). Many of the things I’ve seen, read, and worked are either disturbing or for mature readers only.

photo credit: jurvetson via photopin cc

photo credit: jurvetson via photopin cc

Each crime lab does things slightly different. I can tell you this, because I’ve audited several of them. I enjoyed visiting other labs and seeing how they handled the basics of dealing with evidence–receiving it, storing it, analyzing it, reporting it.

Public crime labs, which are run by city or county governments or police departments, have their own jurisdictions. Rules of evidence vary from state to state. Some states require crime labs to be accredited, some do not. Some crime labs require their analysts to be certified, most do not. The federal government counters some of this variability by requiring any laboratory using their national DNA database, the COmbined DNA Index System (CODIS), to show compliance with their standards, including accreditation, procedures for dealing with evidence, personnel training and qualifications, facility requirements, etc. (Am I boring you yet?).

The basic point is that while most crime laboratories have to comply to a national standard, and it is not a strict as what you might expect. Some laboratories go above and beyond the standards and do a rigorous and thorough job (like the lab where I worked), and others struggle to meet minimum requirements whether due to budgetary constraints, lack of training, or other problems.

That’s where our adversarial judicial system becomes important. While I worked for a county crime lab for almost eleven years on the prosecution side of DNA cases, I am now consulting for the defense. My job is to look at the laboratory documents produced on discovery to see whether they make sense. Did the lab do their job? Did they follow their procedures? Are their procedures in line with the national requirements? Do their conclusions make sense? In other words, I’m there to look at the case and make sure the defense attorney understands what the reports mean and whether there were any problems in the case file. 

I’m done printing, so it’s time to get to work. I’m happy to answer questions. Let’s have fun with this.





A Time to Die Cover Reveal

I’m happy to spotlight this upcoming release from Marcher Lord Press. Not only does the cover grab me, but the blurb has me really interested to read this book. What about you?


How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?

Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system. But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out.

Goodreads link:


Nadine Brandes - Head Shot

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases Fall 2014 from Marcher Lord Press. When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband.

You can find Nadine on the internet at her WebsiteFacebook author page, on Goodreads, and on Twitter.