Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Interview with Criminologist, Author, and Blogger Garry Rodgers

Today I'm interviewing Garry Rodgers. I met Garry on twitter, where his profile announces that he is a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman homocide detective and forensic coroner. Naturally, I had to meet him! Below is some insight that extends far beyond 140 characters. 

Hi Garry, thank you for joining us on Murder Lab. Homicide detective AND forensic coroner? I had envisioned those as two completely separate professions. Are they? Please tell our readers about your work.

Hi Kris. It’s nice to be here.

The two disciplines have a common denominator – death investigation. But homicide cops and forensic coroners have two distinct differences in the outcome of death investigations. Coroners find fact – the Who, What, When, Where, Why & By What Means the person died by examining the forensic evidence and then make recommendations to prevent it from reoccurring. Homicide cops simply find fault – they prove who did it and put them in jail for life. I’ve done both. My forensic experience in death investigation as a homicide cop was a natural fit to being appointed as a coroner.

What kind of job training and education did you have, besides "on-the-job" training?

My CV is extensive and was ongoing in both fields as well as developing an expertise to train others. I’m not a PhD or an MD, though. I’m more of a technician – right from crime scene examination - to interrogation - to forensic analysis – to grief counselor. There’s so, so much to this. I should clarify that coroners are technical judges of the death circumstances, whereas medical examiners (MEs) deal with the direct autopsy and toxicology evidence. Coroners incorporate the MEs’ findings into their judgements.

You've also been a sniper on British SAS-trained Emergency Response Teams. Whoa! I'm envisioning a British version of SWAT - am I wrong? What can you tell us about this organization?

Best experience of my life. Back in the 80’s the British Special Air Service – The SAS and arguably the world’s best commandos – were contracted to train the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada’s Federal Protective Force, in counter-terrorism tactics. I was a young Mountie back then in the Emergency Response Team program (ERT or SWAT), looking for adventure, and the Brits taught me how to shoot.

How long did you work in your field (or fields, as I'm still not convinced that they are only one...) before retiring?

Never looked at it as working - would’ve done it for nothing. I started in 1978 and am still slipping in and out of it today. Old cops & coroners never retire, because we know what’s going to happen after retirement. We’ll die, so that makes us terrified to quit.

In addition to your interesting choice of career (careers?) you also happen to be an AMAZON TOP 10 BEST SELLING crime writer! Please tell us about your books. I can only assume they are influenced by your work?

I wrote a ghost story. A true ghost story that happened to me and my partner. It’s based on one of the highest profile murder cases in Canadian history and there’s never been a scientific explanation for what happened. So I did a ‘What-If?’ the supernatural aspect were true. It made it to #5 on the Amazon horror/occult list. Now I’m doing 2 sequels and I just posted a free PDF with 95 Tips on Writing Deadly Crime Fiction. It’s a great resource for all writers, not just the crime/thriller genre. You can download it on my website:

What are you writing anything now? Care to share what you're working on?

A look at the evidence in the JFK Assassination. I’ve been a student of the assassination all my life and once believed in a conspiracy. But over the years I’ve become satisfied that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. The 50th anniversary is coming up and I’m doing a simple guide to the case facts; scientific and circumstantial. Most of the existing books are conspiracy promoters, completely off base, and the few ‘Lone-Nut’ publications are rather complicated. I’m in a unique position to write this from my background in homicide investigation, autopsy experience, and ballistic expertise.

And in case that's not enough, you've also got a really cool blog. Please tell our readers about dying

The tag-line is ‘Provoking Thoughts on Life, Death & Writing’. It’s a light hearted approach to some serious subjects and meant to make readers think. I balance posts between forensic information, writing tips, and life & death issues.

Please tell our readers anything about yourself or your books that you'd like them to know.

I had a near-death experience and I’m not nuts. It convinced me that there are many levels in our consciousness. I think that a scientific understanding of consciousness will be the next breakthrough in human evolution.

Last, but not least, please provide our readers with links to any other info you'd like them to have.

Here’s five of the best resources any writer can tap, regardless of genre.

On Writing – Stephen King
Elements Of Style – Strunk & White
Wired For Story – Lisa Cron
Think And Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
The Creative Penn Website – Joanna Penn
I’m most willing to help other writers with anything I can. Just Twitter me @GarryRodgers1 or Email me at

And of course, I will be featuring Garry on our Find an Expert page. If you're writing a crime thriller and have a question, direct it to the pro!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Excerpt from No Dog Left Behind by Elliott Garber

An Army Ranger dies and his courageous canine partner goes missing during what should have been a routine night raid in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Special Forces veterinarian Cole McBride joins a hardened group of spies and soldiers as they confront a terrible dilemma.

Will the strike team save themselves and escape from the tightening noose of enemy forces while they still have time? Or will they stay and fight to rescue the military working dog whose spirited heroism has already saved so many lives?

From U.S. Army veterinarian Elliott Garber comes a thrilling short story that illustrates the unique role of canine warriors as they work side by side with elite Special Operations troops to keep us safe.

This compelling tale of a military dog and his veterinarian is the perfect length for a lunchtime read or literary nightcap and will leave you begging for more.

Dr. Garber examines a patient
Today I'm pleased to announce that my friend and fellow scientist/author has just made his debut as the latter. You have just read the back cover blurb for No Dog Left Behind, a short story by active duty Army veterinarian Elliott Garber now available.

Purchase No Dog Left Behind for Kindle 

For more about Elliott's interesting life, click here. To the left is a photograph of his day job. 

Now: want to know more about the story? Below is an excerpt from this thrilling debut.

No Dog Left Behind
Cole woke with a start and reached for the Beretta M9 hanging in its shoulder holster from his cot. Funny how that motion could become so instinctual after a few short weeks.
Someone was pounding on the door. 
“Sir, the boss needs you in the TOC now!” The shouted message was followed by another round of pounding. Captain Cole McBride recognized the voice of his tech. He sounded worried.
“I hear ya, hang on.” Cole jumped out of bed and cracked the door. It was freezing out there. “Thanks Ben. Be there in two minutes tops. Let ‘em know for me?”
“I’m on it. I’ll be setting up at the clinic. Sounds like our dog team might be in trouble.”
“Crap, okay. This is what we train for, right?”
“Roger, sir.” Sergeant Ben Barrows gave him a quick nod. “We got this. See you in a few.”
Cole watched the seasoned veterinary technician take off running across the brightly lit compound. Ben had been attached to the 10th Special Forces Group for three years now and already had two deployments under his belt. He made it look easy. Everyone has to start somewhere, though. This is my time, Cole thought.
The veterinarian threw on his MultiCams, buckled up the kevlar helmet, and snugged into his bulky body armor. The Special Forces guys didn’t have to go all out in full battle rattle around the compound like this, but Cole didn’t care. He was still too cautious to care very much about looking like a badass just to make the regular Army guys jealous. They had taken way too many rockets that night already. He glanced at the soft blue glow from his travel alarm. 0217. Must be a snatch-and-go gone wrong.
Cole checked his weapon, strapped on the holster, and left the heated comfort of his wooden barracks room for the bitter Afghan night.


The tactical operations center was alive with nervous tension. Cole entered without a word and found a spot against the back wall.
He turned to the stocky man in jeans and a black fleece beside him. “Must be someone important?” he whispered.
“Yup. Senior Taliban type. Shit’s hit the fan, though.” Captain Dan Knight was a physician’s assistant who started out in the Ranger Regiment as a medic years ago before going back to school. He had welcomed Cole and Ben to the compound yesterday and introduced them to the command team. The Ranger veterinarian wasn’t due in Afghanistan for another month, so Cole was looking out for their dogs as well as his own from 10th Group.
Three large flat screen monitors hung at the front of the room. One revealed a detailed satellite map of the surrounding mountainous region along the northeast border of the country. On the map were icons and numbers showing all U.S. and known enemy forces in the area. The second screen was a live aerial feed focused on a typical Afghan concrete compound. Spotlights from a hovering Blackhawk gave it a ghostly appearance.
It was the third that kept Cole’s attention. The screen showed a dark room, thick with smoke. Something was burning in one corner. The view turned slowly to scan along one wall and then stopped. A human form in black fatigues lay crumpled on the floor in a sickeningly unnatural position. Cole grimaced as the feed jumped forward and blurred momentarily. The guy with the camera on his helmet was now kneeling over the body, and all Cole could see were his hands reaching forward, checking wrists and then neck for a pulse. The camera began shaking as the hand jerked back and was thrust into a headlamp’s halogen beam. It was covered in bright red blood.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Introducing Porfirio Press

Howdy Murder Labbers,
This just in from a new press called Porfirio. Potentially of interest to those of you looking to break into publication.

Dear Mystery writers!
Hello! My name is LeAnn and I am an intern for Porfirio Press. Porfirio is a small press, (just getting started really!) specializing in Mystery novels. 
We want you, and your fellow mystery writers to know about our submissions process and our annual Mystery Contest.

If your club, writing group, or website has members who are interested in getting their work out there, we would encourage you to share this information with them. Bring a poster along to your next meeting!
If you are a larger website, publishing newsletters or advertisements that reach mystery writers, we would like to know more about your criteria. Would it be possible for us to advertise with you? Send any relevant information to this address, as we would greatly appreciate it! 

We are currently accepting submissions, and details can be found on our website at Feel free to browse either the site, or our Facebook page for updates and information.
Thankyou for you time,
-LeAnn Bjerken

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Self-Publishing Hurdles and Their Resolution...Continued

In my recent post on The DONTs of Self-Publishing, I left a few ongoing glitches open. Here I offer a continuation on these stories, with a few more lessons learned.

  • Lightning Source 
    • For print book access to Ingram for B&N print book distribution and Baker & Taylor for libraries. 
    • Takes forever.
    • There are forms to fill out online, then you wait for approval. 
    • Then you are sent a slew of additional forms which you must print, sign and fax back.
    • Then you wait for approval.
    • Once approved, upload files, order a print proof, and wait some more.
    • I'm still waiting.
The LS print proof looked great, so I approved it and LS is done. I subsequently started the paperwork with B& and then noticed how much is required. They don't just say, "upload your files here." They ask for a whole press package (marketing strategy, reviews, etc.) While my marketing strategy is pretty much written, I am still need to incorporate a few reviews from key people (such as this AWESOME one from Carolyn Hart) - so I'm waiting to get those incorporated before proceeding with B&N.

However, re-reading Lance's comment on the DONTs post, I now think maybe heading straight to Ingram might make more sense instead of sitting idle.
  • iBookstore
    • You need to apply online to publish in the iBookstore.
    • Then wait five days.
    • Then you don't hear anything back from them.
    • Contact customer service.
    • Then get an e-mail response that there was an issue with your Tax ID number and legal entity name.
    • Send some e-mails back and forth over several days to resolve the issue.
    • Application takes another five days to review.
    • I'm still waiting.
The pain in the rear continues. My application was finally approved, and I was allowed to start with the file upload process. This means setting up an account with iTunes Connect (which is different than your normal Apple iTunes account.) So you set that up (basically set up a profile) and request a contract under that profile. Agree to the contract online, and then you can set up your bank information. I had the same problem with my bank info that I had with Kobo, so I took the same steps to resolve it, and it worked! Enter routing number, enter city (NOT city, state) and leave zip code blank. It gives you the wrong bank branch in your city. Accept that branch, and then enter your account number and eventually you find your own branch.

Once your banking info is approved, you can "deliver your content." This entails downloading another program, called iTunes Producer (or, you can begin your entire book here, using another program called iBooks Author. But if you already have an epub file and a cover, skip the author program and go straight to iTunes Producer.

Once you have downloaded iTunes Producer, you have to enter the usual info into a form. After you're done with that, you upload a separate epub file and cover file (the epub should also have a cover as its first page.)

I got stuck again here. The validator told me that my epub file cover image was too large. I e-mailed my formatter and he said, no, it's well within their required specs, but here, try this one. So he sent me another one and I uploaded it. Then it looked like the cover image is OK but something was wrong with a couple of the other images in the file (logo, etc.) It turned out to be just a filename glitch.

Here's where I'll stress again that it was worth every penny for me to pay Damonza's to do the formatting as well as the art. Instead of ripping out my own hair over all of this, all I had to do (really) was send screenshots to Benjamin at Damonza's and say, please help. He fixed it. Files are now uploaded, but I'm on vacation so I haven't looked to see if the book is in the bookstore yet. Stay tuned.

First issue:

Second issue:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Novel Spaces: Writing Like A Man

Today I'm with Bill Doonan on Novel Spaces: Writing Like A Man: How author gender matters in the mystery and certainly in the thriller genre. Check it out!

“How do you write women so well?” “I think of ...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Inferno, by Dan Brown: A Reaction (Not Quite a Review)

SPOILER ALERT! This reaction is full of them - so if you don't like spoilers, please don't read.

I loved Angels and Demons. Immensely. The idea of a modern-day thriller incorporating credible science and history - which just happened to take place in some of the coolest spots in the world - was the inspiration for a story that would eventually turn into The Vesuvius Isotope. I think my love of Angels and Demons was intensified by the fact that I happened to read it during the real papal conclave, and just before I was heading to Italy for the first time. What a blast.

Then I read The Da Vinci Code. I thought The Da Vinci Code was also pretty cool except for the fact that the story at its core was largely a repeat of Angels and Demons.

Then I thought Dan Brown completely jumped the shark with The Lost Symbol. Yet another repeat, only without the good parts. Whaaaaa?

So I was trepidatious about Brown's latest thriller, Inferno.

I decided to give him a chance to redeem himself. Actually, I take that back - I didn't give him a chance to redeem himself. He lost my blind faith with The Lost Symbol (MAN, that book was bad!) So this time, I first went to and read the free sample, having decided that I wouldn't buy the book if it opened with Robert Langdon being reluctantly transported to a world-renowned location to examine a dead body or part thereof. Been there, done that. Three times.

I was pleasantly surprised when Langdon, instead, woke up in the hospital with total amnesia. Something new! OK. I bought the book.

Botticelli's Map of Hell
I was unpleasantly surprised when Sienna, the young, beautiful, genius doctor who - poor thing! - couldn't make any friends, was instantly attracted to Langdon and couldn't tear her thoughts away from him throughout the novel. Dan Brown, you wish! The forced, living-vicariously-through-his-character romantic tension that (sadly) accompanies ALL Robert Langdon stories was (sadly) still here, and still completely unnecessary. And it was especially disappointing at the end when you find out that Sienna had been Zobrist's head-over-heels pining ex-lover a couple of days before - makes you go, hmmm...didn't take too long for you to get over his tragic suicide, did it, slut?

I found the "Dante code" pretty fun, albeit mathematically challenged. And I loved the idea of Langdon running around trying to re-solve a crime he already solved once before getting amnesia. That part was a blast, and probably my favorite element of the novel. I liked the threat of a REAL plague, and I liked the idea of the infertility plague, although I think it was meant to be a negative thing in the world and I didn't entirely see it that way. I was kind of on Zobrist's side there.

Overall, the science was less credible than the A&D science, but at least it was slightly more credible than that in The Lost Hours of my Life. Thank God there were no fake deaths, and the Bubonic cure for overpopulation was a cool theme to think about. But there's no such thing as a portable PCR machine that can amplify DNA in an insignificant amount of time (it takes about about 30 seconds to heat-denature DNA, another 30 seconds to anneal it to your primers, and at least 45 seconds to extend the strands - and this cycle must be repeated 20-30 times, and there's no way around that.) Oh yeah, and btw...a viral vector is not all that exciting. They've been around for decades. The vector maps to the right are from 1983.

I was pleasantly surprised that nobody ended up being related to anyone else (nice departure from previous works!) Throughout the entire novel, I was certain that Sienna would turn out to be the daughter of Elizabeth and Zobrist (test tube, of course - because Elizabeth is sterile and genetic engineering is what Zobrists do best!) Which would explain Sienna's baldness - a side effect of the fact that she was also genetically engineered to carry a shitload of "smart" genes and immunity to the plague. At least, that was my vision. I was totally wrong, maybe. To be honest, I would be willing to bet money that this was the original climax of the story, and that Dan Brown altered it once he figured out that fans are sick and tired of finding out at the end that someone is someone else's long lost child.

I found three HUGE disappointments:

1) The fact that the story ended with an altered world. One of the cool things about Dan Brown's previous works (IMHO) was that the papyrus scroll, or Galileo's folio, or what have you, always ended up destroyed at the end. So the world goes on as it had before, and any reader looking for proof that the story is real KNOWS he won't find it - because, of course, the proof was destroyed, and the novel spelled that out. I'm sure the bones of Mary Magdalene really are buried beneath the Louvre, but I'll never see them unless I bulldoze the Louvre. However, I will see in the next decade that one-third of the population is not sterile. So clearly, Inferno is a hoax.

2) Which leads to the even bigger disappointment. Despite about 40 pages of explanation, I still don't understand the rationale for the multiple elaborate hoaxes that took three opposed parties and the entire book. Let me try to get this straight: The WHO invites Langdon to figure out what Zorbist's little projector is saying. The provost doesn't want him to find out, and Sienna is on his side. But then Vayentha prematurely interrogates Langdon, so the provost's plan to MAKE Langdon trust him is to give him amnesia and pretend to be trying to kill him (I'm not clear why this would make Langdon trust him, but OK.) So now Elizabeth thinks Langdon has turned on her, so she stages an opposing elaborate hoax with the American army and the World Health Organization to make Langdon think they, too, are trying to kill him - which was actually intended not to kill him but to "re-acquire" him, because everyone knows that the best way to re-acquire someone is to chase them with guns. Then the provost finally figures out that Zobrist was staging a "plague." (Well, he doesn't "figure it out" so much as watch the video Zobrist left with him.) So the provost teams up with Elizabeth and they all go together to make friends with Langdon and solve Zobrist's mystery. But none of their running around even matters, because the plague was already released a week earlier, and Zobrist's whole motive for his elaborate hoax was to get credit for the infertility plague that is now already global. When of course he could have accomplished much more easily by simply popping the balloon himself in his laboratory. I try to imagine this synopsis being pitched by an unknown author to an agent, and I giggle.

3) And last, this was the first Robert Langdon novel where I felt that the cool locales were completely contrived. One of my favorite things about the previous books was that the globe-trotting was necessary. The settings were critical to the story. With Inferno, only Florence was necessary. Beyond that, I got the clear impression that Dan Brown wanted to take vacations to Venice and Istanbul which he could write off on his taxes, so he found (weak) ways to put Venice and Istanbul in the novel and then wrote every...single...superfluous...detail about those cities into the story. Not cool.

Overall, I think both Dan Brown and his editor have become overconfident and lazy. They no longer think the story through very well, and they no longer trim out the fat. I'm curious to see how much longer Brown's success will continue, because that's my cue about how many crappy novels I can write if I just write one or two good ones first.

I still gave the novel four stars for entertainment, some thought provoking, and page-turning value. The fact is, I still couldn't put it down. Still.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Vesuvius Isotope Official Launch Blog Tour

The Vesuvius Isotope has arrived!

The novel is now officially available via multiple channels. To learn more about it and pick up a copy, please click here. To read a sample, please click here.

In celebration of its debut, a 20-stop blog tour was planned. But once the tour began coming together, it became evident that we should just go ahead and do a whole month!

So below is the revised itinerary for the blog tour, which is now 32 stops long! As is customary, this tour will include interviews, excerpts and guest posts designed to introduce readers to the book and its author. In addition to these "traditional" stops, there will also be a few less-traditional tour stops fleshing out non-fictional aspects of the book: real-life mysteries and themes explored in the book, and introductions to some of its lesser-known settings and locales in Italy and Egypt. As part of the latter, a few "Trip-A-Day Intermissions" - virtual visits featuring one new locale per day - will take place on my site each day between tour stops on other blogs.

I would like to extend an enormous thank-you to each and every one of these hosts who have so graciously offered to participate in this tour, as well as a monumental thank-you to my friend Sunny Frazier, who has introduced me to many of these fabulous folks. I would like to encourage all of you to check out these blogs, bookmark them, and check back frequently to support a great group of people on the web. And also because their blogs are really entertaining!

There is also a giveaway throughout the month of July on Goodreads. And without further delay...the finalized tour stops are as follows:

Date        Host                 Blog                           Topic      

July 1                 Kristen Elise, Ph.D.                                    Official Launch
                                                                                              Updated blog tour schedule

July 2                 Kristen Elise, Ph.D.                                    The Vesuvius Isotope Itinerary
                                                                                              The travels of protagonist Katrina Stone

July 3         Tim Desmond         Tim Desmond's Blog          CSI and Caducei
                                                                                              An author interview

July 4         Sara McBride          Novel Travelist                   The Buried Books of Herculaneum
                                                                                              A Novel Travelist Mystery, Installment 6

July 5         James Callan           The Author's Blog              A Very, Very Bad Week
                                                                                              Guest post by protagonist Katrina Stone

July 6         Stephen Brayton     Brayton's Briefs                   Riding Camels in the Desert
                                                                                              An "Around the Globe" interview

July 7         Lesley Diehl           Another Draught                 An Accident, a Dare, 
                                                                                              and a Massive Lay-off
                                                                                              My "Why I Became a Writer" Story

July 8         John Brantingham  John Brantingham's Blog     Art Imitating Life
                                                                                              An author interview

July 9         William Doonan     Novel Spaces                      Writing Like a Man
                                                                                              A guest post on gender in mystery writing

July 10       Cory Cuthbertson   Coryographies                     The Crocodile Library of Tebtunis
                                         Musings of a Paleolinguist           True story of a 2000-year-old database

July 11       Theresa Valera        Latina Libations                  Transitions
                                                                                              An author interview

July 12        Chris Swinney       Chris Swinney's Blog         The Sacrificial Lamb
                                                                                              Excerpt from The Vesuvius Isotope

July 13        Maria Ruiz             Maria Ruiz' Blog                 All Things Books and Writing
                                                                                              An author interview

July 14        Joyce Brown          Our Retirement Journeys    The Facts Behind the Fiction
                                                  Read Like Cozy Mystery    An author interview

July 15        Maggie Bishop      Dames of Dialogue             An American Imposter in Egypt 
                                                                                              My solo novel-research tour of Egypt

July 16        Velda Brotherton   Gutsy Women Who            The Gutsy Woman Who Won the East
                                                  Won The West                    Mysteries in the life of Cleopatra VII

July 17        Denise Weeks        Denise Weeks' Blog            Kill Google First
                                                                                              Keeping the Internet out of your mystery

July 18        E.A. Aymar           E.A. Aymar's Blog              Best Moments and Worst Jokes
                                                                                              An author interview

July 19        Ilene Schneider                         See Naples and Die
                                                                                              Excerpt from The Vesuvius Isotope

July 20              Kristen Elise, Ph.D.                                     Who Owned the House of the Faun?
                                                                                              A Trip-A-Day Intermission

July 21              Kristen Elise, Ph.D.                                     Black Death From Above
                                                                                              A Trip-A-Day Intermission

July 22              Kristen Elise, Ph.D.                                     The Roots of Rome
                                                                                              A Trip-A-Day Intermission

July 23              Kristen Elise, Ph.D.                                     Italy's Best Kept Secret:
                                                                                              Cappella Sansevero
                                                                                              A Trip-A-Day Intermission

July 24        Gray Cargill           Solo Friendly                      The Protagonist's Trip: Solo Travel
                                                                                              For the Author 
                                                                                              How travels become stories and vice versa

July 25              Kristen Elise, Ph.D.                                     Billete! How to Go to Jail in Naples
                                                                                              A Trip-A-Day Intermission

July 26              Kristen Elise, Ph.D.                                     Naples Versus Cairo:
                                                                                              Cairo Wins on the Chaos Scale
                                                                                              A Trip-A-Day Intermission

July 27            Kristen Elise, Ph.D.                                       How to Do Naples
                                                                                              A Trip-A-Day Intermission

July 28            Kristen Elise, Ph.D.                                       How to Do Cairo
                                                                                              A Trip-A-Day Intermission

July 29        Maggie Bishop      Dames of Dialogue             A Dive to the Museum
                                                                                             Baiae Underwater Archeological Park

July 30               Kristen Elise, Ph.D.                                   How to Do Luxor
                                                                                             A Trip-A-Day Intermission

July 31               Kristen Elise, Ph.D.                                   How to Do a Temple Tour
                                                                                             A Trip-A-Day Intermission

August 1     Sara McBride        Novel Travelist                   The Buried Books of Herculaneum
                                                                                             A Novel Travelist Mystery, Installment 7
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