Friday, March 28, 2008


Catch today's guest, Luisa Buehler, with Morgan Mandel, Julie Hyzy, Michael Black, Silvia Foti and Robert Goldsborough at Barnes & Noble, 13 West Rand Road, Arlington Hts, IL 60004 on Saturday, April 5, 2008 from 12-3pm,Phone:(847)259-5304.

Luisa Buehler, Author of The Lighthouse Keeper - 2008 Lovey Award Winner for Best Traditional Amateur Sleuth

Acme Authors Link is happy to welcome Luisa Buehler as our guest blogger today. Luisa is the author of the Grace Marsden Mystery Series. Reviewers have called this series “a cold case sizzle”. The series follows the cold trail of bygone crimes using a blending of traditional whodunit with a hint of romance and a touch of the supernatural. The fifth and most recent in the series is The Lighthouse Keeper: A Beckoning Death. Luisa lives in Lisle, IL with her husband Gerry, their son Christopher, and the family cat Martin Marmalade.



We love patterns, practice routines and crave rituals. Consistent repetition of steps, designs and motor skills result in stunning dancers, exquisite art and excellent athletes. Practice makes perfect.

It’s when you can’t not take those steps or draw the patterns that the problems begin.

I write a character who suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. If you look up those three words you understand it is a disorder (chaos) that is neurotic, fanatical, habitual, irrational, uncontrollable, gripping, and a few more descriptors that define someone who can become severely limited in life because of this condition.

People with OCD feel compelled to perform tasks or rituals in an attempt to neutralize the obsessions that are paralyzing them from normal functionality.
Nail biting, tapping, touching, hand washing, twirling hair, counting, ordering/reordering are a few symptoms of the affliction.

Long standing advise to writers is, “write what you know”, so I did.
I grew up in the fifties in an Italian American home with immigrant parents who didn’t recognize or understand the quirks their youngest child exhibited. At the age of eight I developed the compulsion of brushing my middle-of-my-back length hair 100 times every night. Good grooming habit, right? Not if every time you lost count you had to start again and couldn’t stop until you reached 100. My mother would wrestle the brush from my hand when she noticed how red my scalp had become. She would offer to brush my hair but that wasn’t the ‘deal’ I’d made with my mind. In an effort to stop me she had my hair cut into a pixie style (short, very short). Counting steps replaced brushing. I ate my food in a pattern: one bite of each item then two sips of water. I had to come out even so if I had too much food I took huge bites, too little food tiny, almost non-existent bites.

And all the time I tried to look normal, even to my family who didn’t understand and would become upset with my erratic rituals that caused delays and confusion. My extended family thought I was odd but they loved me and mostly didn’t stare when I counted the tableware over and over or portioned my food. I didn’t eat out in a restaurant until I was in high school.

My form of OCD was mild and I can remember the day I realized that I wasn’t counting steps to and from class. One day I just stopped counting steps to class. I was taking the back stairs from the Grill at Rosary College up to my Chaucer class on the third floor and realized I didn’t have a count in my head; I knew there were 31 steps and four landings (free zones) but I hadn’t counted. Thrilled with the realization I tried to vanquish another habit and tried to not tap and square up my papers, a routine that many students in the class waited for as a signal that class had begun. I had to tap and square my papers three times, put them down on the upper left part of my desk before I could look up at the teacher. I think even Sister Cyrille McGill waited for me to finish. I was certainly more interesting than a bell. It took longer for the tap and square routine to diminish. Little by little, the compulsions slowed and eventually became more acceptable habits, quirks, patterns, routines. The time-wasting, event-disrupting obsessive behavior had retreated.

I’d like to think we’re all a little quirky. We know people who have ‘lucky shirts,’ and have to wear them to bowl or golf, people who perform ‘rituals’ before a test, a game, etc. When I begin a new book I buy a tall candle from Party Light Candles. It has to be a color that I feel matches the tone of the book. You guessed it;, it has to burn while I’m writing. If I’m working on a short story I can use tea candles but not the book candle. The challenge occurs when I’m finishing the manuscript but I have too much candle left. Ask my publisher about the 410 page manuscript I turned in two years ago! Fortunately, about 100 pages are working their way into my current work in progress. My dilemma? I had to buy the same size candle as always but I’m fairly certain I’ll run out of words before I run out of wax. I’m working on a compromise.

Most people like neatness in their lives. I very much still like my papers neat and squared off but I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to perform my tap and square ritual--unless I’m thinking about it. I don’t mind a little disorder (no pun intended)—unless I’m thinking about it. I look up from typing this and spot an edge sticking out from some papers stacked on my desk. Now, I need to fix those.

After I write the OCD lines in my books I leave the work if only for a minute or two (coffee refill usually). I don’t dwell on compulsive behavior because I still fear the creature inside my head who loves repetition. I prefer not to be a creature of habits but rather just a skosh quirky!

Luisa Buehler's books,listed in release order, all available at Barnes & Noble, Borders, and other local booksellers:

The Rosary Bride: A Cloistered Death
The Lion Tamer: A Caged Death
The Station Master: A Scheduled Death
The Scout Master: A Prepared Death
The Lighthouse Keeper: A Beckoning Death


Maryann said...

Hey, Luisa :o) And happy Friday! We do all have quirks and I think most of us are OC about something during our lifetimes. My own particular oddity is the need to be early for everything, from airplanes to plays to conferences. Even the dentist (and I hate going). I tell myself that it's better than being late :o) but these days I try to split the difference and actually show up on time.
I like the candle ritual. I try to find music that fits the character I'm writing (big band and the blues right now), but it has to be really soft or it invades my brain and I start singing along!
I am anxious to see what Grace gets into next :o)

Morgan Mandel said...

Hi Luisa,
You are not alone. I've got the OCD bug as well. Before I leave the house or go to bed, I'm constantly checking the locks on the doors and checking the knobs on the stove.

When I leave for work in the morning, I always say the same thing to my husband.

My dog is just as bad. Every time Rascal goes outside, she runs toward the window well and peers down, like there's a ghost inside, then she runs away. She also obsessively nibbles at and licks her comforter.
Morgan Mandel

Mary Cunningham said...

Very interesting post, Luisa. I think we all have some degree of OCD, but I'm certainly not down-playing the seriousness of the disorder. So fortunate that you were able to overcome much of the repetition. I wonder if it's because your family, friends, and classmates, for the most part, didn't make a big deal about it.

Anyway, it led to a wonderful series of stories! All the best with your booksigning on April 5. And, also good luck to Morgan, Julie, Michael, Silvia and Bob!

Tracey Devlyn said...

Hi Luisa!

I have heard of OCD, but never from such a personal perspective. Thanks for sharing your story.

Can't wait to dive into The Lighthouse Keeper!

Take care, Tracey

Margot Justes said...

Hi Luisa,

It's lovely to see your post on ACME.


Deb Larson said...

Hi Luisa:
Thanks so much for sharing. Glad to see you at Acme Authors. Come back anytime!!
DL Larson