Thursday, January 31, 2013

When You Travel, Take Your Books With You

For those authors who travel in the United States or abroad, it's always a good idea to take along some of your books. You never know when you might have a chance to contact a bookstore, toy store or gift shop that might take your book. Writing children's stories, I try to contact these outlets as I drive north or south in California to visit family. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes not, but usually I am met with, "Why, yes. Let's try your books and see how they sell." I always keep a stack of my books in my car along with my brochure and business cards.

Perhaps equally, if not more exciting, is when I take copies of my stories with me when I travel abroad. I have traveled extensively over the past few years and now have books at elementary schools in Fiji and Burma. In addition, several families around the world also have my books, including children in France, Burma, Chile, Tunisia, New Zealand and Africa. I wish I had taken more books on my recent trip to Burma because I met many children and would have loved to give them away. In many of the developing countries, there are few books for children in English, especially in the villages. Many of these children or their parents read English, and I am glad to provide them with books for them to read. Of course, the illustrations help to tell the story as well. It's my way of connecting with children around the world in a very personal way.

I remember one little boy in Chile (his father happened to be our guide). I gave him a couple of my stories, and at a later date, his father emailed me to see if I could send him some books about Dinosaurs in English. It seems in Chile there are few books in English about these creatures. Fortunately, I had written a dinosaur book which I sent him, along with some other dinosaur books as well. Both child and father were very happy.

So, don't leave home without a few copies of your books in your car or your suitcase. The rewards are many and can be unexpected. Beryl

Beryl has three books for young children published by OTP: "The Mysterious Case of the Missing Birthday Cake", "Camouflage" and "Ants on a Log". She has recently self-published a book called "Wild Africa" about African Animals with Createspace and has a number of self-published books with Visit her website at for more information.

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.
                                                  *      *      *
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

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Technology: To Succumb or to Conquer?

When digital books were invented, I was adamantly against them. I love books! I love the feel of books! I love having books! I resisted consistently even as my sister started using a Kindle and a friend started swearing by her Nook. But as I look forward to summer vacation, I finally realized something awful: during the teaching year, I don't read much because I'm busy working. But when I'm on vacation, I don't read much because I can't carry ten novels in my bag along with everything else.

The result is that I don't much read. While it's true that I try to put more time into writing than reading, for an author to not read is terrible! And in the meantime, my whole house is piled high with unread books.

And thus, I have finally decided I have to at least make a valiant attempt to become an e-reader. How I'll make the terrible choice between the iPad-mini, the Nook, the Kindle, or whatever other devices are available, I don't know. But I do know that as an author, I should be familiar with this "new" form of media and, especially, learn to embrace it. If I'm going to capture an audience, I need to use every means available.

Hence, when my OTP title Mariachi Murder becomes available, I'll be happy to present it digitally. But of course I'll be even happier when I'm holding my very own hard copy!

D.R. Ransdell

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Round-Up

Author of the year award? Nomination for a paranormal award? What heights have our authors reached? Also, a non-fiction tool to increase your name recognition, how to create a buzz about your books and Pinterest—is it really in your best interest? All this and more at the Friday Round-Up!

TERRY AMBROSE is getting lots of mileage out of his blog on email scams. On Jan. 23, Terry met with the Kiwanis Club of Oceanside to discuss how to stay ahead of scammers and con artists while also promoting "License to Lie," his novel featuring a con artist and a criminologist. The popular piece was also reposted on Digital Book Today.
And, what non-fiction tool is this author using to increase name recognition? He tells all over at the Crime Fiction Collective blog.
We're VERY proud to announce that MARK BOUTON received the author of the year award for 2012 by Just Reviews and Fran Lewis for his novel, “The Sacrifice.” He also interviewed Jan. 24 on the radio show, “It Matters.” 
Have you had the “Coming Flu” yet? Not the bug, the book.  Author J.L. GREGER discusses the timely topic of the novel with LORNA COLLINS, author of “Ghost Writer.”

JOHN DANIEL, author of “Behind the Redwood Door” is hosting author Velda Brotherton with her essay, “The Joy of Story.”
DOUG DANIELSON is keeping things fresh in writing his next novel by interviewing one of his own characters. What a unique idea!
For those attending Love Is Murder in Chicago next weekend, co-authors HONORA FINKELSTEIN and SUSAN SMILY will be on two panels on Friday: "Channeling: Finishing the Work Someone Else Started" as well as a speech on dreams and how they inspired and contributed to writing their OTP novel, “Walk-In.” Saturday session is a round-table discussion, “The New Normal? Paranormal!” Cherry on the convention cake? “Walk-In” is up for an award in the paranormal category.
What happens when acquisitions editor SUNNY FRAZIER asked for tough questions concerning publishing? An interview explodes over at:
Sparks fly when Mitch Malone interviews Roxy Tanner on W.S. GAGER'S site. Mitch is Gager's creation and Roxy comes from TERRY AMBROSE'S imagination.
Meet Dr. Linda Almquist, character in upcoming OTP title, “Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight” by J.L. GREGER in an interview over at
GREGER gets serious about the science behind the book over at The Edible Bookshelf.
It's important to create a “buzz” for your books--but how? MARJA MCGRAW, author of the Bogey series, has some tips.
Looking for an intimate conference full of law enforcement types and others? MARILYN MEREDITH tells you what's going to happen in Vegas:

The latest issue of MORGAN ST. JAMES' Tricks of the Trade bi-monthly magazine has an article titled “Four Top Book Promotion Activities.” Also, what do you do with a bad review? Plus, info on the LA Writers' Conference and the San Gabriel Literary Festival, both on the same weekend in Feb. In the “Publishers' Lunch” section are sites for monitoring industry news. Brags are due by March 5 and contributors will get their book covers posted with buy links on the site. Such a deal! Contact Morgan at

DENISE WEEKS, author of  “Nice Work,” blogs about Pinterest, social media and putting your efforts where you'll find more readers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why I Write About Rural Florida

A Visit to the Big Lake Country

Lesley A. Diehl 

Oak Tree released the second book in my Big Lake murder mystery series—Grilled Chilled and Killed in late December.  It’s set in rural Florida and features a retired preschool teacher turned bartender, Emily Rhodes.  I’m not a native of Florida, but a winter visitor like my protagonist Emily.  I try to capture life around the big lake, Lake Okeechobee, a farming and ranching area.  There are more cattle, alligators, maybe horses and certainly palm trees than people in our county. 

If you research the area, which I did for this second book, you’ll find other interesting aspects of the area also.  The names of families are often French in origin like LeFebre or DeBerard.  Other names are more unusual like Upthegrove, a name that often arises when the famous Ashley gang is mentioned.  Sink holes, unexplained phenomenon for Yankees are common here, caused by water eroding limestone and creating huge depressions in the ground.  Sometimes earth covering the holes gives way and buildings and yards collapse into the hole.  A drive down the road leading to the coast leads through Spanish moss covered oaks and palms whose limbs and fronds reach across the road to create a canopy, a kind of green lush tunnel for the highway.  That same drive can take you past pigs dead on the side of the road, not like those you might find up north, but feral pigs, wild hogs, hybrids with long tusks.

 A tree of purple blossoms towers over a rusty trailer.  Floppy-eared cows roam a field accompanied by cattle egrets eager to eat the bugs stirred up by the cow’s feet.  The swamps nearby provide home for alligators, snakes, mud hens, water lettuce, brilliant yellow water lilies, and cat tails.  Blue herons, snowy egrets, and ibis feed in the canals.  Beauty and danger everywhere, this is the contradiction I try to capture as background in my books.

The people who live here are of two sorts: those who work the land, those who own the dairies and those who work on them and the ranchers who raise cattle.  The second group is made up of the large corporations, sugar and agribusiness.  They also hire workers for the fields. The land here is important.  The waters of the lake used to provide catfish fished for commercial purposes, and the icehouses along the creek stored the catch for shipping.  Now they are gone.  Fishing is done by winter visitors and locals who catch for their own pleasure and for their tables.  Bass tournaments are popular as is mud racing.   Leave your bikini at home.  The waters here are run by the alligators.

I want my readers to enjoy reading about a place not often visited by tourists.  Let me leave you with my favorite image of this place: Cows.  I am, after all, a country girl.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Coming Soon, Next Rocky Bluff P.D. Crime Novel

Here's the blurb:

An attractive new-hire captivates Officer Gordon Butler, Officer Felix Zachary’s wife Wendy is befuddled by her new baby, Ryan and Barbara Strickland receive unsettling news about her pregnancy, while the bloody murder of a mother and her son and an unidentified drug that sickens teenaged partiers jolts the Rocky Bluff P.D.

I've received one review already: 

."Good read that had me playing detective along with the characters. The cops were well fleshed out with little details that really do occur in a cop's world and I could almost smell the chow mein, the eucalyptus and the blood."—Linda Rooney Card

And I've been busy working on the promo.

I've ordered business card with the cover on the front and pertinent information on the back. (Vistaprint)

I've planned a blog tour for March, have the schedule ready, a new contest and have sent everything out to the bloggers. (Hard, hard work!)

When I get actual books, I'll offer 3 to DorothyL subscribers and will hopefully receive some reviews on DorothyL.

I'll have a book launch, but have no concrete plans as yet.

I"m going to the  San Gabriel Book Festival and will hand cards out there.

I'll be heading to Epicon in March also, and plan to hand out my biz cards there.

I hope to go to the L.A. Times Book Festival and be in the LA chapter of Sisters in Crime booth. (This depends upon getting a driver.)

In July, of course, it's PSWA.

August I'll be at the Nipomo Friends of the Library Author and Craft Sale.

In-between, I'll do whatever comes up. Hoping for some speaking engagments.

I'm also going to be active on many Internet sites.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Monday, January 21, 2013


 Why do we love the Edible Bookshelf? Because they are supportive of our authors! This week, Terry Ambrose tells us how to avoid email scams and talks about weird birthday practices, we get a sneak peek at Lesley Diehl's new title and Sunny Frazier wonders where to find your platform. Plus, Marja McGraw says stop being lazy with your words. All this on The Friday Round-Up!

TERRY AMBROSE (“License To Lie”) tells us all how to avoid email scams at
LORNA COLLINS, author of “Ghost Writer,” is this week's Wild Woman at 
LESLEY DIEHL gives her first interview for new novel “Grilled, Chilled and Killed” and discusses bad-boy cop, Toby Sands
The Edible Bookshelf Blogspot is one of our favorites, and with good reason. They have a terrific interview up with S. CONNELL VONDRAK, author of “No Evidence of a Crime” and a forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police. LORNA COLLINS is also featured on the site. Is this blog taking a “bite” out of crime?
SUNNY FRAZIER, author of the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, blogs “What Is a Platform and Where Do I Find One?” over at :
Sunny is also speaking to the Tulare/Kings Writers on Jan. 19 at Zhuo Restaurant in the Visalia Marriott from 10 a.m. to noon to celebrate the first anniversary of the group. She will be talking about platform building.   
MARJA MCGRAW, author of the Bogey mysteries, talks about bad habits with word choices at

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Are we moving away from the Enlightenment/Age of Literacy?

Now, don't get all hopped up by the title of my post. I'm just musing today on whether we are seeing a general shift away from the dominance of text to the dominance of other forms, such as video, pictures with captions, or hypertext.

The other day someone was talking about the new social media venue Pinterest. She was wondering what it's all about. Several people spoke up (okay, they were typing, but you know what I mean) to say that it was fun and interesting. I spoke up to question whether this is a trend away from long, analytical statements (using primarily text with illustrations as a helper) and back towards pictures and images alone as a way to communicate.

After all, haven't the last couple of generations grown up on video? On MTV and quick cuts and Short Attention Span Theater? Hasn't Twitter become a Must-Have (120 characters, as opposed to a page-long blog post)? Aren't we seeing lots of one-panel cartoons on Facebook instead of updates about people's personal lives?

I wonder. Perhaps with the move away from print books to e-readers and online texts, the form of *story* is changing. (Maybe even the very nature of story.) I don't believe that the human need for story (to explain the world and predict what people should and will do in various situations) will ever go away, but the FORM of story has shifted before. In fact, THE ILIAD/ODYSSEY and GILGAMESH were epic poems through the oral tradition. The oral tradition ended with the arrival of writing and later Gutenberg's printing press, and the print tradition became dominant. Are we in for another shift? A shift towards video and hypertext and e-texts with plenty of illustrations? Will we regress to a world of pictograms and one-liners?

I hope not, as the novel is one of my favorite forms of communication. We the authors of Oak Tree Press love novels, and OTP publishes a heck of a lot of good ones (you should try out some of our sample chapters on the Kindle today!) I fervently pray that the novel continues in SOME form or another.

What do you think? Do you see a shift coming? Has the ship already sailed? Am I, like the unicorns, doomed to be standing on the white cliffs staring at the sea saying, "Was that today?"

Or do you believe there's still room for all types and forms of STORY?

Monday, January 14, 2013

What defines a good review?

Just how would you define a “good review?”
I suppose if you ask 10 authors what they hope to get from a book review, you might get four or five answers.

I guess if I receive a review of my novels, I’d want kind praise, of course. Maybe a rave, if you’re in the mood.

Also, and this is even more important over the long-term, I’d like some helpful criticism of the book. What might it lack in terms of plot? Story? Character development?

Now I don’t advocate the old axiom of “If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all.” because, you know, if you don’t like something…well, it might be good for me to know about it.

Up to a point.

What got me to thinking like this about reviews was an item on a web site called The Omnivore ( 

It sponsors a (mostly) tongue-in-cheek award known as The Hatchet Job of the Year Awards ( that highlights the more cruel, scathing and nasty book reviews of the previous year.

I admit, a few of those reviews are kind of fun to read. I guess. And as you can see by the recognizable names of some of the authors, they’ll survive the scathing reviews—wittily scathing, in some cases. (We should all have half of Martin Amis’ problems, eh?)

What do you look for in a review of a book you may want to purchase and read?

And what do you hope for in reading a review of your own book—assuming the review is somewhere between scathing and an over-the-moon rave?