Saturday, November 24, 2007

TV-watchin' Dog

In Painting The Invisible Man Anna's dog, Jazz, was an inveterate West Wing watcher. That scene was indeed inspired by my dog, Saatchi, who plopped in front of the television each night just before 11:00 p.m. to watch reruns of West Wing.

This past summer, Saatchi's health began to rapidly decline. I searched the airwaves each day hoping to find a West Wing rerun to no avail. On the day I decided to put her to her finally rest, I stopped work early that afternoon to immerse myself in our final hours together. As I cuddled next to her on the floor, I grabbed the remote control and turned on the television. I don't recall what was on, probably some rerun of Law and Order.

Saatchi, who had been lying quite still, feeble and weak from kidney failure, suddenly lifted her head and peered at me with a look that said, Would you mind changing the channel?

I picked up the remote control and hit a random channel. And there they were...Martin Sheen and John Spencer in a scene from West Wing. Saatchi watched the screen intently as the scene played. When the clip ended and the talk show featuring Martin Sheen as guest resumed, she lay her head back down, closed her eyes, and slept peacefully.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Readers Ask About Painting The Invisible Man - 2

DJJohnston: Are the characters Sophia and Greg Haynes really members of your family?

Yup! Sophia and Greg are, in actuality, Terri and Jim McGraw. Some of you may know Terri as TV's Mrs. Fixit. She is also the author of Mrs. Fixit Easy Home Repair and Mrs. Fixit Pantry Power.(You can see I am quite proud of her!)

Jim McGraw was indeed the defense attorney for the man accused of murdering my father. Jim and Terri met and married several years after the trials.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Reader asks: Seems like you jumped ship...

Rainbowgirl asks: I really liked your first novel, Sweet Bitter Love. But this new one, I don't know, seems like you jumped ship. No more lesbian books?

Well, Rainbowgirl, (cute name, by the way), I really don't feel I "jumped ship." Publishers set the genres -- fiction, thriller, suspense, etc. My first book was labeled lesbian/gay studies/romance—I thought it was fiction. Just like the new book, Painting The Invisible Man, is fiction. (Although it is labeled contemporary historical fiction because it is a fictional account of a true event.)

I would hope most readers would enjoy reading my work. The lesbian genre label dropped me into a narrow category. Now, please don't misinterpret this and think I am embarrassed or closeted or whatever label may come to mind; I simply see myself as fiction writer.

I think anyone can relate to the story of Jenny and Susan (Sweet Bitter Love). Relationships are universal...and all alcoholic relationships deal with the same types of issues. I felt the sexuality of the characters was not central to the story.

Anna's experiences in Painting The Invisible Man, that is, growing up in a family on the fringes of the Mafia, may be unique to her. Yet, I believe the themes of forgiveness, redemption, and atonement are universal.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What Reviewers Are Saying...

“An absorbing tale that smoothly blends the quest for truth with the complexities of a self-portrait.“

Painting the Invisible Man is a historical fiction novel about an ordinary writer drawn into conducting research on the world of father, a man murdered in a gangland-style hit more than two decades ago. The deeper she immerses herself in the painful and unresolved past, the more obsessed she becomes with uncovering the truth about her father, whom she thinks of as "The Invisible Man." Written with razor-sharp wit, Painting the Invisible Man is an absorbing tale that smoothly blends the quest for truth with the complexities of a self-portrait. ~ by Midwest Book Review

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Okay...after this blog posting, I do promise to let this issue go...Here's what transpired...

I joined Shelfari, an online community of people who love to read and/or write books. I like that there are no chat rooms. Dialogue between members is done via a thread.

I decided one day to start a discussion in the Writer's Chat Group on how allows people to resell their books. I wanted to know how authors, especially those published by small, independent presses, felt about losing royalties to used book sales.

I had hoped for a lively discussion. Boy, did I ever get one! One person came right out and told me to GET OVER MYSELF (caps his/her emphasis, not mine)and that I was writing for the wrong reason.

Ooo-kaay...guilty. I like to get paid. Writing is how I make a living. Like any other laborer, I have the expectation that I will indeed be paid for my labor. I spent more than three years working on Painting The Invisible Man. All that time I never saw a dime. Is it really that offensive that I prefer people to buy a new copy of the book, one that puts a few bucks into my pocket? Seems to me that it's who's truly profiting from my labor.

Now, I must be truthful and disclose the fact that I have bought used books on Amazon. However, with new writers, I make an effort to buy direct from the author, particularly those writers who started their own publishing houses or who are with indie publishers. They either have a large investment to recoup, or as in the latter group, they are getting 10-15% of a net sale. Since take 55% of retail, the writer is making a paltry 10-15% of 45% of the retail price.That's pennies on a dollar, folks.

When I buy used, it's generally books by bestselling authors. I think Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Patricia Cornwell, and the rest do all right without my few cents.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Making An Impression...

A few days ago I wrote about my experiences talking with middle school kids about writing. Another question kids always asked is: Where do I get ideas for stories?

I had to admit I'm an eavesdropper. I love to sit in coffeehouses, restaurants, on park benches and watch people. I shared that I always carry a notebook and pen so I can write down my observations...the way someone uses his hands—pounding fist against open palm when making a point, or the coy shrug of one shoulder.

Yesterday I received an e-mail from one of the teachers whose class I visited last week. She wrote how several of her students have taken to carrying notebooks and jotting down their observations.

Learning that I made a positive impression on those kids was truly the high point of my day.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Readers Ask Questions About Painting The Invisible Man

Each week I will devote a post or two to readers' questions about Painting The Invisible Man.

Marcel6 asks: Why did you write this story as a fiction instead of as a memoir?

Although the bulk of the story is based on my life and the circumstances surrounding my father's murder, I needed that distance that fiction writing offers. Much of what I uncovered in news reports, through interviews with key players in the investigation and the trials, was distressing to read and hear. I needed, too, to create some composite characters to disguise and/or protect a few people.

Have a question about the story? Post it here and check back in a few days to read my response.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Book Business

It's nearly 1:30 a.m. and I'm sitting here e-mailing promo to area libraries, talking with readers and writers online, imploring booksellers to 1) carry my book, and 2) invite me for a talk/book-signing. And lastly, I am keeping my commitment to this blog.

I do all this late at night because my day is spent focused on the freelance writing that pays the bills.

Oh, how grand my life would be if I could simply spend my days "writing for me." Now, if you've read Painting The Invisible Man you will understand what I mean by that phrase.

Taking that concept to the next level, "writing for me" now means I could get up every morning and focus my day on writing about writing, on working on my next novel, on spending more time talking with reading groups, talking with students...that is my ultimate live the life of a writer.

I'm getting there....

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Talking With Kids About Writing

Within the last month, I've had a few opportunities to talk with middle school kids about writing one's personal story. Writing is so second-nature to me that I was a bit surprised how onerous most kids find the dreaded writing assignment. Kind of like that scene from the musical "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" where the Peanuts characters have to write a 100-page book report on Peter Rabbit.

Now, as a teenager, I played "Lucy" in that production. I still remember the song..."Peter Rabbit is this stupid book about this stupid rabbit who steals vegetables from other people's gardens... 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15, 16,17...83 words to go..." That pretty much represents the tenor of the classes I attended. Here are a few of the misconceptions these kids have about writers.

Myth # 1: Writer's write once and get it right the first time. Boy, did I dispel that myth, much to the pleasure of their teachers. I had every student write down my mantra: The best part of writing is rewriting. I explained it is in the honing of one's words, the magic occurs. You no longer are thinking about the story and plot, you're thinking about characterization, tenor, and tone.

Myth #2: All authors are rich. J.K. Rowling is their standard for author income. Now, I suppose I should have said "It's not about the money; it's about the craft." But why lie? Do I hope to live solely off my fiction writing someday? Absolutely! Am I fortunate that I make my daily living as a writer (even if that writing consists of business collaterals?) Absolutely!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Okay...let's try that again

I know I said I'd write daily, but hey, sometimes a girl's gotta sleep! Here are a few highlights from the past 10 days...

On October 30, I was moved to speechlessness by J. Kaye's review of Painting the Invisible Man. If you missed it, please do check it out. - October 30, 2007 post. I was so deeply moved by her palpable response to the story, and the emotion with which she captured the essence of the book. I am deeply grateful for her review.

My dear friend and mentor, Dennis McCurdy, just published his first book: Find A Way-A Guide For Getting The Most Out Of Life. Read all about it at