Dogs I’ve loved in life and fiction

Congratulations to Karen Walker, winner of my 50,000 hits contest. Though Karen lives across the country, we’ve shared a lot over the past year through the Blog Book Tours group. I invite you to visit her wonderful blog, Following the Whispers. Here’s the post I contributed to her blog for my Blog Book Tour last November.

Truth can be stranger than fiction:

the tragic saga of Lucky, my golden retriever

Lucky and Me (Author photo for Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders) Courtesy Hot Shot Photos

Dogs have long played a central role in my life and my fiction but Lucky, the beautiful golden retriever in my author photo for Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders, may have been the last dog I’ll ever own. Six months after the photo was taken, he died of lymphoma, and in the years since then, I’ve switched to cats. Setting up this Blog Book Tour, reading my hosts’ reactions to the photo, I realized I’d never written about Lucky. Since Karen’s blog focuses on memoir and nonfiction, this seems like the perfect time.

But Rishi, the dog before Lucky, deserves pride of place. He’s a major character in Mood Swing. In fact, his image is in my cover illustration, and his name is the first word in the first chapter:

            Rishi was halfway out the window and onto the fire escape when I tackled him. Arms around my dog’s massive shoulders, I groped for his choke chain and yanked hard. Half a dozen pigeons flapped skyward, squawking.

            I described him on Page 2:

            He’s leaner and rangier than a German shepherd, stockier than a Doberman, bigger than a Rottweiler. Despite his forbidding looks, he’s a basically friendly beast, but sometimes it’s in my best interests not to let people know that.

That last sentence was literary license. Rishi was wonderfully affectionate and loving, but only to our immediate family, and he was never adequately trained. Despite a near-death experience with a neighbor’s hammer that left a permanent dent in his skull, Rishi lived nearly ten years, a good long life for a big dog. But his death threw me into a deep depression.

Enter Lucky, a year or so later. He came into our lives with what seemed at first to be joyous synchronicity. At a Woodstock party given by friends of my daughter Stacey, someone mentioned having a golden retriever who needed a new home. I was instantly intrigued – we’d owned a beautiful golden named Shawna when Stacey was a child, and except for her propensity to chew up the woodwork during thunderstorms, she’d been a wonderful member of the family.

Right after the party, I paid a home visit to meet Lucky, fell instantly in love, called my husband on my cell, and within a week we had a beautiful four-year-old male golden. He came with a tragic back story: he’d been the beloved companion of an 84-year-old man who lived alone in the Catskills, and when the man was hospitalized, one of the nurses befriended both him and Lucky. Shortly after the man’s discharge, he was brutally murdered by a neighbor he’d known and trusted for years, a handyman in search of money for drugs.

The nurse took Lucky in, and in turn passed him on to the folks who gave him to us for adoption. The poor dog was threatening the family’s togetherness. They already had a couple of young kids, a poodle and a cat, and a rambunctious young retriever sent them over the top. The husband’s job took him on the road a lot, but when he was home, he told us, he and Lucky slept together downstairs while the wife, kids, poodle and cat slept upstairs. Not exactly a prescription for marital bliss, so Lucky had to go.

Soon after the photo session with Lucky, his health began spiraling downward. He couldn’t seem to keep food down, and he was weakening and losing weight. After extensive testing, the vet diagnosed lymphoma. In a futile attempt to buy more time, we opted for extensive – and expensive – surgery. In retrospect, that was a mistake, but he’d been so young, so lovable, that we thought it was worth the gamble.

He died in early fall. We buried him in the garden out back, marked the spot with a marble plaque bearing an iris design my husband had carved years before. I planted dozens of bulbs – crocus, daffodil, and hyacinth – and they’ve bloomed luxuriously in the three years since.

Dogs play a major role in both my novels, but they never, ever come to a bad end. In fact the villain in my suspense novel Eldercide nearly refuses an assignment when he thinks it might mean harming the victim’s Jack Russell terrier. And I could probably never write that scene where the neighbor tries to murder Rishi with a ball peen hammer, with me coming between them, shrieking that he’ll have to kill me first, screaming bloody murder until the neighbors call 911 and the police arrive. On the other hand, maybe enough time has passed – and after all, the dog survived in the end.

 As I write, my cat Lunesta is writhing around on the desk next to my computer, tempting me to rub her tummy and doing her best to bat the mouse out of my hand and onto the floor. Does she sense I’m writing about dogs? Is she demanding equal time? For now, she’ll have to wait.

Post script five months later: it’s a beautiful spring day, and the green shoots of the crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths are pushing out of the ground atop Lucky’s grave. Lunesta is sleeping in a basket by my side, soaking up the sunshine.

I did the cover illustrations for both my books, by the way. The medium is pastel.

How about you? Any pet stories you’d like to share? Have your pets played a role in your fiction?



I’m self-published, I’m out and I’m proud

Here’s another post that’s new to this blog. I wrote it for Morgan Mandel’s site as part of my blog book tour last November. I’ve talked about self-publishing here, but not for ages, so some of my newer readers may be unaware of what I’m about to confess.


True confession time: I’m a self-published author, I’m out and I’m proud! There’s still a certain stigma associated with self-publishing, but the publishing industry is undergoing seismic changes, and I believe those of us who’ve bypassed the traditional system are taking back our power and gaining greater credibility with every passing day.

When I began blogging seriously back in May, I posted about my bipolar diagnosis, saying I’m out and I’m proud. At that time I wrote that self-publishing with a print-on-demand publisher rather a traditional publisher had even more stigma attached than revealing that I’m bipolar. But in the six months since then, I’ve changed my mind. Here are some reasons why.

I was recently honored as 2009 Author of the Year by the Friends of the Albany Public Library for my suspense novel Eldercide. They had a wonderful luncheon in my honor, and when their President Gene Damm introduced me, he pointed out that although they’ve been giving the award for decades, this is the first time they’ve ever chosen a self-published author. The fact that I was self-published didn’t weigh into their decision either positively or negatively; they simply thought my book was the best of the many they considered, and they liked the way I dealt with important social issues regarding aging and death.

In October, I moderated two panels for the Poisoned Pen Web Con, sponsored by Poisoned Pen Press and billed as the first-ever virtual worldwide mystery conference. When I volunteered to serve as moderator, the organizers didn’t ask who had published my books. Rather, they gave me free rein in organizing my panels on social issues and point-of-view. Most of the authors on the panels, which I put together by e-mailing back and forth, had far more impressive publishing track records than mine, but it didn’t matter. (By the way, you can visit the Web Con at the link above to read my panels and access the rest of the conference proceedings free of charge.)

Putting together those two panels made me even more grateful that I took the self-publishing route. Especially in the social issues panel, authors related stories of agents and editors who dictated what they should and shouldn’t write. Child abuse was taboo, for example. Appealing to the broadest possible audience without offending anyone seemed to be the dominant concern, and for the most part, the authors acceded to the restrictions. Those of us who self-publish have no such limitations – we’re free to write about whatever we want, however we want, and to build our own readership without having to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

I tried the traditional route to publication for both my mystery novels. While attempting unsuccessfully to find an agent for Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders, which deals with mysterious deaths at a social club for the mentally ill on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, I wrote Eldercide.. Perhaps mental illness was too specialized a topic, I thought, and I hoped for more success with the novel that drew on my experience running a home health care agency. No such luck: the rejections continued. Approximately 15 rejections for each book – not many at all, but enough to throw me into a profound clinical depression. I nearly gave up, until some writer friends convinced me to try print-on-demand publishing. I did due-diligence online research on POD companies and settled on Virtual Bookworm, a company in Texas that received consistently good reviews. Within two months of my decision, I had a published book in my hands. I had a major say in the design and layout, and I did my own cover illustration. Lo and behold, my depression lifted, and it hasn’t come back since.

Do I still want a big-time agent and publisher? Yes, that would be great, but my life no longer depends on it. And I plan to acquire them on my terms, when and if I choose. In the meantime, the people buying my books don’t care who the publisher is. Bookstores and libraries carry them when I do the necessary outreach, and they’re available worldwide through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. At my high school reunion last June in Milwaukee, I learned the school had purchased both books for their collection of alumni writers. And a fellow alumna from Norway, an exchange student back in the day, had bought them online as well.

Do I recommend POD self-publishing to other aspiring authors? Absolutely, and even more so since I’ve met Morgan Mandel and so many other successfully self-published writers on line. I firmly believe we’re just beginning to come into our power.  

Are you a self-published author? If so, what sort of stigma have you experienced? If you had it all to do over, would you take a different route? Or are you out and proud like me?

Want to order one or both of my books direct from the source and personally inscribed to you? E-mail me at and I’ll tell you how it can be arranged. One of these days I’ll have PayPal up and running on this site, but why wait? I’d love to hear from you.

Why we love sexy villains

Michael Easton

Why do we love those sexy villains? That’s what I’m writing about today over at Toni Andrews’ blog, Something Different This Way Comes. She’s published with Harlequin, so I thought I should write about something romantic. But romance isn’t huge in my novels. There are plenty of attractive men, but my heroines are too busy solving crimes to get seriously involved, so I decided writing about my villains would be the next best thing.


Gabriel, the mysterious killer in Eldercide, bears an uncanny resemblance to Michael Easton, the actor who plays Lieutenant John McBain on One Life to Live. But Michael was a lot sexier playing the tormented vampire Caleb Morley on the defunct soap opera Port Charles. Visit Toni’s blog to learn more about Gabriel and Michael. And check out Michael’s website for more photos. He’s also a poet, graphic novelist and film director. (BTW, my husband’s well aware of this fascination of mine.) 

It’s not too late to take the Jung Typology Test I described on yesterday’s blog, both here and at Jane Kennedy Sutton’s Jane’s Ride. Just go to So far all the writers I’ve heard from score as introverts. Are there any extrovert writers out there? Extrovert readers, maybe? Curious minds want to know.

Tomorrow I’ll be at Morgan Mandel’s Double M blog, talking about self-publishing. She’s also been generous enough to give me a shout-out at Acme Authors.

Just one more post to write for this Blog Book Tour! I was hoping to do it today, but I need to get cleaned up to usher for Ani DiFranco’s concert at The Egg. I last heard her when I was in the studio audience for Conan O’Brien’s late late show when he was just starting out. We’ll probably both look older!

Are all writers introverts? Are you? Take the Jung typology test and find out!

Munch street scene

Edward Munch

Attention all introvert writers: Can you find success by tapping into your inner extrovert?

That’s the question I’m posing today in my guest post on Jane Kennedy Sutton’s excellent blog, Jane’s Ride. I provide a link to a site where you can take the Jung Typology Test. Answer 60 yes/no questions, and the site will tell you which of 16 personality types best describes you. So far, five of us writers have taken the test, and we all score as introverts. What about you? Go to and find out. Post the results in your comments on Jane’s blog, or you can leave a comment here. I’ll tabulate the responses from both blogs. Then, needless to say, I’ll blog about it.

If you’re not a writer, please take the test and post your results anyway, along with your line of work or anything else you want to share. We need a control group too! 

The test tells me I’m an INFP. Those initials stand for introvert, intuitive, feeling and perceiving.

According to educational psychologist David Keirsey’s widely used Temperament Sorter, I’m an “idealist healer.” My type “can seem shy, even distant around others. . . Because of their deep-seated reserve, however, they can work quite happily alone. . . They have a natural interest in scholarly activities and demonstrate, like the other Idealists, a remarkable facility with language. They have a gift for interpreting stories, as well as for creating them, and thus often write in lyric, poetic fashion.” 

I love that description, and unlike astrology, there’s even some scientific validity to it. Maybe you’ll love your type too! Again the test link is To learn more about the four temperaments and the 16 personality types, go to After you have your results, it would be great if you post them here as a comment, and let us know if you think the results are accurate. 

On Jane’s blog, I described myself as an introvert. Friday night, when I wrote the post, I was psyching myself up for my Author of the Year award luncheon on Saturday, writing about how I enjoy talking about my work but dread the one-to-one interactions at the signing table later, when I have to put on my perky face and try to sell books. As it turned out, I had a great time Saturday. During the talk, I disregarded my notes and improvised. I was at my hypomanic, extroverted best, and more people bought my books than ever before. No doubt my mood and my image were enhanced by the presence of my husband, who handled the books sales, my daughter Stacey, and my granddaughters Kaya (ten) and Jasper (three). Kaya videotaped my talk, and maybe I’ll figure out how to post it on You Tube one of these days.

CocktailParty Anon painting Wash PostAfter the luncheon, we spent some quality family time at the New York State museum, including a couple of spins for the kids on the vintage merry-go-round. Then Stacey and the girls headed back to Woodstock, and my husband and I headed over to some  friends’ house for a gourmet French dinner party we’d purchased at a silent auction at our Unitarian Universalist church. Atypically, rather than feeling drained and ready to retreat into silence after doing my author bit, I stayed in full-throttle extrovert mode for the rest of the evening.

It just goes to show that, as I wrote on Jane’s blog, our personalities are endlessly complex, and most of us have the ability to shift from one role to another as the occasion demands. I hope you’ll go to, take the Jung Typology Test, and share your results with me.

I’m heading for the home stretch on my Blog Book Tour. Tomorrow I’ll be on Toni Andrews’ blog. I’ll post her link and the last three later. Right now, though, I’ve got two blog posts to write before I drive over to SUNY-Albany for the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the NYS Writers Institute. Mario Cuomo and Doris Kearns Goodwin are the featured speakers, so I’d best get there early! These events are free, and they tend to fill up fast. Waiting in line, I’ll have plenty of time for networking, so I’ll bring my books and rev up to play extrovert once more.

My Blog Book Tour – I’m running as fast as I can!

Alice in Wonderland, rabbit“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!” I feel like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, trying frantically to keep up with my Blog Book Tour. Today I’m on Karen Walker’s blog, Following The Whispers, writing about the tragic saga of my golden retriever Lucky, as well as my shepherd-mix Rishi who stars in Mood Swing.


I just sent off a post to Jean Henry Mead for her blog Writing Advice & Good Books, where I’ll be visiting tomorrow. My topic:

First or third person? One voice or many? Julie Lomoe’s musings on point of view.

Fortunately, I’ve already given the topic considerable thought. I moderated a virtual panel discussion about POV for the Poisoned Pen Web Con on October 24, so I’m revisiting some of what I said there. By the way, the day’s proceedings, including my panel, are now free on line through the above link. It’s a real treasure trove of information.

Friday’s stop: Helen Ginger’s Straight from Hel blog 

Brian Wilson nowLast night I heard Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame at The Egg. Although his voice has coarsened over the years, he had a first-rate band with several singers who created beautiful harmonies. Brian seemed happier than when I heard him at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center several years ago. I’m reminded of the perennial “tortured genius” theme – Brian Wilson certainly qualifies. That in turn reminds me of the “genius is only a step away from madness” theme. I’ll be writing about that  on Helen’s blog, drawing on my personal experience from an acute manic episode. Friday the 13th seems like an appropriate day for that particular piece of personal history.

Thanks to the blog hosts who’ve been so patient and tolerant of my last-minute efforts. And to those hosting me next week: I’m in catch-up mode now, so in the immortal words of Brian Wilson, “Don’t worry baby – everything will be alright.” (I used to sing that gorgeous song as a lullaby for my daughter, and now I sing it to my granddaughters.)

Sneak Preview of my Blog Book Tour!

Mood Swing front coverMy Blog Book Tour starts Monday! I’ve written my first two guest blogs and sent them off to the hosts. It’s odd writing a blog post and not being able to see it up on the web as soon as I click “Publish.” The instant gratification of the Internet is truly addictive, and I’d almost forgotten how much patience it takes to wait. Even a few days feels like ages – and I can hardly bear to think about how long it takes to get a book published.

Here are the links and details for my first three blog stops. I’ll be adding more about subsequent stops next week.



Monday, November 9                        L. Diane Wolfe’s Spunk on a Stick

For my first guest post ever, I’ve written about how my career as an art therapist and home health care administrator inspired and informed both my mystery novels. It’s something I’d never done in such detail on my own blog – interesting how this tour is already helping me focus and fill in some gaps. 

Tuesday, November 10         Maryann Miller’s It’s Not All Gravy

Maryann is currently featuring books that would make good holiday gifts. Rather than toot my own horn in a truly obnoxious fashion, I decided to quote reviews from my fellow writers. Amazing how good it felt to revisit all the great things people said about me! Again, this is something I haven’t done on my own blog. I’m going to create a page for those reviews ASAP. Maybe it’ll help me sell more books!

Wednesday, November 11    Karen Walker’s Following the Whispers

Karen is a fellow alumna from the Blog Book Tour class that took place last May and June. She writes nonfiction focusing on her personal journey, and I admire her honesty and courage when it comes to self-disclosure. I was going to write something comparing memoir and fiction, but I changed my mind after I sent out photos to all the hosts. People loved the photo of me with Lucky, my late golden retriever, and I realized I’d never written about him. So Wednesday’s post will be about dogs I’ve known, both real and fictional. I think I’ll call it Truth can be stranger than fiction: the tragic saga of Lucky, my golden retriever.

People familiar with Blog Book Tours recommend planning and writing your posts far ahead. But hey, I’ve never been that kind of writer – I thrive on the brinksmanship of deadlines. So what will I be writing about after Wednesday? I’m sure I’ll figure it out.