Tag Archive | Blog Book Tours

When you’re feeling creative, how crazy is too crazy?

Bud Powell at Birdland

Since early adolescence, I’ve been fascinated by the fine line between creativity and madness, and the life stories of artists and writers who suffered from mental illness. At 13, when I took up painting and jazz piano, I was intrigued to learn the great bebop pianist Bud Powell was schizophrenic. I barely knew what the word meant, but it sounded romantic, and I thought his illness contributed to the brilliance of his intense, driven style in compositions like “Un Poco Loco.”

When it comes to artistic creativity, is being “a little crazy” an asset or a liability? The question has been the subject of endless speculation. Would Van Gogh have been as great if he’d been totally sane? What about Robert Schumann or Virginia Woolf? I’m not sure, but in my own case, being a bit over the top has probably helped. At any rate, my experiences with bipolar disorder inspired my first novel, Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders.

I came by the diagnosis atypically late, in my early 50’s. I was running ElderSource, Inc., a Licensed Home Care Services Agency, and the work was unbelievably stressful. A shrink prescribed Zoloft, and the effect was amazing. Within a couple of weeks, I felt better than I had in years, ready to take on the world. A few more weeks, and I totally flipped.

Virginia Woolf

It began harmlessly enough. I spent more and more time in my office behind closed doors, writing on my computer. My mind was flooded with inspirations I simply had to get down on paper before they escaped. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Nothing, if you’re a writer – but I was supposed to be running an agency. My memos got longer and longer, then turned into voluminous essays, including one about my father’s brilliance as Managing Editor of the Milwaukee Journal during the McCarthy era. Staff in the office were worried, but I blew them off – I’d never felt better, and I knew what I was writing was of supreme importance.

In early December, I devised a plan to revitalize the economy of the Hudson Valley through a multimedia art show which I would carry out with the assistance of the President of Bard College, Robert Rauschenberg (my favorite artist), and various other luminaries. Soon I was on the phone to Bard, trying to schedule an appointment. I locked myself into my office long past midnight, called the New York Times, and tried to convince some lone reporter on the night shift that they should run a front-page story about my plans, my father and his achievements. A sympathetic listener, he diplomatically suggested that my story might be better suited to the Milwaukee Journal. When I called the police rather than let my husband into the office, things were way over the top.

I narrowly escaped hospitalization. Somehow my husband got me to the shrink, who prescribed heavy medications to tamp down what I came to understand was an acute manic episode. I spent a week at home, prone on the sofa catching up on sleep and watching endless videos, waiting for the lithium to kick in. (I remember especially loving a documentary on Sting,  U-2’s “Rattle and Hum” concert, and Robert Downey Jr. as Charlie Chaplin.) Within two weeks, I was back running ElderSource, but on a new medication regimen and with a newly heightened awareness of just how fragile mental health can be.

Was I manic depressive all along? I don’t know, but I’ve now got an official diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder I, and I’ll probably be on medications for the rest of my life, although the dosage is minimal now. Fortunately, being bipolar seems to be trendy. When I talk about my mystery novel Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders at panels and signings, people from the audience invariably approach me to confide that they or close friends or family members are bipolar. But too often they tell me they’ve kept the information secret for fear of repercussions from the stigma that still surrounds mental illness.  

So is being “un poco loco” good for creativity? Maybe, when it’s under control. These days, that control is possible through advances in psychopharmacology. Hypomania – the state of mind that falls just short of full-blown mania – can be a wonderfully productive state for writers. But if you find yourself locking out your husband and calling the police, it might be time to call a shrink instead, and see about getting onto some new meds.

 *This post originally appeared on Helen Ginger’s wonderful blog, Straight from Hel, on Friday the 13th, November 2009, as part of my first Blog Book Tour.

**This beautiful photo of Bud Powell rehearsing at Birdland in 1958 was taken by Francis Wolff. I heard and met Bud on just one occasion, when we were introduced by Max Roach, around this same period. Sadly, his mind and his playing had deteriorated by this point. His only coherent statement was a plea to my mother – “Buy me a Ballantine’s.”

Support a struggling author – buy my books for the holidays!

For my recent Blog Book Tour, Maryann Miller invited me to post on her blog, It’s Not All Gravy, about why my mystery novels would make good holiday gifts. I decided to quote my own reviews. As a self-published author in the early phase of building my career, I treasure each and every sale, and I believe both my novels, Eldercide (2008) and Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders (2006) would make marvelous gifts. But how to toot my own horn without being overly obnoxious? Here’s how I did it, and what some of my writing colleagues had to say:   

ELDERCIDE

Not Just for Old Folks

You don’t have to be elderly to connect intellectually or emotionally with this book. The story offers something for everyone: for readers of mysteries, a good story; for readers of medical thrillers, authentic (but not too clinical) health care scenes; for readers of literary fiction, an accomplished novel with believable, fully developed characters. And for all of us living in modern society: a contemporary exploration of unavoidable end-of-life issues. The narrative flows smoothly. The dialogue is always on the mark. The editing is sharp, uncommonly good for alternatively-published books. I read the book twice, appreciating its qualities even more the second time. And after finishing the last page, I couldn’t wait to talk about it with my husband. What higher praise for a book than that it provokes discussion?

                                                            Therese Broderick, poet

A Maven of Mayhem

In addition to the joys of combing through the characters and plot to untangle a mystery, Eldercide addresses the moral issue of euthanasia. Homicide – unfathomable. Mercy killing – a very real topic for discussion. Julie Lomoe braids compassion with murder in this page-turning whodunit. As a retired home-care physical therapist myself, I related completely. Ms. Lomoe’s experience as a home-care agency administrator gave depth to these defenseless patients and their caregivers with true-to-life dialog. Her artistic talents are apparent in the vividly painted scenes simultaneously combined with her suspense-heightening skills. She blurs the edges just enough where the answers to your questions reside. Colorful in all respects. I look forward to Julie Lomoe’s next work of art.

                                                            Fay Rownell, author of Death Straight Up

 MOOD SWING: THE BIPOLAR MURDERS

 

Mood Swing is a Marvelous Mystery!

I began this novel with trepidation – like many others, I’m a little in awe, a little uncomfortable with people with “mood swings.” But as I read this terrific novel and got to know the myriad characters, my own mood swung a good ninety degrees – all earlier perceptions altered. This writer is a true professional, a bright, fun-loving, compassionate human being. I admire the high quality of the writing, the in-depth characterizations (often delightfully quirky); the fascinating setting (I love the details of the Manhattan Lower East Side); the realistic dialogue, the plot – all of it brilliant. I found myself going back to reread sections, to laugh (the author has a great sense of humor), to despair when the gifted WellSpringers die, to rage when the adversaries exploit Erika, the savvy but frustrated director. This is what a mystery should be: unraveling like a colorful tapestry until it is all in pieces – and in the end, put back together with love and with craft.

                                        Nancy Means Wright, author of the Ruth Willmarth series

Mood Swings to Murder

Julie Lomoe’s Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders is an excellent read, a well written and exciting page turner. . . it took me into a world I know little about, people with mental health problems and how they cope with extraordinary character. Yet it did not sentimentalize these problems, which were clearly secondary to the plot. Lomoe knows the streets and the squats of a big city and the menacing characters that may wear Mafia black or Wall Street Armani. . . Lomoe’s main character, Erika, is believable as a savvy and smart denizen of the city who also has her vulnerable side. She may be Scandinavian, but she’s no ice princess.

                                        M.E. Kemp, author of Death of a Bawdy Belle

Rereading these quotes and typing them into this post did wonders for my self-esteem, and I hope they tempt you to buy my books. You can read the first chapters of both right here on this blog. To bypass the giants and support small business, you can order directly from my publisher, Virtualbookworm. You can also order online from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, place an order at your local (and hopefully independent) bookstore, or ask your library to order copies of both books.

Thanks again to Maryann Miller for hosting me on November 10th. My Blog Book Tour ran from November 9th through November 20th, and I encourage you to visit the excellent sites that hosted me. You can find the links by checking my own posts during that time period. I’m still planning to post a summary of what I learned on the tour, with links to all the authors, but frankly, I needed a week off! I’ll get it up here this week, after tomorrow’s trip to New York City. I’m treating myself to a day at the Guggenheim, visiting my old haunts in SoHo, then going to the MWA New York Chapter’s holiday shindig at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park South.

Launching my first Blog Book Tour!

Julie & Lucky 2006Ready or not, I’m about to launch my first Blog Book Tour. Ten blog hosts have invited me to visit their sites over the next two weeks. I’ve confirmed the dates and sent them my bio and photos. Next step: write the actual posts. Strange how unexpectedly daunting this feels. I’ve been blogging here for over six months, and usually the words flow naturally. Guesting at other people’s blogs feels like going to a party where I don’t know anyone but the host. How will I fit in? Will I be an interesting conversationalist, or will people find me boring and wander away with the click of a mouse? I’ll be finding out all too soon.

 

Here are the folks I’ll be visiting:

Monday, November 9              L. Diane Wolfe

Tuesday, November 10            Maryann Miller

Wednesday, November 11       Karen Walker

Thursday, November 12           Jean Henry Mead

Friday, November 13               Helen Ginger

Monday, November 16            Jane Sutton

Tuesday, November 17            Toni Andrews

Wednesday, November 18       Morgan Mandel

Thursday, November 19           Linda Faulkner

Friday, November 20               Marvin Wilson

Tomorrow I’ll be posting the exact names of the blogs along with live links to the sites – this is just a preview. Many of the names will be familiar, because I’ve met most of these writers on Blog Book Tours. You’ll find some of them in the blog roll to the right, but some have more than one blog, so I want to be sure to get the listings right.

I’d say more, but it’s high time I start writing those posts, beginning with Monday’s. For her “Spunk on a Stick” blog, L. Diane Wolfe writes, “I think an article on your background and how it helped you write your books would be an interesting topic.” Good idea, and amazingly enough, I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about it, so it’s past due. Here goes . . .

Today’s post features my author photo from the back cover of MOOD SWING: THE BIPOLAR MURDERS. I’m with my beautiful golden retriever Lucky, whom we adopted from a family in Woodstock. Although no one knew it at the time, he was suffering from lymphoma, and he died just a few months after this photo was taken in the spring of 2006. He was only four years old. The photo is courtesy of Hot Shot Photos in Albany. Sending out photos to my blog hosts, I included this one, and I decided to share it here.

Did Poe get fan letters too?

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

I received this letter from a gentleman in North Carolina last week: 

Mrs. Lomoe ,
 
I have been reading some of your books, your experience at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair and wondered if I could send you something to ” sign ” for me ? This would be greatly appreciated .
 
Can you e-mail me an address to send it to you ?  I will enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope. Thanks !

This is the first time I’ve received a “fan letter” like this. My first reaction was excitement and pleasure at the notion that I’m actually building a reputation to the extent that someone would make such a request. Then came the questions: What is he going to send? Will it contain anthrax or unmentionable secretions, or maybe explode when I open it? Do I want some stranger knowing where I live?

I relayed the request to my husband, whose frown instantly told me he shared my concerns and then some. Our immediate conclusion: time to open a post office box. I decided on another town in Rensselaer County. He thinks that’s too close, and that I should use an Albany address, but I don’t want to drive across the river every time I feel like checking my mail, so I’ll probably use my town of choice.

Munch Sick Child lithographNormally at this point I’d veer off into some musings about the nature of celebrity, online identity and so forth, but I’m not up for it at the moment. Since October 18th, I’ve been plagued by something I first thought was the flu, then just a bad cold, but now it’s segued into bronchitis. I’m finally on some antibiotics I hope will wipe it out. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to carry on business as usual. Some highlights:

  • I put together a newsletter and mailing for the Memorial Society of the Hudson-Mohawk Region, for which I’m the administrator and about which I’ve blogged previously. Right now, I’m busy preparing for our annual meeting this Sunday. I even started a blog for them; it can be found at http:hudsonmohawkfca.wordpress.com. Just to add to my current discombobulated state of mind, I used the same WordPress theme I’m using here, because it applies every bit as well to funerals as it does to mystery novels.
  • I participated in the Poisoned Pen Web Con last Saturday. Had a great time, and I’m glad to learn they plan to run a similar event next year. Now that the event is over, you can visit www.ppwebcon.com to access all the materials for free. Well worth it – there’s some great stuff there!
  • Tomorrow I’ll be on a panel at the NYS Museum with the Mavens of Mayhem, the upstate New York chapter of Sisters in Crime. We’ll be discussing Edgar Allan Poe and his influence on the modern mystery. I wasn’t sure what I’d be able  to add to the discussion, but amazingly enough, I found the program for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Awards Dinner literally staring up at me from the floor behind my computer, and it’s chock full of articles about him. Talk about synchronicity! (I’d also visited his home and grave and heard an excellent panel about him at the 2008 Bouchercon in Baltimore, but I’d been dubious about finding my notes. Now I won’t need to.)

Speaking of Poe, now I’m off to an evening at a local bar, the Fuze Box, with some local poets, titled “An All Hollow’s Eve Reckoning: A Tribute to Edgar Allan Poe.” There’ll be an open mic component, but I think I’ll sit this one out – my nagging cough will keep me out of commission, and I’ll need to save what voice I have for tomorrow’s panel at the museum.

On Monday I’ll be back with news of my upcoming Blog Book Tour, scheduled for November 9 through November 20. P.S. to Phil in North Carolina: I’ll have that P.O. Box address for you by early next week. I hope this is only the first of many such communications from my fans!  

Win a free copy of Eldercide! Read this post on marketing to find out how.

Eldercide (2008)“Kathy and I spent almost all day Sat. sitting around chatting, since we didn’t sell one book at the fair!  There were quite a few booths but most of it was junk.  I did, however, make contact with two possible sources for talks; one for our chapter and another for the historical society for me . . . By three we decided to call it quits, went to get a take-out bar-b-q chicken dinner and left.  It was going to rain anyhow . . . I’m due to go to Schenectady this Sat., for half a day this time. So much for the country fairs, anyway.” 

Ring a bell with anyone? A writer friend sent me this e-mail yesterday, bringing me up to date on her latest marketing effort. I’ve changed identifying names and details to protect her identity, although if she reads this post, she’s welcome to weigh in with her real name. She’d previously sent out word of this great sales opportunity to fellow members of our Sisters in Crime chapter, but she only got one taker. They paid for the table, of course, and the event was far out in the country, so the gas mileage must have been significant. I hope the BBQ chicken made it all worthwhile.

My friend’s an incurable optimist, and she’s coming back for more. Me, I’m not into masochism, so more and more, I find myself passing on these events. I’ve written before about how depressing I find sitting at a table, trying to be sparkling and scintillating in hopes people will buy my books, and coming away with one or two sales. Reading other writers’ blogs, I’ve found many feel the same way. Yet there are those, like my two friends from the fair, who genuinely enjoy these meet & greet events. For the most part, they’re the very ones who avoid schmoozing online and think developing an Internet presence isn’t worth the effort.

I’m sure there are plenty of academics out there studying the personality

Edward Munch

Edward Munch

differences between those who prefer online networking and those who like getting up close and personal at live events. I’m definitely an introvert – probably that’s why I’m an artist and writer – and I suspect most writers are the same way. I like a good party every so often; that’s why I just signed up for a BBQ and potluck in Thatcher Park with the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. But as Brad Paisley sang in one of his many #1 country hits, “I’m so much cooler online.”

Which approach generates more success in terms of sales? I know where I’m putting my energies. Last night I had a dream that confirms my strategy: one of my Blog Book Tours colleagues was celebrating because he/she had just signed a multimillion-dollar book contract with the potential for Hollywood options. I was simultaneously jealous and excited, and I was thinking, “I’ve got to do more of what (he/she) is doing!”

Who was it? I’ll leave it up to you to guess. First one with the correct answer wins a free copy of Eldercide. But there’s a catch: you’ll have to write a glowing review that I can post online.

This fall I’ll be reissuing Eldercide with a new cover illustration and a new title, Evening Falls Early. So perhaps someday this first edition will become a collector’s item.

Contest rules: First person to identify the blogger in my dream is the winner. However, I won’t announce the results until  this Friday, July 17th. This way you’ll have more time to weigh in on which bloggers you think are most likely to succeed and why. I’ll discuss the results in a future post. By “Blog Book Tour colleagues,” I mean all participants in Blog Book Tours, not one particular class. Good luck – I look forward to hearing from you!