Saturday, April 30, 2011

The 2011 Edgar Awards Banquet & Grand Master Sara Paretsky

On Thursday, April 28, Mystery Writers of America presented its Grand Master Award to Sisters in Crime founding sister Sara Paretsky at the annual Edgar Awards banquet.

SinC President and MWA board member Cathy Pickens introduced Sara at the ceremony.

Pictured at left are Sara Paretsky (l) and Cathy Pickens (r) at the banquet. (Photo by Matt Peyton Photography.)

According to SinC immediate past president Marcia Talley, the room was filled with an array of positive feminine energy generated by Paretsky, Pickens, outgoing MWA president Laura Lippman and incoming MWA president Lisa Scottoline.

The complete text of Cathy Pickens' introduction to Sara Paretsky, 2011 MWA Grand Master, appears below:

"In 1980, with the visionary thinking we know to expect in publishing, 13 publishers rejected Indemnity Only. The first V. I. Warshawski novel "does not meet our needs at this time," they said. Visionary indeed.

Fortunately, V. I. hit the streets of Chicago and bookshelves in 1982, breaking the barriers that said women in mysteries could be only victims or vamps.

That would've been enough, creating a body of work that does what the best of fiction should do in keeping the genre alive and relevant.

But social justice can't always be sought only on the pages of a novel. In the mid-1980s, Sara Paretsky saw that, while women wrote one-third of the mystery novels published, they were receiving less than 10% of the review space. So she gathered a group of like-minded women mystery writers and began monitoring reviews and educating reviewers.

Today, women write roughly half of the mysteries published. The gap in review coverage still exists, but it is much smaller than it was. And it is significantly smaller for mysteries than the recently publicized and debated gap that exists in the reviews of literary fiction.

And that would've been enough. But Sara and this band of Sisters in Crime didn't think it was enough. They set about educating writers about what it means to be a professional in this business, and they encouraged and mentored and shared their wisdom.

I remember poring over my copy of Shameless Promotion for Brazen Hussies (you've got to buy a book with a title like that! It's now available in its third edition). And I've learned much from countless Sisters who have become my mentors and friends.

Sisters in Crime has grown to 3,000 members, an inclusive group of writers and readers, booksellers and librarians, women and men, who continue to encourage the professional development of writers.

So, as a reader, I thank you for V. I. Warshawski, who has shown us how tough women can be and how we all should be, fighting for things that matter.

As a writer, I thank you for the mentoring, education and support.

And, as the 24th president of Sisters in Crime and on behalf of MWA, it is with delight that I present to Sara Paretsky this much-deserved Grand Master Award."

The following are Sara Paretsky's acceptance remarks for the Grand Master Award at the 2011 Edgar Allen Poe Dinner:

"I went to my first Edgar dinner in 1982. I watched the icons of my reading life talking and joking, but I was painfully shy and didn’t try to introduce myself to anyone. I was seated at a table at the outermost reach of the Sheraton ballroom, and the high point of the meal was when a waiter slugged one of my tablemates for not relinquishing his salad plate on schedule.

I’m amazed, and grateful, to join the company of Grand Masters whose work I have long admired, but it is unsettling to realize how quickly 29 years have passed.

Many people helped me reach this point. Stuart Kaminsky, whom we mourn, mentored me as I wrote my first book. My agent, Dominick Abel, agreed to represent me all those years ago; he has never faltered in his support.

Thanks to my editor, Chris Pepe, and my publishers, Putnam, for their hard work, and their presence at the banquet. (Although the company is known as GP Putnam’s Sons, it was George Putnam’s daughter, Mary, who was a leading 19th century writer and feminist. It seems fitting that my novels bear the name of the woman who forced England to accept women as doctors.)
I have been fortunate in the friendship of Dorothy Salisbury Davis. Her advice as a writer, and her guidance in the business of living, have been my lodestar for many years.

Above all, I thank my husband, the distinguished physicist Courtenay Wright, who has listened to 29 years of fears and self-doubts; his steadfast support has kept the wind beneath my sails. To him and to Dorothy, this award and these remarks are equally dedicated.

The world of books has seen major changes since my first Edgar dinner. It had been hard for me to find a publisher for a woman PI in America’s heartland; now, as a result of the revolution I helped start, detectives of all stripes and locations are commonplace.

I was lucky: in 1982, there were many more publishers to approach than exist today.

We live in a world of conglomerated publishers and distributors; we writers are often told that we are not creating stories or characters, but brands, as if the chief difference between our stories and toilet paper is that you can’t upload Charmin to your iPad. At least, not yet. In such a world it is hard to remember that we are storytellers, not accountants, marketers or vending machines.

This is not a new problem. When Melville published Moby Dick in 1851, the reception by both public and critics was hostile: he had left his brand, his travelogue novels. During Melville’s life, this astonishing masterpiece sold 500 copies. In a bitter weariness, Melville wrote Hawthorne:
The silent grass-growing mood in which a [person] ought to compose – that can seldom be mine. Dollars damn me.

Melville lived through times as turbulent as ours—slavery, the Civil War, the changes wrought by industrialization. But ours is also a time that thrives on slick one-liners, and on lies, made easier to swallow because we devalue literacy.

Today, close to one in four American adults can’t read or write well enough to handle a job application, let alone read a novel.

It took a 12th-grade vocabulary for Melville to follow the Lincoln-Douglas debates, but our most recent presidential debates use the language of sixth graders. Some candidates have devolved to the pre-school level.

We writers owe a duty to our gifts. We’ve been given the gift of language, and we need to dig deep into words. We need to relish wordplay, not rely on clich├ęs as we stumble toward the marketplace, or settle for the slick, repackaged street-talk we pick up from rap and TV.

And we owe a duty to our other gift, our stories. In the cacophony of sound that fills our broadband waves, amid the lies and shrill self-promotions, it is essential that we writers return to Melville’s silent grass-growing place and find the truths that fiction can lay bare.

Our fictions are myths, of course, not histories: they show heroes vanquishing monsters. Theseus versus the wicked Minotaur, Marlowe versus the wicked temptress, V. I. Warshawski versus the wicked corporation, they’re all the same story.

But these fictions tell essential truths, about our emotional lives, what we fear, what we want, what we need. Writing is a form of auto-surgery: the closer we cut to our own bones, force ourselves to emotional truth, the more authentic will our voices become.

As the poet Sappho wrote, more than 2600 years ago,

'Although they are only breath
Words, which I command
Are immortal.'

What we remember from Sappho’s time, and from Melville’s, are not brand names or spreadsheets, but poets. For in the end, it is that word which is only breath which endures."

Sara Paretsky, the 2011 MWA Grand Master, is the award-winning author of the 14-book mystery series featuring female detective V.I. Warshawski. The newest title in the series is Body Work. Sara is the founding sister of Sisters in Crime.

Cathy Pickens, the national president of Sisters in Crime, is the author of the award-winning Southern Fried mystery series featuring South Carolina attorney Avery Andrews. The most recent title in the series is Cant Never Tell.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mystery Dinner Game: Hyenas, Tuskers, Chaos

By Ann Littlewood

[Originally posted at]

Shortly before we left on our huge-deal safari to Kenya, one of the trip organizers suggested I dash off one of those role-playing mystery dinner games for a group activity.

"You write mysteries, right?"

Yes, but I'd never seen, much less played, such a game, and I was trying to draft the first 100 pages of the next zoo mystery so it could steep while we were gone, and meanwhile pack, finish a bathroom remodel, get typhoid shots, and arrange dog and house care and ...

So I said, "Sure!"

I resuscitated my corporate communications chops and welded them to mystery conventions and worked my aging ass off. I stole freely from a game I bought and customized it for a zoo keeper group in Kenya. The final package had invitations with a rhino logo, instructions, name tags, clues in envelopes, and player booklets. The setting was, of course, a safari camp. The game had a cunning murder, wacky characters, a false confession, gunshots, and plenty more. Naturally there was no time for a rehearsal before we left.

One night it was raining too hard for a red-light game drive, so instead of lurching around in an open van looking for leopards and hippos, we gave the game a try. I was a little trepidatious. Not nearly enough, it turned out.

On the plus side, we were all pretty well lubricated -- Tusker beer for many, wine for some. The women were keen to do it and argued over who got which of the four female parts. On the other hand, the men were not so enthusiastic. My husband and two other men agreed to give it a try after some arm-twisting, but we were a guy short.

We were staging this at the dining area of the camp and several of the Kenyan staff were on duty to open beers and so on. They thought this game sounded great.

One of them was John (not his real name), a tall young Maasai warrior (apparently all Maasai men are warriors), draped in his red robe and beaded head covering. He's learning the safari business from the ground up, waiting tables on his way to become a driver/guide, for which he will also need three years at the university in Nairobi. (The drivers had extensive training and knew everything.)

Aside from being a sweet, wide-eyed heart-throb (I say that in a motherly way), John was fearless, and he stepped in to take the last role.

I whipped up name tags for people who wanted a role and didn't have one -- the murdered woman's ghost (a brilliant idea, if I say so myself), hyena, leopard, lion, bushbaby, giraffe (a non-speaking part), tortoise (also non-speaking), and so on. Everyone who wanted to get in on it had a part, even if it was mostly to growl at random intervals.

And so we commenced. But, honestly, I had no way to know that the illumination at this eco-resort would be dimmer than candlelight. Reading 12 point type meant standing right next to one of the scarce little light bulbs. So we had a few issues with the script.

John had a key role, a big part. He speaks at least three languages (his tribe's, Kiswahili and English), but reading English was a tiny bit challenging. He got the words, but some of the flavor fell overboard. We applauded and kept the momentum. People loved hamming up their character. They vamped and whined and boasted and sneered and mostly forgot the player booklets.

And every time really crucial clues were about to be revealed, the two bartenders, hunched under a blanket together, ran through the middle of the group whooping like hyenas (exactly like hyenas). This aroused the leopard (in her spotted pajamas) to snarl and claw at them which set off the rest of the animals. I think the giraffe stampeded and the tortoise may have been trampled. It was hard to tell in the dark.

After extended chaos and considerable hysteria, the murderer threw her hands in the air and shouted a confession. We cheered.

So all you mystery writers, learn from my tale.
  • Need I say "Tuskers?"
  • Set up characters to be either gender.
  • Be ready for audience participation.
  • Don't expect anything complicated to work at all the way you intended.
And bring a flashlight.

Ann Littlewood is the author of the Zoo Mysteries featuring zookeeper Iris Oakley. The newest title in the series is Did Not Survive. Ann began her career at the Oregon Zoo where, as a nursery keeper for 12 years, she reared a variety of mammals and birds. She left the zoo to work in corporate America as a technical writer and publications manager. These days, she writes mysteries and short stories.

Mystery game photos by Liz Quinlan.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spring Reading

By Cathy Pickens

It’s springtime, and a mystery reader’s fancy turns to good books. Okay, no requirement that it be springtime for that to happen. A hard-core reader doesn’t need much of an excuse.

Which leads me to my question: What books have you bought from an independent bookstore lately? We began a focus on independent bookstores in the late fall, following the lead of SinC member Dana Stabenow. Inquiring minds would like to know what you’ve added to your reading list—and where your favorite independent bookstores are!

For my list, I recently had a wonderful visit with the Friends of the Library in Clemson-Central, South Carolina, a real old-home week for me. Tricia Lightweis of Booksmith in Seneca took care of book sales. Her staff members are great friends of local writers and great sources for good reads.

At Park Road Books in Charlotte this week, I bought Murder in Italy (about the Amanda Knox case) by Seattle writer Candace Dempsey and The Brain That Changes Itself, featured on PBS’s The Brain Fitness Program. [Store owner Sally Brewster and I agreed that we needed to know how to be kind to our brains, to make up for past abuses.]

So where have you been? What have you bought? Let us in on some good secrets!

Cathy Pickens, the national president of Sisters in Crime, is the author of the award-winning Southern Fried mystery series featuring South Carolina attorney Avery Andrews. The most recent title in the series is Cant Never Tell.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Bouchercon Survival Guide

By Jon Jordan

Here's some information based on my own experiences and stories I've heard from others.


As you prepare for your trip, there are a few things to remember. Leave room in your bag, you'll be bringing home more than you take with you. Bring some aspirin, maybe some stomach medicine. You are in a strange town, eating out a lot and your schedule will be out of sorts. Better to have some things with you than to have to run to the gift shop and pay $22 dollars for three Excedrin. Bring extra socks and comfy shoes. Happy feet equal happy convention attendee. I also like to bring a few snack items for the room -- good late-at-night munchies can be hard to find.

At Bouchercon:

On the ground at the convention:
When hitting the hotel, especially somewhere I haven't been before, I like to scope out the surroundings. Is coffee available in the hotel? (In St. Louis, yes.) Are there stores and restaurants within walking distance? (Again, yes.) It's nice to have a good feel of the place before it all starts to get crazy.

Before you leave home, you should be able to see a schedule of the panels. Who is doing what and when. There will be a schedule up before the convention starts, most likely around early August. It's nice to have a game plan, but don't be too rigid. Flexibility is key. Seeing panels is great, but if you get into a good discussion with fans or an author, it may be worth missing a panel.

The one thing that my wife and I have found over the years is that it is a good idea to make a little time for quiet. Maybe a lunch away from the convention, or even an hour up in your room soaking in the tub. It can really help the whole thing from becoming overwhelming.

If you are getting books signed that you bring from home, I've found that it's best to keep the numbers down a bit. If I know authors will be in my home town, I wait until they come around again. Generally we bring books by those authors we don't see often. My first Bouchercon, I missed out on some cool things because I got caught up in the signing room.

Even if you aren't an author, it might be a good idea to make up some business cards. If you meet people you will want to keep in touch. Trading business cards is the easiest way. And it's easy enough to do on your own computer: just your name and email address is enough. Plus they
don't get lost like a bar napkin might.

A number of people have asked how to dress. One word: Comfortable. This is supposed to be fun, a vacation of sorts, though a crazy active one. There are no dress codes. Even to the Anthony Awards, I've seen people in t-shirts sitting next to people in a tux. Wear what feels good for you. I will suggest something with pockets :)

A couple quick points about authors:
Generally speaking, if an author is out and about in the convention area or bar, they are more than happy to talk to you and usually sign things. But be reasonable. Sliding a manuscript under a bathroom stall door is a bad idea. (And yes, it's been done.) Also, if people are eating, wait till they finish. If an author is talking to someone and you'd like to join in, if you wait for them to notice you, they will be more than happy to converse, but try not to interrupt a conversation in midpoint. (I've seen people interrupt a discussion between author and agent/editor.) It's really just basic courtesies.

To wrap up, my two biggest convention rules for myself are:
a) Eat a big breakfast.
b) I can sleep when I get home.

Our goal is for people to leave Bouchercon St. Louis tired and happy.

Jon Jordan is the publisher of Crimespree Magazine and the host of Bouchercon 2011. In the coming months, he will be "Blogging Bouchercon" on the SinC blog. For more information on Bouchercon, see

Friday, April 15, 2011

The State of America's Libraries: The 2011 Report

By Kathie Felix

During this week's observance of National Library Week, the American Library Association released its annual “The State of America's Libraries" report.

The report provides information on current library trends including budget cuts, library use, the use of wireless internet services and computer access, the ebook evolution and related controversies, the most challenged books in the country and recent legislation affecting America’s libraries. The pdf version of the report is available on the ALA website here.

Some key components of the document appear below.

Budget Cuts

Taxpayers approved 87 percent of library operating measures on ballots across the country. However, according to U.S. mayors, local library hours, staff or services ranked number two in budget cuts, second only to cuts in maintenance and services at parks and gardens.

Library Use

A January 2011 poll conducted for the ALA by Harris Interactive found that:
  • More than two-thirds of adults said a library’s assistance in starting a business or finding a job was important to them.
  • 65 percent of those polled had visited the library in the past year (72 percent women, 58 percent men)
  • 58 percent of those surveyed had a library card (mostly women and mostly working women and working mothers)
  • 31 percent of adults ranked the library at the top of their list of tax-supported services

Increased Technology Offerings

Nearly 85 percent of public libraries offer wireless internet access and nearly two-thirds of these libraries extend wireless access outside the library. Computer usage at public libraries continues to increase.


For most libraries, ebooks are a small percentage of circulated items, although they represent the fastest-growing segment of borrowing. More than two-thirds of public libraries offer ebooks; almost all academic libraries offer them.

Last month’s announcement that HarperCollins will institute a 26-checkout policy for library ebooks raises the possibility that ebooks that are not repurchased would be available at a library for only about one year.

Most Challenged Books

The Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books published annually by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom:

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (which has been a target of censors since its publication in 1932)
Crank by Ellen Hopkins
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Lush by Natasha Friend
What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Recent Legislation

The legislative topics examined in the report include:
  • The Library Services and Technology Act
  • Legislation authorizing the use of libraries as relocation centers during disasters and emergencies
  • Broadband-related issues such as an FCC-commissioned study that found libraries and other community organizations fill the gap between low home adoption of broadband internet technology and high community demand, library broadband funding via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the National Broadband Plan’s suggestions for the technology needs of libraries.
The American Library Association releases the State of America’s Libraries report each year during National Library Week.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

In Praise of Bookmobiles

By Kathie Felix

National Library Week continues today, April 13, with National Bookmobile Day.

Nearly all of us have an earliest bookmobile memory. Mine replays a long-ago sunny day in the southwest U.S., as I stood on a neighborhood street corner with my mother and younger sisters. I can still picture my first look at the inside of that bookmobile – a most amazing place.

It seemed too good to be true when I heard that the library had a truck full of books that would be coming regularly to our neighborhood so that we could get something to read. To my great surprise and amazement, the bookmobile showed up exactly as scheduled. And, as I had hoped, it turned out to be the most fantastic – and convenient – place I’d ever seen.

To this day, I doubt I’ve seen a better idea for a delivery system. Although I’m a big fan of technology, e-readers just don’t seem to strike the same chord of wonder, possibly because I can’t actually see the books inside of them.

I think I will always remember walking away from that van on that summer day, as my five-year-old self imagined which books I’d stock on the shelves if that bookmobile was my very own.

In celebration of National Bookmobile Day, the American Library Association has posted an array of bookmobile-related information online at The content includes information on the history of the bookmobile, a bookmobile slide show featuring vintage images and a video of the Parade of Bookmobiles at the 2009 American Library Association convention.

Do you have a bookmobile story that you'd like to share?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Celebrating National Library Workers Day -- and Equal Pay Day

By Kathie Felix

The National Library Week (April 10 – 16) celebration continues on Tuesday, April 12, with the observance of National Library Workers Day (NLWD).

The day was created to help library staff, users, administrators and Friends groups recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers.

The January 25, 2003 resolution establishing National Library Workers Day said:

“That in order to recognize the hard work, dedication, and expertise of library support staff and librarians that the Tuesday of National Library Week be designated National Library Workers Day; and, that on that day, interested library workers, library groups, and libraries should advocate for better compensation for all library workers and, if the day coincides with National Pay Equity Day, these individuals, groups, and libraries should recognize both days together.”

This year, both National Library Workers Day and Equal Pay Day will be observed on April 12.

The date for Equal Pay Day was chosen by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) to symbolize how long into 2011 it takes on average for women to earn the same pay as men did in 2010. The NCPE reports that the U.S. Census showed the gender gap relatively unchanged, with women earning 77 cents for every dollar a man earned in 2009.

According to the American Library Association (ALA), library workers’ salaries on average are improving. The 2010 edition of the American Library Association – Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) Salary Survey reports average increases across all six library position types, ranging from two percent for managers of support staff to 13 percent for directors of public and academic libraries.

Even so, a recent ALA statement pointed out that, “However in these tough times there is a need for special emphasis on the pay equity for library workers.”

For ideas on ways to advocate for pay equity, go to the NCPE website and see the ALA-APA Better Salaries and Pay Equity Toolkit.

Keep in mind that many individuals will be wearing red today to symbolize that women and minorities are "in the red" with their pay.

A variety of National Library Workers Day celebrations are taking place across the country today. The ALA-APA is hosting a contest designed to showcase the states that are celebrating their library workers publicly on National Library Workers Day. To find a complete list of these NLWD stars, check out the Library Star map on the ALA-APA website. Make sure your state is represented. Last week, 13 states had no nominations submitted for the Library Star project.

ALA-APA will accept Library Star nominations through the end of the day on Tuesday, April 12. The nominations will be posted online by Friday, April 15.

The National Library Workers Day website offers ideas about ways to celebrate the holiday. In addition, the NLWD Facebook page provides the opportunity to share information about National Library Workers Day celebrations.

Here at Sisters in Crime, we love library workers – and the libraries that employ them.

What are you doing on National Library Workers Day?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Virtual Witch Hunts

By Nathan Bransford

[Originally published at]

There was a pretty unfortunate scene at a book blog recently after a reviewer wrote an unfavorable review of a self-published author's book. The author responded with unseemly umbrage and profanity.

And then the Internet got involved.

Literally hundreds and hundreds of commenters piled on the author with snide remarks and scorn. Then the virtual mob took to Amazon, where they trashed her book, wrote faux five star reviews, and are continuing to have a great time at her expense (96 reviews and counting).

They may not have been wielding actual pitchforks and torches, but there are burnt embers all around the Internet.

Now, I want to clearly acknowledge that the author in question behaved extremely unprofessionally. No author, with the singular exception of Emily St. John Mandel, has ever responded to a bad review and come away looking good. Let alone with rudeness and profanity. It was an extremely unprofessional and unfortunate scene.

But did she really deserve this?

The Heart of the Mob

What are the motives of the people trashing this author? Does anyone really think that a virtual mob scene is going to prevent authors from behaving unprofessionally in the future? Authors have been lashing out over bad reviews for several millenia, methinks an Internet freakout will not bring peace in our time.

In truth, the actions of a mob say a lot more about the people participating in them than the person being scorned. And I think in the dark heart of a mob you'll find a quiet sense of relief. People are secretly and ardently glad that they're not the ones being targeted.

You can feel the relief and sense of superiority in numbers behind the mocking: Well, at least I'm not that bad off. And a hundred strangers agree with me.

But really that's a false sense of security. As the old quote goes, "A mob has many heads but no brains."

To Deserve is Divine

The other justification you'll hear is that the person in question deserved it. She brought it on herself by failing to edit her book or behaving unprofessionally or using profanity or etc. etc. And sure, there are consequences for bad behavior.

But what she deserved is compassion.

We've all made mistakes in our worst moments. We've all taken criticism too hard. We've all lashed out when we should have kept quiet. We've all said things we shouldn't have.

Now imagine that the mistake we made was met not with sympathy and fair consequences but with a mob trying to tear down everything we've ever tried to build.

This is a person who just wanted to have their book out there and has the same hopes and dreams as any other writer. Some rude Internet behavior negates all of that? People will ridicule her and scorch the Earth and trash what this author has built in the name of teaching a lesson?

Let's not kid ourselves that a lesson was taught, other than to remind us, yet again, that the Internet is a terrifying place to make a mistake.

Nathan Bransford is the author of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow, a middle grade novel about three kids who blast off into space, break the universe and have to find their way back home, which will be published by Dial Books for Young Readers in May 2011. He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd., but is now a publishing civilian working in the tech industry.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Anthony Awards Push: It's Time to Send In Your Ballot!

[This post originally appeared at]

Well, everybody, the 2011 Anthony Awards nomination process is in its second month, and will soon be ending (April 30). There are only a few weeks left to fill out your ballots and get them in. Ballots that arrive after the end of the month will not be counted. We sent out over 1500 ballots, but have received only about 10% of them back.

The breadth and quality of the books, short stories, websites and blogs we've received so far is greater than we expected. We're getting a lot of nice recommendations for our personal TBR piles. In the Best Novel category alone, there are already over 150 books, but there is no clear runaway novel yet nominated, so don’t feel that the nominations can be complete without your input. Every vote counts -- and there are many possible nominations that may stand or fall on the basis of one vote. Yours. So dig out those ballots, fill them in, and send them to us.

Don’t hesitate because you’ve only read one or two books published in 2010, or because you don’t have five nominations in every category. Everybody is in that same boat. We’ve received lots of single nominations in each or even only a few categories. Many are skipped. If you don’t know the publisher, don’t worry about it. We’ll figure it out once we have the top five in each category.

Perhaps you don’t read graphic novels? That’s OK, nominate the books you DO read. Nominate the website you habituate when trying to find a good suggestion for the next read. In short, let us know what turns you on in some or all of the categories. (But we could really use some more nominations in the Graphic Novels category).

And if you’re in England, or Australia, or Canada, or somewhere else outside the US, and don’t want to put an airmail stamp on the envelope we provided you, that’s OK, too.

Send us your nominations via email to It’s free. We received quite a few ballots that way. You don’t have to scan the ballot, just list the nominations in the appropriate category, and be precise.

This is a fan-based award, and the more fans that send in their nominations, the more the Awards reflect the fans' opinion. You’ve already spent a good bit of money attending the last Bouchercon, and/or the next, so take a few minutes and tell us which of those books from authors you met in San Francisco, or your local book store, or online, you really enjoyed in 2010.

We look forward to hearing from the rest of you.

Jon Jordan, Bouchercon 2011 Host
John Purcell, Anthony Awards Chair

Jon Jordan
is the publisher of
Crimespree Magazine and the host of Bouchercon 2011. In the coming months, he will be "Blogging Bouchercon" on the SinC blog. For more information on Bouchercon, see

Thursday, April 7, 2011

SinC Library Grants Awarded

The Pecatonica High School Library in Pecatonica, Illinois, and the Hastings Public Library in Hastings, Nebraska, are the most recent winners of the Sisters in Crime $1,000 book-buying grants.

The Pecatonica High School Library (pictured at right) was the February winner of the SinC "We Love Libraries!" grant money.

The Hastings Public Library (pictured below) was the March winner of the SinC library grant.

Each month during 2011, Sisters in Crime will award a $1,000 grant for library book purchases.

To date, the SinC "We Love Libraries!" project has provided $1,000 to 16 libraries in the U.S. The library lottery program began in January 2010.

To Participate

Libraries may participate by completing the online entry form at and uploading a photo of one or more staff members with three books in the library's collection written by Sisters in Crime members. A list of SinC author members can be found by clicking here.

At the end of each month, a library winner will be selected in a random drawing from the entries submitted online. Libraries must be located within the United States to be eligible for the funding.

Only one entry per library is required. Once an entry is on file with Sisters in Crime, it will remain active in the lottery selection process for the duration of the program.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Writer/Reader Considers the Mystery Series

By Elizabeth Zelvin

[Originally published online at]

Most mystery readers of a certain age first discovered the genre through series, whether they cut their eyeteeth on Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie, Nancy Drew or Erle Stanley Gardner. In these early series, the protagonist never changed: Holmes always smoked his pipe and played his violin, Poirot applied his little gray cells to every problem, Miss Marple found a parallel to every evil in the world in the village life of St. Mary Mead. When Nancy got into trouble, she always had the perfect tools for the emergency about her person. Perry Mason always stood up in court to object and grandstanded a confession out of the true villain. (I’ve heard that counsel used to say, “I object!” during a trial and that “Objection!” originated with Perry Mason. Anyone know if it’s true?)

Then, in the Golden Age of mysteries, when the airtight, fair-play puzzle was at its height, Dorothy L. Sayers changed the rules by developing Lord Peter Wimsey from a Bertie Wooster-like flat character into a complex and very human being over the course of the series. And mystery reading got a lot more interesting to readers like me, who want to fall in love with their characters, root for them in adversity, and cheer when they triumph, not only by solving the murder but by resolving some genuine personal dilemma. My favorite characters feel real to me. I’ve said before that I’d like to play my guitar and sing with Judge Deborah Knott’s family and have dinner with the Vorkosigans.

What we read has changed precisely because the fashion in what we write has changed. For example, Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver, who appeared in dozens of mysteries in the 1940s and 1950s, was always described in exactly the same words, as was her home. Encountering the familiar phrases was part of the pleasure of reading the series, which is still on my list of comfort reads. Now we wouldn’t dare repeat even the most clever way of describing a protagonist that we’ve already used. Today’s writers are exhorted to kill our darlings, not repeat them in book after book.

No longer does every mystery series, even a successful and popular one, go on ad infinitum. Part of this is due to the changing face — and economics — of publishing. In the paperback cozy world, an author may get a three-book contract. She brings her protagonist and setting to life, thousands of readers eagerly anticipate Book Four—and the publisher decides it's not satisfied with sales and drops the series, perhaps inviting the author to start a new series under a pseudonym.

In the world of hardcover mysteries, a debut author is typically offered a contract for one book or two — and the publisher’s decision not to let the series go on may be based on sales before publication of the first or second book, or as little as a month after the book comes out. It is notoriously hard to get another publisher to pick up a dropped series — again, for business reasons — so readers who have become attached to a series protagonist and his or her world are left disappointed and dissatisfied.

Perhaps as a result of the precarious nature of series today, many mystery writers have adopted a pattern in which, once the series gets going, they try their hand at a standalone. Until recently, I would have said that I never liked an author’s standalones as much as her series, because my love of and loyalty to the series was based on the development of the series protagonist and the family, friends and colleagues who had sprung to life around her.

Writers with successful series have written some fine standalones — and maybe I’m also getting used to the new fashion. Some standalones by accomplished series writers that I’ve loved in the past few years include Nancy Pickard’s The Virgin of Small Plains and The Scent of Rain and Lightning, Earlene Fowler’s The Saddlemaker’s Wife, the late Ariana Franklin’s City of Shadows and Laurie R. King's Touchstone.

Another consequence of how things have changed is that writers may now conceive their series as having a limited story arc, rather than going on indefinitely. Charlaine Harris’s Harper Connelly series comes to mind. When the unresolved personal dilemma that underlies all Harper’s professional dilemmas gets resolved in Book Five, the series comes to a satisfying conclusion. With two other series behind her and the Sookie Stackhouse series going on and on, thanks to the success of the TV adaptation, "True Blood," it makes sense for Charlaine to move on. And now it seems that Harper Connelly is coming to TV, so her story may continue after all.

Elizabeth Zelvin, a psychotherapist in New York City, is the author of a three-book mystery series featuring Bruce Kohler, a recovering alcoholic. The newest title in the series, Death Will Extend Your Vacation, will be available in 2012. Her short story, “The Green Cross,” (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, August 2010) a current Agatha Award nominee, marks her third Agatha nomination.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Is Your Web Page Accessible to All? Part 2 of 2 Parts

By D. V. Berkom

[Originally published on the Seattle Examiner writing careers blog.]

When I first created my author web page,, I didn't have a clue about CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and laboriously changed font size by hand as I created the pages. Didn't use the H1 attribute. Didn't use any kind of text attribute other than the default. If you design your web page this way, a visually-impaired user will have to listen to everything on the page. And I mean everything.

The text-reader needs a way to differentiate the various areas on the page, or it thinks it's all important. Yes, I know. YOU think everything is important, but put yourself in your visitor's shoes. When you go to a web site, do you want to find the information you're interested in with the least amount of navigation? Sure. So does everyone else. Visually-impaired users are no different.

If you use headings, the text-reader is able to skip to each heading without having to read all of the text in between. This way, if the visitor wants to find out about your new release, s/he can do so without having to listen to everything prior to that information. What if this is the second time the visitor has come to your website? Would you want to have to listen to all the stuff you've heard before, just to get to the piece of information you need?

Didn't think so.

Here are some other issues to take into account when you assess your website:

(Note: While there are many ways to make your website more accessible, more in-depth techniques are beyond the scope of this author and article. I've included links below if you'd like to learn more.)

• Avoid page elements that flicker.
"Elements that flicker between the rate of 2Hz and 55Hz may cause seizures in individuals that have photosensitive epilepsy." ( ) This means that cute little animated cartoon .GIF and marquis-style banners.

• Create accessible .PDF files with Adobe Acrobat, and revise existing PDFs for accessibility. (

• Include captions/transcripts in multimedia: e.g., videos on YouTube, presentations, etc.

• Make your website navigable for non-mouse users (include the option of using the keyboard to navigate your site).

• Offer a "Skip Navigation" option at the top of the page for those interested in jumping directly to the main content.

There are several more unobtrusive ways that you can design your web pages so that everyone can enjoy what you have to offer. While my website is far from completely accessible, I've begun taking the baby steps to create a site that will hopefully include, rather than exclude, non-traditional web users. Creating an accessible website isn't just good business, it's an opportunity to foster inclusiveness and good relationships with potential readers.

For more information:

Online accessibility courses (FREE):

Check your web pages for Accessibility:
The following are links to accessibility toolbars to check your website:

Web Accessibility Toolbar for Internet Explorer (IE):

For Firefox (web developer extension):

Web Accessibility Initiative:

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C):

About Section 508 Standards for Web Accessibility:

D.V. Berkom is the author of the Kate Jones Bad Spirits series. The newest installment in the series, Dead of Winter, will be available in May. For more information, you can see her real-world website at