Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lingering Spirit is a Finalist for An Epic Award

Lingering Spirit is a romance with a touch of the supernatural.

It is now a finalist in the Supernatural/Metaphysical category in the Epic awards.

Lingering Spirit has a long history. The story is based on something that actually happened in our family long ago--and in fact, the book itself was written a long time ago. Then it was published as an e-book with a publisher that will not be named--it's enough for me to say that for various reason I pulled the book.

When I became acquainted with Billie Johnson and she'd published my Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel (which was actually #5 in the series), she asked me if I had any other books. And of course, I gave her Lingering Spirit which became a trade paperback and then more recently appeared on Kindle, within the right time frame to be entered in the Epic contest.

I've had other books final in the Epic contest--some up against Mike Orenduff's wonderful Pot Thief series--and I've never won. Maybe this time will be a charm, who knows.

In any case, I'm thrilled. It's great to be a finalist again.


Monday, September 26, 2011

News Flash from Bouchercon

Boy, I really don't like coming in on top of the news about LINGERING SPIRIT! But I need to share a little about our trip to Bouchercon!

Jeana and I arrived about noon, and headed straight for the dealers room. Along the way, we bumped into Beth, the conference organizer for Killer Nashville, and had a chat with her. Also we spent a lot of time perusing the goodie tables and picking up interesting things, and notices of upcoming events.

In the dealer room, we chatted with several booksellers and Jeana handed out our catalog ... our BEAUTIFUL catalog. And presto! There was Radine Trees Nehring and her husband!

Then we connected with Mike Black and Shauna, who passed on celebrity bowling (I think!) to spend a little time with Jeana and me in the hospitality room.

It was a fast trip, but excellent. Now we are scheming to see if we can pull off attending LOVE IS MURDER!

Bouchercon is HUGE, but this one seemed really well-organized and well-laid out. This is a "movable feast" conference, so when it comes to your area, attend!

Billie Johnson

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fun with Floods!

Water coming to create my underground pool!
Water leaving to create my moldy basement!

I’ve been thinking about things like earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornados, and forest fires.  Well, actually, I’ve been obsessed with floods lately especially since a recent one in my area turned my basement into a swimming pool, then into a swamp, and now it’s just damn damp with accompanying mold and mildew and bugs, and…  Well you don’t want to know.

I write a lot about disasters in my work.  Since they’re on my mind now, I thought I’d give consideration to why I include them and how I use them.

  1. There’s nothing like a really good wild fire to spice up a book.

Obviously, you say.  But it’s got to be more than that.  Natural disasters do make a read exciting, but they need to grow out of both the plot and the setting.  Since I write about small towns, these cataclysmic events seem to emerge naturally from the setting.  Drought in an area can become a raging wild fire chasing people out of their homes and creating, well, romance for me.  In Dumpster Dying a wildfire chases my protagonist Emily Rhodes along with her friend Donald into an alligator-infested slough.  Should they become shrimp on the Barbie or bouillabaisse with the gators?  Or just kiss before dying?  A writer can use a natural disaster in any setting, as long as the groundwork is purposefully laid so that the disaster works with the plot and/or the writer uses it to say something about the character(s). 

  1. Disasters are opportunities for character development

In my example above, the reader may have suspected Donald was romantically inclined toward Emily although I suspect Donald himself was surprised by his actions (the guy is not too in touch with his feelings).  Put a character in a life and death situation and a flagging libido is set aflame.  For Emily, the presentation of a fire brings out her courageous side, an aspect of her personality she is discovering as the story evolves.  A writer can make the emergence of a personality trait especially significant if the disaster is one the character is particularly terrified of such as heights or fear of drowning.  Using the disaster to throw this challenge at the character produces great tension and will get the reader rooting for the individual to conquer this fear.

  1. Bad guys think they can harness catastrophe

A tornado in one of my manuscripts seems to be just the right moment for the villain to take advantage of the heroine and her lover.  It’s a great writer’s ploy to have the protagonist encounter the disaster paired with the evil workings of the killer.  It gives the killer a moment of glee to think he or she can have their way.  To the reader it seems as if evil will triumph, but Mother Nature can turn in a second.  Not only can one not fool Mother Nature, but one ought not to mess with her either.  A disaster can become the “Black Moment” for the protagonist, but in the hands of a writer who chooses to align the protagonist with cataclysmic events, it can bring down the villain.  My villain couldn’t swim, so his pursuit of the protagonist in a boat damaged by the storm is his undoing.     

      4.  Humor comes after

Don’t think because you write humor that you can’t use disasters to your advantage.  The aftermath of a storm, fire, or flood is the perfect place to let your reader breath a sigh of relief and laugh at the same time.  In the sequel to Dumpster Dying, Emily and her detective friend Stanton Lewis have abandoned their car because a storm has dropped a tree limb on the hood.  They prepare to walk to shelter when Lewis notices Emily is not beside him.  Emily, who is barely over five feet tall, has stepped into water up to her waist.  When he asks her in exasperation what she is doing, she replies, “swimming.”

      I’ll bet you can think of other ways disasters add to the story.  I’d add more but I’ve got to buy another bottle of Clorox and get to the basement.  Now where did I put that bug spray?  Die, you little bugger, Die!

Lesley A. Diehl, author of Dumpster Dying  “I like to put my characters in harm’s way.”

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Your Promo Plan

Laurie McLean, an agent with Larsen Pomada Agency, was one of the main speakers at the Central Coast Writers Conference. She had a lot to say about promotion and the promotion of e-books. She also helps people with their promotion plan.

Here are some of the tips she gave:

Decide what your goals are. Check your publishing contracts. See if you have back lists title, books that you wrote but never got published that could become ebooks.

Develop your brand. Decide what you unique brand is. Make yourself stand out. Always put your name in the labels or tags on your blog.

If your going to prepare your ebook manuscript for posting on Smashwords, Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble PubIt, format your book correctly for each ebook distributor. Select the best ebook sites. Create POD copies for printed books. (Frankly, I'm quite happy to have a publisher who does this for me, yay, OTP. I have enough trouble finding time to write two books a year and do a good job promoting them.)

Be sure to have a good cover--pay for someone to do it. (Again, aren't we fortunate to have a great publisher who does the cover?)

Create cover and inside blurbs.

Solicit endorsements.

Post your ebooks. (Can take a long time.)

Use effective online and offline marketing to increase sales potential.

You must have your own blog and website.

Book reviews especially form online reviewers.

Guest blogs.

Comments on others' blogs.

Video book trailers

Use social media.

Boodreads/Library Thing, be an active part of these communities.

Business Cards. (They are my favorites, I handed out close to 100 at the CCWC and CC Book Festival this weekend.)



Press Release--she said this was old school and prefers HARO.

Amazon Author Central (If you haven't done this one yet, be sure to put it on your to-do list.)

Kindle Boards (Be careful with this, they aren't happy about authors' promoting, but do have special places you can do it.)

Be flexible.

You decide where you are going to do your marketing. (Not all things work for all people--figure out what you enjoy and what actually seems to have results for you.)

Be yourself, be nice, be a friend, don't spam, just interact.

If you ever have the chance to hear Laurie McLean speak or take a workshop from her, do it, you won't be sorry.

(My comments are in the parenthesis.)

Books by Marilyn

Blogging 101

After going to Central Coast Writers Conferences and hearing about blog etiquette, I just have to comment here on what a blog should do.

This blog is for Oak Tree Press and when we post we need to do the best job ever.

A blog should have something interesting to say, give a report about something that happened, certainly should promote new books by Oak Tree Press. Reviews from Oak Tree authors would be most appropriate on this blog. Authors love promotion tips.  A blog post should have between 200 and 500 words.

Every blog should have content and not just a URL to take someone away from the site.

If you want someone to go look at another blog you're on, fine, but first write something of interest, at least something about the blog, why you're there, anything that will be of interest, then put the URL.

If you have photos to share, put them up, they always perk up a blog.

When you do post, promote the blog. Go to Facebook and all the other places you frequent and let them know you put something new on the OTP blog so others will come and read the blog.

Hoping this will help the OTP blog to be a place readers frequent because of the content that appears here.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Advance PR

I'm not sure when my next one, CLOSE-UP, will be released, but I already have great, oversize postcards with the cover and the synopsis on the back with a favorite reviewer of the series quoted. I just put "Oak Tree Press, Fall 2011" at the bottom. This way I can give them out at the local events I have scheduled and, hopefully, whet some readers' appetites! It's good to order these postcards as early as you're able because, believe me, when they advertise "Overnight," they're being very optimistic!

Also don't forget alumnae magazines. My college puts out a beauty and was happy to share my book news with a bit of info on the new one to come. Plus they added the fact that my husband was named Professor of the Year at St. Mary's College and we used to have "mixers" with St. Mary's boys way back then and HATED to go! We thought they were so geeky! Now they're co-ed, too. How times change.

So think ahead and do what you can for yourself and your new stories!

PS my daughter Annie Sperling, a production director in Hollywood, does my covers and we had fun with this one. It's part photograph and part pure painting with a dear friend of ours, Kim Andersen, acting the part of my protagonist, Margot O'Banion. I don't know how Annie manages to put these together, but I do love them and appreciate her time and energies spent on them. She works 17-hr days and somehow finds the time for her mum!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bloggin' Fever

I'm guest blogging at Augie Corner and we're chatting about teen idols. Who was the inspiration for Sandy Fairfax, the hero of my OTP mystery "The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper"? Find out at

Sally Carpenter

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I interviewed Billie over at Buried Under Books. Part II tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Central Coast Book Festival

It was a beautiful day in San Luis Obispo!

Last year at the festival it was so windy that some of the umbrellas blew away and had to be chased down before they hurt someone, they did wipe out a couple of display tables.

The good weather brought lots of people out to see what was going on in front of the Old Mission. We were in a good spot and I had lots of visitors and good sales.

It was fun to chat with other OTP authors and see some perform at the author readings. (They happened right across the way from us so we didn't miss out on any.) Sunny was a hit as was Susan Vondrak.

One key to selling is to engage with people walking by. I didn't stand up like I usually do because I had a bum knee--but that didn't stop me from smiling and urging people to come closer to take a look at my books. I handed out all the business cards I'd brought, and I came with lots.

I wasn't as pleased with the talk I gave--it was a long ways to walk on a bum knee, it was way too hot in the room, the person who spoke before me was reluctant to leave so I didn't really have the time I needed to set up and I felt rushed. I probably won't do that again.

Fortunately, my husband manned the table while I was gone and he even made two sales.

This is a great book festival, and if possible, I'd like to go again.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Packing Your Book Cart

Hi gang! Sunny here.

Tomorrow I leave for San Luis Obispo for the annual one-day book event. It's outdoors in front of the mission. Besides books, there's music, speeches and lots of tables to check out. People walk their dogs and the riverwalk right below is gorgeous.

So, what are the tricks to handling such an event? Everyone does it differently, but here's my tips:

The table. Tables can cost, but I'm a member of the Central Coast Sisters in Crime and they always assign me time to man the table. We sell each other's books while they are speaking or enjoying the rest of the event.

I have a boxy cart with wheels and a long handle my sister picked up at Costco. Many of us travel with these carrying cases. In it are copies of my mysteries and the Valley Fever anthology. Many of the coast people have ties with the Valley people. Nice crossover.

My books are bound in a "set" with raffia and small plastic grape clusters I found at Michael's. I lower the price to $20 for the set, more likely to make easy sales and don't have to worry about change.

I also have the usual business cards and my editor cards. I steal my name cards from panels at conferences, so I keep a few of those in my cart. I also have cardboard book holders to keep my books upright and on display. They fold up and are very useful. A friend got them for me.

My give-aways are astrology-themed pencils. I will sharpen them then snap off the points so children won't stab their eyes out. I'm not big on children, but I'm not out to maim them.

Sometimes, when I have my own table, I have an astrology throw that I cover the table with. This time I'm only taking an astrology cup and saucer to put business cards in. My friends get me astrology stuff as they come across it.

And, I have a wooden tray with a winery logo to set my books on. Although my books are in raisin country, the people on the coast have all sorts of wineries.

I also have my signing book out to collect addresses. Remember, I have another book coming out and these are my potential customers.

I'm bringing a few Oak Tree Press catalogs to hand out to bookstores. There are about 5 of us OTP authors meeting there for the day.

Would love to hear how some of you experienced authors handle signings. For you pre-published authors, start thinking in terms of what's ahead.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Conventions and Conferences

Seeing Jenna's post about she and Billie going to Bouchercon this weekend gave me a tinge of regret. Bouchercon is an experience every author should have. One thing people don't always realize is that Bouchercon is as much for fans--maybe even more--than it is for mystery writers.

Bouchercon is the biggest mystery event there is, meaning it has the biggest name mystery writers and the most people attending. I went to last year's in San Francisco and had a marvelous time. It can be a bit overwhelming because of the number of people.

Bouchercon is a great place to talk to other writers and meet fans--for an author with a small press it isn't the place to sell a lot of books. I didn't even try last year. My goal was to have a good time--and I did.

Left Coast Crime is also a convention--not quite as big or as intimidating as Bouchercon. Last year it was in New Mexico, and Oak Tree's own Michael Orenduff won the prestigious Lefty award. 2012's LCC is being held in Sacramento, and yes, I'm already signed up for that one.

Thrilller Writers have a convention too, so far it's always been in New York. 

Romance writers have two huge conventions every year, one put on by Romantic Times and the other by Romance Writers of America. I've never been so can't really comment on what they are like except to say I know both are really expensive to attend.

A conference is an event where you got to learn something. Though there are panels and speakers at conventions that impart wisdom, a lot of what's going on is a showcase for authors and that's why the fans go to see and hear their favorites.

A conference like PSWA is geared to help writers of all kinds, mystery, non-fiction, etc. It is a writers conference.

This weekend I'll be an instructor at the Central Coast Writers Conference in San Luis Obispo, my topics Mystery Writing 101, and The Importance of Setting, or Where the Heck Are We? Lots of stuff is going on around the conference too.

We'll be having dinner tonight with mystery authors Victoria Heckman and Sue McGinty and their significant others. Tomorrow the conference begins. Saturday is the day I give my classes, and that night there is a special party for all those who worked at the conference.

Sunday is the Central Coast Book and Author Festival where I'll have a table with my books--and a few other OTP authors will too. I'm giving a talk at 11 on Where I Get My Ideas.

So if you never knew before, that's the difference between a convention and a conference.

What you get out of any of these events is really up to you. It's important that you talk to everyone and not just hang out with friends. Have cards with your book cover on one side and information about you and your book on the other and give them out to everyone.

Those of you at Bouchercon, have a great time!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I love the posts Jeana is sending out about the signings and appearances OTP authors are doing. While I can't attend any of them, being a little off the beaten path, I enjoy the way they help me keep in touch.

I'm doing a signing at the local Hastings bookstore this Saturday. I'm going to try lassoing the people who come in to rent movies. Think it'll work?


Monday, September 12, 2011

Word's getting around

I'm guest blogging at Have a Marlis Day!, Marlis Day is an author who lives in Southern Indiana, not far from where my mystery, "The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper" is set. She graciously interviewed me for her blog and so far I have two comments from people interested in the book.

Last week the Acorn Newspapers in California ran an article about my book. Someone on the East Coast saw the story on the Internet and posted a link to her website,

The power of the Internet continues to amaze me, that people across the country can be in instant communication and authors can send out publicity coast to coast in minutes. Stay tuned!
Sally Carpenter

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I re-posted Keith Bettinger's post about 9/11 on my blog at

I wasn't planning on a guest blog but when I read Keith's post I emailed him and asked him for permission to re-post it because I found it so compelling, particularly from him.

Holli Castillo
Jambalaya Justice now available


Sunny here.

I was asked what an acquisitions editor does, so I wrote a sassy piece for the following site. Had much fun with the "Help Wanted" ad (fictional, of course).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Festival For All Ages in San Luis Obispo, CA

For the third year in a row, I'll be at the Central Coast Book and Author Festival in the San Luis Obispo Mission Plaza, Sunday September 18 from 10 am to 4 pm. Held each year by the Foundation for SLO County Public Libraries, this event features public readings, book sales and various workshops. Also included is a display at county libraries of handmade book art and illustrations for published books. I'll have a table at the festival selling my children books, will participate in the public readings and have had several of my handmade books and illustrations displayed at the public libraries.

Like many book festivals, I find it is great fun talking with the public, especially the children who stop by my table. I encourage them to write and illustrate their own stories and publish them. As part of that encouragement, I show them a book my 4 year old granddaughter Zoe, wrote and illustrated and a story of mine illustrated by another 6 year old little girl. This interaction also gives me ideas for new stories and allows me to see how these children react to my books and illustrations. I find that children are very honest critics. I'm looking forward to this year's festival. If you're in town, drop by, Beryl Reichenberg

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Devil's Kitchen

Kings River Life Magazine just gave a great review on Clark Lohr's "Devil's Kitchen" They are doing a giveway as well

Jambalaya Justice

Kathryn over at Mysteries Etc just posted a great review of Jambalaya Justice by Holli Castillo you need to go check it out .....

Possum Belly Queen

Terry Ambrose ( a contact and recent friend of mine) Just wrote a wonderful article on Possum Belly Queen by Robert O'Hanneson. Definately worth a read ....

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Waiting for TS Lee

Down here in N.O. we are stuck indoors for a few days, waiting to see what kind of flooding, power outages, and wind damage tropical storm Lee may cause. It started yesterday, the pelting rain and hail and blustery wind keeping me up all night, waiting for the telltale sound of the freight train we've been warned accompanies tornadoes.

The rest of the family slept just fine, blissfully unaware that I was up, alternating between watching the news alerts and peering out the window, searching for funnel clouds. The weather isn't so bad at the moment, breezy with sporadic rain, but the storm hasn't even reached the coast yet. When it strikes land, we'll be in for a little action, because N.O. is going to be on what is referred to as the "wet side" of the storm, east of where the storm makes landfall.

I'm trying to decide how to use the downtime. I have promotion to do for Jambalaya Justice, my writer sites to catch up on and organize, and paperwork for my daughter's school--where I'm PTO president--to complete.

With all of that, the main thing I feel like doing is working on number three in the series, Chocolate City Justice. Coincidentally, I was contacted last night through Facebook by the fiance of one of the police officer defendants convicted in a major Katrina police shooting. She wanted to know if I might be appointed to represent her fiance on the appeal, but since it's a federal conviction and I'm appointed for state court only I won't be. She mentioned he read Gumbo Justice in a few hours and she is getting Jambalaya Justice for him to read while he awaits sentencing. I also mentioned to her how I am working on the third book which takes place during the hurricane and how eager I was to make sure I accurately and fairly portrayed the struggles faced by the NOPD during that time, and she said she would be happy to pass any questions along to him or set up a meeting with him. It's definitely a small world.

Holli Castillo

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Writing is a Passion by Marva Dale

Since my retirement, I've concentrated on my love of writing.  My first published book came about as a fluke when I sent my query and manuscript to the wrong publisher.  Fortunately, the publisher liked my writing and now I have eight ebooks published through in the sexy romance genre, and written under my pen name of Deborah Merrell.  Now, under the nom de plume of Marva Dale, I'm proud to say I'm a new author with Oak Tree Press.  My new series, Death by the Decade, features a murder mystery within each decade, staring with my 1920s novel, Deah of a Flapper.  I really find it exciting as well as educating delving into the series and coming up with new story lines.  So far, I'm up to the '70s, and my working titles include Fatal Follies (30s), Dangerous Victory (40s), Blue Suede Kill (50s) and Decease Signs (60s).  
So, I've been writing, writing, writing!  Thankfully, I have a very understanding husband who encourages my passion, whether I'm writing as Deborah Merrell or Marva Dale.  If you'd like to find out more about my work please visit my website at:  Plus, you can follow me on Twitter @merrellspassion and FaceBook.  To  me, writing is a great passion and I do it because I love it!  And I'm just thrilled that others enjoy reading my works.  Salud and happy reading!  --Deborah Merrell/Marva Dale.
Morgen Bailey has posted an interview with me. I'm #113. She does great interviews and really knows how to draw one out.  Check it out here: