Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Merry Christmas To All

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas
All the folks here at Windsor Hill Publishing wish you and yours the Merriest Christmas and the Happiest New Year imaginable.

Greg and  Bonnie

From the O'Mara Chronicles
Sharon, Kevin, Evelyn, Bobby, Alain, 
Peter, and Claudette

We look forward to a new historic novel this year as well as another Sharon O'Mara thriller. 

I am also excited to announce a book signing and reading with yours truly on:
Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 1:00 
Book Passage, Corte Madera, California

I hope you can make it - there will be snacks.

And here is a little something to make you smile:
Straight No Chaser and the Christmas Can Can


Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Without a doubt the best tool for the self-publisher, right now, is Createspace. This company, a member of the Amazon group of publishing companies, gives us the ability to publish our content, in paperback, and then distribute to Amazon, in an almost painless process that is professional and, above all, timely.

I have been down the road with print-on-demand (POD) printers, and while they do a good job, I still had to absorb the shipping costs from the printer to me and then from me to Amazon or directly to the buyer. Often the cost is almost what it costs to print the book. Not a good business model. With Createspace, the book is ordered through Amazon (and is shown as “In Stock” – very important), and the shipping is paid by the buyer. I also don’t have boxes of books gathering dust and my car parked in the driveway.

They also provide a good price for the author to buy the books themselves, in my case at least one dollar less than my old POD. Sure I have to pay the shipping but it comes in around $1.00 a book, still leaving me some room for some profit.

The product is exceptionally good, remember this is still a copier type process, not lithography or any of the more typical printing processes that require large print runs to be cost effective and you still have to pay for all the shipping costs (see above).

Createspace make it easy for the first time self-publisher. They have excellent tutorials for covers, content, and ordering. And above all they have good phone and email contacts. Most of my questions are answered within 24 hours or less.

How I Use Createspace
Cover Art
I do my own covers. I build them in Photoshop, with all copy and imagery at least 300 dpi, 400 dpi is better. How you work with Photoshop is based on your own style and expertise, but work in layers and manage your text issues as best as you can (for changes as required later). I then save the cover as a PDF in the highest quality available for your particular version; this PDF is what you submit to Createspace. When you receive the proof make sure the colors are what you want, remember that when you go from your computer screen to your printer, colors and intensities change. The same from Createspace (remember it is a color copier that makes the covers), if there are adjustments, inform them. They try to make it right.

I compose and write in Microsoft Word, and then transfer the work into InDesign. This is a very powerful program that gives you almost exactly what you see on the screen. I won’t go into fonts and formats, there are better people out there that can help with that, but it is up to you to create the best and most professional looking interior you can. There are millions of books that you can use as guides, pay attention to them. Pull one off the shelf, look at it. In a genre similar to the one you write, follow the formats, pagination, order of things, and the look and feel. It is a good place to start.

What I Really Like
When book reviews come in and you want those golden words on the cover, redo the cover and resubmit – almost painlessly and instantly. When you find those pesky typos that were missed (and they do show up), redo the InDesign master, and resubmit the PDF. When the cover needs a fresh look, just do it.

I am also surprised by how quickly an order is fulfilled from Amazon; I don’t know whether they warehouse copies or print when ordered, that’s their problem. All I know is that my readers get a copy quickly, a lot faster than I could fulfill orders when I was the warehouse. I am sold on this process.

There are a lot of changes happening to the publishing industry, and this simple printing and distribution process is probably scaring the dickens out of the old publishing houses and their printers as well. Well too bad, progress can be a harsh mistress.

More later . . . . .

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Current Status of:

12th Man For Death
The latest O'Mara thriller is now available through Amazon, in paperback and ebook (sorry, just Kindle for now). The reviews are coming in (see blog below) and sales are picking up. I am very happy with the story but I need more readers, so if you know anyone who loves a great, fun read and enjoys a travelogue thriller, 12th Man is it. And while you're there, pick up one of Sharon’s other adventures as well, they make great Christmas gifts.

I am trying something new for this book. We are using CreateSpace to do the POD (Print on Demand) and, to be honest, I am thrilled with the results. Everything from the cover art printing to the interior printing is outstanding. Yet there are some twists and turns to deal with when publishing with Amazon and CreateSpace. I will follow-up later with a more detailed blog, but for now it’s a damn good group of people to work with. They respond quickly to emails and you can actually talk to someone - live. More on CreateSpace's publishing process later.

Book Signing
On Sunday at 1:00 on January 6th, 2013, I’m having a book signing and reading at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California. This bookstore and its branches is, without a doubt, one of those jewels called an independent bookstore. They are there for their customers as well as writers, including those with a big name publishing house and self-published scribblers, like yours truly. They have excellent education programs for every genre and bring in the best writers to teach and share. I am thrilled to be presenting and it’s FREE (maybe buy a book or three while you’re there). I will be posting more information later in the month.

New O'Mara Chronicle
A new Sharon O’Mara Chronicle (Book Five) is slowly working its way through my brain, down my arm, and onto the keyboard. I write for the pleasure it gives me and Sharon gets to have adventures at places I’ve been too and enjoyed (London, Cabo, Paris, Venice, LA, SF, etc.). This new book will explore something even more enjoyable and yet very, very, sinister – baseball. Coming soon.

By The Way
Kevin Bryan, Sharon’s detective buddy from the Lafayette PD (that’s in Ca.), needs a new job. So look for a story or two about the six-foot-six Irishman from San Francisco.

Latest Book Under Development
I will complete the first draft of an historical novel later this week and hope to have the second and third drafts finished by summer. It is a epic in the tradition of Leon Uris, Herman Wouk, and Ken Follett (see my review of Winter of the World below), and is a sprawling story that starts in Chicago in 1934 and travels to Italy and World War II. It brushes the Depression and the Mob, Nazis, the labor movement, communists, fascists, drugs, and Italian food. What more could you want?

More later . . . . . .

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


We all want to be liked. And if someone will praise you and then that accolade helps to make money, all the better. Reviews are tough to get in the writing business, with half a gazillion books published every year, and ALL of them wanting to be in the New York Times book section, Oprah, Phil, Good Morning America, Good Night America, and even Horse and Hound, it’s no wonder the frustration. Reviews in Amazon move you up the food chain; more reviews = more eyeballs, and we beg for eyeballs.

But reviews are paid for in some form or another. Most are never done out of the kindness of the heart or sympathy (the mercy review comes to mind). “I’ll do your book if you do mine,” is common. My blog post for yours is the boost we all need. If a blogger foolishly says send me your books for review, they will be electronically submerged for years after just the first week, we writers all so desperately need reviews. Probably some form of conditioning from when we were kids, “Yes, Greggie, you have been a good boy, have a cookie.”

“No damn it, I want a six figure book deal, Mom. Pleeease!

Now that that’s out of the way, we can move on. Yes I occasionally pay for (wait for it) a book review, it’s easier than begging and many of these reviewers all well-known and respected. Prices can run from free (wait three months), $50.00 Readers Favorite and upwards to whole packages like Kirkus Reviews for hundreds of dollars. But they do read the books and (outside of some much needed editing on their own writing) well done. They do not promise five stars but they do promise a fair read.

Now to my point: Below is my first review of 12th Man For Death, as others arrive I will bore you or tease you with their praise and adulation. Yes, Mother, I will gladly take a cookie and the book deal.

Rating: 5.0 stars

Reviewed by Alice DiNizo for Readers Favorite

Private investigator Sharon O'Mara returns in this spell-binding thriller "12th Man for Death" by author Gregory Randall. Catherine Voss has developed a trimaran that she knows will do well in the upcoming America’s Cup Race. It can be handled by a single person; it is affordable and has a new finish that will shed water well. Catherine sails her invention across San Francisco Bay in heavy fog and ends up dead, drowned in her boat's rigging. Her trimaran which she calls "The Cheetah" is found with a hole in its starboard hull. Catherine's gorgeous twin, Jean-Francoise, aka JF, is convinced that Catherine was murdered and hires Sharon O'Mara to investigate. But "The Cheetah" is missing. The more she investigates, the more flashbacks she has to her time as an Army lieutenant in Iraq in 2005. Back then, she and fellow soldiers looked into a possible kidnapping of two little girls, which wasn't what it seemed. "The 12th Man" is the almost nonexistent seat in the middle of the crossbeam of a boat's stern and with this case, Sharon feels as though she is the 12th man on a racing crew.

"12th Man for Death" by Gregory Randall is a well-written thriller that will captivate readers everywhere. It is filled throughout with great action, drama and suspense. Sharon O'Mara is a great central character, tough but sexy and all woman. Readers will enjoy other characters such as police detective Kevin Bryan, the delightful, elderly pseudo Frenchman Alain and his granddaughter Claudette, JF, Ellis Turner and her assistant Eva Krug who once served in South Africa in its security forces. They are all believable characters that come to life on the pages of the story. The plot proceeds with breath-taking twists and turns to the story's last page. So, thriller fans everywhere, don't miss "The 12th Man for Death" whatever you do!

More later . . . . . .

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blog Hop – Carpe Diem

I have been invited by a writer friend, Leisa Watkins (I believe writing as L.T. Bentley), to jump into the newest marketing tool added to the self-publishing quiver, The Blog Hop. The idea is to spread the word of your blog and your writing via links to other blogs. Like an electronic chain letter – without the stamps. All you are required to do is pass it on. Please check out Leisa's blog.

In addition, this is a way for new readers of our blogs to find out more about you the author and the stories your write. To my long time readers this may even provide a bit more about me and my work. To new friends – welcome aboard.

This is my 99th blog here at Writing4Death and has been a weekly part of my creative life, I also write a professional blog where I whine and complain about all things urban and where I also get to talk about one of my favorite subjects – cities. Check it out HERE.

My recent books are listed to the right and left of this blog, all were a joy to write and produce for you readers to enjoy. Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart, there is a lot to get into, more than a sane person should try and do. Now you know the story of my life, always pushing the envelope. If there is one aspect that I like about this new world of publishing is that everything you see is my work – any compromises are mine not a publishing house pushing something down your throat.

Me? I like to tell stories, deeply involved studies of people and how they react to or confront problems. Whether it’s losing a job, like my main character Sharon O’Mara did in Book One, where she had to reinvent her own life as a facilitator like Travis McGee, or in my novels where it’s the weather (i.e. farming) or war that forces people to grow and change. It is this interaction of an exterior applied force and human reaction that makes good stories.

An important part of the Blog Hop is the interview. Ten questions and ten answers – simple? You sit down and try it; if you are a writer, or are thinking about it, fill in the blanks and start a whole new life. Go for it!

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:
What is the working title of your book?
My newest book, just released this month, is 12th Man For Death. It is the fourth book in the Sharon O’Mara Chronicles.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I am always looking for topical events in my stories and with the America’s Cup sailboat race and competition on San Francisco Bay this past year and through October of 2013, I thought it would be a great backdrop to a murder-thriller. The venues for these races are in magical cities around the world from New Zealand to Venice, and I could never pass up Venice as one of the sets for the book.

What genre does your book fall under?
Mary McCormack
It is a thriller/detective/mystery with a big dose of style and travel thrown in. This is typical to the last three books in the series. I have put China, Paris, Venice, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and even brief stops in New York and London in these books. As well as fashion and where do you hide that Beretta under that dress?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I have pegged Mary McCormack as my ideal Sharon O’Mara, after her great work in In Plain Sight, she is perfect with her attitude, style and look. As my detective Kevin Bryan, the guy I like (even if he’s six inches shorter than Bryan) is, and I kid you not, Jason O’Mara, just like my hero Sharon last name. His work could be seen on Life on Mars, the ill-fated Terra Nova, and now Vegas with Dennis Quaid.

Jason O'Mara
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Rich boys and their toys . . . and death.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
We have our own self-publishing company that has now produced four thrillers, one novel and one non-fiction history book (all available on-line through Amazon and Smashwords). I like the freedom and the opportunities that self-publishing allows. Knowing that you can offer your stories to a market keeps me writing. Now, making money is a whole different business plan.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I am very disciplined about my writing, it usually take six months to write an O’Mara book, two months to rework the first draft and a six weeks for final editing (and yes, I still have a day job). So it takes about ten months total (that includes cover art, book design, and ebook construction). So I bring out a new title every ten months or so.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
My books are lighter and more fun than Nelson DeMille and Michael Connolly, but Connolly uses LA like it was a stage and I use San Francisco and the Bay Area (with international destinations thrown in) the same way. My books are, if you will excuse the comparison, very Bondish but with a female character who has attitude issues, a few bad habits she is trying to quit, good friends that help when they can, and above all a dog that is by far and away a girl’s best friend. I also see her as a Travis McGee character with quirky friends, attitude, and a world view.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I have always dabbled in writing, short stories and such. But the idea for the first book. Land Swap For Death, started maybe twenty years ago; I was in the Embarcadero BART Station (San Francisco rapid-transit), and watched a bum hustle the crowd for money. It struck me as a good place to start a story that led to a book, a new literary character, and now four books and another in production.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The travel side of the stories and how the texture of the city or countryside becomes a part of the book. I have been to all these places (except China and thank goodness for Google Earth) and have distinct memories that I can translate into a book. These are also stories about a woman who was lost until she joined the army. There she developed police skills (she was an MP) and an independence that has allowed her to set up her own business. She is a facilitator, like John D. McDonald’s Travis McGee, who is hired by clients to clear up problems they may have. She helped discover and resolve issues such a fake handbags, kidnapped Chinese girls, a murdered businessman, the return of paintings stolen by the Nazis, and the death of an America’s Cup skipper. 

Please visit these blogs for a little bit more about the world of writing:

If you want to be included in our next Hop, send me an email at and we will get right back to you. Put “Blog Hop” in the subject line please.

All the best, be thankful for your friends and family, have a great holiday, and for once this year don’t think about tomorrow, just enjoy the day.


More later . . . .