Behind-the-Scene: What’s in a Name?

True-crime research, novel writing research, and updates.


BLOG POST #228: This week, I’m sharing some behind-the-scene scoop on research and name selection.

Whether you’re writing a series or a solo novel, regardless of the genre, you must build a world in which the characters live.

For the School Marshal series, I knew I wanted the city to geographically be in the region where I live but have fictitious names. Read More

Fiction Autopsy Reporting


Posts about real school tragedy, crime, and/or events can be upsetting.

Robin Lyons BlogBLOG POST #202: This week, I’m sharing information about my autopsy reporting research.

For me, research helps me create authentic scenes and scenarios, which then brings the story to life.

When I think about the amount of research that goes into writing a book, it boggles my mind to think people did research with no internet. There was the library, of course, which at the time felt as great as the internet does now, but the information was dated.

With the novel I’m currently working on, Unknown Event, I had to dig into several areas unfamiliar to me, such as murder investigation, weapons, explosives, and autopsy reporting. Spoiler-alert: There will be death in the novel.

I imagine pre-internet, an author might schedule an interview with the local medical examiner or coroner. Maybe even observe an actual autopsy being conducted.

With the internet, you can search for real autopsy reports—they’re out there. I downloaded several for a specific type of death. There are also articles in medical journals about autopsies, and if you really want to nail the autopsy, you can watch videos on Youtube.

I download and read a lot of information even though I only use a fraction. Research can definitely be a time-suck, albeit a necessary task. You also have to pay attention to the source of information, if it’s not from a person in the profession or business or agency dealing with the area of research, I keep looking.

A few of the resources I found helpful were:

  • County of Los Angeles, Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner website had tons of information and downloadable forms.
  • Practical Pathology of Gunshot Wounds an article in the Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine journal.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Medical Examiners’ and Coroners’ Handbook on Death Registration and Fetal Death Reporting.

And still, I might not get something 100% accurate. I have to remind myself—its fiction.

What are your thoughts about this post? Did you enjoy the glimpse into my research? Join the conversation on the website. Your relevant comments are always welcome.

Do you know of a school crime you’d like to share? Email me so we can discuss the details.

Thanks for reading!


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Location Inspiration

Location Inspiration FBAs with most writers, I guard my writing like a mother guards her child. With that said, I think the time is right to share a little of the inspiration used for the central location in my School Marshal series.

Although the primary town in the series, Brookfield, California, is fictional it’s based on the morphing of Napa County, California and El Dorado County, California. Those two areas are what I picture in my mind when I write about what’s happening in and around Brookfield. Because I live in El Dorado County I can easily tap into the hometown feeling. Why Napa County? Napa County has a rich history similarly to El Dorado County and much like where I live it’s a beautiful locale. Mostly I wanted Brookfield to be geographically located closer to where Napa County is located, northwest of Sacramento.

I flip-flopped on whether to use Placerville and businesses in and around Placerville in the scenes that take place in downtown, as well as street names and highways or create a fictional town using Placerville as inspiration. I opted fictional because businesses close and new streets are added.

If you’re familiar with El Dorado County you’ll probably recognize similarities in Brookfield. When the characters drive on the highway that divides residential Brookfield from commercial Brookfield, I hope it feels like traveling east or west on U.S. Highway 50. Two large residential developments in El Dorado County that I draw inspiration from are Serrano and Blackstone. The namesake for the primary affluent neighborhood and K-12 public school in “Unknown Threat”, book #1 is Blackstone, although the community feels more like the Serrano development to me.

Downtown Brookfield is similarly constructed to downtown Placerville. I’ve always loved maps, and I’ve created a rough drawing of downtown Brookfield that I’ll share once I’ve had it professionally drawn. As I write scenes taking place in downtown Brookfield I refer to my roughly drawn city map so that I know “where” I am. This may be the school bus route planner from many years ago coming out of me.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse of where I glean my location inspiration from. If you have questions or comments you’re always welcome to email me or post on the website.