9/26/2016 – More from the Police Academy; Baltimore Book Fest

So far I am impressed at the professionalism of the police teaching our class at the Citizens Police Academy in Howard County, Maryland. It makes me want to revisit my mystery novels and redo the police investigations parts. We pick up so much from our own experience and television shows that we tend to make assumptions that may not be true.

Reminds me of a scene in my latest novel, In Rembrandt’s Shadow, where I blithely have a character in 1616’s Antwerp lighting a match. Stop. Matches weren’t invented until much, much later. CoverFinalMD-InRembrandtsShadow 2Someone had to point that out to me. I changed that to a tinder box. In another scene, I had a character stepping out of a house in early 17th century Paris and stepping onto a sidewalk. Most likely, he stepped out onto the road.

So I’m in the Police Academy class soaking up the details. Last week, the subject was the Columbia Mall shootings of January, 2014. Fortunately, the police had already studied the Columbia Mall and conducted training sessions there, noting exits, entrances, hallways, and basement areas. They had already developed strategies for dealing with such an event there. In fact, our local police will come to any Continue reading “9/26/2016 – More from the Police Academy; Baltimore Book Fest”

9-19-2016 – Citizens Police Academy / Book Launching

My guest blog, “A Day in the Life of My Character,” will appear Sept. 20 at

Since I write mysteries, I want to learn the details of police work so when I’m describing an investigation, my mysteries will have the texture policeand flavor of the real thing. Toward this end, I have begun the 12-week free course held by the Police Department to familiarize local citizens with police procedures and activities. Many police departments around the country hold similar academies.

I’m not shy about asking for the correct details. In my 90s Club mysteries about 90-year-olds at Whisperwood Retirement Village, I contacted the West Virginia Sheriff’s Department to find out what exactly a sheriff’s uniform in West Virginia looked like. I also asked a firefighter friend exactly what the protocol was when paramedics were called to the scene of a beating victim. He gave me excellent detail which made the scene live.

The Police Academy is another resource. It will include a ride-along with a police officer Continue reading “9-19-2016 – Citizens Police Academy / Book Launching”

News Notes: Sept. 5, 2016

A Nod to

Most of the books we publish are offered as e-books through in a variety of e-book formats and through as Kindle e-books. What makes this possible for us is Smashwords’ manual, The Smashwords Style Guide, written by Mark Coker, the genius behind Smashwords. The guide can be downloaded from the site.

The guide is written in simple language and is easy to follow with diagrams and pictures in the difficult areas. The Table of Contents begins with an introduction on how to get started and frequently asked questions then continues on to Formatting, which has 22 steps. Steps 22 through 28 discuss Post-Formatting including a Book Marketing Guide, and helpful resources.
Continue reading “News Notes: Sept. 5, 2016”

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”

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