The Cigar Maker Wins Honorable Mention at DIY Convention

February 27, 2011

Seventh Avenue Productions is proud to announce that The Cigar Maker by Mark Carlos McGinty has won Honorable Mention in the General Fiction category at the DIY Convention. The DIY Convention honors independent and self-published works of merit. This awards marks the third award for McGinty’s second novel. The Cigar Maker also won Honorable Mention for General Fiction at both the London Book Festival and the New England Book Festival in 2010.

The Cigar Maker is the story of a Cuban cigar maker who battles labor strife and vigilante violence in 1900’s Tampa, Florida. It is based on true events.


Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom

February 26, 2011

(With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)

Sue Macy

National Geographic, 2011

96 pages, Young Adult

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

The celebration of International Women’s Day 2011, a global day to recognize the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future, is perhaps a perfect time to look at how the bicycle changed women’s lives in the late 19th Century and helped them ride to freedom. Sue Macy and National Geographic bring us Wheels of Change, an excellent full-color book on the history of the bicycle’s impact on society and the lives of women. To men, the bicycle was a toy but to women it was “a steed upon which they rode to a new world.”

Filled with black and white photographs, full color paintings and advertisements from the day and a wonderful eye-catching design, Wheels of Change reads more like a magazine than a history book. Your eyes flash across the page, from an anecdotal narrative to the vivid pictures inserted seemingly on every page, to the poems, songs and newspaper articles from the day, all celebrating (and often times challenging) how the women of the time embraced the bicycle.

But history it is. Rich in detail, both educational and humorous, with a tone that is always upbeat and positive. These glossy pages are a reminder of where we’ve been, a reflection on the present. This is the type of book that leaves you enlightened by the past, optimistic about the world, and empowered for the future. Should we expect anything less from National Geographic?

The bicycle was not always just for transportation, exercise or leisure. To this day, in some parts of the world, the bicycle brings children to school, transports goods to the market, takes the sick to clinics, and imports medicine to places that need it. It saves lives. And in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the bicycle saved women from the constraints they had always faced.

The book is filled with amusing stories about the female celebrity cyclists of the day, lessons on cycling slang, bicycling songs and poems, and advertisements portraying how women embraced the bicycle. From the early velocipede to the rubber-tired steel-framed high-wheeler, to the modern version with two wheels of equal size and tires filled with compressed air, we learn the evolution of the bicycle along with the evolution of fashion, industry and advertising. As women switched from skirts to bloomers, and riding become more popular, the consumer culture reacted and soon repair shops were opened, manufacturers began making bicycle bells and lights, bike paths were constructed and bicycles were modified to suit a female rider. Did you know women once rode side-saddled with both legs on the same side of the bicycle? This reviewer didn’t.

We learn about Annie Oakley, who could ride her bike no-handed while shooting at targets, and Belva Lockwood the first women to appear on an official ballot for U.S. President who rode a tricycle to work. Then there’s a great story about Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, who attempted to ride her bicycle around the world in order to settle a bet….and get this: she didn’t know how to ride a bicycle! And there was another catch – she was challenged to start with $0 and return with $5,000, a fortune for that day and age. Did she make it? How much money did she raise? It’s worth picking up Wheels of Change to find out!

Like nearly every social craze, cycling by females met the usual opposition. Denounced as the downfall of women’s health and morality, the medical community quickly recognized the benefits to health but warned women: no racing! And did the women of the day pay attention? Of course not. We are rewarded with a wonderful section on female bicycle racing and how they used to race on an indoor track in front of thousands of spectators (mostly women). In an effort to settle the growing popularity of the bicycle, The Omaha Daily Bee presented women with a list of bicycling Don’ts. Don’t carry a flask. Don’t stop at road houses. Don’t wear clothes that don’t fit (this one still applies!) and most importantly: Don’t powder your face on the road.

The worries over women’s health and detriment to religious devotion were unfounded and the bicycle gave women increased independence, better health, freedom from restrictive clothing and even helped them gain the right to vote. But don’t take it from me. Sue Macy’s Wheels of Change is diligently researched, flawlessly designed and expertly executed. A wonderful book on all counts.

Wheels of Change is now available on

Mark McGinty is the award winning author of The Cigar Maker and Elvis and the Blue Moon Conspiracy. His work has appeared in Cigar City Magazine and La Gaceta.

News from around the Twin Cities

February 25, 2011

Here is an update of happenings, gatherings and whatnot:

Literary Death Match returns to the Twin Cities on March 1st – that’s next Tuesday to you and me! The last time Todd & Co. were here everyone had a great night and Maggie Ryan Sandford took the gold. You can read a summary of the event, with photos and sketches, right here.

The great Lupi Loops is planning an anthology of comics dealing with germs and germophobes called Germ Warfare. Submissions are currently being accepted – you can learn more about it over at Lupi’s site.

A longtime friend (has it been almost 12 years now??) and fellow author Katherine Kellogg Heflin has just released her first novel called Measure the Sea. Way to go Housey! Look for a review on The Boog in a few weeks. You can enter to win a free copy on Goodreads or visit Lulu to pick up a copy of your own! (okay, she’s not from the Twin Cities, but I am, so this still counts as TC news).

Daniel Olson, Twin Cities cartoonist and fellow Polk St. delinquent recently finished a 24-hour comic called Subsequently in Idaho. Olson always puts together some amusing stuff so make sure you clicky-click and check it out.

Fanboi is coming to Altered Esthetics in Nordeast Minneapolis starting March 4th. This is an exhibit of art inspired by fandom and devotion to characters, stories, or icons in film, music, or gaming culture. I will be there IN COSTUME – but which character will be the object of my devotion? You’ll have to peer into my secret closet to find out!

MIX is coming up (Minneapolis Indie Expo) and it’s totally worth checking out if you live in the Twin Cities and need a strong weekend injection of the amusing. Sarah Morean tells you all about it right down there…Check out some pics on Flickr.

The Geek Report returns from hiatus this Sunday the 27th. What is The Geek Report, you ask? Only the geekiest report in the land. New cast, new location, new geekery. Why don’t you tune in and find out what all the fuss is about?!

Did I leave you out? Did I forget to mention your story, your event, your wedding? Yeah, I know. Too bad.

Finally: Facebook – Tool or Toy? Leave a comment, maybe we’ll put up a poll and take an official, scientific, Internetty-type vote.

Mark McGinty, author of The Cigar Maker, and more…

Smoking Bans and The Cigar Rights of America

February 12, 2011

Regulations are making it harder to find places to smoke cigars, and legislation is making it more costly. A recent study by the State of Michigan measured the effect of a 2010 statewide ban on public smoking and saw sales of tobacco products dropped by more than 6% in the year after the ban took place. With less places to smoke, people smoke less often, and spend less money on cigars.

That’s bad for cigars!!

All 50 U.S. states have some sort of smoking ban and President Obama recently signed legislation raising taxes on cigars to 52.75%. Cigar Rights of America, a consumer-based non-profit advocacy group that partners with cigar companies to protect the freedom of cigar enthusiasts, is working hard to fight back. Walk into any cigar shop in America and you can certainly find information on how to help the CRA, either by making a donation, signing a petition, or sending a letter or email to your government representatives.

Cigar companies are working with the CRA to educate legislators on what the cigar industry means to the economy. Last year the CRA joined the Cigar Association of America to host the Florida Cigar Summit, a meeting between cigar industry leaders and Florida legislators meant to protect the cigar industry in Florida. Politicians were given a tour of the J.C. Newman Cigar Company and advised on the impact the cigar industry has on the state’s 5,500 tobacco-related jobs.

So far this year, through phone banking and political action, the CRA has fought to defeat a cigar tax in Pennsylvania and a smoking ban Missouri, and announced that the mayor of Las Vegas became a lifetime CRA member.

Of course, those on the other side of the argument will insist that the smoking ban actually helps local businesses. Here’s an older study, but it shows that there is a legitimate debate on the other side.

Here is a roundup of smoking bans state-by-state. States without a statewide ban are listed in red, and as you can see, there ain’t many of ’em. But just because the state doesn’t have a smoking ban doesn’t mean individual cities in that state don’t. States without a smoking ban tend to leave it up to the cities to decide. In most cases of a statewide ban, smoking is still allowed in cigar shops, private homes and private clubs. But there are exceptions, and some of them are pretty crazy – take a look!

  • Alabama: No statewide smoking ban but the Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking in all public places. Bars, lounges, retail tobacco stores, limousines under private hire, designated hotel/motel smoking rooms, and psychiatric facilities are entirely exempt from the Act’s regulation
  • Alaska: No statewide smoking ban but the law requires designated smoking and non-smoking areas be identified.
  • Arizona: Statewide smoking ban means you can’t smoke in any building, or within 20 feet of an entrance. The following are exempt: private residences, retail tobacco stores, private clubs, smoking associated with Native American religious ceremonies, outdoor patios, and stage/film/television performances.
  • Arkansas: Statewide smoking ban excludes bar. You also can’t smoke in a car with a child under the age of 6.
  • California: Statewide smoking ban with all kinds of regulations. In 1990 the City of San Luis Obispo became the first city in the world to ban smoking in all public places.
  • Colorado: Statewide smoking ban including all bars and restaurants. Casinos are exempt.
  • Connecticut: Statewide smoking ban, but thank God bowling alleys are exempt.
  • Delaware: Statewide smoking ban, including the beach in some cities. But if you rent a social hall or a limo, you can smoke there.
  • DC: District-wide ban in all public places. You can smoke outside, and in hookah bars!
  • Florida: Statewide smoking ban excluding bars. College kids can still get lit up while they light up.
  • Georgia: Statewide ban in restaurants and some workplaces. Old people are happy that you can still smoke in a nursing home.
  • Hawaii: Statewide smoking ban in and outside of all restaurants and bars. Fines range from $50 – $500.
  • Idaho: Statewide ban in all restaurants and bars but if you’re a stand-up comedian or stage performer, you can smoke as long as it’s part of your act.
  • Illinois: Statewide smoking ban that even includes casinos and some tobacco stores.
  • Indiana: No statewide smoking ban but there are dozens of regulations as to where you can and can’t smoke, so the lack of a statewide ban seems to be a formality.
  • Iowa: Statewide smoking ban but if you go to prison, feel free to smoke.
  • Kansas: Statewide smoking ban but you can smoke at the track.
  • Kentucky: No statewide ban (no surprise given that tobacco is the leading source of crop income!)
  • Louisiana: Statewide ban excludes bars, nursing homes and prison (and a few other places)
  • Maine: Statewide ban but you can smoke if it’s part of your religion.
  • Maryland: Statewide smoking ban but you can smoke in a hospital as long as a doctor has authorized you to smoke – in the hospital!!
  • Massachusetts: Statewide smoking ban. The city of Boston prohibits cigarette sales in pharmacies.
  • Michigan: Statewide smoking ban except in cigar bars.
  • Minnesota: Statewide smoking ban and if you’re in Duluth you can’t smoke within 15 feet of a bus stop.
  • Mississippi: No statewide ban, regulation is left to the locality and many cities have their own version of a smoking ban.
  • Missouri: No statewide ban. Lowest cigarette tax in the country at $.17 a pack.
  • Montana: Statewide ban but the Montana Clean Air Act exempts bars and “tobacco demonstrations in schools.”
  • Nebraska: Statewide smoking ban, cigars bars and tobacco retail shops are exempt along with private locations.
  • Nevada: Statewide ban excludes casinos. You can still be bad if you go to Vegas, and if you happen to visit a brothel, feel free to light one up when you’ve finished your business because it’s all legal!
  • New Hampshire: Statewide ban includes bars, restaurants and some workplaces.
  • New Jersey: Statewide ban includes strip clubs, but you can smoke in the park or in cigar bars.
  • New Mexico: Statewide ban. In 2007 the Dee Johnson Clean Indoor Air Act was passed keeping smokers 50 feet away from all enclosed spaces in New Mexico, including bars and restaurants. Third-time offenders may face 12 months in the big house.
  • New York: Statewide ban. In 1908 the Sullivan Ordinance attempted to prevent women from smoking anywhere except their homes but it never passed.
  • North Carolina: Statewide ban but private country clubs are among those exempt.
  • North Dakota: Statewide ban excludes bars but local governments can be more stringent than the state.
  • Ohio: Statewide ban but in North Royalton you can smoke on the sidewalk!
  • Oklahoma: No statewide ban. You can smoke just about anywhere as long as there is a ventilation system in place to remove the smoke.
  • Oregon: Statewide ban includes bars and restaurants. Cigar shops are exempt.
  • Pennsylvania: Statewide ban with the usual exemptions but you can smoke at a truck stop!
  • Rhode Island: Statewide ban with the usual exemptions.
  • South Carolina: No statewide ban but plenty of regulations at the local level. The state Supreme Court has ruled that the maximum fine for breaking any type of smoking ban is only $25.
  • South Dakota: Statewide ban with the usual exemptions.
  • Tennessee: Statewide ban excludes bars.
  • Texas: No statewide ban but the law calls out smoking is illegal on elevators, airplanes, trains and in hospitals, as long as those areas are open to the public. So if you have a private elevator or a private hospital or train, feel free to smoke.
  • Utah: Statewide ban except private residence, Native American ceremonies and designated hotel rooms.
  • Vermont: The only state whose statewide ban DOES NOT exempt tobacconists.
  • Virginia: Statewide ban but bars and restaurants are allowed designated smoking rooms.
  • Washington: Statewide ban in all places except 25% of hotel rooms.
  • West Virginia: No statewide ban. Seems like the only place you can’t smoke is a place with a No Smoking sign. Many localities have instituted their own smoking bans.
  • Wyoming: No statewide ban. The only place you can’t smoke is where it might cause an explosion. I guess that would mean you can’t smoke while pumping gas, or repairing a gas-operated oven.

Wikipedia has a complete list and a terrific roundup of smoking bans state-by-state.

Interested in learning more? Check out the CRA right here.

Mark McGinty is the award winning author of The Cigar Maker and Elvis and the Blue Moon Conspiracy. His work has appeared in Cigar City Magazine and La Gaceta.