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Shadow of the Rock

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”

Hello everyone,
Need a speaker or workshop leader? I am an experienced speaker and have conducted workshops on subjects related to writing, publishing, and historical research. East coast only, though, since I live in Maryland. Contact me at eileenmcintire@aol.com.

On the calendar:
August, 2015: Guest Speaker, Sugarloaf Congregation of Unitarian Universalists, Germantown, MD. Talk: “Don’t cut your life short.” Expect to be active, alert, and able no matter what your age.

I’m also seeking an agent for my two latest novels:
In Rembrandt’s Shadow, commercial and historical fiction
The 90s Club & the Secret of the Old Clock, Cozy mystery.

Association memberships provide useful and important benefits. I profit from membership in the Maryland Writers Association, Sisters in Crime and its Chesapeake Chapter, Independent Book Publishers Association, and the MidAtlantic Book Publishers Association. I also attend meetings of Mystery Writers of America.

I traveled throughout Florida and Morocco to research my novel, Shadow of the Rock, and in process learned about the Morocco-America connection. A slim, attractive 91-year-old woman swimming laps in a pool is the inspiration for my 90s Club series of cozy mysteries. All available in e-book and paperback at amazon.com or see my website, http://www.ehmcintire.com.

Enjoy the day!
Eileen Haavik McIntire

Resources for Writers

Occasionally I list and describe resources that give writers details that might normally be difficult to find.

For writers on American history, here’s a new book about farm life.  Just published is A Boy’s Paradise: Life on a Turn-of-the Century Farm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Susan M. Branting edited and published this memoir by her grandfather, Wilfred Nevue, of growing up on a farm in the early 20th century. “He believed that his younger self had lived a life that was quickly fading from the American experience, and he wished to capture it for his children.” If you’re writing about this era, about early farm life, or about the French-Canadian customs brought into Michigan’s Upper Pensinsula, this delightful, well-edited book is filled with interesting and, for a writer, useful details.

For writers on Morocco:  Back when I was researching my historical novel, Shadow of the Rock, I had a difficult time finding any information about the history and culture of Morocco, 1780-1795. I finally paid $250 to a rare book dealer for a copy of a journal published in 1793 entitled, A Tour from Gibraltar by William Lempriere. This hard-to-find book had been mentioned in a number of bibliographies about the real-life characters in my book and the $250 was well-spent for eyewitness account of Morocco in that exact time period.

Another important resource was Travail in an Arab Land by Samuel Romanelli, originally published in 1792. I found a modern translation for a couple of dollars in a used book shop.

For mystery and crime writers: Two books that can help you structure a villain’s as well as a victim’s character and actions are Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear  and Mary Ellen O”Toole’s Dangerous Instincts. Both provide useful information on how a predator might approach his prey. I used De Becker’s book in setting up an assault scene in Shadow of the Rock.

About Self-Publishing

I received a comment from a “rookie writer” who’s afraid to self-publish because she doesn’t have any money and because promotion is a dark mystery.

I think the fear is misplaced. The real fear should come from the act of self-publishing, not the cost, which can be minimal, or promotion, which is daunting. A self-published book means that it doesn’t have the approval of an agent, review panel, editor, and publishing house and, therefore, lacks credibility to the buying audience. The praise of friends and family doesn’t count.

When I self-published my novel, Shadow of the Rock, I met that fear head-on. I’d been working on the novel for years. Now I was throwing my baby out to the wolves. Was I going to be obliterated by the steel blades of heartless reviewers? Would a reviewer even notice? Would all my friends and family snicker about the book behind my back?

But I surged ahead, because I had years of the sometimes savage critiques of my novel from the two critique groups I belonged to. These groups, formed under the auspices of the Maryland Writers’ Association, helped me hone my writing, throw out the information dumps, kill the adverbs, delve more deeply into my characters, and refine the plot points. Sometimes the critiques were hard to take, but they were always valuable.

I self-published because I couldn’t get an agent. But I knew my book was a good read; that I had written it well, and that it provided interesting insights into Florida and Moroccan history. It also had the foundation of excellent and painstaking research.

I’ve received two positive reviews from the reviewing media (Midwest Book Review called it “a riveting story of time and humanity, highly recommended”) and positive comments on Amazon.com and from friends and family, I feel good about Shadow of the Rock. Most comments do say it’s a good read and hard to put down.

So my best advice is to write, write more, read books about writing, and join a group of writers to critique your work. That’s the way you’ll grow as a writer, become a good one, and self-publish with confidence.

As for the cost of self-publishing, you can learn how to format your book as an e-book and mount it on smashwords.com (which has a complete manual on formatting) and Amazon.com. This costs little.  You can also use a print-on-demand house to print your book, but your book needs a professional layout and cover. This can be costly (around $1300 for both layout and cover) although you could learn to do the interior layout yourself, but it needs to look like a book interior. It needs to look professional. You absolutely do need a professional cover design.

Caution: Don’t self-publish until you know what the business of publishing is all about. Join the Independent Book Publishers Association (ibpa-online.org) and your regional publishers affiliate. Read about self-publishing. Learn. This is a highly complicated business with a steep learning curve.

Promotion, aka, getting the book out of the basement, is another issue, for another time.

About Book Reviewers

As a self-published author (Shadow of the Rock, a historical novel), I eagerly seek reviews of my book to establish credibility and open the way to library sales. So I was pleased to receive a positive review from Foreword Reviews, which called my book “A bold adventure” that moves “quickly in a mixture of danger, excitement, and pure enjoyment.”

Great! Then I received a very positive review from the Midwest Book Review, which called my book “a riveting story of time and humanity, highly recommended.”  Hooray!

You may think this is a shameless bit of self-promotion, but actually I want to applaud James Cox, editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review.

We independent and self-published authors owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his support . First, his publications review our books when almost all the snooty major reviewing media  turn their backs, aggravatng an already hostile situation. This situation is becoming less hostile to small and self-published presses as print-on-demand, amazon.com, and e-books open the market to all of us.  But the major reviewing media like Library Journal and Publishers Weekly are still mired in tradition, insisting, for instance, on perfect-bound galleys three or four months ahead of publication date.  Ludicrous.

The big publishers, the agents, and the reviewing media try to keep the gates closed, preferring to hawk their established authors and cater to any celebrity whose book might bring in a buck.

Second, James Cox has come forward with his knowledge and experience to help us discern the difference between legitimate and predatory reviewers.  I’ve been an independent publisher and member of the Independent Book Publishers Association for a long time. It was through the IBPA and James Cox that we started questioning those terse, poorly written requests for review copies. We even succumbed once before someone  in IBPA (then Publishers Marketing Association) asked that memorable question: “Has anyone, anywhere, ever seen a review by …?”

Third, I have learned from and enjoyed the numerous panels on which he has participated at PMA and IBPA Publishers University.

Many thanks to James Cox for his years of impartial support to independent publishers and to self-publishers.

If you are considering self-publishing your book or forming a publishing company, join IBPA and the IBPA affiliate in your region or state. The information, education, and cooperative marketing opportunities you gain will far outweigh the costs of membership. This is a tough business. You need their help.

 

The research behind my novel “The Shadow of the Rock”: Part 1

Part 1: The Pirates

Like most obsessions, I suppose, it started small.  I read a tidbit in a Florida history book about the grandmother of Florida’s first senator. She was captured by Barbary pirates, sold to the vizier of the king of Morocco and later escaped to Gibraltar.

 Was that it? I asked myself. What happened then? Did she ever return to her family? Would they have accepted her if she did? How did she survive such devastating circumstances? And was such a bizarre story true?

 I was hooked, and began a 10-year journey to find out what actually happened. The library and the Internet were the first stops.  I quickly learned that piracy was an economic mainstay of the maghreb, the Arabic term for northwest Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria).  The capture, ransom, and enslavement of the pirates’ victims was a profitable enterprise. It still is in Somalia, Indonesia and other parts of the world.

From a community college class on piracy, I learned that the Barbary pirates were often descendants of the Moors cast out of Spain along with the Jews in 1492 . Stripped of property and possessions, the Moors turned to piracy—especially against Christian nations–while the Jews found refuge and other vocations in Morocco and other countries.  

PBS’ Antiques Roadshow added another interesting bit of information. Someone brought in an antique pistol that had belonged to a Barbary pirate. I wrote down the appraiser’s description and used it in the book.

Of course, research for this book included reading about U.S. naval history. European countries, including England, paid a high tribute to the Maghreb kings as a bribe to protect their ships from pirate attack. When the United States declared its independence, Great Britain no longer paid the bribes to protect American ships. As a result, the new country became embroiled in debates about whether to pay tributes to protect its ships, pay ransoms when ships were captured, or to establish a strong navy.

Although the U.S. Navy considers Oct. 13, 1775 as the official date of its establishment in a resolution of the Continental Congress, the Continental Navy was disbanded soon after the end of the Revolutionary War.  When conflicts between American merchant shipping and the Barbary pirates intensified, Congress passed the Naval Act of 1794, which created the U.S. Navy to protect American shipping.

Side Note:  In 1803, the naval hero Stephen Decatur was given command of the brig Argus. He took it to the Mediterranean for service in the First Barbary War against Tripoli. Once in the combat zone, Lieutenant Decatur took over command of the schooner Enterprise. On Dec. 23,   1803, he captured the enemy ship Mastico, which was taken over by the U.S. Navy and named Intrepid. Decatur used the Intrepid on Feb. 16, 1804, in a night raid on Tripoli harbor to dstroy the U.S. frigate Philadelphia. This ship had been captured after running aground. .This daring and successful operation made Lieutenant Decatur an immediate national hero, a status that was enhanced by his courageous conduct during 3 August 1804 bombardment of Tripoli. In that action, he led his men in hand-to-hand fighting while boarding and capturing an enemy gunboat.

The Research: Part 2 will cover Morocco and its history.

Shadow of the Rock: A New Adventure

I began this adventure with a snippet from a Florida history book about a young girl captured by Barbary pirates and forced to marry the vizier of Morocco. Her grandson became the first senator from Florida. The horror this young girl must have felt touched me. I wondered if she ever found her way back home to her friends and family or were they lost to her forever. What happened to her? And was the story true?

I sought the answers to these questions, tromping the boards of an ancient frigate, exploring the back roads of Florida, standing in the hot sun of the cemeteries on St. Thomas, traveling throughout Morocco, and finally, climbing the Rock of Gibraltar.

The journey was also one of self-discovery. Could I write a novel about this young girl and what happened to her? Could I include our travels and the intrigues on the winding paths of history?

The self-discovery continued. As I completed the chapters, I sat through critique sessions that exposed my own misconceptions, foibles, and vulnerabilities. That wasn’t pleasant, but it was necessary.

The novel is completed and will be published in a couple of months. I sit here now, contemplating several cover designs.

I hadn’t thought that I’d feel scared at this point, but I do. What other misconceptions and vulnerabilities will be exposed? What will the critics say? Will anyone like it?

I don’t know.  But every creative person endures the same risks, so onward!

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