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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Spooky Side of Author G.B. Pool

 A graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, Gayle Bartos-Pool is the queen of fun noir fiction, which might sound like a paradox, but this lady can pull it off. Her witty sense of humor and tough, staccato delivery come across as Raymond Chandler in a very good mood.   She has worked as a reporter and a private investigator among other things, and she can express herself in many mediums. I specifically asked her for Halloween so she could share some of the decorations she's put together to celebrate this spooky holiday--many of them handmade!   

It's my pleasure to introduce Gayle Bartos-Pool!

"The Johnny Casino Casebook Part 1 - Past Imperfect"  is out and ready for reading! First, congratulations! 

Thanks, Jackie, for inviting me to your fun blog. I meet a lot of new authors this way.

It's a collection of short stories that fill in Johnny's background for those who aren't familiar with the character. Why did you go the route of short stories instead of a novel?

The first Johnny Casino story was written as a short story. I wrote several more and got one in a Sisters-in-Crime/Los Angeles anthology, LAndmarked for Murder. It got good reviews, so I kept writing him. I knew that Ray Bradbury wrote his Martian Chronicles as a series of short stories and a publisher told him to do something to connect them into a novel form, so I did the same thing. Each book has a central theme.

This first casebook is subtitled Past Imperfect and makes the point that we all have a past. Several characters make repeat appearances in all three books. It’s like a TV series where old characters come back for a guest shot. And even though each story is self-contained, they all tell you something more about Johnny. There is a story from this first book that is further wrapped up in the last book. The Johnny Casino Casebook Series is like a 1000 page novel broken into three separate books.

You also have a short story collection, "From Light to Dark".  Are these all Johnny Casino shorts as well?

From Light TO DARK are totally different stories, different characters, different sub-genres that pay homage to Old Hollywood movies, vintage TV shows, and contemporary Noir tales. The mysteries get darker as the stakes get higher, whether for money, fame, lust, power or just pure evil. It starts with the tale of a cool cat who escapes Las Vegas only to find himself down a dark alley looking for trouble, to a troubled cop racing down a sizzling L.A. street looking for a killer…or is he looking for something else? Murder in Hollywood isn’t new, but when the guy playing detective used to play one on TV, you have something new. When you steal something priceless, you better know you’ll pay for it in the end. Consider From Light TO DARK a plate of delicacies, some sweet, some pungent, some dark and rich, some with a bite. Each different.

Your main characters, whether Johnny Casino or PI Ginger Caulfield, have that classic noir feel to them--short sentences and witty, tough dialogue. Who influenced your writing, author or otherwise?

Just like Johnny Casino says about himself in the first book, I grew up watching old movies on a 13-inch black and white television set. I read Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler and other detective novels that my mother had in the house. And I’m sure my dad, an Air Force pilot who didn’t mince words or actions, influenced me greatly. My dad always said I could do anything I put my mind to, maybe that’s why I became a real private detective for a while. I never thought that was something I couldn’t do. I give my characters that trait. I don’t read any one author more than another, probably because I don’t want to be influenced by any one style. I have made both Johnny and Gin their own person, not like anyone else. But I did have Johnny train under Gin Caulfield when he started out as a P.I., so maybe he learned things from her. Who knows?

You've given many detailed and entertaining classes on short story writing, and one of my favorite analogies revolves around a road trip.  Can you share that with the readers?

I came up with this analogy when I was writing out the prospectus for that first class called “The Anatomy of a Short Story.” I was differentiating a novel from a short story and said that a novel is like taking a world tour when you board a big ship with lots of people (characters) and take all the luggage (character traits, red herrings and bits of business that need explaining) and make stops at 50 different ports-of-call (plot points).

A short story is like taking a Day Trip. Instead of a bus or large car that holds too many people, you take a two-seat roadster. Maybe you can toss somebody in the trunk or strap somebody on the hood, but you are limited in the number of characters you have to describe. As for luggage, you don’t have room for lots of extra baggage, so each character is limited to one or two things that describe him or her. 

As for the destination, there is only one. You might have to make a detour like Janet Leigh did in Psycho to the Bates Motel, but that was the whole point of the story…to get to that hotel. One destination.

If writers understand that a short story is the essence of a tale, an hors d’oeuvre with just a taste of the best things on it, no more, no less, they will have a great and satisfying short story.

Do you plan to release a non-fiction book on writing?

I will keep that thought in mind. I love teaching and doing a short book on the essence of the short story might be fun to do.

Okay. I can't talk to you on Halloween without mentioning you amazing craft skills and decorating ability.  After Halloween, I know you move into making your home a Winter Wonderland. Could you share some photographs and explain the history behind a few of your decorations?

The witch, ghost and goblin on the mantle are among the first decorations I made for Halloween. I did the pumpkin head guy 35 years ago. The head is carved from a Styrofoam ball and covered with instant papier mache and then painted. I made his outfit out of an old pair of brown velvet pants. The cloth body was just a simple pattern I cut out. I have used it for many of my figures. The ghost is a wooden dowel with wire arms, a pair of china hands, and a Styrofoam ball head. I draped the gauze over those to form the body. The witch is mostly a stuffed central core over a dowel and bits of fabric for her outfit.

The dapper pumpkin head guy with the top hat was something I had seen in a magazine and decided to make myself. The same is true for the Candy Corn Man with the wily grin and red and white stripped stockings. That is papier mache over a wire armature.

The three figures (Bat-boy, Hershey Kisses Cat, and Cheshire Cat) were all done with that instant papier mache over a body of crushed and shaped aluminum foil to give it form without weight. Antique decorations made by cottage industry workers a hundred years ago were probably done much the same way even though they used shredded paper and flour paste glue instead of instant papier mache.

The last photo shows some old fashioned lanterns I made with strips of gauze dipped in plaster of Paris, wrapped around a balloon to give them shape. I added the nose to the clown by covering a small Styrofoam ball. The nose and eyebrows for the Jack-o-Lantern are a small pieces of Styrofoam covered with gauze. When it dried, I popped the balloon and carved an opening at the top and for the eyes and mouth that I designed on my computer, ran off a copy on a shiny piece of paper, and taped the pieces inside the lantern. 

What's next for you on the writing front?

The Johnny Casino Casebook 2 – Looking for Johnny Nobody is coming out April 2013. The book jacket blurb: Johnny Casino is an ex-mobster turned private eye. He changed his name to escape his past, but what if his past was a lie?

Hedge Bet, the second Gin Caulfield mystery is also coming out in the summer of 2013. The blurb: Is it a bet on the ponies or a high stakes gamble in the stock market that leads to a death at the racetrack and the return of Ginger Caulfield to her former profession as private investigator?

Thanks again for inviting me. I hope you like what happens to Johnny and Gin in the coming years. They keep me on my toes.

Thank you, Gayle, for adding a little Boo! to our Halloween. Check out Gayle's website for more fun facts about this author!  You can find The Johnny Casino Casebook on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle for quick download!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dragons and Nuns and Faeries, Oh My!

If there’s such a thing as ADD of the imagination, Karina Fabian has it—in spades.  Craft books, devotionals, serious science fiction, comedic horror and chilling fantasy—she follows her interests and the characters that tell her their stories.

Winner of the 2010 INDIE for best Fantasy (Magic, Mensa and Mayhem) and a Mensa Owl for best fiction (World Gathering), Karina Fabian’s writing takes quirky twists that keep her--and her fans--amused. Nuns working in space, a down-and-out Faerie dragon working off a geas from St. George, zombie exterminators—there’s always a surprise in Fabian’s worlds. Mrs. Fabian teaches writing and book marketing seminars online.

Welcome, Karina!

Karina, Fantasy and Sci-Fi have always seemed to me a “boys club”. It’s not often you see groups of girls clutching their LORD OF THE RINGS trilogies.  What first led you to these genres?

Oh, my!  After three and a half decades, I can hardly remember an instigating cause, but here are the strongest SFF memories I have:
In fifth grade, Mrs. Winters read to us A Wrinkle in Time.  I was captivated.  I used to put my head in my arms so I could better see and feel what the characters were experiencing.  After that, I hunted down her Time Trilogy, and when I’d devoured them, made up my own stories.  In fact, I still have stories of Charles Wallace that I’d like to adapt to my own worlds.
My dad was a big Star Trek fan.  I still remember when dinner coincided with the show (no Netflix or watch later, then!)  The TV got the spot of honor at the foot of the table.  He also had the Gray Lensman books, which I ate up.
My middle school library had a good SFF section, and I think that’s where I was introduced to Asimov, Bradbury, Lackey, McCaffrey, and others.
Ironically, I never considered it a boy’s or girl’s thing.  It was my thing.  I do remember in high school, when a friend (a guy) bought me a couple of bodice-rippers for my 16th birthday.  (Bodice-rippers=romance novels with a hint of racy content.)  I gave it my best shot—after all, they were a gift--but after the first chapter, I packed them up and traded them in at Waldenbooks for a couple of Star Trek novels.  To this day, I think he gave them to me as a joke.

At the Catholic Writers Guild Online Conference, you've taught a popular class on "world building". Are there different rules a writer follows when she writes fantasy or science fiction? Does it take more guidelines to bring these genres to life than say, literary fiction, or is it a free-for-all?

The primary rule, no matter what genre, is to give your world believability in the context of the book.  The guidelines are pretty simple:  be internally consistent (i.e. whatever rules your world works in, your characters should follow them); give detail, but don’t overwhelm the reader by dumping a bunch of information all at once—let them discover it along with your character.  
Whether fantasy is easier to write because you can make up the world rules or literature is easier because you know the rules is really up to the writer.  I have seen some writers of real-world novels fail because they let their characters act beyond all world logic in order to fit their plot.  With the right set-up, you can do some unbelievable stuff and people will still buy it for the duration of the story—but you must create a world that supports your characters—or make your characters live and act according to the world.
Let me give you an example in a non-literature sense.  There’s a commercial on the radio for Lasik that drives me nuts.  The premise is a mom and dad watching their son play Little League, only the dad can’t see the field well, so Mom is trying to convince him to get laser surgery on his eyes.  The dialogue goes something like, “but I have a stigmatism.”  “So did I, and doctor….”  “I don’t have time,” “But it was a short…”  “but the pain!”  “No, it’s…”  “Well, the cost…”
In most marriages—and this was portrayed as a normal marriage--the husband would know his own wife well enough to know she had laser surgery for a stigmatism, and at least a rough idea of the details.  However, they forced him to ask truly ignorant questions in order to get their information across, and the whole thing comes off as a really badly done commercial.  Really, all they needed to do was have two people talking instead of husband and wife, and their world would have been more convincing.

The premises of your Sister Grace and Vern novels make me laugh out loud. You have a great sense of humor. I even love the titles.  MAGIC, MENSA, & MAYHEM. LIVE AND LET FLY. And the characters? A Faerie Nun and a dragon. I’ll bite. How did those characters and this series come about?

I wanted to write a unique dragon story for an anthology called Firestorm of Dragons, and while watching a noir spoof on Whose Line Is It, Anyway, I realized doing noir with a dragon detective would be a lot of fun.  Noir, for those who don’t know, is that 40s-50s style of literature and movies that are a little dark, a little edgy, kind of gritty:  Casablanca and the Sam Spade stories are the best examples.  
Of course, I decided to make noir funny by twisting all the clichés and tossing in some from other settings.  Every noir hero needs something in his past to feel bitter about, and what better for a dragon the St. George?  Since killing Vern would have nixed my main character, I decided he was coopted into serving the Faerie Catholic Church.  That story, “DragonEye, PI” came out in Firestorm of Dragons, and I loved Vern so much, I resolved to write other stories with him.  Eventually, Sister Grace came along as his partner and a mellowing influence.  They have great chemistry; she’s one of the few people he respects enough to put before himself.  (This is always fun when I get a new editor—Vern says “I and (person)” because, after all, he’s a dragon, top of the food chain and the greatest of God’s creations.  For Grace, however, he’ll say “Grace and I.”)  
The series so far has two books and several short stories and novellas.  For some reason, the novellas tend to be very serious and far more in keeping with the noir style.  Sister Grace and Vern have had more than their fair share of troubles.  I love being able to write the sorrow as well as the joy and the heartache as well as the slapstick.  It makes them more real to me.

Catholic writers might be saying to themselves: Magic! Faerie Nuns! Heresy!  Can you explain to writers who might be interested in Catholic fiction, or even faith fiction in general, why these characters and situations are okay and what guidelines they can keep in mind to remain worry free when combining faith with fantasy?

First of all, as I tell the people who get uptight about Harry Potter—this is make believe.  Escapism.  Anyone trying to apply this to the real Church would be taking things waaay too seriously.  However, unlike Harry Potter, my DragonEye works are so far removed from reality that no one has had a problem with the my magical nun, the Faerie Catholic Church, or a spell-slinging Saint George.
Having said that, however, I do my best to make sure my work is respectful of the Catholic faith (and of all faiths, even those I disagree with), and that there is a clear line between my fantasy Church and the True Catholic Faith.  For example, while the Faerie Catholic Church is (in my world) in communion with the Roman Catholic Faith, they are separate, with their own Popes, history, etc.  
This has been kind of fun, too—for example, Martin Luther was able to work within the Church to address his concerns, so there is no Reformation.  I saw this as a direct result of the Faerie realm—when a demon can walk down the street, horns, tail and cloven hooves, people are a little more inclined to keep their church united and strong.
Also, I make it clear that God created a separate set of rules for Faerie, to include magic as well as magical creatures.  Humans from our world (the Mundane) cannot practice magic…unless they intend to strike a deal with Satan with all its soul-eating consequences.

You have also delved into faith writing with “Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life”. (I bought the book, read and enjoyed it without ever noticing you were the author!) This is a book you co-authored with your father, Deacon Steven Lumbert. What brought about this collaboration?

This was definitely God’s doing.  I just happened to see a call for a Catholic writer on a group I infrequently checked up on.  Nicole at Tribute Books wanted a short devotional.  I’d written a few devotional stories I never sold, but wasn’t sure I had enough—or that I had a good enough education in our faith to write a book on it.  I was praying on it at Mass and I realized—my father is a Deacon!  *headslap*  He was thrilled.  It’s his first book.  We wrote it in just two weeks and had such a great time.

What’s the most common problem in your experience that keeps people from seeing God in their lives?

We’re wrapped up in ourselves—our troubles, our obligations…  When our focus is on us, it can’t be on God.  I am just as guilty at others, and frankly more so than many of my friends.  It’s good to have people who are better than you—they inspire me to get better.

What’s next for you?   

Well, along the lines of God’s will and role in my life, I’ve spent the summer re-evaluating what I expect from my writing and how I want to focus my time.  I’m actually stepping back some, at least until the kids are all out of the house.  As I write this, I’m clearing out the obligations of my life to free myself of guilt as well as tasks.  Then, I have some short stories I want to write in the DragonEye universe for anthologies, and after that, I’ll return to the next DragonEye book, GAPMAN.  Someone is trying to cause riots against the Faerie in the Mundane—and step one is to get rid of Vern.  Meanwhile a mysterious superhero emerges and causes trouble for the police.  Grace “convinces” Vern to mentor him.  It’s a superhero spoof with a little bit of buddy-movie unwilling mentor/protégée shticks tossed in.
After that, I want to tackle something serious again.  I might do the pro-life women’s fiction that I disguarded nearly 15 years ago.  I think I know how to make it work now, and I might have someone interested.  We’ll see.  

Thank you, Karina!

Folks, this is one author you're definitely going to want to keep tabs on. Lucky for us, she has lots of contact information! Here is her

Website and another Website , her
Blog, her

Facebook, her

Twitter, and

Monday, October 1, 2012

Author Sheila Bownham Says “Drop Dead”

Award-winning author Sheila Webster Boneham writes fiction and nonfiction, much of it focused on animals, nature, and travel. Although best know for her writing about dogs and cats for the past fifteen years, Sheila also writes fiction, narrative nonfiction, and  poetry. She is currently working on a series of essays about traveling the U.S. by train, and on a combination memoir and wide-ranging meditation on the human-canine connection. Sheila teaches writing workshops and classes, and is interested in speaking to groups about writing, creativity, and related topics.

Drop Dead on Recall is your latest mystery, and it stars animal photographer Janet MacPhail  and her Australian Shepherd, Jay. How did this duo move from a featured role in Racing Can Be Murder to their own mystery series?

 Janet and Jay, and their housemate orange tabby Leo, were already around when I wrote "Tracks" for the anthology. I was revising the manuscript of Drop Dead on Recall when the Speed City Sisters in Crime decided to put together an anthology of stories linked by the Indianapolis 500. At first I didn't think I could write for the anthology - what do I know about race cars? But I had been to the museum at the track, and I track with my dogs, so it all came together in a story at the track with a tracking dog!

I noticed that you have teamed up with Canine Health Events (CHE) and the Australian Shepherd Health and Genetics Institute (ASHGI) and with Pomegranate Books, and independent bookstore in Wilmington, NC, where you live, for a “Virtual Book Launch”.  How will your book benefit these societies?

I love cooperative ventures – everybody wins! So to mark the launch of Drop Dead on Recall, I have teamed up with Canine Health Events (CHE) and the Australian Shepherd Health and Genetics Institute (ASHGI) and with Pomegranate Books, an independent bookstore in Wilmington, NC, where I live, for this “Drop Dead for Healthy Dogs,” a virtual book launch which runs through October 11.

10% of the purchase price of Drop Dead on Recall and some of my other books, including Rescue Matters, will be donated to CHE or ASHGI (buyer's choice) to support canine health research. 

For readers in the Wilmington area, I wll also have a real live book launch party at Pomegranate on October 11 at 7 p.m. Information is online at http://www.sheilaboneham.com/dropdeadforhealthydogs.html

Do you compete in obedience trials with your Australian Shepherd? If not, how did you gather so much detailed information about this entertaining and competitive sport?

jayhighjump500 I've been competing with my Aussies and my Labrador Retrievers since 1991. Most of my dogs have earned obedience titles, and three of them have been ranked in the top ten nationally. I've had the honor to help my dogs achieve titles in not only in obedience, but also in conformation, tracking, and rally obedience.

Three of my Aussies ranked in the top ten Aussie obedience dogs, and many of the puppies we bred have achieved national ranking in multiple sports. I recently was approved as a conformation judge for Aussies by the Australian Shepherd Club of America, which is n honor and a way to give something back to one of my favorite breeds.

Many of my dogs have also worked as therapy dogs in schools, hospitals, rehabilitation programs, nursing homes, and other venues. We've trained for fun in agility, retriever fieldwork, herding, and "dancing with dogs." Just like people, different dogs like different activities, and I love playing with my dogs, so it works out!

Janet MacPhail is an animal photographer. Are there really people who specialize in taking pictures animals? And how do you anticipate this will expose her to the nefarious side of life (as in lots of murders)? And how will Jay participate?

Boneham_book_dropdead_600wOh, yes, there are some terrifically talented pet and animal photographers. I didn't base Janet on anyone in particular, but oddly enough, after I wrote the first draft of Drop Dead on Recall I got to know Cheryl Ertelt, a pet and wildlife photographer who trained her dogs where I did in Fort Wayne. More recently, I've become friends with Helen Peppe, a photographer and writer in Maine. If you want to see some lovely photos, google these talented women.
 As for Janet tripping over dead bodies....She is accidentally sucked into a series of murders in Drop Dead on Recall because the victims are members of her dog training circle. Book two, coming next year, involves the illegal trade in tropical birds, and Janet's camera does get her into trouble there.

 You have several non-fiction books about animals, Six of which have been named best in their categories in the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) and the Cat Writers Association (CWA) annual competitions, and two of herother books and a short story have been finalists.  The different books cover many breeds. How do you decide which breed you're going to research, and how do you set about getting a book's worth of information on dogs?

Right, I have published seventeen books about dogs, cats, and animal rescue, and I wrote four others that are sitting with the publisher. Most of the books have come from ideas I pitched to the publishers, but some of the books about specific dog breeds came about when the publisher asked me if I would be interested in writing them.

Getting enough information isn't usually the problem! Cutting it down to a manageable length is the more typical challenge. Every breed, and all mixes, offer a world of material related to their histories, original purposes, typical temperaments and talents, potential challenges for owners and potential inherited health issues, and more.

After many years involved with rescue, breeding, and teaching public obedience classes I believe that most of the problems people have with their pets (which too often land those pets in shelters, rescues, or worse) come from people making poor choices when they get pets, so I write in hopes of helping people make better choices, or helping them learn ot make up for poor choices by learning why their pets do what they do and what they can do to work with, not against, the pet's traits.

I love that many of your books focus on rescuing pets. (Buster is a rescue.) What's one tip you would give someone interested in rescuing a pet?
 I'm going to give you two tips. First, choose with your brain, not just your heart. There are lots of animals whose looks make my heart beat faster, but I know that I would not be the right person for them and they would not be the right pet for me. There is no one size fits all with pets, and the best dog for your Uncle Bob may be a nightmare for you. Love is a great start, but it is NOT enough!

Secondly, choose your source carefully. Whether you adopt from a rescue group or shelter, or buy from a breeder, please support only those who are responsible to the animals who rely on them AND to the people who take those animals into their homes and hearts. There are excellent rescue programs, shelters, and breeders out there, and some really bad ones. For the good of the animals, on't support the bad ones. There's lots of information out there about how choose, but for a start, readers migt check out my books at http://www.sheilaboneham.com
 What's next for you?
 I'm wrapping up the sequel to Drop Dead on Recall, and it should be out October 2013. I'm also working on some nonfiction about dogs and about traveling the U.S. by train, and have more fiction in mind. And since we recently lost the real Jay, who inspired the protagdog in the mystery series, I expect there will be a new dog in the family sometime in the next year. For now, when I'm not writing or teaching, I play with Lily, my Lab. Always something to do!

Thank you, Sheila! Don't forget to check out Sheila's books, and you can benefit charity at the same time!