Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What Are You Doing New Years?

The New Year celebration has always been much more significant to me than Christmas. Maybe it's because I am not religious, or maybe it's because because all that gift-giving excess is just so...excessive. Maybe it's because the meaning of the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne are still a puzzle. I'm not sure. I only know that while still in my teens, I realized that the whole "ring out the old...ring in the the new" scenario took on a magical quality, one which enchants me still.

For me, there is no night out quite like New Year's Eve...and I prefer to put on the Ritz and have even been known to occasionally (gasp!) wear a dress and make-up. It's like Oscars night for regular people. A nice dinner, followed by some clubbing, maybe dancing, and of course, the raucous scene at midnight. I love that line...the moment...that was then, this is now.

Then on New Year's day, I'll watch the Rose Bowl parade, searching the scene in the wide shots, hoping for a glimpse of my old Southern California stomping grounds, and "gather wool" about the upcoming twelve months. In the afternoon, I'll settle down with my GOALS folder and a fresh yellow tablet and make notes which ultimately will be my objectives for 2009.

But right now, it's late afternoon on the 31st and I am recalling all the many Eve's...the Vegas ones, the cruise ship one, the San Francisco one, the house parties (both hosted and visited), the one in Manmouth when there was so much snow we couldn't get out to go out, the Big Bear one, and all the other ones whose details escape me now. In a little while, I'll meet my pal Yolanda at One East Market, Taylorville's one worthy restaurant and jazz club, and add another Eve to my long list of Eves.

So I ask you, as crooners from Sinatra to Nancy Wilson, Diana Krawl, Harry Connick Jr. and countless others have asked, "What are you doing New Years?"

My favorite is Margaret Whiting...I still have the old 78 rpm version!

Monday, December 29, 2008

I think it is now official; I'm the last writer on the planet without a website. Time to take the plunge. I've looked at the websites of other Oak Tree Press authors. They are all good. I've read scores of articles about websites. They are all boring. I think I'm ready, but how do you select from among all the folks offering to host your site?

Another Promo Idea from Bob Cohen

DeviantArt is an online community for artists:
I've displayed my art photography in a DA gallery for years. The gallery consists of a "click on the icon" array of jpeg visual files along with explanatory text posted at the discretion of the artist. I've never much used the option of explaining my photos, but last month it occurred to me that I might use this feature of the site to promote our book Scurvy Dogs, Green Water & Gunsmoke. Click on this link
and it will take you to the subfolder I've used to showcase artwork that's thematically related to the book. Read all the prompts and you'll see one that will display full views of the art - if you want the best look, click on this. You can also see the promo info that I've posted along with each piece (depending on title and subject matter, these pieces will display separately on searches by other members or users of DA). A useful feature of the site, particularly in this application, is that it maintains a running tally of the number of "views." While that might not necessarily equate to sales figures, it will give me an idea who's reading this OTP blog posting...
Bob Cohen, Ed.
Scurvy Dogs, Green Water & Gunsmoke

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is enjoying the day and the season!

I've been without wireless service for several days...just me and my laptop sitting in one of the few geographic spots where there is nothing to hook onto! What a shock!

Tomorrow should find me back at my desk and busily answering the jillion emails that came in while I have been off line.

The pic here is one of the many many displays lighting up our park this Christmas season...cute, huh?
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Being a Blog Hog and Season's Greetings

I don't really want to be a blog hog, but I know that to keep people coming back to a blog, there has to be new content every day or so. So that's why I'm back here again. Come next year, I have to get busy writing my next Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel, so won't be popping on this blog quite so often. My plans are to be writing and promoting the one that's coming out at the beginning of the year from Oak Tree Press: No Sanctuary.

Recently I read a blog about building your platform. A platform is all the things that make you an interesting writer--the reason why people might want to interview you or ask you to speak before their group.

For a police officer writing a police procedural mystery, someone in forensics writing a novel or non-fiction with forensics, an artist writing a mystery with an artist for a sleuth, I'm sure you get the idea, you already have your platform.

For someone like me who is not in law enforcement but writes police procedural crime novels I've had to build a different kind of platform. The foundation is the fact that I had a son-in-law who was a fifteen year veteran of a police department who liked to tell me stories about his job. He also was willing to take me on ride-alongs and I went on other ride-alongs in the city that's next to where I live now. I belong to the Public Safety Writers Association ( and have made friends with other police officers, both active and retired.

The first house we bought was in a neighborhood of sailors, firemen and police officers. I was an observer as to how the job of being a policeman affected the family, and what was going on in the family affected the job. Something I've tried to portray in each of the Rocky Bluff P.D. books.

You'd be surprised how many stories I can tell based on these experiences--most of them a bit on the funny side.

With the book that's coming out in January, I can boast being involved with many churches through the years. Churches and the people who attend have their own dynamics. And though neither church nor the preachers depicted in my novel are like any real church or membership, there are some resemblances.

And that's my platform for No Sanctuary. Though I'm not an expert, I have enough exposure to be able to talk about how the book came about and what experiences I drew upon to write it.

Now, for the most important part, I wish you all the best of the holiday season no matter which way you may be celebrating. Remember to spend time with your friends and family and enjoy each moment.

Merry Christmas to all and my your New Year see you selling lots of books!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Going to Be Interviewed This Afternoon

For me it'll be 5:30 p.m., but when you go to the site, the time will change for your time zone.

Also, I think once it's over you can go to the site and listen if you care too.

Don't have anything else to say today, but remember, it's a good idea to have a new blog everyday, so folks jump on here and share your thoughts about your book and whatever.

Oh, by the way, I will be having the launch for No Sanctuary, the latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series and coming from Oak Tree Publishing in the fellowship hall of our church. I think it will be fun.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Can your book group do this!?

Interesting article in the NY Times recently about book groups.

Seems some folks in some book groups get a bit carried away with themselves. Or show up for the group meeting not having done the reading and just want to schmooze.

Some others, called "ayatollahs" here, just HAVE to dominate the proceedings. And God forbid if others want to read a book this ayatollah isn't interested in.

I've known a few....

I was in a writing group once and there was one who just had to dominate all conversation, shouting over others as they tried to say something and interrupting other times..

I think these types are just out of work talk show hosts, you know?

See what you think:

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Infamous Date

I'm old enough I actually remember listening to the radio on December 7th with my folks when President Roosevelt broke the horrifying news about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Because I was still pretty young, the impact didn't hit me quite then, but as time moved along, everything in our life changed. I grew up in L.A. where we had black outs, great fun driving at night during a black out with no headlights on or streetlights (fun for a kid not for my parents), if we were home, the blackout curtains were on every window, and the only place we could have light was an inner hallway. There we played games and ate snacks that were store in the cupboard just for the occasion.

Food was rationed, mom had to use food stamps for lots of things. It was impossible to find bubble gum anywhere, I once paid 50 cents for a piece when I was in grammar school. Since it was only a penny, that was really highway robbery and tells you how badly I wanted bubble gum.

Gas was rationed too, so my dad rode his bike to work so we could save our gas stamps for our vacations. It was a long bike ride from E.R. to Paramount Studios.

We went to the movies every Friday night, double features, saw everything about the war in the newsreels (a lot was horrifying), saw propaganda war movies, musicals, B-gangster movies, whatever was playing, no restrictions for us. (Had nightmares a lot too.)

We grew vegetables at school in the Victory garden, everyone worked in it. We had air raid drills and air raids and all went to the first floor of the brick school and waited for the all-clear siren while the talented members of our school entertained us. I remember one boy in particular who played the accordion very well. Just think how fortunate we were not to have been bombed, we'd have all been killed under that pile of bricks. The school was later condemned for being unsafe during an earthquake.

Every week, the air warden had a get-together at his house to teach the grown-ups how to grow veggies, wrap bandages, first aid, recognize enemy planes and I don't know what all, while we kids had a great time playing hide'n seek, spies, and whatever else we could think of.

I was at the zoo in Griffith Park with my 9th grade class, when the war was declared over. They announced it over the loud speaker system and the lion's roared.

Change of Subject: I had a wonderful book signing in the back room of the antique store yesterday. For details, read my blog.


Friday, December 5, 2008

With my book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, due out next month, I've been collecting all the helpful hints about promoting a book that have been posted here. Thanks to all of you for the good ideas. Now I finally have one to offer, although I'd guess others have thought of it. The alumni magazine from the University of New Mexico where I received my MA has agreed to list the publication of my book in the section that notes what alums have been up to. Even better, they are going to run a full-page ad for the book. Since it's set in New Mexico, I'm hoping many other Lobos will buy the book.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thoughts on new Spenser; Houghton and Hachette

This blog has been terrific of late. Forgive me, one and all, for not chipping in more often.

Just finished Robert Parker's latest Spenser novel ("Rough Weather"). I always like starting a new Spenser book. It's kind of like being among old acquaintances again, in some way -- Spenser, Hawk, Susan et al.

It's familiar ground but Parker avoids having it become predictable ground. Don't know how he manages to do that. (Hint: I think it's called talent!)

In case you missed it, I also include here the link to an article in last week's NY Times entitled "Publishing Displays Its Split Personality."

The article contrasts two recent announcements from publishers:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has announced its editors "were temporarily not acquiring new books."

On the refreshing other hand, though, Hachette Book Group is giving bonuses equal to one week's pay to all its employees.

Analyzed somewhat in the article, but not fully answered, is how a publisher like Houghton Mifflin can stay in business, let alone profit, if it stops acquiring titles.

But it would be nice to work for Hachette these days, wouldn't it?

The Wow Factor

We're all trying to figure out our holiday gift-giving, wanting our presents to have a wow factor without breaking the bank or being too impractical. Everyone is over-worked and over-worried, so this seems the perfect time to honor our struggle for balance.

How about a Body-Mind-Spirit gift for that working mom in your life? Buy a lovely warm throw (look for sales/use those coupons) and get it in blue (for healing) or rose (for love) — ideas from my book Giving with Meaning — add a book (for the mind) and a box of chocolates or after-dinner drink (for the spirit) along with a note that says something like this: Blue is the color of healing. Curl up after a long hard day and know that you are loved and being sent wishes for good health. A gift to honor your body, mind and spirit.

This thoughtful gift works for men and women and definitely has the WOW factor.

Warm Wishes,
Patricia Sheehy
author, Giving with Meaning

Monday, December 1, 2008

Just Can't Resist

Now I don't really want to give Billie a "big head", but I want to make sure all of her authors realize how fortunate they are to have her for a publisher. She truly wants every one of the books she's put her heart and soul in to succeed. Because of that she does far more than any publisher that I know of.

Because I've been published by quite a few different houses over the years, beginning with a New York publisher, I know for a fact that most of them do very little to promote their books. Oh, yes, most of them have websites. If you are a big name, they might send you on a book tour--but only those with big names get that sort of treatment. Even the mid-list authors are expected to do most of their own promotion.

Billie has given us all ideas of things we can do to promote our books via her great newsletter. I can't even count up the number of publishers I've had over the years--but none published a newsletter with promo ideas. Most of the things I've learned have come from the Internet and hearing what others have done and from writers' conferences.

I'm just embarking on this great adventure with Billie and Oak Tree Press. I met Billie at the Public Safety Writers Association Conference. At the time I wasn't looking for a publisher have one for each of my mystery series. The more we talked, the more I realized that we had a lot in common. (We have some big differences too, but that hasn't mattered a bit.)

Saw her again at the next two PSWA conference and we became better friends.

Then I learned the publisher of my Rocky Bluff P.D. series was quitting the business. You can guess how I felt. However, it was probably a good thing. Amazon and I were the only ones selling the trade paperbacks, she was only interested in the e-books--and did little if anything to promote.

I'd promised Billie I'd come back for her writer's conference this past September. I approached her with an email query about perhaps Oak Tree picking up the next in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, No Sanctuary. When I met with her in Taylorville she gave me a contract--which I signed.

Now, it time to start planning what I'm going to do to market No Sanctuary. For the launch, I hope to use our church's fellowship hall, serve refreshments, and hopefully introduce some new people to the folks on the Rocky Bluff P.D. and their families.

I already have a list of people I always send review copies too, and I'll be talking about No Sanctuary on all the blogs that I'm on. Once I'm fairly sure when it'll actually be available, I'll put information on my own website about how it can be ordered. I'll do a blog tour too like I've done for all my books.

I've already signed up for some conferences where I'll be on panels: I'm going to Epicon, Mayhem in the Midlands and of course, PSWA's conference:

I've already got a talk scheduled with a library and a bookstore in March. (By the way, you'll do much better at a bookstore if you give a talk along with your signing.) I'm also talking to a Romance Writers group in April and plan to attend the L.A. Time Book Festival.

Hopefully, this has given some of you ideas for selling your book. And for those of you with books already, hope you're taking advantage of all the holiday sales opportunities in your own backyard.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Art from My Current Show in Petersburg, VA

Please take a look at my new posts on my blog, "Notes Along the Way." I have several of the paintings from my current Collage and Mixed Water Media Show on view until January in the Mezzanine Gallery, Petersburg Regional Art Center, 132 North Sycamore Street. I plan to also post paintings from my "Monti Just for Fun" series. Those paintings will be on view at Tides Inn, Irvington, Va next Saturday. I'll also be signing books there.

Book Trailers

Billie has come a long way with her creation of trailers. I just read the Nov. 22 post and checked out some of her trailer links in it. The Timeless Love trailer is great, and I plan to add a link to it in my next newsletter. Thank you, Billie!

The technology available to writers is amazing, but how does one find time to make use of it and still find time to write?!!!


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Conference Program Ads

We're sending a grayscale version of this little ad to be in the program booklet for Left Coast Crime. This image introduces Sunny's mystery novel, Where Angeles Fear, the release of which we are timing to intersect with LCC. (Poor Sunny! She has to go to Hawaii to promote her book!)

Ads in conference programs are a good value, IMO, and I do them often. They are very affordable, especially in this business card size. Sometimes I promote one of our contests, sometimes a title, sometimes just a blurb about the company. I believe these ads are going to a target-rich environment, since at least 99.9% of the people at a writers conference are writers and readers. Also, I believe that many of the booklets are kept for a while, and the "pass along" factor is a good bet also. So, there is a lot of bang for the buck, as they say.

However, even if there was little bang, there is still the factor that the fee for the ad is going to the conference organizers, which is a good thing. It takes a lot of work from a lot of people to put a conference together, and there is always the risk that it won't be a profit-making venture. Plus the front end of the planning is loaded with costs which must be paid during a time when registrations may be few and far between. The fees (even though modest) for program ads can be a real boost to the conference cash flow.

Why is this important? Because if conferences can't at least pay their own way, it's a good bet that the majority of them will cease to occur. And whether you like conferences for what you learn (like Gus Cileone) or for the interaction of it all like (like Mike Orenduff) or for both aspects (like Marilyn Meredith) or for the opportunity to make a Hawaiian splash with your new title (like Sunny Frazier), conferences are still a valued and valuable element of our industry.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Space vs. Facebook

Billie had an interesting post topic on the newsletter- My Space v. Facebook. For what it's worth, my vote goes to Facebook. While I have accounts at both and have been on My Space much longer, I have found that Facebook is easier to reconnect with people I haven't seen in years. I have found more people on Facebook in a few days than I did on My Space in two years. Facebook constantly suggest people I may know who live in my city or went to the schools I attended.

The benefit for me is that many of my college buddies have relocated to other states, and I see this as a positive because they can help get the word out about my novel to people I don't know and wouldn't have a chance to market to otherwise. I have recently found friends that moved from here, New Orleans, to Manhattan, L.A., St. Louis, etc..

I feel like I can get a local following easier, just because of the number of people I know here, we have a huge French Market/Flea Market every weekend in the Quarter, and another huge one on the other side of the river in Algiers where I can market. I can put a notice of my book release in my biography update for free in my high school newsletter, my college newsletter and my law school newsletter, plus for a small fee I can do the same in the monthly magazines of the legal associations I belong to, which are local but have a large number of members. So locally, I can at least get my book name out there, but hoped to find a way to get people from outside of my geographic area interested in the book.

Second, Facebook tends to have a more mature, professional following. An FBI agent who handles child sex internet cases mentioned that My Space is chock full of pedophiles because there are so many underage kids on the site, but Facebook doesn't have the problem because of the difference in the age and type of members. So besides avoiding the potential creep factor of who may be trolling on My Space, the Facebook member is probably more likely to purchase my novel, which is geared toward adults.

Although My Space seems to have more bells and whistles visually, Facebook is easier for me to navigate, which also makes it quicker to visit for me, and means I can check it daily.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two things in Gus Cileone’s post (Info from a writers' conference) urged me to comment. First, although I don’t generally find writing conferences helpful, I think Gus is right that mixing with other writers is valuable. With regard to formal presentations, I always remember that W. Somerset Maugham said, “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” Advice like use more verbs and fewer adverbs and adjectives is too abstract to be of much use. Generally, it’s probably a good rule, but sometimes the right adjective is the key to the perfect sentence. Good writing isn’t primarily a matter of rules. The most important thing is to be able to recognize a good sentence when you see it. If you reflect on it after the fact and come to believe it’s good because it used a strong verb and no adjectives, that may well be true. Rules are essentially post hoc.

The second thing I liked was the advice from Hemingway to end your writing day with an unfinished thought or action so you can more easily jump back into your story the next day. Another observation from Hemingway I like is that a good story is like an iceberg; 90% of it is below the surface. That's not a rule, but it's a helpful insight.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Info from a writers' conference

I attended the Montgomery County Community College Writers' Conference on 11/14-11/15. They have had prominent writers there in the past, including Norman Mailer and Edward Albee. This year, the main speaker was Michael Cunningham, who wrote The Hours. I have attended the Philadelphia Writers' Conference twice and was at the Baltimore Writers' Conference last year. I have found these conferences to be very informative about the business and craft of writing. It's also good to just talk to other writers, since we do our work in solitude, mostly.

At one workshop, we were asked to pick up pictures of people that had been collected from newspapers and magazines. We then had to make up character backstories which would then lead to plots for stories. It was interesting to see how our imaginations could be stimulated as we envisioned the lives of these people just by looking at their faces and seeing what they were doing in the photos.

A writer by the name of Michael Hogan, who had written two novels, Man Out of Time and Burial of the Dead, talked about how to start a novel. He said a common problem is to give too much exposition up front. He said you have 300 to 400 pages to get to develop the characters, so try to draw the reader in with a little information at a time. Sometimes you should just drop off your first chapter and start with the second. (I actually just did that with the murder mystery I am currently writing, and it did help). He also brought up the idea of starting the story with The Big Bang. Because you now have to get the reader's attention early, many writers feel they must have something exciting happen quickly (The first body drops in the first couple of pages of my OTP novel, A Lesson in Murder). But he argued that you don't have to have fireworks, as long as you "seduce" the reader with something interesting that will come later. He also argued for more verbs in one's writing and less adverbs and adjectives. This style make for a stronger narrative. Adverbs, he argued, tell, while verbs show.

I learned one writing strategy from reading Hemingway. I think it was in A Movable Feast that he says to end your writing day with an unfinished thought or action, so you can more easily jump back into your story the next day.

Just some hopefully helpful hints I wanted to pass on.

Gus Cileone,

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Let's Talk About Videos

A couple of years ago, the video book trailer became all the rage, and YouTube filled up with vids ranging from slick professional jobs by the big houses to wobbly, choppy entries that were painful to watch.

On a wintry Sunday afternoon last year, I started fiddling with the moviemaker application that came with Vista on my laptop. These are painful to watch also! However, sometime after that, Patricia Sheehy turned me on to, and I was off to the races!

One of my first criticisms of book vids was that many of them are way too long. My idea was to keep them more the length of a TV commercial break...a max of 60-90 seconds.

Here are some links to OTP authors whose titles are "in the movies" The Poetry of Murder by Bernadette Steele, Field of Destiny by Patricia Sheehy, Easy Money by Norm Maher, The Last Stop by Alan Bower, Calling the Dead by Marilyn Meredith, Fools Rush In by Sunny Frazier, Las Vegas and the Mob Denny Girffin. Here are a couple of 'works in progress' for our imprints Dark Oak Mysteries and Timeless Love. Here's a couple of personal ones, for local events where I like spending some R&R time, Taylorville Garden Walk and Christmas in the Park and here's our family reunion from last June...that handsome guy is my dad! This one would have been so much more fun if Animoto had the theme from Deliverance as one of the music choices!

Do book vids boost sales? Who can say for sure, but I see them as another link in the chain...that "get the word out" chain.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I just finished Katy King’s City of Suspects (Oak Tree Press, 2003 in case you’re wondering). It’s a fun read with a juicily jumbled plot and a delightful detective, Jane Lanier, who’s half hard-boiled gumshoe and half hometown girl. There’s romance, suspense, danger, and a good bit of humor. Several reviewers compared Lanier to V. I. Warshawski, high praise indeed considering that Sara Paretsky is a good writer and an international best-selling author. But her Warshawski can be grating. Lanier, on the other hand, while just as tough and principled, is much more simpatica. She’s someone you’d like to know, and the Portland King describes is somewhere you’d like to live.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Holiday Promo Ideas

If you haven't already thought of it, the Christmas holidays are a great time to sell books.

The first Saturday of December, I'll be in an antique store in my little hometown. It's the day they encourage everyone to shop in the stores here--frankly there aren't that many. I'll be putting up posters in the Post Office, the coffee shop and of course the antique store. The local newspaper will have an article about my latest book and where I'll be.

The second Friday and Saturday, I'm going to have a table in the Art Gallery of the next closest city. We have no bookstores or malls so I have to be inventive. The Downtown Merchants Association is promoting a shopping in that city day--and I took a press kit to the bigger newspaper down there with a book and handed it over to the features reporter who is also my friend. Of course I had a blurb in there about being in the Art Gallery. Of course I had to ask permission of the art association to be there and they're hoping my presence will bring in more visitors and buyers of their art and crafts.

One suggestion I've heard, is that if you have a series, offer all the books in the series as a package for a gift suggestion. Haven't tried that one--probably have way too many books in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series for that to work.

Oh, and I'll be bringing cookies to all three events--offering goodies results in sales.

That will be it for this year--except for continuing to write on all the blogs I'm on.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Write What You Know

Today I attended the Virginia Writers Club 90th anniversary lunch at Randolph Macon College in Ashland. Dean H. King, author of Skeletons on the Zahara: The True Story of Survival, was the featured speaker. In researching this book, he traveled to that far-away desert area and rode camels, experiencing as much as he could the plight of Captain James Riley and his group who lost almost half their body weight as they spent three months crossing the desert in the early 1800s. King fell off his camel the first day--a pretty dangerous happening since his guide was racing ahead of him a quarter mile away. He also told about visiting Ireland and really getting to know people in remote communities as he researched a real life character in another book. His talk made me think how important research is for a book.

"Write what you know," we've been told over and over. That's why the books I've written and am working on now are set in places I've been, with characters doing things (for the most part) that I have done. I've never done anything as extreme as King revealed, but I've had unique experiences and met some exotic characters. My next book is set in Trinidad where I spent an exciting few days and in the Grenadines where we flew in a small plane into a tiny airstrip. Now I'd like to go back ...

Thursday, November 6, 2008


What great blogs you folks have posted about promotion. Sunny points out some amazing facts about what writers need to do and how everyone should be prepared when they start out on the promotion journey. The four authors who joined me to write Published! Now $ell It! bring out many ideas that authors should be using as they market their published work. However, the Internet is changing so rapidly, it's hard to keep up with all the new opportunities. I still want to do a book trailer like Billie (OTP) suggested. But it takes so much time, and today it was difficult to pull myself away from my art studio and the new Golden Micaceous iron oxide I'm using on my canvases.

Mary Montague Sikes
Secrets by the Sea

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Based upon advice received here, and going back and reviewing the Colophon newsletter, I have taken the following actions to promote my book, Gumbo Justice, due out this summer: (1) I have created a website, (dot com was already taken); (2) I also reserved the website Hollicastillo, my name, just in case, since it was only $10 for the year; (3) I created a facebook account, and immediately found several people I knew from college and high school. (I have a myspace account already.) I contacted the people and began networking; (4) I e-mailed my website, which is still very much under construction, but pretty cool-looking nevertheless, and asked several people I know who will buy my book for their advice on it; (5) I started making a list of people who may read and review my book; (6) I e-mailed the link to the pre-order at Barnes and Noble to my friends and family, although I do fear B&N may remove the pre-order ability when they learn the novel is not scheduled to come out in 120 days; (7) I made a list of all of the things I need to learn about, like blog tours, how to navigate certain promotion websites, and what exactly do I provide early readers to read; (8) I made a list of things I need to do for the website, for instance, I would like to take photos of the real New Orleans places I used in my book, such as the courthouse, St. Charles Ave., the projects, and upload the photos of the places to the website. And I did this all since yesterday. I think I'm off to a decent start.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Promotion the Right Way

Sunny here.
I've been volunteering my time and expertise to set up the local authors program for the Kings County Library, CA. Some of the roadblocks I've run into amaze me. Authors in my area seem to be doing their best to hide the fact that they have books to sell. I finally realized that many writers don't have a clue as to how to promote.

The first thing I do when I hear about an author is to Google the name. What? No website? Why do you make me scour the Internet to find vague mentions of you? I want to know if you are local to my area so I can book you as a speaker. Why are you reluctant to tell me where you're from? Are you in the witness protection program? Are you afraid of hoards of fans converging on your home, demanding signed copies of your book? If I can't find the information quickly, I will move on to other authors.

Yesterday, I saw a mention of an author speaking at a bookstore in a nearby town. No website listed. I contacted the store owners, who passed my info to the author. The email addy had some weird, possibly cute, AKA in lieu of the author's real name. does not make me feel like I'm dealing with a professional.

Today I'm writing Community News announcements for the next speaker. He had sent me the publicity plan as set out by his publisher. None of his media contacts match mine. He apparently looked up names from the staff box to find the most important person on the newspaper to send promotional material. That's the quickest way to have info tossed in the trash. I call every newspaper, TV station and radio station. I chat up the receptionist, find out who handles community news and feature articles. I find out if they prefer email or FAXes. What is the time frame--3 weeks prior notice, two weeks? I thank them when they run the article or make announcement. I check in regularly to make sure my contacts are still good. The news media has high turnover.

My small local paper created an entertainment section just for my monthly column on writing. I also send them full-length articles, with photos, on the speakers I'm bringing in to the area. No, I don't get paid. Having worked as a journalist, I know reporters scramble to find articles to fill the newspaper. If you hand them a complete and well-written article instead of just a bio or press packet, you'll get the publicity. When I hear authors complain that the media ignores them, I want to shake some sense into their heads.

Finally, every author who wants an audience should get on Book Tour. List your speaking venues and this Internet group will notify other Book Tour subscribers in the area. They also have a section listing speakers in the area for people like me who are constantly looking to sign up authors. Use it to contact organizations with author programs. It cost nothing, yet this cyber source is ignored.

What do I get for all of my efforts? Name recognition. Bylines. I get paid to lecture on promotion. Best of all, my library is giving me a book launch when "Where Angels Fear" comes out from Oak Tree Press.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

New York State Senate Awards Ceremony

On Wednesday, October 29th, I attended the fifteenth annual New York State Senate Awards Ceremony, hosted by Senator Serphin Maltese and NYC Councilmember Anthony Como, at the Veterans Administration facility in St. Albans, Queens. Forty distinguished New York City veterans were honored for their service and sacrifice over more than half a century; in many cases the awards were accepted posthumously by family members. Senator Maltese invited me to be a guest speaker at the ceremony and graciously allowed me to conduct a book-signing afterwards. (Click here for bigger Scurvy Dog Pic!)
Bob Cohen
(All authors' royalties donated to the Navy- Marine Corps Relief Society)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Special Las Vegas and the Mob show

On November 5 at 7 pm Central time, I’ll be doing a special edition of my Las Vegas and the Mob show on Blog Talk Radio. The topic will be a double murder that occurred in Lakemoor, Illinois, in 1981. My guests will be Paul Scharff, son of one of the victims, retired FBI agent Dennis Arnoldy, and former Chicago Outfit mobster Frank Cullotta. You can listen to the program live, or play it back later as a podcast, at

Below is some background on the case.

Murder in Lakemoor

On the morning of June 2, 1981, two people were found shot to death in the living room of an apartment at the rear of the P.M. Pub, located at 238 West Rand Road in Lakemoor, Illinois. The victims were the tavern’s owner, 37-year-old Ronald Scharff , and barmaid Patricia Freeman, who had worked her first shift at the bar the previous evening. Lakemoor is situated about 45 miles northwest of Chicago and was a community of around 800 at the time. These were the first reported homicides there since its incorporation in 1952.

Shortly after the killings, McHenry County Sheriff’s investigators had a couple of suspects in the slayings. Jim Hager — a friend of Ron Scharff — advised them that if they wanted to solve the murders they should look at either Freeman’s boyfriend or a guy named Larry Neumann The latter was a McHenry County native then living in Las Vegas. Neumann, a burglar, robber, arsonist and all around tough guy, was working for Chicago Outfit enforcer Tony Spilotro in Sin City. Neumann had previously been convicted of a 1956 triple murder in Illinois. And although he received a sentence of 125 years, he had miraculously been paroled after serving only about 16 years. Hager had thrown Neumann’s name into the mix because he had witnessed an altercation between Scharff and Neumann’s ex-wife in which Scharff threw the woman out of his bar. Hager felt that to a guy like Neumann, that incident could be construed to be a personal insult demanding redress.

It is unclear exactly what the police did with that information. But they reportedly put most of their focus on Freeman’s boyfriend, who had allegedly been seen across the street from the lounge on the night of the killings. The man was questioned and submitted to several lie detector tests, the results of which were inconclusive.

At any rate, no charges were filed and the case was still open the following year when what seemed like a major breakthrough with a Las Vegas connection took place. In May 1982, Tony Spilotro’s childhood friend and lieutenant flipped and became a government witness. Frank Cullotta — who had been running Spilotro’s crew of thieves and killers known as the Hole in the Wall Gang prior to defecting — told the FBI agents and Las Vegas police who were debriefing him, that Neumann had killed two people in a McHenry County tavern the previous June. McHenry County authorities were notified and interviewed Cullotta at the federal lockup in San Diego.

Cullotta confirmed Hager’s suspicion of the motive for the murders. He stated that Neumann had received a call from his ex-wife regarding her altercation with Scharff. The killer had become enraged. He considered the incident to have been a sign of disrespect to him; and felt he had no choice but to return to Illinois and get revenge. Not long afterward Neumann said he was heading for Chicago. Another Cullotta associate named Tommy Amato went with him. Amato went along to share the driving and get out of Vegas for a while. He had no knowledge of Neumann’s plans for retribution. When Neumann returned to Vegas he admitted the murders to Cullotta.

In addition to Cullotta’s statement, a Las Vegas police detective provided details of an interview he did with Tommy Amato regarding the Scharff and Freeman murders. David Groover said Amato told him that he had driven Neumann from Chicago to Lakemoor in Neumann’s Thunderbird. Neumann told Amato to park near the pub and wait in the car for him. A few minutes later Amato heard two gunshots, followed seconds later by two more. Neumann returned to the car, and after driving around for a while threw the murder weapon into a lake. Although Amato later retracted his story, Groover memorialized Amato’s statement in a sworn affidavit.

Further information that seemingly corroborated the accounts of Cullotta and Amato was contained in McHenry County police records. The night after the killings, Tommy Amato was in a car operated by Neumann’s brother-in-law when it was stopped by a police patrol. Amato was detained briefly and then released.

In spite of all this information, Neumann was not charged and the murders remained unsolved.

In 2008, 27 years after his father’s murder, Paul Scharff received a phone call from Jim Hager. He was told that Holly Hager — Jim’s daughter and Paul’s one-time babysitter — had read a book that she believed included a segment on Ron Scharff’s killing. Although the names of the victims and the specific location of the crimes weren’t included, she felt everything else matched. Jim agreed and reached out to Paul.

The book Holly read was CULLOTTA — The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness. On page 130 of that book she found Cullotta’s account of what turned out to be the Ron Scharff murder. For Paul, who was a young boy in 1981, this was the first time he’d heard the story about Larry Neumann being his father’s killer. After talking with Jim Hager and reading the book himself, Paul is convinced Neumann was the man who took the lives of his father and Pat freeman. That acceptance has brought him a certain amount of closure.

But now he’d like the police to name Neumann —who died in prison in January 2007 — as the perpetrator and close out the cold case. He’d also like an explanation as to why the police seemingly never seriously went after Neumann all those years ago. Frank Cullotta and his former FBI handler Dennis Arnoldy have agreed to assist Paul in his efforts if needed.

For the sake of Paul and his family, I hope he’s successful.
Thank everyone for posting about promotion. Promoting the book seems more difficult and complicated than writing it. How far ahead of time prior to the publication date should a writer start promotion tasks, such as creating book marks, or getting together press kits, and how much should the writer consider spending for promotion? Is there a point that is considered excessive?

I noticed at Barnes and Noble online they feature books in certain extra categories, such as Coming Releases, based strictly on their own ideas of which books merit the mention, i.e. you can't pay extra to have your book featured. I wonder if there is anything a writer can do to get his or her book featured more prominently on such websites (without the novel becoming a best-seller first, of course.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

More thoughts on Promotion

Of all the many challenges I've encountered in the book biz, promotion has been the biggest and most troublesome. In the beginning, it seemed like everything was breath-takingly expensive. Even a tiny ad in a conference program cost a hundred bucks or more--and this for a potential audience of 50-250 people. From the perspective of my bean-counter business background, the "ROI" factor seemed laughable.

In 1998, after being in the business only 6 months, I took a half-booth at Book Expo America. OTP had three titles in print and a fourth in progress. It cost almost $4,000--and I didn't sell one single book. I tried to console myself with the big pile of business cards I collected, and followed up, mailing to bookstores, reviewers, librarians. Nothing.

A few years later, I took an ad on the back of a magazine. It was a narrowly-focused publication, but I had a couple of books that fit right in. The ad cost $500 plus the fee to the graphics designer. Was there a bump in sales? Nope.

Along the way, I did lots of promoting to newspapers, talk radio, TV and so on, some pricey, some not so much, but all ineffective. So, I decided to made a deal with a promo company who promised great results with talk radio. For $1,000 this outfit would do a blitz for three titles. Add to this the cost of the books that had to be sent (usually overnight Fed Ex) to the interested parties, and there is easily another $3-400 involved. We got a 3-4 actual appearances among ALL THREE authors got it--zippo for sales bump.

Interesting, I thought, that all these promo outfits insist on pre-payment. And none of them will work on a percentage of sales resulting from their efforts. I get a lot of soliciations from book promotion outfits. Sometimes I write back and offer a deal that involves them getting paid on the back end. They never write back. Kinda tells you something, huh?

When I lived in Los Angeles, I exhibited at the LA Book Fair a few times, and of all my experiences with exhibiting, these have been the ones that were most successful. And there were some expos in Phoenix that were pretty good.

In 2007, I took a booth at Chicago's famous Printers Row book festival. It was a share with a women in publishing group I belong to, and not too costly even with a 300 mile trip to Chicago. I didn't sell one single book, but I did have a great time, including chasing down the C-SPAN book-mobile people and planting a bunch of literature on them.

I've had my frustations with bookstores also. Over the 10-plus years of OTP's life, I've called on countless stores, trying to interest them in this title or that, usually to little avail. I think there are lots of reasons for this--too many to discuss them all here. One big issue is the difference between wholesale and retail "modes." The big chains and many indies select stock at the wholesale level, maybe from a distributor, maybe from the Ingram catalogs, or PW. The buyer can make "global" type decisions, balancing mix of genre, local tastes and so on, kind of a cerebral process. So when some total stranger shows up in person, unannounced, holding up a book or two, the shop-person is on the spot. It's uncomfortable. I think a lot of the time, they just avoid making a decision. More and more, I try to leave literature, and stress that the books are with Ingram, BT, etc.

There is also the factor that the big publishing houses "buy" space in the shops, either through co-op ads or outright payments. They do this to garner the "end caps" or the front of store displays, and the swap is that the store agrees to take on cases and cases of books. Very often, many of these books are returned after a few weeks. The big houses and the shops give a title about 6-8 weeks to connect, then they return most, if not all, that stock.

As a small, indie publisher, OTP just cannot afford to do business that way. Returns are a horrible problem, and can sink you fast. I've come to the point that I just don't push stock off on stores because I just don't want to suffer the returns. I can understand the shop's reluctance to host signings also. More and more, signings, even with big name authors, are poorly attended. It's really not worth the hoop-jumping they must do to host the event.

While I try to keep the shop's challenges in mind, it's true that some of them do push the envelope. A while back, a shop in Tempe AZ charged me to host an author! Their rationale was that I was paying for set-up and clean-up afterwards. And here's the kicker: they returned the unsold books immediately! They didn't even hang on to them a few days to see if a customer who missed the signing might come in! Tacky!

Obviously, the trick is figuring out what works. It's easy to rant on, like I've done here, wallowing in all the things that didn't work...much harder to figure out what does. This is the reason why I started this blog and the COLOPHON, OTP's inhouse newsletter. I thought that with these two venues, we would have a public forum and a more private one for these topics, providing a opportunity to share ideas, problems, and optimistically perhaps, find ways to help each other toward a common goal...successful books.

Ups and downs along the promotion road

When my book, A Lesson in Murder, published by OTP, came out last fall, I was a novice at the promotional game. But, I have been learning with the help of other writers I have met at writers' conferences and online. When I attended the Philadelphia Writers' Conference in June of 2007, I connected with someone from my high school days. Turns out she is one of the organizers of the conference, and is a writer herself. She did an article about me and the book in a Philadelphia suburban newspaper. (It probably helped that I won 1st prize in the fiction competition at the conference for the first four chapters of my 2nd novel). In connection with the article, I had a book launch party at the local library with food supplied by my caterer cousins. I had bookmarks made up for the occasion, also. There was also a story and book review in newsletter at the place where I work, which has several hundred employees.

Those are the high spots. I have also encountered a great deal of rejection in my attempts to get the word out about the book. I sent press release packages to other newspapers. No responses. I was scheduled to have a reading and book signing at a local independent bookstore. They had promoted the appearance on their website and in local newspapers. They then said they had to postpone the reading, and then would not respond to me when I tried to reschedule. Other bookstores have also simply not responded to inquiries about purchasing or promoting the book. I also have tried to have the book reviewed without success, except for one online spot.

But, I am going to another mystery bookstore to pitch again, and I will be attending another writers' conference next month, with bookmarks in hand. I was at a local mall the other week, and I saw someone handing out flyers and putting them under wipers on cars in the parking lot to promote her dance studio. I started to think maybe I should do the same thing with my bookmarks. But, do people really like stuff put on their cars, and would this action create negative responses? Still thinking about that one.

Anyway, congratulations to my home team, the Phillies, for winning the World Series! I wish you all well.

Gus Cileone,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Meet The Author

I have an Internet radio show on Blog Talk Radio called Meet The Author. It's a half hour of uninterrupted chat during which my guests can talk about their book(s), publishing, and promo experiences. If you're an author and are interested in being interviewed, please contact me by email at

If you'd like to get a feel for how I do the shows, you can play back an archived BTR program at


Monday, October 27, 2008

Some Thoughts

Everyone should sign up as a follower to this blog--that will help the blog.

So glad to see others have posted--that also will help the blog.

Just got back from Vegas--no, not to do what most people do there, but to celebrate our anniversary with my sis and to have a booksigning at Cheescake and Crime in Henderson NV. Though the turnout was poor (booksignings are probably one of the least profitable promotions though I do a few each year) those who came made it well worthwhile. Two of my favorite cops from Public Safety Writers Association and the president of Epic. Both these associations are terrific. Anyone who writes mysteries ought to join PSWA. For anyone who is electronically published, Epic is great.

Yes, I promoted the booksigning alot, but sometimes that's the way it is with signings.

Last week I gave a talk to an Anthropology class at the local college--didn't go to sell books but to talk about the Tolowa Indians who are the subject of my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Kindred Spirits. Also gave a talk to the 6th grade class at our local school about writing. Didn't sell books but had a lot fo fun.

Thursday I've been invited to speak to the Rotary Club--will take books for sale. Saturday I'm going to a bookfair in Bakersfield.

Next weekend, Sunny Frazier and I will both be speaking at the Erle Stanley Gardner Mystery Festival in Old Town, Temecula.

While traveling I read David Morrell's (author of First Blood, Rambo) book on the craft of writing and more, Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing, one of the best of this kind of book.

And to tie it all up, I was saddened to hear about the death of Tony Hillerman, who gave me the courage to write about Native people. He'll certainly be missed.

I hope I've given you some promotion ideas.


Two Sites New To Me by Sunny Frazier

I'm signed up for Publishers Weekly, but I don't always look closely enough at the info. Today I took the time to check out what they said about WeRead and BookSense.

On the WeRead site, I found my book, Fools Rush In, listed. News to me. This site is partnered with Lulu as a new way to reach potential customers. It started in 2007 and has 2 million readers. It suggests titles to members based on their stated preferences and what's on cyber bookshelves. Right now they are not selling books at the site.

WeRead "suggests" publishers pay to have titles listed, starting at $1,000. Steep. Harper and Penguin are now on board, which gives the venue some legs.

I also learned BookSense, now 8 yrs old, has morphed into They support independent bookstorees. On the site, they are asking people to reminisce about their favorite childhood bookstores. There's a point system and rewards. There's also an affiliate for authors to link up for free. Check out All they ask is that you link to their site.

I'm just dipping toes in the cyber pool. Any thoughts from the rest of you?

From Norm Maher: The book’s out. Now what?

Promote it!. Here’s what I’m doing for my slick crime caper, Easy
Money by Norm Maher

The Internet
1. I have a publisher at Oak Tree Press who can make it turn
somersaults. She handled all the tags and links so anyone can hit
Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books to find Easy Money.
2. I ‘m on You Tube with a minute commercial which is pretty sweet.

1. Made a cover sheet and bookmarks for a release to all the local
media (newspapers, tv and radio) inviting them to review the book.
Noted that the crime was in a local area and I’m a local author.
2. Will also send a release to several publications such as the
military, advertising, chain store news, etc. All the places with
books for sale.

Book Signings
1. Set up a book signing at our largest bookstore with literature and a
sign. Plan to get to more stores and then spread out to a 50 to 100
mile area.
2. Before the signing, will send out another release inviting the media
to meet the local author.

Person to Person
1. Called the main library to buy books for all the branches.
2. Sent books to friends and relatives asking for reviews to Amazon
and BN. My sister, in NYC, for example will push the books at the
Mystery Book Store.

A Christmas Tale
Our Christmas party this year will feature the book. so it’ll be a
launch party as well.

The above is for starters. Plan to do much more..

Finally I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the OTP publisher,,
Billie Johnson, who gives all kinds of tips and ideas for book
promotions in her newsletter the Colophon. Ask for copies.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Guys, Come on, Warm Up Your Fingers and Post

It's important for blogs to have new information on them all the time. I don't want to be a hog here, I have other blogs that I'm committed to. All of you published or going to be published by Oak Tree should be participating.

These are the last places I'm visiting on my virtual book tour:

Oct 24

Oct 27

Oct 28

Oct 29

Oct 30

Oct 31

This Saturday, Oct. 25, I won't be virtual, but I'll be in person at the Cheesecake and Crime Book Store in Henderson NV at 2 p.m. I'll be discussing the research I do from the Native American part of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries, in particular Kindred Spirits.

How about letting us know what you're doing for you book?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Planning for Next Year

I'm pleased that Oak Tree Press will be publishing the next in my Rocky Bluff P.D. series. And, I'm already filling my 2009 calendar with events to promote that book.

So far I'm giving a talk to a local Women's Club, a library in another town, a writing group at a book store, a romance writers group about getting published, going to a writers conference as a speaker, I'm going to the L.A. Times Book Festival, spending three days at a county fair in a writers booth, going to the Public Safety Writers Conference and Mayhem in the Midlands.

The reason I'm telling you this is not to brag, but perhaps give you some ideas on how you can promote your books.

Recently someone said that I had a lot of energy. No, it's not that, I just want to do what I can to promote my books while I can. Selling books takes a lot of effort on the author's part. Yes, the publisher has things to do too, but if you don't get out there an hustle, your sales will show it.

Of course I'll do another blog tour like I'm on right now for my latest book.

I hope this has sparked some enthusiasm for promotion.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Blog Tour and More

Just returned from yet another writer's conference where I gave two presentations about writing. Like any other conference picked up some tidbits along the way which I'll share when I have more time. Got to introduce famous thriller writer David Morrell (most famous for the creation of Rambo in First Blood but he wrote many other wonderful books.)

I'm on a blog tour this month and the stops I'm making this week are;

Oct 13

Oct 14

Oct 15

Oct 16

Oct 17

I hope some of you will stop by and leave a comment here and there.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Sharing Our Stories

This week, I had the privilege of speaking before a group of women who have joined together in what is called The Passion Project. What binds them is their individual and collective desire to inspire and be inspired, to find ways to advance in the direction of their dreams, and to listen to the ways their mind and body are connected, informing who they are and how they should live.

In asking me to speak, they asked me, simply, to share my story. So I did. I talked about growing up in a housing project, only dreaming of becoming a writer, not knowing it could actually become a possibility, never mind a reality. I told them how, just when life was coming together and I'd found my first agent for my first novel, I was in a boating accident that shattered my back and nearly left me paralyzed and how I would need to heal from that before thinking about writing again. And how, conversely, I used writing to heal. I shared insights and lessons and laid myself open before this warm and spirited group.

We are our stories. As writers we need to understand that we don't only tell stories, we live them. When we pull back the curtain on our lives and make ourselves vulnerable to others, we build a foundation of interested readers. If we want to have others interested in our writing, we have to let them in. We have to be willing to give talks and show who we are not just what we're doing.

I encourage every writer to take opportunities to share your personal experiences, even when it feels hard, even when you think you have nothing "special" to say. You'll be surprised at how inspiring you can be and how, in return, you will be inspired.

Warm Wishes,
Patricia Sheehy

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Like several other OTP authors, I'm new to blogging. Beginners face two issues. First the technology. We feel uncertain at first, but that passes. Then the more challenging part for an author - what to write about. I have no clue. So I went to the OTP bookstore and bought a half dozen books. Helps the business, the prices are right (I bought 'hurt' copies when available), and I'm anxious to explore the work of my colleagues. Are the writers who share a publisher colleagues?

Monday, October 6, 2008

New York magazine article

I've been enjoying this blog and the interesting posts many of you have contributed. Allow me to check in with my 2-3 cents worth.

In case you missed it, here's the link to a recent article that ran in NY magazine. Yet another lament for the death of book publishing. A few complaints I've heard before, but an interesting piece, nonetheless.

Since I just had my first novel published by Oak Tree ("Media Blitz"), I view this whole "The End" attitude with a sense of irony, I guess.

Joe Nowlan

Friday, October 3, 2008

Participating on Blogs

Every author published by Oak Tree Press ought to be blogging here. The more a blog changes, the more apt it is to have visitors. I know it takes a lot of time--I have several blogs that I try to post to as often as possible.

At the moment I'm on a blog tour for a book of mine that was recently published. To make sure people at least look at the different blogs I have to keep posting the blog spots. It's already helped because the Amazon numbers have been going down. That's a good thing, by the way.

This is not all I do with my time--I cooked, cleaned a bathroom, washed the covers on my living room furniture, took care of the regular mail and email, did other laundry and I watched a movie.

Since I have a book to finish and another to plan, I'll be getting busy with those soon.

Tomorrow I'm going to the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime and later that evening, a party--so I'll more or less be taking the day off.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Veterans Awards Ceremony

Recently, I was invited by NY State Senator Serf Maltese to attend the 15th annual Veterans Awards Ceremony, a patriotic tribute to distinguished veterans in the NYC area. Since I have been active in veterans' affairs I knew that Senator Maltese was on the Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, but I was not aware that he's also the Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on The Arts and Cultural Affairs. Conversely, Senator Maltese was not aware that I am an OTP author...

The upshot here is that the Senator has graciously made arrangements for me to set up a table in the reception area where I will be able to sign and sell books, and he's also decided to give me mike time at the podium during the actual ceremony.

I'd like to think the reason I'm getting this access is that I'm a silver-tongued salesman, but the reality is that it's for a good cause: The contributing authors of Scurvy Dogs, Green Water and Gunsmoke: 50 Years in US Navy Destroyers (OTP 2008) are donating all of our royalties to the Navy- Marine Corps Relief Society in honor of a young Marine, the nephew of a Scurvy Dog, who was killed in Iraq.

Bob Cohen

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Prose in the Park

I had an absolutely wonderful time. Taylorville IL is a fascinating small town.

The conference itself was small, but the people who attended were attentive and anxious to learn more about writing. I love giving writing workshops. So many people helped me when I was starting out--and I still do get lots of help--that I enjoy giving back some of what I received.

Best was spending some quality time with Billie--we had two nice dinners together and guess what? I signed a contract with Oak Tree Press for the next in my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, No Sanctuary. Might exciting and well-worth the uncomfortable plane rides to and fro.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008


OTP arranged a number of radio interviews about my Mid Life Mojo, and all were enjoyable, though the guy from Iowa was pretty clueless. But I have no way of knowing if these had any effect on sales. Was there any kind of feedback, or is that just too hard to check? Bob Davis

Friday, September 19, 2008


It has taken me a while to post here, and I had an amazing amount of trouble- all my own fault. But I'm really excited to be posting on the blog and receiving the newsletter.

I am a virgin to publishing, my novel Gumbo Justice scheduled for the end of summer '09 or early fall '09, so I think have enough time to learn the things I need to know by the time it comes out. The newsletter is particularly helpful to me. For instance, today I learned what an ARC was.

I also enjoy reading the blogs of other writers, many who have quite impressive writing resumes. It's pretty awesome posting on the same blog as some of the other writers!

I am going to try to add my new blog to the list of other blogs, but only technology will tell if I am capable. I should have time to figure it out, as I currently am immobile due to a head-on collision with a drunk driver in early June. I should be walking again by the end of the year, but until then I have an abundance of computer time. Also on the plus side, the experience has given me insight for another novel.
I wrote a script at the urging of my agent and against my better judgment and then shopped it around on InkTip, a sort of dating site for writers and producers. One producer asked me to send the script, but I haven’t heard anything yet. Even if I don’t sell the script, the experience has been worth the effort. In a recent InkTip Newsletter, Bradford R. Youngs described what led to his latest project: "My wife told me that all my projects were action thrillers, with no films you could really take the family to see. So I sat down with my six-year-old daughter and asked her what sort of movie she'd like to see, and she said ‘how about a story about a dog sent from Grandpa in heaven?' I pitched the idea to Jan Militello, who knocked out three drafts in just a little over a month!” A dog sent from Grandpa in Heaven. Who knew seven words could be pitched? Then I saw another producer seeking a “high concept action/thriller or action/comedy screenplays. Please note that a high concept script should have a strong hook and shouldn't have an overly complex plot. In addition to these elements, if your story cannot be described in one short simple sentence, it is not high concept.” The most difficult writing I’ve ever done was to write a one-page abstract of a 75,000 word book. I guess I’m a low-concept guy.

Getting Excited

Congratulations to Heather Mosko, Sherry McGinnis, Norm Maher, and Alan Bower, on their new books!

I'm getting excited that my Vegas Vixen is nearing publication. I think it will be an entertaining read for mystery and Las Vegas buffs.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Back Again

Just home from a most successful book launch--you can read all about it on my own blog

I'm looking forward to the Prose in the Park (hope that's the right name) writing conference put on by Oaktree Press--and seeing Billie again. Billie and I don't get to see each other often, but we do enjoy being together when we do.

Not looking forward to the plane trip or driving to Taylorville from the airport--but I'm sure it will be well worth it.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Yoohoo Librarians! --A Rant

Over the past month or so, I have taken a number of day-trips around Central Illinois, looking for places to post flyers promoting our conference (which is next weekend...Yikes!) I stopped in cafes, visitors' bureaus, supermarkets, bookstores, quick-marts...and libraries. Some places were delighted to take flyers, some ho-hum, just okay with it, some reluctant and maybe a little suspicious, and some were just plain negative and at times rude.

Guess where I was unilaterally welcomed to leave info? The quick-marts! They all had a bulletin board near the front door where public notices were posted. And at the bottom of the welcome-wagon list? Libraries!

Silly me, so naive in my idea that a publisher and a library would have books in common. And to be fair, there were a few locations where the librarian was very cordial and happily put my materials on a table with other handouts. But a clear majority refused, citing the fact that this was not a event sponsored by a non-profit organization. After a half-dozen or so of these experiences, it began to sting! I yearned to say, "Hey, I'm not selling snake oil, or shares in a Ponzi scheme! We're talkin' books here!"

Over the years OTP has been at it, there have been a number of times a library has refused to host an author event. Also, there were other times, the author was invited to make a talk, but not allowed to sell books afterward. To some extent, I can understand the thinking. If each library lecture or Kiwanis meeting ended up with someone pressing their goods on you, it would certainly detract from the experience. But jeez...these were just little flyers, for heaven's sake!

And isn't one of the roles a library plays to be a place for information to be exchanged?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Here I am Again

Don't want to be a blog hog, but--

The fall issue of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA) is now available on the website:

The website also contains information about the writing contest–be sure to read the article in the newsletter written by the contest chairperson–and the PSWA conference coming in July of 2009. There is an early-bird price break on the registration fee until September 30. I hope a lot of you will take advantage of this.

I’ve been a member of PSWA for over ten years and watched it evolve into an organization with great resources for anyone writing either fiction (mysteries, thrillers, etc.) or non-fiction about crime, law enforcement or any other public safety entity.

I’d be glad to answer questions about the conference or the organization either on list or off:


Monday, September 1, 2008

Putting in Another Two Cents

Not going to take up too much time here. I've been spending most of the day watching Gustave.

We experienced Hurricane Isabel when we were visiting the Eastern Shore of Maryland. We were staying at relatives who have a house situated back from the bay with their lawn, the road, and short expanse of grass and a small dock (which disappeared after Isabel.)

Of course we lost electricity. When we woke in the morning the whole house was surrounded with water and our rental car was floating. A neighbor tied it to the porch because when the tide went out the car would've gone too.

People went up and down the road in boats. Kids swam in the water. The water didn't go down until afternoon. That evening Hertz brought us another car and took the other one away.

Much too exciting! I can't imagine living where you have threats of hurricanes every summer. I'll take a good old earthquake anytime.

I received two interesting comments about my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series via email this weekend. One bad one good. I blogged about this on Marilyn's Musings.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

POD - Really NOT a Dirty Word

Last night, while sifting through the week's queries, I came upon one which really intrigued me, but I didn't ask for the material. Why not? Because this person made it clear in the letter that he was shopping for a "traditional" publisher, not a POD publisher.

There's so much information and mis-information about that term, POD, an acronym for "print on demand." At its most basic definition, POD is a print technology, just as is offset, digital and so on. But many people conflate POD with other publisher policies and procedures, and the result is a negative connotation. I get a little touchy about this.

Since early 2003, OTP has printed most of its books at Lightning Source Inc (LSI) which is a print on demand outfit owned by Ingram. Since Ingram is one of the largest, if not THE largest, book wholesaler in the business, some nice perks came with the relationship from day one, and over the 5+ years OTP has been with LSI, I have watched them expand their options and opportunities. OTP's relationship with LSI has played a huge part in stabilizing the business...leveling out the highs and lows where Ingram and BT churned books to the detriment of both finances and sanity.

The negatives attach themselves to POD, I think, from several corners. Many self-published books are done POD, and they are often poorly edited, bear substandard covers, are price wildly beyond market norms, don't abide by standard industry discounts and return policies, just as a partial list.

OTP works against these stereotypes. Our covers are done by a professional designer, and we try hard to root out all the typos, wrong word uses, missing or incorrect punctuation and other copy editing issues. Suggested retail is set as low as possible to cover costs, royalty and leave a small profit for OTP, plus we keep to industry standards for discounts and returns. This all sounds pretty "traditional" to me!

From the viewpoint of the publisher, when traditional means that a huge percentage of your capital is tied up in boxes of unsold books, or worse yet, returned copies which are barely fit to be given away, let alone sold...then traditional doesn't seem so much like a desirable state.

And bottom line...does it really matter to your readers which machinery creates your book? I am betting NO on this one...the reader wants a good story, or instructive information, and production details are not high on his list of selection criteria.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Valuable Sites List

Just a quick note to say I've added a new element to our layout...a spot where we can list valuable sites. Considering all the fine information they list for publishers and authors, plus all their tireless pursuit of reviews, Midwest Book Review surely deserves to be the first name added to this section.

MBR and its editor-in-chief, Jim Cox does a yeoman's task of leveling the playing field for small presses...they consider all review submissions they receive, no lists, no memberships, no caste-system criteria. If you title intrigues them, they'll review it.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Beyond Self-Promotion

It started with the local newspaper asking me to write a monthly column.
I live in a small town, population 25,000. Everybody knows everybody. I graduated in this town, moved away, came home after 33 years. I'm the local mystery writer.
One of my first columns was about a speaker presentation at the county library. The librarian contacted me to thank me. She said they had a hard time getting publicity.
Publicity isn't as difficult as people make it. Okay, I have a degree in journalism, and I worked as a reporter for a newspaper. But, anyone can learn to write a press release. The media is easy to penetrate. Their business is to fill pages, and the less work they have to do hunting up stories, the better.
I decided to give the library a hand. They needed a local authors program, but didn't have any idea how to flush writers out of the woodwork. Through my own writing, I had connections. I also used the Internet to scout out authors. I write detective fiction and have worked with narcotics detectives in one of my past occupations. If I could find drug dealers, how hard could it be to find authors?
Next, I made a few simple phone calls and created a list of media contacts. They like info FAXed to them, and I have two tricks to get attention. First, I use a letterhead. Always impressive. Next, I make sure I list a specific person as recipient. That's to ensure that it reaches the reporter's mailbox and not the trash can. I also note the timetable each publication has for their Community Calendar. Public Radio likes three weeks notice.
My town has a total of two reporters on the newspaper, and one is the editor. Both are women my age and we know each other. I volunteered to write interviews on the authors I was bringing in to speak. For other publications, I provide contact info for radio and press interviews.
What's in it for me? Name recognition. Community contact. Support and sales for my own books. Endearment from authors for helping with their promotion and sales (I can be very endearing). Oak Tree Press will benefit. Oh, and the Poets & Writers wants to give me a grant.
The point of my blog is this: in the writing world, it pays to go beyond your own self-interest. It takes little time but lots of initiative. Authors who wait for the media to discover them are missing opportunities.
A little generousity goes a long way. The author who suceeds is the one who goes beyond self-promotion.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beyond Writing: Getting Your Book Noticed

Here's how we authors typically think: We have this wonderful story to tell. We stretch our minds and our schedules, and we spend years weaving that story into a polished manuscript. Finally, five drafts later, it's the best it can be, and we're proud of it. The hard work is done, we tell ourselves.

Now all we have to do is find a publisher. We join the throngs of writers seeking the same dream and discover it's a long, arduous journey. But we persist. And we succeed. We find that publisher and we toast to our good luck.
The hard work is done.

Not even close. It's just beginning. The story we tell ourselves about writing and publishing needs to be stretched to accommodate today's reality.
In real estate the adage is:
location - location - location
In book sales it's: promotion - promotion - promotion

Authors today have to be 100% ready and willing to market their work. Like the blogs before this one, I can't say it enough: promotion is the backbone of book sales. Without it, your wonderful story will sit on the shelf, read only by your mother and a handful of good friends. We have to partner with our publisher every day in big and small ways if we want to find our readers. No divas allowed!

Promotion can be simple, but it needs to be consistent. And there are so many ideas for you to choose from. Start small and build. For instance, I have very professional bookmarks and I hand them out to everyone all the time. I pay my restaurant bill, the server gets my bookmark with the tip; I see a woman reading in the doctor's office and I offer her a bookmark. Every time I make a purchase, the cashier gets a bookmark. You get the idea. This gives me a chance to talk with potential readers and they're excited about meeting an author. I order 2500 bookmarks at a time - and they get used! Include them in every bill and piece of mail you send out. Here's a great site for professional printing at great price:

All the best,
Patricia Sheehy, author
Field of Destiny - Veil of Illusion - Giving with Meaning

Saturday, August 16, 2008

More on Promotion

If you read the comment I made to Billie's post, I'd definitely promote. I promote whenever and wherever I can.

Do I ever get burned out? Sometimes when I'm at a book fair or craft festival, I get tired of standing up and smiling at everyone and might take a short break and sit--but even then I keep on smiling and trying to make eye contact. Recently, I did far better selling at an art festival than any of the arts and crafts persons (not as well as the food vendors who always do the best). The reason? I didn't remain seated behind my table and only talk to other vendors. One person who bought two of my books told me I was the only friendly vendor at the festival and that's why she was buying from me. That proves my point.

Something else I learned at that festival, if it's an outdoor festival and they say you don't need to bring anything, to be on the safe side take along a table, chairs and shelter of some sort. At this last art festival I was told I didn't need anything and that was wrong information. We had chairs in the car, but nothing else. I borrowed a card table from someone I knew at the event and fortunately my spot was under a tree. By moving things around periodically, I stayed in the shade. At any of these events, alwasy bring change. I also have a notebook where I keep track of what I sell. A guestbook is displayed for people to sign up for my ebook maillist. If you'd like to received it just email me at with Newsletter in the Subject. You can tell me you want off at any time.

I hope you are all signing up for Oak Tree's writing conference as I'm going to be there--and I'd like to meet you.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Boston Possibilities...It's All Good

There's a good chance I might be heading to Boston shortly after the PROSE IN THE PARK conference in September. My friend who has been on an extended visit there would like me to drive her elderly mother to Boston for a family visit.

To be honest, I was looking at the couple of weeks after the conference as a time I could indulge in some personal favorite of the 7 Deadly Sins. Things at OTP have been rolling at a frenetic pace since mid-June, which is great IMHO, but still needs to be counter-balanced with some good old-fashioned sloth from time to time.

Years ago, a very wise person told me "a change of work is the best relaxation" and I have found this to be true, so with that in mind I am checking into what possibilities may exist for some OTP promo in the Boston suburb of Waltham.

For starters. Joe Nowlan calls that area home, and Patricia Sheehy is not too far away in Connecticut. Anne White is in upstate NY, and Monti Sikes, Gus Cileone and Heather Mosko are also easterly situated. So we will see how this shakes out.

This got me to thinking, however, how important it is to look for the promotional opportunity in everything. It's not that you have to behave like an obnoxious network marketing's just to be aware that possibilities show themselves often...and being ready to captitalize upon them to introduce our books to readers is what it's all about.

Monday, August 11, 2008

/and now for something from Gus Cileone...

Many people have heard the phrase, “Everybody loves a mystery.” William G.Tapply, who wrote The Elements of Mystery Fiction, and is the author of the Brady Coyne mystery series of novels, stated in the March, 2007 edition of The Writer magazine the following:

What sets mystery novels apart from other types of fiction and makes them particularly appealing to fans are their whodunit puzzles. Mystery readers want to detect clues, to sniff out red herrings … to finger suspects. In other words, they want to play detective.

Mr. Tapply goes on to say how the readers like to match wits with the sleuth of the story, but they will be disappointed if they figure out the mystery before the main character does. That seems true. You may get self satisfaction from guessing some parts of the mystery correctly, but you get a charge out of a story that fools you, and then you look back and say, oh yeah, there were the clues, and that was clever how the author or filmmaker fooled me. I still can’t believe I didn’t guess the ending of The Sixth Sense.
But I think the appeal of the murder mystery goes even further. Patricia Cornwell said in the same edition of The Writer:

I cannot fully explain my fascination with violence, but I suspect it has to do with my fear of it … my writing is dark, filled with nightscapes and fear. Isolation and a sense of loss whisper throughout my prose like something perpetually stirring in the wind. It is not uncommon for people to meet me and find it incongruous that I write the sort of books I do.

I think what she says speaks to the old idea about why we want to look away from a car accident, but can’t. We are both drawn to and repelled by the horrible, wanting to understand it, fascinated by the killer who crosses the boundaries of society, but at the same time desiring safety from and ignorance of terrible acts.
Patricia Cornwell’s quote also addresses the concept of our double nature, how outwardly she may seem the last person to deal with violence, but inwardly she can explore the dark side of a character in her writing. This aspect brings up the theme of surface appearance versus inner reality. A big influence on me was Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs. A brilliant psychiatrist, very sophisticated culturally, is in fact a murdering cannibal. This duality may also explain the current popularity of the serial killer character of Dexter in the books and TV show featuring him. He is a serial killer, who only kills killers. (I love that show).
OK, why did I write a murder mystery? Partly for the same reasons stated above. I became interested in mysteries through films. My dad took me to see Alfred Hitchcock movies. I especially liked Psycho, so you can see why I became interested in exploring the dark side of characters. I then started reading Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen novels. I love a complicated mystery because it is fun to try and solve the puzzle and be surprised by the twists in the plot. Two movies that influenced me in this way are The Last of Sheila (written by Anthony Perkins of Pyshco fame and Stephen Sondheim) and the original Sleuth, based on the Anthony Schaffer play. It’s also probably why I am addicted to the TV series Lost, and loved the 1960’s TV series The Prisoner, which may be the most enigmatic shows ever.
In my book, I explore that double concept of good and evil I mentioned above by telling an ironic tale of murder against the backdrop of a Quaker school, where pacifism is a religious tenet based on the respect for the divine in each individual.
But I think there is even more to the appeal of the mystery. My contention is that to classify the mystery as some type of 2nd rate genre is a disservice. The very act of wanting to find out the solution to mysteries is primal to humans: it takes place in science, mathematics, social sciences, psychology, in fact in just about every discipline. It happens in each person’s life every day: How is the best way to avoid traffic problems? How does one get the job done at work? What is the best way to fix a plumbing or electrical problem in the house? People vary on how much they thrive on answering questions and solving problems in their lives: some love it, doing crossword or picture puzzles, while others find questing after answers very taxing. But, we can’t escape it. Murder mystery stories at the very least provide an entertaining outlet for this primal drive; at the most, they help us to explore complex themes of what it is to be human.
In Chapter Two of my novel, the main character, Maxwell Hunter, an English teacher at Eastern Friends School, discusses the poem “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats in one of his classes. I have included a number of literary references in my book, because this aspect is an important facet of my life. My undergraduate and graduate degrees are in literature. I like playing the literary detective, looking for clues in a writer’s work to decipher his or her themes. So, I like works that have symbolism and allegory.
I saw the mystery as a way to explore some opposing human tendencies in my book. As I mentioned, the story deals with respect for the individual versus the negation of him or her through murder. Yeats’ “The Second Coming” led me to explore the social struggle between the well-to-do and the less economically fortunate. Yeats believed that history was a struggle between the desires for the spiritual and the material. He saw the birth of Jesus Christ as the most spiritual time and the approach of the 21st century as a time when the worship of a spiritual god would be replaced by the worship of a material deity. He saw the year 1000 AD as the ideal time because he felt that era had an equal mixing of the spiritual and the material. This theme fits in with another reason why I chose a Quaker school as the focus of the story. If there is that of God in each person, then all should be treated equally. But, a quality private school education is very expensive because there are no public funds on which to draw. So, the well-to-do often are the only ones who can afford such an education for their children. This of course, ironically, denies the Quaker concept of treating everyone according to their inherent worth.
So, I wrote A Lesson in Murder because in it I was able to indulge my love for a complicated puzzle plot and combine that with my passion for literature. To that mixture, I added an exploration of themes involving the rich and the poor and the material and the spiritual.