Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


The Man Who Talks To Dead People

Meet my friend Finch. He’s got one of the coolest (and possibly grisliest) jobs on the planet. As a forensic anthropologist, he is often called when human remains are found that are in an extreme state of decomposition. By analyzing these bodies and their graves, Finch is able to “talk” with the dead and find out important information about who they were and how they died. For more info about forensic anthropology, click here.
As you can no doubt imagine, knowing a guy like Finch lends a huge advantage to any writer, especially writers who tend to kill off their characters. He is an extremely thorough, brilliant resource that can answer questions ranging from the basic–what does a dead body smell like?–to the complex–what will a person look like when he’s been killed by X and disposed of in Y for ten years?
However, not everyone is fortunate enough to know Finch. There’s not enough of him to go around. That’s why I’ve asked him to guest star on this blog for a special Q&A to help my fellow mystery/crime/horror writers.

If you have a question for Finch, submit it as a comment to this post. I will collect the questions and send them on to Finch, who will answer them in June (exact date TBD). You will find your answers on this blog, most likely in mid-June, so check back often for updates.

Making The Cut: Day One

Today is the first day of my new “adventure”, namely Jillian Michaels’ Making the Cut program. I passed the fitness test with flying colors, receiving “excellent” in every category, which either means that I am in great shape for a woman my age (and in most cases, according to Jillian’s handy chart, a woman much younger) or that Jillian has really low standards. We’ll see how the month unfolds.

This couldn’t come soon enough. I’m still a healthy weight for my height, but I’m getting a little too close to the upper end of that zone for my liking. My pants are currently a tad tight from all the extra water I had to start drinking today, so that just adds to the bloated, gross feeling.

The meals haven’t been much to write about so far–scrambled eggs with veggies and a little Parmesan for breakfast, followed by a bun-less cheeseburger (homemade) and a non-starchy veggie salad for lunch, but I’m looking forward to dinner. Mmm, lamb chops. I’m also looking forward to my first Jillian-style workout, since I’ve never tried the majority of the exercises before. Frog push-ups, here I come!

Writing For The Win
The writing continues to go well. I can’t say my fingers are flying across the keyboard yet, but at least they’re sauntering. I have more incentive than ever before to finish this novel and push forward on my quest of becoming a full-time writer of fiction.
Many thanks to everyone who has emailed or told me in person how much they enjoy this blog. It helps to hear it, since the comment section is still a little lonely at times. Please feel free to share your thoughts and feedback here. One great thing about a new blog is that there are no trolls or know-it-alls yet, so you can post without fear of getting into a stupid debate with some moron who has nothing better to do than critique blog posts.
To Bed At: 11:30 pm
Awake At: 6:30 am
Novel Pages Written: 3.5
Exercise: JM’s Making the Cut circuit training, one hour (or possibly two, since it will take me a while to figure out what I’m doing!)
Thanks for reading!
1 part newsletter, 1 part unnerving updates,
2 parts sneak peeks of new projects.


  1. Elspeth Cross

    Here’s a scenario for your friend:

    Will the skeleton of a body that has not been moved stick together? Does cartilage rot like skin and muscles? Would you have an intact skeleton or just a pile of bones? (Bonus question: would a Manitoba winter interfere with determining how long a body has been dead?)

    Thanks for the opportunity to ask.

  2. Story Teller

    Great questions! I will definitely pass them on.

  3. Susie Moloney

    You’re a brave and determined woman, Holli, writing and boxing. At least with boxing you get to punch back, ha ha.

  4. Story Teller

    Thanks so much, Susie! You’re a sweetheart. I’m flattered that you dropped by. 🙂

  5. Richard Lewis

    Thanks for this!

    Can you tell me anything about bones of fetus & mother, mother murdered near term and buried in shallow tropical sea-side grave and uncovered forty years later. Will fetus bones survive? Is it possible to distinguish between bones of unborn fetus and that of infant in mother’s arms?

  6. Story Teller

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. D. Dionne

    Here’s my scenario. A soldier dies in a futuristic suit of powered armor and the military never recovers the body. The suit is completely moisture-sealed and has not been breached. There is airflow into the suit, but it passes through nuclear-biological-chemical filtration. The soldier himself is wearing synthetic cloth fatigues.

    Thirty years later, someone finds and opens the suit. The suit has been in a standing position the whole time. What is the soldier’s state of decay? What does the body look and smell like? Is there residue left inside the suit?

    Talk about an excellent opportunity. Thank you!

  8. Story Teller

    Wow, D! That question will certainly challenge our Finch (and he loves a challenge). Thanks for posting. I’ll send Finch all questions at the end of the month, and we should start getting answers in early June. Check back often, or follow me on Twitter (there’s a button on this page). I always tweet the topic of the day’s blog posts.

  9. Anonymous

    Thanks for the opportunity Holli I did meet your friend at Whodunit meeting. However had a couple of questions. I have forgotten how long it takes for the blow flies and maggots to show up,is it three days?
    Also how long will it take for a body to decompose if packed in dry ice.
    Jane Walker

  10. Story Teller

    Hi Jane,

    Thanks for the questions! I’ll be sending them to Finch this week, so you should have your answer soon.

    Take care. 🙂


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