There were forty plus panels during the three-day Killer Nashville conference, so I figure I will blog highlights from the ones I attended. I can’t talk about every panel or even everyone I attended or else the conference blogs would go on for weeks. But I can share some of the new things I learned about or heard.
There was a Romance/Mystery/Suspense panel that talked about striking the balance between romance and the mystery/suspense novel. The panel included: Annie Solomon, Bente Gallagher,Laura Elvebak, Karen Gallahue and Karen McCollough. Bente writes a series about a real estate agent who decides not to do the right thing anymore and falls for a guy her mom would hate. Under the name of Jennie Bentley, she also writes a traditional mystery involving do it yourself renovation.
The first question posed to the panel was how to balance love and murder in books.
- Bente writes case based mysteries in which the relationship carries over
- In a series, you can take 4-5 books to build up the romance and make it an arc, but the mystery should be be concluded in each book
- For KG, she focuses on the mystery but keeps romance as a subplot.
- You can have a married couple separate and bring them back together as a romantic subplot
- With Romance genre, there is an expectation of 1-3 love scenes–however the explicitness can vary from vary to fade to black
- Cozy mysteries are very sweet and suitable for 13 and 85 year olds. They contain no sex/violence/bad language
- With a hardboiled mystery you can have language and sexual tension
- Alfred Hitchcock once said that drama is real life with the dull parts left out
- Some writers preferred first person and other third person POV.
- For the romance subplot, you have to find a mate with the right skills–someone who feeds into the protagonists issues.
- Generally, in a book 1 character will push the action more than another
- Although love story may be minor, it can be critical to the plot–build the story so they’re woven together and love story can’t be taken out
- Flashbacks are hard to do well and slow down the action
- Readers want a relationship. Mystery editor will not care or not care enough about romance element. Romance editors care about romance element.
- Where you will place the book in the bookstore is vitally important, so understand what your primary genre is.
The TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation) panel discussed who they are and what the do. It was a fascinating look inside the life of a TBI team.
- He talked about how a crime scene is investigated
- The case investigator processes the scene
- Processed by FT crime scene tech (usually in big cities)
- Processed by forensics team
- He walked us through an example of a possible terrorist attack which meant the response came from city, county, state, and federal levels. Everything on site had to be evaluated and documented. The press swarmed around the scene.
- TBI has a violent crime response team that consists of the following specialists: firearms& toolmark, serology/DNA specialist, latent print, microanalysis, and measure and lithogram
- TBI is usually not the first on the scene, but when TBI is called, they tell the on site people to maintain the perimeter and seal it off. The first responder’s main goal is to save lives so there are times evidence can be destroyed during that process, though most first responders are aware of the need to maintain the scene
- When TBI responds to a crime scene they locate, document, and collect physical evidence
- TBI has a few vans that are tricked out with all the essentials for crime scene investigation such as: Tele lights that are fixed and others that are portable, water tank, freezer, bathroom, awnings, packaging materials, laptop/printer/copier/scanner/TV, dedicated evidence storage, and generator
- The criteria for TBI to be called in include:
- Homicide or officer involved whodunnit
- unique, requiring tech expert/equipment
- scene secured/protected
- processing not already started
- not a fire scene
- They have to know everything the first responders did–where they walked, what they touched or moved or removed or added. Every alteration must be taken into account byt he investigator
- TBI tries to determine a probable sequence of events. They take notes, video and photos to document everything. They notice every small detail like whether a light was on or off and if it was off was it non functional
- Sketches are made of the crime scene
- Generally, only the team leader will testify on the crime scene
- In general, high velocity causes smaller blood droplets in blood splatter
- A rule of thumb in estimating distance is that 1 inch spot on a shirt equals 1 yard distance away
And a huge thank you to the TBI who created a crime scene in the stairwell for us to visit. (See the pic up top) Killer Nashville gave away free entrance to next year’s conference to whoever got the most info correct in assessing the crime scene. Me, I write paranormal mysteries so I was totally out of my element. But it was cool to see. And after hearing the TBI panel, I understood a lot more about what I saw in the stairwell.