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

 

 

Twas the Night before New Year’s

New Year's clock midnight

Wishing all my friends and readers a joyous New Year! I wrote this poem two years ago, in the nick of time to read it at the Albany Poets’ POETS SPEAK LOUD open mic at McGeary’s Irish Pub. Nothing like a deadline and the prospect of a friendly, enthusiastic audience to get the creative juices flowing. The same open mic inspired the poem about the Christmas Goat and the Taint that I featured in my previous post.

My reflections and resolutions haven’t changed much since then, so I’ve decided not to change a word. But amazingly enough, I can actually see some progress, so I’m celebrating the positive changes in footnotes.

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE NEW YEAR’S

Twas the night before New Year’s and all through my mind

Skittered thoughts of tasks undone and goals left behind.

New Year's apple and tape measure

Those fifteen new pounds I acquired this year*

Mean a new resolution to diet, I fear.

Those favorite noshes I thought wouldn’t matter

Have gone to my hips and I’m looking much fatter.

But giving them up? No, that’s out of the question,

So don’t give me all those nutritious suggestions.

No fasting, no juicing, no broccoli or tofu,

No counting of calories – to that I say screw you!

So bring on the pizza, the cheddar and brie,

The yummy dark chocolates to build more of me!

And bring on the box wines, the reds and the whites,

To lessen the chill of these cold winter nights.

 

Still, I can lose weight if I work out a lot,

Hit the Y every morning, get rid of my pot.**

But it’s so much more pleasant to languish in bed

With my cat on my lap and my tummy well fed.

Lunesta with mouses 6-13

And my house is still messy, it only gets worse,

And probably will till they come with the hearse.

With cobwebs and closets with clothes overflowing,

And huge piles of books that I can’t resist stowing.

And everywhere paper is stacked up in hills,

Unread magazines, catalogs, unopened bills.

I solemnly vow that I’ll throw stuff away,

But what if I need it some bleak rainy day?***

clutter books and papers

Not my clutter!

I could banish the clutter if I hired a maid,

But sadly I guess she’d expect to get paid.

Still, I could afford it if I sold more books,

But marketing’s harder by far than it looks.

And I still haven’t finished my brilliant new story,

The first of a trilogy destined for glory.****

 

So many distractions, they tempt me away

From the tasks I’m determined to tackle each day,

From the far better person I know I could be

If I didn’t procrastinate, weren’t so damn lazy.

So this New Year’s, once more I resolve to do better,

Rise early each morning and be a go-getter.

Lose more weight, sell more books, become famous and rich,

So by this time next year there’ll be no need to bitch.*****

*Fortunately I didn’t gain any weight this year, but I’m still carrying those 15 extra pounds I wrote about two years ago.

**I’ve actually got an hour’s appointment with a trainer at the Y this Monday morning to work out a routine on their jazzy new machines, but that’s because the session is free. I’m not making any promises.

***I’m making some progress in clutter busting but taking it slow and steady. My major Christmas present was a beautiful new rug for the area beside the bed, and it’ll be a wonderful place to do yoga and exercise once I get the space decluttered enough to roll out the rug.

****I finally finished and published HOPE DAWNS ETERNAL, and I’m reissuing my previous two novels, but marketing is still a major stumbling block.

*****Two years later, and I’m still bitching. I’m my own harshest critic, but I’m becoming kinder and gentler on myself. 

How about you? Do you make New Year’s resolutions, or do you feel you’re better off without them? I’d love to hear from you. Wishing you and yours a new year full of health, happiness and creativity.

New Year's Eve Times Square overview

 

             

The Most Over-Hyped Time of the Year

Christmas book tree.

Only five days till Christmas, and I’m immersed in the holiday spirit. But there have been past Christmases when I was mired in depression or feeling very “bah humbug” about the holidays. I’m well aware that this season conjures up a wide range of emotions in shades from joy to despair, and that December can be a problematic time for many people, especially those living alone or with emotional, physical or financial problems. Just this morning a woman in my Nia class told me, “I hate Christmas,” and another told me she dreaded spending the holiday alone.

On my car radio, even the country station has been playing Andy Williams’s inescapable “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”* I wrote and posted this parody two years ago, but I think it stands the test of time, so I’m sharing it once again. It went over well when I sang it acapella at Dan Wilcox’s poetry reading at the Social Justice Center last night. Feel free to print out and borrow them for your local sing-along.

Christmas shopping-frenzy checkout

IT’S THE MOST OVER-HYPED TIME OF THE YEAR

It’s the most over-hyped time of the year.

So you’d better be happy, and best make it snappy

Or people will jeer.

It’s the most over-hyped time of the year.

 

All your family will want lots of gifts.

So you’d better go shopping, and don’t dream of stopping

Or you’ll cause a rift

If you don’t spring for pricy new gifts.

 

There’ll be parties each night and if you’re not invited,

Then you can just stay home and mope.

Drink your brandy-spiked eggnog till you’re in a deep fog.

You’ll wake up a hung-over dope!

 

It’s the season they sing about snow.

But you can’t shovel white stuff ‘less you’ve got the right stuff.

Head south now, just go –

Oops, you can’t, ‘cause you don’t have the dough.

 

Hang those lights, deck those halls. If being cheery seems false,

Just keep wearing that shit-eating grin.**

This will pass soon enough, just hang in and stay tough

Till the January bills trickle in!

 

But for now, eat and drink, have no fear.

Though this season’s depressing, more turkey and dressing

Will fill you with cheer,

And you’ll gain ten more pounds for New Year!

*The song was written by Edward Pola and George Wyle for the Andy Williams TV show and premiered in 1963. It wasn’t an overnight smash, but he sang it every year and it slowly gained popularity. Now, love it or hate it, it ranks among the top ten Christmas songs. Andy Williams died in September, 2012.

**Substitute “big phony grin” if you prefer to avoid profanity. 

Soon I’ll be headed over to a holiday sing-along party at a little community church on Snyders Lake. I’ll bring these lyrics along, but I have a hunch I won’t sing them for fear of dumping a wet blanket over the festivities. I may bring a few of my books along, though, in hopes folks might be in the mood for some last-minute shopping.

 

Speaking of shopping, Amazon tells me there’s still time to get the paperback editions of Hope Dawns Eternal and Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders before Christmas, and you can get them on Kindle instantly. If you do, you’ll contribute mightily to my holiday cheer.

Here’s wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season. Amidst all the last-minute hustle and bustle, don’t forget to be good to yourself! Sipping eggnog while enjoying a long hot bubble bath is one suggestion, but I’m sure you can come up with lots of others. Enjoy!

Julie paintings FUUSA music 12-20-15

Christmas music after today’s service at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany. Four of my paintings are visible upper left to lower right in the background.

 

How the bottom line rules what you see on TV

 Francis SJ Shattered Lies coverToday I’m delighted to welcome my first guest blogger in several years, and I hope to have many more in the months ahead. S.J. Francis found my contact information on the Sisters in Crime website and asked if I’d be interested in a guest post promoting Shattered Lies, their new book.* I said I’d be delighted, especially since this author has extensive experience in the television industry. Hope Dawns Eternal, my vampire soap opera thriller, is set at a major TV network, and I’m constantly trolling for new information on the behind-the-scenes world of television. Here’s what they* sent me:

The TV Industry is a Fickle Business

When Julie asked me to write about something in the TV industry, I immediately thought, why? Even though I worked in several areas in television in different positions, from an intern to an executive producer, from network TV to community TV, I couldn’t think why someone would want to read a post about it. When I worked in television in the dark ages, TV shows were mostly scripted shows, which called for all industry professionals. TV was like that for a long time. Now TV consists of some scripted shows and a great deal of what is called, “reality TV”, which utilize mostly ordinary people and industry professionals. Eventually, reality TV will go to the wayside, when the public gets tired of it and the networks aren’t making any money from it. That’s just the way the industry is.

The TV industry is a fickle business. As with any other business, money keeps the momentum going. When the profits slow down, the networks change things, sometimes drastically. As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. What may work for five years may not work for the next five years.  A lot of people go into daytime television for the security, stability and normal schedule. However, even daytime TV is not really that secure. Up until a few years ago, daytime television consisted mainly of talk shows and soap operas. That is until the networks decided to terminate soap operas in favor of more talk shows. I never saw so many talk shows on television before. Soap operas unfortunately were not able to compete with the growing popularity of reality TV.

During the 1990’s there were twelve daytime soap operas on the air, fluctuating between nine and eleven until the 2006 to 2007 seasons. The number of soaps started declining to just eight during the next season and then just seven during the 2009 to 2010 season. One of my favorites, Guiding Light, was a casualty of this new scheme in television. After seventy two seasons on the air, on both radio and television, this soap came to an end in September 2009. Other victims of this new scourge were ABC’s long running All My Children and One Life to Live.

As anyone involved in the TV industry can attest, working in television, whether as a performer, an executive, or a crew member is not for the faint of heart. There is no real security. It’s a high pressure, dog eat dog world. Stress is a constant. Deadlines and pressure is a never ending force. Politics play a huge role. Anger someone, put their nose out of joint and you’re out of a job, out of the game, and out of the industry.

At present, just four soap operas remain on network television. The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives and another favorite of mine, General Hospital, are the remaining survivors from the cut to soaps, but even now, these soaps are still in a precarious situation.  Television is a changeable industry.  More so than any other industry. Soaps are on the decline due to ratings. They’re also no longer money makers. Reality TV is where the money is at. Ratings and money run everything. When money talks, and ratings decline, soap operas lose out and go by the wayside. How many shows have you seen come and go? I definitely don’t miss the stress of it all.

S.J. Francis

S.J. Francis

S.J. Francis is a freelance writer with over three hundred publication credits, a University Lecturer with doctorates in English, Mass Communications and Law, and most recently, a novelist. Francis writes for many publications, as well as regularly contributing to the local newspaper. Francis’ background also encompasses working as a television producer.

A frequent traveler, Francis has resided in thirteen states and three countries. A confirmed bibliophile, when not writing, Francis can be found reading a good book, or spending time in the outdoors. Francis currently lives in Mississippi, where a major part of Shattered Lies takes place—but grew up in New York City, where the latter portion occurs—and has a great respect and fondness for both places, and considers the world a notebook full of endless ideas. Francis’ first novel, Shattered Lies, is a women’s fiction/mainstream/family saga novel. As in all the stories Francis writes, in the end, it’s all about family. Future projects include a sequel to Shattered Lies and a novel about the dynamic relationships in Hollywood. Shattered Lies was just released this October by Black Opal Books.

Visit S.J. Francis at http://www.sjfranciswriter.com or http://sjfranciswriter.blogspot.com

S.J. sent the author photo posted here, and I asked if there was one that actually showed the author’s face. I got this reply:

Ah- another question about my author badge. Basically, Julie, I’ve been writing anonymously for years now. Mostly, because I don’t feel it’s important to know my identity. If someone likes my stories and articles I write, does it really matter what sex I am, or race? For me, it doesn’t. It’s all about the writing and the reader connecting with it. Besides a little mystery never hurt anyone.  It keeps life interesting, don’t you agree? 

An intriguing answer, but one I find hard to fathom. I crave recognition for my work, and that includes letting the world know who I am in hopes of having my ego stroked. I realize many authors use pen names, but this degree of anonymity is rare. The topic is worth a blog post of its own.

*S.J.’s answer forced me to resort to the words “they” and “their” to refer to a singular subject. I pride myself on my grammatical skills, and I can picture my high school English teachers, Miss Fuller and Mrs. Hadley, writhing in their graves. But I recently read a column by a syndicated grammarian saying that this usage has become acceptable. We need better alternatives, but he/she and all those weird new words like xer are even worse. Any suggestions, folks?

 

 

Never too old to rock out to country music!

Keith Urban

Keith Urban

Friday night I took a nasty spill at Hunter Mountain, and I wasn’t even skiing. No, I was obeying the command of a sepulchral voice booming over the loudspeakers: “Everybody off the mountain immediately. Severe thunderstorm approaching with dangerous lightning. Get to your vehicles and take cover.”

Along with thousands of others, I was at Taste of Country, a three-day country music festival, awaiting the performance of the opening night’s headliner, Keith Urban. More precisely, I was on my way back from the portapotties, where I’d been photographing the trucks with their enormous tanks and hoses sucking out the shit while festival goers used the facilities.

At first I was too far away to understand what the voice was saying. People were

The calm before the storm. Note the man on the left with the giant hose. Shitty job!

The calm before the storm. Note the man on the left with the giant hose. Shitty job!

streaming down the hillside in droves, and when I saw the warnings on the giant video screens, I understood why. I didn’t want to abandon my folding chair and backpack, so I forged my way up the slope and packed up my gear. As I headed back down, lightning was flashing in the western sky.

The descent was orderly. No one was panicking, much less stampeding, probably in part because they’d been guzzling beer all day. But suddenly I slipped, falling hard on my left hip and thigh. I’m abundantly padded in that area, and I didn’t feel any damage, so I scrambled to my feet, with the help of a solicitous and shirtless young man who made sure I was alright.

When I reached the area of the base lodge, staff were urging people to head for their vehicles, since there was no way for the multitudes to take shelter in the buildings. But I went against the current, confronted a security guy at the entrance and played the age card: “I’m 73 years old and it’s impossible for me to get to my car in time.” He took pity on me, took hold of my arm and escorted me to a corner, where he ordered a young woman to yield her Adirondack-style chair with a back made from old fiberglass skis.

There I reclined in comfort for the next hour, reading a Joyce Carol Oates novel and sipping beer while the storm descended as threatened. The rain came down in torrents, and I could see flashes of lightening, but the thunder was drowned out by the uproar in the base lodge, coming chiefly from the drunken young men shouting and throwing beach balls, punctuated by the shrill screechy voices of young women. I was safely ensconced behind a few baby boomers who had set up their folding chairs, so I didn’t worry. Nor did anyone else; the mood was remarkably cheerful and upbeat. All in all, the event inspired confidence and hope for humanity, since most people were considerate and cooperative in a situation that could have become chaotic and dangerous. There were a few belligerent young drunks who got confrontational with each other, but the happier drunks quickly got them under control.

Keith Urban at the CMA Festival las night in Nashville.

Keith Urban at the CMA Festival las night in Nashville.

At long last the worst of the storm blew off to the east, and we were given the all-clear to go back out to the mountain. The crowd was much smaller now, and I set up camp much closer to the stage. Light rain was still falling as another half hour passed while the crew swept water off the stage and set up the equipment. The giant digital signs thanked us for our patience, and finally, at about 10:30pm, Keith Urban and his band took the stage. I feared for his safety, with all that water and electrical equipment, but he seemed unperturbed. “What’s a little rain?” he shouted as he launched into a blazingly brilliant set. A gorgeous guitar god in in his tight jeans, in a bygone era he would have been a rock star, but times change and music evolves.

I last saw Keith Urban at the Times Union Center in Albany ten years ago. His romance with Nicole Kidman was new then, and I later learned that she was there in the audience incognito, hidden beneath a hat. I’m glad their marriage has endured and that they’ve been blessed with two daughters. His music has thrived since then, and he’s a better performer, though less angsty than in his dissolute single days.

Nicole Kidman singing along to Keith's music at the CMA Festival last night.

Nicole Kidman singing along to Keith’s music at the CMA Festival last night.

But I digress. I meant to write about whether it’s age-appropriate for me to attend events like this. There were lots of people with lined faces and gray hair, but most probably younger than me. It took physical endurance and stamina to traipse on and off the mountain and hang in there for the duration, but it was a hell of a lot easier than downhill skiing. I skied many times at Hunter, but in recent years I’ve skied mostly at Jiminy Peak. Last year, because of the bitter cold, I didn’t ski at all, and I’m not sure I ever will again. Not that I’m too old, but I know my legs aren’t in the condition they used to be, so I don’t want to press my luck. On the other hand, I didn’t break my hip at Hunter, though I fell on hard rocky ground instead of cushiony snow. So who knows – I’m not giving away my skis just yet.

I’ve got lots more to say about my Taste of Country experience vis a vis aging, but I’ll save it for the next post. Please subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss it. And please leave me a comment so I’ll know you’re out there!

Here at last – Hope Dawns Eternal!

A Hope Cover 4mbAt long last the formatting and cover art are done for Hope Dawns Eternal. Now comes the daunting part – pulling it all together and publishing it! I’ve already hit my first roadblock – Kim Killion sent me five versions of the cover illustration in various jpeg sizes, but I can’t seem to copy them to display the whole thing on Facebook or here on this blog. I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually, but meanwhile, I can’t resist sharing!

For the cover, I found the photos I wanted on Shutterstock, and she put them together as per my suggestions. Strangely enough, the images I chose all came from Russia or Romania. Those Slavic folks really know how to create dark, passionate art – think Rachmaninoff, Dostoyevsky and all those cats. I like this male model I found – he makes a great vampire, don’t you think? And he looks like a soap star, but not any specific one, which is a good thing.

By the way, the tag line, which is cut off at the top, is:

In a world of TV soaps, the deadliest dramas are unscripted.

I’m writing this at the Denny’s in Latham – scene of Sunday night NaNoWriMo sessions, but at 5 pm on a Wednesday, the room we usually use is totally deserted. I came here a couple of hours ago after seeing my shrink, who keeps my biochemistry on an even keel. He told me he’s phasing out his private practice, concentrating increasingly on nursing homes, and suggested it might be time for me to start shopping around for another drug dealer, aka psychopharmacologist, though he did give me an appointment for July. The fact that I took it in stride shows just how leveled out I am!

More later – I need to finish my Caesar salad, then head over to choir practice at FUUSA. I’d hoped to get in a couple of hours on Sunlight and Shadow, the sequel to Hope Dawns Eternal, and then hit the mall, but I’m running out of time. Time enough to tackle S&S when Camp NaNoWriMo starts in April.

Subscribe to this blog, and you’ll be the first to know when Hope is published – probably within the week.

 

A Happy New Year, Safe at Home

New Year's Ball Times SquarePhooey! Only a couple of hours left till midnight, and it’s highly doubtful that I’ll finish my novel, Hope Dawns Eternal, this year. I’ve got one more climactic scene to write, but I’m sorely tempted to switch on the TV and watch the ball drop. If past years are any indication, ABC will cut away from the actual ball with its thousands of Svarowski crystals and focus on Ryan Seacrest or a crowd shot instead. I’ll end up swearing at the stupid editing and wishing Dick Clark were still alive to ring in the New Year.

I’ve been watching that damn ball drop for practically fifty years. Living in Manhattan in the 1960’s, I was too hip to own a TV, much less make the trek to Times Square to be squashed in a crowd of thousands, but I usually ended up at the apartment of some unattached friend who was throwing a party to welcome in the New Year. Invariably I drank too much and welcomed in New Year’s Day with a vicious hangover.

In the nearly forty years I’ve been married, I recall venturing out on New Year’s Eve on only a handful of occasions. New Year's clock midnightBack in the 1990’s, Albany had a First Night celebration with music, dancing and other entertainment in multiple venues, and we went a couple of times. More than anything, I recall the biting wind chill, which felt well below zero, and weeping over a beloved hat I left at the Palace Theater. (I was in a major depression at the time, and I cried at the drop of a hat – literally, on that occasion.)

A decade later, my husband and I read from our novels as part of Saratoga’s First Night. My friend Marilyn Rothstein, aka M.E. Kemp, booked our mystery writers’ group into an art gallery for the night, and as participants, we got free passes. It was a festive night, and the fireworks at midnight were spectacular, but we’re leery of sharing the Northway with a bunch of drunks, so we’ve stayed home ever since.

Anyway, nothing could ever equal the annual New Year’s parties my parents threw in Milwaukee in the 1950’s, beginning sometime in the McCarthy era. My father was Managing Editor of The Milwaukee Journal, and the invitees were a fascinating mix of the city’s intellectual and artistic elite, including lots of journalists. There was singing around the piano, and the liquor flowed copiously practically till dawn of New Year’s Day. In those days, no one had heard of DWI, and yet somehow they all survived.

New Year's Eve Times Square overviewIn the ensuing decades, we’ve grown increasingly austere when it comes to alcohol, or at least my friends and acquaintances have. On the other hand, when I stopped at the local liquor store around five o’clock this evening, the place was more mobbed than I’ve ever seen it, with cars overflowing the available spaces and creating a minor traffic jam. It’s good to know there are still those among us who plan to toast the coming of the New Year.

As I write, I’m sipping some Pinot Noir out of a Corbett Canyon box. I bought it primarily to flavor the beef stew that’s simmering in my Crock Pot. The aroma that’s wafting up through the floor boards is making me ravenously hungry, but it won’t be ready till around 11:00pm, when I’ll be ready to tune in to the festivities on TV. No need to tune in sooner, because the entertainers featured this year are too damn young and over-exposed. I’ve already heard and seen more than enough of Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande, not to mention Meghan Traynor singing about her big butt and how it’s all about the bass. Elton John is the only star advertised who’s from my generation, but hey, time moves on.

On Christmas after dinner at my daughter’s house, I danced with her, my granddaughters and their friends to a program called “Just Dance,” where the person holding the Wii remote gets scored on how closely they can mimic the moves of the computer-generated dancers on screen. There are dozens of songs to choose from, most of them by new groups I’ve never heard of, but they did have some oldies, like Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and everyone loved that one too. The dance style is that jerky, angular stuff I’ve seen on TV but never attempted before, but it’s great exercise, and I’m tempted to get the program.

The thought of exercise conjures up notions of New Year’s resolutions, but hey, I’m not going there – not tonight. Instead I’m going downstairs for some wine and cheese followed by that stew. And I’ll probably be ready for bed soon after the ball drops.

Have a wonderful New Year’s, everyone, and thanks for reading my blog. See you in 2015.

New Year's cat in basket

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