Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Heh heh. Gather round, my mystery writer friends, while I take you into the realm of Halloween literature. Let’s call it – Hal Lit 101.

Perhaps you’re already intimately aware of the following books and quotes and facts. I hope not. That would spoil my fun.

Come read with me as I sit, dressed in black, in my local cemetery just a broom’s throw from my humble home (see it in the distance?). I’ve a nice bonfire going, in the open field that leads to the graves, and the wind is strong enough to gently howl – good atmosphere for our gathering. A secretly sourced Wi-Fi has me plugged in, and the fire light enables me to read. Hee hee. This is fun! I do hope nobody passing on the road can see me.

Now, pay attention or my cats here will put a spell on that OTP connection of yours.

Who said the following? Answers are at the end; don’t sneak a look!

1. The moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding-places.

2. Dark, dark! The horror of darkness, like a shroud, wraps me and bears me on through mist and cloud.

3. There was something awesome in the thought of the solitary mortal standing by the open window and summoning in from the gloom outside the spirits of the nether world.

4. “Here is the first passionate love-letter I have ever written in my life. Strange, that my first passionate love-letter should have been addressed to a dead girl. Can they feel, I wonder, those white silent people we call the dead?”

 5. There was no gleam, no shadow, for the heavens, too, were one still, pale cloud; no sound or motion in anything but the dark river that flowed and moaned like an unresting sorrow.

Next, I present 10 Novels That Will Scare The Hell Out Of You.
You may not agree, but I didn’t make up the list – or that title. So keep calm and read on.

"The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson
"Rustication" by Charles Palliser
"The Shining" by Stephen King
"The Little Stranger" by Sarah Water
"O My Darling" by Amity Gaige
"We Have Always Lived in the Castle" by Shirley Jackson
"The Shining Girls" by Lauren Beukes
"Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens
"Hell House" by Richard Matheson
"The House of Leaves" by Mark Danielewski

You’re probably dying to know why these titles and not others. And you surely know other equally or more frightening novels to add to the list. Julie Buntin posted this list, with her reasons for selecting the books, on The Huffington Post on October 24. Simply Google “10 Novels etc.” to read her take on each book, and look over the comments that follow.
It will make your day.
Finally, I have some trivia facts to share. Take notes. Is that a siren I hear? I hope no one is coming for me. . .

1. Potatoes and turnips were the original Jack-O-Lanterns. Irish children would carve and light them to use during the

gatherings on Halloween.

2. Can you think of a word that rhymes with orange? It may be a popular color for Halloween, but don't try writing a rhyming poem with the word orange. Even if you use a dictionary, you won't find any words to rhyme with orange.
3. Halloween was actually a Celtic holiday. It was originally called Samhain meaning "end of summer.” In ancient Celtic

Ireland, October 31st marked the official end of summer.

4. Although Halloween is generally thought of as a fun holiday, some people have a fear of Halloween. If a person has an extreme, intense, or irrational fear of Halloween, they may be suffering from a condition known as samhainophobia. You can read more about this condition by reading L. Vincent Poupard's article entitled "Do you Suffer from Samhainophobia, the Fear of Halloween?".

We’re just about done. And wasn’t that fun? (Rhyme intended. You’re all writers, after all.) For those of you who didn’t guess (or sneak a peek) where all those quotes came from, here are your answers:
1. Mary Shelley -- Frankenstein
2. Sophocles – Oedipus Rex
3. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Selecting a Ghost
4. Oscar Wilde – The Picture of Dorian Gray
5. George Eliot – The Mill on the Floss

The fire is dying out, and I must be going, my friends. Have a ghoulishly happy Halloween, and if you have nightmares, don’t blame me. Heh heh.
Witchedly yours,


P.S. As an extra Halloween treat: light up your holiday by checking this amazing site:

18 Literary Pumpkins For A Bookish Halloween - BuzzFeed
 - Celebrate Halloween and literature at the same time!
Any guesses on the artist who did this one?


Monday, October 28, 2013

What I've Learned About Visiting Schools

In the past two weeks, I have visited two elementary schools. In many ways, these visits couldn’t have been more different. Yet, there were some similarities. At one school, I talked to a group of 60 fifth graders in the school assembly room; at the other school, I met with a class of first grader. 

The fifth graders had just completed a publishing assignment using classroom computers and were celebrating their achievement. They were interested in hearing about my book writing process from first idea to publication. I spoke from a podium and had a mike (which I ignored). With the first graders, I read one of my stories, The Mysterious Case of the Missing Birthday Cake in their classroom from a comfy chair, a more intimate and congenial atmosphere. 
In each instance, the children were attentive and asked good questions or shared interesting comments. Here are a few things I learned from these experiences:

l. Be prepared. Have supplies, examples, etc. available at my fingertips so I’m not fumbling around looking for what I need while talking. 

2. Be flexible. I wasn’t aware that I would be talking with the fifth graders in an assembly room with podium and mike. Fortunately, they all were able to see my visuals and hear me.

3. Bring something for the students to take home to remember the visit. I brought  bookmarks, with pictures of my Oak Tree Press books and email address to both groups.  Hopefully, some of the students or families will order my other books. Teachers like to pass these out themselves later. With the first graders, I left a copy of each of my Oak Tree Press books for the class.

4. Engage the students in conversation. I try not to talk too long without asking them a question. When taking about where I find my story ideas with the fifth graders, I started out by asking how many didn’t like vegetables. There was an overwhelming show of hands. I followed by talking about how my book, Ants on a Log, was a true story about my son who when young hated vegetables. With the first graders, I asked how many would like to fly with butterflies when showing them my book, Butterfly Girls. Again, a show of many hands. I find if the children participate, they feel comfortable in asking questions and making their own comments, and we have more of a conversation rather than a lecture. 

5. Don’t talk too long. Children, especially the little ones, have a short attention span and can only sit still for a limited period of time. I watch my audience and gage my presentation to match their abilities. Naturally, the fifth graders can listen and pay attention longer than the first graders.

6. Be friendly. I always smile and engage the children in conversation when I first meet them. With some of the fifth graders, I asked them what kinds of books they liked to read and how many had read Harry Potter. With the first graders, I mentioned briefly that I have four grandchildren, ages three to nine and ask how many were seven years old. This exercise developed a connection between us, and the children seem to feel more comfortable in asking questions and making comments. 

7. Keep control of the conversation. Sometimes children like to tell too many of their own stories, and this gets our conversation off track. I try not to call on the same children more than a couple of times and to bring the conversation back to the agenda if we stray.  Yet, I always like to hear their questions and comments. This shows me that they are listening, engaged and are learning something.

8. Leave with a smile and a thank you. 

Naturally, when speaking with adults, there is less concern about attention span. However, here too, I like to engage my audience more in a conversation than a lecture.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

10 Promotion Pitfalls to Avoid

Over the last few weeks I have been looking at the promotion efforts of sites I visit regularly (not OTP).  First, I have been trying to come up with a formula that works (haven’t solved this one yet), and second, I have been trying to figure out pitfalls to avoid. 

Here are a few things I have seen that, in my opinion, can hurt the promotion efforts of a writer.

1.  Not including “live” links in emails or posts.  Readers who already enjoy your work will probably copy and paste.  Chances are, those people have also already purchased your book.  Readers who don’t know you, have never heard of you, and/or have tons to read already, will probably not make the extra effort. 

2.  Not including links at all, especially if you are guest posting or posting to a list serve.  Don’t assume that the person reading your post or article knows your website or blog address, even if your target audience is one you think should know you well enough to find it.  If you mention a great group on Facebook to join, direct the reader to an article on another writer's site, or suggest they read a blog post on your own site, include a link to it so people can find it without having to search.  Otherwise, they might not bother.

3.  Putting a link to a site that doesn’t directly lead to the article or post.  If a reader is interested enough to click the link and the page they reach doesn’t have the article or post you were referring to, the reader who isn’t already in love with you is going to move on to something else.  They're not going to search for other links.  Providing a link that doesn’t lead directly to the promised article or post cheats your readers and wastes their time.

For example, I've written a post called, "Bad Reviews or Why Prisoners Like Grits" on my blog at If I've done this right, and you check it before the next article comes up, the link should take you directly to the most recent post.  (The blog even includes a link to the worst Amazon review I've ever received.)

4.  Make sure if you are offering a sale or a free book through a link, that the link takes the reader directly to the sale or free book.  If the offer is time-limited, include that immediately before the link.  Some people don’t check their email every day.  If you don’t include that information, they may click your link and be disappointed or even annoyed or angry when the book is regular price again.

3 of my pets
 5.  Not having images on a blog.  People like to associate a face with a name, or if you’re really lucky,
your book cover.

6.  Only posting or blogging about buying your book.  Some years back, a writer who self-published her book after her publisher went out of business (not an OTP writer) started a campaign to get her book on some Amazon best seller list.

My girls 1st day of school

Everything she posted on every site, including her Facebook, read like, “Buy my book, buy my book, and by the way, don’t forget to buy my book.”  She was like one of my kids, who will keep asking for the same thing over and over, as if repeating the request enough times will make me give it to them.  My kids don’t get what they want this way and neither did she.  Her first book was okay, and I would have likely bought her next one had she not done this. As it stands, she lost a reader.

7.  Don’t put white words on bright backgrounds.  To those of us on the wrong side of 40 and older, it is really difficult to read, like trying to read the side of an Anacin medicine bottle.  We can adjust the size of text on our computers for the most part–if there’s a way to adjust the color on another writer's blog, I’m not aware of it. Make things easy to read.  Remember– the biggest mystery reader demographic is not the 20-year-old category.  Here are some additional tips I found, although the writer doesn't mention white on bright specifically.  (I also followed rules 1-3 by posting the link.)

8.  Don’t think you’re too busy to comment back when people have commented on a blog post you’ve done, whether for your own blog or the blog of someone else.  Sometimes it’s difficult to keep up with, and failing to do so probably won’t make or break your career, but it’s polite to respond when you can.  Readers will remember how a writer treated them.

9.  Don’t be too snarky about fans or other writers.  If you’re on a private list, a group where everyone knows and loves you, have a field day.  If you’re not, while it’s fine to have the opinion that Janet Evanovich’s plots seem to be recycled, it smells of jealousy if you dog-out another writer in your opinion or review.  You risk alienating fewer readers--and people will take you more seriously--if you are respectful and courteous in your reviews, even if your opinion is that the work is horrendous.  The First Amendment can be your best friend or your worst enemy in promotion, depending upon how you use it.

10.  Don’t say you’re going to do something and not do it.  You won’t keep fans by not showing up for a book signing.  While readers may not know you’ve failed to send in a promised guest blog, this type of stuff gets around, and eventually other writers will stop offering you those opportunities. 

It’s easy to forget, or get busy, and life sometimes just gets in the way.  If that happens, let the person waiting for you know that something came up.  While forgetting you are supposed to do a blog won’t go over big with the blog owner, it is much better to man up or woman up, as the case may be, apologize, and correct the mistake.  No one is perfect, and humility goes a long way in this profession.


Holli Castillo
Follow me on Facebook

Friday, October 25, 2013


Welcome to the Weekly Round-Up everyone! Thank you for dropping in. Oak Tree Press has lots of news in our corral today. Be sure to check out our website,, for a complete list of all the great books we have available. But now, for your reading pleasure, our authors have news, book signings, events, reviews, blogs and more to share with you as we head into the Round-Up…

Halloween is coming up fast! Do you know what you are going to do? Want to try something fun and different? OTP author CHRIS KULLSTROEM has just the book for you!

"Deadly Roles: Interactive Games of Murder and Mystery" is a collection of interactive murder mystery games in which players take on character roles, search for clues and solve  mysteries in Halloween-party settings. Games are themed on different ways death has been regarded from the Middle Ages to the present. Mysterious topics include the plague, death omens, alchemy, funerals, Underworld legends, graveyards and legends of the undead.

JOHN M. DANIEL would like to announce the release of his new novel, "Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery."
To top off this announcement, JOHN shares with us that Publishers Weekly gave "Hooperman" a glowing, starred review!
"Pleasant and unusually good-natured, this novel from Daniel (The Poet’s Funeral) harkens back to a time when printed books mattered and an independent bookstore could be a social club for passionately eccentric bibliophiles. Tall, bearded, and helplessly stuttering, Hooperman “Hoop” Johnson is happy to be hired at Maxwell’s Books in Palo Alto, Calif., in the summer of 1972, even if his secret assignment is not to take care of the books but to find out how big chunks of the store’s inventory are disappearing. Hoop becomes acquainted with Maxwell’s squabbling employees and begins a romance with Lucinda Baylor, one of the suspects in a case that turns out to be larger than amateur shoplifting. In fact, the effort to identify the thief soon takes a backseat to Daniels’s exploration of the odd quirks of human nature, as flashbacks reveal how Hoop became the person he is and lead to a sweet, gently satisfying conclusion."
I have chosen "Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery" as my Featured Blog Book of the Week. To get your copy, simply click the cover on the right column to go directly to
BERYL REICHENBERG, Oak Tree Press children's author, will be reading her stories at Santa Rosa Elementary School in Atascadero to a first grade class. BERYL has chosen to read "The Mysterious Case of the Missing Birthday Cake," a favorite with young children. Her visit is sponsored by Bucket of Books, an independent bookstore, who provides authors to area schools on a regular basis. Bucket of Books will also be selling BERYL's stories.

Two OTP authors are running specials on their kindle editions coming up soon.
“Gray Ghost” by CHRIS SWINNEY will be 99 cents October 31 – November 4.

“Locked Within” by HELEN OSTERMAN is running for FREE October 31 and November 10 & 11.

Lucy Walton from Female First Magazine has been very busy interviewing several Oak Tree Press authors. Check in on each one of these OTP authors and learn more about them and their books.

I. C. ENGER and her book “Green Ice”

ROBERT WEIBEZAHL and his book "The Dead Don’t Forget"

JACKIE TAYLOR ZORTMAN and “We Are Different Now”

CHRIS SWINNEY and “Gray Ghost”

AMY BENNETT and “End of the Road”

VELDA BROTHERTON and “The Purloined Skull”

PATRICK LINDER and “Ghost Music”

J. L. GREGER and “Coming Flu” and “Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight”

MICHAEL A. BLACK and “Pope’s Last Case”


ILENE SCHNEIDER, author of “Unleavened Dead” will be appearing at Magna Cum Murder October 24-28 in Indianapolis, IN. She will be on a panel Sunday about Writing Your First Novel. The event is being held at Columbia Club, 121 Monument Circle, Indianapolis, IN.

ILENE will also be at the New England Crime Bake November 6 - November 11. The event is being held at the Hilton, 25 Allied Drive, Dedham, MA.

JOHN M. WILLS, author of “The Year Without Christmas” will be signing copies of his newly released novel at St. Matthews Catholic Church Craft Bazaar in Fredericksburg, VA, on October 27 from 9:00am – 3:00pm.

MARY MONTAGUE SIKES, author of "Jungle Jeopardy" has been focusing on art more than usual during this summer and fall. October 29, 30 and 31, she will teach Experimental Mixed Water Media at This Century Art Gallery Education Center in Williamsburg. Earlier this year, she taught similar workshops at the Art Academy in Hilton Head, SC and at Gloucester Arts on the Main in Gloucester, VA. She gave demonstrations of her experimental techniques in San Diego, CA and in Sedona, AZ.

MONTI will have a one-person exhibition of her Animal Art at Prince George Gallery in Williamsburg, November 1 – 30 with an opening reception on November 1 from 5:30 - 7:30. In addition to the 26 “A to Z” paintings, she will show two larger works she created for book signings with her novel, “Jungle Jeopardy.” One of those paintings is “Guatemala Parrot” shown here. She also painted “Billy,” the jaguar from her story.

RADINE TREES NEHRING, author of “A Fair to Die For” will be celebrating Halloween in the gift shop at Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View, AR, October 30 - November 1. She has one novel and two short stories set in the park and they carry all of her books year-around.

RADINE will be having an all-day book signing at T. Charleston and Sons Booksellers, Grand Village Shops in Branson, MO on November 15th, and will be at the quarterly Ozarks Writers League meeting at College of the Ozarks on November 16th.

In between scheduled book events, RADINE often sets up in a Harps Grocery on Fridays and Saturdays. She has been appearing at many stores in this Arkansas/Oklahoma chain for several years. "They couldn't be nicer to work with and book sales are always good-though I admit the 6 to 8 hour schedule standing on my feet to greet shoppers can be wearing." You can check out RADINE’s website at


JAMES CALLAN, author of “Cleansed by Fire” will be blogging on the topic “Maybe the Debate Started with Shakespeare” on Ada Brownell's site on Friday, October 25.

DAC CROSSLEY, author of the upcoming “Revenge of the Texas Ranger” blogs about a seasonal farewell, and thoughts about the eternal constellations. Please note - holidays are almost upon us. BUT for every Christmas tree trimmed before Thanksgiving, an elf drowns a baby reindeer!

JOHN M. DANIEL, author of “Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery” asks if you are tired of all the squabbling over divisive social and political issues going on these days? Well, forty years ago the public discourse was just as contentious, but about different issues. JOHN has found that period fun to revisit in fiction. So, whether you remember that era or not... Return with him now to those daring days of yesteryear--the summer of 1972, which is when his novel "Hooperman" takes place. Visit JOHN's blog at:

LORNA COLLINS, author of “Ghost Writer” tells us what happens when an author finishes a book. Check it out on her blog:

J.L. GREGER, author of “Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight” asks the question "Where do you get ideas for your writing?" on her blog J. L. Greger's bugs.

TERRY AMBROSE, author of “License to Lie,” was featured on three blogs this week. On Sunday, his Oak Tree Press blog post was titled The holidays bring joy, cheer, and scams. He followed that up on Wednesday with appearances on Crime Fiction Collective and Terry's Place, a blog run by author Terry Odell. Terry also interview New York Times Bestselling author Steve Berry and Oak Tree Press author HELEN OSTERMAN for his Crime Fiction column on

A softcover copy of TERRY's new funny Hawaiian mystery, "Kauai Temptations," is up for grabs in a Goodreads giveaway. Enter at And to learn more about his mysteries with character, visit his website at

That wraps up the Round-Up for this week. I hope everyone enjoys the Weekly Round-Up as much as I enjoy posting it for you.

As always, if you have something you would like to submit to the Round-Up, send me an email at Big or small, old or new. I would like to keep our corral full of news! Comments, questions or suggestions are welcome too.

Have a great weekend, everyone.~ Suzi

Like us on Facebook!



Sunday, October 20, 2013

The holidays bring joy, cheer, and scams

With $5 million and their lives on the
line, can a criminologist and a con
artist learn to trust each other...
or themselves.

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s time to start thinking about decorating, who to invite to parties, and what gifts to give. It may also be a time when we open our wallets to help others. Charitable donation requests will appear in mailboxes, email accounts, and will even be seen outside of malls and grocery stores. Studies show that half of charity donations are made between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. What many people don’t realize is that, depending upon which charity you give to, those charitable contributions may not make it to the intended recipient.
I’m not referring to charities who have high administrative costs because that’s an entirely different problem. I’m referring to those who knowingly defraud consumers with fake websites or email scams. These charities show up not only during the holiday season, but also immediately after any natural or man-made disaster. For instance, within hours of the Boston Marathon explosion, fake charity websites were set up to collect donations for the victims. 
The fake sites are set up for the same reasons as any other fraudulent website. They collect financial information to sell to other organizations when you donate via credit card or debit card. They pocket your donations rather than passing them along. They use your collected information or leverage it to commit identity theft.

McKenna's identity is stolen and the girl
who stole his credit has turn up dead.
Now, he's up to his 'umi'umi in hot lava.
Identity theft is a huge business, somewhere in the over $15 billion range—and that range goes way up by some estimates. That particular crime is how I decided to start my new McKenna Mystery, with the protagonist’s checks having been stolen. There are, however, plenty of other ways for the scammers to get your information, including those fake websites and email scams mentioned above. So, if you want to keep your holidays merry and bright, be sure to start watching out now for anything that looks suspicious and follow these three little rules:
  • Check out businesses and charities with the Better Business Bureau at
  • Don’t be fooled by good artwork. The scammers have software to exactly duplicate a legitimate site.
  • Never succumb to pressure or that unbelievable deal. Pressure is the con man’s friend and that unbelievable deal probably is just that. Unbelievable. 
For more information, visit for more scam tips, author interviews, and information about Terry's books.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Welcome to the Weekly Round-Up everyone! Thank you for dropping in. Oak Tree Press has lots of news in our corral today. Be sure to check out our website,, for a complete list of all the great books we have available. But now, for your reading pleasure, our authors have news, book signings, events, reviews, blogs and more to share with you as we head into the Round-Up…

HELEN OSTERMAN, author of the Emma Winberry Mystery series, has been notified by Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore that her novel “Locked Within” was among the 10 best sellers for the 3rd quarter of 2013! Congratulations HELEN!

VELDA BROTHERTON, author of newly released “The Purloined Skull” has a nice interview on Female First Magazine. I have chosen this new release as the featured blog book of the week. Simply click the cover on the right hand column of the page to order your copy today. Learn more about VELDA at

BERYL REICHENBERG, author of “Butterfly Girls,” has been invited to talk at a local fifth grade class about her writing process, including where her ideas come from and the steps she goes through to write her stories. "When speaking to fifth graders, it's important to engage them in the discussion. I hope to excite them about writing and sharing their ideas on paper."


CORA RAMOS, author of "Dance the Dream Awake" will be speaking to Yosemite Romance Writers on Social Media on October 19 and check out an interview CORA had yesterday on Leanne Dyck's blog at:

BILLIE JOHNSON, OTP Publisher has taken a booth at the Visalia Taste of the Arts festival. The event takes place October 17-19. MARILYN MEREDITH also has a booth at the event. Stop by and see these lovely ladies.

I am pleased to announce MARILYN MEREDITH has a new E-book out titled "Indian Paintbrush." This is available as an E-book only on It is a historical family saga based on family genealogy. It follows four generations of dauntless women who follow their hearts across the western plains, often left to making their own way.

AMY BENNETT, author of "End of the Road" has a book signing at Eastern New Mexico University, Ruidoso campus bookstore, 709 Mechem Drive, Ruidoso, NM. The signing will be on October 21 from 12:00pm-2:00pm and AMY will be available to answer questions from university students. This event is open to the public and the bookstore will add “End of the Road” to its collection of books by local authors available for purchase.

ILENE SCHNEIDER, author of “Unleavened Dead” will be appearing at Magna Cum Murder (October 24-28) in Indianapolis. The event is being held at Columbia Club, 121 Monument Circle, Indianapolis, IN.

ILENE's blog is the latest stop for MARILYN MEREDITH on her blog tour where she discusses the latest book (#10!) in her Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, “Spirit Shapes.” Find out just where the fictional town of Bear Creek is located, how to order the book, and how to win the chance to see your name in her next book.

JOHN M. WILLS, author of “The Year Without Christmas” will be signing copies of his newly released novel at St. Matthews Catholic Church Craft Bazaar in Fredericksburg, VA, on October 27 from 9:00am – 3:00pm.

JOHN is talking about his new book on LORNA COLLINS blog. Stop in and learn more about this great author at:

JOHN M. WILLS is the also the showcased author this week on Oak Tree Press Author’s Facebook page:


JAMES CALLAN is interviewing Fr. Frank DeLuca, the protagonist of JAMES’ mystery “Cleansed By Fire” on Peg Phifer's site. It will be up on Tuesday, October 22.

JAMES will also be blogging on the topic “Maybe the Debate Started with Shakespeare” on Ada Brownell's site on Friday, October 25.

SUNNY FRAZIER, author of “Where Angels Fear” has written a nice piece about finishing her latest novel, “A Snitch in Time” over at Novel Spaces. She tells me that the blog is more personal than she usually goes for but she hopes she gives a different perspective on the writer's journey. “We all have one and every experience is different. But, maybe we have common ground.” SUNNY would love to hear your experiences or hopes for your work in progress.

JOHN M. DANIEL, author of the upcoming “Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery” has Thomas M. Atkinson as his guest for this week's blog post. A playwright and fiction writer that JOHN has admired for years, Atkinson tells a story to show how the creative process works for him. Stop by and meet Thom--you'll be glad you did!

DAC CROSSLEY, author of the upcoming "Revenge of the Texas Ranger" says he usually avoids this kind of thing -- but -- a political observation on his weekly blog:

EILEEN OBSER, author of the upcoming "Only You" has a new blog post up titled "Going to the Dump." Sounds interesting! Check it out at:
That wraps up the Round-Up for this week. I hope everyone enjoys the Weekly Round-Up as much as I enjoy posting it for you.

As always, if you have something you would like to submit to the Round-Up, send me an email at Big or small, old or new. I would like to keep our corral full of news! Comments, questions or suggestions are welcome too.

Have a great weekend, everyone.~ Suzi

Like us on Facebook!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What Writing Sonnets Taught me about Writing Crime Novels

I didn’t start off my career as a writer of sonnets. Frankly I thought I’d never write one. The form seemed too confining, the rhymes too sing-songy. I had the mistaken idea that so many people have, which is that the form destroys the meaning of the poem.

That’s actually true if you approach the sonnet in the same way you approach a short story or free verse poem. What I didn’t know was that beauty of the form is that if you trust it and trust that you have a rich interior life, it will draw meaning out of you. You don’t have force anything at all.

In any case, I started to write sonnets one summer when I had time, and I had no luck with them. The meter didn’t cause me much difficulty, but the rhymes ended up killing whatever I tried. I mentioned this to a friend of mine who wrote sonnets, and he told me to take one of Shakespeare’s sonnets and use his rhymes. Shakespeare, he said, already had all of these fantastic rhymes set up for me.

It seemed strange, but I tried it. I found out very quickly that it forced me to do two things:

First, I could not try to start with the goal of having any particular meaning in the poem. I couldn’t write a poem about America’s debt or the war or anything else in particular. Shakespeare’s words were what they were, and I had to shape an idea out of them.

Second, I couldn’t really plan ahead. If I tried to get ahead of myself, I would lose the point of each individual line. The only thing I could really concentrate on was the line I was on. Anything beyond that was a distraction to the poem. I had to be in the moment trying to make that next rhyme work considering what the last line had been.

I couldn’t start out with topic or meaning for a poem, but the sonnet is a form that’s designed to pull ideas out of the poet. Because certain things have to happen in certain moments of the poem, ideas are pulled out of the poet. And I have a fairly complex interior life, so the sonnet pulled interesting ideas out of me, ideas I never would have imagined putting in my poem before. I ended up with stronger poems.

What the sonnet form taught me was that form in all writing is a gift that gives writers concepts and things to write about. Just as I was making my breakthrough with the sonnet, I started to write crime novels, which is another form that has its own rules. The sonnet had taught me to relax and allow the form to draw ideas out of me. And that’s what I did, letting go of my preconceptions of what my novel should be and allowing the art to speak to me.

I think the sonnet is good exercise for all writers. Even if the writer never writes another sonnet or another poem ever again, the sonnet gives the writer so much. All form does that. If you’ve never tried it, do. It will teach you to see your writing in a completely new way.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Creativity Has Many Forms

Creating is as normal to me as eating and sleeping. I am an artist as well as an author and illustrator of children’s books. When I become tired of being a wordsmith and sitting at the computer, I rest my brain by creating a new handmade paper basket, book art form or photo collage.  I find the new activity feeds back into my writing, whether freeing a road block or generating new ideas and directions. It’s as if my mind is on idle or cruise control for a while.  My hands are busy, and my focus is elsewhere. Some of us may cook, sew, garden or paint to exercise our creative spirit when not writing. Whatever other activity we choose, it serves to refocus our attention.  

My writing brain is not totally disengaged, however. Working in the background, it is just not under pressure to find that perfect turn of phrase or that intriguing plot twist.  I’ve turned off my computer or put my pen down, unchaining my mind, allowing it to roam free.  In those moments, new connections are made, and new ideas are developed. When I restart my computer, the words flow freely again. 

I wonder if you have had a similar experience and what activities you use to free your creative spirit. 

Beryl Reichenberg, Children’s Book Author and Illustrator and Artist

View my children’s books at or

View my Fiber Art and other art pieces at

Children's Books Published by Oak Tree Press include 
The Mysterious Case of the Missing Birthday Cake; When 
Caterpillars Dream; Butterfly Girls; Ants on a Log and Camouflage


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Series Power

There have been tons of things I've learned since Mariachi Murder came out. But what I learned this week blew me away; it seems that these days, readers are often more interested in reading books that are part of a series than they are in reading stand-alones. I'd actually never considered this before. I was writing a mystery, so I naturally wanted the character to have more than one adventure. But when I ran across an article by Karen Wiesner (in Writer's Digest), that point was driven home even more.

I was intrigued by some of her pointers and purchased her book on Writing the Series. As I'm just now (or so I thought) finishing my second Andy Veracruz book, I thought I better grab any smart suggestions right away. One of her many tips included the idea of planting information about the character that you'll need later on.

While this seems quite logical, I hadn't thought about it. So now I'm reading my second mystery one more one more time with an eye to the book beyond this one. I've added a couple of plants that will be important down the line. This has slowed me down, of course. I thought I would have this book ready two weeks ago. Instead, however, I'll have a more powerful book that will help to strengthen my series as a whole. For all of you working with multiple books, you might want to check out some of Wiesner's advice. 

Uff--I still have a lot more to learn! But just wait to see what I've got planned for poor Andy!