Sunday, September 30, 2012


Whenever I attend my book signing or other author event, I usually take along some bright colored paper to demonstrate folded book forms to children and sometimes adults. The children are more adventurous, especially the 7 though 10 year olds. Afterwards, they have a book they can take home to write a story or draw a picture in and hopefully remember me or my books.  There is an added advantage: while their child is making their book and writing their stories, the parents are looking at my OTP books and other materials on display. I also bring along balloons and some small stuffed animals which delight and attract the children.

Yesterday at my signing at Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay, one 10 year old sat down and spent a half an hour with me, folding, drawing and writing in her book. She decided on a Halloween theme and used my stuffed bat as a basis for her drawing. She called her book, Candy Bat, a most creative title. From time to time when she was stuck with her creation, she'd ask for help. I'd ask her if she wanted to use dialogue or prompt her with a question like, "And then what happened?" Fortunately, her mother was busy in the bookstore, so everyone was happy.

I enjoy talking with children and encouraging them to be creative either by writing stories, drawing or both. After all, these are the next generation of authors and artists. Beryl

Friday, September 28, 2012


A golden nugget in this week's Round-Up is info of a paying market for Western short stories. There's an ode to Pennsylvania and an announcement for October's blurb fest: paranormal authors. Find more buried treasures for savvy authors in the Round-Up.

 JOHN BRANTINGHAM, author of the soon to be published “Mann of War,” interviews Morgan St. James over at 

STEPHEN BRAYTON, author of the newly-released “Alpha,” discusses author reactions to critiques.

SALLY CARPENTER, author of “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper,” won a copy of “Gift of the Bouda” by Richard Farnsworh at the Big ARC Giveaway over at Buried Under Books:

LORNA COLLINS, author of “Ghost Writer,” hosts Marilyn Meredith over at 

LESLEY DIEHL, author of “Dumpster Dying,” compares cows to publishing (???): 

WILLIAM DOONAN (“American Caliphate”) asks “How much of an god are you?” 

 JOHN LINDERMUTH announced that “Fallen From Grace” and several other of his novels have found a home on the shelves of the Laurel, MD, Public Library. What an honor!
John also pens an ode to Pennsylvania at His story, “The Tempting of Tommy” is podcast over at Tales of the Old West. This is a paying venue, so dust off those Westerns, folks! 

MARJA MCGRAW, author of “Bogey Nights” and “Bogey's Ace in the Hole,” hosts Marilyn Meredith, who talks about what happens when a river floods (and a bit more): 

 More stops on MARILYN MEREDITH's “Raging Waters” blog tour: 

RADINE TREES NEHRING, author of Ozark mystery “A Fair To Die For,” will be signing at Steve's Books in Tulsa, OK, from 1-3 pm. on Oct 6. On Oct. 7, Radine takes part in the Fall Festival at Hobbs State Park in the visitors center from 1-4 pm.

MARY MONTAGUE SIKES spoke last Sunday at the “Meet the Author” book fair at the West Point Branch Library in Virginia. The Civil War was the theme, a tie in with Monti's book, “A Rainbow For Christmas.”

 MORGAN ST. JAMES has a You Tube trailer up for “Who's Got the Money” at http://youtube/TtF_k8NBYDY or direct link 

 BERYL REICHENBURG will be signing her children's book “The Mysterious Case of the Missing Birthday Cake” on Sept.29 from 2-4 at Coalesce bookstore in Morro Bay, CA.

Oak Tree authors made a fine showing at the all-genre blurbfest over at TBR.

Authors and the books they blurbed were: HOLLI CASTILLO: “Jambalaya Justice”

CAROL CRIGGER: “Three Seconds to Thunder”
LESLEY DIEHL: “Dumpster Dying”
WILLIAM DOONAN: “American Caliphate”

JACK EVERETTE and DAVID COLES: “The Back of Beyond”
SUNNY FRAZIER: “Where Angels Fear”
 JOHN LINDERMUTH: “Practice To Deceive”

 MORGAN ST. JAMES: “Who's Got the Money?”
In Oct. the blurbfest is for paranormal authors.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My First Blog

Is December the 21st going to be the end of the world as we know it? The Mayans are thought to have predicted it. Supposedly, Nostradamus foretold of a great tragedy somewhere around this time. People are flocking (no pun intended) to churches hoping to hedge their bets in case 'it' is the Rapture as described in the Bible. My own church has tripled in membership.

I have no idea, of course. But with all the hoopla in the media---2012 (the movie), Revolution (the TV show), documentaries on the History channel and so forth---it made me stop and take stock of my life. Just in case there is some truth to the prediction, I did not want to spend the rest of the time I have left doing the humdrum job I have had for the last twelve years and trying to fit a little writing into the spare time I have had between that boring job and taking care of my terminally ill father.

So, I quit. For the next year or so (if I make it through alive), I will be living off of my 401k, taking care of my parents and doing what I really love to do best...write.

Yes, I have jumped out of the frying pan and hopefully not right into the fire. It has been very scary, but very freeing at the same time. I am not completely looney. I have an offer to come back to that humdrum job within a year at the same pay and benefits if I happen to fall flat on my face. And, I have a novel coming out soon published by Oak Tree Press called Spooky Tells. It is my first book to be published without me having to pay for the pleasure.

My biggest handicap is that I am a novice at everything about being a writer except the writing itself. This is my first blog. I don't know how to tweet and I have just in the last few months built myself a face book page. I am trying to design myself a web page but I am failing miserably at the moment. If you were to pull up you would likely laugh. But I guarantee that it will be done right as soon as I can find someone around here (Northwest Georgia) to fix it for me!

So, now you know a little something about the newbie at OTP. Any and all tips are welcome. And, of course, if you want to buy Spooky Tells when it comes out, that would be very welcome as well.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Eenie, Meenie, How to Chose Your Publisher

Love my cows in Florida

Whether it's rural Florida or the Butternut Valley in upstate New York, it's country.

About a country gal with attitude!
Everyone agrees that the publishing industry is changing at the speed of light, but no one can predict for the individual writer wanting to get published what the best choice might be: agent and big publisher, small publisher, self-publishing.
I’m not going to discuss big publishers and their cumbersome requirement of having an agent before they look at your work. There wasn’t enough time in my life to do that for long, and this post has a similar urgency.  We want to get our work out to our readers soon.  Small presses are nimble enough to accomplish this.

I think it’s important to really know yourself to choose the right publishing venue.  If you’re a confident and adventurous soul who prefers to chart your own course, and you like doing things by yourself, then self-publishing is for you.  You can set your own schedule and decide if you want to hire an outside editor for your work.  You’ll have absolute control of the final manuscript and the cover.  You are the kind of person who enjoys seeking out clever ways of promoting your work, and you do this well.  You’re pretty much your own writer, editor, book designer, publicist and marketer.  You’re going it alone.  You love it that way.  No doubt for you.  Aside from what Amazon, Nook, Smashwords, Createspace, etc. take, the lion’s share will be yours.  And you might, like a very few others, make a boatload of money.  Too scary?  Try this.

Small Press Check List

When I talk to writers about small presses, I like to emphasize two things.  First, not all small presses are alike.  Do your homework to find out what they provide in the way of editing, publicity, or author input into cover design.  Second, researching the small press is most important only after you do a truthful assessment of what you as a writer need in your publisher.  Below is my recommended check list for accomplishing your writer’s self-assessment:

I am a shy person who enjoys writing.  I think I’m a good writer, but I’ve been told by my critique partner or writers’ group that I lack self-confidence;

I am willing to develop a marketing plan, but I may need some help doing this.  I have a presence on the web, but I know I need to do more.

My goal in writing is to write the best story I can, but I am open to making changes in my manuscript and will do so to strengthen my work.   

I like the idea of being able to talk to writers in a group to exchange ideas
about marketing as well as other issues in publishing.

I’m eager to get my work published, but don’t feel I can take the steps to do
this alone.       
I understand I must do most of my own marketing although I would like some support from my publisher.     

I need a personal relationship with my publisher, one where I can contact her and     
 expect a timely reply. 

I need my publisher to respect my opinions as a writer as I respect hers as the  publisher.

I’d like to share input about my book cover.     

I’m most interested in developing my career as a writer and having a publisher
who wants to grow me as an author.

I believe any small publisher would love to have a writer with most, if not all, of these characteristics.  Working with a small publisher like Oak Tree Press is a collaborative effort.  This is true of most small presses.  With Oak Tree the association between author and press is intimate and the other authors are supportive and friendly. 

If most of the items in the checklist describe you as a writer, you might find a small press will suit your needs.  It’s certain the press would see you as a writer to foster and develop as you are eager to create a platform to serve you over your writing career.  It should serve your publisher and readers as well.
Do you have other items you want to add to the list?

Friday, September 21, 2012


What an abundance of riches in this weeks Round-Up!

Marja McGraw shares photos from her grandfather, a sailor on the Yangze River in 1904. Look for Teddy Roosevelt in one photo! See who our top selling authors are in August.

ALERT! A blurb fest for all genres happens Sept. 22 and 23 over at TBR. Get your blurbs in ASAP! And so much more. What an incredible week!

JOHN BRANTINGHAM, author of the soon to be published “Mann of War,” explains why he's been scarce on the blogosphere lately.

New Orleans author HOLLI CASTILLO, author of “Gumbo Justice” and “Jambalaya Justice,” talks with Marilyn Meredith about mystery cons and conferences at And, over at Red Room, she talks about the murder of a friend during Hurricane Isaac. 

LORNA COLLINS, author of “Ghost Writer,” talks about how she and her husband became theme park junkies: The couple were also interviewed by Billie A. Williams:

JOHN DANIEL, author of “Behind the Redwood Door,” interviews Marilyn Meredith on how she keeps her Tempe Crabtree character fresh.

 Nebraska author WAYNE DUNDEE (“Dismal River” and “Reckoning at Rainrock”) is a featured speaker at Mid-Plains Community College on Sept. 18 in Ogallala.

SUNNY FRAZIER, author of “Fools Rush In,” and “Where Angels Fear,” blogs about her love of words over at 

A review of J.R. LINDERMUTH'S "The Limping Dog", a chance to win a copy of the book and a guest post by J.R. on setting in books:

 MARJA MCGRAW, author of “Bogey Nights” and “Bogey's Ace in the Hole,” explains how foot- and-mouth disease affects writers. And, check out Marja's photo page for pictures of her grandfather in the Yangze River Patrol, circa 1904 (think of the movie, The Sand Pebbles). Incredible find: a photo of Teddy Roosevelt!

MARILYN MEREDITH continues her blog tour. Here are this week's stops:
Guest of Robert Knightly at
An excerpt of Raging Water is on
Kaye George hosts at
Having Too Much Fun to Retire at
On Why Write?

Remember to leave a comment for a chance to be a character in one of Marilyn's books!

 RADINE TREES NEHRING, author of Ozark mystery “A Fair To Die For,” wants to know if you're immune to advertising, especially authors who over-advertise their books.

BERYL REICHENBURG, author of children's books “Ants on a Log,” “Camouflage,” and “The Mysterious Case of the Missing Birthday Cake,” will be selling her books at the Cuesta Writer's Conference on Sept. 21 and 22 in San Luis Obispo, California.

The Sept. issue of Tricks of the Trade from MORGAN ST. JAMES (co-author of “Who's Got the Money?”) has part 2 of “What Being An Editor Taught Me” by John Brantingham. Morgan has an article titled “What Are Your Characters Thinking?” and an excerpt from her novel “Confessions of a Cougar.”

Morgan also has an interview with Terry Ambrose on the subject of her book about prison scams.


MICHAEL BLACK, The Incredible Adventures of Doc Atlas
HOLLI CASTILLO, Gumbo Justice and Jambalaya Justice
WILLIAM DOONAN, American Caliphate
WAYNE DUNDEE, Dismal River and Reckoning At Rainrock
G. THOMAS GILL, Dog Island
J.L. GREGER, Coming Flu
JASON HUNT, A Midsummer's Night Gunfight
WALTER LUCE, Vermont Bound
CARL MOEN, Last of the Railroad Police
MARY MONTAGUE SIKES, A Rainbow For Christmas
SUSAN VONDRAK, No Evidence of a Crime and The Evidence is Clear


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Stay in Touch

What a traumatic, exasperating, nerve-racking, exciting, and wonderful year-and-a-half this has been.
First a divorce, forcing me to move into a new, space depriving, privacy invading, apartment. Testing to the limits, the patience, tolerance, and love, my two teenage daughters and I have for each other. I needed, and had, surgery on both knees, to rectify two torn meniscuses, the result of standing for eight hours a day, for countless years, at  my Las Vegas gaming table, and two surgeries to fix a perforated ear drum.
Then came the purchase of a new home, finally! Room to swing a cat, or mouthy teenager. At last! Along with it, came the trauma of walk-throughs, down payments, packing, moving, address changes, and ensuring that everything that needed fixing, got fixed.
            Finally, wonderful news! Billie Johnson, the big Kahuna at Oak Tree Press, had agreed to read my book, The Support Group! How cool was that? I eagerly sent her an online submission. One little light, shining through the darkness of endless bills, work schedules, and physical therapy appointments. This was the chance I had prayed for.
            The next few months trudged by. Working late in the casino, getting up early with kids. The house was beginning to feel like a home. I was finally starting to feel more relaxed. Where was Billie? I had heard nothing from her. She didn’t like the book, I surmised. Well, it was to be expected. I was an unknown author after all. I did not even know if it was any good. Sure, my family and friends liked it, but wasn’t that their job? Weren’t they supposed to be excited, and supportive of me? Perhaps, even lie to me? I started to doubt my ability, and began telling myself that I was probably better off concentrating on the kids, house, and work. They were what were really important right now.
            House in order, kids somewhat under control, knees healed, hearing improved greatly, I started relaxing into the role of a single working mom. Life wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely do-able! I had a little more free time. I managed the occasional night out with colleagues, and even managed to secure some computer time alone, while the kids were at school. I became quite proficient at numerous Pogo games, and contacted many old time friends on Facebook. The hard copy of my manuscript sat beside my computer, a daily reminder of my former aspirations to be a writer. I’d resubmit it someday.
            People need to stop knocking Facebook! Seriously! It was while I was perusing my countless requests to send energy, chickens, bubbles, a lamb chop, that I discovered a new message in my personal mail.
            “Are you the author of The Support Group?” it asked.
            Who the heck was Sunny Frazier?, I asked myself. I had posted nothing on Facebook about my novel. I admitted I was, and enquired as to how she knew me. She informed me that Billie Johnson really liked my book, but had been unable to respond to me as my email address was no longer in service. She had set Sunny the mission of tracking me down.
            What an idiot I was! In an effort to conserve money, I had opted to change my internet carrier for a cheaper one after moving into my new home. I had given my new email address to the bank, work, the gym, Macy’s, everyone but my future publisher! I wanted to hit myself upside the head with something heavy!
            All’s well that ends well, so they say. I’m still a single mom, living with teenage daughters, still a Las Vegas dealer, still a frustrated interior decorator at heart, but I’m something else now too. I’m a published author. A published author, who very nearly wasn’t. I cannot stress enough, the importance of keeping your contact information up to date. Make sure the people you want to find you, can! Keep yourself available!
            And stop knocking Facebook!


Save the date: October 13, 2012

Author signing
Barnes & Noble
Rainbow Promenade
2191 N Rainbow Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89108

Monday, September 17, 2012

Writing By Accident…

Somebody once asked me, “What prompted you to start writing?” I answered them (with a nervous laugh), “It was because of a boating accident. I got caught in a hurricane and had to put a boat on the beach to save it.” That’s the truth. That’s when I sold my first non-fiction feature article, recounting the story of that awful experience, to the Southern California boating magazine, SANTANA.

I never get tired of telling this story. In September of 1997 I was caught by Hurricane Nora on the outside of the Baja Peninsula, halfway between Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas, while delivering a large catamaran from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta. My crew and I, and the boat, ended up on the beach in Turtle Bay. It took us almost a month to get it off and back to San Diego for repairs. Kitty James, then editor of SANTANA, asked me to write about it for her magazine. I did, she liked it, and that first article launched my career as a non-fiction feature writer.

Someone actually liked my writing and was willing to pay for it! Oh sure, I had some minor journalism experience writing over the years — classes in high school, a hotrod column for the school paper and writing news articles here and there — but, this was the big time. At 57, I was starting something new! I quickly learned that people enjoyed my writing because each article started with an “event” or “scene,” a hook if you will, that immediately brought them into the story I was trying to tell. Today it is called “creative non-fiction;” back then I was flying by the seat of my pants and enjoying it. I continued to write feature articles for SANTANA for approximately ten years until the magazine was purchased by DOCKSIDE and Kitty retired.

In 2003, I wanted to explore other forms of writing, specifically fiction, and figured if I could write short stories that sold, maybe I had some talent in that arena as well. I discovered the Yahoo group Short Mystery Fiction Society and started lurking to find out which markets to submit to. When I sold my first story, I was hooked. Not because of the sale, I think it was $10.00, but because I could make up stories that people wanted to read. And, I was getting almost instant feedback on what they liked and didn’t like. I’d submit to an editor and within a short period of time they would tell me if it was good or not. The economy of word use that I was forced into when I wrote short stories helped me hone my craft. I learned a lot about “showing and not telling” and, most importantly, how to develop good characters. Four areas of character development that stick with me today are:
·                     Appearance.  Give your reader a visual understanding of the character.
·                     Action.  Show the reader what kind of person your character is, by describing actions rather than simply listing adjectives.
·                     Speech. Develop the character as a person -- don't merely have your character announce important plot details.
·                     Thought.  Bring the reader into your character's mind, to show them your character's unexpressed memories, fears, and hopes.

All of this prepared me to be the writer I am today. I hope I never experience another hurricane like the one that started me writing, but I am glad it happened and helped me discover how to become a writer. Shore Loser was the first novel to be published by Oak Tree Press. I’m proud to say Oak Tree Press will be publishing my second novel, Sea-Duction, in early 2013 and I am working on two more Jake Mortensen nautical mysteries. At 72, this writer’s life is very enjoyable, thank you very much!!
What single event started your writing career? Leave a comment and let us know.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Extra Ingredient

In case you missed it, Sept. 13 was International Positive Thinking Day. The annual observance is the creation of Dr. Kirsten Harrell, a psychologist and life coach. Now some might scoff at the idea we can think our way to success. But I do believe attitude has much to do with the achievement of goals—whether they relate to writing or anything else. The United States has been a fertile playing field for optimists and has spawned a variety of theories and even several uniquely American religions linking spiritual and material success with attitude. Science has confirmed that a positive attitude does help in matters of health. Why should not the same apply to other aspects of life? Optimists have a tendency to face up to problems and actively seek to solve them. Pessimists, on the other hand, are more prone to give up without a fight. As Frank Lloyd Wright put it, “The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.” Quantum theory has demonstrated what we deem reality is a transitory state and nothing is impossible. Thus life events can be influenced. Success is an evolutionary process and it isn’t necessarily measured in dollars. It can and must have a personal definition. For one person it may mean wealth and fame. For another no more than the successful completion of a project. Validity is dependent on the individual. I’m not talking magic here, other than the kind coming from a belief in yourself. Asked about her success, Victoria Holt, who wrote historical fiction under a variety of pseudonyms, said, “Make up your mind that you will succeed and go all out for it.” At the time of her death in 1993 it was reported more than 100 million copies of her novels had been sold. That definitely illustrates the power of positive thinking. Oh, one other ingredient too often left out of these prescriptions for willing success—work. Wright, named the ‘greatest American architect of all time’ in 1991 by the American Institute of Architects, also said, “I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.”

Friday, September 14, 2012

A little gossip, a little promotion, and narco-submarines??? Well, you never know what you'll find at the end of a busy week! JOHN BRANTINGHAM, author of the soon to be published “Mann of War,”is gossiping about promotion, marriage and theme parks with LORNA and LARRY COLLINS. Also, “31 Readers Answer One Question.” Six of those authors are from Oak Tree Press. Fun stuff!
The writing team of DAVID COLES and JACK EVERETT have an introduction to William, the Acolyte in their Medieval mystery “The Back of Beyond.” LORNA COLLINS, author of “Ghost Writer,” is blogging on why she needs an editor—and why you do too. Lorna's also presenting a workshop for the Laguna Beach branch of Pen Women on Sept. 21 at noon at 5371 Punta Alta. The subject is “Collaboration” given with her writing partner and husband, Larry. DOUG DANIELSON, nautical author of “Shore Loser,” talks about preparing boats on Tortola for hurricane season, narco-submarines and conducts an interview with MARY MONTAGUE SIKES about her Passenger to Paradise series.
LESLEY DIEHL, author of “Dumpster Dying” hosts Kathleen Kaska on her blog. Kathleen is debuting her book “The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story.” SUNNY FRAZIER, author of “Fools Rush In,” and “Where Angels Fear,” explains how the Friday Round-Up came to be over at Also, Sunny was featured on Book Town for her blog titled “Oh the Places You'll Go!” WENDY GAGER, author of the Mitch Malone series (latest: “A Case of Hometown Blues”) welcomes MARILYN MEREDITH to her blog where Marilyn talks about fictional character Miqui Sherwood.
JOHN LINDERMUTH, author of Pennsylvania mystery “Fallen From Grace,” announced that the winner of his book giveaway on Joanne Troppello's blog is Patricia Gligor. John and Sunny both got into the Suspense Blurb Fest at TBR: MARJA MCGRAW, author of “Bogey Nights” and “Bogey's Ace in the Hole,” wants to know: if you could sit in on a poker game with three other authors, who would you invite? MARILYN MEREDITH (most recent OTP title: “No Bells”) has Susan Furlong-Bolliger giving out tips for Twitter at Marilyn's blog.
Marilyn's blog tour continues. There's a giveaway of “Bears With Us” and a chance to have a character named after you in her next novel. Just leave a comment! Wrote about dogs in mysteries. How I Feel About Tempe About the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series Deputy Tempe Crabtree is interviewed. She talks about promotion over at Also at Kathleen Kaska's blog is a compilation of quotes from her popular “Small Press Fridays” column. Weighing in were LESLEY DIEHL,
WILLIAM DOONAN, SUNNY FRAZIER, G. THOMAS GILL, BILLIE JOHNSON, MARILYN MEREDITH and MARJA MCGRAW. RADINE TREES NEHRING, author of Ozark mystery “A Fair To Die For,” will be signing books from 1 p.m. To 5 p.m. on Sept. 16 at Nightbird Books on Dickson St. in Fayetteville, Arkansas, during their mini craft fair. For more information, call (479) 443-2080.
There's a review of Radine's book and a chance to win a copy over at Lorie Ham's Kings River Life Ezine.
MORGAN ST. JAMES, co-author of “Who's Got the Money?” will be interviewed at Rachelle Ayala's blog about using life experiences in memoirs in a two-parter Sept. 10 and 14.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


I came across a quotation recently that really "spoke to me", as they say, and caused me to reflect more deeply upon my own feelings for the subject matter addressed.

The quote went like this: "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies … The man who never reads lives only one."
My first reaction was to recognize this as a variation on Shakespeare's, "A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste death but once." But whether intentional or not, I quickly decided, didn't really matter. The message was what counted (in both, actually, but for now let's stick with the one about readers).
As a reader since as far back as I can remember, I could certainly relate to the many "lives" I had embarked upon thanks to the words I found between the pages of a good book or in a gripping short story. I've known people who scoff at reading as mere "vicarious thrills" for those who don't have the spirit or fortitude to get out and do things in the "real world". That may be true, to a certain extent. Reading for pleasure certainly is an escape of sorts … just like watching a movie or TV show, listening to music, walking on a beach, etc. But that hardly means voracious readers don't do anything else. More likely it is one of many activities (for want of a better word) they enjoy. And for those not in the know, the knowledge gained from reading (even leisure reading) can actually enhance other activities.
When my wife and I were young and first married, especially after our daughter was born, we often didn't have the extra money to go out on weekends and do some of the things my co-workers and others we knew often were involved in. Part of it was also a matter of choice inasmuch as we weren't much for the bar scene or parties anyway. Back at work on Monday, some of my co-workers would tell their weekend tales and when they got around to me I usually didn't have a lot to add. Sometimes I suspect some of them might even have felt a bit sorry for what they perceived as my dull existence. What they didn't understand was that Pam and I were perfectly content staying home with our daughter, watching old movies on TV, going to the park, taking "Sunday drives", etc. And, for me, I also had my reading. No, maybe I hadn't made it to so-and-so's big party or gone water-skiing at the beach or any of that. But, in my books, I may have gone to a dozen exotic locales and participated in a hundred exciting adventures.
Thinking back, maybe it was only my imagination that any of my co-workers might have felt sorry for me. Either way, it doesn't matter. What I know for sure is that I eventually came to realize it was I who felt sorry for them.
You see, I feel sorry for anybody who doesn't read.
They'll never know what they're missing.
Readers are a special breed—special people. You find them in all shapes, sizes, genders, ethnicities, and ages. Every decade or so we're told that they are a dying species, that reading is on its way out, being replaced by something new and different. And yet the volume of reading material—including electronic media—increases every year. And with the inclusion of eReaders and eBooks, that volume is exploding at an even greater rate. 
Yeah, readers are special—and durable.
I predict they're gonna be around for a long time.
And now that I've also become a writer … well, that makes readers special to me in a whole new way. In return, I promise to do my best to help them enjoy leading some of those "thousand lives" that await them when they open the pages.

Posted by Wayne D. Dundee 9/9/12

Friday, September 7, 2012


So much information for just one week! Let's see who the movers and shakers are at Oak Tree Press in the past seven days.
 JOHN BRANTINGHAM, author of the soon to be published “Mann of War,” talks about the natural world and why he would have become a forest ranger if he hadn't become a creative writing teacher.

LORNA COLLINS, author of “Ghost Writer,” will be participating in a combined book sale and benefit Sept. 15 from 9-2 at Laguna Woods Village, Clubhouse Seven, 24111 Moulton Parkway, Laguna Woods. If you're in Southern CA, stop by. 
You can read a review of Lorna's book at

CAROL CRIGGER author of  “Three Seconds to Thunder” and “Two Feet Below,” talks about dancing in Victorian days on her blog.

DOUG DANIELSON, nautical author of  “Shore Loser,” interviews Dorothy Francis over at his blog. Francis is the author of 6 mysteries set in Key West.

LESLEY DIEHL, author of “Dumpster Dying” has a special sale going on all month for her ebook “Angel Sleuth” through Amazon and Untreedreads. In addition, she is proud to announce that one of her short stories will be in the anthology “The Killer Wore Cranberry, Second Helpings” by Untreed Reads. 

JOHN LINDERMUTH, author of Pennsylvania mystery “Fallen From Grace,” shares post-Labor Day thoughts. Comment for a chance to win a book.

MARJA MCGRAW, author of  “Bogey Nights” and “Bogey's Ace in the Hole,” tells us why mysteries are more“mysterious” when they happen in the dark.

MARILYN MEREDITH (most recent OTP title: “No Bells”) is starting her blog tour for “Raging Waters.” Follow her blog tour and make comments. Whoever makes the most gets to be a character in a future novel.
First up is a blog explaining how she sees mystery everywhere.
Next, writing tips.
Over at A Writer's Jumble, the weather as another character.
She discusses what she did on her summer vacation at
What's in a name—especially if they're your imaginary characters?
Over at her regular gig with the Stiletto Gang, she discusses the value of Sisters in Crime and the San Joaquin Chapter's recent visit from Camille Minichino and Simon Wood.
And last (but not least) a review of her book “Final Respects” at Manic Readers.

RADINE TREES NEHRING, author of Ozark mystery “A Fair To Die For,” will be a cover girl for the Democrat Gazette's “Our Town” feature in the Thursday (Sept. 13) edition. They're recognizing her as the ambassador for the state of Arkansas. This newspaper goes out to 16 counties. Kudos, Radine!
Look for Radine at Price Cutters in Rogers, Arkansas, where she'll be signing on Sept. 7th and 8th.
She's also featured over at Writing Strong Women:
As well as Romancing the Heart:
Radine also has a review up over at the Mysterious Women quarterly newsletter. You have to subscribe. If you're a “mysterious” woman yourself, contact my friend Gay Kinman at  

BERYL REICHENBURG, author of children's books “Ants on a Log,” “Camouflage,” and “The Mysterious Case of the Missing Birthday Cake” will be interviewed for “Ears on Art” on PBS radio,  San Luis Obispo, airing Sept. 12 at 4:30 p.m. PST.   

Busy week!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

For me, being interviewed for a radio show brings both excitement and a bit of anxiety. I'm excited about being able to explain my creative process and promote my children's books but somewhat anxious about what to say and how what I say will be received. Fortunately, the audio will be edited before the program airs, which means most of the "ahs", "ums", etc. will be gone.

When talking to individuals face to face about my stories, I can tell by my audiences facial expressions and comments whether or not my meaning is clear and relevant. I prefer this one on one contact. But when my words go out over the airwaves, I have no such feedback and must trust the interviewer to edit my comments so they sound intelligent and informative.

I am fortunate that last night my interviewer, Crissa Hewitt for "Ears on Art"( a local, PBS radio program) was both skilled and friendly. We had a delightful conversation about the nature of art, educating children, writing for young children and how to encourage children to produce their own stories and art.   The interview will air next Wednesday, 9/12 at 4:30, so you will have an opportunity to judge whether or not I was successful. Beryl

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Brand 'em, podnah--the importance of brand loyalty

I'm sort of at a loss right now. Almost every year since I turned thirteen, I've been busy every Labor Day weekend working on the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. Here in Dallas, the last few years have been broadcasting with Channel Five from Lone Star Park with the Sonic "Tot Board" and answering phones behind someone like Mike Doocy (a really nice guy) and before that Chip Moody (yes, I still remember). Is anyone else old enough to remember when we did it from SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS? That was AWESOME. Back then (this was high school for me, kids), the Sid and Marty Krofft "Banana Splits" and "Lidsville" characters were a park theme, and we all went out and played with them between answering the phones and eating Pink Thing Ice Cream Bars. One year we were even at the Channel Thirteen studios on Harry Hines, if I'm not confusing that with the pledge drives. (GRIN) *I think I am confusing it*

*BUT ANYWAY*. Here I am sweltering in the heat and NOT watching the show MDA is putting on this year, for personal reasons. I've managed to contribute to sending kids to camp through other channels (among them James Lacerenza's wonderful efforts up in the New York area). I can't help thinking about MDA's BIG MISTAKE, though. In 2011, for reasons that have NEVER quite been explained, they committed what one website calls "a kind of hari-kari, taking an established brand and flushing it down the toilet." Yes, I agree. They took the image that Jerry Lewis and his showbiz and corporate friends had built over fifty years and tore it to bits, claiming that it was holding them back. They didn't NEED that brand.

But it was a dire error. Last year, although they claimed they got more money than ever, their tax returns say otherwise. The discarding of the Jerry Lewis headshot and voice and brand hurt them, and it's apparent that they're going to have to regroup and make another brand that people want to be loyal to--and quickly. I feel so bad for the patients and researchers who are suffering because of this stupid way of ushering out the "old" before they even had any "new."

You can see another failure to understand brand loyalty in the JCPenney advertising debacle. A few months ago, JCP announced it would no longer do coupons or send out advertising catalogs and flyers. Instead, they revealed their Fair Pricing scheme, which was too elaborate for the buying public at large to try to understand. Over the past quarter, Penneys sales took an alarming dive. The moral of the story is that people don't KNOW what they want until you advertise it and create a desire for it--and then they see a coupon and think they will get a better deal on it than other people will--and they run to fight over the item at the store. I think it's wonderful that Penneys thought up this neat scheme, which made sense to ME, but I can see how it really affected their business. It's all a case of brand loyalty. If you no longer advertise your brand as "special" and show the things to people in pictures they can understand, it all falls apart.

I'll bet that at the supermarket, you always reach for orange Palmolive dish soap and Cascade dishwashing pellets (or whatever "your" brand is) because you know you can rely on the products. You expect the same performance you got the last time, and if it was good, then there's no reason to change. Right? Brand loyalty in action.

Why am I typing at such length about all of this?

Because as an author, you also need to build brand loyalty. In one sense, this means that when the audience expects a thriller from you, you'd better deliver a thriller. You have to make your next book different enough so that it doesn't seem that you have just changed the names and locations and stuck different heads on the bad guys, but then "same" enough that readers feel comfy and know that they can expect a reading experience similar to the last one, the one they enjoyed enough to make them seek out this book of yours.

Does this mean I approve of authors never growing, never going in a different direction never trying something new? Not at all. But I have to acknowledge the realities of the marketplace. You must offer readers a reason to keep coming back to your work. You need to make them love your characters enough to want to see what happens to them next. You need to show readers places they've never been, show them things they've never done or thought of doing, so that their vicarious experience is pleasing to them--just the way it was last time.

What if you want to write in a different genre now? Say you were really successful in YA fantasy, but now you want to write mysteries for grown-ups (like Joanne Rowling). Well, you're going to have trouble if you don't create a new brand. I believe that Rowling is going to get a terrible shock if she puts out a book that's really different from her Potter series, because people are going to compare it--and that's not fair. Yet it's going to happen. Unless she's an amazing wizard herself, she's going to encounter lots of problems with reader reception of her new work.

The answer is to have a pen name. I write YA fantasy under my long-time 'net name, Shalanna Collins. I've been Shalanna to the 'net since the CompuServe days (70356,62 was my login ID--that's pretty ancient) and the FidoNet years. My husband first knew me as Shalanna (online). I answer to pretty much anything by this point. LOL

But Shalanna Collins is the fantasy author in our family.

So when I came to publish mysteries, I went with my driver's license name, Denise Weeks. This made my mother happy to no end. She and her cronies, not to mention the entire family, always carped about how difficult it was for them to mention my books to anyone "because of that crazy name." Now they carp about how difficult it is to mention my books for all sorts of OTHER reasons, including the BDSM content in NICE WORK and the paranormal content in some of the others, but never mind--that's another rant.

You need to build support for your author brand. If you can garner followers who look forward to your next book because they know it'll be "the same, but different," and they can reacquaint themselves with the characters you have featured in the past and their new loves/bosses/children, you have a much better chance of success than the author who doesn't try to build any brand recognition and who just goes with singleton attempts, all different.

So before you start out as a writer, consider the "brand" you will be building. You might have to live with it for quite some time, so be sure you are writing the book of your heart, a book you would like to read. You'll have to re-read it so many times yourself, after all!