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