Block Busting in the merry month of May

woman flaming typewriter cartoon

It’s just over a month till my workshop at the East Greenbush Library on June 4th. Here’s the description I sent for their newsletter:

BLOCK BUSTING:

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH THE BARRIERS

THAT KEEP YOU FROM WRITING 

Writer’s block afflicts every author sooner or later. If you’ve ever found yourself paralyzed, staring at an empty piece of paper or a blank computer screen, you know the feelings of frustration and even downright panic that can keep you from writing. In this workshop for writers or would-be writers of all levels, we’ll explore the underlying feelings behind your personal blocks and learn a variety of techniques to help you overcome the barriers that keep you from reaching your fullest potential as a writer.

Julie Lomoe is a novelist and poet with over three decades of experience as a creative arts therapist and workshop leader. This workshop will use creative visualization and writing exercises along with a discussion of successful writers’ tips and techniques for overcoming creative blocks. Free handouts will include a tip sheet and bibliography. 

June 4th feels like a particularly auspicious day, because it’s my mother’s birthday. She died in 1970 of complications from a fall in the house she and my father were renting in Sarasota, Florida, to escape the frigid Wisconsin winters. She was only 61—an age that feels absurdly young to me now—and as a pre-feminist wife and mother, she never reached her full potential. But that’s a story for another time. June 4th is also the birthday of Gloria Tropp, the brilliant singer, poet and artist who was my best friend and matron of honor at my wedding to Robb Smith in 1975 when we lived in New York City, but Gloria deserves a blog post of her own.

So as the birthday of two strong, creative women who played such a significant role in my life,  June 4th is a special day, and I want to do them justice. But I have to admit that since I blogged about this workshop on March 21st, the first day of spring, I haven’t made much progress. Back then I wrote about how fear and habit are my major blocks to writing, and I described a typically pedestrian day in my life and all the distractions and feeble excuses that keep me from writing.

Cherry blossom tunnel, Sakuru, Japan

Cherry blossom tunnel, Sakuru, Japan

But May feels like the true beginning of spring, especially since my garden has finally been blessed with some truly drenching rain, and everything is greening up nicely. A good time for goal setting, and I’ve resolved to write at least 600 words a day, each and every day. Any and all forms of writing will count, including journaling, which I find a wonderful way of getting my creative juices flowing. Last night I churned out nearly a thousand words in half an hour, a relative breeze when I’m blathering away with no literary critic whispering nasty messages inside my head, telling me how inadequate I am as a writer.

The sheer physical act of typing has the power to awaken muscle memories that go deep underground and dormant when I’m not using them regularly, but I feel the energy seeping back into my mind and body even as I write these words. But distractions are creeping in—the sound of my cat Lunesta, her amazingly accurate inner clock kicking in as she scratches at my office door, reminding me it’s six o’clock and high time for dinner, my husband tempting me to abandon my writing with the offer of a roast beef sandwich. My own inner clock telling me it’s time for a glass of wine. But for May I’ve committed to abstaining from booze until I’ve reached my daily quota of 600 words. And now, by golly, I’ve done it. This blog post now contains 637 words, so I can legitimately sign off and indulge myself.

I welcome your thoughts and suggestions on creative block busting – either as comments or perhaps in an entire guest blog post. Please let me know if you’re interested!

Lunesta on printer 7-27-14

Wanted: Guest Bloggers!

Calling all writers—how would you like to be a guest blogger on this site? And how would you like to host me on yours? Beginning Friday, April lst, I plan to start featuring fellow authors on a weekly basis.

woman writing sunny room Bonnard style

 

This spring I’ve vowed to ramp up my online presence so as to spread the word about my three published novels. When it comes to social media, I’ve been AWOL for far too long, and that has to change. Effective immediately, I’m reconnecting with the wonderful online authors’ networks I drifted away from, and I hope to discover some new ones as well.

What can you blog about? I’m especially interested in explorations of the creative process—what works for you, what doesn’t. As I wrote in my last post, I’m developing workshops on creative blocks and how to blast through them, so I welcome helpful hints and musings that focus on this area. Self-publishing and marketing are also of interest. You’ll be able to promote your own books, of course, but the emphasis will be on creativity and the ups and downs of the writing life.

brain creativity starry sky

Since I first published Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders a decade ago, there have been enormous advances in scientific research on how the brain works and how we can tap into that knowledge to enhance our own creativity and productivity. And the sophistication of online communication and networking has grown tremendously as well. I’ll delve into those topics in upcoming blogs, and I’d welcome your contributions on those subjects as well.

In my next two posts I’ll explore the role of habit in creativity, focusing on books by two authors whom I heard recently at the Writers Institute of the State University of New York at Albany: Charles Duhigg and Twyla Tharp. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to my blog by clicking on the link in the menu on the right. I plan to publish new posts at least three times a week, and I wouldn’t want you to miss anything!

Note to authors: If you’re interested in being a guest blogger, please get in touch by writing me at julielomoe@gmail.com. I’m also looking for someone creative and not too expensive to help with a new website, and I’d be grateful for any suggestions you may have. Please include a link to your own site as well as theirs so I can check them out!

brain-exchange profiles.jpg

 

 

Jean Henry Mead’s blog becomes book

Jean Henry Mead

Today I’m delighted to welcome Jean Henry Mead, whose Mysterious People blog has given birth to a brand-new book with Poisoned Pen Press.

 *The Blog That Became a Book*

*By Jean Henry Mead*
 
           When I first began interviewing mystery novelists for my blog site, Mysterious People, I had no idea they would wind up in a book, although I had published three other books of interviews with Western and Hollywood screen writers, politicians, artists and ordinary people who had accomplished extraordinary things.

           So it made sense that a book about mystery writers was in order, but who would publish interviews that had already appeared online? Bestselling novelists such as Carolyn Hart, Jeffrey Deaver, Louise Penny and John Gilstrap undoubtedly sold the book. Three publishers were interested and I decided to go with Poisoned Pen Press, the number two mystery publisher in the U.S.  Coincidentally, quite a few of PPP’s authors had already been interviewed.

           Because mysteries appear in a variety of subgenres, I divided the writers according to their specialties: the traditional mystery or cozy, historicals, suspense and thriller novels, crime, police procedurals, private eyes and senior sleuths (sometimes called “geezer lit”). There are also medical thrillers, romantic suspense as well as science fiction mysteries and the niche novels which cover endless subjects. I had no idea there was such diversity until I started categorizing them.

           Those I’d interviewed had fortunately written articles about various aspects of publishing, including writing tips, marketing and promotional advice, and their opinions on the current state of the publishing industry, among other topics. So the book is a good read for aspiring mystery writers as well as readers. I can say that objectively because I didn’t write the book, I just asked the questions.

           Carolyn Hart, bestselling author of the /Henrie O and Death on Demand /series, talks about her new protagonist, Bailey Ruth Raeburn, who returns to earth as a ghost to anonymously unravel complicated mysteries. John Gilstrap explains why a bestselling novelist still holds down a fulltime job and international bestseller Rick Mofina provides sixteen great tips for writing thriller novels as well as discussing his struggle to the top of the charts.

           A number of Canadian and UK authors share their publishing views as well as comparing books from their countries with those of the US. Suspense novelist Paul Johnston writes from his native Scotland as well as his home in Greece while Tim Hallinan divides his time between Thailand and southern California, writing much of his work in Bangkok cafes. Gillian Phillip writes YA mystery novels from Barbados and her native Scottish highlands, and international airline pilot Mark W. Danielson composes his suspense novels during layovers in various parts of the world.  One of my favorite interviews was with Bill Kirton, whose humor and compassion led to an Internet friendship. I also enjoy his writing.

           Another English native, Carola Dunn, writes historical mysteries about her countrymen as does Rhys Bowen, who lives and writes in California about historical English royals. Other historical novelists include Larry Karp, who writes about Ragtime music and the people who made the genre popular during its heyday.  And Beverle Graves Myers, who brings operatic mysteries to life from eighteen century Venice.

           Jeff Cohen, Tim Maleeny, Morgan St. James, Phillice Bradner and Carl Brookins add humor to their mysterious plots, so prepare to laugh when you pick up their books. There are police procedurals, medical thrillers and romantic suspense novelists represented here as well as niche mysteries designed for readers who love dogs, scrapbooking, zoos, the Arizona desert, space shuttles, weight loss clinics, actors, designer gift baskets and other specialty subjects.

           Nonfiction books about the mystery genre round out this eclectic collection with Edgar winner E.J. Warner, Agatha winner Chris Roerden, Lee Lofland, Jeffrey Marks, and small press publishers Vivian Zabel and Tony Burton. So there’s something for everyone who enjoys some or all the mysterious subgenres.

           The book is currently only available on Kindle at: http://tiny.cc/zsgsl as well as Barnes & Noble and Sony readers.

Jean Henry Mead began her career as a news reporter, later serving as a news, magazine and small press editor. The author of four novels, she has also published nine nonfiction books. Her magazine articles have won state, regional and national awards and have appeared domestically as well as abroad.
 
 

 

Blogging trumps poetry: I’m so much cooler online

Tonight I’ll be reading my poetry at the Albany Word Fest, an annual event that’s a virtual orgy of the spoken word. I thought I should come up with at least one new poem for the event, but instead I came up with a severe case of writer’s block. I managed to confront it in the following poem.

Word Fest features a 12-Hour Friday Open Mic that kicks off at 7 p.m. I’m scheduled for 10:30 p.m., so by all means stop by to cheer me on (and buy my books, if you haven’t already.) There’s be dozens of poets and spoken-word artists there, and it’s always a festive night. It’s free, too! Come to the UAG Gallery at 247 Lark Street.

I’m still planning to cover more topics from the Empire State Book Festival, but today this poem took priority. By the way, I borrowed the phrase “I’m so much cooler online” from Brad Paisley’s megahit of the same name.  As an entertaining lyricist, he’s peerless in country music.

 I’VE BECOME A BLOGGER 

My fingers have stage fright.

Knowing I’ll have the floor

tonight at Word Fest, I sit paralyzed at my computer.

Picturing people perched on metal chairs in narrow rows,

faces inscrutable, judging my every word,

my brain slams on the brakes, then sputters out,

rolls over and plays dead. As a poet I’ve grown shy and tongue-tied,

probably because

I’ve become a blogger.

 

Blogging, I measure my audience in hundreds,

rack them up as hits on my stat counter,

check the numbers daily. Nearly sixty thousand now,

but are they human beings, or merely phantom ciphers?

Some are real people. I treasure comments

from Albuquerque and Australia, schmooze with friends

I know by photos from their books, mostly self-published.

We all look our best on line, young for our actual ages.

We spill selected secrets, shout in virtual keystrokes, 600 words or so,

enough for a few pithy points, stopping just shy of boredom.

I feel I know them better than folks I know face to face.

I’ve become a blogger.  

 

My words flow free and easy when I blog.

I keep it bright and breezy, mindful that readers can abandon me

with a single mouse click, never to return.

Still, I’ll never know the pain of their rejection,

never see their restless jiggling legs or condescending smirks.

Month by month I’m turning inward,

conjuring an adoring virtual audience,

withdrawing from flesh and blood communion,

leaving a minimal carbon footprint as I cleave to my computer,

swaddled in my fuzzy pink schmatta from WalMart.

I leave home less and less.

I’ve become a blogger.

 

My fictional career is on sabbatical. Why write fiction,

when I’ve living in the World Wide Web,

spinning my tales, creating my character, branding my name

in Musings Mysterioso. Racking up the readers,

watching my WordPress graphs spike ever higher.

Mystery novels grow redundant, slow the flow.

Who needs them, reads them anyway?

I’ve become a blogger.

                                                                        ©2010 Julie Lomoe

A tall tale featuring my top ten tags

Julia Child

Today’s blog post is a statistical experiment. Never fear, I know that sounds dreary, but I’m going to have fun with it by creating a fictional journal entry using key words and phrases that seem to have drawn people to my blog.

I study my stats religiously, and they’ve been down in the past week. Perhaps my topics haven’t been uplifting or intriguing enough – I wrote about the death of an artist friend, website anxiety, agita and acid indigestion. On the other hand, “affordable funerals” has been one of my most popular topics to date, so go figure. Today, I’ll start with a true statement; after that, all bets are off. I’ll highlight the popular tags in turquoise, and see if I can drive up my stats for the day.

As Administrator for the Memorial Society of the Hudson-Mohawk Region, I get a lot of inquiries about affordable funerals. I’m fairly well versed in what’s going on with funeral homes in upstate New York, but I decided it was time to broaden my horizons. What better place to start than Baltimore and the grave of Edgar Allan Poe? I’d visited there before when I went to Bouchercon, but I didn’t want to linger, so after paying my respects I caught a shuttle to the Baltimore-Washington airport.

Next stop: London. Once there, I realized I wasn’t in the mood for research, at least not of the kind I’d come for, so I decided to cure my jet lag by exploring the local nightlife. I found a pub in the Soho district, and lo and behold, a devastatingly handsome bloke named Harold was soon chatting me up. He looked much the way John Lennon might have if he’d lived to see 60.

Jimi Hendrix

I regaled him with tales of my past – how I’d shown my paintings and won a prize at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, how a disc jockey had helped me sneak my paintings into the Beatles’ suite at the Warwick Hotel, how I’d lived in New York City’s SoHo district at the height of its glory. How Jimi Hendrix bought me a screwdriver and asked for my phone number at a Greenwich Village club, and I stayed in my loft for a week waiting for his call in vain.

Baseball diamond

Harold and I discovered we both had a passion for blogging. I told him how amazed I was to be getting hundreds of hits a day, but that I couldn’t figure out what made certain posts more popular. I could understand the appeal of “Norman Mailer ogled my chest” and “Julie and Julie and Julia” Parts 1, 2 and 3, but why “My blogging story arc – a field of dreams?” Enid Wilson’s steamy take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was a big hit too. Michael Jackson I could understand – I blogged about Michael as the archetype of a tortured artist. Harold and I agreed about the poignancy of his death, but that he’d probably passed his prime, and that the brilliant film “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” was a fitting legacy.

After my second Black Russian, I was feeling confident enough to pull both my mysteries out of my carry-on bag. He raved about my cover illustrations, and immediately insisted on buying both Eldercide and Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders. My first sale on English soil! I was thrilled.

“I’d love to show you more of London tomorrow,” Harold said.

“That would be great, but I’m not sure my husband would approve.” I pulled out my BlackBerry. “Come to think of it, I’d better give him a call. . . .”

 [the scene ends here]

Actually, it turns out that most of the above is fact, not fiction. I’ve been to Baltimore for Bouchercon and and visited Poe’s grave, but I don’t have plans to return any time soon. I didn’t jet off to London and meet a dashing Englishman, but everything I told him about my background and my blogging is true. Now I’ll type in all the tags and see what happens.

Hey, this isn’t a bad creative writing exercise – maybe I’ll try it again sometime. You’re welcome to try it as well. What tags and subjects have drawn the most people to your blog? Can you turn them into a story? I’d love to hear from you.

Design my own website? In my dreams, maybe

Giorgio De Chirico

What is it about trying to design my own website that invariably triggers acute anxiety attacks? My site’s in need of a radical update, so for the past several days, I’ve been playing around with a program from Go Daddy called “WebSite Tonight.” The implication, clearly, is that one should be able to build it in a single night. So why is it taking me days?

I printed out the 17-page “Getting Started Guide,” and there was a disclaimer of sorts: “Like any new application, there is a learning curve when using WebSite Tonight.” Learning curve, hah – that’s an understatement.

Part of the problem is that my tolerance is limited to two hours max. After that, I can feel my blood pressure climb, and my thoughts drift to the liter of wine chilling in the fridge. That’s a sure sign it’s time to get away from the computer, if not to pour some wine, then to confront some housekeeping or overdue bills, or even watch American Idol – I’ll resort to anything to set my mind on a different trajectory.

Is there an insurmountable generation gap at work here? I wasn’t brought up to think along the lines these programs demand. Supposedly the more user-friendly ones operate along the lines of WYSIWYG – for those not in the know, that stands for “what you see is what you get.” But it ain’t necessarily so – after you follow a slew of inscrutable commands and consult the online help manuals, what you get rarely turns out to be what you wanted to see in the first place. Or sometimes you get lucky and see what you want, only to have it disappear again like the Cheshire cat when you try to save it.

Paul Klee

So why on earth am I doing this anyway? It comes down to pride and economics – I want to sell my books, I’m too cheap to spring for a professional website designer, and WordPress won’t let me run PayPal on my present site. Besides, I’m planning to launch my new blog, Authors Avant Garde, and the least I can do is become more savvy about the technical aspects of my ever-expanding web presence.

As a writer, I taught myself touch typing in high school – I simply learned the correct finger positioning, then typed stream-of-consciousness meanderings with the lights out until I got it right. In later years, I typed my way through endless term papers and menial jobs. I wrote in several genres, completed two novels that may never see the light of day before completing one worthy of publication.

As a visual artist, I spent countless hours in life drawing classes and workshops, countless more learning color and composition through years of trial and error. I’ve probably thrown out as many canvases as I’ve sold or saved. But there’s an immediacy to painting or pastels, the medium I used for my book cover illustrations – in the visual arts, what you see is truly what you get. (There are exceptions, like print-making, but that’s another subject.)

So I paid my dues for decades to develop my skills as an author and artist. I rarely  questioned the endless hours, the expense and aggravation. It occurs to me that web design may not be any different. Who am I to expect instant gratification and overnight success? As the I Ching so frequently says, perseverance furthers. I just need to cultivate an attitude of relaxed mindfulness and patience – and know when it’s time to get up and walk away.

What about you? Do you love computer programming challenges? Have you always loved them, or do you think it’s possible to learn to enjoy this brave new world? Are the challenges age-related? I look forward to reading your thoughts.

And by the way, there’s a Yiddish word that describes the way these computer programs make me feel – something like agina or adjena – but I haven’t been able to find it in a dictionary or glossary of common Yiddish terms. If anyone can come up with the correct word, I’d be most appreciative.

ANNOUNCING AUTHORS AVANT GARDE!

I’ve just registered two new domain names for my latest blogging brainchild, Authors Avant Garde. One is a dot-com and one is a dot-org. I’m not posting the links, because there’s nothing there yet, but Go Daddy assures me that courtesy of my Visa Gold card, I now own the domains for two years. I’m amazed the name hasn’t been taken already. So what am I going to do with it? You’ll just have to wait and see.

For over three months now, I’ve been planning to start a new blog titled Authors Avant Garde. I even registered the name with WordPress back in December, but till now, that’s all I’ve done. The idea came to me after an ill-fated trip to New York City wherein I missed the Mystery Writers of America’s holiday party due to acute intestinal distress, followed by a memo from MWA banishing Harlequin from their list of approved publishers because they’ve started a POD and self-publishing division, and that’s strictly verboten.

This confluence of MWA events ratcheted up my rage over the many snippy comments I’d been reading online about self-publishing and quality concerns. I was growing increasingly angry about industry snobbism and old-fashioned gate-keepers. Rather than conjure up the winter’s foul mood by writing more on this issue, I invite you to read my post from December 4th, titled “Was Jane Austen a professional writer? Not according to the Mystery Writers of America.”

I’m hoping the new blog will be a communal effort. Back in December, I even toyed with the notion of forming a not-for-profit corporation, an association of nontraditionally published writers, but I quickly realized that was a terrible idea, at least for me – I don’t always play well with others, and at this stage of my life, I have no need to subject myself to daunting bureaucratic games. So I’ll keep the ultimate control, thank you very much.

So what will I (or we) blog about? I envision Authors Avant Garde (AAG for short) as addressing aspects of writing, publishing and marketing especially from the perspective of self-published writers. I may sell memberships or (gasp!) paid ads, and I’ll offer others the chance to sell their books as well. Traditionally published writers will be welcome too, but they’ll be considered affiliate members.

AAG is very much a work in progress. Till now, it’s existed primarily in my head, but now my brainchild has survived the first trimester of the long dark winter, and I’m going public with the announcement of its impending birth. I don’t have a launch date yet, but if I commit to periodic progress reports on this blog, perhaps that will kick my motivation up a few notches. Never fear, though – it won’t take a full nine months.

I’d love your reactions and ideas. And no matter how this new venture evolves, those of you who’ve helped inspire me with your ongoing comments and support, especially the folks from Blog Book Tours, will always have pride of place.

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