Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Solving Mysteries in the Library

By Susan Van Kirk


Originally published at http://andsometimesshewrites.blogspot.com


Librarians definitely solve mysteries!


I spent April 21, SinC's "Solving Mysteries Day," working as a volunteer at the Warren County Public Library in Monmouth, Illinois. Monmouth is a town of 10,000 in west central Illinois about 20 miles from the Mississippi River. 

Kathy is the saintly woman designated to keep an eye on me. What a patient person! In this photo, were are standing in front of books by authors who are members of Sisters in Crime.

On Saturday, we solved a lot of mysteries -  such as figuring out what is in all the nooks and crannies of the huge old building. Some of the doors in the upstairs are heavy metal and slide open and closed as if we were in a meat packing plant. Very, very old.

Here I am checking out a book for a patron. The library is a hub of activity in this little town. Working here would help you see a huge cross section of the town.

A librarian's job is a lot like teaching. First, you rarely sit down or get a chance to go to the bathroom. Second, you are always answering peoples' questions or trying to find things to help them.

I learned how to check books in and out, how to shelve, download digital books, figure out how to check out a book with a hand-written barcode, and how to make the (*&!!#) wand work to check out books.

Kathy told me of an amazing mystery. The library had some books that were overdue and tried to reach the patron by sending a letter. The letter came back from the post office marked "deceased." Instead of just writing it off, the librarians began asking selected patrons if they had seen this person. (Remember, this is a small town!) 

One of the question-ees had not seen the individual, but a few weeks later she approached the desk and explained that the person they had been seeking was sitting at a computer a few yards away. The librarian was able to confirm the person's name and give him that bad news that he owed money for books. The good news was that he wasn't dead.


This is one of the "nooks and crannies" where "old technology" goes to die. Remember the old card catalog?

I also learned of a guilt letter. Someone who had stolen books years ago and not returned them had an attack of guilt and wrote the library a letter. He wanted to apologize for taking the books and offered to make restitution after quite a few years had gone by. I wondered about the statute of limitations on stolen books.

All in all, it was a great day and I felt like I had done my share to say "thank you" to our library for all they do in supporting local authors, educating people, and providing amazing services. 


Susan Van Kirk, a SinC member author who participated in SinC's "Solving Mysteries Day," is at work on a mystery with ties to historic events that occurred in her Illinois town. The library has been an invaluable source of information for her work. 

Solving Mysteries Day: On Saturday, April 21, SinC member authors volunteered in libraries and bookstores in hometowns from Livermore Falls, Maine, to Honolulu, Hawaii, where they worked as volunteers doing whatever a manager asked of staff members - shelving, bagging, sweeping, assisting patrons, pulling holds, making recommendations, taking out the trash, checking in returned books, and more. The day had two themes: "Librarians Solve Mysteries Every Day" and "Booksellers Solve Mysteries Every Day."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Solving Mysteries Every Day

Today, Sisters in Crime's "Booksellers and Librarians Solve Mysteries Every Day" event is taking place in libraries and bookstores across the nation, from Livermore Falls, Maine, to Honolulu, Hawaii. 
To support the project, a group of 21 SinC members volunteered to go into bookstores and libraries between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. local time to help those on the front lines of crime fiction - the very important people who help get crime fiction into the hands of interested readers. 
            "In honor of the 25th anniversary of the founding of Sisters in Crime, we are very pleased to be able to thank some of the people who work the hardest on the front lines of publishing by rolling up our sleeves and working beside them," said Frankie Y. Bailey, President of Sisters in Crime.
 The participating authors, bookstores, and libraries include:
          Frankie Y. Bailey, at The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, NY
                      Gail M. Baugniet, at the Maikiki Community Library in Honolulu, HI
                      Charlotte Cohen, at the Santa Ana Public Library in Santa Ana, CA
                      Kathy Lynn Emerson, at the Treat Memorial Library in Livermore Falls, ME
          Barbara Fister, at Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis, MN
                      Susan Froetschel, at the Takoma Park Neighborhood Library in Washington, DC
                      W.S. Gager at the Jackson District Library in Jackson, MI
                      Kathleen Heady at the Haverford Township Free Library in Havertown, PA
                      Lee Kelly at Barnes & Noble in Marietta, GA
                      Molly MacRae at the Jane Addams Book Shop in Champaign, IL
                      Robin Murphy at the Sharpsburg Library in Sharpsburg, MD
                      Chelle Martin, at the Sadie Pope Dowdell Public Library in South Amboy, NJ
                      Denise Osborne, at the Mid-Continent Public Library, Raytown branch, in Raytown, MO
                      Bernadette Pajer, at the Uppercase Bookshop in Snohomish, WA
                      Karen Pullen, at McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro, NC    
                      C. L. (Cheryl) Shore, at Bookmamas in Indianapolis, IN
                      Mary Stanton/Claudia Bishop, at Murder on the Beach in Delray Beach, FL
                      Lane Stone, at the Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library in Alexandria, VA
                      Susan Van Kirk, at the Warren County Public Library in Monmouth, IL
                      Kathryn R. Wall, at the Beaufort County Library, Hilton Head branch, in Hilton Head Island,
                      Tina Whittle, at The Golden Bough in Macon, GA 
           “We know that, in their efforts to help readers find the right books at the right time, booksellers and librarians solve countless mysteries every day,” SinC member Jim Huang, the coordinator of the event and a former independent bookstore owner, said. “This is our opportunity to thank them in a tangible way—and to find out what the publishing world is like from their perspective.”
            Onsite reports are coming in throughout the day from SinC member authors working in bookstores and libraries. The information they send will be posted on Twitter, Facebook and blogs throughout the day. 
            SinC has a Facebook page for the event at www.facebook.com/SistersSolveMysteries. On Twitter, SinC is using the hashtag #sisterssolve.
            In addition, SinC's more than 3,000 members are gearing up to support the "Solving Mysteries Day" event by going into libraries and bookstores today to personally thank the booksellers and librarians they find working behind the counters and in the stacks. 
            We hope your Saturday errands today will include a stop at a bookstore or library. And, afterward, we hope that you'll let us know how the visit went.




Monday, April 16, 2012

Scared to Death: The Authors' View, part 2

By Sandra Parshall

Do writers use their own darkest fears to lend reality to scary scenes in their novels? Do they sweat along with their characters while they’re sitting at the keyboard? Last time we asked this question, we got a peek into the writing lives of Tess Gerritsen, Hallie Ephron, Simon Wood, and Deborah Crombie. This time around, we’ve asked Tim Hallinan, Kate Flora, and Libby Fischer Hellman to tell us what goes into writing their characters’ most terrifying experiences.

Timothy Hallinan is best known as the author of the Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers. The next in the series, The Fear Artist, will be published in August.

In The Queen of Patpong, which is the fourth and most recent of my Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers, I back up in time to tell the story of Poke's wife. When Rafferty met her, she was working in a bar on the notorious Patpong Road, and Queen traces her transformation from a shy, unworldly village teenager into the “Queen” of Patpong. As Rose says in the book, “queen of a kingdom of whores and viruses.”

Toward the end of her story, a handsome customer named Howard Horner woos her, proposes marriage to her, and then takes her down to Phuket for a holiday. Once their little boat is out on the water, it becomes obvious that Howard is not only not in love with her, but that this has all been a sick game that's supposed to end with him killing her on a cluster of barren rocks in the middle of the Andaman Sea. When the rocks come into sight of the boat's lights, it's nighttime, and Rose waits until Howard is busy avoiding the rocks and rolls backward into the water.

What follows is the longest action scene I've ever written – 25 typeset pages in the book – with Rose in the dark water, water that's swarming with the lethal jellyfish called sea-wasps, as Howard hunts her in the boat. I am personally terrified of dark water. I am personally terrified of sea-wasps, having been stung very lightly by one and having suffered for days as a result. I wrote much of the scene in a single, goose-bumped seven-hour session.

By the time it's over, and she's free of Howard, who's standing on the rocks as the tide comes in, I was a mess. I dreamed the scene all night long. (And made some improvements the next day, suggested by the dreams.)

Kate Flora, a former SinC president, writes the Thea Kozak series and the Joe Burgess series. Her latest book is Redemption.

The scariest situation I've ever put a character in? Well, you know I've been criticized over the years for putting my Thea Kozak character into dangerous situations, and exposing her to physical harm. But I'm a feminist (and PROUD of it) and an equal opportunity writer. Thea is tough and she gets into tough situations, so I have a lot to choose from.

That being said, I think the scene in Liberty or Death, the sixth Thea Kozak mystery, where she is facing a group of religious, conservative militiamen, who try her and convict her of spying on their organization, and decide to execute her, is absolutely terrifying. They lack compassion. They can't be reasoned with. They are utterly convinced that they are right, and since God is on their side, whatever they chose to do is okay. She's lost hope that the cavalry is going to ride in and rescue her. They aim a gun at her. She truly believes she's going to die, and they shoot.

There have been a number of times, in this series, when I've watched my character get herself into situations that have me wringing my mental hands over how headstrong she is, and how foolishly brave she can get when she's angry. But that's her character.

I worry, though, about what will happen should she and Andre ever be lucky enough to become parents.

Libby Fischer Hellman is a former SinC president and author of the Ellie Foreman series and several stand-alone novels. Her latest is A Bitter Veil.

That's a tough question, because, as writers, we always know what the outcome will be, no matter how frightening the scenario. I'd like to rephrase the question this way: What situation did you have the most qualms about writing? That I can answer easily.

There were two, coincidentally in my first and then my most recent thrillers. The first was in An Eye for Murder when Ellie Foreman was tied up and one of her assailants knifed her across her breast. I really had to ask myself whether that was necessary. I decided it was, both for the story and for the symbol of attacking one's "womanliness." Got some emails about that one. The second was in my new literary thriller, A Bitter Veil, which is set in Revolutionary Iran. In one scene, Anna is in prison and is tortured. I really had to examine my motives for that one, too. Was it necessary? Would it have happened in reality? I decided it was. I expect I'll get emails about that as well.

Sandra Parshall writes the Rachel Goddard mysteries. Her next book, Bleeding Through, will be published in September.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

SinC at ALA in Anaheim in June

By Mary Boone

I’m pleased to be sharing with you the news that Sisters in Crime will host a booth in the Exhibit Hall at the 2012 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Anaheim CA.

The exhibit dates are Friday, June 22, through Monday, June 25. Author and librarian SinC members who live in or near Anaheim, or who may be traveling to the area during the conference dates, are invited to help represent SinC at this important conference.

The hours for the exhibits at ALA this summer will be:

• Friday, 6/22, 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

• Saturday, 6/23 & Sunday 6/24, 9 am - 5 pm

• Sunday 6/25, 9 am - 2 pm

Volunteers for the SinC booth are needed during all of these times.

I coordinate and schedule all volunteers’ time in the booth. If you want to volunteer, please give me a couple of times that could work with your personal schedule. When setting up the booth schedule, I will do my best to accommodate your first preference for a time in the booth.

The time slots in the booth will be 1 to 1.5 hours in length. If a large number of members step forward to volunteer, I’ll pull back to a one-hour shift to give everyone who wants to volunteer the opportunity to do so.

I register all volunteers for the conference through SinC (that gets each volunteer a “conference pass.”

Author-volunteers may give away (we don’t sell books) and sign their books while in the booth. It’s a super networking opportunity. That said, I do ask that author-volunteers to be willing to wear two hats and to promote SinC while in the booth.

I am also looking for one local volunteer to help out by receiving SinC promotional materials from Beth Wasson, as well as donations of books sent to the conference by members (who can't come to the conference themselves) to be used for daily raffles in the booth. This volunteer also should be able to bring the boxes of materials and books to the convention center the day I'll be setting up the booth. I will provide more details to anyone interested in helping in this way.

Author members, if you are unable to attend ALA, would you consider sending one signed book to be given away in daily raffles held in the SinC booth during the convention? Librarians who win these raffles generally put the books into their library’s collections. It would be a crime to miss out on these opportunities to connect with librarians who put your books into readers’ hands every day.

I hope to see you in Anaheim! To volunteer, or for more information, contact Mary Boone, Library Liaison at macboone[at]me.com. Please use the subject heading SinC, ALA 2012 in your email to me.

Mary Boone, Library Liaison for Sisters in Crime, says she is happy to be a reader and lucky that, as a librarian, she gets paid to turn readers on to books. She encourages everyone to make sure their library or libraries have entered the Sisters in Crime "We Love Libraries" book grant lottery. Information and a registration form can be found on the SinC website page linked here.