Wednesday, January 30, 2013


This Post is about Oak Tree Press and an author who is thankful that a mid size press would publish his work.  My name is Walter Luce and I’m a real estate developer.  I buy dirt and build buildings.  I’ve been doing that for over thirty years.  In 2006, the declining economic conditions forced me to lay-off over eighty employees.
          After going to the office every day with my dog, Sydney, with little to do, I would come home and complain to my wife, Bonnie; I was bored, borderline depressed with no real estate deals on the horizon. Finally one day, she said, “Stop your complaining and write that novel you’ve always talked about!
           I said, “How can I do that?  I never read a novel until I was twenty-three, and growing up, there wasn’t a book in the house.”
           Bonnie said, “There you go whining again. Write about what you know.
I thought about this for a few minutes, and then I said, “Okay, I’ll write a novel about a woman banker I once knew; I’ll call her Eva Pennington, and if that gets published I’ll write some more.” 
            She said, “Well, there you go. Why don’t you do that?” Then she left me stewing and went to finish dinner.
I wrote Eva Marie Pennington in about three months, and sent it off to a very competent editor, and talented author, Arlene Uslander.  She marked it up with her red pen until I could hardly recognize the type, with comments scratched on every page. She suggested changes and more changes, until I got the feel of what we felt the reader would like.  We developed my first query letter and I sent it to Billie Johnson, publisher of Oak Tree Press. I waited for her to call me and tell me it was the greatest manuscript she’d ever read, you know, the next great American novel.  Instead, she sent me a note, and that said, “I’m interested in publishing Eva Marie Pennington, please contact me.” I was elated. I was ecstatic! I couldn’t believe it! Since that note, OTP has published three of my novels, with three more ready to publish in 2013.
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Meet BILLIE JOHNSON, publisher of Oak Tree Press, who spent 20-plus years in corporate America before launching the book company in 1998. To date, OTP has published more than 150 books in paperback, and 175 in digital formats, most of which are still in print.  OTP’s catalog lists mysteries, crime-fiction, true crime, romance, paranormal and westerns. Billie and Oak Tree Press are located in Central Illinois, near Springfield, where those rare leisure-time moments, she spends gardening and seeing to the contentment of her beloved cat, Frida Khalo.
Her talented team includes an accomplished author and acquisitions editor, Sunny Frasier; a marketing guru, Jeana Thompson, a single mom and a caregiver who devotes her time promoting us and writing her own novels, and Billie’s very capable assistant, Suzi Yazell, who handles contract management, Ebook conversions, and a myriad of other important duties for OTP.  To quote Suzi, “I love my job. My favorite part is communicating with the authors, and seeing their novels come to life. It is very satisfying to know that I had a little part in it.”  
Why am I writing about my publishing house, Oak Tree Press? Because Billie Johnson gives an aspiring writer like me an opportunity; she sees something in each of us beyond our basic query letter, and she and her staff motivates us to market our work. Billie Johnson is generous to a fault, and I’m so lucky to be one of her writers. 

You can find out about my books on my website

Check out Sunny Frasier’s work at

Arlene Uslander, my editor website, is and her latest book’s website is

Jeana Thompson’s work can be reviewed at

Please check out all of Oak Trees author’s work at


Sunny Frazier said...

Walter, I hope others read this blog and know that sometimes lightening does strike. It takes writing from your heart, learning craft, being brave enough to send your work out and a bit of luck teaming up with the right publisher. YOU made this happen. Thank your wife as well.

Thank you for your praise of Oak Tree and our small, but devoted, staff. There is a lot of love in what we do and how we do it.

Beryl Reichenberg said...

I think all of us who have books published by OTP will echo your praise for a small publishing house that gives new authors a chance. Their staff may be small but they have a big heart. Thanks OTP, Beryl

William Doonan said...

Great post, Walter. I run into writers all the time who tell me the industry is dead, that there's no chance of getting published anymore unless you self-publish. And that's absolutely not true. There are some great publishing houses out there who are willing to take a chance on a writer who is both talented and ready to put in the work to make their books a success.

Jeana_OTP_PR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeana_OTP_PR said...


There is definitely advantages to being with a smaller publisher, there is more individual attention for one. But of course I live in a small town because I love the closeness it brings.I often stay silent, probably don't post as often as I should. Just know that even though I do not I am putting my efforts into helping promote our authors and their books. Thank you for the nice compliments about Oak Tree Press and our devoted staff.


Monti said...

Thanks, Walt, for the nice blog that is complimentary of our publisher and her staff. Thanks, too, for visiting my blog and commenting on it.

I love Palm Springs. What a nice place to live!