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1-30-2017 Time to Ridicule

I hear that the book 1984 is selling extremely well. No wonder. The current dismal political situation is making many of us see the parallels in 1984 and in Hitler’s Germany.

To paraphrase Mel Brooks, ridiculing the despots and satirizing their actions is a powerful way to deal with bigots, misogynists, bullies, and tyrants. I look forward to the books, plays, and movies that will come out of this current fascist administration. And if you’re writing, filming or directing such a work, I salute you.

Last year I attended our county’s Citizens Police Academy, and I have spoken proudly of our local county police force and its professionalism. I would hate to see them corrupted into becoming like the KGB or the Gestapo in carrying out the current administration’s orders against immigrants and Muslims. Who will be targeted next? You?

My grandparents were immigrants from Sweden. They lived in terror of the KKK just as much as the African Americans. The KKK is made up of bad people, cruel people. Criminals. There is no excuse for racism. It must not be tolerated in America.

I support the use of social media to resist and fight the irresponsible and cruel misuse of power undertaken by the current administration. And I’ve joined Daily Action, a calling system to harness the energy of sensible, kind, and compassionate people nationwide.

This president has just signed an executive order to slash all regulations. I hope this insanity can be stopped because it almost guarantees unacceptable pollution of streams, rivers, and bays; polluted air; bad, adulterated, or questionable food and drugs; and widespread environmental disasters. We are not a third world country. Let’s not act like one.

He promises to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Can any of us be that cruel and selfish that we would deny health care to so many Americans? Of course he and all the senators and representatives are guaranteed health care. They won’t suffer.

He wants to bring back the backroom butchers by outlawing abortions. The right to legal and safe abortions is a health issue, not a political or religious one. For some women carrying a fetus to term will mean death or disability. When abortions were illegal, desperate women were found dead in motel rooms or deposited on hospital lawns by backroom butchers who botched the job. The right to have an abortion must not continue to be a pawn in a despicable political game.

I’m calling for a kind, just, and compassionate America. I know most Americans are with me.
Eileen Haavik McIntire

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1-17-2017: Craft of Mystery Writing

Next Saturday, Jan. 21, 2 p.m., I’ll be a panelist on “The Craft of Mystery Writing” at the Perry Hall Branch, Baltimore County Public Library, 9685 Honeygo Blvd, Perry Hall, MD.

This event was planned a couple of months ago, but it is on the day of the Women’s March on Washington. I will be at the march in spirit and send a check to Planned Parenthood.

Back to the panel discussion, we authors will share our experiences on the craft of writing a mystery and how it has changed throughout the years. Other panelists are Michelle Markey Butler, Austin Camacho, Kate Dolan, Dick Ellwood, and Millie Mack.

My friends all know that one of my favorite things to do is sit around the table with others at any meal and discuss whatever comes up. Not partial to politics, though, especially now, but just about anything else. I’ve always bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t join Samuel Johnson, James, Boswell, Oliver Goldsmith, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and other highlights of the 18th century in their carousing at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in London. I also missed out on Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, Robert E. Sherwood, and others of “The Vicious Circle’ at the Algonquin Round Table, but probably I wouldn’t have survived that.

So I enjoyed reading The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards about “the mystery of the golden-agewriters who invented the modern detective story.” This is a history of the Detection Club of distinguished authors of detective stories from 1930 through 1949. It opens with a description by New Zealand mystery writer Ngaio Marsh, a guest at one of the club meetings in 1937. As she says, it began with a sumptuous banquet. Then the Continue reading “1-17-2017: Craft of Mystery Writing”

12-5-2016: Book Signing Dates; Writer Watchdog Needed

The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, celebrates its 40th Anniversary Birthday on Saturday, December 17, with the last in a series of celebration programs. The program will run from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m., and include time for book fair browsing, readings, and editor “speed dating.” Both my husband and I will be joining in the celebration and exhibiting and signing our books along with other authors.

The center has celebrated its 40th anniversary with readings and special events starting in 2015 and continuing through this year. It opened with a program honoring Richard Ford, with readings by Jeffrey Eugenides, Robert Olen Butler, Howard Norman, and Susan Shreve. Later events included a Poet Lore reading by visiting poets Bruce Weigl and M. Nzadi Keita; Continue reading “12-5-2016: Book Signing Dates; Writer Watchdog Needed”

11-28-2016 Writing—Not So Solitary

December is almost here. That means I will be talking about my latest book and signing books on the first Saturday in the Mystery Author Extravaganza at the Reston Public Library in Reston, VA. Taking part in this annual event is just one of the many benefits I receive as a member of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

wreathe-copyDecember also means it’s dues renewal time. Dues for the national organization is $40 and for the local chapter, $20. Paltry sums for an organization that seeks to even the playing field for female mystery writers. SinC was organized when women authors started noticing that male authors got the better contracts, were reviewed more often, and received more awards than female authors. In other words, the system was not fair. Men are welcome to join the group too as long as they support the goals of SinC.

The Mystery Author Extravaganza is also held in Maryland, this year on October 29 at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda. On hand to sell books at both events was Tom Harig of Mystery Loves Company Continue reading “11-28-2016 Writing—Not So Solitary”

11-23-2016 Defending Self-Publishing

My husband, Dr. Roger McIntire, and I started our own publishing company 20-some years ago. He writes practical books for parents and his books have been published by mainstream publishers, but he got tired of their mediocre marketing efforts and decided he’d rather publish his books himself and retain control.

Fortunately, I’ve been in the writing and publishing business most of my professional life, so I had skills that complemented his in establishing our small press. I also joined the Independent Book Publishing Association, which provides invaluable expertise, information, education and marketing opportunities. Our books have received excellent reviews, won the approval of the Parents’ Choice Foundation, and been translated and published in eight other countries.

In the last five years, we developed the imprint, Amanita Books, to publish my fiction, which now numbers five novels. My novels also receive excellent reviews.

Still, when we discuss our books, we feel the stigma of being self-published, and no matter how good my reviews are or how much people say they enjoy my books, I cannot participate as an author or presenter at the Malice Domestic Conference. Continue reading “11-23-2016 Defending Self-Publishing”

11-14-2016

Citizens Police Academy strikes again. This time with a lecture on counterfeit money, fake IDs and facial analysis. This is one course that has me consistently on the edge of my seat. And it is free. The police probably have such a course in your area too.

Those of us who, being honest and law-abiding, are unschooled in such things, usually assume that if we want to disguise ourselves, we would maybe change our hair color or a man might assume a beard or mustache. Forget it. They ignore hair, facial or otherwise, and they ignore eye color. Makes sense because hair and eye color are easily changed, added to or subtracted.

Instead, they look at the shape of the ears, eyes, brows, mouth, chin, jaw, head. Nope. Can’t change those unless you’re an expert make-up artist and even then, in the cold light of day, it will look fake. And they look at alignment. How do the ears align with the eyes? Higher? Lower? Where is the nose on the face and is it a long nose? Short nose?

The point is that crooks might shuffle through a pack of stolen driver’s licenses or passports, looking for one that has a photo that superficially resembles them. But a person experienced in facial identification, can easily see the differences. Ears lower than the eyes in the photo but higher in the individual, for example. Can’t disguise that. Short nose in the photo and long nose on the person. There are lots of similar cues.

When I talk about shuffling through a pack of passports or credit cards or other identification, I’m not joking. You can probably go to any restaurant, tell them you think you left your credit card there, and they’ll show you a stack of credit cards left by mistake.

Actually, crooks steal all kinds of identification for reuse. But they also make their own. We were shown sheets of blank Social Security cards, ready to be filled in with a name and number. Social Security cards are “breeder documents,” which means they can be used to obtain legitimate identification cards.

Here’s another wrinkle. Just how good is a “legitimate” identification card? What do you really have to show to get one? How easy is it to fake those documents? I just read the Social Security application requirements for identity documents and there seems to be a lot of room for fakery, it seems to me. And after a quick google search, I think you could buy whatever ID you might want on the Net.

But the only reason for fake IDs is some kind of criminal activity.

Now we get to counterfeiting. Ever since that class I’ve been checking my twenty dollar bills, looking for the vertical stripe on the left (hold the bill up to the light to see it) and checking the gold number “20” on the bottom right. That gold number will turn to a greenish hue when you tilt the bill horizontally in front of you. There are more clues to tell you if a bill is legitimate, but that should suffice for now.

Tonight’s class is on citizen services and traffic law enforcement. The last class is next week and we’ll be visiting the crime lab. After that, graduation. Woohoo!

11-7-2016 Researching History

On Saturday I led a workshop on Historical Research for the Montgomery County, MD, Chapter of the Maryland Writers’ Association. I covered all the avenues I pursued in researching my books Shadow of the Rock and In Rembrandt’s Shadow as well as my 90s Club cozyShadow-of-the-Rock_front-cover-only_kindle-size[1] mysteries.

In doing this kind of research, I give my thanks and appreciation to the many specialized and local museums around the country. Many of them have knowledgeable docents there to answer questions as well as a library and archive. Their bookstores often have books or booklets about some aspect of local history and if the booklet doesn’t have the specific information you need, you have another resource, the author who may not have used the information in his book but have it on hand.

Here are a few museums that were useful to me. Continue reading “11-7-2016 Researching History”

Writer Beware and Pred-ed.com

I originally wrote this blog for www.latelastnightbooks.com, but it’s important enough to post again on my site.

Naiveté, desperation, eagerness. What does that spell to you? To me it spells V-I-C-T-I-M. It can also spell W-R-I-T-E-R.

A writer eager to find a publisher, desperate for an agent, naive enough to sign any contract that seems to promise an agent and publication. And that’s just the dirt on top. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find all kinds of “opportunities” to promote, sell, distribute or otherwise handle a writer’s opus—for a fee.

I have been a writer all my professional life and a publisher for the last twenty plus years. I know how eagerly a writer wants to be published; I know the anguish of being rejected again and again by uncaring and by, obviously, ignorant agents who can’t seem to grasp my vision. And I have been naive enough to hand over thousands of dollars for publicists who did nothing, distributors who charged more in fees than my publishing company made in sales, cover designers who cost more than the going rates or who never heard of “work for hire.”

Contests, awards, marketing consultants, advertisers, unscrupulous agents and editors, even reviewers, all add to the pile of “writer-get-rich” snares out there. Writer Beware.

In fact, google “writer beware” and you’ll find a number of websites under this name, usually owned by Ann Crispin, who wrote as A.C. Crispin, and/or Victoria Strauss. Many thanks to both of you. I once heard Ann Crispin speak on this subject at an annual conference of the Maryland Writers Association. It was an eye-opener, and the “writer beware” websites are well worth a visit.

Crispin and Strauss compiled a list of 20 agents about which they had received the greatest number of advisories or complaints. I won’t repeat that list (you can look it up) since it is dated 2006, but her advice remains the same. None of the agents on the list had a significant track record of sales to commercial (advance-paying) publishers, and most had virtually no documented and verified sales at all (many sales claimed by these agents turn out to be vanity publishers). All charged clients before a sale is made, whether directly, by charging fees such as reading or administrative fees, or indirectly, for “editing services.”

Writer Beware suggests that writers searching for agents avoid questionable agents, and instead query agents who have actual track records of sales to commercial publishing houses.
Best of all is to find an agent who is a member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives, which has a code of ethics. If they want you to pay “reader’s fees” or anything else upfront, raise a wary eyebrow.

One website I always check to find out the facts about agents, editors, awards, contests, etc. is www.pred-ed.com. It stands for Preditors & Editors and it’s a nonprofit whose sole purpose is to provide writers with information and contacts for the purpose of seeking publication of their work. Artists, composers, and game designers will also find the same information useful.

Go to this site, look up agents, and you’ll find some surprising comments. “Not recommended.” “Charges fee, not recommended.” “Under indictment.” Eye-opening, yessirree.

The first few years we were in publishing, we kept receiving requests for review copies from a Joan Orth. The letterhead seemed to have been cut out of a potato and stamped, so it didn’t quite look right, but eager for reviews, we sent her copies. Finally, one of our publisher acquaintances asked on a publishers’ chat room if anyone had ever seen a review by Joan Orth anywhere. The response was a resounding “No.” In response James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review, wrote a series of articles on how to spot a fake reviewer. Bless him.

So no matter how eagerly you want that book contract and a bestseller, watch out. You don’t want to become another pigeon.

10-17-2016: The Right Style

Last week, I started reading a novel by a local author I know and stopped at the first page in disgust. The book was self-published—many fine books are self-published-but the author knew nothing about the nuances of typesetting, a time-honored profession that is both art and science. Its traditions and rules are essential to a reader’s pleasure. Ignore them at your peril.

What greeted me on the first page was not a novel but a business letter or report. That was the format, and it’s the format of this blog, which is fine for a blog. But in a novel, the result is like driving a car with bad spark plugs. It’s a jerky ride. We expect a novel to be a smooth read, gently moving from paragraph to paragraph with a slightly indented first line and no space between paragraphs.
A shift in time, place, or person is indicated by a blank line between paragraphs.

When a novel is formatted like this blog, our expectations of a shift arrive after each paragraph, but there is no shift, just an extra line for no reason. Bumpy ride.

How can an author who has read novels all his or her life, not notice the novel’s format of indented first line of a paragraph, no space between paragraphs unless there’s a shift? The exception is the first paragraph in a chapter, which may or may not be indented.

Granted, that the Word default seems to be the business letter format, but it’s an easy change to make. With “Home” selected, click on the “Paragraph” menu, then click to draw down the menu under Indentation – Special. Click “First line” and then either .5” for manuscript or maybe .25” for a smaller page or the final layout ready for printing. Then go down to “Spacing” and make Continue reading “10-17-2016: The Right Style”

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