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