Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year

The week between Christmas and New Years is always slow, but this year, maybe due to all the snow and bad weather, (10 3/4" of snow yesterday) it seems especially so. I'm eagerly looking forward to TWO FEET BELOW's appearance sometime in 2011.

Meanwhile, I have an opportunity to sell my books at a gun show. For those who don't know, I write a time-travel series about the adventures of Boothenay Irons, a female gunsmith, and westerns. I fear it'll cost me enough to take any profit I might make from sales, but I'm thinking an appearance is still worthwhile. I'm hoping to ramp up interest in my coming OTP release.

Have a great 2011 everyone.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry, Merry Christmas to the OTP Family

Though I haven't met you all, I've met a good number of you.

I just wanted to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a truly prosperous New Year.

Let's all get out there and really promote our books. If OTP does well, so will we.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

all in the family

Watching Sunday Morning CBS news with Charles Osgood and they did an interesting segment on Do Book Covers Matter (most people say YES) and there was my cousin, Peter Mendelsund, who did the covers for Knopf's Stieg Larsson series. HIS cousin, my daughter Annie Sperling, who is MY cover artist and Peter were both nommed for Best Cover Art at Bouchercon! He won, we didn't, but isn't that an amazing coincidence! Certainly proud to have those creative guys in the family.

and check out what else Annie does, in her "day job, as an Art Director in Hollywood at

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2010 Writers' Cobferences

Hi all,

The Push to Publish writers' conference took place on Saturday, Oct. 16, at Rosemont College just outside of Philadelphia. There were a number of workshops which covered the following areas: Internet promotion and marketing; creative nonfiction; the short story; children's and young adult fiction; and small presses. At the sessions with editors and agents, the conferees were able to get feedback on written samples. The price of attendance includes breakfast and lunch.

The Montgomery County Community College Annual Writers' Conference took place on Friday and Saturday, November 5-6. On Friday evening, Pulitzer Prize and Hugo Award winning author Michael Chabon gave an informative and humorous talk about his writing career. The Saturday workshops included the following topics: Poetry; marketing; magazine writing; nonfiction; fiction; literary law; the horror/thriller genres; the graphic novel; memoir; and blogging. Breakfast and lunch are included with the conference fee. The conference also provides free literary publications.

There conferences are very informative and provide opportunities to network with others interested in writing.

Gus Cileone

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Finished My Next Rocky Bluff P. D. crime novel

The one I finished won't be out until 2012. There is another in the wings waiting for a March perhaps publication date called Angel Lost.

But this new one has a character name that came from a blog tour contest I held. I happen to know the woman and she has a great name which I've given to one of the main characters.

For those of you who have read the Rocky Bluff books I'll tell you that this coming book focuses on Gordon Butler. Gordon is one of my favorite cops on the Rocky Bluff P.D. and nothing much goes right for him. You'll have to read it to see what happens this time. The tentative title is No Bells. You'll have to read the book to find out why, but it is rather significant.

Enough teasing.

Okay, I said it was done, but I'm still reading it to my critique group. Next I'll go through it carefully to see what I can do to make it better, then I'll send it on to Oak Tree--but that won't be for awhile.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

First Amendment Project Auction of Book Character names

The First Amendment Project is an organization that, among other things, provides funding for legal representation for individuals fighting for First Amendment issues, such as reporters. As writers, the First Amendment should be important to us, because it grants the rights that prohibit censorship and book banning, and allows us to demand the entire truth from the press, without them worrying about being sued or incarcerated. Just think if we had to limit everything we wrote for fear of going to jail for expressing our opinions.

As part of a fundraising effort, the FAP is hosting an auction at ebay, where writers are auctioning off the naming of a character in an upcoming published work. I am auctioning the naming of a character in my upcoming Jambalaya Justice, with six to choose from, three males and three females. The winning bidder may choose from females- a dead hooker, a spirited stripper, or a sensible prosecutor. For male names, the choices are a kindly old judge, a spineless judge who used to date Ryan Murphy, my protag, or a butt-ugly pimp with a lengthy criminal record who is a murder suspect.

I am also including a signed copy of Jambalaya Justice when it comes out, and either a phone call, or, within the next year, an evening of free drinks in my metropolitan New Orleans bar, drinking with me and a real-life character from Gumbo Justice and Jambalaya Justice, Big Who. The Big Who in the novels is a pawnshop owner and owns a Bourbon Street strip club; the real life Big Who used to work in a pawnshop and owns the bar with me. Other than that, the character is essentially the same.

There are many other auctions as well- a children's book writer is auctioning a name in one of his books, which is a nice idea if you want your child to be a character in a book, and a graphic novelist is basing a character on the winning bidder. Phillip Margolin is arguably the best known writer in the group, but you may recognize others.

One set of auctions ends tomorrow, the other, which I am included in, ends on 12-20-10. I realize most people who subscribe to this post can likely name their own characters in their own novels, but it is for a good cause, even if it's not cheap--bidding starts at $100.

Here is the link to all of the auction listings,

The proceeds all benefit the First Amendment Project and the writers do not receive any compensation, but as I mentioned, it's worth it to support a cause that ultimately benefits us all.

Holli Castillo
Gumbo Justice
Jambalaya Justice coming 2011

Friday, December 10, 2010


Sunny here.

The writers conference at sea is back on board. The ill-fated Carnival Splendor (weren't we happy to miss THAT fiasco!) will set sail from Los Angeles for the Mexican Riviera on Oct. 30-Nov. 6. Yes, it's a Halloween party now! We'll be cruising down to Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and Mazetlan. The conference is free, the berths start at $549 (cheaper than any conference out there!). For those of us that got cancelled, there's a 25% discount.

Cruise director Beverly Poitrast has put together a great package. There's champagne to toast the cruise, $50 onboard credit and an open-bar reception. Plus, we have bookbags filled with goodies (authors and publishers were VERY generous!)and we can sell books to all 3,000 people aboard.

I'll be putting together new panels and speakers. Hope some of you can come!

Mirage hypes sales of Pot Thief

No, not a real desert mirage - the University Alumni Magazine by that name. Sales have been brisk for Einstein at bookstores and Amazon because Mirage did a major spread on me and my books right before Einstein came out. Mirage has a distribution of 180,000. You can read an online interview associated with the spread in the magazine at this site:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

writing about writing mistakes

Today I'm on Jenny Milchman's Suspense your Disbelief blog. She is a peach of a gal and so helpful to writers. I wrote about trying to eliminate the many errors that technology offers to us. Everything is so "easy" these days, but there's still plenty of room to make mistakes. I oughta know!

Check it out if you can.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Exciting New Info On Author Central

If you have an author page set up on Author Central at Amazon, it now shows you the number of books sold in each geographic region from BookScan, which includes sales not only from Amazon, but from Barnes and Noble, Borders, and other participating book stores. It does not count Kindle or other ebook sales, and has a disclaimer that it only accounts for about 75 percent of all book sales. Some book sellers are non-participating, such as WalMart and Sam's.

It is the coolest thing I have seen. You move the mouse over each state and it shows how many of your books were sold in that area. It shows the entire month of November right now, and tells you how many books total you sold each week. It says it is updated weekly, but I did not see any December figures on the map, although the bar graph is current up to the current day. (The bar graph only counts Amazon sales rank.)

It shows that a total of 19 copies of Gumbo Justice were sold in 14 different areas of the U.S. in the month of November, and shows each state and city area the books were ordered or purchased from. It also gives you a little chart next to the map that lists each area with how many books were sold if you are not a fan of maps.

There is a tour you can take that shows you how to find the info and what the information means, and if you're obsessed with trying to figure out how your promotion might be paying off each month like I am, this could be a great tool to help.

Holli Castillo
Gumbo Justice
Jambalaya Justice, coming 2011

About those Amazon reviews

Interesting thoughts on Amazon reviews:

Debut of Einstein

I'm trying to recover from a weekend trip to Albuquerque followed by the start of final exams on the day we returned. Fortunately, I'm teaching only two courses this semester, but it seems just as hectic as when I was full time. This was the first signing I've done since Billie gave me the bookmarks that promise a free book for leaving comments on Amazon. Of course that won't work right now since the people with the bookmarks can't find the website. What a mess. I wish I could be there to help Billie, but it wouldn't matter - I know nothing about this stuff. The only help I could offer would be to mix one of my infamous martinis.

I gave away over seventy bookmarks to purchasers, so I'll be interested to see how many of them actually follow through to claim their book.

Mike Orenduff

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

guest on British blog

Today I'm a guest interview on an interesting and new-to-me blog from Northern England by an equally interesting guy named...Nigel Bird! Great name. He asks authors and others to ask THEMSELVES the questions they wish had been asked before and then answer them. It was quite liberating and I think I did vent a bit about this or that.

It's a nice way to introduce yourself to a new audience on a new continent!

And leave a comment if you can. At the very least you'll see a bit of British-style blogging!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Character Studies

Our newspaper ran an interesting article yesterday regarding a local reporter's perception of Norman Rockwell paintings. He'd just gotten back from Stockbridge, MA where he visited the Norman Rockwell Museum. One of the paintings on display was "Freedom From Want", the famous Thanksgiving painting, but what struck the reporter was the character Rockwell was able to paint into his subject's faces. No botoxed, face-lifted, expressionless models here. The faces are weathered, worn, and wrinkled. They sag sometimes, and have warts. They've been used. What, one may ask, happened to these people to make them look this way?

While Rockwell the painter told a story through his pictures, we writers are charged with using words. It's up to us to make our readers see our characters, their personality, their actions, joys, sorrows and struggles through a different medium. We have to make our characters' sing through our written descriptions, sometimes a not so easy task.

I'm going to find a copy of one of Rockwell's joyous paintings and hang it above my desk. When I get stuck working on a character, I'll just glance up and use his painting for inspiration. Now that's what I call bringing the arts together.


GUest blog from Italy

Barb, whose site I guest blogged on earlier in the week, is my guest blog today, blogging all the way from Italy. Barb is about to start working on a book set in the 12th century, and her life--living in Rome, visiting the Louvre, frequenting castles--makes my life seem positively boring!

Please stop by and leave a comment.

Holli Castillo
Gumbo Justice
Jambalaya Justice, 2011

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Guest Blog on Promotion

After participating in Jog Blog day a few weeks back, Barb Tarn, who has a writing blog site called Creative Barbwire, dropped in and asked if I wanted to guest blog, and let me pick the topic. It was difficult to decide what to blog about, but ultimately I chose promotion, since that seems to be the popular topic of the day. Stop by at and if you feel inclined, please leave a comment to let Barb know we do read the posts by our fellow authors. One of my promotion tips is to leave comments on other people's blogs to get more name recognition, so it's particularly appropriate. I'm sure she wouldn't mind more guest bloggers either, so you might want to contact her.

Holli Castillo
Gumbo Justice

Monday, November 29, 2010

Couch Surfing

I have procrastinated enough on the final edit of my second book. The manuscript has sat at my dining room table for a week. Untouched. Before that, I carted it on a coast trip, where it also sat on a dining room table. Pushed aside.
I finally decided it was the table that was getting in my way. The prospect of sitting on a rather uncomfortable dining room chair, relentlessly turning pages, religiously scanning for errors, was not appealing.
So following an inkling of inspiration, I picked up the thick pile of pages and moved to the most comfortable couch in the house. I brought my iPhone in case anyone called, found an empty legal pad, and turned on the gas fireplace.
Suddenly, editing took on a whole new aura. My iPhone has both a dictionary application and internet access. Spelling errors? Just typed ‘em in. Wondering if and when I capitalize mom and dad? Log onto the internet.
Suddenly it was not so much work, as it was a game. Couch internet surfing and iPhone editing. Aided by the ambiance of a warm fire.
And by the way, you only capitalize mom and/or dad when you can replace them with a name.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Link your blog to Amazon's Author Page

Not to be a blog hog, but I just learned today that you can put the RSS feed from your regular blog on your Amazon Author Page and it will automatically put a sentence or two from your blog with a link to it. Sunny mentioned she updated her Amazon Author Page, and it made me think it was time I updated the one blog I did on my Amazon Author Page that said Jambalaya Justice would be out summer, 2010, to reflect the release date would actually be 2011.

When I got to my author page, I couldn't update the old Amazon blog I had written, and then I recalled receiving an email from Amazon some months back explaining that they were not continuing with the blogs on Amazon, but that you would be able to link your own external blog to it. Not really understanding what they were talking about it, I ignored it, until I went back today.

So I did a little trial and error, and luckily I figured it out. On the author page, it gives you a place to add the feed. Of course, I'm not even one hundred percent sure of what an RSS feed is, but I did a google search and found out that if I scrolled to the bottom of my blogger page, it had the word ATOM. The google article told me to right click and then scroll to copy link location. I followed the instructions, and scrolled to the bottom of my blogger blog and found the word. I right clicked, clicked on copy link location, then went back to Amazon and pasted it where Amazon said to paste it. Amazon said it wouldn't show up for 24 hours, so I figured I would check it tomorrow.

Being impatient, I checked it this evening and my most recent blog was on there. The interesting thing was that Amazon said only a new blog entry would show up and the previous blogs would not be on the Amazon page, but my previous blog entries were also on there.

I like this feature because it may send traffic to my blog, and also because if someone wants to find out about me before they decide to purchase on Amazon, they don't have to search too hard. I think making readers and possible fans easy to find us is important when you're a newbie or an unknown, or both, as I am.

If you haven't set up an author page at Amazon, I recommend it, not necessarily because you will get new readers, although you might, but because it gives fans a place to catch up with you. Plus it's fun.

Also, if you go to your author page, you can look up your rankings on a graph. You can look at this week, last two weeks, or ask for as far back as possible. I got to see the graph for the entire time since my book was published. It has little dots at the tops of the high points, and if you click on them it will tell you what the rank was. I found it interesting to see what months and days I sold more books on Amazon, and to see what is the highest my book ever ranked, and when. It's a nifty tool.

Holli Castillo
Gumbo Justice

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I agree with Marilyn's post below that Oak Tree writers have a lot to be thankful for this year-- having our works published by Billie Johnson, a publisher who not only cares that the books she puts out are great reading and look great, but also allows us a part in the decision making process. And I have to add on a more personal note a publisher who doesn't get too hung up on deadlines!!! (I'm still working on Jambalaya Justice, Billie, just trying to make sure it is as good as it can be.)

I also wanted to share a blog by Carol Denbow, who has posted an excellent article on specific things you can do to get more hits on your blog or website. She even provides the links to sites you can visit to make sure your website is listed when people do searches on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. The best thing though, was a link to a site that rates your website, and gives you a report on things you can do to increase the chance that people will visit it. And all of it was free! So visit if you want some practical and easy tips to draw more people to your website. It's always nice to leave a comment on a site if you find the information useful, so if you agree with me, please let Carol know.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Holli Castillo
Gumbo Justice

Happy Thanksgiving

I want to wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I'm thankful for Oak Tree Press and Billie Johnson. Oak Tree is becoming a real presence in the publishing world. Billie goes out of her way to make sure our books look good.

It's up to us to get the word out about them--and yes, it's that way for all authors no matter who publishes them with the exception of the big names.

I'm thankful for the Internet which makes it easier to promote than it used to be. I remember when you were limited to signings in bookstores, talks in libraries and to service and social groups and sending out announcements via snail mail. Today we have so many more opportunities to let a far bigger audience know about our books.

I'm thankful for Kindle. Even though there are other e-book sites, Kindle has made people accept e-books.

And if you want to know all the other things I'm thankful for visit my personal blog at


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Having a good week

The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein went up on Amazon this week and its Amazon number immediately dipped down to 55,966. For those of you who don't follow Amazon numbers, anything below 200,000 is good. Below 50,000 is very good, below 10,000... Well, you get the picture. Then I found out that Einstein will be reviewed in both the El Paso Times and the Denver Post, which should add to the sales numbers.

To top off the good week, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras (the first in the series) was selected last night as the Mystery of the Year in the New Mexico Book of the Year contest. I had previously mentioned on this site that Pythagoras was a finalist, but I didn't expect to win when I saw the list of the other finalists. But I decided to attend the banquet anyway since I'm usually happy for any excuse to travel to New Mexico. Tonight, Lai and I celebrated like my protagonist by popping the cork on a bottle of Gruet Champagne from here in New Mexico.

Incidentally, Gruet also had a good week. They were awarded the very prestigious title of the United States Wine Producer of the Year in the International Wine and Spirits Competition.

I want to thank Billie for all the effort she has devoted to Einstein, even above and beyond her usual fantastic efforts. It is definitely paying off.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

local events

Since I live in rural Northern CA, Xmas time presents the most activities where I can participate and sell my books. The first was this past weekend and it was fun to meet all the new faces and discuss my latest, THE MAGICIANS. My last, THE FAT LADY, came out too late for me to do this last year, so I had two "new" books to present. I've been doing this for ten years up here so people love to catch up on any news.

I always discount my books heavily. It's just the right thing to do here. Business was brisk and it was a lovely, if tiring, day!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Reading for Fun

Unless I'm reading a book about geology for dummies, or the mating habits of Florida alligators, I read to be entertained. Nah, I don't really read about geology or alligators, but I do enjoy a good mystery that entertains me. Consequently, I read (and write) stories that are lighter with a touch of humor. As far as reading, not much makes me happier than finishing a book and realizing that I have a smile on my face.

You might ask me why. I'd have to answer that there's just too much drama in our everyday lives. I have a desire to be taken away from that angst -- and eat chocolate while in the process. I could try writing something serious that would bring a tear to the reader's eye, but that would take the fun out of it for me. Writing is the most fun I've ever had while doing a job, and trust me, writing is a job. The nice part is that I can do this job at home. I could even wear my jammies while I write, but I don't think my husband or the neighbors who can see through my office window would appreciate that.

Some people wonder how important the snippets on the back cover of the book are are, and I'm here to say they're very important, at least to me. They give me a feel for the book and whether it's going to entice me into paying good money for it.

I have to admit that I've started reading books by authors I've never read before who are with Oak Tree Press, and none of them have let me down. I'm finding some great stories, and I'll be returning for other books by these authors. And not because I have a book coming out from Oak Tree, but because they're quality stories.

Read a good book, and do it today. You'll be glad you did.

Marja McGraw (includes weekly blog)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pedophile's Guide on Kindle

While I was working this morning I had the Today show on in the background and stopped when I heard a story about a book on Kindle called The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure, which is exactly what it sounds like, a guide for pedophiles to follow. Specifically, the author, in the t.v. interview, said the purpose of the book was to give tips to pedophiles so it would be safer for the victims of pedophiles, and so that when the pedophile is caught, he may get sentenced to a shorter sentence. Keep in mind, victim was my word choice, not the author's, and I am paraphrasing, but the gist is the same.

There has been a huge outcry among the public, some going so far as to boycot Amazon and Kindle for selling the self-published e-book, which is bad for Amazon right at the beginning of the holiday season. It could also be bad for us, writers with indie publishers whose primary sales may come from Amazon and Kindle.

I find it interesting that this comes up now, when the writer's site Red Room is doing a promotion for freedom of speech. For part of Red Room's promotion, authors auction off the chance to name a character in their next book. Stephen King, Grisham, and several other big name writers participate, and the funds go to the First Amendment Project, an organization that provides advice and legal representation to activists, journalist and artist for First Amendment issues.

Amazon's official position is that prohibiting a writer from listing a book is censorship and never an option, although they have removed the link to purchase the book from the website. The e-book itself is still there. A gentleman, and I use the term loosely, who was also interviewed on the Today show, stated that t.v. portrays pedophiles as kidnappers, rapists, and murderers, and that most pedophiles are none of these things. Having prosecuted and represented many men accused of having sexual contact with children, I can say the interviewee probably believes what he says, because most pedophiles either emphatically deny that they did anything, or emphatically deny that what they did was wrong. Consequently, most don't see what they did as rape, regardless of the victim's age.

The real issue, however, is censorship. As writers, we hate it. When there is a public safety issue with what someone has written or said, however, the person can not hide behind the First Amendment. It is not a catch-all to say anything and everything. For example, speech designed to incite a riot is not covered, the standard you-can't-yell-fire-in-a-crowded-theater argument.

I guess the question becomes at what point is something that is published on Kindle and available for the public to purchase considered a public safety concern? What do you think?

Holli Castillo
Gumbo Justice

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness

Experts say we are at our happiest not at the moment we achieve our goals but the moments before, when we are so close we can see a triumphant end but it is not in our grasps, yet. Holding a trophy high above our head is not as pleasing as when our fingertips were grasping at its edges.

Maybe that is what Thomas Jefferson was trying to say when he penned the Declaration of Independence, starting with our inalienable rights: Life, liberty and ….. Freedom from tyranny? To worship as we wish? No, it is our endearing entitlement to the pursuit of happiness. It was always a statement that struck me as odd. He knew we had no right to happiness but somehow he felt we had a right to attempt to attain it. Maybe, in that moment, when Jefferson touched pen to paper, he felt the excitement and joy of knowing they were about to do something extraordinary and happiness crafted those words.

I know now that the journey of an author, embraces that pursuit. Typing those first words on a page and the journey begins. When the book is finished there is a sigh of satisfaction but there is no publisher. A gleeful cheer when a publisher takes interest but a long time before you hold the book in your hand; and when you finally do hold your book you wonder who will buy it? Then, your cousin calls because she stayed up all night reading it. Another emails you to say she bought one for everyone in her family. A co-worker sends a picture of him holding your book. A friend from California asks you to sign it. And then, one day, a stranger you have never met shakes your hand and says he liked your book. It is then when you know; dancing on the fringes of success, however fleeting, is happiness.

S. Connell Vondrak
Author of No Evidence of a Crime

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oak Tree Press Sailing on Mystery Cruise

The wait is almost over! Ten short days from today we board the Carnival Splendor and cruise down the Mexican Riviera. I was just on the Carnival site a little while ago, trying to complete all the meta and schedule some fun things for the non-conference times...and I must say, I am convinced there would be less paperwork to join the CIA! Yikes!

At any rate, I am interested in what my cruise-mates are steakhouse? Shore trips....I'm thinking maybe Cabo...I have never been there.

So, gimme some comments, ladies and gentlemen!

Billie Johnson, Publisher
Oak Tree Press

Sunday, October 31, 2010

New in New Orleans

A few months ago I received an e-mail from Gina Misiroglu over at Red Room, a website for writers/readers that I belong to. It wasn't addressed only to me, but was the kind that goes out to all of the writers on the site. (As an aside, this was not an easy website to get myself listed as a writer- I had to email and show them that my publisher fit the criteria for me to be listed as a writer even though Oak Tree wasn't listed in the automated system of publishers they accept. In any event, I made them realize I was and they added me.)

Back on point, the e-mail advised that AOL Travel was looking for travel articles on ten particular cities if anyone was interested. I replied to see if New Orleans was one of those cities, and fortunately for me it was. The list I was sent had a wide of variety of different aspects of New Orleans, and it was extremely difficult to choose which one to write about. Finally, because some people think I have an accent and use unusual expressions, I decided to write about New Orleans slang.

I sent the article in and basically forgot about it, until I received an e-mail yesterday saying it was published on the AOL site. You can read it here

I think part of the agreement is I can't tell the deal involved, but I believe I can say it was not a paying gig, but money is donated to a non-profit charity you designate. Also, the article contains a link to my Red Room blog and my novel, which means people who might bother to read about New Orleans may see it and check it out, since my book is set in New Orleans.

I like trying new things and different ways to promote, but even if it doesn't result in more sales, it's kind of exciting having something published out there on a different type of website than a writer's site. Maybe I'm too new to the industry to be concerned about not getting paid for every little word I type, or maybe I'm just that vain, but I think it was worth the few minutes it took to write to see my name on a different website.

Either way, I'm glad to see it published.

Holli Castillo
Gumbo Justice

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The writer's life can be SPOOOOKY!


I was thinking on this Halloween 2010 that all of us writers lead very suspenseful lives. Who knew when we began writing that we’d be in situations like these! When I began seriously writing in the 1980s I just figured I’d write and write and never finish a book anyway so I certainly wasn’t worrying about “what next.” I’m a slow writer to begin with but I did finish my first book and then was confronted with a new reality, the “now what?” These were the days of no Internet and I spent many hours riding buses to the nearest library, checking out these already out-of-date books titled “Getting An Agent,” and “How to Sell Your Manuscript.” Querying agents and editors in those days meant waiting. Waiting and waiting. Weeks often turned into months and the suspense of waiting for the mailman was intense!

Now, of course, after almost 8-books, 6-agents, and 3-publishers, the suspense is mostly under control. I’ve learned, finally, to just let it (the book’s release) happen. I’ve had a printer go out of business in the middle of my (naturally, it was mine) print run. Two publishers go out of business and 6-agents who didn’t sell a thing. Still I’ve had the fun and the THRILL of seeing all my stories in print. I’ve done signings, talks, lectures (there is a difference!) and conferences. There has been the surprise of a book that really “took off” and the bottom line that no one knows why it did. There’s been the frustration when, at the beginning of the economic bust, boxes of ordered books were returned to the distributor unopened. Each new book that comes out brings its own surprises, adventures, AND suspense!

And above is the cover by my wonderful Hollywood art director daughter for the 8th in the soon-to-be-released Margot & Max Mystery series, THE MAGICIANS.



On Blogging

Okay folks, a little 101 on blogging.

If you're going to give us another place to look at something, at least make a comment about it. Better still, when passing along a URL for another post, why not use the Oak Tree authors listserve? I hope all the OTP authors are on that listserve.

The listserve is a great place to ask question and share ideas too.

When you put up a blog here, add your name to the bottom so people can see it. It doesn't hurt to put your own webpage up too and make sure it will click through.

If you have a photo to add, do so. A picture always looks great. The one I included is hubby and me at the Hanford Book Festival that Sunny arranged with the King's County Library.

Once the blog is up, check back and see if anyone commented. If so, acknowledge them with your own comment. Sometimes people ask questions and the blogger never answers--not good.

Other people besides OTP authors read this blog--but only OTP authors and Billie can post here. When you post anything you are representing OTP and all of the rest of the authors.

This is a great place to promote yuur book or tell us what you've been doing to promote your book. You also could put some writing tips on.

With any blog, it is important to have new content regularly.

On my personal blog I have a new blog up every day. I do a lot of that ahead of time. I like to interview authors on my blog. I've offered to do that for OTP authors and only about three have taken me up on the offer. I'd love to do it everytime one of you have a new book out. I have a lot of followers.

When you put a blog here you should advertise it. If you're on Facebook or any of the other social networks, let them know to come and visit by giving a hint as to what you've written about and give the URL. Be sure to give the whole thing beginning with http:// so it'll be clickable.

Hope this helps you and will keep our OTP blog interesting so people will want to read what we all have to say.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Promoting Kindle Titles

Anyone have any great ideas how to do this?

I have a bunch of books on Kindle and though a few sell, it seems that there ought to be some wonderful way to promote them. I've read J.A. Konrath's blogs as well as Rob Walker's but still don't have any insight as how best to promote to Kindle owners.

Two of my books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series that are no longer available as trade paperbacks are on Kindle, Final Respects and Fringe Benefits. And the new ones, No Sanctuary and An Axe to Grind are also on Kindle.

My very first mystery, Astral Gift, is also on Kindle, as in my romance with a touch of the supernatural, Lingering Spirit.

I'm thrilled they are there, but would be more thrilled if I knew how to let people know.

What are the rest of you doing to promote your Kindle titles?


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Just Google the Title of Your Book

We all love Google. Put in a name or word and hit search. Like magic, dozens, hundreds and even more sites appear that relate to the search. Just put in the titles of your books and see what appears.

I'm not sure what or how the sites are connected in the Google search. I'd love to have some of you who are more computer-savvy explain it to me because my last two books do not show up in the search for their titles.

We have added meta-tags from my web site, labels on the blogs, and more. Still, Night Watch and Secrets by the Sea fail to appear in the Google search list. I've checked some of the books by other Oak Tree authors and see them showing up on the first page. My first novel actually fills the first page of the search.

Oak Tree authors are an amazing group of writers. I learn something new everyday from at least one of you. Maybe Googling your title and not finding it doesn't matter. I think it does and would like to discover why and how to remedy the situation.

Right now I feel lost at sea with Google...


Saturday, October 23, 2010


I've recovered from Bouchercon and am now ready to spill.

I had no expectations of going but my girlfriend sprang for the very expensive lodgings (Hyatt Regency!) and I got registration half price on the Internet from a guy who couldn't attend. For me, the trip cost less than $100.

Although reservations got messed up for lots of us, Dorinda and I wound up on the exclusive 17th floor with a beautiful view of the bay. There was even a TV screen embedded in the bathroom mirror! A little excessive, but hey!

What stunned me was how generous the publishing houses were. They GAVE AWAY boxes of books--I came home with 32. Good thing we were driving. They also fed us prime rib and put out an ice cream bar. Free alcohol. Lots of things weren't announced, we sort of stumbled upon them.

I hung out at the hospitality room and connected with my Sacramento Sisters in Crime. Also had a "moment" with handsome Barry Eisler, hugs from Kelli Stanley, flirted with Christopher Rice (Anne's son), rode down the elevator with Laurie King and got a photo of the reclusive Martin Cruz-Smith.

I also did a bit of networking for Oak Tree and gave out business cards for future acquisitions. On several panels authors moaned about how their publishers were discontinuing their series. I love knowing that we don't operate by the numbers and have a lot more faith in our authors.

For me, Bcon was one big party. I love seeing familiar faces of authors I've met at other conferences and conventions. The next Bcon is St. Louis, I won't be there. However, it comes back to California in 2014: Long Beach.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What kind of promo works

Well, no one really knows, of course, but SinC released their survey results (I participated in the survey and, boy, it was LONG and detailed--I complained about the time it took to fill out!) that are kind of interesting and informative. Here's the URL of a blog talking about what was "found."

The discussion that follows is interesting, also, with as many opinions as people.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A New Group of Fans Sink Their Teeth into the Pot Thief Books

I recently received an email from a dental hygienist who writes a column for the Los Angeles Dental Hygienists’ Society’s newsletter and for a similar statewide newsletter and a national one. Her column is called “Hygienists In Print- Fiction & Nonfiction” and features things like “Tooth titles” (e.g., Stephen Jay Gould’s HEN’S TEETH & HORSE’S TOES, Peter O’Donnell’s SABRE TOOTH, and Marilyn Todd’s DIGGING THEIR GRAVE WITH THEIR TEETH). The column also notes when teeth or dental hygiene are mentioned in fiction works, mostly mysteries. For example, in Carol Higgins Clark’s JINXED, Big Shot, a biker, is trying to protect a little old lady from Edward, her very young fiancĂ©. Carol writes, “He paused & smiled, revealing the most dentally challenged arrangement of teeth Edward had ever seen.”

The next column will feature THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED PTOLEMY because one of the minor characters is a dental hygienist. She also found six other references to teeth! So the next time you go to the dentist, check to see if a Pot Thief book is among the reading material in the waiting room.

Mike Orenduff