Sisters in Crime – Heart of Texas Chapter strives to bring interesting and educational presentations to our members. Our meetings are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. Below is a list of past meetings and a summary of what you missed! If you would like to attend a current meeting check out our Upcoming Meetings page.
October 13, 2019
Monica Ballard – Austin’s Ghosts
At our October meeting at the Laura Bush Community Library, Monica Ballard, author of True Haunted Tales of the Driskill Hotel, told tales of hauntings throughout Austin. While working as a ghost tour guide, researcher, and investigator for Austin Ghost Tours for over 15 years, Monica collected stories from the employees of many of Austin’s oldest buildings. She counts at least 17 ghosts at the Driskill Hotel, a handful more at the Paramount Theater on Congress Avenue, and at least one ghost, who is fond of music, at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Ms. Ballard advised that the best place to find ghosts is in old buildings that are still in use or occupied that are near water. Due to the springs, rivers, and streams in Austin, most of Austin meets that last criterion. She said that the most common signs of hauntings are unexplained movement of articles, out of place aromas, and the sense of a shift in the air, such as static, temperature, or other changes.
Ms. Ballard’s research involves studying Austin’s history and archaeology, going through old maps of the city, and talking to people who live and work in old buildings. She said that she may check a graveyard to find a date of birth or death, but that she finds ghosts prefer to congregate where there are people and activity. She believes the ghosts want their stories told and remembered, and suggested that a ghost may find a way to correct the story if she gets it wrong.
Ms. Ballard was a highly entertaining speaker with great ghost stories to tell. She got all her listeners into the Halloween spirit.
September 8, 2019
Sarah Stone of Alamo Search and Rescue
At our September meeting, Sarah Stone of Alamo Area Search and Rescue spoke to our group about her five years of experience in the central Texas area. She brought her cadaver dog, Merci, who demonstrated her prowess by finding a piece of bone inside a salt shaker, inside plastic wrap, inside a sandwich bag, inside a recycling bin. Sarah reported that cadaver dogs have been used to find drowning victims, even when the victim is 50 feet under water. For water searches the dogs are trained to ride in boats and sniff the surface of the water. The dogs can find bodies buried in unknown locations on properties that they’ve been asked to search, even graves from as far back as the 1860s! Nothing can beat these dogs’ noses. However, training cadaver dogs does require the use of human material. So if you are having a tooth extracted, consider donating it to a search and rescue group for use in training the dogs. Sarah says ‘the bloodier the tooth, the better.”
August 11, 2019
FOR AUTHORS AND READERS
Our August meeting provided a free workshop for authors and readers. K.P. Gresham showed participants how to create a publicity sheet (pub sheet). A simple but brilliant idea to make every author’s life easier. She demonstrated how the pub sheet can be utilized to create and populate information in places such as an Amazon author page. With a pub sheet, the author has one place to keep all the information about them, such as bio, social media identifiers, web site address, book covers and blurbs. Once built this sheet can be accessed any time an author is asked for information about themselves and their books.
Noreen Cedeño, showed attendees the useful tools on the National Sisters in Crime website and Kelly Cochran talked about various sites available on the Internet where authors and readers can connect.
Create your own pub sheet by creating a document that contains the following information:
- Your bio and publicity photo
- Your list of associations (Sisters in Crime, Heart of Texas Chapter, Writer’s League of Texas, etc)
- Links to your Website, blogs, Facebook, twitter, Instagram – anything you use to connect to the electronic world
- Links to your book sales pages (Amazon, etc), your book covers and a short synopsis of each. Back page blurbs are acceptable. You may include your meta-data, too.
JULY 14, 2019
Edgar nominated Author Ron Franscell
Hard Truth: Writing the Facts of Real Crimes and Investigations
In July, Sisters in Crime – Heart of Texas Chapter hosted best-selling true crime author Ron Franscell at the Laura Bush Community Library. Mr. Franscell spoke about how his work in journalism contributed to the development of his narrative non-fiction novels and discussed the methods he used to research his true crime stories, including his latest release Alice and Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story.
As a life-long journalist, Mr. Franscell spent years covering stories across the United States. He had already written several fiction novels when he was hired by the Denver Post to compose narrative non-fiction stories about life in the West. After 9/11/2001, he was reassigned to go to the Middle East and travel, looking for stories to tell about life there. Upon returning from the Middle East, Mr. Franscell was inspired to write about a terrible crime that had occurred in his hometown when he was a child. That book, The Darkest Night, launched his career in writing true crime.
Mr. Franscell describes himself as a person who likes a challenge and who pushes himself to learn something new and improve his work with each book he writes. He believes in presenting the details of his work as accurately as possible, including what he calls the textual grit: the sights, smells, and sounds of the crime. In his quest to achieve that textual grit, he travels to the location crimes were committed to smell what the killer and victims smelled, see what they saw, and to be able to describe the textures and feels of a place. This attention to detail has at times helped him to see where a killer’s story did not fit the facts on the ground.
To collect his research for a true crime novel, Mr. Franscell interviews all the people involved in a case. He will travel to prisons in order to interview convicted murderers about their crimes and correspond with them by mail. He does not recommend anyone talk to or correspond with a convicted murderer without some training or preparation. He says that murderers are uniformly manipulative. They will try to manipulate anyone with whom they have contact. For his book, Alice and Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story, Mr. Franscell interviewed 150 people.
To gather additional information, Mr. Franscell frequently resorts to Freedom of Information Act requests to get documents from law enforcement or other government agencies. However, most of these requests are denied. Mr. Franscell also uses a variety of sources to interpret the information he collects, including consulting medical examiners, forensic psychologists, historians, and forensic osteologists. He has even contacted ‘clandestine grave’ finding groups.
Mr. Franscell answered a variety of questions from the audience and afterwards signed and sold copies of his newest book, Alice and Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story. He was a pleasure to listen to, and we hope to have him return at some point in the future to speak about other topics.
An American journalist, novelist and true crime writer with over 8 books, both fiction and non-fiction. He worked as a journalist in Wyoming, New Mexico and California for Gannett newspapers from 1983–1989, as a managing editor at the Beaumont Enterprise, and a senior writer and columnist at the Denver Post where he went on assignment in the Middle East after 9/11. He also worked for the Hearst Corporation from 2004 to 2008. He is best known for the true account The Darkest Night about the 1973 crimes against two childhood friends in the small community where he grew up.
Ron Franscell has been awarded the Freedom of Information Award and in 2017 his true-crime book, Morgue: A Life in Death, was nominated for an Edgar award.
APD Homicide Detective Dave Fugitt and Travis County District Attorney Mark Pryor Investigating Homicides
At the June Sisters in Crime – Heart of Texas meeting, Detective Dave Fugitt presented an overview of the Austin Police Department Homicide Unit. Local mystery author and Travis County Assistant District Attorney Mark Pryor introduced Det. Fugitt as the best homicide investigator in the Austin Police Department. In his capacity as ADA, Mr. Pryor and Det. Fugitt have worked together on murder cases in Travis County.
Fugitt is a member of the Homicide Investigators of Texas and the International Homicide Investigators Association. As an APD homicide investigator he has been the lead investigator on 48 homicides in his career and has closed 45 of them. He would still like to solve those other three cases, one of which is the first case he was ever assigned as a lead detective. Fugitt also has assisted in over 500 homicide investigations as a member of the homicide unit.
According to Fugitt, each detective in the homicide unit is assigned 3 to 4 homicides each year as the lead investigator. While working those cases, each officer also investigates suicides, accidents, and deaths from unknown causes and assists with murder cases assigned to others in the unit. Fugitt explained that officers undergo training and classes to keep up to date with new investigative practices. He has had approximately 5,722 hours of training from the police department. One recent class was “Crime Scene Shooting Reconstruction.” Fugitt also reads Forensics Magazine and Evidence Technology Magazine to learn new methods of evidence analysis and collection. He recommended books for reference material, including Practical Homicide Investigation and The Death Investigators Handbook.
Fugitt has been involved in high-profile investigations, several of which have been documented in books and movies. He participated in the investigation into the death of Madalyn Murray O’Hair and investigated the murder of Jennifer Cave. During the meeting, Fugitt answered a variety of questions for local authors regarding evidence collection and investigation practices. He admitted that he tries to see the victim’s body as evidence to be reviewed, but that it is harder to separate emotion from cases involving the murder of children. He stated that family support is critical for members of his unit because of how much time they spend working on new cases as the lead investigator.
Detective Fugitt provided a wealth of information about homicide investigation for our members. He was a wonderful speaker and willingly answered the questions put to him by authors in the audience.
The Homicide Investigator’s creed is to “see that justice is done not only for the deceased but for the surviving family as well.” Homicide Detectives are responsible for investigating deaths which occur outside of a normal hospital setting such as homicide, accidental deaths, suicides, and kidnappings.
Dave Fugitt started as a patrol officer in 1994. He later worked as a Juvenile and Missing Persons Detective and then worked for three years as a Family Violence Protection Team Detective before becoming a Homicide Detective in 2003. Detective Fugitt has over 16 years’ experience and has won nine awards, including the Crime Victims’ Hero Award in 2018.
DET. MATT CONLEY & DET. MIKE MORGOVNIK – CRIMES OF GREED
Det. Matt Conley and Det. Mike Morgovnik , both in APD’s Financial Crimes Unit and on the US Secret Service’s Central Texas Financial Crimes Task force will discuss crimes of greed.
Are you writing about bank fraud? Money laundering? Cybercrimes? We are honored to have two veteran APD officers speak at our meeting. These two public servants have plenty of stories to tell, and incredible amount of experience in Financial Crimes. They’re the guys who can answer your questions with authority.
Detective/TFO Matt Conley has been with the Austin Police Department since 2001. After five years of working patrol in Central East Austin, Detective Conley was promoted to Detective. For the last ten years he has served in the Financial Crimes Unit, and eight years ago was assigned to the US Secret Service’s Central Texas Financial Crimes Task Force. Due to that assignment, he is also deputized as a Federal Agent by the US Marshal’s Service as a Deputy Marshal.
Detective Mike Morgovnik has been with the Austin Police Department since 1997. He cut his teeth working patrol in Central West Austin and the Downtown Area Command for nine years. He has been a Detective in the Financial Crimes Unit for nine years, and also served the last four years with the US Secret Service’s Central Texas Financial Crimes Task Force.
This is your chance to hear from the pros on these ever-growing crimes.
WHAT IS AN AUTHORS MARKETING PLAN AND WHY DO I NEED ONE?
Colleen Devine Ellis is a bookseller and literary publicist who has worked in publishing and sales for nearly 20 years. She was previously a community relations manager for Barnes & Noble in Austin, the Publicity & Communications Manager for the University of Texas Press, and now is working with the owners of Lark & Owl Booksellers in Georgetown to establish a new bookstore in Central Texas. Some of her favorite writers include Margaret Atwood, Jesmyn Ward, and Jasper Fforde.
Colleen will talk about the basics of putting together a Marketing Plan specifically tailored for authors. This is an opportunity to learn about what the publishing and publicity world expects from us, and the steps we need to follow to be as professional as possible in presenting ourselves and our books to the world.
COPS, ROBBERS, and the WEAPONS THEY SHOULD USE, Presenter Charlie Dismore
Charlie Dismore, native Texas, Marine Veteran, Military designated Rifle and Piston Expert is certified as an NRA Instructor in pistol, rife and shotguns. Charlie served in the Marines as a Combat Engineer, and his duty assignments took him around the world, some locations including Hawaii, Japan, Mediterranean Europe, as well as combat duty in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. Charlie and his wife have made their in Austin since 2004. Besides his civilian career, Charlie is the principle operator of Texas FFL LLC-a business serving all levels of firearms shooters. See more info at http://www.texas.ffl.org. If you want to learn something about the weapons you’re writing into your story, Charlie’s the guy to ask.
For example. Your protagonist is a cop. What firearms would he/she use in your plot situation? If your cop needs to penetrate a certain substance at a certain distance, what weapon should you as the author put in your hero’s hand? What ammunition? Charlie is a military expert in rifles and pistols, and he is certified to teach people how to use them.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jan Burke.
Jan has won the Edgar for Best Novel, and the Agatha, the Macavity, and the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Award for Best Short Story, among other honors.
Her books have been published internationally and have been optioned or film and television. She is the author of over thirty short stories.
Her work in nonfiction includes serving as the associate editor (with Sue Grafton) for MWA’s Handbook, Writing Mysteries. Her forensic science and criminal justice columns appear in Sisters in Crime’sInSinC Quarterly.
Twisted Villains & Wounded Heroes – Presenter, Bill Woodburn, MEd, LPC-S, LMFT-S WA
Counselors Insights into Troubled Minds – We often write about extremes of human behavior and its aftermath. To be believable, it helps to understand desperate motives and how extreme events shape our lives. Join Bill Woodburn, MEd, LPC-S, LMFT-S, author and counselor, for a Q&A session about your characters’ actions and reactions.
January 8: What Happens When You Shoot Someone?, presented by Dave Ciambrone
February 12: Interdiction – A Way of Keeping Children Safe, presented by Sgt. Cody Mitchell, Texas Rangers
March 12: Drones, presented by Andrew Maximov
April 9: Cyber Security, presented by Richard Taylor
May 21: Audiobooks, Marketing, & Short Story Submissions, presented by Helen Currie Foster
June 11: Hypnosis, presented by Dr. Douglas Derrer
July 9: The Military Justice System, presented by CPT Mike Winn
August 13: Austin Police Department Bomb Squad
September 10: The U. S. Marshals Service, presented by Supervisory U. S. Marshal Hector Gomez
October 8: HAPPY 30TH BIRTHDAY, SISTERS IN CRIME
What are you writing? Readings by HoTXSinC Members
November 12: Texas Highway Patrol, presented by Staff SGT Robbie Barrera
December 10: Holiday Party, and Original Radio Play by KP Gresham
**We will also have a booth at the TEXAS BOOK FESTIVAL on November 4-5.