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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mystery Women of the UK

I'm sure lots of us know about this group, Mystery Women of the UK. I was a member for years. If you write mysteries (it's like SinC and isn't just for women members), I'd suggest at least checking out their webpage at

My latest, Fat Lady Sings, got a sterling recent review here, as have others in the series. The group has a wide audience here and in Britain and I've been lucky enough to have their wonderful leader, Lizzie Hayes, set up THE signing of my career at Heffer's Bookshop in Cambridge, England. I cannot describe what it was like to join 4-English "crime writers" at this ancient bookstore across the street from Trinity College. It was a dream come true for this anglophile! Also I just finished an interview with a very interesting English blogger, Nigel Bird, that will come out in December. He found me through them!

Networking isn't just for the U.S. It's gone global, too!



Monday, October 18, 2010

My Bouchercon Report

First, I had a fabulous time though Bouchercon and the hotel were overwhelming at times.

Attendance was close to 2000 making it difficult to find people you were looking for. The hotel itself was confusing with different levels where things were going on. The street level housed registration, many of the large events and the mammoth bookstore. In between were two other levels that could only be reached via the escalators and a hidden elevator where the panels were held--some around winding corridors. And the Atrium Level where the restaurant, bar, Hospitality Room, and the continuing coversations were held. I was on one of those continuing conversations and enjoyed it

I had a great roommate--Gay Totl Kinman and thanks to her had lunches in some fabulous restaurants.

Went on a 3 hour cable car (actually busses that once were cable cars) of San Francisco and we went everywhere! Fantastic.

Found out that big name authors know very little about e-books. (Learned this from the e-book panel and little else.)

Saw lots of big name authors, know some of them well enough to chit chat a bit.

What I enjoyed more was visiting with people I didn't know and handing out my card. Also had some great conversations with people I did know.

None of the bookstores had any of my books--didn't really expect them too, didn't even bother with the signing bit. I saw rather well-know authors who had no one come to their signing because someone like Lee Child or Michael Connelly were signing.

My conclusion? I'm not going to anymore Bouchercons and going to stick to the smaller cons like Mayhem in the Midlands where I know I'll get on at least two panels and will sign some of my books even though I'll have to haul them with me for the book store.

I also figured out how some people win the awards at Bouchercon. One of the big publishers sent out copies of a certain author's books to many readers (I was one of them) to familiarize people with the book. If you've read a book you might vote for it. I received one of the winning books though I haven't finished reading it. The book was reviewed many times on DorothyL. Since DorothyL has 3000 members, I know this helped sell the books too.

Am I glad I went? Sure. Loved seeing as much of San Francisco as I did. Met tons of folks though I missed seeing some I'd planned on seeing. It is not the best choice of cons for anyone who thinks this is a place to sell books if they are with a small press. (Some of the small presses were in attendance with their books.)

One big publishing company gave away tons of free books with the authors sitting at the table to sign them. I did not take any because I didn't want to load down my luggage anymore than it was already.

That's my overall view. I hope Sunny will post her opinion. I only saw here in passing a couple of times.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

What's Next from Oak Tree Press?

Next up is Kit Sloane's sly and clever THE MAGICIANS ...the latest Margot & Max mystery. This one finds a rain-soaked Margot forced to flee the serene and comfy home she and Max share because its hillside is in danger of collapse. Margot makes a fast decision to join her friends in an old Victorian...and a reality TV pilot. As plot would have it...things go terribly awry, even after Margot jets over to Hawaii to join Max on-set at his latest movie production. When Margot puts the pieces together for Max, he pitches in to foil the culprits, but still can't resist saying, "Babe...what were you thinking?"

Billie Johnson, Publisher
Oak Tree Press

Friday, October 15, 2010

Book Signing! & Laying Awake

Saturday the 23rd, I have a book signing for Fairy Tales Are Fragile at the SlyFox in Virden, Illinois. Very exciting stuff for a central Illinois gal. Reading all the wonderful tips everyone has to offer, I find myself waking in the middle of the night racking my brain about what to do, what not to do and where to go next. Sleep escapes me, so, I guess I should start writing the next book, or hey, why not market it during the sleepless hours! Daylight may not be my friend, but rather than tossing and turning and disturbing my mate at least I sent out a few press releases that hopefully will be willingly recieved! Not a night owl usually, my ususal early morning hour will come quickly I'm sure. The blog is a great place to share and learn. Writing allows the mind to settle and hopefully bring peaceful sleep!

Cindy Ladage

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Robert B. Parker’s Spenser: Still Fighting the Good Fight

Robert B. Parker died this past January. Painted Ladies, his latest Spenser novel was released this past Tuesday. And, according to Amazon’s web page, another Spenser will be released in early 2011.

That’s productivity.

Parker’s influence on writers—in and out of the mystery genre—is widespread. Harlan Coben told The Atlantic in 2007 that "When it comes to detective novels, 90 percent of us admit he's an influence, and the rest of us lie about it."

“There’s private-eye fiction before Bob, and there’s private-eye fiction after him.” Dennis Lehane said in The Boston Globe. “The debt’s huge and I was always upfront about that. My first book is so much Robert Parker in the first chapter that I’m surprised he didn’t sue me.’’

But even writers that aren’t fans of detective novels would do well to be influenced by Parker’s discipline and work ethic.

He was at his desk every day. In fact, he died at his desk – perhaps, every writer’s dream? Parker’s agent Helen Braun told "Bob wrote five pages a day every day but Sunday … every day of his adult life. He was very clear about it. No more and no less than five pages.”

Only a writer would realize how tough that is to do.

Parker was, of course, an unabashed admirer of Raymond Chandler. But while Chandler’s influence was significant, Parker also had his own unique voice and characterizations.

Contrast the way each writer wrote about female characters. Chandler’s Philip Marlowe once described a woman as “a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.” (Farewell, My Lovely)

But Spenser continued to be enraptured by his longtime love, Susan Silverman: “I looked at her. I felt the same feeling I always felt when I looked at her. It was almost a way to monitor my existence. Like a pulse. If I looked at her and didn’t feel the feeling, I’d know that I’d died.” (Double Deuce)

Some readers haven’t always liked Spenser’s sustained love for Susan; not hard-boiled enough, perhaps. But to me, this is where Parker skillfully modified the old school detective’s attitude towards females.

Without Susan and the unique relationships she had with Spenser, the detective would have been a latter-day, East Coast imitation of Philip Marlowe, and nothing more. That would have made Spenser just one of many Marlowe knockoffs. I think Parker was too good a writer and too savvy a creator of characters to settle for that.

I live in Boston and over the years would see Parker occasionally, perhaps at Fenway Park or sometimes at a book signing. When buying Painted Ladies the other day, it seemed strange and a bit sad to think Parker would not be making a signing appearance or two. Or that one wouldn’t see Parker and his wife, Joan, in a Boston restaurant similar to one in which Spenser would meet Susan—The Harvest (OK, that one’s in Cambridge), the Bristol Lounge or a Legal Seafood.

But someday I know I’ll find myself at the intersection of Boylston and Berkeley Streets, in Boston’s Back Bay, where Spenser’s office was. And I’ll still probably look up to the second floor and imagine what might be happening. Perhaps Hawk would have just walked in with fresh donuts, about to make plans to accompany Spenser on a late-night meeting.

And I’ll also do my level best to aim for that “five pages a day” discipline Parker had.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kudos to Oak Tree's Kindles

So I was jealous that my husband just got the new, ultra glamorous iMac so I zipped over to and did something I never thought I'd do—I one-clicked a Kindle 3G! Now I LOVE books and the house is covered in them, but the idea of downloading reading material in 3-seconds really appeals to me. (We're Northern CA rural and bookstores and libraries are few and far between.)

I first downloaded my latest, The Fat Lady Sings, (well, if I don't do it, who will!), and then a half dozen others of varying subject matter, including three mysteries from authors I admire, two from the UK since I'm an unrepentant anglophile, and one contemporary from the US. By now I've read five books in Kindle format and MINE, from OTP, is the only one that's formatted PERFECTLY, without strange formating errors, empty spaces, numbers that crop up in the middle of a page, weird hyphenations, etc etc! OTP does Kindle the way it's supposed to be done (and probably will be done by others, I hope, when more publishers finally take the time to do it correctly.)

Thanks, OTP, for offering really nice examples of Kindle at its best,


Saturday, October 2, 2010

On Public Speaking

I have a dickens of a time working up my nerve to speak publicly. Horrible thoughts run through my mind. Here are a few of them....

What are you doing, you fool? What makes you think you have anything worth saying? Can you even remember what you're supposed to be speaking about? How does your hair look? Are your hands noticeably trembling? OMG! Did your Spanx just roll up around your waist?

In my saner moments I do know I've learned a lot about writing over the years, and am willing to try to pass some of it on for others' benefit. Can I remember what I meant to say? Well, I have notes. Reading notes is better than staring blankly, totally mute, into a sea of faces, isn't it? My hands may certainly be trembling--I'll just tell everyone my Parkinson's has gotten worse. That's the ticket. (Yes, my doctor says I may be in the beginning stages, but I've had no tests. Don't want to know.) My hair? Oh, to perdition with it. I've had crappy hair all my life. And my Spanx? It'll force me to watch my posture and stand up straight. Then it'll be fine.

I'm speaking to a fairly large group this coming Thursday on the subject of taglines, hooks, and queries. My nerves are already getting to me and yet, I'm looking forward to it. What a person of contradictions I am.

This isn't my first venture into public speaking. I've done smaller women's groups and libraries, but, aside from making a pitch to the Western Writers of America folk and persuading the group to come to Spokane for the 2005 convention, it is the biggest.

Please, wish me luck. I'll try not to make an ass out of myself.