Thursday, March 31, 2011

How do you win a Lefty?

First, write a good book. I’m not boasting; there are a lot of good books out there, many better than mine. But writing a good book is the starting point. So you and a thousand other people have written a good book. Now what? Get it nominated. This is more difficult than writing it because you have little control over the nomination process. For the Lefty, only people who have attended a Left Coast Crime Convention can nominate a book. And the finalists will be the five books that receive the most nominations. Since I had never attended an LCC, I had no idea who was eligible to nominate. Enter Sunny Frazier, the Tasmanian Devil of the Internet. She had attended the last two LCCs in Los Angeles and Hawaii (the girls gets around), and she knew all the other people who had been there with her. So she talked it up, and the next thing I knew, I was on the short list. Then I got a lucky break. The program chair was a fan. Rob Kresge – a great new writer in his own right – told me he wanted to nominate The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy (January 2010). Not only that – he put me on the program. But several other attendees said they wanted to nominate The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein (November 2010). I had visions of competing against myself. I decided Einstein was the stronger candidate because it was newer, so I set about getting all my supporters to agree on Einstein. After Einstein became a finalist, Marilyn Meredith praised the book in every nook and cranny of the Internet. Does cyber space have nooks and crannies? Then other Oak Tree authors got on board – Holli, Wendy, Monti, Marja, Kitt, etc. And out fearless leader, Billie, agreed to sponsor a reception at LCC in celebration of the publication of The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier. I know; that was not the nominated book. But it was the book that debuted that week, and even fiction writers can make the connection. In summary, the prize belongs to the whole Oak Tree family. There is no way I could have won this award – besting books from St. Martin’s/Minotaur (2), Busted Flush Press, and Cherokee McGhee – without the support and encouragement of Oak Tree and its authors. This was truly a team effort.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tell Us About Your Book Launch Parties!

OTP author Ed Draugelis, whose novel, COLD WATER, is in production now has asked for ideas about launch parties. He says he has the place and some co-hosts and media lined up, but is looking for more tips and ideas for his novel's debut.

Sounds like he's on the right track to me...but what can we all suggest to him for this special event?

Billie Johnson

PS...this cover is not final...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Covers and Puerto Vallarta

Sunny here.
I just went over to our website and checked out the Mystery Catalogue on the right. Wow, I'm blown away by all the new covers!

The site is still under construction after some mishaps, but I can't wait to see more covers to come.

Okay, about Puerto Vallarta. . .my camera is being stubborn and won't let me download my best photos. I'm trying to get a techy guy to help me. So, I'm holding off on the post. Although, I will tell you this, the place is beautiful and I can't wait to return on the Mystery Cruise and connect up with some wonderful writers I met during my visit. Here's just a few shots:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ideas, And Where They Come From

Where do you get your ideas?

That’s a question writers hear all the time. The simple truth is, people (all people) are constantly bombarded with creative seed-germs. The difference is, writers use their imagination to transform these seeds into something more while others take them for granted.

There’s nothing magic in the process. Ideas, and their source material, are all around us. A snatch of overheard conversation. The appearance or action of a particular person. An article in a newspaper or magazine. Transformation begins when we ask the question, “what if…”

For instance, arsenic and chloroform both play a part in Fallen From Grace (coming soon from Oak Tree Press), which involves a 19th century sheriff whose dull small town routine is upset by murder.

In my other life as a genealogist, I scour a lot of old newspapers. It was in these I discovered both compounds were readily available to the public in the 19th century, as were cocaine, opium, mercury and a host of other chemicals we now know for their harmful aspects. Our ancestors were more blasé in their attitude toward these compounds for which they found a host of uses.

The use of chloroform as anesthetic became common after 1853 when it was administered to Queen Victoria for the delivery of Prince Leopold. Anyone with a quarter could buy a quantity at the corner store and it was used for such routine purposes as removing stains from carpets and quelling bees in a hive.

On the darker side, addicts also discovered they could get a “buzz” from inhaling it. And it wasn’t long before it became an aid to suicide.

As to arsenic, we know its deadly potential. But in the 19th century it was a common ingredient in over-the-counter medications and had many household uses, including as a skin cleanser and laxative. Those probably aren’t historic precedents anyone wants to continue.

They did, however, stimulate my imagination and provide crucial elements for the novel.

As Joseph Conrad so aptly put it, “Only in men’s imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence. Imagination, not invention, is the supreme master of art as of life.”

Oak Tree Press Author Mike Orenduff Wins LEFTY!

The news is out at Mike Orenduff's novel, THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED EINSTEIN has won the Lefty!

EINSTEIN is the third in the Pot Thief series...and a fourth in the series launched in Santa Fe yesterday...THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED ESCOFFIER!

What a happy day...I'll remember this for a long, long time!

Billie Johnson,

Saturday, March 26, 2011

OTP Adds to Ebook Catalogs...Again!

Our eBook designer, Jim from L-L Publications sent back some more files...textblocks now ready for their E-BOOK DEBUT! So, I got busy and prepped the cover images and uploaded the whole shootin' match to Pubit (for the NOOK) and Dawn will be doing the same at the Kindle dashboard any moment now.

The latest titles are:

Fairytales are Fragile by Cindy Ladage

Fighting Crime with Some Day and Lenny by Keith Bettinger

Media Blitz by Joe Nowlan

These join our previously published in the NOOK catalog...

A Case of Infatuation by W.S. Gager

A Case of Accidental Intersection by W.S. Gager

An Affinity for Murder by Anne White

An Axe to Grind by F. M. Meredith

Days on the Beach by John Taylor

Fools Rush In by Sunny Frazier

Gumbo Justice by Holli Castillo

In Franklin's House by Beverly Lauderdale

Land of a Thousand Dances by John Taylor

Lingering Spirit by Marilyn Meredith

No Evidence of a Crime by S. Connell Vondrak

No Sanctuary by F. M. Meredith

The Electric Sewer by Trebor Nehoc

Night Watch by Mary Montague Sikes

The Fat Lady Sings by Kit Sloane

The Last of the Railroad Police by Carl Moen

The Magicians by Kit Sloane

The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein by J. Michael Orenduff
The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy by J. Michael Orenduff
The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras by J. Michael Orenduff

Great covers...great novels...if you missed one of these, here's your opportunity to enjoy it from the ease and convenience of your NOOK or other E-Reader Device.

Our goal, of course, is to have all our in-print paper books available as E-Books, and we are progressing toward that goal. By my count, we need one more title up to be eligible for the Apple Store...that should be terrific exposure.

Billie Johnson
Publisher, Oak Tree Press

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Conference You All Can Get To

Time is running out for the Early Bird registration fee for the Public Safety Writers Association's Conference . This is not only a friendly conference, you'll see a lot of Oak Tree Press folks there, including our publisher, Billie Johnson.

Everyone is friendly and there are plenty of interesting and informative presentations to keep you occupied. Take a look at some of the planned presentations at the website. We'll also have some panels on editing, promotion and other topics.

March 31st is the last day for the lowest rate. Don't miss out. Oh, and the registration fee includes three of the most delicious and filling lunches you'll get at any conference. You can pay for your companion's three lunches and they can hang out at the conference if they so desire.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Visiting EPICon in Williamsburg

 Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the EPICon event in nearby Williamsburg. Getting to visit with our publisher Billie Johnson was a special treat. She did an outstanding job as a member of a publisher's panel. Also, it was nice to see Mike Orenduff and watch him handle discussion with gentlemanly grace on a unique panel of authors with diverse interests.                                                                              

It was interesting to learn what types of promo items work best for conferences. Bookmarks and post cards got high marks from publisher panelists. Business cards with e-mail addresses, web site and blog site addresses were especially important giveaways.

Items that people use were highly recommended. After all, they don't throw away fans on a hot day. One panelist recalled how people lined up when an author gave away luggage tags. Often authors are encouraged to send things for a conference. If you aren't going, don't send items because they will get thrown away at the end. Also, be sure that your handouts are appropriate for the group.

Since I had little idea of what this conference was about, I was glad I could check it out after only a short drive from my home. This event was much smaller than I expected it to be since e-books are becoming such an important part of the market. I expect the conference will be larger next year. I was proud that Billie and Mike were outstanding contributors to this year's event.

Congratulations to Mike for winning the best mystery award and to Marilyn Meredith and Beverly Lauderdale for being finalists at EPICon.!

Mary Montague Sikes

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Angel Lost Blog Tour

I'm hoping that Mike Orenduff will come online soon and post about Epicon and the awards ceremony. This is the first one I've missed since the beginning. I was a finalist in the same category as Mike's, but no I didn't stay away because I knew Mike was going to win.

The con was held in Williamsburg Virginia and it was just too complicated to fly there. Back in our younger years we'd be willing to change flight so many times and rent a car to drive from Norfolk to Williamsburg, but all that stuff is getting harder. And at least I didn't have to embarrass myself like I did last year trying to wrestle Mike's trophy away from him. (In case anyone is worried, it was done in jest and for picture-taking purposes.) I love Mike's Pot Thief books and he deserves every award he gets for them--and there have been plenty.

Though I do have quite a few in-person events planned for the upcoming months, two were cancelled, Mayhem in the Midlands and the Jane Austen Fest. I've found substitutes, the Jackass Mail Run (that's in my own backyard), and Killer Nashville this summer.

What I'm doing right now is a blog tour, and if you're interested, visit my blog for the stops.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Pot Thief Wins!

Greetings from historic Williamsburg Virginia!

EPICON has been great...lots of informative panels and excellent networking. The conference hotel's setting is in a woodland, lots of evergreen trees and others that still need a little warm weather to leaf out...still a breathtaking scene.

Mary Montague Sikes lives in this neighborhood, so she joined the event today, and even took me on a personal tour of the historic area. Huzzah!

And, as the headline says, Mike Orenduff's THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED PTOLEMY took top honors in the Mystery Novel category.

So, tomorrow I head for home...very tired, but also very happy. What a thrill that three OTP books were finalists! And amid some formidable competition.

Seems as though the EPIC board is cooking up something special for next years meeting...details are TBA.

Billie Johnson

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Catching Up on the Classics

What defines or constitutes a “classic” book is open to debate and individual choice. We’ll be here all month debating the proper use and definition of “classic” when applied to a book, music, movie, etc. I’m afraid the word gets so overused at times that it may have lost its impact.

But regardless of your definition, I’ve been catching up lately on allegedly classic books I should have read by now. This is actually a bit embarrassing, especially in one particular case: I recently realized that somehow I’d neglected to read Dashiell Hammett’s “The Dain Curse.”

Given that I’m a mystery author—and consider Hammett to be among the giants of detective-mystery literature—this is like being a rock ‘n’ roll fan and suddenly realizing you never got around to checking out “Abbey Road.’

So somewhat red-faced, I can now report that what some consider Hammett’s second best novel (behind only “The Maltese Falcon”) is indeed classic-esque, if anything is.

I’m thinking that next on my “catch up” reading list will be Kenneth Fearing’s “The Big Clock.” Less well known than Hammett, Fearing seems to have a loyal following and his work has been brought to my attention more than once. Has anyone read him? What are your thoughts?

And while we’re at it, are there any other potential classics you’ve overlooked but then finally caught up with?

Any that made you ask yourself, “How did I miss this one?”



Saturday, March 5, 2011

And the Promotion Begins for Angel Lost

My blog tour began on Tuesday at

When you're on a blog tour it's imperative to visit each blog all through the day and acknowledge comments people have made. Unfortunately, many people on tours don't realize how important that is.

There was an interesting review that caused all kinds of controversy (I thought it was fun) and you can see the rest of the places I'll be.

Also this past Wednesday, hubby and I headed out to Ridgecrest where I gave a talk to the Ridgewriters, a chapter of California Writers Club.

Thanks to Kit Sloane and Mike Orenduff posting reviews on plus my promotion efforts on Facebook and other places, my numbers on Amazon have dropped to 436,183. (Of course they probably will change, but that's not bad for only being on Amazon for a short time. In case you don't know, the lower your numbers the better.)

The official in-person launch for Angel Lost will be the last Saturday of the month in a small used book store called Books Off Main in Porterville from 1-4. I notified the newspaper and given them an article, and guess what? My article came out in the paper along with a picture of the cover of Angel Lost--which I love, by the way. So what I did worked, you might try it. Write an article for you local newspaper in third person and they just might use it.

More about what's happening in April when I post at the end of this month.

Blog tour info, stops for last week and next:

Tuesday, March 1
Book reviewed and giveaway at
The Book Connection
Wednesday, March 2
Guest blogging at The Hot Author Report
Thursday, March 3
Guest blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner
Friday, March 4
Guest blogging at Ginger Simpson’s “Dishin’ It Out”
Monday, March 7
Book trailer featured at If Books Could Talk
Tuesday, March 8
Guest blogging at Thoughts in Progress
Wednesday, March 9
Interviewed at Blogcritics
Thursday, March 10
Book spotlighted at The Plot
Book spotlighted at Books, Products and More!
Friday, March 11
Character interviewed at The Plot

Marilyn aka F.M. Meredith

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mark Wahlberg

Julio (my husband, for those who don't know), has been getting a lot of extra work on t.v. and movies down here in N.O.. He has managed to give copies of my book, Gumbo Justice, to the director of the Green Lantern, and to a few casting agents. Yesterday, he was an extra on the film Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg, and he happened to be in a scene with him.

During a lull, Julio told him that his wife had a present for him and gave him a copy of my book. He even told him he would make a great Shep, the lead male in the novel. Later, Julio saw Mark Wahlberg sitting in the car (he was in the car for the scene, driving up to a boat), reading my book.

It was all pretty exciting. I said as long as he doesn't leave a bad review on Amazon, I consider it a win. Even if he doesn't like it, at least somebody might see him reading it and decide to purchase it.

Friday, Julio is shooting Looper with Bruce Willis....

Holli Castillo
Gumbo Justice
Jambalaya Justice coming 2011