Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On Wings of Murder

I'm the guest blogger this week at On Wings of Murder,

The first blog is up today, but the rest of the blogs will be up after the Thanksgiving holidays. There are five total, and include some local photos I took. After I submitted the info to Norma at the website, I thought of a bunch of other photos of places in Gumbo Justice I could have photographed.

I did include a photo of the Criminal Courthouse in New Orleans, the District Attorney's Office, which just reopened since Katrina, a local cemetery, and what is left of the St. Thomas Projects, basically a couple of small buildings.

The first blog is about the difficulties I had in getting Gumbo Justice published, the part before I signed with Billie, and the part where the car wreck put me on my back for six months afterward. The photo is of my car the day after the wreck, and is the only photo I didn't take.

The future blogs include some hints as to what is to come in future novels, the factual versus the fictional in the book, how the novel evolved from what I had originally intended, and a New Orleans tour of the locations in Gumbo Justice. I hope everyone enjoys.

Holli Castillo

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Creating a Traveling Trio

I just read the Sisters in Crime newsletter and was intrigued by the article on the Minnesota Crime Wave and how Carl Brookins, William Kent Krueger and Ellen Hart became a traveling show. I really like the idea. I've done some publicity for my book, A Case of Infatuation, and really excel at speaking engagements and would like to capitalize on that. The problem is trying to get invited as a speaker at places where there is a good number of people. I like the idea of having three people which makes it more newsworthy and also shares the expenses and divides the efforts. To work well, all authors should be in the Mystery Genre because of the appeal to the same audience. I also would like to do it with fellow Oak Tree Press authors. That being said, I'm in Michigan. I would love to tour with Holli Castillo but she is in New Orleans and everyone else I've met is out west. Does anyone else live in the Midwest that would be interested? If not, does anyone have suggestions of people who may be interested? Other ideas? I have limited amount of time and dollars to travel so really want to get the biggest bang for my buck. Would really like any feedback, positive or negative. Thanks!
W.S. Gager
A Case of Infatuation

Exciting Times Ahead

Sometime toward the end of January I'll have another book from Oak Tree Press, An Axe to Grind.. It's another in my Rocky Bluff P.D. series written under the name F. M. Meredith.

Whenever I have a new book it means planning more promotion. That's an ongoing job. I will definitely have a book launch and I'll probably hold it in a new little place in town called, Kimble Farms, that sell homemade pies, cookies, muffins, and coffee--as well as produce. (I ordered my Thanksgiving pies from them.)

There's also a new used book store in Porterville--the next biggest town to Springville where I live and I hope to have a booksigning there too. Haven't asked yet, but will soon.

Epicon is in March and since my previous Rocky Bluff P.D. book, No Santuary, is a finalist in the mystery category I'll be there pushing that book and will be handing out cards with the cover of the new book on it. (I'm up against Mike Orenduff's first Pot Thief mystery, so I'm not too hopeful--but it's an honor to be one of the finalists.

In March I'm also going on another virtual book tour, popping in one blog after another. If there's anyone who'd like to host me, just email me and I'll give your information to my tour guide.

I'm also going to have a booth at the Celebration of the Whales in Oxnard.

In April I've been invited back to speak to the Ridgewriters out in Ridgecrest. We're hoping to see the desert wildflowers in bloom, hubby wants to go to the space museum on the China Lake Naval Base while we're there.

I'll be speaking at the Tulare County Library in Visalia. May is Mayhem in the Midlands, a small mystery con where I have lots of friends and fans. It's in Omaha and we've come to love Omaha.

June I'll be speaking at the Hanford Library--one of my favorite venues, and then of course, it the Public Safety Writers Association's conference and you all know what I think about that one--my very favorite and the best place to find out all your questions about law enforcement, forensics, and whatever you might be writing about if you have anything about crime in your books. This one is information and fun, fun, fun.

If you're planning to come and want to be on a panel, you need to register by March 31.

That's about it until Bouchercon in October. It's in San Francisco. Bouchercon is huge, but I can get there on the train and I already have a roommate. Not hubby, because he doesn't like San Francisco.

Anyway, that's what I've got so far and I'm looking forward to it.

Tomorrow I'll be forgetting all this book stuff and concentrating on getting ready for Thanksgiving. Everyone, have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy your family and friends.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

RWA Recognition and Harlequin

For several years (it seemed), Billie and I tried to get RWA recognition. When Hearts Across Forever was released, I didn't understand why Oak Tree could not be a recognized publisher.

Yesterday and continuing today, there has been a great stir because the RWA Board has removed Harlequin from the publisher approved list. The turmoil all came about, as I understand it, because Harlequin has decided to open a self-publishing line for authors whose books are turned down by them. The new line, which RWA considers vanity publishing, will not be edited unless the author pays a big amount for that service as well as the cost of publishing the book. On top of all that, they are saying that Harlequin will get 50% from the sales.

For years, Harlequin has been the major player in romance publishing. When I first started writing, Harlequin and Silhouette were the two top companies to which authors aspired. Soon after, Silhouette was bought by Harlequin, making that publisher the romance giant.

That RWA took such a strong stand against what Harlequin decided to do surprised me and a lot of other authors as well. It will be interesting in the world of publishing to see what comes from all of this.

Mary Montague Sikes
Night Watch

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oak Tree Press Authors, Attention!

Do you realize how lucky you are to be in Oak Tree Press' stable?

Over the years I've been published by all sorts of publishers, beginning with a major house.

Besides being completely ignorant about what I ought to do for my book, the publisher never gave me any hints nor did they do anymore than just publish the book. It did get into some bookstores and I did one signing I set up myself and sent out flyers to friends. No shock when I didn't get any royalties though years later they did manage to send me royalties from foreign sales.

I've been with publishers who turned out to be crooks--the count is three.

I had a wonderful publisher for awhile--books looked great, we became friends, we went to one book festival together, but as I began to learn about what needed to be done to promote a book and shared the information, she wasn't interested in trying new things. Sadly, she passed away.

I won't go into details with the others I've been with, its enough to say that they either weren't interested in promoting, had no ideas to share, weren't business oriented, or just decided publishing wasn't for them.

Right now I with two great publishers--one of them is Oak Tree.

What is so wonderful about Billie is she is enthusiastic about the books she publishes. She wants them to sell--seems obvious, the more our books sell, the better it is for her too--not all publishers seem to have that concept.

She is also innovative--she keeps trying new things. Putting our books on Amazon's Kindle is one of the new things. The big publishers are now catching on to the fact that this might not be a bad idea.

She has all sorts of other promotion ideas up her sleeve--and we should champion whatever she comes up with.

Promotion is part of the authors job. Not everyone is going to like or enjoy doing the same things.

I must confess, I don't like to make phone calls so arranging booksignings with bookstores is at the bottom of my list--unless I can contact them via email.

This is what I do like to do as far as promotion is concerned:

In Person:

A book launch for any new book. I've tried all sorts of spots from gift stores to coffee shops. I usually do most of the promotion for these and try to get a write up in the local newspaper.

Book and Craft Fairs--the free ones are best, but I'll do any that are under $100 for the spot or booth.

Bookstore Signings with two of my favorite stores, or any that come to me (yes, I have one or two that do that)and even better if they want me to speak.

Library talks and signings. I always give them copies of the books I happen to be promoting.

Last December and this I'll be spending two days in the local Art Gallery with my books.

Attending writing conferencs and mystery conventions. My mystery No Sanctuary is a finalist as an e-book at Epicon in New Orleans. Yes, I'm going, and I'm also giving a presentation about How to Write a Mystery. I'm signed up for Mayhem in the Midlands in Omaha too--and of course, the Public Safety Writers Conference which is where I met Billie and talked to her about publishing my Rocky Bluff series after the last publisher quite being a publisher. I'm also signed up for Bouchercon because it is in San Francisco this year--kind of in my neck of the woods.

On line:

These are the promotions you can do without getting dressed--though I usually am.

Blog Tours--I pay for mine because I like the woman I work with and she creates wonderful book trailers--you can see them on my website.

When I'm on a blog tour, I post everyday about where I'll be.

I'm on Facebook, My Space, Twitter and numerous other places and usually just use to get the word out.

I have my own blog, and try to write a new blog everyday. I am also on every Tuesday and Make Mine Mystery, the first and third Tuesday of the month.

I post on DorothyL about books I've read (have to be mysteries) and sneak in promo about my book. I also offer free books when one comes out to the first five who email me from that list.

And when no one has posted for awhile on this blog, or I come up with a good idea, I post here.

What everyone says is that you want name recognition, and this is one the way to get it.

After all, I spent the time writing my books so I'd like for people to read them.

When Billie suggest something to try, I'm going to try it. If she's willing to do something for my book, something that requires me doing some promoting, I'll do it.

Anyway, whether you realize it or not, our publisher does far more for her authors than a lot of small presses do.

And that's my fifty cents worth.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I was a warmed up act for Sarah Palin

I had a signing at Barnes and Noble tonight and was pre-empted in almost everything I did by a rogue, or should I say "Going Rogue!" The BN new bookstore in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was one of the first locations for a Sarah Palin signing tomorrow. Sarah would only sign stock from Barnes and Noble and it came out today and people poured in to get them before they ran out. I had a great spot and I directed dozens of people inside the store to the stacks and stacks of the former McCain running mate's tell-all book. One of the good things was mine was one of the few mysteries available. They mystery section was covered in blue partitions for privacy for the signing the next day.

I can't say it was bad although I wish I could have sold as many books as she did, but I did do okay. People were really nice and I had some great chats and hopefully have some new dedicated fans.

I couldn't help but think what my character in "A Case of Infatuation" would have thought about it all. Mitch Malone, crime beat reporter extraordinaire, would have been in the thick of things. I did get to watch all the police professionals figure out escape routes, security issues and how to deal with the masses of people and press. Mitch would have been in his element and will be using this knowledge in a future book.

Now if I could only have given a book to Sarah and she could have given me a hand. Now that would have been truly rogue! Alas, I was a day early!

W.S. Gager

No Sanctuary

I told you No Sanctuary was a great read when I reviewed it on this site and elsewhere, so I'm not surprised it was selected as one of four finalists for the EPIC Ebook Award in the mystery category. My Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras has the misfortune to be one of the three other finalists up against Marilyn's excellent book. Talk about no sanctuary!

Well, at least there's a fifty/fifty chance the award will go to an Oak Tree author.

Mike Orenduff

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Pot Thief, A Fat Lady, A Walk In, and a Beheaded Corpse

If you're thinking I am referring to new OTP titles, you are right! And as usual, I am preening, gloating with the total fabulosity of the covers...Check this out:

The second in the POT THIEF series finds Hubie plotting ways to burgle a high-rise, high-security building while Susannah explores the world of Internet Dating. Several new players join Miss Gladys, Father Groaz, Tristan, Martin Seepu and the others as Hubie de-tangles his latest complication...we're going to press on Monday!

And THE FAT LADY is singing now...just out a week or so. Margot is drawn into working with a Gilbert & Sullivan troupe that has its eye set on winning an international competition. Max wrestles with writer's block, but by the time they fly to England for the final round of the contest, his creativity is percolating again...but the murderer is still on the loose!

NIGHT WATCH is Monti Sikes' latest Passenger to Paradise novel. This time Monti takes us to exotic Trinidad through the eyes of Lily Henri, a young photo journalist who is trying to shake off the gloom of some life-changing upsets. Lily stumbles into a dangerous situation, which is complicated by her uncanny resemblance to another woman.

The Rocky Bluff PD really has its hands full this time! The victim is found headless, and there are plenty of reasons that he doesn't engender a lot of sympathy, despite the brutality of his demise.

What an exciting lineup!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday 13th!

This is supposed to be a hazardous day--for me it was a fun one because hubby and I sort of took the day off. We went to town, did some errands, and had lunch at our favorite Thai place and then went to see 2012. This was one movie hubby did not fall asleep in despite it being three hours long!

I always check my trusty iPhone (used to be Blackberry) no matter where I am--not in the movies folks--and received a message from our wonderful publisher, Billie. She wondered what I was up to--haven't bugged her lately--and also asked about the PSWA conference.

So, I figured this was a good time to remind you all about it. It's not until next June, but for the next price break and if you want to be on a panel, you need to sign up by the end of March.

For any of you who are writing mysteries of any kind, this is the conference to attend because of all the law enforcement professionals who come as speakers and attendees. This is one conference where you'll feel like you are really a part of the group--everyone is friendly and approachable.You will not be disappointed, I assure you.

The registration price also covers three great lunches. We'll be at the Orleans Hotel this time and there is a break for PSWA attendees, you just need to let them know when you make your reservation.

Registering for the conference would make a great Christmas present for yourself--just a suggestion.

Remember, a writing conference and all the expenses related to attending the conference are income tax deductible.

Hope to see you there!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

MCCC Writers Confernce

I again had the pleasure of attending the Montgomery County Community College Writers Conference just outside of Philadelphia on November 7. The event has had many noteworthy keynote speakers in the past, including Norman Mailer, Edward Albee, and Michael Cunningham. This year there was a talk by Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Childhood Among Ghosts. The conference offers a bountiful continental breakfast and a tasty buffet lunch. There are many free samples of magazines and small press journals to fill up the free tote bags which the college provides. Only the writers who conduct the workshops are allowed to sell books, but, of course, I brought a large number of my bookmarks promoting my OTP book, A Lesson in Murder.

The workshop on memoirs emphasized using place as a character in the writing. The leader emphasized the use of smells, foods, religious and ethnic backgrounds, class structure, and topography. We did exercises on writing about visiting and leaving different locales.

The workshops on novels discussed the use of using alumni groups and ethnic bases for promotion, and soliciting endorsements from other writers. In the writing department, we dealt with the importance of developing character by the use of signature speech, actions, and appearance.

I always learn something at these conferences, and realize how I must work harder at my craft.

One more thing. I'd like to know how Mike Orenduff got Gov. Bill Richardson to review his book? That is so cool!

Gus Cileone

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Erle Stanley Gardner Mystery Weekend Writers Conference

I've presented at this particular conference at least five times, maybe more.

This time I was given the general topic of "Novel Writing" and tried to cover as many aspects as I could in one hour. I told the gal in charge, next year let me do one of the many things I talked about such as Characterization instead of trying to clump it all together. As I usually do, I gave out handouts which I hope helped.

Feedback was great.

This was not a good selling venue because there was no time between talks to sell books--none. The book selling was supposed to be between 12 and 12:45 and authors were tucked away in a tiny room off the beaten path. I sold three books, two to one of my former Blue Birds from eons ago, and another to one of the people who heard my talk. Hardly anyone came into the room, much less bought any books. I saw one other person sell a book.

Now, I'm going to put in my plug for the PSWA Conference because I can assure there will be 15 minutes between each talk or panel and books are on sale all day, everyday.

I hope to go back to the ESG Mystery Weekend Writers Conference because it's a paying gig. Last year attendance was low. It's always been free, I told her to charge a fee and she'd get more people. Guess what? It worked.

I love speaking in front of groups whether it be a writing conference or a service or social group. Today I'll be talking to our local Rotary Club.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gumbo Justice Review

Reviewing the Evidence has a nice review of Gumbo Justice at

There is a general rundown of the new books reviewed, and then a scroll down to the bottom leads to links to the individual books.

I don't know how many people actually look at the reviews when you post a link to it, but I always think it's respectful to do for the website that published the review. Unless of course it's a crappy review, then I probably would pretend like I didn't see it, but that's just me. So far, I haven't had to test it, although I have had two reviewers that wanted to read more about New Orleans.

That's a dilemma, because the places people might want to read about, like the French Quarter, Jackson Square, jazz clubs, are not places locals go on a regular basis. When I read books by people who don't live here, I can always tell, because they'll have locals doing things locals don't normally do. I mean, unless your work in the Quarter, or are out at bachelorette or bachelor party, a local past the age of 25 isn't going to hang out down there.

Also, it's a difficult setting to add in to a mystery series like mine, because we don't have that many murders or rapes in the Quarter, because the police actively patrol it. (How bad would that be for tourism if tourists had to face the same dangers as us locals?) But being that I have had that criticism, I am keeping it in mind as I am plowing away at Jambalaya Justice, the second in the series.

I'm curious as to what other New Orleans settings people would like to read more about. I've covered uptown, the projects, and the courthouse. What settings in New Orleans interest people the most, or what other New Orleans settings do other people find mysterious or potentially suspenseful?

Holli Castillo

New Book Title and Author Exchange Blog

My blog interview with Linda Faulkner is up on Author Blog Exchange today. Thank you, Sunny Frazier, for the push. I had hoped my next book, Night Watch, would have been released before my blog appeared, but that didn't happen. Billie and I have changed the name of my book. The name, Night Watch, is more appropriate for this book, set in Trinidad, with gunrunning and intrigue a major part of the plot. It is scheduled for release January 15, 2010 which will give me time to plan launch activities without running into Christmas season events. It also will give us more time to develop a good cover. As an artist, I can think of nothing more important than the cover when a potential reader is considering the purchase of a book. Cover design draws me to a book. Then, the title gives me an idea of what kind of book it is. Reading the back blurb is another big part of the purchase equation.

If you have a chance, please look at the interview at and make a comment. Remember that Linda Faulkner is interested in interviewing lots of authors. Please contact her about an interview, if you haven't already.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Albuquerque Book Launch Notice

The Book Launch For The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy will be December 4th in Albuquerque’s Old Town beginning at 4:00 PM and running until 9:00 PM or whenever Treasure House Books and Gifts decides to close for the night. The date was chosen after consulting Ptolemy’s epicycle drawings and determining that Jupiter would be the only planet visible to the naked eye from Albuquerque during that time span. Jupiter plays a role in the mystery as does New Mexico’s beloved astronomer Clyde Tombaugh to whom the second book in the Pot Thief series is dedicated. Author Mike Orenduff (UNM ’69) was president at NMSU during the last years of Tombaugh’s association with that institution and spoke at Tombaugh’s memorial service. “He was the embodiment of that old phrase ‘a scholar and a gentleman’,” said Orenduff.

According to owner John Hoffsis, the first book in the series, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, has been the best selling book at Treasure House since it hit the shelves in July. In addition to the planetary alignment, December 4th was also chosen because it is the date of this year’s Holiday Stroll, the annual event when Old Town is at its festive best marking the start of the Christmas shopping season. The Pot Thief mysteries are humorous and family-friendly and a signed copy would make the perfect holiday gift for young and old alike.

According to Governor Bill Richardson, “Orenduff successfully captures the essence of New Mexico through humor, romance, and even a little philosophical musing. New Mexico’s rich history, people, food, and landscape come alive on its pages.” The Gallup Herald headline on June 29 proclaimed that Orenduff “may fill Hillerman’s shoes.”

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Reason number 9 to attend PSWA - the presenter on the book covers session will perform magic.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Public Safety Writers Conference and Other Stuff

The best deal for the PSWA conference has passed, but there's yet another break that will there until March 31. For anyone waiting, if you want to be on a panel, you need to sign up by that time.

If you're wish-washy about whether or not to come, one of our new attendees and a New York published mystery writer emailed me to let me know he'd been to this past Bouchercon and thought the PSWA conference was a lot better and more fun.

The big difference with our conference and a big mystery con--is 1. that our is for writers 2. it's small so there is only one track and you don't have to make any choices 3. the presentations are so interesting most people stay for them all whether it's a topic in their field or not 4. if you want to be on a panel you will be 5. you have plenty of opportunity to network and ask questions of anyone who is there 6. you can bring your books for sale and PSWA only takes 10% 7. you'll meet lots of folks and have time to get acquainted with them 8.and I guarantee you will have a great time!

And P.S., there are three great lunches included in the conference price.

On to something else, I have a fun book trailer for my latest mystery from my other publisher //

Sunday, November 1, 2009

List Yourself and Your Site Here!!

Here's a great site for mystery writers, publishers, readers and pals to connect. THE WEB OF MYSTERY

Their mission: to bring together mystery website administrators and others in an attempt to create the most comprehensive database of mystery-themed links. A noble pursuit, it seems to me.

It goes without saying that Marilyn Meredith, Kit Sloane and a several other OTP authors were already there...but if you aren't on the site, take a moment and add yourself. It's fast, it's easy and it's free!