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So, That’s What That Means

[avatar user=”LeeAnn” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=”file”]LeeAnn Rhoden[/avatar]

I was sitting in my chair, minding my own business trying to organize my blog posts for the month while my son was running around the house waving a truck in the air like a spaceship and humming a soundtrack for the movie that was playing in his imagination. The space-truck eventually crashed landed on my head. Usually I can ignore being hit in the head by, well, every toy he owns, but I was tired and over being concussed for the day. It was about this time Husband entered the room, watched the boy for a few minutes, then said, “he’s running amuck.”

Perhaps, but what was more important to me, aside from the lump on my head, was the phrase “running amuck.” I thought, “what does ‘amuck’ really mean and where is the ice pack for my head?”

The phrase “running amuck” refers to running around or acting out in an uncontrolled manner. It stems from the ancient Malay word amoq which means “frenzied.” Apparently, in the Malay culture it was frequent that people in bouts of depression or jealousy, or perhaps having partaken of opium or some other drug, would take off on a frenzied murderous rampage through the village. The by-standers would cry out “Amoq! Amoq!” And, with luck, the crazed fellow would be stopped or killed before he could inflict too much harm or damage. Not a place I’d like to vacation. Today, we don’t use the term “running amuck” in reference to a rioting lunatic but rather to describe someone acting in a manner that is contrary to the established order.

So now you know.


Forensics & Fiction: Coroner v. Medical Examiner

Image Courtesy of Simon Howden, at

Image Courtesy of Simon Howden, at

When writing a story that involves a death there are a few things every writer should know about the players involved with a death investigation. First, where will the body be transported? Will it go to the Coroner’s office or to the Medical Examiner? What’s the difference? What details should every writer know?

The Coroner

  • A coroner is an elected official. The only way to get a coroner out of office is to either vote him out or have him impeached.
  • A coroner is not required to be a licensed physician or pathologist. Some states, such as Ohio and Kansas require coroners to be licensed physicians. Other states limit the qualifications of the candidate to being 18 years of age with a valid driver’s license and the ability to pass a background investigation.
  • A coroner can also be a funeral home director, sheriff, retired sheriff, etc. Determining the job qualifications is the responsibility of either the state or county legislation.
  • Coroners who do not have autopsy facilities will send deaths requiring an autopsy to another facility. That facility can either be another coroner/medical examiner office or a private autopsy service.
  • Coroners in possession of a morgue will appoint pathologists to perform autopsies.
  • Pathologists working under a Coroner may have the title: Deputy Coroner, or Pathologist. Either is fine to use in a novel. To be safe, the characters you’re writing can be referred to as “Doctor”.

The Medical Examiner

  • The medical examiner is a trained forensic pathologist required to go through extensive testing and a forensic pathology fellowship. 
  • The medical examiner is an appointed official and can be fired.
  • Just like the coroner, the medical examiner will also appoint pathologists to perform autopsies, however, unlike the coroner, chief medical examiners will also perform autopsies.
  • Pathologists working under a medical examiner may have the following titles:  Deputy Medical Examiner, Pathologist or Doctor.

What Both Systems Have In Common

  • They are both unbiased third parties.
  • They do NOT work for the police, prosecutor or defense.

What are the Responsibilities of the Coroner and Medical Examiner

  • To document evidence of injury and disease
  • To collect fluid and tissues for toxicology and histology
  • To review medical records, police reports, EMT reports, etc.
  • To review witness and family interviews
  • To determine cause and manner of death.

Coroner Systems by State

  • Nevada
  • Idaho
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Nebraska
  • Kansas
  • Colorado
  • Wyoming
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • South Carolina

Medical Examiner Systems by State

  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • North Carolina
  • West Virginia
  • Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Massachusetts
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Tennessee
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey

States with both Systems

  • California
  • Washington
  • Montana
  • Minnesota
  • Wisconsin
  • Illinois
  • Missouri
  • Kentucky
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • New York
  • Hawaii

 *The above lists were obtained from PBS Frontline. PBS first published this information in 2010. Because many states are progressing toward a medical examiner system for funding and accreditation purposes, I encourage everyone to do a bit of research. If your story is set in a state listed as a coroner system or mixed system, do an Internet search for that state or county to confirm which system it is.

 Have a question? Leave a comment.  





The Point Is Moot

[avatar user=”LeeAnn” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=”file” /]

Words mean things. Just what they mean sometimes changes with the times. An example of this is the word gay. A hundred years ago the word gay meant happy and light-hearted. Today, gay refers to homosexuality. I like to explore words and what they mean and sometimes I even like to use them with their old-time definition just to befuddle people. It’s fun!

Today’s word of choice is moot. We’ve all heard the word in reference to a law school exercise called moot court. We’ve also heard it used, and perhaps used it ourselves, in reference to a topic that is only theoretical. Actually, that is the secondary definition. The primary definition is that a moot point is worthy of discussion. Imagine the FUN!

Recently on Facebook there was a debate on exactly what topic I can’t remember (I am over 38) and someone (not me) commented that the point was moot. Bwahahaha! So, of course, I talked more about it, expanded on it, debated it, examined every side and nuance, basically harped on the topic because someone said the point was moot. Yes, it was deliberately irritating. And yes, I know that the person was referring to the secondary definition. I was making a point.

But why has the secondary definition become more common in usage than the primary definition? Is it lack of understanding what the word primarily means? And when did this transition take place? Those are the questions I like to explore. One such explanation is that in America the word moot is most often used with the secondary meaning and in the UK with the first definition. Which just makes it more confusing depending on where you are and who the audience you are writing for is. Many have chosen, and even suggest, avoiding the use of the word moot all together. What then? Are we to stand by and watch a word become extinct? Do we need an Endangered Word Act?

Perhaps the point is moot. What do you think?

Friday Fun!

Thanks for joining us for our first week of blogs. We’ll see you next week! Have a safe and fabulous weekend!


Show and Tell

So, while we are getting to know each other, or rather, you are getting to know me, I’d thought I’d share in another classic introduction game called “Show and Tell.” Don’t think dirty. Recently my Little Man had to take several items to school to demonstrate how his liking these items made him unique. So, I thought, hmmmm…… I can do that too!

A Few of My Favorite Things

A Few of My Favorite Things

I like office/school supplies. Notebooks, planners, calendars, staplers, binders, page protectors, dividers, highlighters, pens (especially red ink ones), etc. Perhaps it’s from my student days when back-to-school was fun. Or maybe from my teaching days when I got to get new stuff too. Maybe because as a writer I always have pen and paper on hand for jotting down ideas and stories and dreams and funny sayings I overhear. As an editor, I like red ink pens for marking.

All I need now is an actual office to put my supplies in. We are working on our fixer-upper house and the office/library space is next to be tackled. Husband is going to build shelves and cabinets and a library table. In the meantime, my supplies clutter the kitchen table, the family room, my bedside table and any other open surface or drawer.

I know I could probably save space and clutter if I went the digital route and just had my handy-dandy laptop to tote around (or tablet if I’m going to join the 21st century) yet I just can’t seem to let go of the old ways. I like the feel of a pen in my hand, I like the sound of turning pages, I like the weight of a binder in my lap as I look through it. These things are tangible. They represent real work, real feelings, real sensory memories.

What is one of your favorite things?

[avatar user=”LeeAnn” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=”file”]LeeAnn Rhoden[/avatar]

All About A. Marie

[avatar user=”amariesilver” size=”thumbnail” align=”left”]A. Marie Silver[/avatar]

 Hello everybody! Yesterday was all about LeeAnn, today is all about me. I’ll try not to annoy you.

 Name:  Allison Marie Silver.

My professional name is A. Marie Silver but I actually go by Allison. A Google search revealed that there were hundreds of Allison Silvers. I didn’t want to get lost in the shuffle so I played around with my name until I found one that didn’t show up on the search engines. Hence, I am A. Marie.

 What will you see when you Google me? Links to my Facebook page, my personal Facebook account, my Pinterest account, and my LinkedIn account and a few pictures of me. Sorry, no porn. No drunken videos of me doing unspeakable things on YouTube. When I become a famous author all of that may change but for right now I’m a typical stay-at-home mom.

Age:  I’m in my 30s.

How Long Have I Been Writing? I started writing in my sophomore year of college. At first it was about getting to know a guy I had a crush on. I soon realized I liked creative writing more than the guy.

When Did I Get Serious About Writing? Not until 2011. That’s when I joined my very first writing critique group which I found on In 2012, I began blogging. In November of 2012 I participated in NaNoWriMo and won a fantastic discount for Scrivener (awesome writing software).

Also in 2012, I moved to Georgia and joined another critique group which I also found on This is where I met my friend and partner-in-crime/business, LeeAnn.

What I Learned From Being In A Critique Group:  I love writing and I love editing. I do not love being told something I write doesn’t work. But then again, who does? All is fair in love and writing.

When I realized how much I loved reading the works of other writers and editing them I began looking for ways to make editing a full-time job (one that would allow me to work from home). But editing wasn’t enough. I also wanted to help other writers find a venue to showcase their work.

Where I work currently:  At present, I’m a stay-at-home mom to two terrific kids. My two-year-old growls for no particular reason and my nine-month-old chews on the furniture. I wonder how old they will be when they figure out they are not animals. When I’m not taming my children I spend my time working on my debut novel and of course, working on Pilcrow & Dagger— the newest love of my life.

Genre I Write:  New Adult

Have I Ever Been Published? Sigh. Not yet. But I plan to have my debut novel in the hands of an editor by the end of 2015. After that I plan to self-publish.

One More Really Interesting Fact About Me:  I was a death investigator. I worked for both a Medical Examiner’s office and a Coroner’s office for 3 ½ years. Believe me when I say I saw things that would turn Jerry Bruckheimer fifty shades of nauseous. It’s my goal to use that area of expertise to help writers make their crime scenes authentic.

And this, folks, wraps about the “All About A. Marie” segment. Stay tuned for blog topics including: Death Investigations – What You Need To Know; Words, Phrases and Their Origins; and How Many Times Can We Use Obscure Words in Our Blog Posts.



Who Is LeeAnn?

Hi! Welcome to Pilcrow & Dagger. This is our first blog entry and we thought we’d start by letting you get to know who we are. I get to go first. Yay! Introducing yourself can be a little difficult – after all, where do you start? What’s pertinent? When I was an English teacher, part of my opening week exercises was to get to know my students and for them to get to know me. I actually had a form I passed out to the kids so I thought I could use it as a place to start. Here it goes. *inhale*

Name: LeeAnn Rhoden

Age in Years: I am over 35. Okay, okay. I am over 38.

Address: I live in my fixer-upper house in Georgia.

List ten words to describe you: Oh goody! I love words! Logophile, bibliophile, scribe, facetious, gourmand, culinarian, needle-worker, educator, mother, intelligent, opinionated.

Describe your family: My immediate family consists of my husband, our son, our two yellow labs, and me. Husband works and then has hobbies. Little Man goes to school and then plays. The dogs are Jake and Cooper. Jake is the smart one. Cooper is, well, pretty.

How do you spend your free time: Since my full-time job is being a mom to Little Man, my “free” time is my work time. I write stories, blogs, rewrite my novel, edit for other writers. Okay, I admit I write and edit while I’m being a mom too. To relax, when I relax, I knit, crochet, needlepoint, and read.

How do you spend your weekends: Pretty much the same way as any normal day only there is less “free” time because I have Little Man to chase after, clean up after and feed and Husband is also home. He likes to be fed too so there’s more cooking and feeding. Oh, and I write and blog and edit.

Of all the things you do in your free time, which do you like the most and which the least: This is a silly question. I wouldn’t do anything I didn’t like to do. Which also explains why housework hasn’t shown up on any list of things I do. It also explains why my house is a mess.

Who do you admire most and why: Wow. There are so many people I admire for so many reasons. I admire my father who taught me so many things and has supported me my whole life. I admire my mother who took care of us kids when we were little and is still taking are of us in our time of need. I admire my friends Maureen and Gail who are actively checking off their bucket lists. Too many to list. Everyone I know has something about them I admire.

Who is your best friend: I am weird. I have either best friends or acquaintances. But my best friend of all is Husband. I tell him everything – my thoughts, emotions, and uncensored things. He sees me at my best and worst and still hangs in there with me. He offers excellent advice and support. And he provides lots of material for my characters.

What are your favorite sports: I like to watch football either on TV or in the stands. I like baseball but only in person. I don’t like actually participating in sports.

What are your favorite TV shows: I love Game of Thrones, and Downton Abbey.

What do your friends like most about you: I don’t know. That would be a question for them.

What major goals are you working on right now: I am ghost-writing an autobiography for a local gentleman and I am revising/rewriting my first novel. I have also started the sequel to my first novel. But, the MAJOR goal is Pilcrow & Dagger and making this labor of love a success.

I hope this gives you some idea of who I am. If you’d like to know more then just ask or leave a comment. I look forward to getting to know you too.