Thursday, June 28, 2012

Interview with Florence Osmund, author of The Coach House

My guest today, author Florence Osmund, spent most of her 30-year career in Corporate America. Her favorite task was writing, but there were always rules, guidelines and restrictions.

GAIL: Welcome, Florence, and thank you for visiting today. You said writing fiction is delightfully different than writing in your corporate career. Can you share with us a more detailed account of the novel and your research for The Coach House?

FLORENCE: The Coach House story begins in 1945 Chicago. Newlyweds Marie Marchetti and her husband, Richard, have the perfect life together. Or at least it seems until Marie discovers cryptic receipts hidden in their basement and a gun in Richard's desk drawer. When she learns he secretly attends a mobster’s funeral, her suspicions are heightened, and when she inadvertently interrupts a meeting between him and his so-called business associates in their home, he causes her to fall down the basement steps, compelling Marie to run for her life. Ending up in Atchison, Kansas, Marie rents a coach house apartment tucked behind a three-story Victorian home and quietly sets up a new life for herself. Richard soon learns her whereabouts and lets her know he is not out of the picture yet, but ironically, it is the discovery of the identity of Marie’s real father and his ethnicity that unexpectedly affect her life more than Richard ever could.

Being a first-time novelist, I was surprised at the amount of research that was required in order for the story to have complete validity, especially when it came to minor details. I can’t tell you how many times I created a scene only to say to myself, “Wait a minute. Were there phone booths back then?” Or “How long did it actually take to go from Chicago to Kansas City by rail?” Or “Would her legs have been bare wearing that dress, or would she have worn hose during that time period?” It was always something. Thank goodness for the Internet and Chicago Public Library.

GAIL: I also spend time at the Chicago Public Library doing research for my first novel. I agree that the Internet and libraries are indispensable in our jobs as writers. Is “the job” the most important part of your protagonist’s life?

FLORENCE: While Marie’s resourcefulness, creativity and discipline may have stemmed from her interior design position at Marshall Fields, it was the self-examination of her true self that forced her to let go of old conventions to forge new, healthier ones.

GAIL: Years ago, not quite as far back as 1945, I would stand in front of the Marshall Fields window in Chicago’s Loop and watch the window dressers at work. For many, the change of decoration was a form of entertainment. With so many books on the market, both in print and eBook format, what unique twist makes your novel, The Coach House, stand out?

FLORENCE: The protagonist lives the first twenty-four years of her life as white. She has no reason to believe she is anything but white--she has the same dark wavy hair and olive complexion as her late Italian-born mother. But when she discovers the identity and ethnicity of her real father, that changes everything. After all, how do you go from one day being white and the next day realizing you’ve been living a lie?

GAIL: How does your main character’s ethnicity draw her into suspenseful situations?

FLORENCE: Marie avoids telling Richard suspicions about her father until which time she has all the facts, so when he starts pressuring her to start a family, she doesn’t know what to do or say to him. She has dreamed of having a family her whole life, that is until she questioned her ethnic heritage. And then finally, when Marie confirms her true ethnicity, she is faced with what to do. She contemplates the potential consequences of adopting a new identity, how it will change her life and her choices. Confused and afraid, she vacillates between facing the issue head-on or keep living the lie.

GAIL: Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?

FLORENCE: The sequel to this book is titled, “Daughters,” and it is currently in production. I hope to have it released in the fall of this year. I’ve left it open to make it into a series, but whether I do that or not will depend on reader interest.

GAIL: This isn't so much a questions as an “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why.

FLORENCE: I LOVE living in downtown Chicago and have found there to be no shortage of inspiration here—the beautiful and interesting lakefront, wonderful parks, remarkable culture, and an endless source of intriguing characters. No…I think I prefer to stay right here.

Again, I want to thank Florence Osmund for visiting today and for sharing an insightful view of her novel, The Coach House. For more information on this Chicago based author and her novel, please visit her Internet sites:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Laurie Hanan, author of the Louise Golden mystery series, has invited me to participate in a blog event: The Next Big Thing (TNBT). ). Laurie was invited to TNBT by Toby Neal, author of Blood Orchid (The Lei Crime Series). The event consists of 10 questions about your current WIP (Work in Progress.) Here’s the plan:

A. Answer the ten TNBT questions listed below about your current WIP (Work In Progress)
B. Tag five other writers and link their blogs so we can all hop over and read their answers.
It’s that simple. 

The handbook, Writing Mysteries, edited by Sue Grafton, lists the rules of mystery writing and which ones can be bent. The only one I actually break is having more than two characters in a scene. For the rules of The Next Big Thing, I will definitely tag five other writers and link to their blogs so you can hop over and check out their sites. I am tweeking the other rule by dividing up the questions. I will answer one question per week, tag five more writers, and include links to their sites. My goal is to transform my WIP into a published work between now and week 10.

Here is Question #1 of The Next Big Thing:

TNBT: What is the title of your book/WIP? 

GAIL: The short title of the second novel in my Pepper Bibeau Mystery Series is Different in Degree. Laurie Hanan said in her TNBT interview, All the titles in the Louise Golden mystery series come from songs, and refer to Paradise or Heaven.” The titles of my novels are best described as ‘axiom paraphrases’. My first novel is FOR EVERY ACTION There Are Consequences. The full title of my second novel is Identical in Nature, DIFFERENT IN DEGREE. 

This is my personal rendering of a book cover for Different in Degree. My first novel has a stark white background with a black silhouette of Chicago’s skyline and blood dripping down to form the skyline’s shadow. I decided to stick with the same color scheme. The book cover for Different in Degree represents several facets of the novel: 
1. Similarities and Contrasts of Characters
2. Change of seasons within the story
3. Family tree and Genealogy plot influence
4. The Protagonist’s home states - Hawaii and Wisconsin 

Though I want to use this cover, that step of the publishing process is in the future. Editing the completed manuscript for Different in Degree is the current step! 

And now, five awesome writers whose work you want to watch: Toby Neal (Crime Suspense)  Elizabeth Egerton Wilder(Historical Novel) Kenneth Hoss (Police Procedural) Karen Kaufman (Mystery) 

Here is the full list of The Next Big Thing questions for you to copy and paste to your blog along with your answers. Just tag five awesome writers and add their links so we can all follow along.

1.  What is the title of your book/WIP?

2.  Where did the idea for the book come from?

3.  What genre would your book fall under?

4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

6.  Is your book published or represented?

7.  How long did it take you to write?

8.  What other books within your genre would you compare it to?

9.  Which authors inspired you to write this book?

10. Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in your book.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

FAST FIVE Author Interview with Gordon Kessler

My guest today, Gordon Kessler, is a former US Marine parachutist, with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. Among his many other achievements, he has taught novel writing and English Composition. He indie-published his novel, Dead Reckoning.

FAST FIVE: Welcome, Gordon, and thank you for visiting today for this interview. Your novel, Dead Reckoning, was a fast one-day read for me. Your story offers something for every mystery/thriller fan. Rather than the 140 characters we’ve grown accustomed to on Twitter, can you share with us a more detailed account of the novel and your research for Dead Reckoning?

GORDON KESSLER: In Dead Reckoning, a young woman investigator goes undercover aboard a small US Navy ship to find out why its crewmembers are disappearing one by one. Not knowing whom she can trust, Janelle “Spurs” Sperling encounters high seas, drugs, sexism, homophobia, love and murder aboard a ship of horrors before discovering the real danger. She is thrown into non-stop, life-threatening situations as she uncovers startling clues while teaming up with both friend and foe to stop an unthinkable terrorist plot to kill thousands of Americans.

She soon discovers that the ones wearing the white hats aren’t always the good guys as memories of a traumatic childhood event come back to slap her in the face and reveal that she is an unwitting pawn in a deadly game between the US government, ruthless terrorists and her own family.

She has but one choice. The only way to stop a catastrophe of enormous proportions is going to be…Suicide!

All hands: stand by for heavy rolls—we’re coming about and heading into the storm!

For research, I had a few connections, and I did a bunch of Internet searches and book research, as well. I’m friends with a former F-18 pilot, so I interviewed him to get the feel of realism I needed for flying the “Super Hornet”. I also leaned back on my experience as a US Marine and being aboard a warship for a short time (6 mos.). In addition, I made a couple calls to an NCIS supervisory special agent and passed a few emails back and forth with him. I actually completed the novel over a year before the TV series JAG came out, and Dead Reckoning was published in paperback and hardcover a couple of years before the TV series NCIS debuted.

I have a bit of a conspiracy theory I like to consider about that time: John Grisham’s former agent Jay Garon (a former actor with Hollywood ties) was considering the manuscript for representation—had it for over a year. He ultimately rejected it. A year later he passed away and JAG came out on TV a month after his passing (hmmm). Grisham ended up suing Garon’s company for bilking him from tons of royalties he wasn’t paid for some Hollywood deals. JAG’s first episode was about a murder aboard a warship—someone falls—and it featured a female JAG agent as one of the leads. A-humm! Probably just coincidence? I did love that series (JAG), but it was ridiculous to think that these military lawyers were running around risking their lives while investigating military crimes, most of the time in place of NCIS investigators. At least the ever popular NCIS TV series has that going for them.

FAST FIVE: Your conspiracy theory is interesting, though a sad warning for others of us who are trusting with our ideas. For your protagonist, is “the job” the most important part of her life? 

GORDON KESSLER: The job with NCIS is the most important part of Spurs’ life because she’s turned to it to find stability from a traumatic childhood with repressed memories. She’s an Okie, “tough as Oklahoma red clay” as her mother used to tell her. She’s smart and persistent. She’s loyal. And, she’s afraid of water—as a child, she watched as her mother ran out into the ocean and never came back. With a chauvinistic retired admiral for a father, what else could she do to confront her fears but to get into an agency where she’d find it necessary at some point to be on the ocean and working in a very male oriented business. Her father loves here, but isn’t at all fond of what he thinks is a very inappropriate role for a woman.

FAST FIVE: The Mystery/Suspense genre is the focus of Fast Five interviews, but what unique twist makes your novel stand out?

GORDON KESSLER: Dead Reckoning is a mystery thriller with very high stakes and risk. It’s supercharged with action. The inexperienced female protagonist must overcome incredible odds just to survive, let alone save thousands of lives. She must “grow up” in a matter of days, confront her fears, bias’s and prejudices, and become a much better person to understand the danger she’s in and confront it head on. In the middle of the investigation, she finds and loses love, then finds it again. All the while, she’s unknowingly being used by not only the bad guys as well as the good guys, but also by her own family. In the end, she must make a decision that will mean sacrificing her own life in the action-packed and dramatic finale. Will she live? In the conclusion, all the craziness ties together, but leaves a huge hole in Spurs’ heart and soul.

 FAST FIVE: How does your main character’s profession draw her into suspenseful situations, (murder, for instance?)

GORDON KESSLER: Being a Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent, it’s part of her job. However, working undercover is a bit unusual for a rookie.

FAST FIVE: Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?

GORDON KESSLER: I’ve considered a sequel and I have a few really fun ideas for that second and possibly third novel. This book was well received by women and men alike, so it’d probably be a good idea. My biggest problem is that I have great ideas for sequels for both of my other big thrillers Brainstorm and Jezebel. And I’m currently working on a series of at least six men’s action/adventure novels called “The E Z Knight Reports”. There’s just never enough time….

FAST FIVE: I hope you’ll have just enough time for a Fast Five “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why?

GORDON KESSLER: I enjoy seclusion and nature when I’m writing, but I like to be a part of the human race once in a while for breaks. I’d say a cabin near a small port town in Maine, close enough to easily sail or motor to, would be one of my top three. A small village in Colorado, maybe near Crested Butte might be similar in appeal, with considerably different landscape. Northern California would be one of the top three, as well.

Thanks for this opportunity!


Author of: thriller novels BRAINSTORM, JEZEBEL and DEAD RECKONING; and THE guide for fiction writers, Novel Writing Made Simple.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Author Interview with Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a teacher and freelance writer who lives in New Zealand with his wife and two children. He is the author of several non-fiction books. Through Angel’s Eyes is his first work of fiction. Steve and I met through a mutual LinkedIn group where he says, “As a middle school teacher, I have had the pleasure of sharing the love of literacy with hundreds of 11 to 13 year olds, many of whom had never read a book in their lives. I have derived much pleasure from seeing the awakening of the reading and writing bug in these kids and its flow on effects into the areas of self esteem and positive attitude.”

GAIL: Welcome, Steve, and thank you for visiting to day. Rather than the 140 characters we’ve grown accustomed to on Twitter, can you share with us a more detailed account of the novel and your research for Through Angel's Eyes?

STEVE: Through Angel’s Eyes brings the story of the 1963 Alabama child-marches to life through the eyes of Angel Dunbar - a 13 year old African American girl who stands up to be counted and, in the process, faces up to all the hatred, brutality and derision that society can throw at her.

50 years ago the scourge of racism was stifling the development of millions of children in America. In 1963, a core group of these courageous young people stood up and said, “Enough!” The story of these child-marchers imparts vital lessons that the 21st century child desperately needs to learn from - courage, resistance to peer pressure, empathy, non-violence and conviction.

Weaved into this historic struggle for justice is a love story - with a dangerous twist. Angel falls for a 15 year old who also desperately wants to overcome injustice, but his method of doing so is radically different than hers. Will her heart lead Angel down a track from which there is no return?

I have always been inspired by the courage, determination and dignity of the Birmingham child-marchers in the summer of 1963. I saw in them role models for a generation that is in desperate need of positive peer role models. I saw in their heroic tale an inspirational, but little-known, story that needs to be shared with today’s youth.

GAIL: You stress courage as an important theme of Through Angel’s Eyes. How does your protagonist develop in her role as a courageous child-marcher?

STEVE: Angel Dunbar starts out as an innocent idealist who, through bitter experience and the guiding hand of an elderly neighbor, learns to develop the strength and determination to make a stand for what is right. She overcomes her fears to face down the worst that her society can throw at her, doing so with quiet confidence and zealous conviction. She also develops empathy as she realizes that you’ll never understand a person until you see things from their perspective.

GAIL: How is your protagonist’s story unique from others of its genre, and what makes your novel stand out?

STEVE: While not a mystery/suspense novel as such, Through Angel’s Eyes is unique in that it infuses the timeless wisdom of the 20th century’s greatest moral leader, Martin Luther King, into a heart pounding narrative full of intrigue, murder and redemption. Through Angel’s Eyes challenges, inspires, teaches and uplifts.

GAIL: How does your main character’s profession draw her into suspenseful situations, (murder, for instance?)

STEVE: It is Angel’s heart, rather than her profession, that draws her into suspenseful situations. She falls for the bad boy in school, Ronny Jackson, who, unlike Angel, believes that equality for Black people will only come through the barrel of a gun. Ronny draws Angel into a dark and dangerous underworld where preparations are well underway for an armed resistance to racial oppression. Can she escape before the city explodes?

GAIL: Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?

STEVE: Through Angel’s Eyes focuses on one year in the life of Angel Dunbar. I plan to continue Angel’s journey up to and including the death of Martin Luther King in 1968.

GAIL: This last is not so much a question as an “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why?

STEVE: A spot on the beach at Vina Del Mar in Chile sounds pretty good. It’s a fantastic beach resort with a Latin American flavor and we (myself, wife and 10 year old daughter) are planning to move there from our current version of paradise (Tauranga, New Zealand) in 2013.

Thank you, Steve, for sharing an intriguing look into the world of Angel Dunbar.
Please visit Steve Theunissen, author of Through Angel’s Eyes, at these sites:

Website and Book Trailer: Download site

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Writer's Block and Interviews from a Goodfella's Angle

My “G” for the A to Z April Blogging Challenge was Gangsters and Goodfellas. The opening line stated: “They proudly answered to the name of mobster, hoodlum, or wiseguy.”

The ‘goodfella’ proudest to carry the name was Henry Hill. He took the distinction to unusual heights and didn’t end up in prison for his many illegal dealings. Instead, he spent years in (and out of) federal witness protection program, the award for helping to incarcerate his fellow goodfellas.

A fun question I ask other authors is: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why? In the case of Henry Hill, he exchanged thirty years with the Luchese mafia family in his native New York for the protection program. This gave him the opportunity to write in Topanga, California; Seattle, Washington; Cincinnati, Ohio; Omaha, Nebraska; Butte, Montana; and Independence, Kentucky. While I would never choose Omaha as an ideal location for writing, Topanga and Butte have an exotic ring.

Mr. Hill avoided a long prison sentence after his arrest on drug-trafficking charges. Apparently, the stress of possibly getting “wacked” by his associates didn’t give him writer’s block, though. He wrote several books, including one that offers a tour of notorious mobster haunts in New York. In his cookbook, he cites the difficulty of finding authentic Sicilian ingredients in the aforementioned locations.

There was the occasional distraction to Mr. Hill’s new writing career, to which other authors might (okay, probably not) relate, such as being expelled from the witness protection program for misbehavior such as drug possession.

His numerous interviews were likely beneficial to the marketing of his books. He said he never killed anybody but knew, literally, where many of the bodies were buried. While emulation is encouraged for new authors, in this case, paraphrasing is recommended.

Like many writers, Mr. Hill first tried his hand at other occupations. In his case, it was most notably running numbers, hijacking trucks, and dealing cocaine. In the years between 1980 and his death in June, 2012, a hair-trigger temper and drug usage kept him from a normal life. He did, however, enjoy one simple pleasure. Also like many other writers, he never missed an episode of The Sopranos.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

FAST FIVE Author Interview with Peter Bradbury

Today’s guest for a FAST FIVE Author Interview is Peter Bradbury, author of Stonebridge Manor. Peter was born in Oldham, UK in 1955, and raised mostly by his mother, Dorothy. He has three siblings who still live in England with their respective families. Peter did a variety of jobs after leaving school early, but he mostly worked in hotels and restaurants around the UK until finally training to be a Butler.

After working in many fine homes for the rich and titled, Peter moved to the USA in 1994 after marrying his wife Debbie and resides currently in the San Francisco area of California. He has continued to work as a Butler, spending 10 years in Dallas with one family, before the recession bit and losing a position in Maryland because of it. This did however enable him to finish his first book, Stonebridge Manor, which he had started years previously.

GAIL: Welcome, and thank you for visiting today, Peter. Along with playing golf and supporting your boyhood football (soccer) team, you enjoy writing “in an entertaining style.” Rather than the 140 characters we’ve grown accustomed to on Twitter, can you share with us a more detailed account of your first novel and your research for Stonebridge Manor?

PETER: Stonebridge Manor is like an old fashioned Agatha Christie type novel set in a huge English country mansion. Lady Baldwin rules the roost along with her servants and family. She can be generous and kind, but very often nasty and cruel, and she likes excitement. Her husband Lord Baldwin is too set in his ways and has become too boring for her, so she seeks fun elsewhere. The story is told from her perspective and from Phillip's, the sarcastic butler. When a murder occurs at the end of an outrageous weekend party, there are many suspects as nearly everyone has a motive. It's a fun novel, and it gives a good look behind the scenes in a very rich household.

Most of the research was in my head for this book as I am a butler. People are always asking me what life is like as a butler and that is how the book started. I put the murder and plots in later. The things that go on in the book like the unpacking, setting of table, serving, pressing of clothing etc, is true. So is the chatter behind the scenes. It's a huge no-no for servants to talk about their masters away from the house. But inside the house is a different matter. You have to talk about them to find out anything but there is a lot of loyalty involved.

GAIL: Oh, I like that part about the sarcastic butler. Is “the job” the most important part of your protagonist’s life?

PETER: Lady Baldwin likes being a Lady, married to a Lord. It gives her standing in the community. She enjoys being at the center of everything, with the power it entails. She is also aware of her sexuality and of lust. If she wants something, she gets it, and she doesn't care how. She also likes to control and manipulate. Her job is being Lady Baldwin.

GAIL: The Mystery/Suspense genre is the focus of Fast Five interviews, but what unique twist makes your novel stand out?

PETER: I think my murder/mystery stands out because of where it's set and the insight it gives. I liked Gosford Park and Remains of the Day and in most instances they got the details right. But then the butler in Remains of the Day wouldn't have been so wishy-washy when asked a direct question, and the valet who couldn't polish a shoe would have been rumbled immediately. Little things like that can be spotted by someone from the inside. This is also an old style novel in that to find the culprit involves leg work and asking questions.

GAIL: How is your main character drawn into suspenseful situations, (murder, for instance?)

PETER: Lady Baldwin doesn't realize that her actions give cause for motives. She thinks she can do what she wants because she is who she is, and she pays well and is generous. She demands and expects total loyalty from everyone.

GAIL: Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?

PETER: No, it isn't part of a series unless I'm asked to do one. I am thinking of doing an American wealthy household but that would be more along the lines of the TV series Soap. At the moment though, I am not thinking of doing a sequel to Stonebridge Manor.

GAIL: Apparently, you are not one to rest on your laurels, however, Peter. Though not a sequel to Stonebridge Manor, you have completed a second novel, Prospects, and started your third, Consequences. This last is not a Fast Five question, more an “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why.

PETER: If I could, I would spend my time writing in a very cosy library that overlooked the ocean. The library would be virtually self contained so that I could make myself some tea, have an adjoining bathroom, and a huge blackboard to keep track of my characters. Apart from the ocean view, the only other thing would be a nearby golf course so I could bash a few balls when I can't think.

GAIL: What a heavenly idea for a writing salon, especially the huge blackboard for keeping track of characters! Please visit Peter Bradbury, Author of Stonebridge Manor at:

Twitter: @petercbradbury

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Interview with Independent Author Ellen Stockdale Wolfe

My interviews with Independent Authors, focused on characteristics of strong females, continue with today’s guest, a strong female in her own right. Ellen Stockdale Wolfe worked her way through school, earning a BA from Barnard College, an MA in Special Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, an MLS in Library Science at Columbia University. She worked with autistic children in college and in graduate school. In 2000, after thirty years as a cataloguer, she left libraries to become a Reiki Master and pursue her early interests in photography, painting, and writing.

GAIL: Ellen, welcome and thank you for visiting today. Let’s begin with the publication of your memoir, Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things: Learning to Love as a Bipolar Aspie. Can you share some of the background of the book and its title?

ELLEN: The book is about my breakdown at age 28 when I literally had to start from scratch and rebuild my life. Therapy played a very big role in my recovery and highlights from therapy appear in shortened versions in my book. I was highly motivated to overcome my problems with closeness (once I learned of them) because I was seeking a romantic relationship. In therapy I found out I was Bipolar and, 33 years later, got a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome as well. "Eye-locks" are very scary for anyone with Asperger's and I found them very problematic. Eye-locks occur in conversation, in flirting, in lots of social interactions. Making eye contact is still hard for me sometimes and eye-locks are particularly uncomfortable. My husband, whom I have diagnosed with Asperger's, is equally uncomfortable with eye contact. After 23 years of marriage we are still sometimes shy with each other.

GAIL: Why do you describe the book as a testament to love.”

ELLEN: My book is a testament to love because I was seeking love and I had to understand that relationships were not working because of my problems with closeness. But the book describes a love story that occurred at work. I became obsessed with an older West Indian woman, was convinced she loved me and was waiting for me to "become well." This promise of a relationship, though unspoken, got me to work very hard at overcoming my psychological and emotional problems. Danielle was my motivation. Danielle is the cipher in this story. I will never know what she was up to or what she felt. But the promise of her got me to the point where I was able to love and was able to reach out to a man who was painfully shy and Aspie. That man became my husband and we have been married for 23 years.

GAIL: Ellen, you also mention a subplot of the book that portrays Black life in the 1980s and the homosexual lifestyle of the period. My first novel is set in the late 1960s and touches on the Civil Rights movement. How does that era differ from the 1980s?

ELLEN: I think things were a lot better in the 1980s than in the 1960s in terms of race. However, that said, racism was still rampant. I got involved with two black women in that time period and they had very different views of racial matters because one woman was born in Trinidad and the other was a poor black woman raised in New York City. The book has characters talk about the problems of being a black, a woman and being gay. To summarize, things were better in the 1960s but there were still plenty of problems. Even today I still see problems with racism. Of course, gay rights have come a long way. In the 1980s gay bars were secret places and gay pride was just starting. Certainly, Danielle, the object of my affections, was a very closeted gay woman, if she was gay at all. That is just part of the cipher.

GAIL: Your article, Secondary Autism, appeared in Psychoanalytic Inquiry in 1993 as the center of that journal’s focus: Fear of Fusion. Was that the catalyst for writing your memoir?

ELLEN: My article was called "Fear of Fusion: non-verbal behavior in Secondary Autism" and it was the theme of the whole issue of Psychoanalytic Inquiry, vol.13, no. 1, published in 1993.

Prominent psychoanalysts wrote articles on my article. I was told my article was an important contribution to the field and that it was similar to the description by the famous autistic, Temple Grandin in Emergence, Labeled Autistic.

I believe Asperger's syndrome was not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual until 1994. My doctor called what I was describing "Secondary Autism." After the encouragement from Psychoanalytic Inquiry I wanted to make a larger contribution to the field of psychiatry and psychology, demonstrating the problems of Bipolar Disorder and Asperger's Syndrome despite the current flurry of books on Asperger's Syndrome.

So, yes, the article was a catalyst to my memoir. It is my hope that my work will give hope to those with problems like the ones I faced and that the mentally ill not give up the fight to experience a love relationship.

GAIL: You worked with autistic children in college and graduate school. For 30 years you were a cataloguer, specializing in your college major and minor, art history and psychology. In 2000, what led you to leave behind your full-time library work to become a Reiki Master?

ELLEN: I wanted to do something more spiritual than library work and I was finding it harder and harder to face the social problems at work. Social interaction at my various jobs was always the hardest part of the job for me and my psychiatrist had wanted to put me on disability many years before. I was very interested in Reiki and still do practice it though it has taken a back seat to my writing and art work.

GAIL: Your interest in painting and photography are woven throughout the different stages of your life. What subjects do you to tend to paint and photograph, and have you ever donated any of your work to organizations?

ELLEN: I paint and photograph nature, landscapes and animal studies. At one point I also had a nature column in a newspaper in upstate New York. I love animals and want to raise consciousness for their humane treatment, especially farm animals, and to raise awareness about our dwindling wilderness. I have donated lots and lots of art work to animal rescue organizations in upstate New York, like Mutt n' Lab Rescue in Millbrook, The Dutchess Land Conservancy, and to servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan mainly through Give2theTroops in Connecticut. I also donated a piece to Belmont Race Track in New York (though I no longer am a racing fan) and to the Horticultural Society in NYC and two pieces to sell for Obama's campaign.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012



A story I didn’t include in my “A World of Crime” blog articles concerns the mystery surrounding a famous escape, the one from Alcatraz in 1962. (I did mention Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly who were both incarcerated there.) GANGSTERS and GOODFELLAS 
Monday, June 11, was the 50th anniversary of the widely publicized escape from “The Rock”, a maximum security prison on Alcatraz Island off the coast of San Francisco Bay.

According to federal officials, the mastermind of the escape had an I.Q. ranging in the top 2% of the nation during the early 1900s. His plans for the escape were elaborate.

In the movie, Escape from Alcatraz, Clint Eastwood portrays the mastermind and makes a successful escape. This is one interpretation of events. Another is that the three prisoners who attempted the escape probably drowned in the riptides and undertows of the bay.
While the story is entertaining as presented by America’s Most Wanted, National Geographic, and the Discovery Channel, I find the history of the mastermind disturbing. An orphan before his teens, he lived in foster homes before a theft conviction. From there he moved up to robbery and narcotics, which led to jail, a penitentiary, and finally Alcatraz.

The intellect of this male was wasted as he slipped through the cracks of society’s awareness. As was the intelligence of Theodore Kaczynski, considered a prodigy in his youth but known by today’s society as the Unabomber. One spent his teens in reform school. The other received a degree from Harvard and earned a PhD in mathematics. Both ended up in prison.

We know the Unabomber pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty and received eight "life sentences". It isn’t so clear what became of Frank Lee Morris and the Anglin brothers who attempted an escape from an escape-proof federal prison. Were their remains strewn along the seabed after being swept under the Golden Gate Bridge?
Or, having been whisked away by a girlfriend after struggling to shore, are they still alive and residing in Mexico?