Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Interview with Sarah Weinman on Domestic Suspense

Sarah Weinman
Sarah Weinman, crime fiction critic, blogger, author of short fiction, and news editor for Publishers Marketplace, is the editor of Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense, an anthology of works by notable (though in some cases, nearly forgotten) women crime writers of the post-war era. We caught up with her to ask her about the new book and the contributions these authors made to crime fiction. And be sure to visit the anthology website at where you can view photos and read more about the included authors.

BF: Tell us about your new book. What motivated you to put this anthology together? 

SW: Troubled Daughters emerged from an essay I wrote for the literary magazine Tin House titled “The Dark Side of Dinner
Dishes, Laundry, and Child Care” (and yes, that was the working title of the anthology). I’d been approached by an editor there to write something for their themed “The Mysterious” issue, and I’d long contemplated why it seemed that a fair number of female crime writers working around or after World War II through the mid-1970s weren’t really part of the larger critical conversation. They weren’t hard boiled per se, but they weren’t out-and-out cozy, either. Hammett and Chandler and Cain, yes; but why not Marie Belloc Lowndes and Elisabeth Sanxay Holding and Vera Caspary? Why Ross Macdonald but not his wife, Margaret Millar, who published books before he did and garnered critical and commercial acclaim first? I knew after writing the essay that I wasn't done with the subject, and when I had lunch with an editor at Penguin on an unrelated matter and started going on, rather enthusiastically, about this widespread neglect, he said, “sounds like there’s an anthology in this. Why don’t you send me a proposal?” It took a while to organize, but eventually I did, and Penguin bought the anthology. Publishing being what it is, it’s taken a little less than two years from acquisition to release date.

BF: What is “domestic suspense”? What relationship does it have to other kinds of crime fiction?

SW: Domestic suspense is a catch-all term for work largely published by women and describing the plight of women—wives, daughters, the elderly, spinsters, the underserved, the overlooked, and many other phrases used then but thankfully, not so much now—as World War II was coming to a close and the feminist movement dawned. Without domestic suspense you couldn’t have contemporary psychological suspense. Conversely, the work of people like Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott, Sophie Hannah, Tana French, and many more would not be possible without the likes of Hughes, Jackson, Millar, Highsmith, and—though not included in Troubled Daughters for reasons outside the scope of this interview—Ruth Rendell, Mary Higgins Clark, Mignon Eberhart, and more. 

BF: Sisters in Crime was founded in 1987 to promote equality for women in the crime fiction genre. Since then, women mystery writers have gained ground in terms of publication opportunities, review space, and recognition (particularly compared to the literary landscape charted by the annual Vida count), but are still less likely than men to have their books reviewed in the most prestigious publications or be recognized with major awards. How would you compare the obstacles the authors in your anthology faced with the climate for women writing today?

SW: In some ways it might be more difficult now than it was then, because for women writers publishing 40–70 years ago, there was more choice in terms of who published mysteries, and domestic suspense novels were fairly likely to get hardcover publication (and presence in libraries) along with more lucrative paperback release. Most of the women in my anthology were reviewed by Anthony Boucher in his New York Times “Criminals at Large” column, or by Hughes in her columns for the LA Times or Albuquerque Tribune, or by other mystery columnists for other papers. Now there are blogs, and online outlets, and Marilyn Stasio, who’s been at the NYT seven years longer than Boucher ever was. Consolidation and a great need to subcategorize makes it hard to break out these days, unless books are packaged as straddling genre lines. “Mystery” doesn’t sell, but “fiction” or “psychological suspense” does. Mass market paperback originals were always a longshot to get review coverage; now it’s even more difficult with ebook originals (as mass market declines further and further).

Barbara Fister
Barbara Fister is the author of the Anni Koskinen series and coordinates the Monitoring Project. She lives in Minnesota, where she works in a college library and blogs for Inside Higher Ed and Library Journal. She recently published an essay, “The Millennium Trilogy and the American Serial Killer Narrative,” in an anthology of criticism published by Palgrave.

The full interview will be featured in September's inSinC Quarterly, which is available through a members only link on our website and also is mailed directly to our members.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Four Reasons Gotham Works

by Marilyn Patterson

Marilyn Patterson
Motivation, guidance, critique: these were the things I was seeking when I signed up for the Gotham Writers’ Workshop Mystery Writing I course. It still took me several months after reading about Sisters in Crime’s special enrollment offer to actually sign up for it. As a long-time writer, I wondered if an entry-level course would serve me.

What finally made me leap was my desire to get back to work on my stalled novel. Believing that some action was better than doing nothing, I joined Sisters in Crime and the Guppies, and then signed up for the Gotham course.

Now that the course is over, here are the four things I valued most.

The assignments: A writing exercise linked to that week’s lesson topic was assigned most weeks of the ten-week course. Topics covered included plot, dialogue, point of view, and character. Assignment submissions were limited to no more than 750 words, a doable goal for an assignment due by the end of the week.

The booth: Each student had two opportunities to enter the booth and share a writing excerpt for critique by our teacher and fellow students. Each week, two to three submissions were scheduled, and critiques were due by the end of that week, giving us the benefit of a writers group while reading and critiquing submissions within our own schedules.

The teacher: Our teacher was a published author with a wicked sense of humor. She responded promptly to discussion posts and gave thorough and insightful feedback on homework assignments and booth submissions.

The students: Twelve people signed up for my course session. Of those twelve, several dropped out along the way. Those of us remaining were active in class, submitting critiques and participating in the weekly lesson discussions.

And here are four things that didn’t work as well for me.

The lessons: While the weekly lessons may have been useful to someone new to writing mysteries, they didn’t provide me much new information.

The lounge: Each week students could enter the lounge and chat with each other about anything on their minds. This wasn’t a successful aspect of our class, and students only used the lounge three times. Our lounge was open Monday nights at 10 p.m. EST, which may not have been a convenient time to chat. Finding a set time that works for everyone would likely be impossible.

Some of the assignments: A few of the assignments, especially those toward the end of the course, weren’t as stimulating or beneficial as those nearer the beginning. The last week’s assignment was to research markets for our work. While this is important, I would have appreciated another opportunity to share my writing with the teacher for feedback.

Some of the critiques: Gotham provided clear critique instructions, but not everyone in my course followed them. In a few instances, I felt the critiques given to other students were harsh. As far as I could tell, this wasn’t addressed, although student contact may have been made outside the course. A writer with experience in a writers group might be able to weather a harsh critique. In an entry-level course, a harsh critique could shut down a new writer.

I am grateful to Sisters in Crime for making this opportunity possible for me. This course got my novel back on track, and the teacher and students gave me the encouragement to keep going. If this sounds like the jumpstart you need, I hope you, too, will take the leap.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Back To School...Without Ever Leaving Home

by Micki Browning 

Scholarship Opportunity
When I discovered that Sisters In Crime offered a scholarship to Gotham Writing Workshops, it only took a matter of minutes and a couple keystrokes, and I was enrolled.

Gotham Writing Workshops
Classes originated in New York City. For those who reside outside the boroughs, GWW offers online classes.  The Mystery Writing (I) course I enrolled in unfolded over ten weeks. Each week, the instructor posted a lecture dealing with the components that make up a mystery novel. At the conclusion of the lecture she posed a provocative question that launched a student discussion. In addition, students submitted a writing exercise that was read and evaluated solely by the instructor.  Twice in the ten weeks, students posted a longer project that was critiqued by the class.  As any writer can vouchsafe, targeted feedback is beyond value--especially when the readers have an interest in the genre and share the same writing goals.  An optional live-chat heated up on Monday nights. Although I had a conflict for active participation, the transcripts were available for my perusal, so I never felt left out.

I enjoyed the humor the instructor infused into her lectures, but in reality, the information could be found in any of a dozen craft books, so why invest the time, money and effort into a Gotham Workshop? Two answers: accountability and community.  No, no one gets graded and there are no homework police standing behind you to make sure you submit your assignment. Writers know that they are the sole person responsible for sitting down in front of a computer and creating prose. There are, however, other students who are looking for the same validation and assistance to overcome their own writing obstacles and erase their own insecurities. For me, I knew if I didn’t turn in my assignments each week, I missed an opportunity to receive valuable insight regarding my work in progress from a published author. If I neglected my two chapter submissions, I would throw away a chance to experiment with words in a safe environment. So for ten weeks, I belonged to the Gotham Writer’s Workshop community, and reaped the benefits of an audience--an opportunity I only had due to the largess of Sisters In Crime.

Beyond the Class
I’ve been a member of Sisters In Crime since 2008.  At first--and sadly--I joined because I thought it would be an impressive credential. Since then, I have attended conferences with other sisters (and a couple of brothers), had wine with a VP, exchanged quips with the current president in an elevator, and scoured the website for resources, calendars, and industry news.

Sisters In Crime is so much more than a credential. The organization lives up to its mission to raise the professionalism and achieve equity among crime writers. It does this by supporting its members. I am still a newbie in the writing world, but it is less daunting because of the connections I’ve made and the opportunity Sisters In Crime has afforded me. While I appreciated the community of a class and the opportunity to improve my craft, the greatest member benefit is the reminder that no writer is truly alone. Not in this community.

Micki Browning

Friday, March 1, 2013

Look Who’s Turning 25…

Spring is around the corner and that means fans and authors from around the world will once again be gathering for Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Maryland to celebrate and honor the traditional mystery.
This year is special because it is the 25th year of Malice. Back in 1989, 93 people planned a weekend together and with the love of Barbara Mertz, Robert Barnard and Agatha Christie as their bond, began the Malice Domestic tradition. Their numbers grew year after year and continue to grow today with new fans joining longtime attendees and the faithful few, those who have attended every Malice since the beginning.
View of the banquet hall
Malice has often been compared to a warm and friendly family reunion, where mystery fans come to see old friends and make new ones while rubbing elbows with their favorite authors in an intimate setting.
To commemorate Malice Domestic 25, a book entitled Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea: An Interesting and Entertaining History of Malice Domestic’s First 25 Years will be published by Wildside Press in April of this year. Edited by Verena Rose and Rita Owen, the book will include essays and remembrances from various contributors, mystery authors and fans alike. The books will be available for purchase at Malice or if you cannot attend, you may reserve a copy on our website and we will mail it to you. We are very excited about this project and the opportunity it gave us to look back on the history of Malice and what reading and writing mysteries means to so many of us.
To order a copy of the Malice Book or to register for Malice 25, please visit: 
Agatha Awards
The 2013 program schedule will be posted online shortly, and the registered attendee list grows every day. Be sure to like our Facebook Page or follow us on Twitter @Malice_Domestic for periodic updates.
Thanks and we hope to see you in May!
Maliciously Yours,
Shawn Simmons & the Malice Domestic Board

Friday, January 18, 2013

Conventional Wisdom

Guest Post by Marcia Talley

Looks like 2013 will be a banner year for Sisters in Crime members who have the time and inclination to attend a mystery-related conference or convention. Whether you’re a published author or an aspiring one, a mystery fan or a publishing industry professional, you should find a conference to suit you among the popular events listed below.

Love Is Murder
Chicago, IL • February 1–3
This forum allows writers and readers to further their knowledge of writing, publishing, and the business of book production. David J. Walker will be local guest of honor; Lee Goldberg, Bob Mayer, and Michael Harvey are featured authors.

Sleuthfest on Saturday
Sarasota, FL • February 16
Rescue your manuscript, your book, your career. Hands-on workshop led by bestselling authors Elaine Viets and Kristy Montee (P.J. Parrish).
Craft-oriented panels, e-book presentation, agent/editor presentation and pitch sessions.

Book ‘Em North Carolina
Lumberton NC • February 23
The second writers conference and book fair at Robeson Community College will host more than 75 authors and publishers for book signings, panel discussions, and more.

Left Coast Crime
Colorado Springs CO • March 21–24
“Where murder is the last resort” is for readers, writers, librarians, and other mystery and thriller enthusiasts. Craig Johnson and Laura Lippman will be guests of honor; David Corbett, toastmaster; Parnell Hall, “Last Resort Troubadour”; Tom and Enid Schantz, fan guests of honor; Stephen J. Cannell, ghost of honor.

2013 Edgar Symposium
New York, NY • May 1
Craft-oriented panels presented by leading crime writers and Edgar-award nominees. Grand master interview. Details TBA.

Malice Domestic 25
Bethesda MD • May 3–5
The conference honoring the traditional mystery will feature Laurie R. King, guest of honor; Laura Lippman, toastmaster; Aaron Elkins, lifetime achievement; Carolyn Hart, Amelia Award; Peter Robinson, international guest of honor; Cindy Silberblatt, fan guest of honor; Dick Francis, Malice remembers.

Festival of Mystery at Oakmont
Oakmont, PA • May 6
Mystery Lovers Bookshop sponsors this popular annual multi-author event. Book signings and author interviews.

Nancy Drew Conference
Boston/Somerville, MA • May 28 – June 2

Calling all fans of our favorite girl sleuth, Nancy Drew. This year’s theme books are #27, The Secret of the Wooden Lady and #83, The Case of the Vanishing Veil. Field trips, ghost tours, parties, book exchanges and merchandise.

Bristol UK • May 30–June 2
The annual convention draws top crime novelists, readers, editors, publishers and reviewers from around the world and gives delegates the opportunity to celebrate the genre in an informal atmosphere. Robert Goddard is the featured guest author/toastmaster. Also featured are Lindsey Davis, Jeffery Deaver, Sophie Hannah, David Hewson, Peter James, Simon Kernick, Denise Mina, Dana Stabenow and many more.

California Crime Writers
Pasadena CA • June 22–23
LA-SinC and Southern Chapter of Mystery Writers of America co-sponsor this biennial event geared to emerging and established mystery writers. Sue Grafton and Elizabeth George will be keynote speakers.

Thrillerfest VIII
New York NY • July 10–13
ThrillerMasters Anne Rice and R. L. Stine; Spotlight Guests Michael Connelly, T. Jefferson Parker, and Michael Palmer; and Silver Bullet Award Recipient Steve Berry will highlight the event.

Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference
Corte Madera, CA • July 25-28
Editors, agents, and publishers share with participants what they need to know to get published. Authors offer classes on setting, dialogue, suspense and point of view. Panels of detectives, forensic experts, and other crime-fighting professionals provide invaluable information that allows writers to put realism into their work.
Details TBA.

Theaksons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, (AKA Harrogate)
Harrogate UK • July 18–21
Chair Val McDermid will be joined by Special Guests Kate Atkinson, Charlaine Harris, Susan Hill, and Ruth Rendell interviewed by Jeanette Winterson.

Deadly Ink
New Brunswick, NJ • August 2 -4
Hank Phillippi Ryan is Guest of Honor; Rosemary Harris is Toastmaster; Fan Guest of Honor is Bob Daniher.

St Hilda’s Crime and Mystery Weekend
Oxford, UK • August 16-18
P.D. James Birthday Celebration
“From Here to Eternity: The Present and Future of Crime Fiction.” Now in its twentieth year, this classic conference at St Hilda’s College in Oxford, England features Jill Paton Walsh as Guest of Honor/Conference Lecturer. Other speakers include P.D. James, Val McDermid, Peter Robinson, Andrew Taylor, Frances Fyfield, Martin Edwards, Penny Evans, and Tom Harper/Edwin Thomas. After dinner speakers are Bernard Knight and Priscilla Masters. Natasha Cooper will chair. There is no website, as generally this conference has flourished through simple word of mouth. To get added to the mailing list or to request a booking form, contact

Scene of the Crime
Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada • August 17
Wolfe Island — the largest of the Thousand Islands – hosts this mystery conference featuring author panels, readings, discussions, a writing workshop by Barbara Franklin, a coffee and muffin breakfast, full lunch (including church lady pie!) and their famous church supper. The 2013 Grant Allen award for contributions to Canadian crime and mystery writing will be awarded to Andrew Pyper, author of LOST GIRLS, THE GUARDIANS, and the forthcoming DEMONOLGIST. Other authors attending include Ian Hamilton, Janet Bolin, Linda Wiken/Erika Chase, and Gloria Ferris.

Killer Nashville
Nashville, TN • August 22-25
This conference offers over 60 sessions and 7 session tracks (general writing, genre specific writing, publishing, publicity & promotion, forensics, screenwriting, sessions for fans); manuscript critiques (fiction, nonfiction, short story, screenplay, marketing, query); a mock crime scene for you to solve; networking with bestselling authors, agents, editors, publishers, attorneys, publicists, and representatives from law and emergency services.

The Writers Police Academy
Jamestown, NC • September 5-8
Hands-on, interactive and educational experience writers can use to enhance their understanding of all aspects of law enforcement and forensics. This conference features real police, fire, and EMS training at an actual police academy. Top instructors and experts! In 2013, the registration fee will be partially underwritten for Sisters in Crime members.

Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival
Stirling, Scotland • September 13-15
The best of Scottish crime fiction featuring fifty

Creatures, Crimes & Creativity
Baltimore, MD • September 13-15
A literary conference designed to gather readers and writers of mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, sci-fi, fantasy and steam punk. It will present three days of panels and workshops of interest to both writers and fans. The main objective is to provide opportunities for authors and fans to meet and mingle, chat and network, and strengthen the bond between the creators of genre fiction and those who enjoy reading it. There will be presentations from two impressive key note speakers (Jeffrey Deaver and Christopher Golden) and interviews with two inspiring local special guest authors (John Gilstrap and Trice Hickman).

Agatha Christie Festival
Torquay, UK • September 15-22
The English Riviera transforms itself into the murder mystery capital of the country, with ladies and gents in their period finery immersing themselves in tea parties, theatre, dinners on steam trains and vintage bus tours in honor of the Queen of Crime, who was born in Torquay on 15th September 1890. Garden parties to die for, lunches at Burgh Island, exclusive Twilight Tours of Christie’s home, Greenway, and plenty of Devon Cream Teas.

SinC Into Great Writing! Workshop
Albany NY • September 18
"CREATE" Your Writing Career is the title of this year's pre-Bouchercon SinC into Great Writing Workshop. Cathy Pickens will lead the session on the creative process, including developing, learning to tap into creativity more deeply, and producing creative work more readily. Robert Dugoni will lead the session on selling your novel. More information and registration form coming in Spring.

Bouchercon 2013
Albany NY • September 19–22
Honorees at the world mystery conference include Sue Grafton for lifetime achievement, P. C. Doherty as international guest of honor, Tess Gerritsen as American guest of honor, Steve Hamilton as toastmaster, and Chris Aldrich and Lynn Kaczmarek as fan guests of honor.

Magna cum Murder Crime Writing Festival
Indianapolis, IN • October 25-27
This year, the conference will be held in Indianapolis (rather than Muncie) at the historic Columbia Club on Monument Circle. Guest of Honor, Steve Hamilton. Dinner speaker, Hank Phillipi Ryan.

New England Crime Bake
Dedham, MA • November 8-10
Details TBA.

Crime and Justice Festival
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia • November 15-17
The public, writers, social commentators, judicial luminaries and the legal profession come together to both celebrate and promote contemporary writings in the fields of justice and human rights, and to overlay these discussions with guest writers in the genre of crime fiction.

Know of a crime or mystery conference I haven’t mentioned? Leave us a comment!

Marcia Talley is the Agatha and Anthony award-winning author of the Hannah Ives mysteries including All Things Undying and The Last Refuge. Book twelve in the series, Deadly Passage, will be published in the summer of 2013. She is a past president of Sisters in Crime.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Song of Sisters in Crime

Did you know that Sisters in Crime has its own song?

In September of 2006 (Sisters in Crime's 20th anniversary year), newly-installed president Rochelle Krich celebrated with goddesses (that is, our past-presidents) Nancy Pickard, Margaret Maron, Carolyn Hart, Eve Sandstrom, Sue Henry, Kate Flora, and Libby Hellmann and their guests. The evening closed with a performance by Parnell Hall with a song he'd written for the occasion.

To hear him perform the song, go to his website and click on "Sisters in Crime Song" which you will see listed on the left. We've updated the song to reflect 26 years of our organization.

SISTERS IN CRIME by Parnell Hall

Twenty-six years ago
On a dark and stormy night
Some feisty woman authors
Were itching for a fight
They said, "How come it's just the guys
Having a good time?"
They went out and founded
Sisters in Crime

Sisters in Crime, boys,
Sisters in Crime
You show me your gun
I'll show you mine
They have car chases
Stop on a dime
Just like the guys do
Sisters in Crime

It started small
Nothing much to see
All that they wanted
Was parity
Parity schmarity
In next to no time
Who's in the forefront
Sisters in Crime

Women succeeded
In nothing flat
How did the fellas
Feel about that?
I've got the answer
Here in this rhyme
Brothers are joining
Sisters in Crime

So gather round
And lets give three cheers
Now that we've lasted
For twenty-six years
Twenty-six years is nothing
It's next to no time
We're just getting started
Sisters in Crime

Now and forever
Sisters in Crime

©2006 Parnell Hall