NEWS NOTES: Aug. 22, 2016

We spent Saturday clearing our brains by canoeing on the beautiful Pokemoke River on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. We’ve done the trip before, always using the Pokemoke River Outfitters in Snow Hill, MD because they are organized, reliable and pleasant. The place even has an inside rest room instead of a Jiffy John, so you can properly prepare forCanoeing the Pokomoke-1 the journey. The stretch of the Pokemoke we canoed is narrow, winding and wooded on both sides. Only towards the end of the trip did we encounter the wider river subject to breezes and a little harder paddling. This is the kind of thing that rates as four star with me.

Our paddle-mates brought along a woman from Ethiopia who had never been in a canoe before and was terrified. But she seemed to enjoy it. No crocodiles on the Pokemoke.

So back to the real world. As president of the Maryland Writers’ Association, I’ve been looking at the list of writers’ conferences in the Maryland-Washington-Pennsylvania areas. Continue reading “NEWS NOTES: Aug. 22, 2016”

NEWS NOTES: Aug. 15, 2016

I belong to two critique groups, which I find extremely useful in pointing out plot and character discrepancies as well as problems in descriptions and in the writing overall. Recently, one of the group members asked other members to respond to the questions below. How would you respond?

1. Question: At what point is too late to introduce a new character? The editor who looked at my book before said everyone needed to be introduced somehow before the sixth or seventh chapter. But when I try to do that, it seems cluttered and disorganized. I have many books, great books, I had read over the years where characters come in much later. What does everyone think about this? I have never heard of any rules and am lost on what to do.

Eileen’s response: If you were writing a travel adventure, some of your characters would have to be introduced as you traveled, I would think, even as late as several chapters before the end. If you were writing a mystery, Continue reading “NEWS NOTES: Aug. 15, 2016”

NEWS NOTES: Aug. 8, 2016

Citizens’ Police Academy

I’m getting ready to sign up for the Citizens Police Academy in my county. If you write mysteries, this is a great way to learn the gritty details about how the police operate and the experiences shared by our law enforcement officers. Many areas offer this kind of program, so if you’re interested, check with your own police department. And it is free.

I heard about this opportunity from other members in Sisters in Crime. There’s also a week-long police academy for writers held once a year in North Carolina, I believe, but that is pricey.

In my area, the academy runs a class once or twice a year, depending on budget availability. The 12-week program is conducted one evening a week from 7 to 9:30 p.m. It’s held at a number of locations that provide the best environment for this diverse learning opportunity.

The academy is an informational program only. Even we graduates will have no police powers or authority. Oh well. Maybe we’ll get a certificate.

The announcement says that participants in the program will learn about the organizational structure of the police department, the mission, role and values of the agency, community policing concepts, criminal procedural law, criminal investigation techniques, evidence collection procedures, traffic law enforcement, drug enforcement, community relations/crime prevention programs, youth programs, and use of force issues. We’ll also engage in practical exercises including driver training, firing range activities and a patrol ride-along opportunity.

The minimum requirements to participate are to be 18 years of age or older, a resident of our county, and have no criminal record.

Of course, all this relates to the citizens police academy offered in my area, Howard County, Maryland. Some things may be different in your own area, but participating in this kind of program will help you provide accurate detail in the crime scenes you write.

NEWS NOTES: Aug. 1, 2016


Bouchercon is coming up! This year it will be held in New Orleans from Sept. 15-18. Bouchercon is held annually in honor of Anthony Boucher, mystery fiction critic, editor, and author. This “World Mystery Convention” is produced by a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization and calls itself “the world’s premier event bringing together all parts of the mystery and crime fiction community. It is commonly referred to as Bouchercon [bough’·chur·con].

I attended when it was held in Baltimore some years back and found it an exciting place to meet other mystery authors and fans. It is well worth the Continue reading “NEWS NOTES: Aug. 1, 2016”

NEWS NOTES: July 25, 2016

More About Foreign Rights

Last week I wrote about the Independent Book Publishers Association’s coop exhibit at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Bob Erdmann, an independent consultant, offers another possibility. He produces an annual catalog that he sends out to foreign publishers and agents worldwide. It will also be posted on his website for a full year in September.
Let him know if you’d like to be included for 2017 and he’ll email the registration forms. Deadline is July 31. Participation fee for this program is $195 per title. He will receive a 15% commission on the royalty advance for any sales that he makes or 20% commission if one of his foreign agents is involved. For more information, go to
Bob Erdmann, President
Columbine Communications & Publications
1116 Oakmont Drive, Suite 6
Walnut Creek, California USA 94595
Ph: 925/274-1348
Web Site:

Ethiopia for Real

Several years ago I spent two weeks in Ethiopia, a fascinating country steeped in history. Its first king, Menelik I, is said to be the child of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. Every king since then is supposedly a direct descendant. According to legend, the Ark of the Covenant is hidden in a tomb in Ethiopia. Continue reading “NEWS NOTES: July 25, 2016”

NEWS NOTES: July 18, 2016

Foreign Rights: If you write non-fiction, consider sending your book to the Frankfurt International Book Show in Germany. Selling rights to translate and publish your book by a publisher in another country costs very little but can net you big profits. As a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association, we have participated in their cooperative exhibit at the Frankfurt Show and sold rights to our books to publishers in Germany, Korea, Thailand, Serbia, Croatia, Brazil, and others. Cost per book is $185. IBPA’s deadline is August 31. I specify non-fiction because unless your novel is a huge bestseller, other publishers are not going to take it on. IBPA is well-known at Frankfurt and its impressive exhibit displays books face out.

IBPA also offers other cooperative marketing services as well as workshops, seminars, and their annual conference, Publishers University. Check it out.

State Associations: I am the new president of the Maryland Writers Association, and we have an excellent, hard-working and committed board. Like other writing associations, Continue reading “NEWS NOTES: July 18, 2016”

Who Is Creative?

kid for blogI get so bored with standard thinking parroted as Truth. For instance, I’ve heard forever that children are so much more creative than older people. So when I took my five-year-old niece to a gingerbread house decorating party one year, I stood back to watch all the young kids create with the candies and other doodads available to decorate their own gingerbread house.

Didn’t happen. The little types looked to us adults. “What should I do?” some asked. “How do I put these things on?” asked others. In the end, the results were. . .unimpressive. There was no creativity, no spontaneity, no imaginative results. The houses that made it through the process were, shall we say, banal?

What passes for creativity in young children is actually ignorance sometimes converted, for the traditionalists and with parental indulgence, into “a fresh look.” Actually, the kids don’t have much information or experience to draw from so they do the best they can. That’s why tree trunks are brown and straight with a green ball on top. Somewhere they’ve been told that tree trunks are brown and leaves are green. They don’t have sharp observation skills, so girls are drawn with a pillar on each side of the face representing hair. I could go on.

If you want true creativity, you have to go to the olders, sometimes the older the better. Older people with imagination, sharp observation skills and a wealth of information and experience to draw from. With these older people, you can get original, creative expressions in art and literature.

They’ll look at a tree and see the individual tree with its rutted bark in shades of gray, perhaps, and individual leaves in shapes that differ according to species. Older people know that hair grows around the head, not just on the sides, and can be groomed in a huge variety of ways.

Older people with imagination and skill will beat the pants off the most creative child with the freshest of looks.

HopeWorks – Healing Through Art

Michael Caine once chastised an actor who had delivered a particularly wooden performance by saying, “Acting is about emotions; why don’t you show some?”

Poetry is also about emotions. Last night I attended an outstanding poetry reading at the monthly meeting of the Howard County (MD) Chapter of the Maryland Writers’ Assn. The poems read had appeared in the Dragonfly Arts MagazineDragonfly mag, a publication of HopeWorks, Howard County’s sexual assault and domestic violence center. The poems are reflections on life, love, trauma and hope, and submissions to the magazine are open to anyone. They don’t necessarily have to be survivors. I felt it a privilege to be at this reading.

I am also impressed that HopeWorks would take such an innovative and visionary approach that goes beyond providing the usual services to people shattered by rape and domestic violence. HopeWorks uses the arts in three important ways to accomplish its mission: to support survivors in their healing; as a vehicle to increase awareness; and to imagine creative solutions to bring about social change. Dragonfly allows for artistic expression of the emotional response to savagery.

According to the HopeWorks philosophy, the creative arts as a way to help people improve and enhance physical, mental and emotional well being. The creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people in a variety of ways. When we create art and reflect on it, the processes increase self awareness, initiate awareness of others, and help us cope with stress and traumatic experiences. Creative expression facilitates ending or finding solutions to conflicts and problems.

The HopeWorks brochure quotes from a National Institutes for Health report that through the arts people can ease pain and stress and improve the quality of their lives. “…there is evidence that engagement with artistic activities, either as an observer of the creative efforts of others or as an initiator of one’s own creative efforts, can enhance one’s moods, emotions, and other psychological states as well as have a salient impact on important physiological parameters.”

The HopeWorks artistic programs are open to the public and include:

* Poetry N2 Wellness and Action Workshops use the power of words to encourage healing, community-building, cultural shifts, liberation and celebration. In a small group setting, topics such as stress, gender roles, trust, joy, justice, stigma, and relationships are explored through expressive activities like writing, collaging and music.

* The Women’s Circle is a roundtable activity group that often features arts-based workshops.

* I CAN We CAN Workshops are modeled after the national campaign called One Billion Rising. During the workshop, participants talk about what they can do to end violence at home, in the workplace, or at school. Then using their hands as a canvas, they create artwork to inspire peace and healing.

The Rogue Wave

I posted this blog first at, but thought you might enjoy it too, so I’m repeating it here.

5/29/2016 – The Rogue Wave

Last night I watched the movie, Abandoned, about four men lost at sea for more than 100 days after a rogue wave wrecked their sailboat. When they were finally rescued, the media expressed intense skepticism. People didn’t believe their story until a close examination of the wrecked boat proved the sailors told the truth.

The movie brought back memories of living on a motorsailer called the Hardtack for three years back in the seventies. A motorsailer is a hybrid between a sailboat and a powerboat. Our boat was a heavy, double-planked classic boat designed by famed naval architect John Alden. The single mast was stepped to the full keel and 58 feet high. However, the boat also had a heavy-duty Caterpillar diesel engine.Hardtack

The Hardtack was a comfortable, roomy boat for live-aboards with a large cockpit that served as a “playground” of sorts for our toddler daughter. It was also very forgiving, which saved our lives more than once. Continue reading “The Rogue Wave”

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