Friday, November 30, 2012


I don't know how Oak Tree Press authors have time to Christmas shop or hang decorations—they all seem to be out there doing promotion! Looking for books to stuff your stocking or author-friendly sites for marketing? Ho, ho, ho, just check below!
TERRY AMBROSE, author of soon-to-be-published “License To Lie,” revealed the biggest challenge that he faces as a writer as well as his answer to the oft-asked question, "Which is most important, character or plot?" 
He also participated in The Next Big Thing blog chain on his website at on Tuesday. And, on Friday, was a guest on the Mystery Writing is Murder blog where he talked about the importance of "The Next Paragraph."

You can listen to MARK BOUTON, author of  the FBI thriller “The Sacrifice,” on

JOHN BRANTINHAM, author of soon-to-be-released “Mann of War,” talks about doing readings and meeting people face-to-face as part of the promotion process at  He also has reviews up for OTP titles “A Midsummer Night's Gunfight” (by JASON HUNT); “Walk-In” (by HONORA FINKELSTEIN and SUSAN SMILY); and “Who's Got the Money?” (by MORGAN ST. JAMES and MEREDITH HOLLAND). And, if that wasn't ENOUGH, he just got word that is poetry book is going to be published with Moon Tide Press. He's not waiting 'til Christmas to celebrate!

It's a triple-header over at Kings River Life as Lorie Ham does interviews with STEPHEN BRAYTON (“Alpha”); MORGAN ST. JAMES (“Who's Got the Money?”); and SUSAN VONDRAK (“No Evidence of a Crime,” and “The Evidence is Clear”).

On his own blog, Stephen discusses how much background material should go into a novel.

LORNA COLLINS, author of “Ghost Writer,” will be at the holiday Boutique on Saturday from 10-4  at Del Obispo St, San Juan Capistrano. Over on her website she takes issue with plotting issues in recently read novels.

MARTI COLVIN, author of “Blue Ice,” is being interviewed at

Over on LESLEY DIEHL (“Dumpster Dying”) discusses what writers can learn from Agatha Christie and Dorothy Gilman about creating senior sleuths that last over the decades.
The TBR blog, hosted by Cate Masters, is a strong supporter of Oak Tree Press. This week she has an interview with WILLIAM DOONAN (“American Caliphate”) and TERRY AMBROSE.

MARJA MCGRAW, author of  “Bogey Nights” and “Bogey's Ace in the Hole,” got a last minute invite to sell books at Santa's Hualapai Wonderland from 1:00-5:00 on December 1. It will be held at the Haulapai Mountain Park, Kingman, AZ.
Over on her blog, Marja finds you can learn something about writing while target shooting. 
Who can keep up with MARILYN MEREDITH??? She's at three blogsites this week to talk about her Deputy Crabtree series and her Rocky Bluff police series.
Over at  she gives her opinion on what's going on with publishing. She interviews characters from writers at Leave a comment for a chance to win a book.
BERYL REICHENBURG announces that her children's books are on sale at Hatch, an eco-gift shop in Monteclaire Village, Oakland; as well as Chaucer's Books in Santa Barbara. She blogs about sales outlets at  
MARY MONTAGUE SIKES, author of Daddy’s Christmas Angel, talked about her writer’s journey to the Christopher Wren Society at the College of William and Mary. She read her short story at the Chesapeake Bay Writer’s Club All Stars competition. She had a book signing featuring A Rainbow for Christmas at the College of William and Mary Barnes & Noble store. Daddy’s Christmas Angel was featured on the front page of the Lifestyles section of the Tidewater Review. Monti was featured in an article in the Petersburg Progress Index.
Rabbi ILENE SCHNEIDER, author of the just released “Unleavened Dead” will speak at the NJ Authors Network on Dec. 4, 7 p.m. At the Ocean County Library, Toms River. Ilene also has a book launch party on Dec. 9, 4:30 p.m. at Barnes and Noble in Marlton, NJ
MORGAN ST. JAMES, author of “Who's Got the Money?” will be doing a podcast on Jeff Bushman's on Dec. 5. A listing for the book will be live for 5 months on the USA Book News with a link to

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I don’t write and promote so much these days as I juggle.  I juggle what I call my “job-job,” my two daughters, their schools, my husband, my dog, my deaf cat, my new puppy, housework, and writing.

Right now, I am trying to finish my third novel while trying to promote the first two.  I find this complicated. 

Promotion is easy when your first book comes out.  You can contact every blog, website, and reviewer under the sun and say, Hey, look at me, I’ve got a new book out.  You should review it or interview me or feature me somewhere. 

New books are interesting.  They could be the next 50 Shades of Gray. Or the next Dorian Gray for that matter.   The next Harry Potter or Sookie Stackhouse.  People want to know what a new book is all about and the story behind the mysterious writer who popped up out of nowhere to write such a compelling book.  It’s fun to have earned the bragging rights when that book first comes out.

I find it more difficult to shout from the rooftops, Hey, look at my year-and-a-half-old book. It didn’t make the NYT Bestseller’s list, but I still have my fingers crossed.  They’ve been crossed so hard and for so long in fact I think they may be arthritic.

After that initial buzz, you know, those first couple of weeks when your mama and your godfather and everyone you knew from high school buys your book, things slow down a little.  And now you’ve really got to start working on that next book before everyone who bought your first book forgets who you are and how much they enjoyed it.

So you have to figure out a way to expand your audience for your old book, while also cranking out the new one.  Dividing the time is a trick I have not yet quite mastered, although I spend a significant amount of time working on it and trying to figure it out.

And then there’s that juggling thing.  That thing I just call LIFE, that constantly interrupts my best of intentions.

As an example, today is my husband’s birthday. I told my girls yesterday they should make him a cake so he has one when we wake up in the morning and they agreed.  Then we all promptly forgot about it while I helped my 8th grader with a social studies project and my 5th grader with math homework.  So there will be no birthday cake for Julio this morning.  Sometimes you can't help it- you drop a ball.

On the plus side, I did manage to post this blog, finish a Supreme Court writ, and catch up the laundry, so I’ve still got a few balls in the air at least.  

Now if I could just get the puppy housetrained and Chocolate City Justice (my latest novel) to Billie...

Holli Castillo

Monday, November 26, 2012

Getting inspiration from another medium?

At the recent Boston Book Festival, Dennis Lehane was among the speakers on a panel entitled “Fiction: Time & Place.” At one point, the group of authors took off on a slight but pertinent tangent and discussed some of their favorite films. 

I forget now how the talk circled around to this, probably in answer to a question to Lehane about how he thought his books have fared via Hollywood. (He was pleased, as well he should be, with how “Mystic River” and “Shutter Island,” etc., were filmed.)

But Lehane and his panel then started naming favorite movies– or ones that were inspiring to them with regard to “time and place,” the theme of the panel.

I barley stifled the urge to cheer when Lehane raved about “Mona Lisa” and especially the performance of actor Bob Hoskins. 

“Mona Lisa” is a longtime favorite of mine—yet a film that frustratingly doesn’t get brought up very often, even in one of those “Ten Movies You’ve Missed But Should See Otherwise You’re a Moron” lists that film blogs and publications sometimes feature.

I didn’t necessarily need to hear a favorite writer praise a favorite movie of mine – but I did get a kick out of it. You know?

Without over-praising “Mona Lisa,” I suggest you get a look at it, if you have time. While not the feel good film of any year, it will be well worth your effort.

I leave movies like “Mona Lisa” strangely inspired, even if only briefly. The atmosphere and attitude (God, I hate that overused word but can think of no other) of a movie that works for me is one I will temporarily try to recreate on the printed page. Not re-write the actual story, of course. (Lawyers do tend to frown on that, I hear.)

But more like trying to give my imaginary readers the same pleasure, the same satisfying feeling I get from a well done creation, regardless of medium. I may fall far short of matching the experience for someone. But it gets me to thinking and, even better, to writing.

Do any movies or books do that for you? Or does a work from another medium do this for you writers? 

Or music, perhaps? No less than Bruce Springsteen sang “We learned more from a three minute record than we ever did in school.” And one simply does not argue with Bruce, does one?

Do any forms of art somehow get you thinking, “I’ll never top something like this. But dammit, I’m going to try anyway.”
 -- Joe Nowlan

Friday, November 23, 2012


While we're all recovering from turkey and pumpkin pie overload, a troop of OTP authors gathered at their prospective blog sites to confess why they became writers. Also, the rabbi is playing Blog Tag, the professor has another “vlog” up, and Sally sips Mai Tais by the cyber seashore. All that and more on the Friday Round-Up!

WHY I BECAME A WRITER was the topic de jour for Thanksgiving Day. You can see OTP authors' responses at these websites:


TERRY AMBROSE, author of soon-to-be-published “License To Lie,” participated in the Read Local - San Diego booth to help promote literacy in San Diego

MARK BOUTON, author of  the FBI thriller “The Sacrifice,”spoke to members of the Farmer's Union in Wheaton, KS, on 11/19/12, where he discussed his FBI career and his writing.

JOHN BRANTINGHAM, author of the soon to be published “Mann of War,” has a video blog up on growing up in Los Angeles.

He also discusses how writing a mystery is akin to writing a sonnet at Novel Spaces:

Who would SALLY CARPENTER like to sip Mai Tais with on Waikiki Beach? Find out over at Life's a Beach 

No sunscreen needed!
BOB CAWLEY'S book, “Components of Murder” and “Who's Got the Money?” by MORGAN ST. JAMES and MEREDITH HOLLAND got shout-outs in the Las Vegas Review Journal as two of the Southern Nevada-Centric books now on the market.

CAROL CRIGGER received a review for “Three Seconds to Thunder” in the Spokane Coeur D'lane Living online magazine. She also has a futuristic fantasy out by Amber Quill Press.

DENNIS GRIFFIN, author of “Vegas Vixen,” has a video interview posted on You Tube:

LORNA COLLINS, author of “Ghost Writer,” wants to know what you're thankful for this year.

Too much turkey? Then find out Who Killed Tom Turkey over at MARJA MCGRAW'S blog:

RADINE TREES NEHRING, author of Ozark mystery “A Fair To Die For,” (and in the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame) talks about her misadventures in researching with the Dames of Dialogue:
Rabbi ILENE SCHNEIDER, author of the just-now--published “Unleavened Dead, is playing Blog Tag with other authors to talk about “My Next Big Thing.” 

MORGAN ST. JAMES and MEREDITH HOLLAND, authors of  “Who's Got the Money?” are pleased to announce they are finalists in the 2012 USA Book News Best Book Awards.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Creating a Critique Group

Getting together with a group of writers can be professionally and emotionally rewarding. If you can’t find a critique group, you might consider starting one of your own. 

The Porterville Writer’s Workshop has existed for decades in a variety of forms, and although we recognize that our experiences may not be appropriate for you, this is how our group was formed and how it continues today. Please take what works for you and ignore the rest.

We began as a creative writing class at our local community college which is a good place to find writers when you start your group. You could also write a letter to the editor asking if anyone is interested in a critique group or ask your local librarian to post a message. Once you have interested writers, you can begin.
1.      Select a leader. The key here is leader not dictator. Someone needs to set a cooperative and nurturing environment. Writers should feel they are being heard and helped. 

2.      Set a specific time agreed upon by the members and try to be consistent.

3.      Encourage fiction and nonfiction work in many genres.

4.      Keep the group small. We have seven members, five of whom have been published. Everyone is working on a novel so if each of us reads a chapter that takes several hours. If your group becomes too large, you might want to split into two or more groups based on individual preferences.

5.      Ask writers to make a copy of their work for each member. Small corrections like punctuation can be written on the manuscript and not discussed. Oral comments should be limited to asking questions, discussing possible changes, and most importantly, praise. 

6.      Discourage members from talking about what they are going to write. Often by discussing the work, the need to communicate is fulfilled and nothing is written.

7.      Discourage members from apologizing for their work. Let the writing speak for itself.

8.      Encourage members to come to the meeting to critique even if they don’t have anything to read. 

9.      When new writers want to join, we invite them to the first meeting at the beginning of the month, but not the other three weekly meetings. We don’t want to be exclusive, but we do want to make certain any addition to our group is a serious writer. Often we invite the new writer to become a regular member.

1    Agree that whatever comments are made by individuals, the writer is free to take what he/she wants and ignore the rest.

Finding a critique group is almost like trying to find a spouse, but when you find the right one, it’s wonderful. Every Wednesday I meet with my fellow writers and we share our work, our laughter and our friendship. 

--Shirley Hickman

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Scams, cons, and writing fiction

Terry Ambrose
Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr made a great protagonist in my opinion because he was simultaneously good and bad. If you’re not familiar with that particular Bernie, he was a burglar and his profession (stealing) put him into situations where he had to take on the role of amateur sleuth.
In real life, there’s another Bernie who wasn’t quite as lucky at avoiding capture as Block’s fictional burglar. This one was the con man who created a scam that cost investors, both large and small, millions of dollars. In this case, of course, I’m talking about Bernie Madoff. I’ve said this before, but whether you admire or hate the man, you must admit that he created one helluva scam. 
The typical scam works by creating a stimulus strong enough to entice the mark to take action. The expected response might be to turn over money, confidential information, or do something illegal. For instance, a Rhode Island man was recently arrested for passing counterfeit $100 bills. Forget the fact that the man made huge mistakes—he put Lincoln’s face on the bill, not Franklin’s, and he attempted to pass the bills in the same Target store on multiple occasions. Let’s just not go there. Instead, lets look at the stimulus and the response.
The stimulus is that the man needed or wanted money. The response was that, when given the chance to make money quickly (he’d buy items for less than $25 and get change for the $100), he took it. Right or wrong, his story serves as a model for those of us who like to put our characters in temptation’s way and make use of the stimulus-response model.
Nobody forced Bernie Madoff to steal the life savings of all those people. Most likely, no one forced the Rhode Island man to pass counterfeit bills. But, they both saw temptation and they both succumbed to their desires. It’s how I like my characters to respond and why I look at a story as a con job—provide the right opportunity and a character who is in a bind or has a weakness will take the bait. 
Con artists know that scams typically succeed or fail because of the emotional responses they evoke, not the logic. Even the most ridiculous and farfetched scam that pulls on the heartstrings or offers quick riches will succeed if that’s what the mark wants most. For Bernie Madoff, apparently no amount of money was enough, but he saw riches on his horizon. For the Rhode Island man, the riches were far less, but still something that had him willing to take a chance on being caught. And isn’t that what fiction is all about? The bad guy sees the potential reward as being worth the risk? And the good guy sees the same thing. They’re just on opposite sides of the problem.
The beauty of Block’s novels was that his Bernie was compelled to steal, but when he was in danger of being arrested and convicted for a crime he didn’t commit, he was compelled to investigate on his own. His risk and his reward escalated as the story developed. In Bernie Madoff’s case, his greed and methods might inspire crime fiction writers to create a story about a big con. In the Rhode Island man’s case, perhaps the story goes far deeper. His attorney claims that the man has a history of drug abuse and mental-health issues. True or not, this reasoning offers us another stimulus and another response and more food for a fiction-writer’s imagination.

Terry Ambrose started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life. He never actually stole a car, but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in the dark when “negotiations” failed. 
Learn more about Terry on his website at or on his Facebook author page at

Friday, November 16, 2012


TERRY AMBROSE, author of soon-to-be-published “License To Lie,” did a reading for the Orange County Chapter of Sisters in Crime on Veterans Day. He also has an article “Cons and Scams in Fiction” at MORGAN ST. JAMES' “Tricks of the Trade” ezine this month.

MARK BOUTON, author of  the FBI thriller “The Sacrifice,” is all over the airwaves these days! He did an interview on an Oklahoma City radio about Books For Christmas” to be aired on Black Friday. He also interviewed with the Red River radio station on Nov. 15 and gave a speech at the Kansas Authors' Club in Topeka on Nov. 17. 

SUNNY FRAZIER, (“Fools Rush In,” and “Where Angels Fear”) blogs on astrology and the downside of charting horoscopes at
She pulled back the curtain to show the audience how a horoscope is cast on Nov. 14 at the Lemoore Library and Nov. 15 at the Corcoran Library in California. Over at Novel Spaces, she asks authors “What Do You Bring To the Table?”  And, on MORGAN ST. JAMES's ezine, the reprint of “Are You a High Maintenance Author?”       

J.L. GREGER, Coming Flu, did a signing on Veterans Day at the Sandoval County Historical Society Book Fair, N.M.  

MARJA MCGRAW, author of  “Bogey Nights” and “Bogey's Ace in the Hole,” wants to know what your best promotional asset might be: 
Wild woman this week is KIT SLOANE, author of the Margot O'Banion mysteries, lets her protag be interviewed and praises OTP at  
DENISE SOLTERS, author of “Jetta's Journey,” writes about “Drooling Bud,” her service dog. What vegetable is he drooling about? 
MORGAN ST. JAMES and MEREDITH HOLLAND are pleased to announce that  “Who's Got the Money?” is listed in USA Book News for six months as a contest entry for the 2012 Best Book Awards.  And remember, Morgan is always looking for “Brags” to fill The Tricks of the Trade (hint hint: lots of them listed right here in the Round-UP).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Do You Ever Have Blogging Remorse?

By W. S. Gager
Starting on Nov. 26, I am participating in the Murder We Write Blog Tour hosted by Anne K. Albert, who does a terrific job. Last year was my first one ever. It is a great experience and can be a lot of work and can be stressful until the posts are done. Fellow OTP author Marilyn Meredith invited me last year. That isn’t what I want to talk about though. 

For the blog tour, I did a really controversial post that will appear Dec. 6 on Earl Staggs blog. He wanted a piece on the future of bookstores, paper books and internet bookstores. With all the chatter about Amazon removing reviews and tags, it hit me that when an entity gets really big, it becomes powerful, maybe too powerful. Then my imagination took off.

I explore that but now that it is done and ready to roll on Dec. 6, I’m nervous. If Amazon doesn’t like it will my books disappear from its annals? Is Big Brother from 1984 by George Orwell come to fruition but was he off by 28 years? It remains to be seen what comes from it. I usually don’t do controversial. I save that for Sunny and her tell all exposés, but, just maybe, she is rubbing off just a bit. 

Is there such a thing as blog remorse? Have you ever published a blog that got a lot of attention that you didn’t intend? Or wish you hadn’t said anything?

PS: A Case of Volatile Deeds, the fourth in the Mitch Malone Mystery Series, comes out in February. Stay tuned for more updates.