Wednesday, September 7, 2016

SinC/Hawaii Speaker for August, 2016: MAUREEN A. FINN

Sisters in Crime/Hawaii members met at Makiki Community Library for the August meeting featuring Guest Speaker Maureen A. Finn.

Maureen had attended the Hawaii Book and Music Festival in May, 2016, in Honolulu. She stopped by the SinC/Hawaii booth to visit with members and learn about the chapter. After a short discussion, she was asked to speak at our August meeting and she eagerly accepted.

Maureen A. Finn worked for twenty-eight years as a forensic scientist in the Toxicology Lab of the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office in Chicago. She recently moved to Honolulu with her husband, who is now with the Honolulu Police Commission. Her college degree was in biology and chemistry. She interned in the Illinois State Police crime lab.

Larry and Rosemary Mild and Dennis Keating listen as
Jenny presents a lei to Maureen

SinC/HI members welcomed Maureen at Makiki Community Library where they hold their monthly meetings. She was greeted in true Hawaiian fashion with a lovely flower lei, presented to her by member Jenny Delos Santos.

As you can see, we take over the mystery section of the library - so appropriate for crime writers!

Maureen A. Finn and Jenny Delos Santos

After introductions to the group, Maureen opened her talk about working in the Toxicology Dept. with, “I really learned on the job.”

Relying completely on SinC/HI Secretary Rosemary Mild's minutes, here are highlights of Maureen's riveting talk.

--The Medical Examiner must be an MD and board-certified in forensic pathology. In 1976 Cook County switched to an ME from a coroner, who doesn’t even have to be a doctor. (Often a political appointee.) The ME’s office there (includes the morgue) has about 4500 cases a year of unexplained deaths (when no doctor is present).
--When Maureen was still in training, she got to do testing on the late Harold Washington, the first black mayor of Chicago, who died suddenly at age 65 of a heart attack.
--Her lab received the corpse of a “body packer”: a mule, who had swallowed 33-34 packets of cocaine; three broke, sending cocaine throughout his intestines. He died in his hotel room. The drugs were worth millions. Late at night she called her boss for instructions: to put the evidence bag in the freezer. DEA agents came two days later to pick it up. Maureen had to sign it out in the presence of witnesses.        
--Tissues are kept for one year; blood for two years. DNA is done in the Crime Lab.
--The infant mortality rate in Chicago is high, often because of drugs. Her lab had a rash of cocaine babies (also heroin or alcohol). They would examine every part of the baby, including tissue, brain, etc. to confirm death by drug overdose.
--While testing for overdoses of illicit and prescription drugs, she had to observe strict protocols. A full tox screen takes eight weeks or more. In her lab, fifteen of the eighteen workers were scientists.
--A few of Maureen’s favorite books: Fatal Vision, Helter Skelter, and In Cold Blood.

Photos taken at the meeting and contributed by Leslie Foster:

Photos with Maureen: Larry & Rosemary Mild, Kent Reinker, Lizbeth Hartz, Jenny Delos Santos, Gail Baugniet, Larry & Rosemary, Dawn Casey, Leslie Ishimi, Sandy Ritter, and Shauna Jones. In attendance but missing from the photographs are Rose Mary Thompson and Vicki White (we'll get you in the photos next time!)  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

#SINC Author FRANKIE BOW and Her Experience with Kindle Scout

Today's guest is Sisters in Crime member Frankie Bow, author of the Professor Molly series.
Like Molly Barda, Frankie Bow teaches at a public university. Unlike her protagonist, she is blessed with delightful students, sane colleagues, and a perfectly nice office chair. She believes if life isn’t fair, at least it can be entertaining.
In addition to writing murder mysteries, she publishes in scholarly journals under her real name. Her experience with academic publishing has taught her to take nothing personally. Frankie has agreed to share with us her experience with the Kindle Scout program.

Sisters In Crime: Thank you for joining us today, Frankie, and sharing your experience with the Kindle Scout program. You submitted a book for consideration to Kindle Scout, where readers vote for books they would like to see published. Which book did you submit for consideration and how did you qualify to submit your book?
FRANKIE BOW: I submitted the latest book in the Professor Molly series, The Blessed Event. It was a pleasant surprise to find that Kindle Press will consider books that are not first in series.
Sisters In Crime: How did you get readers to notice your entry and vote for your book?

FRANKIE BOW: To give readers a sense of the book, I put together cards with a quote from the book and an illustration. The cards went out on Twitter and Facebook. (I've attached some examples.) 

The  Clean Indie Reads community (my books are PG-rated), was great at retweeting and nominating. And of course my SinC - Hawaii friends were wonderfully supportive in helping me get the word out! I also posted on my blog and made the announcement to my mailing list.
You can't just throw your book out there and hope it gets noticed!

Sisters In Crime: Your book was selected for publication. Congratulations! What follow-up work are you required to do before publication?

FRANKIE BOW: They were wonderfully kind in their feedback. There was one description of Molly's wardrobe that they recommended shortening (they were right), but other than that there were no recommended changes. Some of the comments: 

·         light-hearted, funny, and smart standalone murder mystery featuring well-drawn and interesting characters.

·         The author does a great job integrating the several minor character-driven plots with the central murder mystery plot, which kept the story consistently interesting.

·         The author does an excellent job making all of the characters likable, even when they do unlikable things, 

·         Very entertaining and great reading flow.

·         The humor is great – there were several LOL moments.

·         It’s a light read, but it’s also a smart read. The author’s insights on the characters and the absurdities of their situations are compelling and give the book a sense of satisfying substance.
Sisters In Crime: The website for Kindle Scout has answers to the questions of who, what, when, where, and why. But having gone through the process, Frankie, can you give us an idea of your personal experience with Kindle Scout?
FRANKIE BOW: They made it very easy to submit. The hard part was working to keep reader interest high, to keep people coming by to nominate the book. The readers aren't the final judges, but I think the editors need to see that the book will get some interest. After the nomination period ended, it took about a month to find out that my book had been accepted for publication.

Sisters In Crime: Would KS be more beneficial to a new author or to someone who is already self-published? 

FRANKIE BOW: It's a great platform for a new author to get experience and exposure. Experienced self-publishers may feel restricted by the fact that they can't control the pricing or distribute the book on other e-publishing platforms. For me, it's worth the tradeoffs. I would definitely go the Kindle Scout route again. 
Sisters In Crime: Just an aside: Are you planning to attend LCC2017 in Honolulu?
FRANKIE BOW: YES I am already registered for LCC, and looking forward to meeting my SinC sisters and misters in person! 

You can visit with Frankie Bow at these sites:
Follow me on Twitter:
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For answers to the questions of who, what, when, where, and why, the link to the website for Kindle Scout is:


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

#WriterWednesday Author Interview with SinC/Hawaii member: A K Gunn

Our guest today is SinC member, A K Gunn. Mr. Gunn is the author of the crime fiction novel, The Honey Bee and the recently published political mystery, The Death of Aloha. The setting for this story is a place first thought of as "paradise", the Hawaiian Island of O'ahu.

This is the author's synopsis of the novel:

Kimo Silva, Honolulu’s incoming mayor, inherits a city that faces hard times. Economic decline, Asian conflict, and internal ethnic strife threaten to unravel the Aloha Spirit that keeps Honolulu’s diverse population at peace.

His own son, Luke, becomes a victim of ethnic intolerance when he is “hijacked” and threatened on his way to school. A series of related confrontations and crimes divides Honolulu’s ethnic groups and enflames people who feel victimized by social forces they cannot control. Honolulu has been a model city for ethnic tranquility for decades, but Kimo knows that the peace Honolulu enjoys is both fragile and critical. He is determined to preserve Honolulu’s Aloha Spirit. But what can he do to reverse the trend? And what must he sacrifice in order to do it?

Two Author Interview Questions Relating to
The Death of Aloha
Author A K Gunn lives in Honolulu where the plot of this novel unfolds, beginning with the protagonist's young son experiencing taunting behavior by older boys from his school. Writers are often told to "write what you know," or to "write from experience."
Sisters in Crime/Hawaii: Mr. Gunn, thank you for taking time for this interview today. The story you tell in The Death of Aloha is not your typical cozy mystery set in paradise. Are the scenes involving young Luke Silva created from imagination like the boy's after-school fantasies of laser blasters and aliens, or are some scenes based on actual events?
A K GUNN: The incident involving Luke stems from an incident involving my own son. He was a little older but still in grade school and had a job as a newspaper delivery boy. While delivering the Star-Bulletin, he probably got too close to a drug deal going down.

He was thrown to the ground, a knife put to his throat and he was told that if he ever told anyone about anything, he’d be killed. When he got home, we could tell something had gone wrong, and we were able to extract the truth from him after a little prodding. We called the police, who were very helpful, but that just aggravated his fear, both when he delivered his papers and when he went to school. A month or two later, a crack house in the neighborhood was raided. My son gave up his paper route and switched to a private school. 
Sisters in Crime/Hawaii: Your story addresses socio-political issues that are also recognized in other areas of the country. Is there any one issue in particular that is unique to the islands due either to our isolation or another reason?  
A K GUNN: Many of the issues involving Hawaii are similar to those facing many areas on the mainland, but Hawaii has been uniquely successful in dealing with them. Ethnic diversity, an unhappy indigent population, homelessness, crime, and economic disparity are examples. In addition, we have some unique problems.

We are dependent upon two major industries—tourism & military--both of which tend to be cyclical, so we’re vulnerable to difficult economic shifts. In addition, we host a high percentage of transient residents (tourists & military) who inevitably bring attitudes and viewpoints to our shores that differ from those held by people who live here permanently. Expenses are high here, particularly in housing, and people have to work harder to keep a positive cash balance. We’re over-crowded in Honolulu, and our infrastructure, particularly transportation, hasn’t kept up.

These negatives are offset by some positives, including the great climate, the physical beauty of both the land and the sea, and—most important—the Aloha Spirit. Our society is uniquely tolerant and acceptant of people with ethnic differences and different points of view. It’s the Aloha Spirit that makes Hawaii paradise, that makes our aina a garden of Eden instead of a jungle. 
Kent Reinker is a retired U.S. Army colonel, medical school professor, and scientist. He has published three novels under the name Alain Gunn, and one novel under the name A K Gunn. He has also authored forty-eight scientific publications, over twenty short stories, and numerous articles in newspapers or journals.
He has lived in Hawaii since coming from the mainland for military service in 1970. He was educated at Yale University, where he earned a BS in physics, and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, where he received an MD degree.
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