Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gumbo Justice at Book Club Queen

I forgot to mention I've got a new review and interview for Gumbo Justice at http://www.book-club-queen.com/holli-castillo.html and http://www.book-club-queen.com/gumbo-justice.html.

Gumbo Justice, Angel Trap and Jambalaya Justice

Book sales for Gumbo Justice at the Bazaar went pretty well. It was a little too cold for my liking, but it was a clear day and a nice crowd showed up and I sold a few books, so it was all good. I have to say it was interesting talking to people for a change. I'm holed up in my house a great majority of the time, especially since the car wreck, and getting out in the fresh air and chatting with strangers who like to read was a welcomed distraction.

As for Angel Trap, I'm still waiting on a few contests placings, some I won't find out until next year. I also found out I placed second in a screenwriting contests that was not based upon Angel Trap, but upon writing assignments we were given. It was pretty cool, an international contest, and with second place I won entry into a six-month online screenwriting course I've really wanted to take but didn't want to put out the money.

Last, I'm working on Jambalaya Justice, the follow up to Gumbo Justice, hoping to have it ready in time so my publisher will release it in June. I would like to be one of those writers who puts out a new book a year, and would hate to go over that time frame, so I'm hard at work.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Working On Now

This weekend, I'll be selling signed copies of Gumbo Justice at a Holiday Bazaar in Metairie. It should be an interesting experience, as I've never sold books anywhere that wasn't directly related to writers and writing.

Currently, I'm working on the follow up, titled Jambalaya Justice. I'm pretty sure I'll keep the title.

I'm also waiting to learn the fate of Angel Trap in a few other screenplay contests. It's kind of frustrating to make it to semi-finals and finals and even second place but never quite grab the first place slot. I guess for my first screenplay it's a good start, but I'm trying to figure out what keeps it from winning number one.

I am also still marketing Gumbo Justice, which becomes more difficult as more time passes. Hopefully I can do enough publicity to keep some interest until the second book comes out.

Monday, September 14, 2009

GUMBO JUSTICE Featured at Bookland Heights

I am featured at http://booklandheights.blogspot.com/ for the week. Bookland Heights is a wonderful site that features a different author and his or her work every week. It is a nice bit of free publicity, but more importantly a way for the public to learn a little bit more about novels and the writers. I check it every week even when I'm not featured to see who's on it and to learn a little about other writers and their works.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


My screenplay Angel Trap made the finals of the Page International Screenplay contest. The original entries have been narrowed down to the top ten in each category, and I think then they go to top three and then a winner, or it might just be winner in each cat and then the big winner. I'm just excited it has made it this far. I am still editing it, and as part of the prize from the Acclaim contest I can post it for free on a site where producers can access it. I put up my logline and synopsis already, but want the screenplay completely edited before I add it.

I was also featured on Author Meeting Place as author of the month for Gumbo Justice, which is a completely random thing where you enter information and they pick someone to feature. The feature also appears in a poetry magazine, which should be interesting. I have also had three people ask to review my novel from the websites I have put the book on, and I have asked two people who frequently do reviews to review the book. I have not gotten any reviews back yet, but at least the reviewers seem to have some slight interest.

I am also working on the follow up to Gumbo Justice, really trying to think of a catchy, accurate title. I'm having difficulty with trying to figure out how much to include from Gumbo Justice. Writing the second one is much tricker than writing the first, although the habits I have developed and the outline procedure I came up with writing Gumbo make some of the writing easier.

I also have another screenplay outlined, but have not found time to write it. It's a completely different character than anyone I've written, takes place in New Orleans, and has a bit of the supernatural in it, although I consider it a suspense thriller. More later.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Angel Trap made runner up in the Acclaim Screenplay Contest, which is equivalent to coming in second. I was extremely surprised, as I didn't expect to make quarter finals, semi finals, or finals, much less come in so close to the top. What was particularly surprising to me was that I had just received a rather rude, flippant critique from another contest that referred to my characters as a bunch of losers, as in, "Why should we care what happens to these bunch of losers anyway?" The only thing missing in the critique was a LOL. So here I was thinking I had edited my screenplay into a glorious mess when I got the email that I had come damn near to winning.

So then I start to think, is damn near winning the same as losing, since I didn't actually win. This is probably the closest I'll ever come to actually winning, and may have been my only shot to take home the big prize. But then I do get to say that it was the runner up if I send it out to try to sell it, or get an agent, so it is a really good thing.

On another note, I had the launch party for Gumbo Justice at my would-be bar, (still fighting code enforcement over zoning issues so we're not open yet), but the party was a success. We had a lot of good food and (free) drinks, a lot of people showed up and got books signed, a fun time was had by all I think.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Angel Trap and Gumbo Justice

Angel Trap has made the semi-finals in the Page Awards. In September they'll post the finals and then a winner. I am excited, but it sort of balances out because it didn't make the finals in a different contest. It's difficult to know what contest readers are looking for. I have received feedback that contradicts other feedback and now I'm starting to think I've listened to too many different people in my editing process. I think I should have waited to edit until I had several opinions, and then found the common thread, if any, among all of them and edited accordingly. Instead, I changed one part to make it like one reader suggested, and then added something in to please someone else. Then the next guy didn't like either of the changes and suggested something else that I had originally done and taken out. It was a good lesson on my first attempt if nothing else.

I am still promoting Gumbo Justice, planning a book launch party in fact at the bar that isn't a bar yet. It will be a "private" party, since we can't sell drinks. I'm also having a gumbo contest, and the winner will have a character in my next novel named after them. It should be fun. So far response has been pretty good to the novel. Still waiting for Brad Pitt to read it and decide he wants to produce it as a movie to star as Shep, or for Quentin Tarantino to read it and decide he absolutely has to direct it. But then enough of my fantasy life.

Unsettling thought, Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino in the same fantasy, but then that's me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gumbo Justice at Maple Street Book Shop in New Orleans

I was surprised to see my book, Gumbo Justice, in a local book store in N.O., Maple Street Book Shop, 7523 Maple Street. I had no idea any of the local stores were carrying it, except for the westbank Barnes and Noble which I was aware. Hopefully, more local stores will carry it to support a local author.

It may not seem like much, but I've already had two people who said they would buy it from Maple Street now that it was available. A lot of people still do not order on the internet, or don't like Amazon or Barnes and Noble online for some reason. Since my wreck last year, I buy a lot of my stuff online because I'm not driving yet and it is difficult for me to get around still, so I guess I can't relate to not wanting to online shop.

So now I'll get out to some more local book stores and see if I can convince them to carry my novel.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Gumbo Justice reviews

I received a really nice review for Gumbo Justice from Martha Cheves on her website, A Book and a Dish, www.marthaskitchenkorner.blogspot.com. Martha writes cook books, one in particular is my favorite, Stir, Laugh, Repeat, which has easy to make recipes, and she also reviews books. The combination of the two is quite interesting. I submitted a New Orleans recipe for Corn Soup, which is also posted. Martha also posts her reviews on other websites, such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc..

She seemed to have really enjoyed my novel, which of course made me breathe a small sigh of relief. So far, a lot of my friends and family have bought my book, but most are still in the process of reading it. The opinions of those close to you are hard to take seriously anyway, because (1) they are predisposed to love your work; and (2) they are predisposed NOT to tell you if they don't love it. So getting a favorable review from someone who doesn't know me, and has no reason to pretend she loves my book if she doesn't, is validating.

I try to do reviews for people I know on Amazon whenever I can. I know if I happen to stumble across an unknown writer or unknown title that looks interesting, I usually will read the reviews before I decide to commit my money and time to the purchase. If the book has no reviews, I generally won't buy it. So it may help a lesser known author make a sale if the book has positive, informative reviews.

Also, on Amazon, if you run across a book or author you like, add tags for them. Tags help the books show up on searches, as do Listmania lists. If you make a list on Amazon, such as "My Favorite Murder Mysteries," and include the title of an unknown author, and then add a famous author in the genre and maybe a mid level popular author to the list, there is a chance online shoppers who look up the more famous author will see one of these lists, read it and see the unknown author's book. While there are numerous lists and tags out there competing for attention, it only takes a few minutes to help out an unknown author and could result in more people seeing the work.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Angel Trap

My screenplay Angel Trap made the quarter-finals in the Page Screenplay contest. I am stoked about it, because over 4000 screenplays were entered, whittled down to the top 25 percent, then the top 10 percent, so making the quarter finals is pretty exciting. It will be another month until the list is whittled to the top 25 in each category, then another month for the top ten in each category, and I think another month for the big winners. I'm just happy to still be in the game.

Gumbo Justice and Angel Trap

I am back from the Vegas writer's conference. Had a blast, love Vegas, met lots of writers, sat on two panels. If the food was better Vegas would be my dream town. But you can't beat New Orleans for food.

I am planning my book launch for Gumbo Justice, still trying to figure out the date and the particulars. The Code Enforcement appeal hearing for the bar is next week, so we'll see. I'm also trying to order some books from my publisher, so I can have a few to sell. Several people have told me they have ordered it, most are still waiting for it. The local Barnes and Noble ordered a few to keep in stock, which is nice. Ordinarily they don't stock books from small presses. The only person who has actually read it and told me she has read it is my sister, who read the rough drafts and helped me edit, so her opinion doesn't count too much. (She thinks it has too much sex as violence, as if such a thing is possible in a legal thriller set in N.O.!)

My screenplay, Angel Trap, also made it to the second round of another competition. It didn't place at all in two, not even quarter finals, but made it to the finals in one and now the second round of another, so I can't complain. I have so many versions floating around out there because I kept editing it, I'm not even sure which versions are making it and which ones are not. I figure I'll worry myself about it if I actually win one.

I am working now on promotion for Gumbo Justice, which is a lot more work than you would think, and the follow up to it, which is my escape from reality. Except for the broken bones and the daily pain, my reality's not so bad I really need the escape, but I do love to write.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Gumbo Justice

I picked up my copies of Gumbo Justice yesterday from Billie, my publisher at Oak Tree Publishing, and I am amazed at how good the cover looks. I wish I could say I had a lot to do with it, but I don't. The colors are fitting for New Orleans, purple and gold on the cover, purple, green and gold on the back cover, appropriate for the town that celebrates Mardi Gras. My kids learned in pre-K, apparently the history of Mardi Gras is part of the pre-k curriculum in southeast Louisiana public schools, that purple of Mardi Gras stands for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.

I am trying to decide when to hold the book launch. It will definitely be at the bar, whether it is opened as a bar or not. (If we get screwed by code enforcement, we can still have a free private party in the building until we file suit in JP.) In any event, I am looking forward to everyone reading it and letting me know what they think. Hopefully, readers will enjoy it enough to want the read second one I'm working on now.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

GUMBO JUSTICE is for sale

I am amped because GUMBO JUSTICE is finally available for purchase. I don't know whether to write "is for sale," or "is on sale." It's actually both, kind of, because the Amazon and BandN price is sale priced from the cover- not that I care. I am just stoked people can finally get it to read it.

I am also a little apprehensive. It's a little nerve wracking, wondering if people are going to get it, if they'll like it, if they'll think parts of it are borderline pornographic. I worry about things like sex scenes in the book, because I don't want people to think I'm a pervert, and sometimes I come away from a regular thriller, say for instance an Iris Johnasen novel, and I think, the book was okay, but the sex scenes were insane. But then she always has those men and women who just meet, immediately hate each other, but immediately are attracted to each other, sort of romance novelish even in her thrillers that are not romance novels.

In any event, the book is like my third child. I've certainly spent as much time raising it as I have my kids, and of course, every mama wants her babies to make a good first impression. I guess I'll soon see.

Friday, June 5, 2009


I am so excited to have seen the tentative cover for Gumbo Justice. It didn't quite seem real that the book was actually coming out until I saw the potential covers. So many decisions still to be made after a book is written and slated for publication. The cover, as I mentioned. What to include in the author bio. Whom to thank.

There are also decisions when proofing for the final draft. Some things may have changed since the novel was written. In my case, the law has changed, so I had to update some things to make sure they were current. Of course, the law is liable to change again, and then the info may be outdated. I put a note to that effect in the foreword. Also, we have had so many shifts in the makeup of the NOPD since Katrina I don't know if anyone could accurately portray it from one month to the next. Our current superintendent may make a run for mayor, and when we get a new mayor, whether it's Riley or not, we will get a new superintendent, who is appointed by the mayor. Then the structure of the NOPD is likely to change again. It's no wonder we can keep a lid on the crime problem.

Not that I'm complaining. It's excellent fodder for writing.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Angel Trap (formerly Bernie Angel)

While I am still editing Angel Trap, the screenplay I nicknamed Bernie Angel, after the protagonist, I am happy to report that an early version placed in the semi-finals of the Wild Sound Spring 2009 screenplay contest. From the twenty-five finalists, three winners will be chosen. The winning screenplays will be read at the Wild Sound Festival in Ontario.

I am still editing, based on feedback I've received, but placing as a finalist is a good step, because if I ever try to shop the screenplay, I can include the fact that it was a finalist in my information, which may mean it will actually get read. No guarantees, of course.

Interestingly, every time I thought I was finished with it, I felt sort of depressed, like my baby was leaving home.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Speaking of red tape

When I last wrote, we were waiting for the permits for the bar. Specifically, we were waiting for the permits from Jefferson Parish, and I was bemoaning the red tape we would have to hurdle.

Turns out, my fears were completely justified. We received a zoning revocation from the Director of Code Enforcement, Debbie Villio, claiming that we didn't have adequate parking for the zoning. No matter that the bar has always been a bar, apparently she was of the opinion it can no longer be a bar because of the zoning.

It boils down to a city councilman's constituent who lives in the neighborhood and does not want the bar to reopen there. This city councilman is obviously pulling the puppet strings, and couldn't care less that we were already advised by Code Enforcement that we could in fact reopen a bar there.

I'm a lawyer- I'll fight this to the end of time if I have to, because it only costs me the filing fee at court. What bothers me is all the people who suffer through this who are not attorneys, and who don't have attorney friends to work with them, and who have to perhaps give up their businesses because of political bullshit in Jefferson Parish.

Elton Lagasse is the city council member who, to my understanding, advised Ms. Villio to revoke the zoning. Mr. Lagasse visited the location of the bar room when my husband ran for sheriff and put a sign up on the building, and was asking about it at the Code Enforcement Office. Obviously, someone complained to him early on, while the roof of the building was still being repaired from Hurricane Katrina, and Mr. Lagasse takes his voters, or perhaps his voters' contributions, very seriously.

This is a building that was damaged by Katrina. The owner lost his will to continue running his bar and did not have the building repaired. The building was purchased, repaired, and is now ready to go back into commerce. Instead of being happy that the once-blighted, damaged building is now serving a function, the political powers that be would rather the hoi polloi work , I suppose, at jobs run by the politicians. If John Young, another council member, wanted a bar there, the bar would be there, and constituents be damned.

So now we are fighting the political machine once again, just to open a neighborhood bar on a street that already has several neighborhood bars, in an area zoned C-2, just because some people can't handle the little bit of power they've been able to grab.

Don't be surprised when my husband runs against Elton Lagasse in the next city council election.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bar opening

Completely unrelated to my writing, my husband and I are waiting on the final permit from the parish so our bar in Harvey, the Last Stand, can open. I have always wanted to own a bar, and it is pretty exciting that it is finally happening.

My husband has put so much work into this bar. It needed a total renovation, and he basically started from scratch. When I had my car accident, the entire thing was put on hold for half a year. When I was finally able to move around again, he was able to be gone for short periods of time, and worked as much as he could. Now he is finally finished, and if we can hurdle the plethora of red tape it takes to get anything accomplished in Jefferson Parish, we will finally open.

When Gumbo Justice comes out, I'm thinking of hosting a book release party there. I'm also thinking of starting a writer's group or a book group out of the bar. I'll have to see how it goes.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hurricane season in New Orleans

Last night we had tremendous storms in the New Orleans and southeast Louisiana area. Thunder so loud it woke me up, had me sitting up in bed making sure it wasn't the train sound of a tornado I've heard so much about. It wasn't, but with hurricane season right around the corner again, and with the forecasters predicting another bad one, I started thinking about the last big hurricane around here, Katrina.

I haven't thought about Katrina too much. When I do, I think of the businesses here that didn't return, friends who have moved away, the neighborhoods that have still not recovered.

This time I started thinking about Katrina changed us. Not just my family, but pretty much everyone I know. I recall being stuck in a hotel, a very nice one in Houston, 24 steps away from the Galleria, and fretting each day because we didn't know if they were going to continue to extend our stay. The hotel was booked, and we stayed for two weeks. I think about how for several days we had no idea if our house was okay, if the strays that lived in our yard survived, if our fish were okay.

We were lucky. Our house had minor roof damage, the animals survived, the cars were okay. For days, though, my husband couldn't work. He was a contractor, so work would abound eventually, but for a while, there were no supplies to be had, nothing was open, no way to start the recovery.

Without his income, we were in a pickle. I still got my pay, but we are a two income family for a reason. We applied for FEMA money, the $2000 everyone got, and were declined. No reasonable explanation, except maybe I applied too early and they weren't giving the money out yet. I applied for Red Cross money, which we did receive. I also applied for and received Food Stamps. I guess it should have been humiliating using the Louisiana debit card they give you from the state to purchase food, but at the time we needed it.

I had never thought in this life I would need food stamps. I work, I'm a lawyer, I have always paid my own way. But there were people who made more money than me, professional people, people who also worked and always paid their own way, who needed the boost from the state to make ends meet until the recovery began.

I had a boss once who said most people are one paycheck away from living on the street. I never thought about it too much until Katrina hit. But she was right. I can only imagine what happened to those people who didn't have at least one income to rely on while they were evacuated.

Friday, March 6, 2009


I am still in the midst of re-writing Bernie Angel, and am torn between the titles Angel Hunt, or Angel Trap. Both are applicable, but trying to determine which one sounds the most like a catchy movie title is the problem.

The rewrite is not coming along as fast as I had hoped, mainly because I had a significant amount of rewriting to do. I thought my original was fine, good even. I paid for two critiques, being new to this type of work. One was much kinder than the other, although both noted two problems that I hadn't seen. (My husband, strangely enough, had seen one of them.)

I did an initial rewrite, changing just the two issues both professionals had noted. They were easy fixes. Then I started thinking about the harsher critique, and realized a lot of what he said was true. While I didn't agree with every point he made, I agreed with the major ones. So I had to rethink some key issues, and how some key characters interacted.

I like constructive criticism. There is little point in writing if it's going to turn out to be crap, and if I write something nobody gets, I would like to do my best to make sure they get it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Gumbo Justice

Gumbo Justice is scheduled to come out in June, in time for the Las Vegas writer's conference I am attending. I can't wait until the cover comes out, so I can see what all my hard work is going to finally look like. I posted the first chapter on the website, www.gumbojustice.net, and hopefully will have additional information to post as it gets closer to the release date. I have been doing a few promotional things, but will be gearing up to do more soon.

I have also been rewriting the Bernie Angel screenplay. I rewrote Gumbo Justice so many times before I was satisfied with how it turned out, and even now I hate to re-read because I can't read anything I've written without thinking I can improve on it at least by one word or sentence or phrasing something a different way. When Bernie Angel is finished for good, I will post the first scene or two for feedback.

In any event, I hope everyone has as much fun reading Gumbo Justice as I did writing it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I posted the first chapter of Gumbo Justice on the website at www.gumbojustice.net. I am still waiting on the official release date, but from the looks of things, my novel is the next one on the schedule for my publisher.

I am also doing the finishing touches on Bernie Angel before I submit it. I have to figure out what to work on when Bernie is finished for good. I would like to try another screenplay, I think, but do need to catch up on Gumbo 2.

I have been spending waaaay too much time on Facebook lately, and think I'll have to set a schedule so I'm not checking it constantly. It is a lot of fun to catch up with old friends, though, and to see what everyone is up to.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Keeping busy

I've been relatively busy lately, between working on my actual work, and writing.

I actually enjoy having real work to do. For months no new cases were assigned to me because of my car wreck, and work that came due was reassigned to other people. While I definitely appreciated it, I am ready to work on things that require less of my imagination and are more fact based.

I am still working on Bernie Angel. After letting the screenplay stew for a while, I thought of several ways to make it better, and have it better structures. I'm always trying to get the absolute most dramatic moment in the scene, or the most tension, and sometimes that means scrapping a scene and creating an entirely new one.

I am also contemplating a screenplay on a work I had intended to write as a novel, and actually had started as a novel, but might play better on the big (or little) screen.

I am fine tuning Gumbo Justice, and working on the follow up as well. Sometimes I get stuck on a single aspect of a story and can't move forward for weeks. When that happens, I pick up something else to work on until I can think my way through it. That's kind of what happened on the follow up to Gumbo, although I've since worked out the issue.

Hopefully I'm not spreading myself too thin. I'm also just getting back on feet literally, able to walk with a walker (somewhat like Frankenstein, but it's still walking), and precariously with a cane. I was hoping I could find a cane with a sword, one where the cane AND the sword were actually functional, but I don't think I can. I wouldn't mind a cane with built-in pistol. That would be killer--again, literally.