November 2014

Terry Shames talks about professionalism

Terry ShamesMystery author Terry Shames will speak about professionalism at the meeting of Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas Chapter at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 9, 2014. She will tell about her determination to be professional, how professionalism paid off for her in finding a publisher, and how it continues to pay off now that is she published.

Terry Shames writes the Samuel Craddock series, set in the fictitious small town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. She grew up in Texas and has abiding affection for the small town where her grandparents lived, the model for Jarrett Creek. Her first novel, A Killing at Cotton Hill was nominated for the Left Coast Crime award for best mystery of 2013, the Strand Magazine Critics Award, and a Macavity Award for Best First Novel of 2013. MysteryPeople named it one of the five two debut mysteries of 2013.

Her second novel, The Last Death of Jack Harbin came out in January. MysteryPeople dubbed it one of the top ten mysteries of 2013. Her third novel, Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek came out October, 2014.

Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter, meets on the second Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. at Recycled Reads. The address is 5335 Burnet Road, Austin.

Meetings are free and open to all. For more information, check out the Sisters in Crime website at


 Austin Jewish Book Fair Hosts the Kellermansjohn and jess kellerman

Bestselling authors Jonathan, Jesse and Faye Kellerman come to Austin for a thrilling evening, Thursday, November 6, at 7 PM, as part of the Austin Jewish Book Fair.faye kellerman

Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas chapter is helping to sponsor a reception in the Kellermans’ honor. SINC members MUST PRE-REGISTER for the November 6 Kellerman Event at the Jewish Community Center.

Here’s the link: –

Scroll down to the Kellerman section.  REGISTER as a MEMBER at the $5.00 ticket price.

Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman’s book, THE GOLEM OF HOLLYWOOD, follows an L.A. detective on an important investigation that leads him to Prague, where he runs headlong into the legend of the Golem, a mud-creature supposedly conjured up by a sixteenth-century rabbi to protect the Jews said to be asleep. The legend has endured through the ages, but the Golem is dormant no longer.

Faye Kellerman’s MURDER 101 pokes into the hallowed halls of academia to find a killer. Decker and his newest partner, a young Harvard educated buck named Tyler McAdams are suddenly drawn deep into a web of dark secrets, cold case crimes, international intrigue, and ruthless people who kill for sport.

The talk will be at the Jewish Community Center (JCC), located on the Dell Jewish Community Campus in Northwest Austin at 7300 Hart Lane.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

If you have questions for Jonathan, Faye, or Jesse Kellerman, particularly related to their latest books, send them as soon as possible to Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas Vice President Kathy Waller at

She will send them to Linda Cox at the Jewish Community Center/Jewish Book Fair before the event so the moderator can prepare.

There will also be a question-and-answer session during the talk.

Jan Grape

Jan Grape

Our own Sister in Crime Jan Grape will moderate the event.what doesnt kill you

Anthony and Macavity Award-winner Jan Grape’s first mystery novel Austin City Blue was nominated for best first novel Bouchercon 2002. Dark Blue Death is the second in her Zoe Barrow mystery series set in Austin about a female police officer. Found Dead in Texas is Jan’s first short story collection.  She wrote a stand-alone called What Doesn’t Kill You.

It’s That Time Again

The 2015 $20.00 HoTxSinC dues need to be renewed January 1, 2015.  You may
send them to:

Sarah Ann Robertson, Membership/Treasurer
Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter
13000 Hymeadow Drive #210
Austin, Texas 78729


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October 5

Deadly or Darling?


dianne odegard linked in photoDianne Odegard, public information coordinator for Austin-based Bat Conservation International, will present the October 12 Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas program. She will debunk the myths about this “much-maligned” creature of folklore and mystery and present the truth about bats.

Bram Stoker’s fictional character Count Dracula gave bats a very “bat” name in literature. Horror films have made lots of money using bats to scare the popcorn out of moviegoers.

Feeling a little batty? Join us and discover the truth about bats at 2 p.m. on October 12 at Recycled Reads, 5335 Burnet Rd. Just in time for  Halloween! Refreshments will be served.

Link to ten great bat films.

Mission and Vision of BCI

“The mission of Bat Conservation International is to conserve the world’s bats and their ecosystems to ensure a healthy planet.”

BCI is dedicated to the enduring protection of the world’s 1300+ species of bats and their habitats and creating a world in which bats and humans successfully coexist. In pursuit of this vision, during the next five years BCI will work worldwide at scale with local, regional, national and multinational public and private partners to respond rapidly and effectively to bat conservation crises, preventing the extinction of threatened bats and the extirpation of globally significant populations of bats.Z & Z (2)



Tuesday, October 21 at 2 pm


Sometimes you can’t wait until the evening to talk about murder. With that in mind, we invite you to join us for this afternoon book club, meeting on third Tuesday each month at 2PM on BookPeople’s third floor. Join us for coffee, tea, and discussions of some of some of our favorite books in the mystery genre. All meetings are free and open to the public!

This month, we’re discussing The Carter of ‘La Providence by George Simenon.





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September 2014

Hutto Sept 6 016A Celebration of P. D. James

Our September 14, 2014, program for Sisters in Crime is “A Celebration of P. D. James.” This British author of classic mysteries celebrates her 94th birthday this year, and so are we. Members will present biographical information, an interview, a book review and a comparison of Pride and Prejudice and Death Comes to Pemberley, James’ latest.

Maria Rodriguez, KLRU Director of Programming, and Linda Lehmusvirta, KLRU Senior Producer of ‘Central Texas Gardener’ and James’ enthusiast, will discuss KLRU’s history of Masterpiece Mystery! versions of James’ work, as well as the upcoming presentation of Death Comes to Pemberley.

An English tea party will follow the presentations.  Tea party hats–and spats–welcome.

Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter, meets monthly on the second Sunday of the month at 2 p.m. at Recycled Reads (part of the Austin Library system).  The address is 5335 Burnet Road, Austin.

Links to reviews of P.D. James’ novels:

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

The Skull Beneath the Skin

Cover Her Face

 P.D. James article by Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas chapter vice-president Kathy Waller

to hell and gone


Russ Hall’s new book To Hell and Gone in Texas

Al and his brother Maury haven’t spoken to each other in twenty years, but they’re going to have to soon when they are swept into the vortex of the Texas drug scene and come up against one of the fiercest cells of the Mexican mafia. Maury’s life as a lady’s man is in stark contrast to Al’s woodsy life as a retired detective. Yet they’re brothers, and blood will have its way, especially when others seek to spill it in the brutal style that is becoming their trademark.


FAT CAT AT LARGE coverKaye George’s new mystery novel

Kaye George, writing as Janet Cantrell, had a new release September 2nd, Fat Cat at Large, by Berkley Prime Crime.

Charity (Chase) Oliver is thrilled to be opening Bar None, a dessert and dream bar shop in the Dinkeytown neighborhood of Minneapolis, with her long-time friend and mentor, Anna. Her adorable, but pudgy, butterscotch cat, Quincy, has been put on a diet by handsome Dr. Michael Ramos and now Quincy is always hungry. Since he’s a clever escape artist, he finds his way to food: a still-warm meatloaf on a kitchen counter where the door was left ajar. When Chase tracks him down, she also finds the dead body of Gabe, the donut shop owner who’s been trying to close her shop. The cops aren’t buying Chase’s reason for being there and she must whip her friends and co-workers into action to clear her of the charges.



Mystery History of Bats

Dianne Odegard, public information coordinator for Austin-based Bat Conservation International, will present the October 12 Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas program. She will debunk the myths about this “much-maligned” creature of folklore and mystery and present the truth about bats—just in time for Halloween!

cartoon bat picture

Link to Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas chapter website


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August 2014

Meg Gardiner Cuts to the Chase

phantom“What’s the most important piece of advice you offer to aspiring writers?” Hopeton Hay of KAZI Book Review asked thriller author Meg Gardiner.

“Figure out what the chase is—and cut to it,” she replied.

What does that mean?

Cut to the chase is a saying that means to get to the point without wasting time.

The phrase originated from early silent films. It was a favorite of, and thought to have been coined by, Hal Roach Sr. (January 14, 1892 – November 2, 1992). Films, particularly comedies, often climaxed in chase scenes to add to film time. Some inexperienced screenwriters or directors, unsure of how to get to the climax or who didn’t have enough script to meet time requirements, would just make an abrupt transition, known as a cut.

An earlier version of the phrase (recorded 1880-1940) was Cut to Hecuba. This refers to the practice of shortening matinée performances of Hamlet by cutting the long speeches before the reference to Hecuba in Act II, Scene ii.

And there you have it. Quit fooling around and get down to business. If you want to hear more great tips from Meg Gardiner on how to build your own crime fiction novel, come to the Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas chapter meeting on Sunday, August 10, 2 p.m. at Recycled Reads.

To listen to the entire podcast of Hopeton Haye’s interview with Meg Gardiner on KAZI 88.7 FM on June 29, please click the following link:

Recycled Reads is located at 5335 Burnet Road in Austin, TX.

Link to Recycled Reads:

 The Boys Are Back in Town on August 6

Reavis Wortham, Tim Bryant, Ben Rehder, and Bill Durham have a conversation about crime fiction at BookPeople on August 6 at 7 p.m.!books/cnec


Murder by Misrule

Murder-by-Misrule-eBook-Cover-120x177Heart of Texas: Sisters in Crime member Anna Castle’s Francis Bacon mystery, Murder by Misrule is listed on Indies Unlimited:

See publications by Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas members at:

 Tea and Murder in the Afternoon

tn (3)On September 14, you are cordially invited to afternoon tea in honor of P.D. James’ birthday at Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas chapter’s very British programme at 2 p.m. at Recycled Reads.

Crook your pinkies, nibble a scone, and find out about crime across the pond.



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July 2014

March 9 012After a two-year absence, the HOTSHOTS! blog newsletter has returned. Instead of PDF format, we will now publish the Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas newsletter in WordPress format.

Get Ready to Network

If anyone is interested in starting or joining a writers’ critique group, please come to the Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas chapter meeting How to Critique: Constructive Criticism and Critique Groups at 2 p.m. on July 13 at Recycled Reads.

Timothy E. Green, PhD., English professor at St. Edward’s University, will tell Sisters in Crime members how writers can discuss fellow writers’ work without engaging in tears or fisticuffs.

According to Professor Green, “Most of this stuff is common sense, but in the heat of critiquing egos are easily bruised and some folks have a strange lack of empathy. So the key is constructive courtesy–combined with the development of a little thick skin and a climate of general respect.  And sometimes learning a few verbal rituals helps (e.g., what works well for me is…, etc.), and that includes offering praise first and asking questions.”

Joining Professor Green for a panel discussion will be Amanda Robinson of North Austin YA Writers, and Kathy Waller and Valerie Chandler of Austin Mystery Writers. After the program, writers in the audience can break up into small groups. Handouts will be available as well as encouragement and support from Sisters in Crime members. Please bring a page or two of your fiction writing to share with others if you wish.

Get ready to network!

Meg Gardiner Presents Program on August 10

On August 10, at 2 p.m. at Recycled Reads, Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas chapter is thrilled to present well-known thriller novelist Meg Gardiner. Her latest crime novel, Phantom Instinct, is now on the shelves of your favorite bookstore. She has written many pulse-pounding crime novels. More details will be revealed in the next HOTSHOTS! newsletter. megbiophantomarcadesmall





The following article is reposted from the October 2010 issue of HOTSHOTS!

Critic or Critique?

by Gale Albright

I grew up admiring critics.

Critics like Dorothy Parker and Rex Reed. Their comments were witty, dry, often acerbic. For many years, Rex Reed has been known for his acidic movie reviews. Just a small example among many is this one, from the New York Observer, July 13, 2010:

“At the movies, incomprehensible gibberish has become a way of life, but it usually takes time before it’s clear that a movie really stinks. Inception, Christopher Nolan’s latest assault on rational coherence, wastes no time. It cuts straight to the chase that leads to the junk pile without passing go, although before it drags its sorry butt to a merciful finale, you’ll be desperately in need of a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card.”

 Screenshot of Katharine Hepburn from the trail...Image via Wikipedia

 Pretty funny, eh? And then there’s the iconic Dorothy Parker, whose critique of a youthful Katharine Hepburn’s performance on Broadway has become legendary: “Miss Hepburn runs the emotional gamut from A to B,” Miss Parker is supposed to have said to a colleague during the play’s intermission.

So, naturally, I thought you were supposed to basically heap scorn on books and movies and performances you didn’t like. As long as you were witty, dry, and often acerbic. A good critic made expert use of sarcasm and unkind jokes and metaphors.

I thought the critic was the center of attention. The bringer of wit and laughter.

I learned that the origin of the word sarcasm was from Latin for rending the flesh. Apt indeed.

 The trouble is, when your flesh is rent, it doesn’t feel very good. As a person who thought cheap shots and ill-considered comebacks were the height of wit, I discovered how devastating it was to be on the receiving end of those oh-so-clever comments and witticisms.

Especially when it involved something I had written.

When I went back to college after intervening years of Real Life, I decided to major in English Writing and Rhetoric. To my chagrin, I had to take some classes in which, among other things, we had to learn the proper manner of critique. Critique etiquette, as it were.

I found I was not the second coming of Rex Reed or Dorothy Parker. Nasty, witty comments were strictly taboo. I had to learn how to give constructive criticism to classmates.

At first, I had a very hard time. What if I just hated what the other person wrote? What if it was stupid, boring, idiotic, or insane? Too bad.  And I had to do it over and over again. In short, I hated it. I felt totally out of my depth.

It was pure torture. Witticisms leaped to my tongue, only to die a stillborn death within my mouth. It was discipline. It was a change of habit. It was hard.

Then I understood. A critic is a star. She is the center of the universe. She earns her money by saying clever, often unkind things. But a person who offers a critique is not a star. To offer a critique is to offer a somewhat educated opinion, encouragement, and suggestions. One endeavors to be honest without being cruel or funny. I had to learn that I was not the director of the show. My lofty pronouncements did not come straight from Mount Olympus. I was merely a handmaid in the service of some other writer’s creative birthing.

At school I was told to start out a critique by telling the writer “what worked” in the piece. Sometimes I had to look pretty hard to find something “that worked.” It was like your mother telling you that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Except, the catch was, you couldn’t abstain. You had to give feedback.

After stressing the positive parts of a piece of writing, the critiquer would then write down “What didn’t work so well was ….” And say it without making a cruel comment at the writer’s expense.

All the critiquer has to offer is a personal opinion. It is to be hoped that critiquers in writers’ groups are people who love reading and writing, so that their opinions might have some literary weight. But it’s still just a solitary opinion.

As a critiquer, I’m not writing a syndicated column. I’m not an agent or an editor. I’m a fellow writer who needs another pair of eyes to look at my work. I want feedback, gentle feedback. It’s a balancing act.

I can’t lie and say something is great when it’s not. That’s evading one’s responsibility as a critiquer. But I’m not mean. The aim, I should think, of a writing group, is to keep the writers writing and coming back to the critique group. You don’t want to be so witty and sarcastic and cruel that a writer quits the group, shreds all her writings, shoots her laptop and treks off to Tibet in search of the spiritual peace of which you robbed her.

If a writer seeks out a critique group, obviously said writer, number one, wants to be read and, number two, wants feedback. Number three, said writer probably wants to continue writing.

A writer puts his heart and soul and ego on the page. A writer needs tender treatment. Tell the truth, but do it in a constructive manner. To critique is to help a fellow writer improve, not implode.

What goes around comes around. Yesterday’s witty, cruel comments may come back to haunt you when your own heart and soul are exposed on the page.

Writers. Handle them with care.


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June 2012

June 10 Meeting


Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter


Scott Montgomery

Crime Fiction Coordinator

MysteryPeople @ BookPeople Independent Bookstore 

   June 10, 2012
2:00-5:00 p.m.
Barnes & Noble – Westlake


Joan Upton Hall Receives Sage Award

Author and HoTXSinC member Joan Upton Hall received the Sage Award at the Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writers Event on May 20. W. D. Smith, of the Barbara Burnett Smith Foundation, presented the award.

The Sage Award is given to the Mentor Author who demonstrates an outstanding spirit of service in mentoring, sharing, and leading others in the mystery writing community.

Following the presentation, Joan accepted copies of books from former Sage Award recipients.

A copy of Joan’s speech follows.

So You Want to Write a Novel

by Joan Upton Hall

Have you ever noticed, when you say you’re writing a book, how often the person you’re talking to says he intends to do that too? Well, we all know what road is paved with good intentions.

Stephen King once wrote about a plane trip in which the person next to him had mentioned being a brain surgeon. Then after commenting on King’s books, the doctor remarked, “I plan to write a book myself some day.”

“And I plan to do a brain operation someday,” Stephen King answered.

When you think about it, doesn’t one vocation deserve as much credibility as the other? Yet, most people don’t credit a writing career as taking much of a learning curve—and that much of it comes through the act of practice.

Yet, if you’ve ever mentioned that you’re writing a book (or short writings), I’ll bet someone has responded to you the way that surgeon did to King. The statement seems to follow as surely as “TICK” triggers “TOCK. Perhaps telling our stories or ideas is part of being human—except that only a few people “get around to it.” As if everything else is important, and recording our thoughts isn’t.

If every cave man or woman had taken time to depict their experiences, cave paintings might not be such a find as it is today.

Of course bringing home the bacon (or wooly mammoth) does take time—and, no, I don’t speak from experience about prehistoric times. Besides bringing up children, my vocation was teaching English, so novel writing was pretty much out of the question—until I got the hang of it. I did, however, make time to write short articles and stories, which is an excellent way to learn on the job. In fact, some of those stories grew into full-length books later after I retired. Also you learn writing skills facts about the trade along the way. You also learn to have fun with it.

Contrary to general impression, writing isn’t simply dashing off a book after you finish the REALLY IMPORTANT stuff. Skilled writing comes with practice—as well as reading, reading, reading. Don’t wait too long to give writing time its fair share.

Being around other writers helps immensely, especially if you watch for classes and other opportunities such as the mentoring opportunity you are now attending—and the selfless generosity of families like that of Barbara Burnett Smith who honor her memory in a concrete way.

So don’t put off your yearning to write. Make time for it. Watch for opportunities to learn from the pros. And above all—have fun with it, even if you have to bite your tongue at flippant remarks from others say, “I’m going to write a book too someday.”



Texas Mystery Month 

6/16 @ 9:30 a.m. – Sage Award winner Joan Upton Hall presents the Seventh Annual 2012 “How to Write a Mystery” workshop, co-sponsored by Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter,, and BookPeople. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. Austin, Texas 78703. Phone:  1-512-472-5050. Contact: Scott Montgomery, wildremuda (at)

For more information please go to, or e-mail hotxsinc (at)



More Mystery Matters

5/12 @ 7:00 p.m. – MysteryPeople presents Charlaine Harris speaking & signing Deadlocked. The speaking portion of this event is free and open to the public. Wristbands are required for the signing portion of this event and are available only with the purchase of a copy of Deadlocked from BookPeople.” MysteryPeople @ BookPeople.

5/16 @ 7:00 p.m. – MysteryPeople presents New York Times Bestselling Author CRAIG JOHNSON speaking & signing As the Crow Flies. “A&E is set to launch a new series based on Craig Johnson’s books. Already well-known, Johnson’s popularity is about to skyrocket.” MysteryPeople @ BookPeople.

5/30 @ 7:00 p.m. – Hard Word Book Club discusses Ace Atkins’ White Shadow. MysteryPeople @ BookPeople.

5/31 @ 7:30 p.m. – MysteryPeople presents GREG RUCKA speaking & signing Alpha. MysteryPeople @ BookPeople.



Professional Writers of Austin & Write by Night

Professional Writers of Austin is a “free, members-only networking group for professional and aspiring writers” whose mission is to “develop a supportive and informative community for Austin’s writers, editors, and interactive content creators.” See

Write by Night offers Write Here, a writing center free and open to the public. More information, including schedule, appears at Write by Night also offers coaching, manuscript consultation, and other services. For benefits of membership, follow this link:



Pen 2 Paper: Texas’ Biggest Disability-focused Creative Writing Contest

In March, the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD) announced the third year of Pen 2 Paper, an annual disability-focused creative writing contest. Pen 2 Paper calls on Texan writers of all ages and abilities to submit their works on the topic of disability, including personal experience, social commentary, and works of fiction.

As an organization, CTD works on multiple levels to change the cultural attitudes and public policies that foster injustice and discrimination against people with disabilities. This contest aims to give Texans an opportunity to consider or re-consider how they think about disability and to encourage individual expression about it. “… this is a topic that few companies, even non-profits, like to publicly discuss and yet, it’s a topic I feel should be discussed,” said Jill Eisnaugle, a past Pen 2 Paper entrant.

Pen 2 Paper includes divisions for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and graphic narrative. $500 will be awarded to one Grand Prize winner, and additional winners in each division will receive gift cards and prizes, donated by local and state bookstores, magazines, and local writers.  There is no charge to enter.  The deadline for submissions is August 20, 2012, and the contest will conclude with a series of public readings this fall, including a special presentation at the 9th annual Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival. Full details can be found at

CTD is an Austin-based, cross-disability advocacy organization whose mission is to ensure that Texans with disabilities may live, work, learn, play, vote, and participate fully in the community of their choice. While CTD focuses on legislative advocacy to address its mission, it is also heavily involved in public education, community events, and voter outreach initiatives.

Laura Perna
Coalition of Texans with Disabilities
Ph: 512-478-3366
Fax: 512-478-3370


Literary Austin reports the San Antonio Current is seeking submissions for its flash fiction feature.


Friends of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library (Lockhart, Texas) are seeking entries for its Scare the Dickens Out of Us ghost story contest. Submissions will be accepted from July 1 through October 1, 2012 (postmarked). See


See Conferences, below, for links to information about Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award.




The 4th International Mystery Writers’ Festival will be held in Owensboro, Kentucky, June 14 – 17, 2012. Subscribe to its e-mail newsletter at

LexiCon Writers Conference takes place June 21-22, 2012, in Denton, Texas. Special events are planned for June 19 and 20 as well. See and

Killer Nashville: A Conference for Thriller, Suspense, Mystery Writers & Literature Lovers takes place August 23-26, 2012, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Information about submission to Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award (for unpublished manuscripts not under contract) appears at


More Links

Writer and independent editor Ramona DeFelice Long posts a How To piece every day this month: “How to Write a Log Line,” “How to Write a Thematic Statement,” “How to Write a Story Question”…

Leslie Budewitz blogs about Getting Your Officers Inside on her blog Law and Fiction.

Rasana Atreya offers authors the opportunity to “List YOUR Book Here” on her blog On Getting Published, Good Books, and Living Goddesses.

Helen Ginger explains Pinterest in Marketing Via Pinterest,” on Straight from Hel.


HotTXSinC  2012 Program Schedule

  • January 8 – Detective Ruben Vasquez: “Murder Investigation Step by Step”
  • February 12 – Gordon A. Bowers: “Property and Evidence Management”
  • March 11 – Durriyah Chinwalla: “Banking as You Don’t Know It, or Laughter Is the Best Medicine
  • April 8 – Easter: No Meeting
  • April – No Meeting
  • May 20 – Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writers Event
  • June 10 – Scott Montgomery


Related articles

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August 2012

August 12 HoTXSinC Meeting

Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter


Adrian Eissler

speaking on

Criminal Law for Crime Writers

The villain has committed the dastardly deed, and has been doggedly run to ground by the intrepid protagonist.  So what happens next?  In his August 12 presentation, Criminal Law for Crime Writers, Adrian Eissler takes the Sisters in Crime into the framework of Texas criminal law, laying a foundation for members to conduct efficient legal research into the points of Texas criminal law that may be relevant to their works.

The presentation will first cover some of the key sources of criminal law in Texas, including the Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Rules of Evidence, appellate opinions, and the U.S. Constitution.  Delving further into these sources, we’ll discuss points of law that may be of particular interest in plot development, including culpable mental states, transferred intent, causation, accomplice liability, self-defense, insanity, and death penalty issues.  Finally, we’ll dust off a fascinating case from 1898 that highlights the wealth of powerful stories to be found in the old case reporters in law libraries.

Adrian Eissler is currently a lawyer for the Public Utility Commission of Texas.  He previously practiced corporate law in Boulder, Colorado and served as a research attorney to Judge Paul Womack at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.  During law school at the University of Texas at Austin, he worked in the appellate division of the Travis County District Attorney’s office. Adrian currently lives in northwest Austin with his wife and their three-year-old son.

Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter, meets monthly on the second Sunday of the month at 2 p.m. at the Westlake Barnes & Noble bookstore, located at the southeast corner of Loop 360 and Bee Cave Road, in The Village at Westlake shopping center.

 Sisters in Crime is an international organization of women and men whose purpose is to promote mysteries written by women, and combat discrimination against women mystery authors.   Speakers include published mystery authors and technical experts who help writers craft better mysteries and readers enjoy what they read. Meetings are free and open to all. For more information, check out the Sisters in Crime website at

For information contact:  Joyce Arquette, Publicity (512) 266-6543


How to Write a Mystery: Janet Kilgore Subs for Joan Upton Hall at BookPeople Workshop

by Gale Albright

Joan Upton Hall, author of the Excalibur series, was scheduled to present a free, all-day mystery workshop at BookPeople on June 16, 2012. Unfortunately, Ms. Hall became ill and had to cancel her appearance.

Janet Kilgore, humorist, editor, and secretary of the San Gabriel Writers’ League in Georgetown, graciously stepped up to the plate and took over the workshop.

Using Hall’s class notes and her own background as editor and teacher, Kilgore led the class through the maze of mystery sub-genres, including amateur sleuth, cozies, disaster, eco-thrillers, legal, espionage, ethnic, gay, medical, noir, occult, government agent, hard-boiled, private eye, senior sleuth, true crime, and country noir.

Cozies are usually short (159-200 pages), make the reader feel good, and can be humorous. Non-fiction true crime books involve a case that’s already been solved.

Joan Hess writes humorous mysteries. Bill Crider is author of a western sheriff series. Good sources for mystery writers include Farm Fresh Forensics, a Houston website, and the Texas Rangers.

In the afternoon session, talk turned, among other things, to sex.

According to Kilgore, well-done sex scenes in suspense and true crime books can be very …well, sexy. In cozies, sex usually happens off stage. Sex sells when it’s done right.

Moving on to editing, Kilgore covered several ways to make one’s writing more professional and readable.

    1. “To be” verbs tend to dilute the text. They are repetitive. Replace them with action verbs.
    2. Tightening the text is like tuning a guitar.
    3. Get rid of unnecessary “thats,” most of them, that is (joke). It will improve and tighten the text.
    4. Don’t send an unedited manuscript to a publisher. Follow submission guidelines to the letter.
    5. Prologues can be handy if you’re trying to set the time and place, or set a scene that is not readily apparent. Prologues should not be used to start the story. Use them sparingly.
    6. Dialog (not dialect) is “where you can get away with murder.” Take your favorite book and look at the way dialog is written and handled. Try to avoid “he said/she said.” Watch for too many clichés.
    7. Show, don’t tell.
    8. Create a sense of place. A child’s POV (point of view) can give a reader a great sense of place. Senses other than sight can also create a sense of place.

At the end of the day, workshop participants received plenty of good writing advice. Kudos to Janet Kilgore for her presentation.


June HoTXSinC Meeting: Scott Montgomery, Bookseller

by Gale Albright

Scott Montgomery, crime fiction coordinator at BookPeople in Austin, was guest speaker at the Heart of Texas Sisters in Crime June 10 meeting held in Barnes and Noble, Westlake.

Montgomery, after a stint at the Mystery Book Store in Los Angeles, moved to Austin to work for BookPeople, where he became “a glorified bookseller.” Part of his job as head of the mystery section is setting up author signings and reading and promoting new books.

His advice to writers is “make yourself known to your local bookseller. Introduce yourself when your book comes out.”

Mystery is a “wide genre.” With 185 paperbacks, 87 hardbacks and various foreign imports coming in each month, Montgomery can only read so many books at a time.

Local authors must make themselves known. Use social media to promote yourself and your work. If you have a book signing, how many people can you get to come? See if you can get another author to join you.

“Be nice to your book sellers. We don’t make that much money, so be patient,” said Montgomery, who leans toward hard-boiled noir. At the moment he’s on a “Mickey Spillane kick. I don’t know much about light mystery, but I do like authors Janice Hamrick and Sophie Littlefield. BookPeople sells a lot of mysteries by Craig Johnson and Ace Atkins. I get lots of ARCs (Advanced Writer Copies) from writers I know that are worth championing.”

Writers are told to be aggressive in promoting their books, but “don’t tell us how to do our jobs.” Part of his job is to moderate author panels at such events as Bouchercon and the Texas Book Festival. He often isn’t given much time to read all the authors’ books. Montgomery once requested an ARC from an author on a panel list and was told that he wasn’t going to get a “free copy” and “Sorry, can’t help you. Go to the library.”

It’s foolish to antagonize your bookseller. Montgomery says he likes to help writers, but won’t go out of his way for “difficult authors.”

Besides playing nice with your local bookseller, authors should pay attention to their book covers. People say “don’t judge a book by its cover, but nobody does that.” A photograph is better than an ugly book cover with shoddy, computer-generated art. An ugly book cover is a source of embarrassment for your booksellers. Sometimes just the title, author’s name and a simple photo is the best way to go.

A big publisher may not allow an author any control over the cover, but small presses can present an author with more leeway in this area. Montgomery cited Kaye George’s book Choke as an example of a good cover.

As well as a decent cover, blurbs are important to help promote an author’s work. Make sure the author you get to write blurbs writes pretty close to what you write. Support other writers.

Use book blogs, social media and ARCs to promote your book. Montgomery recommends Jen’s Book Thoughts as a good book blog.

More than anything, “Book selling is a relationship business. A bookseller may be the only person going to bat for your book.”

When asked if the growth of e-books is causing problems for traditional booksellers, Montgomery replied that e-books actually helped BookPeople “get its act together. We got innovative and concentrated on what makes us unique. We promoted events in the store. The years 2010 and 2011 were good for BookPeople. E-books have made people more aware of books.”


Always a crime fiction fan, Scott Montgomery worked on the sales staff of the acclaimed and influential The Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles for four years. After three years as a bookseller at BookPeople, Texas’ largest independent bookstore, he helped develop MysteryPeople, the mystery bookstore within the store. He has moderated panels for the annual Bouchercon mystery conference, Texas Festival Of Books, and other events. He has written articles and reviews for The Weekly Lizard blog, Crimespree magazine, and other blogs and publications. He also hosts The History Of Mystery Class and Hard Word Book Club at BookPeople.

“Scott is one of the foremost experts on crime fiction. I’d put him up against any college professor in a test of wits anytime. He saw the many influences that went into this book (The Ranger) — as diverse as classic Burt Reynolds films to Dashiell Hammett to the crime fiction of William Faulkner. Not much escapes Scott.” ~ Bestselling Author Ace Atkins talking about the heart and soul of MysteryPeople, Crime Fiction Coordinator,Scott Montgomery.

Material from


 MysteryPeople, August 1: Lone Star Author Panel


by Gale Albright

Scott Montgomery, BookPeople crime fiction coordinator, introduced a panel of four Texas authors to talk about their new novels. Tim Bryant kicked off the evening by performing a couple of his own songs, including “Buenos Noches, Nacogdoches.”

Bryant read the first three paragraphs of his novel Dutch Curridge, a hard-boiled detective novel set in post-World War II Fort Worth. Music plays a big part in it, partly because Bryant is a musician. The protagonist, Dutch, is a fan of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys and goes to clubs in 1953 Fort Worth to hear them. According to Bryant, “It’s a little bit of a ghost story and there’s a little bit of Native American mysticism.”

Bill Durham read from his novel Amarillo, which is part legal thriller and regional novel. Durham said there’s lots of “music, cussing, fighting, sex, horseback riding, pool shooting, sex, etc.” He said he “drew the short straw” and had to represent the more sensitive side of the Texas male of the four authors. He proceeded to read a lyrical description of a West Texas sunrise and a touching kiss between protagonist Max Friedman, a lawyer from New York, and Angel, an Amarillo pool hall proprietor.

Scott Montgomery described Reavis Wortham’s Burrow as one of the “creepiest and cringe-worthy books I’ve read in a long time.” Burrow is a coming of age novel and the second in the Red River series. It follows a family in Northeast Texas in 1965. Ned Parker is the constable of a small town “full of weirdos and crazies.” Burrow involves a booby-trapped building, a warehouse packed full of garbage, a deputy held hostage, and the terror of being buried alive.

Known throughout Texas for his Blanco County series, Ben Rehder read several paragraphs from his new novel The Chicken Hanger.  The protagonist is Ricky Delgado, an undocumented immigrant who works under dangerous conditions in a poultry plant. Set in the mythical Texas border town of Rugoso, The Chicken Hanger explores the meaning of justice when Ricky’s brother is shot and passions run high on all sides of the immigration controversy. Montgomery called Rehder the “Hill Country Hiaasen” for his use of humor.

In a general discussion, the authors talked about vocabulary and dialect. Texans have their own way of doing and saying things. One author said his editor didn’t know what caliche was. However, in the big, universal themes, the emotions and motivations of the characters in Texas novels are not really that different from people in other states.

According to Montgomery, “All your books, no matter how dark, have moments of laughter and humor.” The consensus at the end of the evening was that dark humor is the best humor.

Gale Albright is a member of HoTXSinC, a former Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writer, and a 2008 Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest Winner, YA Division. She is working on a historical novel for middle grade readers and a mystery novel.


Book Review: Mercy Kill, by Lori Armstrong

Reviewed by Margaret-Anne Halse

Mercy Kill is the second in writer Lori Armstrong’s series focusing on Mercy Gunderson, a former military sniper trying to adjust to life back in her South Dakota hometown.

When one of Mercy’s fellow service members is found murdered and it looks like the sheriff is shuffling his feet, she sets out to find the killer.

Mercy is a sassy, no-nonsense woman who makes for a compelling protagonist. The book’s unique setting gives readers a glimpse of life on a Native American reservation, and the subplots involving Mercy’s family and love life provide added depth and suspense.

Curiously the author gives away the murderer from the first book in the series. So if you don’t want to read a spoiler, check out that first book, No Mercy, before reading Mercy Kill. The other complaint I had is that an oddity found on the body of Mercy’s murdered friend is never explained.

Overall, though, Mercy Kill is an enjoyable read, and Mercy Gunderson is a character that readers will want to follow.

Mercy Kill
Touchstone, 2011
Simon & Schuster
Paperback, 293 pages
ISBN 978-1-4165-9097-2
ISBN 978-1-4165-9707-0 (ebook)

FTC Disclaimer: A review copy of Blacklands was provided to HoTXSinC by the publisher. That did not influence the reviewer’s opinion.


Margaret-Anne Halse is a member of HoTXSinC. She was a Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writer in 2011.





Roni Loren warns “Blogger Beware: You CAN Be Sued for Using Pics on Your Blog–My Story.”

Nancy Mehl defines the cozy mystery in “Writing the Cozy Mystery,” on Nike Chillemi ~ Crime Fictionista. 

Register for 6th annual writing workshop Do the Write Thing @ Tarrant County College Northeast Campus, Hurst, Texas, August 17-18.


  • January 8 – Detective Ruben Vasquez: “Murder Investigation Step by Step”
  • February 12 – Gordon A. Bowers: “Property and Evidence Management”
  • March 11 – Durriyah Chinwalla: “Banking as You Don’t Know It, or Laughter Is the Best Medicine
  • April 8 – Easter: No Meeting
  • April – No Meeting
  • May 20 – Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writers Event
  • June 16 – Joan Upton Hall: “How to Write a Mystery”
  • July 8 – Rex Craft: “Training Dogs for Law Enforcement”
  • August 12  - Adrian Eissler: “Criminal Law for Crime Writers”
  • September 9 – New Authors’ Panel: Robin Allen, Kaye George, Janice Hamrick; Hopeton Hay, Moderator
  • October 14 – TBA
  • November 11 – Denae Rickenbacker: “Mental Illness and the Law”
  • December 9 – Greg Pyles: “Underwater Search, Rescue and Crime Scenes”


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