23 October 2018

To Speak or Not to Speak

by Paul D. Marks

I have several speaking gigs of one type or another coming up. And I’m looking forward to them. That said, it’s said that one of the greatest fears Americans have is speaking in public. I don’t really get nervous or uptight about speaking. But if I have to read a selection from my works then the palpitations begin. I don’t know why reading causes me so much anxiety, when just speaking doesn’t. I could speak to a group of 500 people and not be nervous, but if I read to a group of ten I would be. You’d think it would be just the opposite since when you’re reading you don’t have to come with answers on the fly. As the saying goes, go figure.

Newhall Library panel: Ellison Cooper, Carlene O'Neill (moderator, standing),
Patty Smiley, Connie di Marco, Paul D. Marks, Paddy Hirsch

I recently did a well-attended panel at the Old Town Newhall Library, that even included a dinner, with a moderator and four author-panelists. The moderator kept things moving, asking questions and everyone on the panel was fun and interesting and didn’t hog time, which sometimes happens. I sold more books than I usually do at these types of things. I was also recently on two panels at Bouchercon. I always feel lucky to get on panels at conventions since everyone is vying for those spots.

Coming up are several different kinds of gigs: One is another library event at the Studio City Library, a trivia night (https://www.lapl.org/whats-on/events/trivia-night-mystery-lovers-0) where a group of eight authors rotate tables with library patrons and try to answer trivia questions. I did this event last year and it was a lot of fun. Then another library event at the Agua Dulce Library (https://www.friendsacton-aguadulcelibrary.org/ )where I’ll be with one other writer, Connie di Marco. And instead of each of us just getting up and talking about ourselves, giving our this is the “wonder of me” speeches, we’ve decided to talk about each other, ask each other questions, and liven it up a little.

After that is Men of Mystery (https://www.menofmystery.org/ ), which is as their brochure proclaims, “the grandest gathering of gentlemen in the genre,” and which usually gets a huge crowd. Everyone has to stand up and tell a little about themselves. Last time I told about the time I pulled a gun on the LAPD and lived to tell about it. Afterwards a couple of law enforcement officers came up to talk to me about that... I wonder what I can do to top that?


Next up is The Palos Verdes Woman’s Club (http://pvwomansclub.org/home/fundraising-and-events/ ), which usually gets a few hundred people. I’ll be one of five authors there. I’ll have to speak about myself a little, which is always awkward. Fun, but awk.


And rounding out this bunch of events is a speaking gig at the Southern California Writers Association (http://ocwriter.com/ ). I’ll be talking about incorporating screenwriting techniques into the writing of short stories and novels.


I’ve also done a bunch of radio interviews lately to help promote the release of Broken Windows. It’s always fun doing these, whether in-studio or on the phone.

Each event is a little different, so the question is, how do I prepare for these events? For some, there really is no preparing, you just have to wing it. But sometimes, since I tend to even forget the names of my characters, I might give a quick glance to some cheat sheets I’ve made up over the years. It’s always embarrassing when someone asks you a question about this or that character or story and you have that deer in the headlights look, trying to figure out who the hell that is and what story they were in—and what it was about. For events where I’m actually giving a talk, I prepare notes on the subject of the talk. I can wing much of it, of course, but it always helps to have a plan and something to help keep you on track.

I always enjoy these events and it’s part of being a writer. A good part in that you get to interact with readers instead of hiding away in our writing caves. And I’m looking forward to all of these upcoming events. Hope to see some of you there.

What are your thoughts on preparing for events?

~.~.~

And now for the usual BSP:


I’m honored and thrilled – more than I can say – that my story Windward appears in The Best American Mystery Stories of 2018, edited by Louise Penny and Otto Penzler, which just came out this week. I wrote a blog on that on SleuthSayers if you want to check it out: https://www.sleuthsayers.org/2018/10/the-impossible-dream.html .

I’m doubly thrilled to say that Windward won the Macavity Award at Bouchercon a few weeks ago. Wow! And thank you to everyone who voted for it.

And I’m even more thrilled by the great reviews that Broken Windows has been receiving. Here’s a small sampling:

Kristin Centorcelli, Criminal Element

"Although it’s set in 1994, it’s eerie how timely this story is. There’s an undeniable feeling of unease that threads through the narrative, which virtually oozes with the grit, glitz, and attitude of L.A. in the ‘90s. I’m an ecstatic new fan of Duke’s."

"Duke and company practically beg for their own TV show."

John Dwaine McKenna, Mysterious Book Report:

"This electrifying novel will jolt your sensibilities, stir your conscience and give every reader plenty of ammunition for the next mixed group where the I [immigration] -word is spoken!"

Betty Webb, Mystery Scene Magazine:

"Broken Windows is extraordinary."


Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website www.PaulDMarks.com


22 October 2018

B~L~O~O~D !   part 2

Erythrocyte (red blood cell)
by Leigh Lundin

We return to the spell-binding basics of blood for mystery writers and readers.The previous article carried a simplistic table for matching blood donors:

Simplified Blood Type Transfusions by Phenotype
❤︎ blood r e c i p i e n t
blood type O A B AB
d
o
n
o
r
O
A

B

AB



That’s mostly accurate except the Rhesus factor isn’t taken into consideration. No donor with Rhesus positive blood can donate to an Rh negative recipient. This accounts for the gap in the upper right quadrant of the expanded table below:

Actual Blood Type Transfusions by Rh Factor
❤︎ blood r e c i p i e n t
blood type O+ A+ B+ AB+ O- A- B- AB-
d
o
n
o
r
O+



A+





B+





AB+






O-
A-



B-



AB-






Erythrocyte (red blood cell)
The Story of O

O represents the German ohne, meaning omitted or zero antigens. Some regions and countries code the O as a 0 (zero) or ∅ (null). Students familiar with binary recognize this as a 2-bit situation with four values. Russia and a few other countries label O, A, B, AB blood types as I, II, III, IIII.

Type O negative has been called the universal donor, although the reality is a bit more intricate. Type AB positive people might be considered universal recipients.

Scientists have worked out a method of stripping A and B antigens from other blood types to create an artificial type O. The Rhesus factor still remains, so Rh- donations are sought allowing transfusions to any blood type.

But what, exactly, is the Rhesus factor? And what happens when man meets woman?

Rhesus Thesis– The Dark Side of Blood

The Rh blood group system (including the Rh factor) is one of thirty-five current human blood typing systems, the most important blood group system after ABO. At present, the Rh system defines fifty blood-group antigens, among which the five antigens C, c, E, e, and especially D are considered the most significant. Commonly used terms Rh factor, Rh-positive and Rh-negative refer solely to the D antigen. In summarizing the Rh factor,
  • Rh+ means the Rh D antigen is present.
  • Rh− means the Rh D antigen is absent.
Besides its role in blood transfusion, a prenatal blood test can determine blood type of a fetus. As a result, Rh blood grouping determines the risk of hemolytic disease of newborns (erythroblastosis fetalis), emphasizing prevention where possible.

babies Rh±
When the mother is Rh-negative and the father is Rh-positive, the fetus can inherit the Rh factor from the father, making the fetus Rh+ too. Problems can arise when the fetus’s blood has the Rh+ factor and the mother’s blood does not.

An Rh- mother may develop antibodies to her Rh+ baby, not uncommon if dribbles of the baby’s blood mixes with the mother's. The mother's body may respond as if it were allergic to the baby. The mother's body may make antibodies to the Rh antigens in the baby’s blood. This means the mother becomes sensitized. At that point, her antibodies may cross the placenta and impact the baby. Such an attack breaks down the fetus’ red blood cells, creating hemolytic anemia, a low red blood cell count. Severe cases cause illness, brain damage, or even death in a fetus or newborn. Allergen sensitization may occur any time fetus blood combines with the mother’s. Usually an Rh- mother miscarries an Rh+ fetus.
Most of us have offspring without thinking about such a subject, but problems do occur. When I was ten, a classmate’s family had struggled to have another child. They were devastated when attempts ended in perinatal deaths. We kids were saddened for our classmate, a boy we’d never before seen cry. At the time, we were told the problem was one of blood incompatibility. While we children weren’t privy to the particulars, something like the following probably occurred.
When an Rh- mother becomes pregnant with a Rh+ child, the mother’s immune system produces antibodies that attack the fetus’ red blood cells. A first child usually survives because the antibodies don’t appear until late in the pregnancy. However, in subsequent Rh+ pregnancies, antibodies are already in place. Even with extreme intervention, these children can die.

Blood Will Tell

Perhaps you’re writing a Halloween tale or a ghoulish Southern gothic involving a convoluted blood line. If you’re beset how a couple begets, check this handy table.

Blood Type Inheritance by Phenotype
❤︎ blood m o t h e r
blood type O A B AB
f
a
t
h
e
r
O O
    
O  A
    
O
B   
   A
B   
A O  A
    
O  A
    
O  A
B AB
   A
B AB
B O   
B   
O  A
B AB
O   
B   
   A
B AB
AB    A
B   
   A
B AB
   A
B AB
   A
B AB

For example, if Colonel D’Arcy is type A and Miss Annabelle Lee is type O and Baby Willie turns out type B… uh-oh. Oo-la-la as they say in N’Orleans, the colonel’s not the father he thought he was. A new tale is born.

——— Factoids ———

Bloodline Timeline

The type O bloodline was the original, dating back at least 200 000 years and likely two-million or more in ancestral primate lines. One theory suggest other blood types began to diverge as diet changed. Type AB arrived quite recently, only ten centuries ago, although a few researchers suggest an approximate AB date of 1000bc instead of 1000ad.
  • 1000,000 years ago, type O had long been the only type.
  • 100,000 years ago, type A appeared in Western Europe.
  • 10,000 years ago, type B appeared in Eastern Asia.
  • 1,000 years ago, type AB emerged as blood lines mixed.



Two blood cells met and fell in love…

Alas, it was all in vein.

I went trick or treating this year with friends. Good thing I dressed as a zombie… no one could tell it was their blood. My husband died when I couldn’t remember his blood type. I’d jotted A-positive on his donor card, but he kept whispering “Typo.”

My husband died when I couldn’t remember his blood type. As he gasped his last breath, he kept insisting for me to “be positive,” but it’s hard without him. My ex got into a bad accident recently. I told the doctors the wrong blood type. Now he’ll really know what rejection feels like.

Have a safe Halloween!

21 October 2018

B~L~O~O~D !   part 1

Erythrocyte (red blood cell)
Erythrocyte, Red Blood Cell with Type A+B Antigens
by Leigh Lundin

In the spirits of Halloween, SleuthSayers brings you a bloody fine tutorial, the basics of what an author needs to know about blood.

As crime writers, we often deal with blood, splatter, DNA and alleles in fiction and non-fiction. Today, we investigate a bleedin’ serious topic.

A+B antibodies
A+B Antibodies Schematic (Type O blood)
Bloody Detail

Erythrocyte is the technical name for a red blood cell. Scientists describe the shape as a biconcave disc or a toroid without a nucleus, meaning they’re vaguely shaped like a plastic kiddie pool or a fresh out-of-the-pack condom.

The cells contain the pigment hemoglobin that makes erythrocytes appear red. A cell’s primary duty is to carry oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body and transport carbon dioxide back to the lungs where the breathing process of ‘gas exchange’ takes place.
antigen
An antigen induces an immune response stimulating the production of antibodies. Blood antigens comprise types A and B. Either one, both or neither may appear as part of our blood cells.

epitope
The specific surface features of an antigen type are called epitopes. It’s debatable which is the key and which the lock, so it may be convenient to think of matching antigens and antibodies as jigsaw puzzle tabs. For convenience, our schema employs shapes of letters A and B to represent type A and B antigens.

antibody
Triggered by an immune response, antibodies individually key to epitopes. A particular antibody locks onto the shape of an antigen (A and/or B). Antibodies explain why care is exercised when matching blood donors.
They combine like this.

Blood Type Components and Characteristics
❤︎ ABO ABO blood constituents
blood type O A B AB
Erythrocytes (Red Blood Cells)
Red Blood Cell Antigens
Plasma Antibodies
blood type O A B AB
Blood Type Results Erythrocytes with neither antigen but plasma containing both type antibodies. Erythrocytes with type A surface antigens and plasma with type B antibodies. Erythrocytes with type B surface antigens and plasma with type A antibodies. Erythrocytes with both surface antigens but plasma without either antibody.

M-Mmm, Tasty

If you vampires think your honey’s blood is sweet, you have a point– the ‘A’s and ‘B’s in blood types are sugars. Moreover, under an SEM (scanning electron microscope), antigens lend red blood cells a sugary gumdrop look, quite unlike the glossy renderings we usually see.

Types A, B, and AB feature antigens on the surfaces of their cells. Notice how antibodies are ‘keyed’ to lock onto a particular type of antigen, kind of a socket. Antibodies in plasma can attack the wrong type antigens introduced into the blood stream.

Mayhap you feel it’s better to giveth than to receive. Not to be sanguine about these matters, we practice safe blood-letting. To help take the ‘ick’ out of ichor, following is a convenient Béla Lugosi table of tasty platelets for those special moments.

Simplified Blood Type Transfusions by Phenotype
❤︎ blood r e c i p i e n t
blood type O A B AB
d
o
n
o
r
O
A

B

AB



This explains why blood donations are carefully matched. A person with, say, type B antibodies in the plasma can’t mix blood with type B antigens (blood type B or AB): Only type A or O will serve. For practical purposes, a type O donor can give blood to everyone.

Contrarily, an AB- patient can receive from nearly anyone. Because of AB antigens, an AB donor can give blood only to another AB recipient.

——— Factoids ———

Bleeding Blue

Famously, Mr. Spock exhibited faintly green skin, purportedly because Vulcan blood flowed with copper-based hemocyanin rather than iron-based hemoglobin. Beyond Star Trek, other blood colors can be found. In fact, you’ve likely eaten some of them.

Creature copper carriers include shrimp, lobsters, certain crabs, some snails, crayfish, and squid. Octopuses are known for their copper-protein blood, albeit blue rather than green.

The New Guinea skink bleeds green, not because of copper, but because of staggering levels of biliverdin and bilirubin. The ocellated icefish, with neither iron or copper, carries clear blood in its veins.

Blue Bloods… and Green

Mention ‘blue bloods’ today and people think police. In centuries past, the term connoted nobility. Initially, ’sangre azul’ referred to Spanish royalty, whereupon the phrase spread throughout Europe. But why blue?

Serfs, slaves, and commoners typically labored outdoors in fields and forests, accumulating muscles, thicker skin, and tanned flesh. Such ‘rednecks’ looked markedly different from the aristocracy, usually known for their pale, sunless skin revealing blue veins.

Two other hypotheses about royal blue bloods prove difficult to verify. One suggestion premised that royalty often suffered from hæmophilia, rendering the skin and veins even paler. A somewhat more intriguing idea set forth the notion that a lifetime of exposure to silver serving dishes, wine cups, and table utensils, may have given the skin a pale blue cast.

green Leigh
[On a personal note, during school breaks in my teens, I experienced considerable exposure to copper. During those summers, I literally sweated green. Notice the pointy ears? The Frankenstein flair?]



Tomorrow, grab that sphygmomanometer. We’re bringing you more bloody information.

20 October 2018

Names and Pseudo-Names


by John M. Floyd



A few weeks ago I got into a familiar discussion, among writers: Should you use a pseudonym?

Here are some authors who have:


Eric Blair -- George Orwell
Ed McBain -- Evan Hunter
A. M. Barnard -- Louisa May Alcott
James D. Grant -- Lee Child
Agatha Christie -- Mary Westmacott
Samuel Clemens -- Mark Twain
Isaac Asimov -- Paul French
Stephen King -- Richard Bachman
Joseph King -- Joe Hill
Joanne (J. K.) Rowling -- Robert Galbraith
Barbara Vine -- Ruth Rendell
Davis John Moore Cornwell -- John Le Carre
Charles Dodgson -- Lewis Carroll
Nora Roberts -- J. D. Robb
Joyce Carol Oates -- Rosamond Smith
John Hughes -- Edmond Dantes
Gore Vidal -- Edgar Box
Erle Stanley Gardner -- A. A. Fair
Ruth Crowley, Eppie Lederer -- Ann Landers
Pauline Phillips, Jeanne Phillips -- Abigail Van Buren
Juliet Hulme -- Anne Perry
William Anthony Parker White -- Anthony Boucher
John Dickson Carr -- Carr Dickson
Washington Irving -- Diedrich Knickerbocker
Ray Bradbury -- Douglas Spalding
Mary Ann Evans -- George Eliot 
Jozef Korzeniowski -- Joseph Conrad
C. S. Lewis -- Clive Hamilton
Daniel Handler -- Lemony Snicket
Benjamin Franklin -- Mrs. Silence Dogood
William Sydney Porter -- O. Henry


And there's usually a story behind every pseudonym. In an old interview I saw recently, Donald Westlake said he chose the name Richard Stark for his series of Parker novels because (1) Richard Widmark was one of his favorite actors and (2) "stark" was the writing style he wanted to use for the series. (NOTE: Westlake also said he later regretted choosing the name Parker for his main character--because it kept him from ever writing "Parker parked his car.")

Other examples of that process: Western author Tom McCurley invented his Mack Curlee pseudonym by rearranging his last name, and prolific romantic-suspense writer Melanie Noto dropped the W from her maiden name (Melanie Watkins) to come up with her pseudonym Melanie Atkins.

Another writer friend of mine, Charles Wilson, said he wishes he'd chosen the pen name Wilson Charles, because all the novels written using his real name are located on the hard-to-see bottom shelves in libraries and bookstores. If he'd used Wilson Charles, his work would be shelved up there alongside the Crichtons and Cornwells and Childs and Connellys.

Those who do use pseudonyms have said the names should be carefully chosen. Once their works attain any level of success, pen names become as permanent as a tattoo.


But I still haven't talked about why a writer would--or wouldn't--need a pseudonym. Here are some pluses and minuses.


You might choose to use a pseudonym if:

1. You want to write in a genre different from your previous work. Nora Roberts, who's known for her romances, writes mysteries under the name J. D. Robb.

2. You want to hide your true identity from your family, friends, boss, etc. This might be the only way you'd consider writing erotica, or about controversial subjects.

3. You want to disguise your gender. A woman might use a man's name to write for Field & Stream, and a man might use a woman's to write for Brides & Weddings.

4. You don't want to appear too prolific. When Stephen King started out, the idea of publishing more than one novel in the same year by the same author wasn't widely accepted. Pseudonyms were, and still are, a way around that.

5. You want to collaborate with another author using the same name. Ellery Queen was of course really the writing team of Dannay and Lee; and both the Hardy Boys author Frankin W. Dixon and the Nancy Drew author Carolyn Keene were actually teams of different writers.

6. You have a real name that just wouldn't work. It'd be hard to publish if your name is John Grisham, James Bond, Eliza Doolittle, etc. Or, for that matter, Jekyl Juberkanesta.


You might choose not to use a pseudonym if:

1. You don't have any of the requirements listed in items 1-5 above.

2. You already have a reasonable-sounding name.

3. You don't want to have to double your marketing efforts.

4. You want to keep things simple.


It's worth mentioning that Larry McMurtry, who is probably best known for his western novels like Lonesome Dove, also wrote Terms of Endearment and other "literary" works, and did both under the same (his real) name. And--on a far smaller scale--I've written a boatload of stories for a women's magazine without bothering with a pseudonym. Just saying.


Questions: Do you use a pseudonym? Do you think you might, in the future? If so, why, and how was it chosen? Have you found it helpful? Do you use your real name instead?


I'll close this topic with a poem and a joke. First, the poem (which, since I'm not much of a poet, might be considered a joke as well). It's called "Altering the Ego," and appeared in the April 1999 issue of Writer's Digest.


I'll admit I've had problems
With my pseudonym;
When my book was a failure
They knew I was him--
But when I sold the sequel, 
Which did splendidly,
I couldn't make people 
Believe he was me.


Who says writing isn't a thankless profession?

Now, the joke:


John walks into a writer's meeting.
Jane asks him, "What's your pen name?"
"Paper Mate," John says.


And maybe that's the only one he needs.






19 October 2018

Mystery Map

by Stephen Ross
I made a map. But before I tell you about it, let me explain why I made a map... in one sentence: Writers like to procrastinate. If you're a writer, you know that sentence well. You probably even have it printed on a t-shirt. You probably even took the time out to design and hand-make the t-shirt. I know this well. I have spent many happy hours designing t-shirt ideas: catchy, writerly phrases. Juxtapositions of images and words...

Anyway. 

It was the evening. It was raining. I had finished another chapter of the WIP, but rather than start on the third draft of the next one, I remembered something I had learnt during the week in my day job: how to create a Google map and populate it with custom location pins. So, armed with a mug of chocolate tea and a plate of late evening chocolate cookies (chocolate is always the best kind of procrastination), I set about making a map of the world identifying the locations where my published short stories have been set.

I created an icon/pin for each of the three categories I write in, assigned each story a category, and stuck in a pin where each was set; adding notation of when and where it was published.

It was an educational experience. I had this idea in my head that I had set only a few stories in New Zealand, maybe two or three. Wrong. There were in fact six.

I also had this idea that most of my stories were set in the United States. Wrong. Most of my stories are set in Europe, and even if the United Kingdom continues with its insanity and brexits away from continental Europe, the UK, alone, will still have the same number of stories set in it as the US.

Another interesting thing I learnt was that only two of my stories are set in fictional towns. Most of my stories are set in real, named places, typically cities, e.g., Los Angeles, London, Frankfurt. Bad Memory even drills down and mentions a whole cobweb of real street names and locations (it's set in West Auckland, where I grew up).

Some stories have no named setting, but it's reasonably clear and implied where it's set. The Man from the Future is set in the English countryside, near a river and near the coast, and the voice of the narrator (it's first person) is Snotty British. It's never said on the page, but in my head the story was set in Devon.

What's interesting about the two fictional places I made up is that both were for horror stories (with a young narrator). The youthful narrator of Feed the Birds departs Paddington train station bound for Abercrumble House in the Hertley Forest. There is no Hertley Forest in the North West of England. Or anywhere in the UK. The teenage boy in The Tall Ones finds himself swept up in a Lovecraftian nightmare in the small town of Redgrave on the shore of Lake Michigan. Yup. No Redgrave at Lake Michigan (unless you're thinking of Michael Redgrave in the movie Thunder Rock).

Probably my favourite location of all for a story, and in real life, is Metz. It's a small town in the North East of France. I've holidayed there a couple of times. It features two rivers, interesting architecture, a fantastic museum, coffee, 3000+ years of history (a woman in a bookstore there told me the town was the birth place of Gregorian Chant), and there's a dragon in cathedral's basement.

I set Monsieur Alice is Absent (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, 2010) in Metz. This has always been one of my favorite stories (a story dear to my heart, as they say) and now is a good time to mention it's being reprinted in the Terror at the Crossroads anthology that's being edited by Jackie Sherbow and Emily Hockaday at Dell Magazines. It comes out later this month. I can't wait!

My map of stories, of course, is rather sparse. I don't have that many published stories, compared to my fellow Sleuthsayers. I can image a similar map made by any one of them would be a carpet of icons. And by delightful coincidence, the day after I started making a map and writing this blog post, John posted an article about settings: A Whole Town--Imagine That. In which, he asked: As a writer, what works for you? Do you usually create your own town/city names, or do you install your characters in real-life locations? So, John, take this as my answer :)

So, what next? Oh, yeah, back to the next chapter in the third draft of the WIP. :P

Or maybe another t-shirt design.

Oh, and yes. You can look at my map here: Stephen's Story Map.


18 October 2018

While I Was Out...

by Jim Winter


Hey Gang- Here it is: history in the making. After a long hiatus from Adventures in Crime Fictioneering, my old buddy Jim Winter has agreed to pinch-hit for me on this go-round in the Sleuthsayers rotation.

A bit about Jim: "Jim Winter" is the witness protection name of science fiction writer TS Hottle. As Jim, he wrote the Nick Kepler series and Road Rules, a raucous tale about a trip from Cleveland to Savannah with a stolen holy relic in the trunk. At the insistence of his wife Candy, his original novel Northcoast Shakedown, will return to publication in the next few weeks, followed by his novels Second Hand Goods, and Bad Religion. As TS, he can be found at tshottle.com. As Jim Winter, he will be back on teh intrawebz soon and is shopping his EXCELLENT police procedural novel, Holland Bay, as we speak. He is a software developer and lives with his wife, Candy, in suburban Cincinnati.

(And by the way, I can say that Holland Bay is "excellent," because I served as a first reader on it, and let me tell you: it's a damned fine read!) And on that note, take it away, Jim! 
–Brian

OK, where was I before I absconded under my birth name to become the next James SA Corey. (Hey, could still happen! I've already been two people.)

Ah, yes, I was talking about real crime and fictional cities. And if I'm invited back, I'll have more to say on setting and characters and where events in crime fiction come from. Like listening to what led to the Jonestown Massacre.

But today, I'm going to talk about when crime staggered into my personal life. The year was 2015. When I got divorced, I had a property east of Cincinnati that I still own but haven't lived in for 11 years as of this writing. My original tenant moved out shortly after I locked myself into a lease on an apartment. The original plan was to take back the condo after the lease was up. My tenant had other plans and had bought his own place closer to the city.

So I rented out the house to a young couple. At the time, I failed to do two things: 1.) Have a coworker at the background check company where I'd just started look over the background check that came back, and 2.) realize that no credit is worse than bad credit for a reason. I thought they were a young couple starting out.

It was not an easy eight months when they lived there. They were slowly destroying the property and annoying the neighbors, most of whom actually liked me before they moved in. What I did not know is that the Union Township Police had been to the house.

Several times.

See, here's a quirk in Ohio law. You can be evicted for just suspicion of drug use. I did not know this nor did I know the first police report contained the word "opiates" six times. The boyfriend spent July in jail on a parole violation. (This is why I use my employer for background checks now. I did not even know he was on parole.) But the following month...

It was a terrific day. I was up early. Got a great shower. Was going to be to work very early and knock out a project that had been much neglected. I get out of the shower to find seven missed phone calls from the boyfriend and a text. "Please call us. Emergency."

Great. They burned down my house. And probably the neighbors', too.

I call back to get tales of a wild animal trapping them in the bedroom. Yikes! They wanted me to call animal control, which is privatized in Clermont County, Ohio. It was $300 just to come out there.

Well... I pay property taxes to fund these people who carry guns called "Police" and promptly called the Union Township Police. I told them my tenants believed a wild animal was in the house. I called back. The animal was now a raccoon. OK, believable. With all the trash these two kept leaving on the back deck, I would not be surprised. Then I decided to head over myself. Something told me I would need to. I called again to say I was on my way.

"It's a coyote!"

OK, there are two possibilities. Clermont County - Hell, the area I live in the northern Cincinnati suburbs - is lousy with coyotes. Only they hunt in packs and don't usually come out in the day. Still, there was an outside possibility that this wild dog was in my house pissing, crapping, and digging all over my carpet.

Occam's razor suggested these two were higher than kites.

I arrived at the condo to find an annoyed police officer coming around the corner. "You the landlord?"

I said I was.

"There is no animal in there."

"Will your police report reflect their suspected drug use?"

"Are you kidding me?"

I wasn't. And it did. My new favorite police term became "Using 69," code for, "Suspect(s) high on narcotics." I was told to run, don't walk to the Union Township Police Station to request two police reports from June and from that August day for the property. I had them within the hour, including the one that said their children had been removed for "presence of opiates in the infant's bloodstream."

Holy God, those poor kids.

The kids were with relatives, and I soon had the couple booted from the house. It cost me a large chunk of my retirement fund to fix the place up, but I got the place turned around.

I've since looked in on them from time to time via the court web site. The tragedy here is that they still aren't clean, and they still are frequently in and out of jail. Since they are both usually non-violent offenders, the court turns them loose rather than take up space needed for more violent criminals.

It's a tragedy, one that needlessly plays out every day. Mt. Washington, where I used to live, went from quaint pseudo-suburb to an epicenter of the opioid crisis. The slide was not pretty and was just starting when I moved out.

I currently live in Deer Park, where the worst crime seems to be  committed by those idiots who set off firecrackers at 3 AM every freaking night between Memorial Day and July 4. Do I count myself lucky?

No, I got burned directly by the opioid epidemic, and so did several neighbors. And this couple's children. And quite often, I ask myself what might have happened if I had said no or moved back in myself. Naturally, I would have had less aggravation, but would those two still have their kids if they had to move back in with mom and dad? Would they have ended up getting clean?

We'll never know.