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My Favorite Kind of Story

Amber Lynn Natusch, the author of Unborn, gives us a deeper look into her newest novel.  91du7hlHaBL._SL1500_

I love the urban fantasy genre. Always have. Always will. It's where my head lives and dreams; that wonderful place where fact meets fiction, then injects the supernatural. And it’s where my writing career started, spinning tales of other worldly characters masquerading as humans in a small seacoast town in New Hampshire. The success of that series, Caged, afforded me more time to write and wonder about all the other things that could occur in that world I had created. Darker things. Grittier things. Things that caused me to lose sleep on more than one occasion.

And that is how my latest novel Unborn came to be. The new story quickly evolved into the seedy cousin of Caged, with the two series connected by a group of half-brother immortals found in both storylines. The Patronus Ceteri were born and bred for the sole purpose of maintaining the balance between the human world and the not-so-human one. That task proves especially difficult in the sinister city of Detroit, which is plagued by a particular brand of supernatural known for its ability to infest and destroy all it comes into contact with.

Complicating their job even further is the appearance of a raven-haired enigma from the Underworld named Khara.

Not your typical leading lady, Khara brings an unusual voice to the urban fantasy world. Where most first-person protagonists are either sarcastic and sassy or too badass for their own good, she has a dark ambivalence that is easily understood once her back-story comes to light. How sassy can someone be when they've been raised in the depravity of the Underworld? Her brutal honesty, literal assessments, and naïve ways create a curious blend of ancient immortal and coming-of-age female.

Khara’s voice has been a real challenge for me. I'm far from formal and suffer from an unhealthy dose of sarcasm and sass myself, which is probably why I have an easier time writing the protagonist of Caged. But the challenge of translating Khara's thoughts to page has been far more entertaining than I ever thought it could be. She's funny in an unfunny, straight-shooting way. I have totally laughed out loud during some of the most serious scenes in the book because her take on events comes out so deadpan yet accurate that I just can't contain it. It's especially comical when she takes the hardened warriors of the PC by surprise, which is no easy task, I can assure you.

And they aren't the only ones affected by Khara’s atypical attitude. Oz, the disgruntled fallen angel who resides with the brothers of the PC, has hard edges and bad boy tendencies that typically make women flock to him. His confidence is not unwarranted, but Khara sees through his antics and proves to be the challenge he's never encountered. The fact that she finds him utterly repellent only fuels his behaviors further. Their banter is poignant and comedic, aggressive and, at times, surprisingly tender. He picks at her controlled exterior while she strips away his hubris, creating an adversarial yet strangely romantic tension. And, although the sequel, Unseen, is already complete, I'm not one hundred percent sure myself where their story will go over the course of the series. But I do know the Unborn series promises to be a wild ride of suspense, mystery, deceit, and discovery. My favorite kind of story.


Guest Post by Melinda Leigh, Author of "Midnight Betrayal"

51bgMjeqfYL[1]Melinda Leigh, best-selling romantic suspense author of “Midnight Betrayal,” shares with us her top suspense reads and takes us on her version of a date where she draws inspiration for her dark and intriguing reads.   

One day while I was in the initial stages of writing Midnight Betrayal, I was scrolling through Facebook (procrastinating is an art form), looking at pictures my author buddy, Kendra Elliot, had posted of a gorgeous winery she and her husband were touring.  At the exact same time, my husband and I also had a free afternoon. Were we sitting on a lovely hillside patio, tasting wine and enjoying some scenic vistas?

Not exactly.

Midnight Betrayal is set in Philadelphia. I love the city, but I admit most of my time there is limited to chaperoning school trips to the historic sites, shopping, or eating.  Due to his profession, my husband knows the city more intimately. So I asked him for some help researching locations. To be fair, first he took me to a fabulous lunch at my favorite Cuban restaurant in Old City, where the skirt steak and mojitos are to-die-for.

With the story still in its infancy, I was looking for inspiration and detail.  We drove around for a while so I could snap pics of landmarks, homes, and businesses where my plot board suggested I would have scenes.  I also wanted to get the feel of some of the neighborhoods where my characters would live. I described the characters to Hubs. He drove around blocks that seemed to fit. I rolled down the windows to absorb the atmosphere (exhaust fumes).

“What else do you want to see?” he asked.

Now we were getting to the interesting part. “I need a few good places to dump bodies.”

Continue reading "Guest Post by Melinda Leigh, Author of "Midnight Betrayal" " »

Exclusive Excerpt: "The Resolution of Callie and Kayden"

New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Jessica Sorensen shares an exclusive excerpt from the upcoming book, The Resolution of Callie and Kayden, #6 in the Coincidence Series. Get a sneak peek and pre-order before The Resolution of Callie and Kayden releases on September 30th.

Callie and kaydenCallie is standing in the middle of it the frosted trees and lights, staring down at the snowy ground. Her forehead is creased like she’s thinking about something deeply. She has a coat on, gloves, and boots pull over her jeans. Her hood is down and snowflakes cover her long, brown hair. She’s simply beautiful. Perfect. Amazing. And I give myself a moment to appreciate everything that’s her before I walk toward her. She must hear my boots crunch against the snow because she glances up, startled. Tiny snowflakes dot her eyelashes, her cheeks flushed, and she has a smile on her face, her eyes so full of love I seriously about turn around and look over my shoulder to make sure there’s no one else standing there.

“Hey you,” she says still smiling at me. But she shifts her weight, appearing nervous, which makes me nervous as well. Why would she be nervous?

“Hey you back.” My feet move toward her on their own, wanting—needing to be near her. “Why are you standing out here in the freezing cold?”

She holds up her finger, indicating to wait just a second. Then she walks toward the leafless, snow-bitten tree beside her and ducks behind it. A heartbeat later, music surrounds me. When she steps back out, she’s still grinning. The snowflakes swirl around us, almost moving with the slow rhythm of the song.

“What do you have back there?” I ask. “An iPod dock or something?”

She shakes her head as she hikes through the snow toward me, reducing the space between us, something I’m so grateful. In fact, I want it all gone—not a single drop of space left between our bodies. “No, it’s Luke’s stereo. Seth borrowed it from him so I could use it for this.”

I shake my head, a smile touching my lips for the first time today. “God, he’s so weird with all that old crap he keeps around, right?”

“Like all his mixed tapes?” she says with a soft laugh as she reaches me.

I nod, slipping my arms around her waist, eliminating the space between us. Suddenly I become warm in the midst of the cold. “I seriously think he belongs in the 80s.”

“Maybe he does.” She loops her arms around the back of my neck and draws me closer. “What era do you think we’d belong in if we could go live in a different one?”

“How about the 60s,” I suggest.

She smiles. “We’d be all about the peace, love, and happiness.”

“I think that sounds a lot like you.” I tuck a strand of her damp hair behind her ear. “I’m not sure about me, though.”

Her forehead creases as I stroke her cheek with my finger, memorized by the softness of her skin. “You’ve seemed a little bit down lately… has something been bothering you?”

My smile falters. “I’ve just been thinking about some stuff.”

“About family stuff?”

“Yeah… I can’t help it… with the holidays coming and stuff. It’s just got me thinking.”

“About your family?”

I swallow the lump in my throat. “Yeah, about my lack of one.”

“You have me,” she says quietly. “You always will.”

My heart tightens in my chest. “I know I do,” I say, then lean into kiss her, unable to take the little amount of space between us any longer.

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Exclusive Q&A with Cece Bell

Cece Bell, author/illustrator of the graphic novel memoir "El Deafo," talks about her husband's early enthusiasm for her artwork, and how it led her to a career in children's books. ElDeafo

I wouldn't be an author if I hadn't been an illustrator first, and I wouldn't be an illustrator if I hadn't met Tom Angleberger first.

Tom and I were both students at the College of William and Mary in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. I was a driven SuperStudent who majored in English and took copious notes and believed that an “A” was absolutely without a doubt the only acceptable grade one should ever receive. Tom was a laid-back PrettyGoodStudent who majored in Fine Arts and took no notes and believed “B”s were perfectly acceptable. I did allow myself one or two “non-academic” art classes, for fun. Tom saw my artwork and liked it. (He also liked me.) As I became increasingly frustrated with my major (reading books from The Canon and analyzing books from The Canon and writing papers about books in The Canon), Tom encouraged me to switch majors and join him in the Fine Arts department. When I finally did, I threw myself into it so completely that I became a SuperStudent of Art. I had so much fun making all that stuff, even though I had no idea what I was going to do with my life as an artist. Could I really make a living having that much fun?

Most of my artwork in college was bright, funny, and weird. I decided that illustration was the right direction for me. Tom and I got married (turned out I liked him, too!), and we headed off to Ohio immediately after our wedding so that I could study illustration at Kent State University. Tom worked in a factory and as a newspaper reporter to put me through school and pay all our bills. Seriously, if that ain't true love, I don't know what is.

I eventually became a freelance illustrator who really, really wanted to illustrate children's books. But no one would hire me. The only way to illustrate children's books, I realized, would be to write the books myself. So that's what I did. Luckily, it turned out that I like writing every bit as much as I like drawing. Using both words and pictures to tell funny stories is just about my favorite thing on Earth (other than Tom).

My first book was "Sock Monkey Goes to Hollywood," published by Candlewick Press in 2003. I've done a lot of books since then, but my graphic novel memoir "El Deafo" is definitely the Big Boy of them all. It's about my childhood hearing loss and my subsequent feelings of isolation and loneliness. It's also about how I used my super-powerful hearing aid to impress my classmates. And of course there's a crush on a boy, a quest for a true friend, and plenty of hilarious misunderstandings. This book is the first book in which I acknowledge my deafness outright, and it was every bit of it cathartic.

Tom, as most of us know, went on to write and illustrate the Origami Yoda series, and lots of other great books, too. I will always remember, gratefully, that when I first met Tom, he didn't seem to mind one bit that I wore hearing aids. On the contrary, he thought I was cute! I will forever be indebted to him for encouraging me early on, and for helping me find my life's work.

Sneak Peek: "Amulet Book 6"

Get a special sneak peek at a gorgeous double page spread from New York Times Best-Selling author Kazu Kibuishi's "Amulet #6: Escape from Lucien."

Amulet Spread Pages 104-105

Jo Piazza: How Hanging Out with Nuns Made Me a Happier Person

If Nuns Ruled the WorldJournalist Jo Piazza is not religious, but spending time with a group of nuns for her new book made her a happier person—here’s why. 

We love to talk about happiness. You know the kind of talk that I’m referring to. It always starts with someone saying something like, “I’m working on me.” And from there, they proceed to tell you about all of the things they are doing to make themselves happier. It always seems to involve spin classes at studios that charge $40 for instructors to tell you you’re awesome.

The book The Happiness Project was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The Pharrell song “Happy” is the most played song of 2014. Someone sent me a link to a website the other day called Happify—a company that promises to train your brain to be happy. Among other things, the site features inspirational quotes and videos of cats.

Happiness has become something we need to practice. It’s a science. It’s something we need professional coaches for.

It has to be easier than all of that.

I’ve recently discovered a very happy group of individuals: Catholic nuns. You’re skeptical. I can tell. They aren’t paying for expensive spin classes or buying happiness manuals or downloading happiness-inducing apps. Over the past three years, I have hung out with more than 300 American nuns while working on my book If Nuns Ruled the World: Ten Sisters on a Mission.

“Nuns? Really?” you want to know. “Aren’t they stuffy? Uptight? Angry? Wielding rulers above the hands of small children?”

Not the ones I know.

The women I met are funny, engaging, brilliant, independent, and fierce. They are doers. They don’t talk about being happy or being content. They just wake up every morning and do the things they believe will make the world a better place. Some of them fight for the poor. Some of them work with women in prisons. One of them broke into a nuclear weapons facility to protest nuclear war. She is now in prison. But I know she’s content, and she’s probably even happy there. Before she went away she told me very simply: “If I go in, I will observe the goodness of the women. I could minister to the women and them to me.” She said it with a smile on her face.

The nuns I’ve met are focused on the present. They live for the here and now. They lead authentic lives. They do good things; things that matter. They don’t ask for anything in return. They don’t brag. They don’t gossip.

They tell amazing jokes. When they laugh, you’ll laugh, too. In fact, just being around nuns made me a happier person.

You’re probably cocking your head right now and raising your eyebrows. “How could hanging around with nuns make anyone happier? Happiness is $40 spin classes and videos of cats trying to climb into boxes!”

Consider this: Maybe happiness is just being around people who do what they truly love. Sara Marks is one of the few nuns I spent time with who is close to my age. When Sara was deciding whether or not she wanted to become a nun, she was also going out on dates with men. One day she realized that spending time in a community of happy women who were dedicating their lives to helping others just made her happier. So that is the life she chose.

Joy is contagious. I felt it whenever I was with the nuns and I felt it afterward. They made me want to do things instead of just talking about doing them. They made me want to smile instead of just thinking about how great it would be to smile more.

Nuns are happy because they do what they love. They practice gratitude. They have meaning and purpose in their lives, and these particular women have helped me to find some in mine. And they also love a good cat video.

Romance Authors' Favorite Summer Reads: Part 2

In part 2 of our summer reads post, romance writer Susan Wiggs, author of the Bella Vista Chronicles and the current release The Beekeeper's Ball, shares highlights from her beach-read list. Click here for part 1.

41wsMwAvYnL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_The long lazy days and cool breezy nights of summer are the perfect time to relax and renew the spirit with a great read. If you’re familiar with my books, you might think my reading tastes reflect the topics I write about with such passion—romance, family, friendship, food and the immutable power of love to change a life.

And it’s true that I do love books in that vein, but when it comes to reading, I am a dedicated omnivore. Depending on my mood and interests, you might find me engrossed in a thriller, reading aloud to one of my favorite kids, reading a memoir, a book of poetry or even a cookbook.

I’m a dedicated true-crime junkie and a history buff, so Blood Royal by Eric Jager satisfies both of those urges. Although it’s a true account of the murder of Louis of Orleans by a gang of thugs, the story reads like a classic gumshoe detective novel. Think Sam Spade goes to fifteenth century Paris.

The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand is a deeply moving and ultimately uplifting novel of a woman whose giving spirit knows no limits. Bonus: The book is set on the author’s home island of Nantucket, which is one of those places we all dream about—roaring waves, sea breezes, an enduring history and every booklover’s paradise—a proper Atheneum.

A story that starts with a letter from a fan to a renowned author is always going to get my attention. I was completely smitten by That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay, a pen-pal relationship sparked by a shared love of food and France—which happen to be two of my favorite things, as well. 

There is no reading quite so rewarding as sharing a book with a child. A well-written children’s book is one that holds both the listener and the reader in its spell, and this season brings some real gems. My school-age stepson and I are huge fans of Suzanne Selfors, who writes hilariously about boys, dogs, adventure, fantasy and friendship...and then the characters sneak up behind you and touch the heart. Her latest series—the Imaginary Veterinary stories—features every kid’s favorite mythical creatures. Check out the latest: The Rain Dragon Rescue.

And finally, it’s a little-known fact that Holly Hobbie is an author, not just an iconic doll in a bonnet. As a first-time grandmother, I’m excited to share my favorites with the adorable Clara Louise, who likes to read at least a book or two before every nap. The Toot & Puddle series is perfect, and “You Are My Sunshine” is one of the few songs I know from start to finish. It’s the perfect baby-read.

Enjoy the summer, the sunshine and most of all the stories that inspire your heart and mind. Don’t forget to laugh, cry, dream...and read.

Susan Wiggs

We want to hear from you--What have been some of your favorite romance reads this summer? Let us know in the comments.

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Romance Authors' Favorite Summer Reads: Part 1

In part 1 of our 2-part post (click here for part 2), romance author Barbara Freethy gives us her list of must-reads for the rest of the hot summer season. Her latest novel, That Summer Night, is on sale now.

ThatSummerNightSummer is my favorite time of year. I'm a California girl, so we have a lot of days that feel like summer, but there's nothing like those few months when the light lasts until nine o'clock and a warm breeze swirls around you late into the night. I love to set books in the summer and my latest, That Summer Night, stars a young doctor and an ex-soldier who discover that saving the world first means saving themselves and falling in love. 

If you're looking for some good books to read this summer, I hope you'll check out That Summer Night, but here are some of my favorite summer reads by other authors. Some of the books are brand new and others have been out awhile, but I think you'll enjoy them all:

Christie Ridgway – Take My Breath Away (Cabin Fever Book #1)

Christie Ridgway is one of my favorite contemporary romance writers. Her stories are always fun, sexy and a little bit sassy. I really enjoyed the first book in her new Cabin Fever Series called Take My Breath Away where a single mom meets a former teen idol and sparks quickly begin to fly.

Ava Miles – Nora Roberts Land

This book intrigued me just by the title alone. Have you ever dreamed of finding a hero in real life like you read about in romance novels? Who hasn't? Well, a new contemporary romance writer Ava Miles gives us just that kind of story in her novel, Nora Roberts Land. Her heroine, a newly divorced journalist, returns to her small town to debunk the Nora Roberts romance novels her ex-husband blamed for their divorce only to discover happy endings do exist--with a hero who could have starred in a Nora Roberts novel. With Nora Roberts' blessing for the use of her name, Ava's story is witty and charming, making it one of my favorite summer reads. This book kicks off Ava's Dare Valley Series.

Nora Roberts – The Collector

Nora Roberts' latest romantic suspense, The Collector, was also one of my favorite reads this summer. I love books that mix romance, suspense and even a little adventure, and The Collector does all three. A house-sitter witnesses what looks like a murder in the building across the street and is soon thrust into a dangerous mystery. The hero, a sexy painter, becomes her ally and together they risk it all to find the truth and fall in love. Don't miss this one.

Barbara O'Neal – The All You Can Dream Buffet

First of all, I love this title. It immediately made me hit the buy button, but I also love Barbara O'Neal's books. She writes beautiful women's fiction stories that are charming, poignant, filled with emotion and charm. In this book, she ties together food and friendship as a popular blogger and foodie queen invites three of her closest online friends to the Oregon wine country. She wants to find an heir to sustain her life's work, and hopes that one of these women will fit the bill. If you enjoy women's fiction, this is the book for you.

Bella Andre – Just To Be With You (Seattle Sullivans)

Bella Andre is my go-to author for sexy romance and her latest title, Just To Be With You, part of the Seattle Sullivan Series is the perfect mix of sexy fun and charming romance. Ian Sullivan, a wealthy and powerful CEO, falls for Tatiana London, a hot Hollywood actress, and the passion between them sizzles. This one will steam up your summer sunglasses.

Ruby Laska – Black Gold (Boomtown Boys Series #1)

This series starter has everything I look for in a sweet romance: a hunky alpha hero, a sassy heroine who's easy to root for, a touch of humor - and just enough quirky twists to make it stand out from the pack. A glimpse into the country music business and a fresh new setting--the North Dakota oil fields--add up to a real page turner.

I hope you'll enjoy checking out some of my favorite summer stories. Don't forget to check out my newest book, aptly titled That Summer Night.

Happy Reading,

Barbara Freethy

 We want to hear from you--What have been some of your favorite romance reads this summer? Let us know in the comments.

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Where We Were, Where We're Going

In order to understand how we shape our future, we need to understand the path that's led us to where we are. Check out 10 recommended economic history books and what Amazon customers have to say about them.


41iERde3NwLCapital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

"The empirical work he has done in assembling the income and wealth concentration for countries is simply invaluable. We have some data like gini and labor vs. capital income, but to meticulously collect and analyze specific percentiles of income and wealth in many nations is truly groundbreaking."



41fPHovbUiLThe Founders of Finance by Thomas K. McCraw

"If you have any interest in the history of some of great shapers and developers of our US Treasury, this is the book for you. I loved the section about Hamilton and there were a few new facts the author focuses on but the real meat was in the introduction of Gallatin. I have never studied about him until now and that's what makes this book great, it's shows how much of huge impact these two men have, to this day, on our country. A top notch book that is insightful and a joy to read."


51F0s01xT5LFreaks of Fortune by Jonathan Levy

"This book has opened my eyes to depths and meanings of risk, risk transfer, insurance, and a great array of related topics, I never grasped at anything like this level before."





41oAAZ-xzDLThe Crisis of Capitalist Democracy by Richard A. Posner

"So what is a federal judge and a law professor doing by trying to explain the causes of the recent financial crisis? That's what makes Posner so exceptional, his knowledge of economics is incredible, but even more amazing is his ability to explain esoteric subjects like derivatives in simply language so that even those of us with little background in economics can understand what he's talking about."



51MkusmkMRLThe Great Persuasion by Angus Burgin

"Writing about intellectual history tends to fall prey to one of two different vices. If the author is a member of the intellectual movement he is writing about, there is a tendency toward hagiography, with unflattering details carefully airbrushed out. On the other hand, if the author is not an adherent of the ideas he is describing, he's likely to descend into caricature in the opposite direction, failing to appreciate key nuances in the protagonists' arguments and attributing simplistic motives to them. Burgin deftly avoids both vices, presenting a sympathetic account of the thinkers he covers but maintaining a critical distance from their ideas."


410V8H9TQ4LA Failure of Capitalism by The Honorable Richard A.  Posner

"The book is well argued and much more thorough than I can convey here. One of the great things about Judge Posner's style is that he anticipates all of the reader's objections and tries to address them in good faith. Whether you agree or disagree, he is always worth reading."




414ry5cCdnLThe Illusion of Free Markets by Bernard E. Harcourt

"I found this book to be a very interesting history of classical economics as understood by the French. At least on the popular level, we rarely get a view of French economics and the reciprocal relationship between English and French economic philosophers. I found the book to be erudite and fascinating and would recumbent it to all."




41v5+LhKLJLMaking the European Monetary Union by Harold James

"If you are interested in the development of the European Monetary Union, as well as all the ancillary financial supporting commissions, the machinations of currency creation, politics and "in fighting", and, you wish to see this process "soup to nuts" -- from it's most abstruse departure point to the present, this book is for you."




51W+VjfS-nLWhen Wall Street Met Main Street by Julia C. Ott

"This book is at its best when it describes government bond drives during WW1 (and their use of propaganda) and the strategies bore out by corporations to reinvent themselves in the public eye (and profit on all the new, naive investors)."





WalterlippmanWalter Lippmann by Craufurd D. Goodwin (Pre-order Now, Available Sept. 22)

Product Description: Walter Lippmann was the most distinguished American journalist and public philosopher of the twentieth century. But he was also something more: a public economist who helped millions of ordinary citizens make sense of the most devastating economic depression in history. Craufurd Goodwin offers a new perspective from which to view this celebrated but only partly understood icon of American letters.





Guest Post by L.J. Sellers, Five Things I Learned About Police Work

81V0%2B3jMQ2L[1]L.J. Sellers, best-selling author of The Detective Jackson Mysteries, shared with us five things she learned about police work, while conducting research for her series.

The best part about writing police procedurals is listening to law enforcement personnel describe their work and tell their favorite on-the-job stories. Even better is getting to participate in some of their activities. Here are five things I’ve learned:

1. Forensic work sometimes resembles home life. The processing bay, where technicians fingerprint cars, ATM machines, and other big items looks a lot like a homeowner's garage, complete with a little blue kiddie swimming pool. And inside the lab, there’s a refrigerator, where they hold many things, including entomology evidence (dead flies), and a shower for rising off chemicals.

2. Patrol officers are adrenaline junkies. Just being in a police car in the middle of the night watching for suspicious activity is a rush. I realized this when I did a ridealong. When the officer spotted a drunk driver and chased her at high speeds, with lights and sirens blazing—I thought my heart would burst with adrenaline. I asked the officer what it was like for him after years on the job, and he admitted that cops are all adrenaline junkies.

3. Detectives have less fun. I once had an opportunity to attend a homicide scene, and became giddy with excitement—a true “Castle” moment. But when I arrived, the detectives were all standing around, eating pizza. The reality of processing homicide scenes is much more tedious than you’d expect. It takes about six hours to collect all the evidence, map the coordinates, and interview witnesses. A detective told me they once spent two days in a victim’s house, looking for clues. But they never found any, and the case is still unsolved.

4. Dusting for fingerprints requires a vacuum. Or more specifically, a downdraft table, where technicians use various colors of powder to process fingerprints. The downdraft sucks up the excess powder, which would otherwise go everywhere. I learned this during a tour of the crime lab.

5. Superglue is a crime-fighting essential. Technicians don't really use superglue, only one of its chemical components, cyanoacetate. They put evidence into what they call the superglue chamber, then release steam and cyanoacetate to form a coating all over the objet. The coating reveals latent fingerprints when it hardens.