Blood Pattern Analysis

Week three of my Introduction to Forensic Science course completed – phew! It covered Blood Pattern Analysis and DNA. Again, really interesting, but getting extremely technical this week. For a writer of crime fiction, the in depth details of the sections of DNA used to extract a genetic fingerprint and the methods used is great knowledge to have but not necessarily to bore and confuse readers with. The gory details of blood pattern analysis was much more accessible, however.

Basically, BPA is affected by the angle at which blood is shed, the force behind it, and the surface it lands on. So blood dropping onto a smooth surface from directly above it will form smooth round stains, but at an angle it will be elliptical with a tail (kind of like a comet). There are three categories for your fictional crime scene investigator to know about – drip stains or patterns which are caused by gravity only eg dripping as someone who is injured is running away; transfer stains/patters such as blood on a hand being transferred to a door; and spatter patterns caused by a greater force than gravity eg flying out from the impact of a bullet.


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Do you know the difference between finger prints, finger marks, latent and visible prints or what friction ridges are? I have just completed the module on fingerprints as part of the Introduction to Forensic Science MOOC which I am studying through FutureLearn. It’s so important to get these details correct when writing a crime novel. Unless you have a novel set more than 100 years ago, it’s probable that the police investigation of your crime will involve forensics, and one of the most established worldwide is the taking and comparison of fingerprints. So some definitions: fingerprints are from known sources eg when you have your prints taken either as a suspect or to eliminate you from an enquiry; however fingermarks are from an unknown source eg they are found at a crime scene. In some countries, these are called latent prints so do check the local terminology.  And the difference between latent and visible prints is in the name. Enhancement techniques such as powders are needed to make latent prints become visible. Both are photographed (or transferred to tape) and added to a national database of prints, and a computerised system used to compare prints. If you want your detective protagonist to take prints, it’s easy. Use a pencil to cover a patch of white paper and roll your fingertip across it. Then place this on the sticky side of clear sellotape and stick that onto white paper. The result is remarkably clear. Happy writing 🙂

What’s in a name?

I recently had a question on my amazon author page, which I thought I would share. I was asked about the inspiration for my character’s names, and I know that many writers also struggle to choose names that really suit their characters. I even downloaded a great app to my iPad Air which gives me the option to roll a pair of dice again and again until I name I like comes up. In the first Dralfynia Saga, I spent a long, long, time picking the right names. For the family name, I knew I wanted something seasonal to fit in with the other two book series that I have under development (my teen girl detective Autumn Pugh, and my mother and daughter detective team, the de Winters Women) – Summers was an easy choice. As for Sabrina herself – well, the Latin name for the River Severn is Sabrina, and that’s the river that flows through Shrewsbury, my hometown. Also it means “from the border” but the reason for that will become clearer as the Sagas progress! The same goes for Rory (which means “the red king” and fits with his red hair). Olive and Persis are named for my late grandmothers, but both are great, strong and unusual names making a come back. Other names honour family members, and the di Kristi royal family celebrates my favourite crime author when I was growing up – Agatha Christie. As for Bridget Bishop? You definitely need to Google her to find out why I chose her name. It might give you a clue about what Melas is an anagram for. And Dralfynia? Another anagram – see what you come up with 🙂

Getting a US Tax Number for NZ Self Published Authors


The set up at Amazon to self-publish is fantastic, and much easier than I thought it would be. My first book – The Uncooperative Flying Carpet is now available to pre-order, and because it was my first, everything took ages as I worked it out. However, I made life more difficult for myself than I needed to. At first, I thought I needed an ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number) which apparently takes months to process. Unless you have circumstances where you need to do that, then don’t. This will result in you paying 30% withholding tax in the States before you even see any royalties. Then I thought I needed an EIN (Employee Identification Number) which was far easier. I completed an SS-4, rang the IRS in the States on 0012679411099 and waited for 25 minutes. A very helpful lady took my details, recorded the fact that I would be completing a W-8BEN (another very straightforward form), and gave me my EIN over the phone. Fantastic. Then, I completed the payee information on Amazon and thanks to recent updates, only needed to give them my NZ tax number! So, the moral is, you don’t need to do anything that I did, just use your NZ tax number and you’ll only have to pay 5% withholding tax on your royalties, yay. I have left in all information on getting an EIN because you may choose to merchandise from the US, like I have on CaféPress, and you need it then. Now all I have to do is wait for the royalties to come rolling in 😉

Introduction to Forensic Science

Any crime writer worth her or his salt does needs to be accurate when it comes to forensics. The amazing team at FutureLearn offer heaps of free online courses, wherever you are in the world. I hadn’t heard of MOOCs before (Massive Online Open Courses), but now see that some very prestigious universities offer them. I have enrolled in their Introduction to Forensic Science six-week programme, taught by staff at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. It’s perfect for me, and there are other crime writers enrolled too, I see. I have now completed the first module, which is the Principles and practise of crime scene investigation. Wow, really interesting, learning heaps already. When I write the Autumn Pugh and de Winters Women series, I want to make sure that I am accurate! Happy studying 🙂