Monday, April 29, 2013

Library Author Open Houses

I’ve had an opportunity to participate in a number of author open houses at libraries. Yesterday, I attended one at the Englewood Library. Approximately fifty Colorado authors who had published a book within the last year participated. The library staff fed us lunch, and in the afternoon we manned (or womaned) tables to pitch our books to library patrons. People purchased our books using a voucher system. We gave out a slip with the name of the book and price. The patron would then take the voucher to the cashier, pay for the book, get the voucher stamped, return the stamped voucher to the author and pick up the signed book. At the end of the afternoon, we authors turned in the vouchers, and the library will send us checks for the books sold.

I enjoy these events. It’s an opportunity to chat with interested readers, meet new and existing fans and schmooze with fellow writers. I carpooled with Lynda Hilburn, who writes a vampire shrink paranormal series. She gave me some good ideas since I’ve just come out with my first paranormal mystery, The V V Agency, through Oak Tree Press. I received my first copies on Saturday, so this was the first time I had a chance to hand sell the book. A lot of fun.

I also sold books from my geezer-lit mystery series. The picture below shows me with fellow mystery/crime author Tom Adair, who is a former CSI. He’s also spoken twice at the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, most recently conducting a terrific fingerprint workshop.

Mike Befeler

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Do You Like Blog Hops?

For the last three years, I've participated in the A to Z Blog Challenge. It's basically the only one I do. This challenging event is for the entire month of April and requires a daily post, except for Sundays. This year's posts are about an entire range of things. I've read about recipes and menus, travel all over the place, writing a variety of book types and much more. Several bloggers decided to write a poem a day which I have enjoyed reading.

This experience has introduced me to a lot of people I would never have met otherwise. It has also brought many different people by to visit my blog.

"X-Ray Tetra" acrylic painting ©Mary Montague Sikes
In the past, I have written about travel destinations, a subject I especially enjoy. This year, I decided to create a Painting a Day--one for each letter of the alphabet. I've always wanted to try painting a new piece of art every day. I had no idea how difficult this would be, especially since I also had enrolled in an intense artist workshop from April 22-26 in Boone, North Carolina. I just finished that week-long activity which required a six-hour drive to and from the destination.

 I have two more paintings to make to complete the Challenge. I am delighted to have a new body of bright and cheerful work. It will inspire my writing.

(You can see all of the paintings at Notes Along the Way.)

Do you like blog hops? Which one do you participate in?

--Mary Montague Sikes

Friday, April 26, 2013


Several of our newest authors are garnering attention for their book releases. Check out the Northeast Texas Writers' Conference and see who wrote a script on the history of jazz. The juke joint is jumping over at the Weekly Round-Up!

RICHARD MARRANCA, has been getting some love for “Dragon Sutra in the Community College Humanities Association spring newsletter with an article about his book release. An article about the book release appeared in “Visions,” a local newspaper and the New Jersey Chapter of Fulbright announced the release. At the New Jersey College English Association conference in March, a signed copy of the book was raffled off. Kudos!

OTP Publisher, Billie Johnson, is delighted with the cover of about-to-be-released novel, “Mariachi Murder,” written by D. R. RANSDELL. The cover is set against the backdrop of a golden sunset...steamy!

HELEN OSTERMAN, author of the Emma Winberry Mystery series, was on two panels at The Midwest Mystery Showcase in Waukesha WI on Sat. April 21 at Martha Merrill's Books.The newest in Helen's series is "Locked Within," coming soon from OTP.


ROBERT WEIBEZAHL, author of “The Dead Don't Forget,” is featured on in Rockville Centre, NY:

ROBERT was also featured on Ventura County (CA) Conejo Vallley Guide:

Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27, JAMES CALLAN will be at the Northeast Texas Writers' Conference selling his books, including the two 2013 books from Oak Tree Press: his latest mystery, “A Ton of Gold” and his booklet on character development, “Character: The Heartbeat of the Novel.”

NAN MAHON, author of soon to be re-published “Blind Buddy and Mojo's Blues Band,” has written the script for a musical journey from the past of an original American art form. History of the Blues will be presented at the Sheldon High School Performing Arts Theater, April 27 at 7 p.m. The show is made possible by a grant from the City of Elk Grove Committee for the Arts, Elk Grove, CA. Both professional and student musicians will be under the direction of producer, bandleader Gary Mendoza. This will be a performance that will rock the house in the style of those who came before them in the juke joints and cabarets of the past.


JIM CALLAN, author of  “A Ton of Gold,” gave an interview via his protagonist in Cleansed by Fire” over at:

He was also interviewed by Dawn Roberto at Dawn's Reading Nook:

On his own blog, Jim interviews Vanessa Riley on platform building:

JOHN DANIEL, author of “Behind the Redwood Door,” offers writers some ideas for mining our pasts in search of story material.
Have a look:

LESLEY DIEHL, author of “Dumpster Dying” and “Chilled, Grilled and Killed,” is hosting JANET GREGER on April 28 to talk about the psychology of losing weight and creating a murder mystery in her newest release Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight.”

MARJA MCGRAW, author of the Bogey series, is reposting from an earlier Oak Tree blog about how awkward moments can inspire a mystery;

MARILYN MEREDITH (“Dangerous Impulses”) talks about some of the things she does to promote her books:
She also explains why not everyone should write a book:

CHRIS SWINNEY, author of soon-to-be-published “Gray Ghost” talks about “Uncatchy Phrases.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pope Dreams

My new book, Pope's Last Case, and Other Stories, just came out this month. I'm very grateful to Billie Johnson and everyone at Oak Tree Press for believing in both me and this book..

I wrote the first story about Vince and Laura, "Whodunit." many years ago for an anthology called 100 Menacing Murder Stories. The editor called me and asked if I was interested in contributing a story. I said I was, and he dropped a real short deadline (10 days) on me. I had just finished reading The Thin Man and was reflecting how much I enjoyed the delightful banter between Nick and Nora Charles. I decided to try my hand at something similar and created my own version of the characters in Vince and Laura. In the intervening years, I wrote several more Pope stories for various markets, but always dreamed of collecting them all in one volume.

Fast forward to 2011 and enter Ms. Billie Johnson, of Oak Tree Press, whom I met at the PSWA Conference in Las Vegas. Billie had published a western (Dismal River) by my longtime friend, Big Wayne Dundee, and proved to be very nice. Big Wayne raved about Oak Tree Press and how easy it was to work with Billie and the rest of the crew. I managed to build up enough courage to talk to her about my Pope dreams, and she agreed to take a look. She liked the stories, but felt the collection was a tad too slim to fill a book. I agreed to write a few more stories, and got busy. Along the way, I revised all the earlier stories and imbued them with a bit more continuity. The end result was that the collection took on the feel of a novel, while still remaining a collection of short stories. I knew I wanted to finish it off with something special. Back in my undergrad days I was fascinated by James Joyce's collection of short stories (Dubliners) and wanted to do something similar. Joyce concluded his collection with a novella-length story ("The Dead"), so I did the same. I called mine "Pope's Last Case." Although it's the last story in this collection, I'm hoping to return to Vince and Laura again someday. That's the nice thing about writing a collection set in the 1940s--- you can write with a historical hindsight, and never have to worry about the stories going out of date.

Mike Black, Author of:
The Heist ~ Two former marines return from Iraq and run afoul of the Outfit. Available on Amazon and from Crossroad Press: Available as an e-book and trade paperbackand soon to be released as an audio: . 
Coming in April from Oak Tree PressPope's Last Case and Other Stories-- A collection of all the Vince and Laura Pope stories, plus some new ones and a complete novella featuring my homage to Hammett's The Thin Man.
From Five Star: Sacrificial Offerings, the third Leal and Hart novel and nominated for the Best Novel by the Midland Authors' Association.
Two new short stories: "Fishtale" in Mermaids 13 and "Ransom" in To Hell in a Fast Car 
From Dark Horse Comics: "Time Factor" --- a story in The Shaolin Cowboy Adventure Magazine with Geof Darrow and Andrew Vachss.

On the NY Times review proces and a "Hat Trick" of sorts

Interesting look at the sort of system through which a book gets a review in the NY Times:

I'm torn here as I'd kill for a book of mine to get reviewed in the NYT even once, let alone twice in a 10 day or so span. Yet at the same time, I've occasionally wondered how a book does get reviewed twice by the same publication. Or why....

Monday, April 22, 2013

Curious Cup Children's Workshop

Seventeen lively school children joined my April 16th workshop at the Curious Cup Bookstore. Happily, all went smoothly. I showed them how to make accordion books. Then they wrote stories in their newly folded creations.  These delightful  children, ages seven through eleven, were fresh out of school and consequently a bit restless. Some of the mothers stayed and were very helpful, especially at pizza-snack time. 

During the workshop, most of the children were busy and happy folding their books and working on writing stories, although some of the younger ones needed help with the folding. Several children were very talented, including one creative, little boy who wanted to draw a cartoon rather than write a story. He folded his accordion book to run vertically rather than horizontally,  and he had a unique idea about how to tie up his book with ribbon. Another girl, a good artist, drew a beautiful fairy house to illustrate her story. One boy wanted only to fold books and not write a story, which was OK with me. He ended up with a great pile of folded paper. At the end, a brave little girl asked to read her story to the group. We all clapped afterwards.

Pizza was served halfway through the 90-minute session.  While the children ate their snack, I talked about where story ideas come from and how to write stories.  Learning from this experience,  I think next time I will engage them more in conversation and maybe have them develop a group story. They did look at the books I passed out after wiping their greasy hands (I’m glad I had napkins and paper plates). Some of these books were my own published stories and others were books that young children had either written or illustrated. I left the books on the table for reference, and it was interesting to see which ones fascinated them.    

At the end, I passed out an instruction sheet for them to take home, along with a brochure of my Oak Tree Press Books and my card. In addition, I gave the parents a sheet I developed about how to published their children’s stories online. As I gave the mothers this sheets, I explained how excited my granddaughter was when I published two of her books when she was ages four and seven.  One mother later came up to me and said this was a perfect idea for a Christmas present for her child’s grandparents. I hope other parents follow through and publish their children’s stories as well.  My granddaughter, now eight yeas old, is still going full speed ahead with writing and illustrating.  I’m sure I’ll have more of her books to publish and maybe soon she will be self-publishing her own.

Once the children started writing, they were busy and productive.  I walked around the table helping the youngsters and looking at what they were writing. Needless to say, 5 PM came quickly and the happy children left full of energy and pizza. The workshop was also fun for me, taking me back to fond memories of my own teaching days many years ago. I also find that these workshops help promote my three OTP, children's books and definitely result in sales. I hope to schedule similar workshops in the future.

Beryl Reichenberg's books for young children include The Mysterious Case of the Missing Birthday Cake, Camouflage, and Ants on a Log all published by OTP. Two more stories are soon to be published, When Caterpillars Dream and Butterfly Girls. Beryl also has four books available on Amazon from her Wildlife Series.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Modern History

            My new crime novel, The Dead Don’t Forget, is set in 1995, a fact that seems to confound some readers. I’m not sure why this is the case, but my best guess is that many readers just assume that a newly published novel has a contemporary setting unless told so from the onset. In my case, the 1995 setting is not explicitly stated until page 20, which some have found troublesome. I even excised an early-in-the-book reference to a VCR because at least two early readers found the anachronism jarring (of course, it is not an anachronism in a book set in the 90s, but a wise writer tries to keep readers from being jolted out of the narrative because of some minor, relatively unimportant detail).

            The reasons The Dead Don’t Forget is set in 1995 and not in, say, the second decade of the 21st century, are multiple. First and foremost, the book is a sequel to my first crime novel, The Wicked and the Dead, which is set in 1994. Both books try to capture a specific time in Los Angeles: the post-Northridge earthquake, post-Rodney King riots years when “paradise” began to feel tarnished. Equally important is that my main character, screenwriter-reluctant sleuth Billy Winnetka, is a somewhat disillusioned man in his early forties who came of age during the counter-culture 1960s. Do the math.

            And, third, there is the fact that my own erstwhile experience working in the film business dates from those years, so my attempts at gently satirizing the Industry target what I know best. I don’t believe the underlying eccentricities of the entertainment business have changed much since then, though, so I don’t think the observations Billy makes are any less apt twenty years on. Only the names have changed, as it were. And the technology, of course. Billy doesn’t have a cell phone yet, although some of the other characters do. And folks in the novel still use fax machines, answering machines…and VCRs.

            Still, the inference that a new story might in some way be dated by a decades-old time frame got me thinking. At what point does a story move into the subgenre of historical fiction? Most would probably agree that anything set during World War II or before would fall squarely in this realm. But what about the 1950s or '60s (the setting of a book I’m currently working on)? What about the Go-Go '80s—could the silly excesses (and big hair) of those years be any less “historical” to a new generation of readers than The Great Gatsby or Downton Abbey? Is it too early to view Billy Winnetka’s ante-millennial adventures in the1990s as historical fiction? I guess that’s for readers to decide.

 - Robert Weibezahl
Robert Weibezahl's books include The Wicked and the Dead, which introduced screenwriter-sleuth Billy Winnetka' and A Taste of Murder and A Second Helping of Murder, co-edited with Jo Grossman, and both finalists for the Agatha and Macavity Awards. A columnist for BookPage since 2002, his work has appeared in many national and regional publications. He lives in California.

Friday, April 19, 2013

RON CORBIN, author of  “Beyond Recognition” received a good review from Night Owl Reviews:
This is a big week for JOHN LINDERMUTH. His short story, “The Cat That Got The Major’s Goat”, his tale of a tiger hunt in Korea, is up at
And, “Sooner Than Gold”  is among good reads listed in the April-May newsletter of Romancing the Heart:
ROBERT WEIBEZAHL, author of   “Not Dead Yet,” received his first review over at


RICHARD MARRANCA ( “Dragon Sutra”) will be reading from his book and talking about Southeast Asia, Buddhism and creative writing on Friday, April 26, at 7 pm at Barnes and Noble, Rt 22, Springfield NJ.
DENISE WEEKS, author of “Nice Work,” is having a joint book signing event with Jenny Milchman, author of COVER OF SNOW, on Sunday, April 28th from 1-4 PM at Lucky Dog Books in Dallas

SALLY CARPENTER, author of  The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper” guest blogged on Writers Who Kill about her experiences as a jail chaplain in the 1990s and the "pod" system used by modern jails.

I.C.ENGER hosts J.L. GREGER in a piece titled "The Microbe Made Me Eat."
J.L. GREGER was interviewed at
MARJA MCGRAW, author of the Bogey series wants to know how writers portray sound effects.  As a reader, what's your preference?
Prolific author MARILYN MEREDITH tells where she gets her titles.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book Signings--and the future of signed paper

I am super-excited to announce my upcoming joint book signing event here in the Dallas/Ft Worth area with Jenny Milchman, author of COVER OF SNOW (out in hardcover from Ballantine), on Sunday, April 28th from 1-4 PM at Lucky Dog Books in Dallas (the Lochwood location)! If you're in the area, please come. We'll have cookies!

Are you surprised that book signings are still happening? I know people have been wondering about that, what with the proliferation of e-books and the seeming dominance of e-readers. Still, there's something about an in-person Meet and Greet and Get A Paper Book Signed event that appeals to the fangirl/fanguy in everyone. It's really cool to go to one--and even cooler to be behind the table talking about and signing your own books! I can't wait to have people looking at copies of NICE WORK.

But do autographed copies even make sense in this digitized world? People don't keep large print libraries any more (except me, but I know I'm an exception), and I can't see them hanging on to the copies they've had an author inscribe to them when they can sell the books on eBay. (LOL!) Maybe it's fast becoming a curiosity. Or perhaps there'll be a resurgence of interest in printed books, much like the rebound of vinyl LPs and turntables. The media isn't the message, after all--it's not the vehicle that counts, but what it delivers.

However, I still find it more difficult to read on my e-reader than on paper or even on this large flat screen connected to the desktop PC. I can't recall an e-book for very long after I close the file, unlike the way I can remember details from a print book I've read. We can't assume that others are like us in this sense, so I did a bit of Googling, and there have been studies that have confirmed I'm not alone.

Researchers have found that different parts of the brain process the visual input, in fact. Here's an article about the Reading Brain and how it might work, for those of you who are like me and don't do as well with e-text:

Even more daunting is the idea that as people become accustomed to skimming webpages and reading on e-readers, "deep reading" (deep engagement with the text, the flowstate as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) will fade away. This topic is explored in The Shallows by Nicholas Carr (a great book that I commend to you, BTW) and in Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf. The latter author has posted an intriguing article:

There's a lively debate between other researchers here:

How about you? Do you notice any differences in your processing of e-books as opposed to print books? How old are you (this makes a difference, I'll bet)? Do you still collect author autographs? Or do you settle for an e-autograph?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Twitter for Authors

Hi, gang.

Interesting article here about Twitter and how we as authors can make the best use of it. 

Some of this you may already know, some of it may be new.

FYI as they say:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Power of Gray

There is power in gray. I’m not speaking about Fifty Shades of Grey, but the power of older people. I have written a mystery series that is affectionately labeled, Geezer-lit Mysteries. With Oak Tree Press I have something different coming out this month, a paranormal PI mystery. 

This last week I attended the World Affairs Conference at the University of Colorado in Boulder. This is an annual event (65th one) with speakers on an eclectic range of subjects. Some of the sessions I attended included: Growing Old: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly; Who Stole the American Dream? with Hedrick Smith; Inside Iran; Homeless, Jobless: the Walking Nightmare; the Power of Social Enterprise; What the Frack! (fracking); the Evolution and Devolution of TV; Investing in a Sustainable Future; Truth Decay: Hoaxes and Conspiracies; My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House with Valerie Plame Wilson; Cartooning with Jim Borman, cartoonists of the Zits series in newspapers; Confessions of a Bibliophile; and the Molly Ivins Freedom Fightin’ Memorial Plenary with David Corn. 

In addition to my mind bursting with ideas after these programs (in the first session I came up with the plot for a new story), I noticed one very interesting thing in the auditoriums: the number of gray heads. There is an immense power in this country—older people. They are engaged, interested in key issues in our society and can make a difference. So instead of writing off Granny, realize she is part of a voting block and source of wisdom that can be applied to many problems in our country. And that’s also why I enjoy writing about older characters in many of my mystery novels.

Mike Befeler  

Friday, April 12, 2013


Welcome to the weekly round-up everyone!

It's an Oak Tree Press reunion in July! Meeting in Vegas for the Public Safety Writers Conference are
LORNA COLLINS, ILENE SCHNEIDER, JANET GREGER, SUSAN VONDRAK, CHRIS SWINNEY, MARTA CHAUSEE, publisher BILLIE JOHNSON, acquisition editor SUNNY FRAZIER and conference organizer MARILYLN MEREDITH. More OTP authors will be coming and will be mentioned in next weeks round-up. The event happens from July 11-14. This is the place network with retired and active duty law enforcement types, plus there are contests for published, unpublished, short stories and articles.

MARILYN MEREDITH announced that  her latest Rocky Bluff PD mystery is up on Kindle.

Kids books are featured on Houston Style Magazine. You can see a review for "My Name is Huber" a story of a very old tractor by JANE AUMANN and CINDY LADAGE.

There is also a review for "The Big Squeal" by CAROL ALEXANDER. A delightful read about a pig with ties to Abraham Lincoln.


Children's book author BERYL REICHENBERG will teach a class for school aged children on Tuesday, April 16, at 3:30 at the Curious Cup Bookstore in Carpinteria, CA. She shows how to make folded book forms and write stories, where story ideas come from and basic story format. The children will then have an opportunity to write and illustrate their own stories in their newly made books.

Over at an online site called Talking Points Memo, an Amazon ad was spotted for MARY MONTAGUE SIKES“Williamsburg Inn,” one of a series of hotel books by the author. Great product placement! 

Mary Montague Sikes is a guest on The Edible Bookshelf and on Terry Odell’s blog this week. She is promoting her novel, Night Watch, set in Trinidad. Here are the blog links:

She is also participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge and is creating a painting a day for the month of April. Some of the paintings relate to her books. Please visit her when you can at and follow the progress of her paintings.

ENE SCHNEIDER, author of "Unleavened Dead" is interviewed at Make Mine Mystery.

Over at Night Owl Reviews, MARTA CHAUSEE received a terrific one for  “Murder's Last Resort.”  

SUNNY FRAZIER, author of the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, did a video interview for Kings River Life:



JOHN BRANTINGHAM, author of  “Mann of War,” writes about the best and worst cars in detective fiction over at Venture Galleries:

In honor of April Fool’s Day, JOHN DANIEL (“Behind the Redwood Door”) writers to in 99-word stories with the theme “The Joke’s On Me.” See what they came up with:

How's that e-book experiment going, WILLIAM DOONAN? Check out the progress at Novel Spaces:  Doonan

MARJA MCGRAW, author of the Bogey series, blogs about errors in books:

Marja also has an interview with Jean Henry Mead

MARILYN MEREDITH “Dangerous Impulses” is answering questions over at Dawn's Reading Nook:
Marilyn also confesses what it really means to be an author: