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

business, meeting place, church or other public facility and study the layout and conduct training there, thereby developing a strategy for that facility in case of a major emergency.

One factor that helped was that as soon as the businesses in the mall knew there was trouble, they shut and locked their gates and doors. They herded customers into the back rooms and shoved clothing racks in front of the windows. The shooter shot and killed two people at the beginning of his rampage, but then people scattered and doors were locked. He shot at a mannequin, probably thinking it was a person, and then shot himself.

The police officer also showed a video called “Run, Hide, Fight,” about what to do if you’re in such a dangerous situation. This video can be accessed on youtube.com. The basic advice is first to run. Don’t wait for anyone, don’t go back and get your purse or whatever, run and get out of the area. If you can’t run, then hide. If you can’t run or hid and he comes after you, then improvise a weapon and fight.

Baltimore Book Fest: This weekend, my husband Roger McIntire, who writes books for balt-bookfest-9-2016parents, and i helped staff the booth of the Maryland Writers’ Association at the Baltimore Book Fest. This is a three-day event held around the Inner Harbor, an active waterfront area of restaurants, museums, sightseeing boats, etc. It draws big crowds.

We met a lot of people, enjoyed visiting with other writers staffing the booth, and gave out MWA brochures to writers and wanna-be writers who came by the booth. Writers’ associations offer a wealth of benefits to all writers at all levels. Educational meetings, publishing and marketing opportunities, resources, networking, information exchange – all can propel the newbie toward the professional ranks. If you’re a writer, find one in your area.

Tip for Exhibitors: Don’t think that all you have to do is display your books and sit back in the shade behind the table and just wait for the sales. Get out in front of the table and ask the passers-by, “Can I tell you about my books?” Most people are pretty nice. They may shake their heads and keep moving, but you’ll get a lot who will come over and listen to your pitch. Gives you good practice and increases your chances of making a sale.

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