Monday, June 27, 2011

A Report from SinC's 2011 Publishing Summit

By Barbara Fister

We’ve had some very busy days at the American Library Association convention in New Orleans, and they're not over yet. Your SinC Publishing Summit team has been meeting non-stop with people who can help us understand better how readers discover the books they love.

After a series of annual summit reports that gathered insights from publishers, editors, agents, distributors, wholesalers and emerging digital publishing platforms, we thought it was time to focus on the readers, because when you get right down to it, they are the people who matter.

We’ve held focus groups with adult services librarians, librarians who plan events and specialists in young adult literature. We talked to the founder of the first social network for bibliophiles. We met with “rock star librarians” who are renowned for their expertise in "reader’s advisory,"– the art of connecting readers with books that they will love.

We learned that it’s critical to coax out what readers like to read – and why. Subgenres don’t matter as much to readers as the underlying factors that make an appealing book: tone and mood, characters you know well or those who might surprise you, fast-paced stories or language that makes you want to slow down and savor the words.

More books are published every year, and that makes it challenging for writers to connect with their audience. We hope that our report will illuminate ways that readers discover books and will help our member authors connect to their audience.

But, first, you’ll have to give us a chance to let our heads stop spinning!

Photos of New Orleans by Barbara Fister.

Barbara Fister
is the author of the Anni Koskinen mysteries. The most recent title in the series is
Through the Cracks. She is an academic librarian and serves on the SinC board as Secretary.

Friday, June 24, 2011

SinC at ALA: Meet Our Authors & Librarians

If you’re attending the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual conference in New Orleans this weekend, be sure to stop by booth #3259 in the Exhibit Hall to meet Sisters in Crime authors and librarians – and sign up to win an 8 GB iPod Touch.

Here’s the schedule for the Sisters in Crime booth at ALA:

Friday, June 24
Opening Reception, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Frances Dean McNamara
Jerri Lynn Ledford
Terri Landry

Saturday, June 25
(Mystery Day on the ALA ‘Pop Top’ Stage)

June Shaw, 10 a.m. – noon
Jane Cleland, Noon – 1 p.m.
Libby Hellmann, 12:15 – 1:15 p.m.
Holli Castillo, 1 – 3 p.m.
Elaine Viets, 1:15 – 2:15 p.m.
Greg Herren, 2 – 5 p.m.
Barbara Leavy, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Julie Smith, 3 – 4 p.m.

Sunday, June 26

Librarian Sue Epstein, 10 – 11 a.m.
Barbara Leavy, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Frankie Bailey, 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Barbara Fister, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Tony Fennelly, 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.

Monday, June 27

Terri Landry, 9:30 – 11:00 a.m.
Librarian Barbara Bibel, 12:30 – 2:00 p.m.

During the ALA conference, Sisters in Crime representatives will be meeting with ALA exhibitors and other publishing industry professionals, the first step in the preparation of Sisters in Crime’s annual Summit Report on the publishing industry. The 2011 Publishing Summit Report will be distributed to Sisters in Crime members later this summer.

Enjoy ALA – and SinC Into a Great Mystery!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

San Bruno Public Library, Newport HS Library Win SinC Library Grants

The San Bruno Public Library and the Newport High School Library are the most recent winners of the Sisters in Crime We Love Libraries! book-buying grant. Each library will receive a check for $1,000 for the purchase of books for its lending collection.

The San Bruno Public Library, in San Bruno, California, is part of the Peninsula Library System, which includes eight public library branches and the San Mateo Community College libraries.

The Newport High School Library in Newport, Washington (pictured at right), is part of the Newport School District, which includes Stratton Elementary, Sadie Halstead Middle School and New Port High School.

To date, the SinC "We Love Libraries!" project has provided $1,000 book-buying grants to 18 libraries in the U.S. The library lottery program began in January 2010 and will continue throughout 2011.

Libraries may participate in the We Love Libraries! lottery 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.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wives Behind the Badge: National Day of Prayer for Law Enforcement Officers

Today – June 17, 2011 – is the first observance of a national day of prayer for law enforcement officers. From 9 a.m. until noon, people around the globe will be taking a moment to pause and hold these brave women and men in their thoughts and prayers in gratitude for the difficult work they do for their communities.

The day of prayer was initiated by Facebook supporters of Wives Behind the Badge, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization “dedicated to providing resources and emotional support to law enforcement families and serving as a positive voice for law enforcement in the community.”

As all of us know all too well, danger is ever-present in the lives of law enforcement professionals. And, if you saw this week’s season opener of “Memphis Beat,” you had a bit of an inside look at the multi-generational effects of line-of-duty death in police families.

According to statistics from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, there have been 88 law enforcement officer fatalities this year to date, a 22 percent increase from last year. Of those fatalities, 38 were from gunfire, a 46 percent increase from last year.

“The statistics have a great deal of us worried about the state of things in this country,” Chelsea Spencer, President of Wives Behind the Badge, said.

“Line-of-duty deaths are, sadly, on the increase this year. A lot of them are violent deaths,” she said.

“The National Day of Prayer will hopefully bring some focus to this and get people committed to supporting their law enforcement officers.”

Spencer said the day of prayer was initiated in April with the thought of “let’s try and see what works.” This week, more than 26,000 people were supporting the project.

“We’re gaining 1500 people a day. It’s snowballed,” she said.

Wives Behind the Badge was founded in 2006 by Rose Winick, the wife of a police sergeant in southern California. The organization began as an online support forum designed to help police wives share advice and support. Today, Wives Behind the Badge has become a force dedicated to helping police families nationwide with resources and emotional support through programs such as Families Behind the Badge, scholarships, Kids for K-9s and H.A.L.O.S. (Helping Aid Lost Officers’ Survivors).

For more information about Wives Behind the Badge, go to

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The 'Don Knotts Golden Donut Short Story Contest' Seeks Entries

This week, the Writers' Police Academy (WPA) announced that the Don Knotts Golden Donut Short Story Contest is open for entries.

The contest is seeking short stories of exactly 200 words (including the title) about the photograph published here and on the WPA website. The photo was taken by Sunday Kaminski, a Maryland-based photographer whose work has appeared in shows, exhibits and publications including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

The entry guidelines:
-Use exactly 200 words, including the title.
-The image in the photograph must be the main subject of the story.
-The story must be polished and complete (with a beginning, middle and a twist of an ending).
-All stories must be submitted electronically.
-The submission deadline is midnight, August 19, 2011.
-A $20 entry fee must accompany each entry. The proceeds go to the Writers' Police Academy fund to benefit the Guilford Technical Community College criminal justice foundation.

For detailed submission guidelines, go to the WPA website and click on Short Story Contest in the blue menu ribbon at the top of the screen.

The contest winner will receive the Don Knotts Golden Donut Award sponsored by the High Point (North Carolina) Public Library and Krispy Kreme. The award will be presented at the Writers' Police Academy banquet on Saturday, Sept. 24.

The contest is open to everyone. Registration and attendance at the Writers' Police Academy is not required to participate.

**Photograph by Sunday Kaminski. The image may not be copied, reproduced or used in any manner without the express written permission of Sunday Kaminski.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

SinC Extends Member Discount for Writers' Police Academy

Sisters in Crime is extending the member discount for SinC members attending the Writers' Police Academy taking place Sept. 23 to 25, 2011, near Greensboro, North Carolina.

The offer, originally scheduled to end on June 16, was extended due to its popularity. SinC members are now eligible for the deeply-discounted registration fee of $100 throughout the entire registration period of the conference. SinC national will pay the balance of the $255 registration.

If you’re not a Sisters in Crime member, you can sign up for a SinC membership to receive the discount. The annual membership fee for a SinC professional membership is $40. For more information on membership, go to

The Writers' Police Academy provides a hands-on interactive experience designed to help writers increase their understanding of all aspects of law enforcement and forensics.

The three-day training program offers access to active-duty police instructors, an on-site working fire station and working police, fire and EMS equipment.

Sisters in Crime will sponsor a mix-and-mingle reception on Friday, Sept. 24, from 7 to 9 p.m. The get-together will be followed by a “night owl” presentation by Lee Lofland, author of Police Procedure and Investigation, a bestseller in the Writers Digest “Howdunit” series.

To register, or for more detailed information on the Writers' Police Academy, go to

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Watching the Detective: Bob Hamer

By Jill Amadio

It’s rare to find an author who is actually the authentic fictional sleuth himself.

Bob Hamer is one of those writers. He has lived the harrowing life of his protagonist, Matt Hogan, and experienced the riveting plots of his novels – right down to shooting the bad guys and being shot himself.

As an FBI undercover agent for almost three decades, Hamer played the roles – sometimes for as long as three years – of a contract killer, terrorist, drugs and weapons dealer, gambler and pedophile. He became an expert on Western art, was hired as a stuntman, joined Los Angeles and San Diego street gangs and became a trusted member of the Mafia and Russian mobs.

A charismatic speaker, Hamer talked to members of the Orange County chapter of Sisters in Crime at their June meeting. With little need for research, since his own experiences supply his material, he said that he simply sits down at the computer and pounds out his stories using just two fingers and the memories of the cases he has worked. A former U.S. Marine and lawyer, he’s just signed a movie contract to bring his latest thriller, Targets Down, to the big screen.

Hamer knows his way around Hollywood, too, as a screenwriter, tech adviser and consultant for “Law and Order: SVU,” “The Inside,” “Angela’s Eyes” and other television shows. He’s also written 18 short stories.

His initial writing effort, The Last Undercover, also under option for a television series, was a 2008 nonfiction account of a “dangerous dance with evil,” as the book cover proclaims, a gripping account of his most shocking and difficult case. The book won several awards and testimonials.

Turning next to fiction, Hamer introduced Matt Hogan in his debut novel, Enemies Among Us. The author gives Hogan the ability to find a sliver of goodness in even the most violent of criminals, just as Hamer himself had to do to stay alive in the most dangerous of situations.

While undercover, Hamer began a journal to keep a record of his life for his son. After his retirement from the FBI, the journals became the basis for the thriller series, albeit with an almost renegade approach to writing. He knows that coincidences, for example, are best avoided in fiction – yet his own life with criminals was full of them, so he writes them in.

His writing habits include slamming through a raw, rough first draft as quickly as possible. Once it’s written, he relaxes and has great fun with the rewrites, aiming for 1,000 words a day, constantly checking the word count, then stopping as soon as he reaches his goal. He says he’s still learning what “platform” means, how to use social media and trying to get his talk show interviewers to stop talking so he can give them his answers.

Jill Amadio is an award-winning journalist, author, collaborator, ghostwriter and screenwriter. She is the author of the bestselling biography, Gunther Rall: Luftwaffe Fighter Ace and NATO General, now available for Kindle, and has co-authored several books and ghostwritten a crime novel. Currently, she is at work on a new mystery series. For more information, see

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

'Creative Nonfiction' Seeks True Crime Stories

Creative Nonfiction magazine is seeking new essays about true crime – detailed reports of premeditation, follow-through and aftermath – whether taken from police blotters or the news, passed down as small-town legend or family lore, or committed in cold blood.

For the Spring 2012 issue (#45), the magazine's editors are looking for “true stories of petty theft, identity theft, embezzlement or first-degree murder; of jaywalking, selling (or maybe buying) weed or assault; of crimes and punishments and unsolved mysteries. Think The Devil in the White City (Larson), In Cold Blood (Capote) and Iphegenia in Forest Hills (Malcolm); or Half a Life (Strauss), Lucky (Sebold) and The Night of the Gun (Carr). If it’s against the law and someone – maybe even you – did it anyway, we want to know all about it.”

CNF is in search of “well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice.” Essays can be serious, humorous or somewhere in between. The Best Essay will receive a $1,000 award.

The submission guidelines:
Essays must be unpublished.
Length: 4,000 words maximum.
Postmarked by Sept. 30, 2011.
Clearly mark “True Crime” on the essay and on the outside of the envelope.

There is a $20 reading fee for each submission. For $25, submitters in the United States can pay the reading fee for a single submission and receive a four-issue subscription to Creative Nonfiction magazine.

Submissions from outside the U.S. are welcome, but not eligible for the reading fee/subscription discount due to shipping costs.

Send your manuscript, a cover letter with complete contact information including the title of the essay, word count, self-addressed stamped envelope and payment to:

Creative Nonfiction
Attention: True Crime
5501 Walnut Street, Suite 202
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

For more information, go to

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 Names America’s Most Well-Read Cities

Cambridge, Massachusetts, home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, topped’s recent listing of the Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities in America.

Cambridge residents ordered the most in book, magazine and newspaper sales, in print and Kindle formats, since Jan. 1, 2011 on a per capita basis for cities with more than 100,000 residents. Cambridge residents also ordered the highest number of nonfiction books.

The top 20 list:

1. Cambridge, Massachusetts
2. Alexandria, Virginia
3. Berkeley, California
4. Ann Arbor, Michigan
5. Boulder, Colorado
6. Miami, Florida
7. Salt Lake City, Utah
8. Gainesville, Florida
9. Seattle, Washington
10. Arlington, Virginia
11. Knoxville, Tennessee
12. Orlando, Florida
13. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
14. Washington, D.C.
15. Bellevue, Washington
16. Columbia, South Carolina
17. St. Louis, Missouri
18. Cincinnati, Ohio
19. Portland, Oregon
20. Atlanta, Georgia

Echoing results from Sisters in Crime’s recent Mystery Book Buyer Study, nearly half of the cities on the list are located below the Mason-Dixon line.

The Washington, D.C. area includes three of the top 20 cities – Alexandria, Va. (#2), Arlington, Va. (#10) and Washington itself (#14). Alexandria residents also topped the list of buyers of children’s books.

The sunshine state, Florida, has three cities in the top 20 – Miami (#6), Gainesville (#8) and Orlando (#12).

“We hope book lovers across the country enjoy this fun look at where the most voracious readers reside,” said Mari Malcolm, managing editor of Books at

Bestseller and SinC member Dana Stabenow, author of Though Not Dead (Minotaur, 2011), called the report “a useful aid for authors.”

“If that’s where people are reading the most books, maybe that’s where authors ought to go to sign ‘em,” she said.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Inside inSinC

This week, Sisters in Crime members received one of the organization’s leading member benefits -- the inSinC quarterly bulletin, a 20-page publication filled with practical information for Sisters in Crime members writing and reading crime fiction.

inSinC, edited by Molly Weston, provides a treasure trove of feature articles, columns from industry experts and useful news for SinC member writers and readers.

The June 2011 issue starts off with a bang with “Reviewers Unleashed,” a far-ranging conversation with Oline Cogdill (Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Mystery Scene, Publishers Weekly, McClatchy Tribune Features and more), Hallie Ephron (The Boston Globe), Jen Forbus ( and Crimespree), Art Taylor (the Washington Post) and Sarah Weinman (Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, the National Post, Maclean’s, The Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post and more).

In “The FOSS Cure,” Ramona DeFelice Long provides a helpful – and therapeutic – examination of the short story form, with advice for conquering fear of the short story (FOSS).

Jan Burke turns a watchful eye toward the state of death investigation in the U.S. with “Who’s Watching Our Deaths?” Studies, problems, critical needs, what you can do – you’ll find all of the information here.

“Writer Beware” by Victoria Strauss outlines the work of the publishing industry watchdog group sponsored by the Science Fiction Writers of America that provides information and warnings about scams and schemes that threaten writers.

The photo essay, “Memories of Malice 2011,” shares some of the highlights of this year’s Malice Domestic conference. Remember, not all of what happens at Malice stays at Malice!

The regular inSinC columns include Sisters in Crime president Cathy Pickens’ report on recent and upcoming SinC initiatives, “Law & Fiction: Getting Facts Straight” by attorney Leslie Budewitz and “Illusionists and the Brain” by forensic psychology and criminal justice professor Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.

In addition, the latest inSinC provides other news you can use, including “Chapter Highlights,” news of special events that may just offer some ideas for your own chapter activities; “Conferences and Happenings,” an updated event calendar; “The Docket” by Patricia Gulley, the latest in publishing news from your Sisters; and “Writing Contests,” a look at award-winning opportunities.

Let us know what you think about the latest edition of inSinC. We'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Shaken: Stories for Japan

By Jeri Westerson

Early in June, Amazon will feature a new Kindle book that may be the first major e-book charitable fundraiser.

Prompted by the disaster in northern Japan, Shaken: Stories for Japan, is a collection of original, exclusive, Japan-themed short stories by some remarkable writers: Gar Anthony Haywood, Naomi Hirahara, Ken Kuhlken, Cara Black, Dianne Emley, Dale Furutani, Jeri Westerson, Gary Phillips, Kelli Stanley, Brett Battles, Robert Gregory Brown, Jeffrey Siger, IJ Parker, Wendy Hornsby, Vicki Doudera, Adrian McKinty, Debbi Mack, Meredith Cole, Rosemary Harris, CJ West, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Hong Kong film historian Stefan Hammond and Edgar-nominated author Tim Hallinan, who is editing the collection.

One hundred percent of all writer royalties for this book will be paid directly into the bank account of Japan America Society of Southern California, which has already raised more than $1 million for the relief effort.

I think this is the first time anyone has taken advantage of the rapid turnaround time possible on the Kindle and the monthly direct-deposit of royalty payments to raise money for a major charitable enterprise. This actually probably wouldn't have been possible before the advent of the ebook. (We're exclusive to Amazon only because of their payment policies, which are prompt and automatic, freeing up money as it's needed, not at the end of various bookkeeping quarters.)

When Tim Hallinan approached me about this project in late April, it was really a no-brainer. First off, I live in southern California and am intimately acquainted with earthquakes to the point where I can guess the Richter scale size of it just by the feel. That’s too intimate!

Most of the quakes that roll in from time to time are minor or come from far away (a big rolling feeling means it comes from afar, and you can hear those coming, too. A hard, building jolt means that the epicenter is quite close, a few miles or so.). But it’s like living on a precipice: Get too complacent and bad things can happen.

We don’t know when an earthquake of devastating proportion will strike and we don’t know what will happen to us and our community when it does. I live pretty far inland, so a chance at a tsunami is zero, but you don’t need a wall of water to destroy life as you knew it. The earth moving can take care of that.

I would have to say that empathy was the biggest factor that encouraged my participation in this project. But getting a chance to have a story alongside this talented array of authors was certainly another big factor. I haven’t read any of the other stories and am just as excited to get the book as anyone else. It’s a great chance to do some good and get a great collection at the same time. That seems like an easy decision for mystery readers.

Jeri Westerson, the president of the Orange County chapter of Sisters in Crime, is the author of the Crispin Guest medieval mysteries. The newest title in the series, The Demon's Parchment, was nominated for the Reviewer's Choice Award for Historical Mystery from Romantic Times magazine and the Bruce Alexander Award for Best Historical Mystery. For more information, see