Saturday, March 31, 2012

Greetings from Left Coast Crime!!

Just a few lines before I am off to join the OTP authors at the pre-Banquet cocktail hour and we are all sending out positive vibes for Sally Carpenter's book, which is among the nominees.

Sunny (shown here looking amazingly fresh) is off dining with a couple of potential OTP authors...she is a woman of steel! I wilted hours ago!!

The conference has been many interesting authors. We are really delighted with the potential that has come out of this conference.

Not pictured here are Steve Scarborough and Sally Carpenter. Also, Clark Lohr is here, but these pics are compliments of his talent and skill with a camera, though so far we don't have a self-portrait from him.

It may be a cliche...but nonetheless I wish you were here!

Billie Johnson

Friday, March 30, 2012

For Oak Tree's Western Writers (and readers)

Here's a site I just heard about. Those interested in Westerns might want to check it out.


J.r. Sanders12:25pm Mar 30
New ezine for Western fans. As they describe it: "FIRES ON THE PLAIN is an eZine for Western fiction, interviews, and articles.
At FIRES ON THE PLAIN, we believe the Western is not dead. The genre is thriving, and there are still new voices to be heard, old voices to be heard from again, and more ways to look at our history and learn from it."

Not a whole bunch there yet - it's fairly new - but looks promising!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


(Jason had trouble posting, so I'm giving him a hand--Sunny)

Jason Hunt here. This is my first time to post on the OTP Blog. My first western, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S GUNFIGHT, is coming out in May, so I thought I ought to introduce myself.

Where to begin.... Well, I wrote my first short story when I was pretty little, and I showed it to my father. He was delighted and paid me a quarter for it. I asked him if he'd pay me a quarter for another story. He said "yes" so I wrote another. And another. And another. Nevermind the tooth fairy, I was raking it in without having to tie a string to a doorknob!

I kept writing stories until one day, I was helping a neighbor clean out his garage and came across an old beat-up guitar. He said he was just going to throw it out and that I could have it if I wanted. So I took it, went home and was hooked. By the time I graduated from college, I had decided I was going to move to Nashville to write country music.

I arrived in Guitar Town the same week as Garth Brooks. :-) I got a job tending bar and he got a job selling Western boots. I even drove over to his store to buy my first pair of boots. As you might have guessed, Garth's career took a slightly different trajectory than mine.

While I was knocking around Music Row, I met and married my wife Cindy. Our first daughter, Angie, arrived a year later, and it wasn't long before I realized the songwriting life wasn't going work for us. So I went back to school for a Masters and worked as an adjunct faculty member teaching lit and writing classes. And at the same time I got back into writing fiction.

I started out writing hardboiled detective stories. I had written a mountain of detective stories and two novels when Sunny mentioned she was looking for Westerns. I have always been a huge Western fan and I had always wanted to write a book set in the old ghost town of Shakespeare, New Mexico. This seemed like the perfect opportunity.

And so A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S GUNFIGHT was born. I hope y'all take a look when it comes out in May!

Jason Hunt
Author of A Midsummer Night's Gunfight
Coming this May from Wild Oaks Press

SCBWI Workshop

Yesterday I attended a SCBWI (Society for Children Book Writers and iIllustrators ) workshop on Picture Books in Ventura, CA. It was my first, and I was amazed at the talent in the room and the depth of the discussion.

One of the most interesting discussions was about "younging down" an idea for children. This is not "dumbing down" a story idea, which is demeaning and discounts the basic understanding children have about life. It is taking an idea and making it relevant to a child and his world in terms he can relate to and appreciate. In writing for adults, we do not need to consider the age of the reader; in writing for children, it is very much an issue. But to merely give children "fluff" and not relate real issues that they face, we miss an opportunity to help them explore their world in a meaningful way. This is not to say that we should hit children with the full impact of the adult world, but they are capable of relating and understanding stories about issues that they face in their everyday lives. It also allows the parent an opportunity to explore these issues with their child.

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Spenser out shortly

I'm still not sure how I feel about this (sorta/kinda like it) but there will be a new Spenser novel out soon. Ace Atkins will be writing the book. The cover will proclaim it as “Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby’’ while billing it as “A Spenser Novel by Ace Atkins.’’

Here's a good article about this that ran in the Boston Globe recently. I'll probably get the book and read it. Interesting if a bit ... well, strange? Weird? What do you think?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Epic Award

I promise I'll quit bragging soon, but today my eldest daughter sent me this congratulatory bouquet.

I thought I'd show the Epic award and the flowers off at the same time.

My plan is to take the award with me to book and craft festivals, library talks, etc. plus copies of Lingering Spirit. Possibly the award will entice people to buy the book.

Next up for many of us is Left Coast Crime, and no I'm not taking the award there--Lingering Spirit isn't a mystery. Besides I can only lug just so much stuff by myself on the train.

I am truly looking forward to seeing many OTP authors and our illustrious publisher---who I just had a great time with at Epicon.

Now, I'll step off stage for awhile and enjoy looking at my award and bouquet.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Traveling Down the Hero's Journey

This week I'm guest blogging on Savvy Authors about how writers can use the hero's quest/journey motif in mysteries, and how my character goes on the journey in my book.'s-Journey-by-Sally-Carpenter

Sally Carpenter
"The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper"
Eureka! Award nominee
The president of Epic, Anne Manning, and a delighted me.

After so many years being a finalist, the Susan Lucci syndrome was finally broken and I won an Eppie!

This whole event started out with problems. Hubby couldn't go because at the last minute we had a dreadful problem with our water pump. (When you have your own well, that's a big problem.) My airline trip was not good--I almost missed my transfer in Houston, not nearly enough time and way too far for this old lady to go and if it hadn't been for a kind lady who could see I was in stress and put me in a wheel chair and took me as far as she could go and then made sure one of those motorized carts was waiting for me, I'd never have made it.

I reached San Antonio starving, but checked into the hotel and conference and then ate a late breakfast/lunch.

Epic had a welcome party complete with more food later and that took care of dinner. Had a wonderful time catching up with friends I haven't seen for a long while.

The conference was great. I gave a presentation on blogs and blog tours which was well received. Friday night, a lot of us went on the river cruise--enjoyable and later I had dinner with friends including Billie and her cousin, Scarlett. Good food, good conversation.

I let everyone know that I would not be winning an Eppie, because I never won.

Saturday, more presentations, lots of time to visit, then the banquet. Wonderful food, more great conversation. Sat with Billie and her cousin. I was asked to give out some of the awards, agreed, it's fun because you read off the names of the nominees and their book titles, get to open the envelope, read the winners name and hand out the award.

Right before my turn was the category my book, Lingering Spirit was in. I must admit I had a case of nerves even though I knew I wouldn't win.

Then the impossible happened, my name and the book was named. Wow! Unbelievable. I hurried to the platform, was helped up the steps and accepted the most beautiful Eppie! I thanked Billie because she entered the book--I'd given up on entering ever again. What else I said, I have no idea.

I was just sorry Hap couldn't be there to enjoy the moment with me.

I handed out my card and bragged about my win to everyone I came across in the airport--again the time was far too short, but I asked to have a cart waiting for me and I was the first to be dropped off at an elevator and given directions as to where to go next (a train, get off at the first stop) and I made it in plenty of time--and to my seat mates on the plane and those I waited in line wth.

Woo hoo! I'm still floating on air.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Marilyn Meredith Wins EPIC Award!!

NEWSFLASH from San Antonio....LINGERING SPIRIT by Marilyn Meredith won the EPIC award for Spiritual/Metaphysical Romance.

She is still in the banquet room accepting congratulations, but I am sure she will post soon, giving all details.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Guest Blogging

Today, and for the rest of the week, I'm a guest on Morgan Mandel's Sweet Not Spicy blog. I'm discussing my latest book, A Rainbow for Christmas and am excited to be her guest. It seems I always learn something when I'm a guest as well as when I'm hosting someone.

One commenter today mentioned keeping a notebook next to her bed, so she can jot down thoughts and ideas that come to her in the night. That reminded me that I once kept a notebook there, so I could write down the dreams I can never recall in the morning. I don't know what happened, but I no longer have that notebook.I do have a book called my dream diary that has a few notations in it. I wonder how many of you take notes from your dreams. Do you use them in your writing?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Attention Mystery Writers!

I'm going to take my assigned time on the OTP Blog to urge all the OTP mystery writers to consider coming to the PSWA conference this year. You won't be sorry.

We have so many experts who come as attendees and speakers it's a perfect place to do some real networking and find out how things really work.

You can check out the website and see who are main speakers are: but we also have panels on writing and promotion as well. Anyone who signs up before June 1 and would like to be on a panel will be.

Another plus is our publisher, Billie Johnson, will also be there.

And like Left Coast Crime, if you can't come you can send your promo items to PSWA Jack Miller 5303 E. Twain #256, Las Vegas NV 89122

This is a small conference with only one track. You'll have plenty of opportunity to meet the experts that you want.

The price of the conference includes three wonderful lunches.

I hope to see a bunch of you there.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Meeting my Readers

I met nine energetic children, ages 6 and 7, for a workshop on how to write and illustrate your own story last Wednesday at Whiz Kids, a children's toy store in San Luis Obispo. Talented and enthusiastic , they pitched right in, making their own books, writing and illustrating their own stories. We talked about where story ideas come from, what are the elements of a story (beginning, middle and end), catchy titles and much more. I brought some samples of my own books including "Ants on a Log" which is now carried by Whiz Kids. Three more book making and writing sessions will follow on successive Wednesdays. I look forward to sharing ideas and the love of reading and writing stories with these delightful children. And of course, I look forward to reading what they have written.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Jeana's sending out all these fabulous press releases for people attending the upcoming Tucson Festival of Books and wow! am I ever envious. Wish I were attending as I hear its fabulous. I think Western Writers of America usually announces the Spur Awards winners and finalists around the same time.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Sunny here.

Billie and I are going to attend Left Coast Crime in Sacramento at the end of the month. We plan to have a table to promote OTP. What we need are freebie items to promote all of you not able to attend. We want to make our table colorful and enticing.

So, please send me anything you've got: pens, bookmarks, postcards, and Wendy, some of those clever notepads. I've got my prescription bottles filled with candy hearts to promote Where Angels Fear (and if you don't know the tie-in, you haven't read the book!).

PS Wendy--since we didn't use your notepads on the conference at sea, I gave them to the planners to put one in every bookbag. You will be getting BIG publicity and hopefully a boost in book sales!

Send items to my snail mail address: 308 Toomey St., Lemoore, CA 93245

Thanks ahead of time!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Selling Books in a Depressed Economy

I’ve heard rumors that the economy is improving, although you couldn’t prove it to me by looking around my neighborhood. I live in middle class suburbs in what is considered the metro New Orleans area. We live in an area not hit that hard by Katrina, but we’ve seen a lot more people moving away over the last two years, either because they’ve lost their homes to foreclosure or are in danger of losing their homes.

We’ve also noticed a lot more people getting served with papers by the sheriff, which in our neighborhood usually means service of foreclosure or service of a credit card company lawsuit for defaulting on credit card payments. These are working homeowners, many own their own small businesses, the others are mostly professionals. We have school teachers, police officers, managers of businesses, executives, and office workers, among other professions.

Watching the financial troubles of people I know unfold I have to feel sorry for them, but I also have to wonder how this troubled economy is affecting book sales.

How can you expect people to pay for books when they can’t make their house note or credit card payments? And when people do get a little extra money, how can you convince them that your book, out of all of the books out there, is the one they should spend their luxury dollars on?

I think pricing is a part of it–I know I’ll wait for the new Evanovich or Sandford or Patterson until someone has it on ebay or an individual seller has it on Amazon for cheap–but even if you price reasonably, you’re still in competition with other similarly priced books.

I don’t know if I have a solution, although I do have some ideas. One thing is to make sure that everything I do to promote my books is done with the same care and thought I put into writing them in the first place, so that people who haven’t read them not only think the books sound interesting, but also think I'm probably an articulate writer.

Another idea is to appeal to as large an audience as logically fits my book. While I wouldn’t try to promote my mystery series on a non-fiction science website, I might try it on a romance writers site, because my novels do have an element of romance in them. Or I might try to appeal to sites devoted to thrillers or sub-genres other than just straight mysteries, to try to grab a larger audience. I can target an audience, but I can make it a broader targeted audience than just mystery lovers.

My final idea is to make sure I take great pains to be professional and courteous when promoting, whether in person or online. If someone makes a face or a comment–especially a comment such as they don’t read mysteries or something like that– I refrain from saying what I’m really thinking. While this person might never be one of my customers, others standing nearby might be. For online promotion, I always try to remember to thank the person for the opportunity and for any review they may have written, regardless of whether I agree with what they've written or not.

I have no proof that any of these ideas actually increase sales. Ultimately, none of us will ever know for certain if some particular action we took caused someone to decide to spend his or her limited budget on one of our books. We can guesstimate by comparing promotional opportunities we took advantage of to how our book sold at that time, but for all we know the book we sell today could be the result of something we did months ago, something someone else did, or pure randomness.

I guess as long as we’re doing something to try to stand out from the crowd, we can feel satisfied that we’ve done what we can to try to snag those limited book purchase dollars out there waiting to be spent.

And who knows? Maybe the rumors are true and the economy is actually improving.

Holli Castillo

Jambalaya Justice
Gumbo Justice