Wednesday, February 25, 2015


This Post is about Oak Tree Press and an author who is thankful that a midsize 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 forty 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, (since passed) 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, and sent it off to a very competent editor, and talented author, Arlene Uslander (since passed, bless her).  I dedicated Eva Pennington to her which was just released.  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 in 2010, OTP has published six of my novels.
*      *      *
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 300 books in paperback, and 200 in digital formats, most of which are still in print.  OTP’s catalog lists mysteries, crime-fiction, true crime, romance, paranormal and westerns. Billie recently relocated to California from Central Illinois, where those rare leisure-time moments, she spends gardening and seeing to the contentment of her beloved cat, Frida Khalo.

Her talented team includes a Press Manager and marketing guru, Jeana Lomprez recently happily married.  Jeana is a lifelong resident of Taylorville Illinois.  She handles book orders and OTP Ebook programs.  Jeana  assists OTP authors in promoting their newly published work.  In addition to her role at OTP, as the Public Relation Manager, she works part time for her hometown school district as a Recess Supervisor and crossing guard.  Jeana enjoys the outdoors with her husband Steven and her two children.  Jeana is also an avid animal lover ....her pets include two cats, Nibbles and Sassy, and a dachshund named Dash, plus her favorite - a squirrel, Roo who she rescued as a baby.
Marilyn Olsen manages OTP Acquisitions Activities.  She focuses on acquisitions of crime fiction and true crime, plus other genres.  Marilyn also provides editorial support and manuscript vetting.  Marilyn Olsen is a free-lance editor, marketing consultant and president of the Public Safety Writers Association.  She is the author of two published books, Gangsters, Gunfire and Political Intrigue. For 15 years, she was publisher and principal writer of Indiana’s Finest, an 80-page quarterly magazine about the Indiana State Police.  She has written numerous magazine articles on a variety of subjects and has been a newspaper reporter and copy editor.  She and her husband live in Bellingham, Washington.

Jesus Martinez's a talented addition to Billie’s team evidenced by our well designed Website.  His duties include the Weekly Round Up, Blog Roster and managing our DROPBOX which houses author pics, bios, description blurbs, review blurbs, front and back covers, acknowledgments and dedications, along with author notes.  Jesus has two dogs, named Oreo and Little Dog. He enjoys music of all types, but especially hip-hop.  He graduated cum laude from CSU Bakersfield with a BA in Political Science.  Jesus is making applications to law schools, and if all goes well he will attend this fall. Let’s wish him good luck in that process. 

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.  Thank you Billie Johnson, Jeana, Marilyn and Jesus!


John Addiego said...

Walter, Thank you for this piece about your personal journey as a writer and the great people at OTP! You gave me some details I hadn't known about, and I hope I can tease some of these people about their pets someday. Your humility belies the title of this post.

Beryl Reichenberg said...

I think many of us are thankful that Billie has given us a chance to see our writing in print. I for one will always remember my first meeting with Billie at a book festival. She has been supportive over the years. Beryl

Nancy LiPetri said...
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Nancy LiPetri said...

What a wonderful blog post! Really enjoyed getting to know more about Walter, his journey...and Jesus' talents. (I already know and appreciate Billie's and Jeana's and Marilyn's!) Nicely done, Walter. (There, I think I got it right that time. Who cares if a husband is asking for dinner?!)

Thesis Writing said...

Nice.You really did well.You have expressed many of our feelings and impressions so well! This

Sharon Arthur Moore said...
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Sharon Arthur Moore said...

A lovely tribute to our talented publishing team, Walter. Thanks for that. And what a great wife to get you started living your dream! Congrats of being so prolific.