Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How I Got Dragged to Hell with a Smile on My Face.

Slamming Satan: or How I Got Dragged to Hell with a Smile on My Face. 

A couple years ago, I was asked by my friend and fellow author, Bruce Durham, if I would write a review for the then-newest volume in the Heroes in Hell series, Rogues in Hell. I said sure, I’d be happy to, even though I was in the middle of writing my second novel.
I remembered the original Baen Books Heroes in Hell series, having enjoyed a number of those, and I was familiar with Janet Morris from her work in Thieves World™ and many of her own novels. But it had been years since I read those; and I’d been so long away from the fantasy genre that I had no idea that Heroes in Hell had continued on past the 4 or 5 volumes I had read in the 1980s and early 90s.

So I read Rogues in Hell, loved every word of it, wrote my review, and then bought the previous and first volume in the new 21st century series now published by Perseid Press, Lawyers in Hell. Now, while lost somewhere deep in the nether regions, I get contacted one fine day by none other than Janet Morris herself, who read my review, was very pleased with it, and liked the way I wrote it.
She then read my story of Dorgo the Dowser, “The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum that I had posted on Black Gate, liked it, read more of the Dowser’s stories in my Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, and invited me to write a story for the then-forthcoming Dreamers in Hell.

To say that I was excited, flattered and a little intimidated would be understating it all. I was totally overwhelmed! Naturally, I said I would love to give it a try. But I waited. I bided my time. What I wanted to do first was read and write a review of Dreamers in Hell, and then go back to re-read the first few Baen Books editions and read some of the stories in the other volumes, the ones I had not read.

Another year goes by and I still haven’t written a word. But I was in constant touch with Janet and her Hellions, as her band of Hell writers call themselves, and thoughts and ideas began to flow.
First, writing for Heroes in Hell is hard work: one needs to do a lot of research, because most of the characters in this Miltonian shared-universe are historical figures, figures of myth and legend, Biblical figures, and even some famous fictional characters – provided some link to an actual person can be found, such as the Dracula and Vlad Tepes connection.
So I hunkered down and did my homework, reading some history and biographies, researching things like demons, devils, angels, fallen angels, and the Hells of different cultures and religions. Not only was I developing a story, I was getting a wonderful education.
Now, the second thing about writing for Hell is that it made me “up my game.” The series is not only character-driven, it is allegorical, dramatic, poignant, high comedy and grim tragedy; it runs the gamut of genres and emotions. I was playing in the same park with some damned fine writers of imaginative literature, and something in the infernal nature of Hell demands and commands a writer to do the best he can, to go above and beyond what he/she has done before.
So I wrote for my first story for Hell, anit it was published in Poets in Hell.

Hell is addictive. It’s an obsession. Hell has its rules, but what the rules do is force you to be more creative, to think outside the box: the rules are not restrictive, they are liberating. Once you pick your characters and start your research, you find things, you learn things you can use to make those characters live and breathe and jump off the page. Yeah, writing for Hell is hard work, but it’s also one helluva good time. I love every moment I spend in Hell – and I spend a lot of time there. 
Since then I wrote another story, for Doctors in Hell, one that I'm especially proud of.

So there's a little something for everyone in the Heroes in Hell series: heroic fantasy and sword & sorcery, thrillers, horror, romance, touches of science fiction and steampunk – they’re all here.

And coming Spring/Summer of 2017, the latest volume: Pirates in Hell. I have a rather long novella in this one, starring a huge cast of famous and infamous people. I can it The Pirates of Penance, and it has become my favorite of the stories I have thus far written for Hell.

So come visit us in Hell and enjoy the company.
BYO pitchfork.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

-- Ernest Hemingway.

That's it, in a nutshell. Papa Hemingway was right. No matter what the genre, no matter if it's fiction or non-fiction, writing is hard work. It often takes some soul searching, as well as some deep thought and careful planning. But the results are always the same: you pour your heart and soul into your writing. If you're not, then you're doing something wrong. If you're writing only for the brain, while ignoring the heart, you're doing something wrong, as far as I'm concerned. It's not about the writing and how well something is written — it's about the stories and the characters. I want to feel a story. I want to experience it emotionally as well as mentally. I like to have my feelings manipulated. If an author can make me laugh and cry, make me shudder in fear, then they have succeeded. If they've made me think, made me pause to consider another point of view or something I've never thought of before . . . that's cool. But first, make me feel what the characters are feeling: show me what they are going through, don't tell me.

When you live alone, as I do, you have plenty of time to think. But thinking too much isn't always a good thing. You can get caught up and lost in regrets and memories. Some memories are happy, some sad and painful, some are so poignant you rip your heart to shreds. Then you start feeling, and sometimes feeling isn't always a good thing, because you start feeling things too deeply, and then you fall into pits of sadness and depression, and then often enough, grief takes over and controls your life. For at least seven years, certainly much longer, grief controlled my life. I had to find a way to channel that grief and sadness, to bring good out of it. 
But how? I didn't know. I was lost.

Allow me, please, to take you back in time for a little while, and hopefully you will see what I'm getting at.

                                   Sometimes when I'm lonely, I wish upon a star,
                                  I search over the rainbow and wonder who you are.

Those words are an abandoned lyric for a song I wrote back in the 1970s, when I was heavily involved in music. I am an only child, and although I grew up surrounded by a wealth of cousins and friends, in a lovely middle-class neighborhood, still . . . I always felt there was something missing in my life. Oh, I am blessed, have no doubt about that. Still, when just about all your cousins and friends have siblings, when it's time for you to go home, there is a certain shadow of loneliness that follows you. So I've always been something of a loner, and of a reclusive nature. I guess I was born that way. As a kid I spent a lot of time alone, especially in winter . . . building models, drawing, playing with toy soldiers, watching movies, reading comic books, children's books, paperbacks, and even trying my hand at a bit of writing.

For two decades music and writing stories competed for my attention. Thus, I really didn't have much success with either of them. In 1980 I came close to signing a contract with Bantam Books, but the deal fell through and I lost heart. Still, I continued to dabble with "pen and paper," as it were. Then, in 1984 I sold two short stories to what we used to call a "fanzine" — amateur magazines that are sort of the ancestors of indie publishing and small press publishers. So I hung up my guitar for good and concentrated on my writing. I even wrote my first screenplay, a musical-comedy based on the place where I was working and the people I worked with: Workingclass Heroes, I called it, thanks to John Lennon's wonderful song by the same name. But it went nowhere, and nothing else happened with my writing after that, although I devoted all my spare time to it, sacrificing a lot of social life and even romantic relationships in my pursuit of what I called The Elusive Dream. Still, I continued to write, sweating it out, cursing, and screaming at the gods. All for naught.

In 1996 I formulated a 5-year plan: I would go back to writing screenplays instead of prose. If nothing came of it, I'd go back to writing prose again. Simple as that. So in five years I wrote five more screenplays: two eventually grew into published novels, and two became published novellas. I even joined the Chicago Screenwriter's Network, and became a board member for a few years. But although I had placed high in some screenplay competitions, and had some luck in actually getting rejection letters and phone calls, I never sold one of those screenplays. During this period, I moved back home to help my parents, who were both not in the best of health. My Dad passed away from cancer in 1999, at the age of 80. I was not in the hospital room when he passed: I had stepped out to grab a sandwich, leaving him with my Cousin Carmella, his older brother's daughter and his favorite niece; she was holding his hand when he died. A few days earlier I had finished my fourth screenplay, and was planning to start another. But the death of my Dad, my best friend, took the wind out of my sails and really tore me apart, and I started to lose heart once again. 

Now, my Mom had been very ill for an even longer time, and was getting worse every day. After Dad passed away, I became her caregiver. She was 4 years older than Dad, and although her physical health was bad, she nevertheless retained her sharp wit until the very end. She became totally disabled in 2000 and there was no other option for me but to put her in a nursing home, something I will regret, grieve over, and apologize for until I draw my last breath. On Saint Patrick's Day, 2001, she succumbed to pneumonia. Being half-Irish, I'm sure she planned it that way. Her last words to me were, "I wish your father would come and take this pain away." I guess he did, because she passed not long after that, while I was holding her hand. I now understand why my Dad waited to die until after I had left his room. He knew I would have to watch my Mom die, knew that I would be holding her hand when she quietly slipped away, and he didn't want me to have to go through that twice. I think he prepared me for the next eighteen months following his death. After my Mom died, I finished my final screenplay, basically "phoning it in." My heart was no longer into it. I had lost my parents, lost just about everything I cherished. My world was turned upside down. 

A year later, in 2001, I sold their house and moved into a condo. I didn't write another word for seven years. It was like someone had turned off a switch in my head. I lost interest and had no more desire to write anyway. All I did was read and watch films.

So let's jump forward to 2008.

I was watching The Maltese Falcon, Kiss Me Deadly, Night and the City, and other film noir movies one night when that "switch" was suddenly, unexpectedly turned back on. I had an idea how to revise an old character and, after reading a lot of Raymond Chandler, knew exactly how I would tell these stories: in first person, in my own voice.

That character was Dorgo the Dowser.

This time around, I gave him a dowsing rod as a tool, a divination wand to help him solve magical crimes. I began writing up a storm and was almost finished with Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser when the company I worked for since 1978 closed its doors. Once again my world was turned upside down. But I persisted, I became a bull dog, determined to finish the book and get it published. But a weird thing happened during the final proof for the publisher: I discovered a theme running throughout the six novellas that make up the book. That theme was loss — the loss of family and loved ones, the loss of wealth, comrades, and the loss of one's soul. This had all crept into my stories unconsciously. I didn't plan on it: I was just writing pulp fiction.
But there it was: a theme. Loss.

Since then I have published five novels and six short stories, with a seventh on its way, at the time of this blog. And I swear that I never set out to write about loss in any of those stories. The theme just keeps creeping in: my fear of loss, my fear of growing old, of dying all alone and no one finding my body for weeks. There are some minor themes, too, such as my need to search for something that is missing in my life, something I may never find.

So I guess I had to go through some very personal pain, experience some very heavy-duty loss, before I could write anything of any substance, of any value and merit and even meaning. All this, like some cosmic or divine plan, had to happen, could not happen, until I lost my job, and more importantly, lost the two people I loved the most in this world: my parents. My writing could not take any kind of coherent shape until I had my world turned upside down a few times. Since then, besides losing my job, losing love and suffering one heart break after another, I've lost many more family members, friends and loved ones. I guess writing is way of processing all my grief, despair, fears and heartaches. It slips into my work without my even realizing it. It has helped me cope, but I still have a long way to go before I reach a place of happiness again. But this is what happens when you write, when your emotions are channeled through your words. For me, it's a form of therapy, as much as it is a need and a desire to entertain people. I was blessed with parents who always believed in me, supported me in everything I wanted to do and tried to do. They knew I'd get published one day. Sadly, it all had to happen after they were gone.
I'm still searching for that kind of love, that kind of support, that kind of happiness. 

In the immortal words of my Mom, "Hang up the fucking guitar and write, damn it! That's what you were born to do."

I guess I should never have doubted her.

So that's why I write the way I write, the way I want and try to write: from and for the heart. I'll leave writing for the brain to the scholars and academics out there. I want you to feel what I feel, what my characters feel, and if I've touched even a handful of readers out there, then I've succeeded.

Writing may be easy for some . . . for me it's really hard work. But for all of us who write, it's the same:

All we have to do is bleed.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Dorgo's Baker's Dirty Dozen Presents: Jennifer Loiske

I first met the very talented and prolific Jennifer Loiske a few years back, through our mutual friend, author Janet Morris. Jennifer was doing a series of interviews with the authors who write for Janet’s legendary, Heroes in Hell series. So Jennifer sent me a list of questions which I answered at great length, as I recall. In fact, she interviewed me twice! (So now it’s time for me to return that favor.) Jennifer is truly a very kind, generous and all-around wonderful human, with a smile that can literally light up the darkest of caves. But don’t let that smile fool you. Oh, no—because she writes some wicked-cool vampire novels. Here’s a bit more about her.

Jennifer lives in beautiful Finland—in Naantali, which is a small sunny town on the southwest coast. 

She is a Teen/YA paranormal fiction author, with four exciting series available worldwide. The McLean Twins series for teen readers, the Immortal Blood series for mature young adult readers, the Blood Hunters series, also for mature young adults, which is a follow-up for the Immortal Blood series and is created by the readers’ requests, and the Shape Shifter series for anyone age 16 and up. Her stories are full of creatures of the night: vampires, demons, witches, shape shifters . . . but even if they are mostly fiction you can find a hint of truth in every story. Jennifer loves to research, so every time she gets an idea for a new story she has a crazy Google session, looking for places, old myths, names, folklore, and magical items . . . anything that could spice up her story and make it more real for the readers. Jennifer is also part of Authors For Charity, an international author alliance, and a team member of Epilepsy FI magazine. She is a pre-school teacher by profession. Now I guess it’s time for me to put her in the hot seat!

So, tell us, Jennifer . . . what and who are some of your influences and inspirations?

Oh, there are so many! Stephen King, Richelle Mead, David Eddings, Sarah Rees Brennan, L. J. Smith, Jennifer L. Armentrout… I could go on and on… I read a lot and watch all kinds of series so I guess, it’s a bundle of many things that gets me inspired.

How and why did you decide to start writing?

I have no idea about the why nor did I consciously decide to start writing, but my head has always been full of stories, and I guess at some level my other foot has been in another world since the day I was born. So for me there is no other option but to write or otherwise I’ll probably end up in a round room with a soft walls, blabbering about faeries, vampires and witches.

What genres and/or literary style do you enjoy writing in the most?

Definitely paranormal for young adult readers. I love all things out of this world (okay, not ghosts, but the other stuff) and since my mind is playing all kinds of tricks with me, I have this need inside of me to tell their story.

Tell us about your latest published book, short story or novella.

Hmm…that would be, Old Blood (Book 2 in the Blood Hunters series). It continues the adventures of Samantha Green, a girl who got bitten in Immortal Blood series. Old Blood brings together two worlds, witches and vampires, playing with her mind as a psychopath master vampire has taken her as his favorite toy. It’s an urban, paranormal romance story, set in England, and it’s full of hair tingling moments along with despair and hope.

The funny thing about the Blood Hunters series is, that it was created purely because my readers wanted me to continue Sam’s story. The final part, Redemption, will be out this summer 2017.

Besides the “entertainment factor,” what do you strive for in your writing?
Facts. I love planting those nuggets of facts inside my stories. Some readers catch them, some don’t, but most of them have said they bring the ‘nail biting suspense’ effect in my stories as the readers feel the story, no matter how wild, could be true.

Would you say that your stories are more plot-driven or character-driven?

Both. My characters are strong, yet they need a good plot to stay alive. I made the mistake of developing too many characters in my debut story, so currently I make sure all of my characters, both main and side, are strong and easily identified. In that way my readers (and me) can keep up with the story even though the story continues in several books

What can you tell us about your latest work(s) in progress?

I just finished Redemption (Book 3 in the Blood Hunters series) so I’m gonna be buried with its edits, re-writes etc for a long time. Then I have one dystopian novel and one paranormal spy story coming up. I’m also doing interviews for magazines, translations for companies and organizing a new charity book. So, yeah, it’s going to be a busy year. But busy is good!

What are some literary goals you’d like to achieve?

A long time ago I made the decision to go on my own, so with my upcoming spy book, I’m going to give one more try with a literary agent and hoping to end up with someone good and devoted. Also, my pr company and I have some plans for growing my markets but at this point it’s a bit of hush hush project.

What genre of fiction have you not yet written for, but plan to in the future?

I haven’t written anything (except articles) in non-fiction but then again I can’t say if I’m planning to write anything in that genre in the future either. Every time I try to jump out of my genre, I still somehow end up writing about paranormal creatures. Not sure what it says about me!
Name a few of your favorite literary characters and tell us why they are your favorites?

Nick Ryves, from The Demon’s Lexicon. He’s bad in a way that makes you root for him and hope that one day he’ll beat his demons.

Daemon Black, from the Lux series, oh, my…he’s a bad boy with the capital letters and the one secret dream we girls can’t tell about without blushing from head to toe.

Cian, from The Circle Trilogy. I think he was one of the first vampires I found from the book world. The one that gave roots to most of my own vampires, and yes, a well developed character I wish were true…to be loved by a man like him…yeah, maybe this one brings up the romantic in me.

Gabriel, from Dark Visions. He’s the first character that took me into the psychic world, and like the ones above, is fighting to beat the bad in him. 

What are some of your all-time favorite films and TV shows?

Are you sure you wanna go there? Very well then… The Lord of the Rings, Constantine, Notting Hill, Meet Joe Black, Matrix… The Supernatural, Game of Thrones, Grimm, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Teen Wolf, Penny Dreadful…still want me to go on, ‘cause I can J …Lost Girl, The Walking Dead, Roswell, Dominion, Sherlock…okay, I’m gonna stop now. (LOL! You could have kept on going. Movies are one of my passions. JB)

 Tell us about your writing habits, such as: Do you outline extensively? Do you create your characters first, or your plot? Do you listen to music while writing, and if so, what kind?

Nope. My outlines are more like suggestions to myself. A road map, where I can pick up the road that suits my story the best. Sometimes I create the characters, or at least some of them, first, sometimes I do the plotting first. There was a time when I tried to force the stories out of me, and nothing good came out of it. So now I’m listening my guts and the ‘voices’ in my head, and am letting the inspiration lead me. I love listening music while plotting, but when I’m writing I need the silence. I’m omnivore with the music. Sometimes I listen to Taylor Swift, sometimes Disturbed. It depends on the story I’m writing at.

What else can you tell us about yourself and your reading habits?
I’m a gobbler. When I read, I do nothing but read, and that’s basically the reason why I have to time my reading. If I don’t, well, nothing gets done. I’m also a very loyal reader. When I find an author I like, I read every book she/he has ever written and it takes a lot to get me to abandon the author.

Thank you for taking the time to be “on the show,” and for such a wonderful interview, Jennifer. I hope we can do this again sometime.
— Joe Bonadonna

Jennifer’s links:

And for those of you who may be interested, here are the links to the two interviews Jennifer conducted with me.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

 Happy Saint Patrick's Day from One and A Quarter Irishmen! 

An Interview with acclaimed author Thomas McNulty

I first met “The Last Outlaw,” Tom McNulty, and his lovely wife Jan back in 2011, I think it was. We were at the Windy City Pulp and Paperback Convention here in Lombard, IL. We were already Facebook Friends, and we hit it off even more in person. They are two of the kindest and warmest people you could ever hope to meet, and we have so much in common, too. I traded one of my books for Tom’s The Life and Times of Errol Flynn, which is, IMHO, the best biography of that great movie star of Hollywood’s Golden Age that I have ever read. Tom and Jan had a table, you see, and were selling autographed copies of his books. So after trading books with him, I bought his fantastic Werewolves: A Study of Lycanthropes in Film, Folklore and Literature. Thus, I became a fan at once, and have read almost everything he’s written, and look forward to reading more, especially his westerns. Novels such as his Trail of the Burned Man, Coffin for an Outlawand Wind Rider are all excellent, and highly recommended to everyone, especially to those who enjoy a fantastic story set in the Old West. Tom is prolific, diverse, and a master of prose, character and setting. And now we share a publisher, Airship 27 Productions, since he’s entered the world of New Pulp. He’ll tell you all about that and his other work in the wonderful interview, and at the end of it I provide not links to his website and Amazon page, but links to the reviews I wrote for his books and posted right here, on my blog. So sit back, relax, pour two-fingers of rotgut, make sure your guns are clean and well-oiled, and enjoy. 

So who are some of your influences and inspirations?

 I grew up in the 60s reading comic books. I’ll always have a soft spot for the classic Silver Age titles followed by the Marvel titles. Jerry Seigel, Curt Swan, Neal Adams, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, John Buscema, and so many others. Back then, publishers like Whitman or Grosset & Dunlap had multiple titles and series available for young readers. I thrived on The Hardy Boys and Superman comic books. Troy Nesbit, whose real name was Frank Folsom, had a series of six books out from Whitman that had a strong influence. Those books today are known to collectors as the “Wilderness Mystery Series.” I was lucky to grow up in a household that promoted literacy. That changed my life.       

How and why did you decide to start writing?

I wrote my first stories in the mid-60s. They were mostly one page things influenced by Universal’s horror films or by The Twilight Zone TV show. I still have some of these and they make me laugh. I started writing “nature poetry” in High School which was all laced with sugar. I was a “peacenik” back then. That was the early 70s. Writing was a natural extension of becoming an avid reader. Here’s  fun bit of trivia, I sent Alfred Hitchcock a story proposal when I was about eleven years old. It was about these kids that discover and old pirate ship in a cave and gangsters are after the treasure chest. His secretary sent me a kind-hearted rejection letter with an autographed photo. The funny part is that years later, and unrelated to Hitchcock, I saw a film called The Goonies that had a similar plot. I console myself with the fact that even as a kid I had a marketable idea.

What genres and/or literary style do enjoy writing in the most?

I love adventure stories. Any fiction I write needs to have an adventuresome slant to it. I am obviously quite fond of Westerns and I am a huge Zane Grey fan. He’s out of favor these days and his work is considered dated. Well, it is dated, but there is so much to his fiction that amazes me. Take a look at Wanderer of the Wasteland. That is one damn amazing epic novel, dated or not, and he tackled some heavy themes. I am also fond of the personal essay, and I post those on my blog now and again.

Tell us about your latest published book, short story or novella.

I am thrilled and humbled that Ron Fortier at Airship 27 Books found merit in my sea adventure story called The Adventures of Captain Graves. That’s the best I can do as a writer at this point in my life. I love sea stories and this one had been percolating for some time. Ron sent me an email and called it “a damn good read.” That’s high praise from a man that knows literature. This will be the one piece of fiction I’ve written to date that I believe has some merit. Of course, I’m my own worse critic like most writers. I love the Westerns, and I believe that my Westerns are entertaining, but The Adventures of Captain Graves is special. Elliot Graves is a man with secret, and I hope readers find the story as fun to read as it was to write. I think the book will be out later this year.

Besides the “entertainment factor,” what do you strive for in your writing?

I strive for clarity. I want the writing to be smooth. I don’t consider myself an expert at anything, but I know what I like. I don’t want to confuse the reader with jumbled prose.

Would you say that your stories are more plot-driven or character-driven?

My stories are all character driven. My characters should all be complicated people, such as US Marshal Maxfield Knight. He survived Shiloh, but it left a mark on him. I’ve written three books with him as the central character, and more are in progress. I’ve outlined his life and I know what he’s in for. He first appeared in Showdown at Snakebite Creek, then in Gunfight at Crippled Horse and most recently in The Gunsmoke Serenade. The one I’m writing now will also leave a mark on him. He’s angry, compassionate and trustworthy, but also a man to fear. He is plagued by nightmares. In the end, he will remain a man intent on doing the right thing.

What can you tell us about your latest work(s) in progress?

I have several Westerns lined up, and a detective novel. I’m also writing some short stories. I have a Wyatt Earp short story, a Sherlock Holmes short story, and a few others. I’m always busy.

What are some literary goals you’d like to achieve?

I have outlined several additional Westerns and some other books, and I need to finish them. I’m not short of ideas, I’m short on time. With my far-too hectic lifestyle it’s often a challenge to find quality time for myself, but somehow I’ve managed to get things done. Now I want to do more. I’ll be pushing myself a little harder. I need to promote this stuff more, too. I don’t do enough of that. I have at least six books on Kindle now.

What genre of fiction have you not yet written for, but plan to in the future?

Science fiction. I have outlined and begun drafting a science fiction novel, and I am working on several short stories. I love science fiction. I’m preparing a list for my blog of my all-time favorite science fiction novels.

Name a few of your favorite literary characters and tell us why they are your favorites?

Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, James Bond by Ian Fleming, and Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs. There are so many more. Growing up in the 60s I was exposed to the best of everything, and I dove deeply into the ocean of literature that was in front of me. I don’t regret a moment of it. Of course, Superman is my favorite comic book character and always will be. For me the top ones are Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America, and Iron Man. I still read Superman and Batman comics. These are all characters that inspire us to be better people, to stand against tyranny, and to push aside the darkness and seek the light. I just realized I forgot to mention Doc Savage and The Shadow. I guess this list could get long.

What are some of your all-time favorite films and TV shows?

The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn is my number one favorite film. That movie represents what a film entertainment should be. The cast, music, cinematography, script and overall production are fantastic. Other films I rate highly are Casablanca with Bogart, all three of Karloff’s Frankenstein films, The Searchers with John Wayne, and so many more. My number one favorite television show is Gunsmoke, especially the first ten years. No finer western series was ever made. Great films and great television programs are equally as inspiring as literature and music. The last 100 years of our culture has been a real renaissance period.

Tell us about your writing habits, such as: Do you outline extensively? Do you create your characters first, or your plot? Do you listen to music while writing, and if so, what kind?

I outline, but loosely at times. For example, I create the title followed by the character names. Then I write the first paragraph followed by the last paragraph. I like to know where my characters are going. I make notes on the sections in between, and as I write based on that, I discover what happens as I go along. If a scene I know will happen later in the book is nagging me, I jump ahead and write it. Music is always present. As I’m writing this I’m listening to “Blue & Lonesome” by The Rolling Stones.

What else can you tell us about yourself and your reading habits?
Since the mid-1970s I read at least one book a week, so I hit no less than 52  a year, although I usually average at about 65 books a year. I stockpile books. I haunt bookshops and antique shops and e-bay and Amazon. I’m always on the hunt. My blog, “Dispatches From the Last Outlaw” covers a lot of this. I write my blog posts in advance, and I usually have about 40 posts already written. That way I can pick and choose, or insert something new that I enjoyed. I cover some diverse territory on my blog. I refuse to discriminate against any author or genre, and negative comments are screened and deleted. We live in a world of haters. I’m not a hater. I’m glad to be here doing all of this. This week I’m tracking down the latest from R. L. Stine, I just bought Neil Gaiman’s latest, and I have your book, too!

Tom’s website, “Dispatches from the Last Outlaw” — (where you can find all sorts of articles and book reviews, including Tom's reviews of my books!)

Tom’s Amazon Author page:

Reviews of Tom’s books on my blogsite:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


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"Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser" is the winner of the 2017 Golden Book Reader's Choice Award for Fantasy!
Valdar is a city of swordslingers and necromancers, witch cults and halfhuman races. It's a city in a world of darkness, black magic and creatures of the night . . . a city where demonic entities serve the needs of any witch or magicman who can open a doorway into their domain.
This is my city. This is my world.
With a special dowsing rod, I can detect the ectoplasmic residue of any supernatural presence or demonic entity and sense the vestiges of odylic power and vile sorcery used in the commission of crimes. I hunt anyone and anything that poses a threat to the people of my city. My name's Dorgo. Folks call me the Dowser.
From infernal depths where lost souls mutate into hell-spawned devils, from the other side of the veil that separates the earthly from the unearthly, from an ancient land whose borders cross into other dimensions, Mad Shadows-The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, will transport you to a world where sentient shadows, vengeful vampires, malevolent puppets, and raging werewolves haunt the night . . . a world where life is cheap and souls are always up for sale.

"Joe Bonadonna describes his fiction as ‘gothic noir’ and it is entirely appropriate. As much as 'Mad Shadows' succeeds in carrying on the tradition of 'Weird Tales,' the brooding, darkly-humored Dorgo could have easily found a home in the pages of 'Black Mask' if only his (dowsing) rod shot lead rather than divined spirits. The six stories in 'Mad Shadows' offer a mixture of traditional sword & sorcery necromancers and demons as well as werewolves, vampires, witches, and bizarre half-human mutations that H. P. Lovecraft would happily embrace." --- William Patrick Maynard, Black Gate Magazine.

Dorgo the Dowser returns in a new novel of Heroic Fantasy!
This time around, Dorgo falls in love with a witch known as The Girl Who Loved Ghouls, battles creatures from another dimension, and meets one very special cat named Crystal. It’s also the first time he hears about the ancient death cult — the Order of the Serpent. Then, after a young woman is murdered and a mysterious book of arcane lore is stolen from her, Dorgo comes closer to learning more about the snake-worshiping Order. But first he must battle both humans and demons in order to find and destroy The Book of Echoes. Finally, when called upon to help a young girl trapped inside an evil spell, Dorgo must confront fiends born of dark sorcery as he tries to save her and destroy the undying warlock who is the leader of the Order of the Serpent. Magic, murder, mystery and mayhem all await you in "Mad Shadows II: Dorgo the Dowser and The Order of the Serpent." 

“Bonadonna balances the human and the grimness in such a way that one never becomes suffocated. Instead, the humor and wit make the characters seem more real, as some of the characters, including Dorgo, use the humor to deal with the darkness they confront.” — Keith West, Amazing Stories Magazine.

 On the distant alien planet of Rhajnara a conspiracy created by the facist Khandra Regime is set into motion to overthrow the rightful Rhajni Republic and instigate a policy of ethnic-cleansing. The conspirators are cunning and it seems nothing in the universe can derail their mad apocalyptic scheme. Nothing that is but three rambunctious Space Marines from the Third Regiment Company E of the United States Space Marines assigned to Rhajnara with the Terran Expeditionary Force. Sergeants Fernado Cortez, Seamus O’Hara and Claudia Akira are the most unlikely trio ever to don jarhead camouflage and become military heroes. To their superiors they are wild, reckless and incessant troublemakers always in the thick of things. Yet their courage, loyalty and devotion to duty prove them to be the toughest Devil Dogs in the Corp. Now, with the aid of a Medical Corpsman named Makki Doon, a young Felisian native proto-feline humanoid, these three futuristic musketeers are about to become the one factor capable of exposing the traitorous Khandra coup. But to do so they will have to put their lives on the line one more time and risk all to save the day facing off against incredible odds. To save an empire they will truly become…"Three Against The Stars."

“THREE AGAINST THE STARS is a rollicking space novel that follows the adventures of three marines who refer to themselves as ‘The Three Musketeers.’ A plot against Earth is the main driving narrative force, but the true fun of this novel comes from the well-conceived alien life and the overall lighthearted tone of the book. Don't be confused however, this is a gritty, military/space novel. But somehow Joe Bonadonna, much like Alexander Dumas, manages to place the focus on the joyous ‘esprit de corps’ rather than on the horrors of war. For a quick, enjoyable read look no further.” -- Walter Rhein, author of "The Reader of Acheron," and “Reckless Traveler.”


The time is circa 1640 AD. The main character is Angus “Bloody Red” Buchanan, a pirate of the West Indies who sails east across the Atlantic, to the Indian Ocean and the island of Madagascar, in search of new plunder and loot. With him on his Spanish galleon, the Raven, is his first mate and closest friend, Mose Cooper, an educated runaway slave from the American colony of Louisiana. Sailing alongside them aboard her own ship, the Witch of the Indies, is Buchanan’s partner and the love of his life, Katherine O’Toole, also known as Crimson Kate. During their voyage they encounter the Servants of Dagon, an ancient ship of zombie sailors, and tangle with a 1000 year-old Persian sorcerer who serves the aforementioned Philistine god of the sea. Man-eating phantoms, a beautiful demoness, assorted devils, dinosaurs, and creatures from the bowels of Hell will all threaten Buchanan, Kate and Cooper before their tale is done and told.
"Waters of Darkness proceeds smartly . . . and as the horror grows ever grimmer and more triumphant, the plot takes several surprising twists and turns. But even their final, unexpected journey through a remote jungle of South Africa may not save the few surviving pirates. If you’re looking for superior swashbuckling pirate adventure Waters of Darkness to be just the red meat and heady rum you’re craving." -- Cynthia Ward, Amazing Stories Magazine.

"Three Ghosts in a Black Pumpkin" is the winner of the 2017 Golden Book Judge's Choice Award for Children's Fantasy.
 Spooky and funny, a heroic fantasy adventure for middle-grade children. Nikki and her impish cousin, Jack, find a mysterious black pumpkin in the forest on Halloween. A wise talking skeleton, Wishbone, tells them that the ghosts of the Trinity of Wishmothers are trapped inside the pumpkin and can’t be freed without their wands. The children offer their help, so the skeleton takes them on a journey to the world of Creepy Hollow to retrieve the three wands he hid long ago in Red Crow Forest, the Tower of Shadows, and the Cave of Spooks. Ghoulina, the beautiful vegetarian ghoul, and Catman, who was once a man, join them on their quest. They must face danger and conquer evil every step of the way as they search for the Wands before the wicked Hobgoblin and his henchman, a Tasmanian Devil, can get their hands on them. This is a fun, humorous and touching story for kids, with plenty of character interaction woven into a backdrop of scary danger, heroic action and lessons to be learned.
 “Three Ghosts in a Black Pumpkin: A Creepy Hollow Adventure by Erika Szabo & Joe Bonadonna is a Halloween Howling Hit! I loved this action packed scary tale from beginning to end and it will certainly engage young readers at home or school. This is book one in a series and I am already wondering what ghoulish adventures await this heroic team. As a teacher, I look for books that teach a good lesson and this one will not disappoint. I recommend this book for home or school libraries for children from ages 6 to 12. I gave it 5 Howling Halloween stars!”  Children’s author Janet Balletta 

The art of dragon killing: Dragons have been eating humans for centuries. Now heroes throughout history stalk their legendary foe. Learn how to hunt, kill, and eat the wild dragon. Never before has revenge tasted so good. A literary feast for the bloody-minded. In Janet Morris' anthology on the art of dragon killing, seventeen writers bring you so close to dragons you can smell their fetid breath. Tales for the bold among you. Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, an anthology of heroic fiction edited by Janet Morris, features original stories by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, S.E. Lindberg, Jack William Finley, Travis Ludvigson, Tom Barczak, JP Wilder, Joe Bonadonna, Milton Davis, A.L. Butcher, William Hiles, M Harold Page, Walter Rhein, Cas Peace, Beth W. Patterson, Bruce Durham, Mark Finn. Includes my story, "The Dragon's Horde."
Myth, folktales and legends. Historical fantasy. Literature. The best, the worst, and ugliest bards in perdition vie for Satan's favor as poets slam one another, Satan's Fallen Angels smirk up their sleeves, and the illiterati have their day. Find out why the damned deserve their fates as Hell's hacks sink to new poetical depths! The first Bible writer drafts a deal with the Devil. Attila the Hun learns his punishment's just begun. Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein make a monstrous mistake. Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp get their unjust deserts. Hell's Undertaker goes on holiday. The Damned Poets Society slams away. A nameless soul shows Dorothy Parker that fame is a bitch. In the underworlds, injustice always reigns: Join us and our damnedest poets for the crookedest poetry festival in perdition where language comes to die and no rhyme goes unpunished. Includes my stories, "We The Furious," and "Undertaker's Holiday" (w/Shebat Legion)

Damned souls wail as plagues wreak havoc, doctors up their fees, snake-oil salesmen make a killing, and Satan turns his hit-man loose. Be there when Erra, the Babylonian plague god, and his seven personified weapons, spread terror throughout the underverse! Rookie authors write prescriptions for perdition, while veteran hellions diagnose the damned: Deborah Koren, Andrew P. Weston, Janet Morris, Joe Bonadonna, Matthew Kirshenblatt, Chris Morris, Michael H. Hanson, Rob Hinkle, Jack William Finley, Bill Snider, Richard Groller, Paul Freeman, Nancy Asire. Victor Frankenstein and Quasimodo develop a vaccine -- with diabolical results... Satan looses Daemon Grim, the Devil's personal hit man, and damned souls cower... Bat Masterson finds himself caught between plague victims and Wyatt Earp... Judas learns you can't teach an old dog new sins... Calamity Jane and her Sinchester carbine defend hell's last uninfected outpost... Nietzsche and Lilith, Adam's first wife, face the Beast and come to fiendish accord... Doc Holliday tries one last gambit, and unleashes all hell's fury... And there's worse to come, even an excerpt from bestselling author Andrew P. Weston's forthcoming Heroes in Hell novel! If you think life is tough, try the afterlife, where the doctor is always wrong, sinners never win, misery runs amok, and all hell's damned get their just deserts -- eternally. Includes my story, "Hell on a Technicality."

Griots: Sisters of the Spear picks up where the ground breaking 
 Griots Anthology leaves off. Charles R. Saunders and Milton J. Davis present seventeen original and exciting Sword and Soul tales focusing on black women. Just as the Griots Anthology broke ground as the first Sword and Soul Anthology, Griots: Sisters of the Spear pays homage to the spirit, bravery and compassion of women of color. The griots have returned to sing new songs, and what wonderful songs they are! Includes my story, "The Blood of the Lion."

They are the most daring, courageous, fool-hardy crew ever assembled under one flag. Chief among them are Henri Delacrois, the French archer; Ralf Gunarson, the blonde Viking giant; the lovely but deadly female samurai Tishimi Osara; Omar, the cantankerous first mate; and Haroun, the eagle-eyed youth who mans the towering crow's nest of the magnificent Blue Nymph.
All pledged to follow their captain, the most famous seagoing adventurer of all time, Sinbad El Ari. Now they return in four brand new fantasy tales by Joe Bonadonna, Ralph L. Angelo, Jeff Fournier, and I.A. Watson. Thrills and danger await on colorful exotic shores as the crew of the Blue Nymph search for the Golden Fleece, battle a Scorpion God, and Sinbad alone must defeat an evil djin in a game of chess for the life of a beautiful princess. Here are epic tales worthy of this legendary hero, Sinbad the Sailor! Includes my story, "Sinbad and the Golden 

Azieran Adventures Presents Artifacts and Relics: Extreme Sorcery is an anthology of fantasy stories which revolve around powerful, and in some cases, world changing magic items. The tales are masterfully written by veteran storytellers such as: Joe Bonadonna of Weird Tales: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, and Mad Shadows II: Dorgo the Dowser and the Order of the Serpent fame, plus Christopher Heath, John Whalen Bill Ward, David J. West, Clark Ashton Smith, and many other new pulp writers. Includes my story, "The Book of Echoes."