Calling guest bloggers: my virtual door is open!

Chihuly florabunda rose

Chihuly florabunda rose

My trip to Wisconsin for my 50th high school reunion was a great success – I’ll post more about it soon. In the new schedule I envision for my blog, Fridays will be reserved for my own miscellaneous musings. I see the rest of the week shaping up according to the schedule below. As always, this site is a work in progress, but I’m ready to open it up to guest bloggers. Your posts might be appropriate under any of the Monday through Thursday headings. Topics in parentheses are suggestions; they’re not all-inclusive.

 

MONDAYS: THE ART OF MARKETING (finding agents and publishers; publicizing and selling your work)

TUESDAYS: THE ART OF WRITING (creative approaches to overcoming writers’ block; plotting, character development, editing)

WEDNESDAYS: SOCIAL JUSTICE (topics of social concern, including the causes I’m most involved with – overcoming the stigma of mental illness, attitudes to illness and aging, funeral consumers’ issues)

THURSDAYS: MYSTERY WRITING (interviews and articles featuring my mystery-writing colleagues)

FRIDAYS: JULIE’S RANDOM MUSINGS (my day for self-indulgence, posting about my personal experience, memories and whatever suits my fancy) 

Although mystery writing is my primary passion, I want to reach out to a wider audience with this blog, and with a different focus for each day, there’ll be opportunities for those of you who aren’t mystery writers to post as well. I spent May and June learning about blogging with the Blog Book Tours class, and in those two months, an average of 37 people visited my blog each day. Not bad for a novice, but I plan to do far better. Please join me on this exciting journey – together we can take it to the next level!

As always, I welcome your comments here. But if you’d like to discuss being a guest blogger on this site, please e-mail me separately at julielomoe@nycap.rr.com. Read my own posts to get an idea of the tone of this site. Your contributions should be 400 to 700 words, and it’s OK with me if you’ve already posted them elsewhere. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Fourth of July postscript: I will start this schedule in earnest right after Labor Day. I was feeling super-ambitious when I posted two days ago, but realistically, I want to enjoy my summer – if it ever stops raining here in upstate New York. So until September, I’ll be aiming for three days a week, probably Mon-Wed-Fri. But even with this abbreviated schedule, I welcome your contributions. Within a couple of days I’ll post submission guidelines on a new page.

 

My blogging story arc – a field of dreams

Available from Amazon or www.virtualbookworm.com

Available from Amazon or http://www.virtualbookworm.com

In my mystery novels, I do my best to build tension, to keep the reader engaged for over 300 pages. More than one successful author has said there should be conflict on every page. And ideally, every chapter ends with a cliff hanger – an unresolved situation that keeps the reader turning the pages.

Readers have told me I’m pretty good at this – once they start one of my novels, they have a hard time putting it down. I’m delighted to hear this, of course. But blogging is a whole different ball game. For me, each post has been a mini-essay, complete in itself. But what keeps readers coming back and wanting more? That’s something I’m still figuring out.

Once again I’m giving a shout-out to one of my colleagues on Blog Book Tours, Alexis Grant. Whereas most of us in this online course are published authors, she has yet to finish her first book-length manuscript. Although an experienced journalist, she calls herself an “aspiring author” and invites readers to follow her along on her journey to publication. At first I thought this was presumptuous – why should anyone care? But her posts are engaging and full of information, and she’s getting tons of followers.

So I’ve decided I’m going to share my journey as well. Not to publication – I’ve already published two mysteries I’m proud of – but to getting a first-rate agent and a well established publisher. I’ve tried the traditional query-letter-SASE-sample-chapters routine, and I hate it. Baseball diamondSo I’m trying the Kevin Costner “Field of Dreams” approach instead – “If you build it, they will come.” I’ll just put myself out here online, build the best blog site and internet presence I can manage, and have faith – when the time is right, with a little nudging, that agent will appear.

I’ll post my journey online – not daily, but maybe once a week. I’ll devote the other four weekdays to other topics. But my quest for fame and fortune, however modest, will be my story arc, the tale that keeps people coming back – and I have every intention of hitting the ball out of the park.

This is a weird metaphor for me, since I absolutely loathe baseball – or playing softball at least. When I worked as an art therapist at Hudson River Psychiatric Center, we used to have picnics at the boathouse by the river. Occasionally I was forced to play softball, and I’d scream and run away every time the ball came near me. The patients thought it was hilarious. 

What’s it all about, blogging?

Order from Amazon or www.virtualbookworm.com

Order from Amazon or http://www.virtualbookworm.com

I began blogging with the goal of selling my mystery novels, but reviewing my posts over the past 40 days, it seems I’ve been writing about everything but my books. And I may well continue the same way, posting about whatever strikes my fancy. Nonetheless, in an effort to focus more attention on my books, today I’m featuring the cover for my first mystery, Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders. I not only wrote the book; I did the cover illustration. More about that below, in what’s becoming my customary purple addendum.

For me, blogging is becoming an all-consuming creative challenge. I love the multidimensional possibilities of reaching an audience through varied media, both verbal and visual. And I love the immediate feedback – getting and responding to comments, studying the jazzy graph that charts my hits per day, watching my numbers climb. 

But this isn’t just about me. What do you look for when you click on someone’s site? What makes you keep coming back? Is it the quality of the writing, the usefulness of the links, the relevance to your own genre? Probably all of these and more. In terms of the Blog Book Tour folks, what draws me most is the sense of an individual personality coming through, especially if it’s someone I’d like to know better. Yes, I like the links to agents or pertinent articles, but often, if I don’t have time to check them out immediately, I tend to forget about them. Sometimes I make notes on posts I’d like to revisit, but then the notes get buried on my desk and I never get around to it.

What draws me back to certain blogs is the sense of a compelling personal voice. Please let me know: what draws you back? I’ll summarize the results (including your links, of course) in a future blog.

My illustration for Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders dates from 2006, the same year I published the book. It’s a pastel, measuring about 18″ x 27,” and it depicts Erika Norgren clinging to her beloved shepherd-mix dog Rishi as she discovers the body of a gifted young artist on the front steps of WellSpring, the East Village social club for adults with mental illness. Erika is the club’s director, and like many of the consumers who frequent the club, she is diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

I was a painter long before I began to write mysteries. I received my MFA from Columbia University and exhibited at the Woodstock Festival of Music and Art in 1969. But that’s a story for another day.

Final exam anxiety, the B.A.D. gang, and Erika’s bipolar revelation

Have you ever had one of those “examination dreams” – the kind where you have to take a final exam in college and you’re woefully unprepared? In my dreams, sometimes I didn’t study at all. Other times it’s the wrong course, or it’s the right course but I hadn’t realized I was enrolled in it, so I’d never come to class or done any of the assignments.

Today feels like one of those dreams. Tomorrow’s the day my blog will be critiqued by the other members of the current Blog Book Tours class. In May, we participated in the Blog-A-Day challenge; hence the B.A.D. moniker. Rationally, I know there’s nothing to fear. We’ve already critiqued other members’ blogs, and the group has been uniformly kind and considerate. No one’s trashed anyone else’s site. No one’s said, “You’re a horrible writer; you might as well give up right now,” or “Yours is the ugliest blog I’ve ever seen.” (Of course, no one’s deserved comments like that, either.) It’s all about constructive critiquing and suggestions to help us improve our blogs.

Yes, I know all that. Even so, I’m planning to spend the day tweaking my site, with time out for a little gardening and a trip to the Y for Nia and weight-lifting. I know what’s good, what needs improvement. I won’t be more specific here, because I don’t want to influence my critics in advance. But this feels like putting the final touches on a term paper – proofreading it one more time, making sure the bibliography and footnotes are all in order. (Aside to folks of a certain age: how did we ever manage all this before the age of computers?)

Then there's the lingering anxiety about yesterday's post, wherein I proclaimed my bipolar diagnosis. So far, I've received a couple of positive comments, but nothing major. In fact, I'm reminded of  the scene in Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders where Erika comes out of the closet. Following a memorial service for a member of WellSpring who died mysteriously, Erika is confronted by a TV newswoman:

     Ariana’s dance segued into a final chant. As she extinguished the candles to signify the close of the service, I rose and moved quietly through the garden and out the wrought iron gates to confront the camera crews.

      Nancy Welcome was waiting front and center, wearing a suit of tangerine wool that showed an extravagant length of leg and looked far too warm for the season. Beads of sweat shone through her makeup, and she was dabbing at her forehead with a tissue. “Ready when you are, Erika,” she said. “But let’s get Stan Washington, the guy I interviewed before. He was great on camera. Maybe some of the other club members too.”

     “Unfortunately, that’s not such a good idea. People’s attendance at the club is strictly confidential. Because of the stigma attached to mental illness – ”

     “Hold it right there, Erika. That’s a good angle, but I’d like to get it on tape before we talk any more. It’ll sound fresher that way.”

     She signaled the cameraman, who aimed his lens at me and began filming. Nancy walked casually into the frame. “I’m speaking with Erika Norgren, Director of the WellSpring Club. The memorial service for Stephen Wright has just ended. Behind us, people are leaving, including many members of WellSpring, the social club for mentally ill adults. Ms. Norgren has requested that we not show these folks on camera. Why is that, Erika?”

     “People’s attendance at the club is strictly confidential, Nancy. Some members hold jobs, and they may not have told their employers about their illness, for fear of repercussions. Even if they’re upfront about their own illness, their family and friends may be embarrassed and not want it discussed.”

     “So there’s a lot of secrecy involved with WellSpring Club, how it’s run and who comes here,” Nancy stated.

     “Unfortunately, some secrecy is necessary,” I replied. “But that’s because in our society there’s still a strong stigma associated with mental illness. For that to change, we need more honesty and open communication about the subject.” I took a deep breath, then a totally unpremeditated leap off the high dive. “For example, I’ve been the Director of WellSpring Club for almost six months, yet no one at the club knows that I’m officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It’s well controlled with medication, and not even my boss knows about it. I guess she’ll find out on the news tonight.”

     Her eyes took on a predatory gleam. “That’s very interesting, Erika. I appreciate your sharing it with News Channel 8. Any reason you decided to go public about your illness at this particular time?”

     “I’m an honest, upfront person in general, and I’ve been feeling more and more hypocritical about keeping this important part of myself under wraps, especially since I became Director of WellSpring Club and began working alongside a lot of wonderful people who face their illness bravely and openly every day. So I’m hereby making it official – I’m one of the crazies, and proud of it.”

     Closing ranks on either side of me, Stan and Gloria began to cheer and clap. Still filming, the cameraman pulled back for a long shot as other members arrived to check out the commotion.

     “I never knew coming out of the closet would be so exciting,” I said. Then everything turned soft and swimmy, and my knees went suddenly weak. But the sensation passed in short order. I didn’t fall swooning to the ground in the wake of my revelation. No fireworks exploded, no comets streaked across the sky. The handful of club members who had gathered around gave me a round of applause and a couple of thumbs up, but that was it. At last I had made the public confession I’d dreaded for so long, and nothing had changed at all. Not yet, anyway.

From Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders, Copyright 2006 by Julie Lomoe

 

Hip hip hooray! I’ve made it through the B.A.D. Challenge!

It’s May 31st, and I’ve made it through the Blog-A-Day Challenge on Blog Book Tours. I’ve earned bragging rights: I only missed one day, because I was down in Woodstock taking care of my granddaughters and didn’t get back till midnight. But since there are 31 days in May, I figure I’ve still blogged for an entire month – after all, most months have only 30 days.

This daily blogging has done wonders for my writing chops. It’s been like what jazz musicians used to refer to as “woodshedding” – just holing up alone and honing your craft. It’s also paid unexpected dividends in terms of things I’ve done less of.

THANKS TO THE BLOG-A-DAY CHALLENGE, I’VE DONE LESS:

  • Eating – I even skipped lunch yesterday, and that’s unheard of!
  • Drinking – my wine consumption has decreased considerably (not that it was a problem, but wine has lots of calories).
  • Television watching – my favorite shows are on summer reruns, and I’d rather spend evenings blogging.
  • Computer solitaire – Spider no longer has such addictive allure.
  • Shopping – fewer trips to the malls and less spending. Here at my computer, I don’t need fancy clothes.

Thanks to Dani for being such a demanding taskmistress, and congratulations to my cronies in the Blog-A-Day Challenge who’ve also made it through. We all deserve to celebrate today, especially since it’s Sunday, a day of rest. I’ll probably spend the afternoon in the garden – after I check Facebook and Twitter. 

 Yesterday I worked on my static pages: I added “A Message from Julie” and the first chapters of both my novels. Check them out – I’d love your feedback.

Blog-A-Day folks, what has this challenge done for you?

 

The computer ate my blogroll

Last night my computer flashed me a message saying “Virtual memory is running low.” It claimed that Windows was working on the problem, but that in the meantime, some programs might be affected. And sure enough, it was running maddeningly slowly, so I decided to shut down for the night and give it a good eight hours’ sleep. Before I logged out, I decided to check my blog one more time.

To my dismay, my blogroll had disappeared, with its links to all my Blog Book Tours cronies! Trying not to panic, I logged off and shut down. Then, fearing I wouldn’t be able to sleep without fixing it, I booted the computer up again and checked my blog. Still no blogroll! I shut down again and tried again this morning. Nothing had changed; all my links were still missing. With admirable sangfroid, I clicked on Links. To my vast relief, all the links were still there; they just weren’t showing on my blog’s sidebar. I searched in vain for my WordPress for Dummies book. But there was no time for problem-solving anyway; I had to leave for Woodstock for a day of grandmothering.

Now here I am 12 hours later, back home and determined not to miss my Blog A Day. Alas, still no Blogroll. I’ve been extolling the virtues of WordPress, but it seems to have turned against me. Or is my computer the culprit? Maybe I should have paid more heed to those “Virtual memory” warnings. They’ve occurred a few times since I’ve been blogging, jumping heedlessly from one web page to another checking on my fellow BAD bloggers. Maybe the poor machine is just freaked out from information overload – too many images, too many diverse points of view, and I’ve been insensitive to its plight.

I’ll solve the problem tomorrow, I hope. But now, before my cats kick me out of my office (it’s also their bedroom), I need to get to my homework and critique another blog. I’m pleased with myself, though – I haven’t suffered my usual technophobic anxiety attack. I can cope, I tell myself. Yes I can . . .

Art work in progress – my online persona

Last night I got a message on Facebook: “Are you the Julie Lomoe with an MFA from Columbia? If so, I own one of your paintings, and I adore it.”

I didn’t recognize her name, but that doesn’t mean I never met her. I was active in the SoHo art scene in the late Sixties and early Seventies, and much of that time passed in a tumultuous blur. I wrote her back, of course, adding a “friend” request and asking her to tell me who she is and which painting she owns.

I’m increasingly amazed at the connections the internet stirs up. Sometimes they’re weird or even fictional. A couple of years ago, when Googling myself, I came across a post by someone in England describing “a painting by Julie Lomoe”. As I recall, the title was something like “Soldier in Winter.” The only problem was that I’d never done a painting even remotely like that, and I have no idea how or where the guy came up with my name. But I guess that’s the way legends are created.

Now I’m creating a new online persona, and I’m finding the process is more complex and multilayered than any static work of art I’ve ever created with paint on canvas or words on paper. In my Nia* class at the YMCA** today, and later on the weight machines, I was inundated by thoughts of blogging – possible topics, new categories and pages, people to contact or check out online. The ideas swirling through my head were so engrossing, I was practically oblivious to the influx of half a dozen unfamiliar but hunky young men in the weight room (the college semester’s obviously over!)

Now what was I saying? Oh yes, about blogging. After the Y, I dropped by Staples to pick up a spiffy new bound journal, a small one that’ll fit easily in my handbag so I can jot down all those ephemeral ideas before they evaporate. And I’ve vowed to stop beating myself up about “not writing” – I’m writing every day online, and I’ll be back into visual art as well once I have time to delve more deeply into the intricacies of web design.

For those other writers out there who may be guilt-tripping about the time they’re spending online – my unsolicited advice is to get over it. This strange new world is every bit as creative as writing a novel.

*If you want a marvellous workout that’s spiritually and musically engrossing, check out the Nia website. There may be a class near you. It’s the only exercise form I’ve ever been able to stick with for more than a couple of weeks.

**Speaking of the YMCA, for those of you in the Albany area, the Village People will be playing an Alive at Five concert at the park beside the Hudson River on July 2nd. All together now, hands in the air – Y M C A!

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