Monday, April 26, 2010

Writers as Readers; Readers As Writers

This from John Taylor....
When I read fiction, I have to lull myself into a suspension of disbelief. I know I'm reading something that didn't happen--most probably based on life experiences, but fictionalized nonetheless--and to maintain my suspension of disbelief, I rely on the author's writing skills to keep me in this temporary hypnotic state. We've all been there. Think of the times when a story is so well written that we become oblivious to our surroundings. We are not sitting in our favorite reading chairs, perhaps on a rainy day, sipping at a steamy cup of tea or coffee. No, we're where the writer has taken us: a humid jungle, a parched desert, a frozen ice cap. We devour each word and the only thing that matters at that moment is where the writer is taking us. And then the phone rings or a dog barks and our suspension of disbelief is shattered. The "real world" intrudes until once again the writer pulls us back into the story.
I know this is a glorification of the obvious, but writers themselves also "shatter" readers' suspension of disbelief. All it takes is a typo, a misused word, or sloppy sentence structure to make the reader momentarily pause and reflect on the error. Far worse are writer gaffes which reflect poor research or lack of knowledge about a particular subject--I recently read a very fine novel that nonetheless had me shaking my head, when the author described the murder weapon as a .380 revolver and had a mortician performing an autopsy. These are the obvious mistakes and I'm as guilty, guilty, guilty as any other scribe for poor editing. But there's another mistake that's far more deadly to destroy suspension of disbelief: mishandling the plotline that causes the reader to seriously question the author's credentials or the veracity of what she/he writes. When I read comedy fiction, I allow the writer a great deal of latitude in embellishment and exaggeration to achieve a comedic effect. A classic example is Heller's, Catch 22, where his absurdic depictions defy rationality yet are overwhelmingly accepted by readers. But in dramatic fiction a writer can't get away with even minor mistakes that will stretch the reader's credulity. There's a Vietnam War novel out now, Matterhorn, which deserves to be and will be a best seller. It's the finest war novel I've ever read--and I've read a lot of 'em. But even this excellent piece of work has a few major flaws that had me scratching my head, wondering why the writer took the plotline in this or that direction.
OK, time to fix myself a cup of tea, settle into my favorite reading chair, and suspend my disbelief by reading Mike Orenduff's, The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy.

Publisher's Comment....John and Mike will be at PSWA again this year! John's newest novel, LAND OF A THOUSAND DANCES will debut there...and Mike will be taking a respite from his bigger and better Book Promotion Road Trip. I'm counting the days!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Keith Bettinger

It was announced in the newspaper’s obituary column that a man named Spann Watson passed away recently from complications of pneumonia in Winthrop Memorial Hospital in Mineola, NY at the age of 93. Many people didn’t know this gentleman, and a regret of mine is I didn’t meet him sooner. You see Spann Watson was living history. He was one of the first men picked to be a Tuskegee Airman. He was Lt. Colonel Spann Watson, USAF, Retired.

In the dark days of World War II and during a time of non-existent civil rights for African Americans, he fought for the privilege to fight for this country. This was the same country that in certain places, would deny him the same rights that were afforded German prisoners of war who were residing in Prisoner of War camps in America.

I went to Westbury High School with Orrin Watson, Colonel Watson’s son. Orrin was a year ahead of me in school. He went on to follow in his father’s career path by going to the United States Air Force Academy and graduated in 1971. He went on to fly B-52s for the Air Force and commercial jets for the airlines. Tragically, he was taken too soon when he died in an automobile accident while attending training to fly F-4 Phantom jets.

I had the pleasure of inviting Colonel Watson to be a guest speaker for a meeting of the SHIELDS of Long Island. When he answered the phone, he barked WATSON HERE! I thought I was going to jump up and stand at attention. I invited him to be a speaker at our meeting at the Swan Club in Glen Head, New York. When I arrived, there he was sitting in his car waiting to come in. I introduced myself and as he got out of his car, he removed his driving shoes and put on his spit shined military oxfords. Over his shoulder he carried a clothing bag. Before the meeting he slipped out of his sport jacket and put on the famed red blazer of the Tuskegee Airmen, a garment of pride that he carried in the clothing bag. He spoke for almost an hour and received a standing ovation at the end of his presentation.

At the following annual board meeting of the Shields, he was invited to be an honorary member. He graciously accepted our invitation and was proud of his membership. Recently, he returned to a Shields meeting at the Stewart Thomas Manor in Plainedge, New York. Although he was some years older and a little bit slower, he still mesmerized the attendees with his presentation.

When he was 91 years old, he had Lasik surgery and no longer needed glasses. His eyes were clear and strong enough to return him to the cockpit that he so loved.
All the Tuskegee Airmen, both living and dead finally received a prestigious citation for their service to this country and Colonel Watson was there to receive his overdue thank you from a grateful nation. He received an invitation to attend President Obama’s inauguration with other fellow Tuskegee Airmen. What an honor to receive, an invitation to attend a historic event.

Now at age 93, what a war could not do, pneumonia has accomplished; it has stolen Lieutenant Colonel Spann Watson from us. The only good thing to come out of this is that Spann’s son Orrin now has a very special wingman.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Hi everyone!

Billie Johnson and I came up with the idea of an all-genre Western line to broaden the scope of OTP. The response on the Internet has been amazing! However, we'd like some ideas and/or opinions on a title for the new line to go with Dark Oak, Cop Tales and Timeless Love.

Here are some titles we came up with:

Sage Writers

Spur Line

Posse and Petticoats?

Sagebrush Sagas
Purple Sage Opera

Continental Divide
High Plains Writers
Western Roundup
Wild West Gazette


Mother Lode

Hanging Tree


Best of the West.  

University of Central Florida Book Festival

While in Florida last week I participated in the first annual University of Central Florida Book Festival and it was GREAT. The university people putting it on were so organized and had the benefit of wonderful, enthusiastic student volunteers, too. There were 60 authors "presenting" and, I think, only five of us mystery writers. But our panel was very well attended and I was impressed by the audience's enthusiasm. Out of the however many thousand were there attending, I believe I'd actually met two! It was terrific to meet so many new-to-me authors of everything from "literary" to nonfiction books and talk to so many interested in books people.

I highly encourage any authors here to follow the thread at and learn about next year's event. Not only do they pay everything for participating authors (and I mean everything, including breakfasts at the hotel, and a delightful authors reception where I got to meet and thank Carl Hiaasen!), but this is the ONLY signing I've ever done where charming student volunteers stand in front of the table holding your book and gently encouraging people to come over and meet the author. And, surprise, all book details were handled by the Barnes and Noble (yes, THOSE, often much maligned folk) campus bookstore and every book they ordered by 60 different authors was there on hand. Amazing.

It just shows how delightful an event can be when done right!

back in coooool Northern CA and doing a mountain of laundry...


Thank you to Our Publisher

I got a big surprise in the mail Saturday, our wonderful publisher, Billie Johnson, sent me a very large vinyl banner to hang on my tent or display in another way when I do book and craft fairs.

Unfortunately it arrived while I had a booth at the Jackass Mail Run. (Billie asked if I'd joined a biker gang--can you imagine me in a biker gang?) The banner was in my car the cardboard box it came in during the whole event.

Folks, it's a work of art--white background, my name, author, presenter, speak written on it, my website, and the cover of An Axe to Grind. I'll take a photo the first time I use it.

If I don't have to use my tent, I'll figure out another way to display it.


Sunday, April 18, 2010


Hi authors.

Sunny here. We have a "problem" and I want to do something about it. Co-operation, PLEASE!

We have a blog at OTP. Marilyn Meredith has politely asked us to participate. We have ignored the suggestion. Yes, even me, who seems to find time to blog everywhere but OTP.

I think the problem is that the request is open-ended and we all have busy lives. I believe in deadlines. I believe all of you have something to contribute. Not the announcement of your latest book or even your latest terrific review. All of us should be aware of the status of each person in the house. No, I'm talking about a blog forum where we talk to each other, give pointers, ask questions, discuss what we have learned out there in the promotional world, share info. Posts that are worth other people's time to read as well.

You may not be aware of this, but OTP is getting noticed in a very positive manner. We're getting exceptional queries and people who are already skilled in marketing. Authors from other houses are jumping ship to join us. I think we are a supportive community of writers, not competing for sales but working together to build the small publishing house. I like to use the word "OTP family" when I post.

Billie has never wanted to come off as the parent scolding us for ignoring our own site. I don't have the problem of applying peer pressure. So, here's my plan:

We put up a fresh blog on Sundays. All of us know the blog will be up, so monitor it and post replies. That gives us a week to go to the sites we're on and say, "Hey, this is what we're talking about over at OTP." You are basically putting your "voice" out to the public, displaying your insights and promoting each other as well as the publishing house.

How to start? Well, I have a list already in my group addresses, so I'm going alphabetically. First up:

Keith Bettinger, April 25.

Lauren Carr, May 2.

Holli Castillo, May 9.

Sunny Frazier, May 16.

Wendy Gager, May 23.

Dennis Griffin, May 30.

Billie Johnson, June 6.

Marilyn Meredith, June 13.

Monti Olen, June 20.

Mike Orenduff, June 27.

Kit Sloan, July 4.

Sandra Vondrak, July 11.

More to come, but this is what I've got for now. I don't think this is a huge demand or committment on anyone's part.

If you can't make the date, contact me and I'll reschedule. Decide not to participate and I will take that as an indication that you don't want or need promotional tools. Your choice.

So, contact me and let me know. Ball in your court.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Passenger to Paradise Logo

Our publisher has created a logo for the Passenger to Paradise series, and I am thrilled with it. On Wednesday, I received a box with Passenger to Paradise business cards that Billie created--both front and back. She has a descriptive line for each book.

Hearts Across Forever - Jamaica...The white witch of Rose Hall, past lives, present day voodoo

Eagle Rising- Sedona's powerful vortexes and burnished landscapes

Secrets by the Sea - A sprawling mansion overlooking the shores of Antigua...tour every room--exquisite ones, charming ones and the secret ones

Night Watch - For tropical intrigue and treachery, choose Trinidad

I also have a T-shirt with the new logo. Now I have to decide how to best use these devices in my promotion of Night Watch, but that's another post.

Thank you, Billie, for the logo that I am now adding to my brochures and my flyers.

Thank you, Marilyn, for keeping us all heading in the right direction.

I would welcome suggestions from some of the other authors on ways to use a logo.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Oak Tree Authors, Where Are You?

I don't like to be a blog hog, but it's really important that a blog have new content on it all the time. So, since no one else has posted lately, I'll do it again.

I'm having a contest on my own blog
for the first two books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Final Respects and Bad Tidings.

The whole sad story about the different publishers I've had for the Rocky Bluff P.D. series is there for you to read too. Final Respects is now available on Kindle, but once my copies of Bad Tidings are gone, that's it for that book.

Because I do put up a new blog nearly every day, you'll have to scroll down to see the post about the books and the contest. All you have to do to enter is put in a comment--but I do need a way to contact you if you're the winner. I'll be drawing the names on the 19th and letting people know who won after noon, PDT.

On the 17th, I'll have a blog about Online Promo and following up with that on the 19th with In Person Promo.

Okay, folks, make me proud and let me know that you actually read this blog our publisher so kindly put up for us.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Nothing Like a Book Event

The rest of the title should read, to let you know just how old your are.

I read about these authors going on book tours from town to town, sometimes from state to state, bookstore to bookstore, and after going to Ridgecrest to speak to the Ridgewriters about POV, I know I could never do that. Ridgecrest is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from our place--if we drove faster and didn't make rest stops, we could probably do it quicker. In any case, Ridgecrest is a medium sized town out in the middle of the Mojave Desert, next to China Lake Naval Air Station.

Of course to get there we must drive through Bakersfield, Tehachapi, across the desert, past Red Rock Canyon State Park, and finally through Inyokern and on into Ridgecrest. Ridgewriters generously takes their speakers out to dinner and then afterwards, put them up in BevLen Bed and Breakfast, the only B and B in the area. It's a great place.

The photo is of hubby getting ready to eat his grapefruit, the beginning of a great breakfast served by our hostess, Bev.

I forgot to take a photo at the speaking engagement.

This group did a bang-up job of publicity, with two articles in the newspaper and a great article in their own newsletter, so there was a good turn-out. In fact, the room was about as full as it could get. I talked about POV and I hope that everyone now knows more about POV than they did when they came.

We had a good night's sleep and headed for home. We managed to get there a bit before 2. I spent the rest of the day unpacking, catching up on emails and regular mail.

I'm writing this the day after--and I'm still tired. That's how I know I could never do the kind of book tours many authors do--and Michael Orenduff did on his way to PSWA conference last year.

My next event is a booksigning, but it's only in the next town, 17 miles away.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I'm a guest on Leila Taylors blog today talking about suspense, what it is and how to create it. The fun part is that the picture included is the one our own Sunny Frazier took of me after my panel at LCC. So along with all the other things she does, she's a great photographer, too! Take a look and leave a comment, if you feel inspired.

Off tomorrow for Florida and the first annual University of Central Florida's book festival. They are amazingly organized and it looks like fun with a panel Sat. the 17th and lots of parties! (Leaving early to take in some snorkeling in the Keys. Hope it's warm. It's been a COLD, wet winter in NorCa.

I'll tell all about it on my return. If they do this festival annually, I really suggest some of you get involved. It's also ALL expenses paid... Can't say that very often!