Graffiti Grandma Earns Starred Review from Publishers Weekly

Graffiti Grandma

Elderly antigraffiti vigilante Ellie Miller finds that teenage street kid Sarah Jansen resurrects her long-dormant maternal instincts in this gritty yet heartening examination of the significance of family. Fearing the increasingly malevolent Jeff—who uses brutality and murder to dominate a family of runaway teens—but loyal to her friends, Sarah’s conflicted yearning for guidance and friendship impels isolated Ellie into re-engagement with everyday life. Barney weaves a multifaceted narrative with quick shifts in time and focus to show how flawed individuals overcome, or are destroyed by, failed relationships. The destructive impact of alcohol, drugs, and sexual abuse on children is abundantly displayed—and made stronger by the absence of graphic or exploitative portrayals—but the struggles of policeman Matt Trommald, who care for his autistic son, and Ellie’s fragile, evolving commitment to Sarah reveal that even dedicated parents face difficulty in maintaining positive relationships. The grim, understated scenes of young people coping with the seamy side of life ensure that this is no lighthearted read, and Barney’s convincing portrayal of ambivalent teen psychology prevails over the perhaps too-pat ending to provide a powerful glimpse of an underground world unknown to many, whose inhabitants are capable of transformation through love and acceptance.

Link: Review on Publishers Weekly website 


So, now that both Graffiti Grandma and The Solarium are being sold on Amazon, Lulu, iBook and Nook (don’t even ask what this last few weeks have been like), I am beginning the marketing.

I like that word. Marketing. It seems professional. A Facebook page is under construction. I am reading a few other writers’ blogs. I have hired a web page genius who happens to also be a good friend even though I’m twice her age. I have on-line joined a couple of indie writers and publishers groups. That’s what we self-publishers are called with only a slight squint nowadays, a lot better than the derisive downward curve of the lip that used to accompany “vanity press.”

I haven’t a clue what to do next. Altogether I have sold maybe thirty copies of my books. My son even bought one and downloaded onto his 21-inch Mac. He will be paralyzed if he tries to read it that way, sitting straight up in his desk chair, but the effort warms his mother’s heart. A friend gave up trying to find one of my books on iTunes and downloaded the Glee-Madonna album instead. Another friend said, “Jo, I don’t do e-books. I don’t do Facebook. I don’t do the internet. Mostly, I don’t do computer. What else is there?” I ran off the manuscript of The Solarium and sent it snail mail to her, but warned her to open it carefully because Kindle formatting doesn’t do page numbers.

For the past day or so, I’ve begun to realize how easy it is to become addicted to the possibilities that the computer screen offers anyone who needs to make life, or in my case, marketing, perfect. This morning I Googled “e-book reviews” and two hours later it comes to me that I’ve been overtaken by hundreds of reviews of e-books, yes, but books written by Janet Evanovitch and that Patterson guy and others who get reviewed whenever they sneeze. No one’s going to review either one of my offerings, except my friend-writer Peggy who knew I’d also do it for her if it comes to that. Which it won’t because her first book may be picked up by a publisher who is entering the e-book business with romantic-mystery books, which is Peggy’s genre.

There is no genre for stories of old ladies who may or may not have mysterious (at least to anyone under sixty) notions–but think about it–who’s out there to notion with? Perhaps that’s where the mystery comes in. An old people’s genre? Somehow made sell-worthy with a handsome ninety-year-old lothario who happens to be a serial killer? (I’m noting that last sentence for further consideration.)

I have decided to take control of my days and my computer. Mornings are for writing the next novel about an old lady, to hell with it, and the afternoons will be for cruising the internet for marketing ideas that don’t cost $3,000. At noon I am joining a senior exercise class and giving my body a break.

“Mens sana in corpore sano.” At least I may get one of those right.

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