Saturday, March 31, 2012


Every intimate detail in the criminal life of Alphonso Caponi is common knowledge in most households. The name conjures up images of early 1900s Chicago, Prohibition, and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre; or Eliot Ness, tax evasion, and the Untouchables. Some legends are fact, others fiction. Either way, Al Capone had people killed.

While there is no excuse for murdering a dinner guest with a baseball bat, an examination of Capone’s formative years is revealing. Not much is publicized about young Alphonse, how he quit attending a Brooklyn school and joined up with one of the gangs of New York.

The gangs Martin Scorsese portrayed in his movie of the same name were the forerunners and mentors to the ones Alphonse and his brothers joined. Likely, Capone was a descendant member of the original and ruthless Five Points gang, the gang that won elections with the sharp end of a hatchet.

Alphonse Capone, also known as Scarface, wasn’t a unique mob boss. He was a lemming who followed in the footsteps of earlier generations, ‘survival of the fittest’ gangs with names like Dead Rabbits, Bowery Boys, and Plug Uglies.

Would you agree that inhumanity, not Eliot Ness, ended the reign of Al Capone?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Count Down to Blogging From A to Z Challenge April 2012


Arlee Bird’s A to Z Blogging Challenge is a stimulating, month of April dare for bloggers who want to challenge themselves to write twenty-six blog posts, one for each letter of the alphabet. Because I write, read, and breathe mystery novels, as a nod to this widely-encompassing genre, my theme for the challenge is:


So many of the alphabet letters offer obvious choices (a for autopsy; b for ballistics; c for crime; d for dagger) that I double-challenged myself to skip the more evident of choices for each letter and discover words, topics, names, or locations that require a bit more original thought (almost as though I were creating titles for Sue Grafton’s mystery novels.)

The second half of my double-challenge was to confine my blog posts to:

Exactly 200 Words Each

As of 10:08 a.m. March 23, eleven hundred seventy-eight people have signed up for this alphabet tour, and time will not permit anyone to read every post. My shorter posts should help to keep everyone moving along.

While #posts of 140 @characters might be a bit too challenging to write, I plan to visit all the blogs of tweeters who use the hashtag #atozchallenge.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Brenda Wolfe with 5 Loaves 2 Fishes Foundation

My blog interviews with Independent Authors over the past three months have focused on characteristics of strong females.

Today’s guest, a strong female in her own right, is Brenda Wolfe, Director of the HIV Services and HIV Clinical Nurse Specialist for Pregnant Women and Children at Mount Sinai Hospital Medical Center in Chicago. She is also Founder, President, and Clinical Consultant at 5 loaves 2 Fishes Foundation.

Bickford-Land Clinic Fundraiser December 2012
Bickford-Land Clinic for Mothers and Children
5 Loaves 2 Fishes Foundation

GAIL: Welcome, Brenda, and thank you for visiting today. Why don't you begin by giving an overview of 5 Loaves and Fishes and Bickford-Land Clinic?

BRENDA: Thank you for inviting me, Gail. I am always eager to share information about both, and this time I didn’t even have to travel far. Bickford-Land Clinic for mothers and children (BLCMC) provides primary and HIV medical care, medications, lab work, nutritional supplements and small business loans to HIV infected women and children. 5 Loaves 2 Fishes Foundation (5L2F) is a U.S. not for profit organization whose sole mission is to fund the Bickford-Land Clinic for mothers and children.

GAIL: An interview that doesn’t require a travel itinerary gives you a nice breather. Where are some of the places you have traveled to promote Bickford-Land Clinic?

BRENDA: My recent global activities include presenting the clinic's care model at the Aerospace Medical Association Annual Scientific meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, and again in Bucharest, Romania. We were invited to present an abstract on World AIDS Day in Beijing, China at the BIT Life Science Conference. I also traveled to South Africa for study of the HIV epidemic.

GAIL: Closer to home, what type of promotional attention have you received this year in Chicago where the clinic is located?

BRENDA: An article was featured in the Chicago's Windy City News on the journey and motivation behind creating Bickford-Land Clinic. The show provided a compelling message of HIV awareness and the need to reduce the level of stigma and discrimination directed at those living with HIV/AIDS. The hour segment was later aired throughout Vietnam and on many U.S. cable channels.

GAIL: Why was the show aired in Vietnam?

BRENDA: In 2006, we successfully established Bickford-Land Clinic for mothers and children in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The not-for-profit HIV clinic provides medical care and social support to Vietnamese children ages birth to 18 years old and to parents or caretakers that are in need of medical attention. Our goal is to maintain a family unit by keeping families together.

In January, 2012, I made my annual trip to Ho Chi Minh City:

The 24-hour travel day to Vietnam is as exhausting as a hot, smoldering Ho Chi Minh City afternoon, but undoubtedly worth it when seeing the children's smiling faces at the clinic door Saturday morning. Small shoes are scattered at the entrance door, with cartoons playing on the clinic's TV, resembling Nickelodeon, but in an unfamiliar language. Staff bustle about between blood draws and dispense the monthly supply of vitamins donated from Costco Warehouse. The week was filled with staff meetings, site visits with the clinic's vendors, family home visits and networking with those who support our mission. It is a great pleasure to report all children are healthy and doing well.

Over the last few years the Vietnamese government has made some funds available for children who have been orphaned by one or both parents. However, stigma and discrimination have made it challenging for families who live far from the city center, such as ours, to access these funds.

Vietnam is in need of private clinics such as BLCMC to provide adequate medical care, decrease mother to child HIV transmission, enhance the children’s quality of life and empower the lives of women. The BLCMC is a first of its kind, a grassroots organization pioneering a holistic care model. Our mission is to sustain the clinic and expand our services.

We are proud to announce that Bickford- Land was a recipient, for the fifth consecutive year, for The Global Grant Initiative. Bickford-Land remains the only recipient for work performed in Asia.

Tet Celebration for the Bickford-Land Kids

Tet, also known as the Vietnamese New Year, is the biggest holiday celebration in Vietnam and most Asian Countries. After a hard day of blood draws, the kids received lunch, a piece of cake, then went off to the park where they enjoyed carnival rides. You may ask why would we draw blood on the same day we hold a celebration for the families? Half of our families come from a great distance of two to three hours away. A family of two, to sometimes four, will ride one motorbike resulting in a five hour round trip excursion. As tough as it seems, the kids don’t seem to mind. The party started and the kids were happy. The nuns from the Catholic Charities joined the outing and handed out traditional Tet envelopes to each family. The red envelope represents a wish for good health, wealth and prosperity in 2012. Thank you to Home of Miracles and Embraces (H.O.M.E) for supporting out Tet outing this year!

Small Business Loans at Bickford
Several small business loans are given out each year in efforts to assist families to be self-supportive. Many of our families earn $5.00 in an 8-10 hour working day to feed and house a family of four. Business loans go a long way to develop independence.

To further inquire about Bickford-Land Clinic for Mothers and Children or 5 Loaves 2 Fishes Foundation, please contact President and Executive Director Brenda Wolfe at

We also invite you to visit our web site at to view a video of the clinic, obtain more information, and find upcoming fundraisers.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fast Five Interview with Author Stella Atrium

Today my guest is Stella Atrium, the author of SufferStone: Book 1 of the Dolvia Saga. This novel is a blend of science fiction and fantasy. Though not a mystery/crime fiction novel, when a book is described as “...intense tale of greed, corruption, idealism ...” it is easy to draw parallels.
FAST FIVE: Stella, thank you for visiting today. Rather than an elevator pitch of 140 characters, can you share with us a more detailed account of the novel and your research for SufferStone? 

STELLA ATRIUM: The savannah on Dolvia has what we call a Third World economy. Corporations from Earth have come adventuring through the wormhole to take advantage of the mineral wealth and the cheap labor market. But the tribes are protective, and their women are mostly illiterate. 

Kyle Le is troubled with the gift of second sight, like flashes of insight for events in the near future. She's an orphan, and her sisters cling to the land her father owned. They have no status in community, only the service of her gift to a tribal leader. 

So the upshot is… inside the fantasy genre, I try to present women who need to solve real problems like having no voice in community, or no right to work; no access to capital to start a business. No reinforcement for talent. 

My intent was to pry open the archetypes of alien women in sci-fi who are, shall we say, sexually available to the story's hero. You know the types — warrior, witch, street urchin, unavailable princess who sneaks around, armless mermaid. Let's present a few female characters who drive the story and solve problems using the tools at hand.

FAST FIVE: You have created a unique setting, a fantasy world with female characters taking control of their lives with ordinary means. Within Kyle Le’s Third World, is “the job” the most important part of her life? 

STELLA ATRIUM: Brian Miller runs the mill where Kyle Le works, and Miller communicates offworld using an EAM, or extra atmosphere modem. He shows Kyle Le how to access the transport's library where they call up an image of Dolvia, a blue and green planet with atmosphere and clouds. Kyle Le is very impressed with seeing the whole face of Dolvia.

The savannah is being settled, unevenly, by offworlders who seek fortunes by mining the mineral wealth. They have a network for supply lines through the worm hole to Earth, and introduce futuristic gadgets to indigenous cultures, changing the balance.

There’s tension between the young tribal people who are hungry for the new products and the older generation who want to maintain tradition.

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

STELLA ATRIUM: Kyle Le is promised to the warrior Cyrus, even though she doesn't like the idea. She's motivated to resist the future planned for her by others. That's why she's open to new ideas like working for wages, and traveling offworld with soldiers.

The tribes unite to resist a mining company that grabs rights to parts of the savannah and starts over-using the water supplies.  There’s a trial of a collaborator in Part 4, and a battle to regain control over the land rights.   Even after this battle, Kyle Le wants to maintain her independence and refuses to “lend her mantel” to the victorious leader Cyrus.

FAST FIVE: How does your main character’s profession draw her into suspenseful situations?

STELLA ATRIUM: Kyle Le has second sight, so leaders from many groups solicit her ideas for what will happen next. Some tribespeople try to twist those images to fit outcomes they prefer. Kyle Le is slavishly committed to revealing the images only with no explanations, which only causes more tension and more threats on her life.

A couple of her prophecies come true only after the final battle and after her friend Brian Miller learns his fate.

FAST FIVE: With Kyle Le’s show of independence and her special gift, one story would only whet the reader’s appetite. Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?

STELLA ATRIUM: The sequel titled HEARTSTONE is due for release in Summer 2012. Book II is at the printer, but delayed because response to the first book has been so positive. We wanted to give SUFFERSTONE more time to gain an audience.

A giveaway on LibraryThing is in the works for March, and a possible Amazon giveaway of SufferStone to precede the launch of Book II in the series. Watch and see. Watch and see.

FAST FIVE: I am reading and enjoying SufferStone now and look forward to the release of the sequel. This isn’t 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.

STELLA ATRIUM: I would move to a small town in Greece, in Peloponnese where I can swim in the Mediterranean each afternoon. The waters are warm and untroubled by tides. The people are friendly and great cooks! Maybe I would get little writing done, but my tan would become world class. LOL

FAST FIVE: Your enthusiasm for life is reflected in your writing, Stella. Your reasons for choosing your vacation spot hints at a healthy sense of humor. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas and offering a look into the life of Kyle Le.

Read more about Stella Atrium and find her books at:

Twitter: @SAtrium
Writer blog on OpenSalon:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sisters in Crime Interview with Rosemary & Larry Mild

Please welcome Rosemary and Larry Mild, today's guests and fellow members of the Hawaii Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Rosemary and Larry spend their winter months in Hawaii, writing, visiting, and traveling around the Islands. They continue to write at their home on the mainland, where they teach mystery writing at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland.
On Wednesday, March 21, Rosemary and Larry will give a presentation entitled "A Quickie Look at the Traditional Mystery" for members and guests of SinC/Hawaii.

Gail: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview, Rosemary and Larry. In the synopsis for one of your novels, you describe retired detective Paco LeSoto and his wife Molly as “an endearing pair of sleuths.” As co-authors of these mysteries, do you each write a certain number of chapters, collaborate on the entire manuscript, or balance the writing, editing, and publishing through another method?

Rosemary: First, thank you, Gail, for this blog invitation. Larry says he's more devious than I am, so he conjures up our plots and writes the first draft. I come behind him, chapter by chapter, cutting, tossing, and dressing the narrative salad. I polish the prose, flesh out the characters, sharpen the dialogue. If a romance seems too sappy, I’ll make the girl more feisty to give her scenes more conflict. Of course, that tactic has consequences; it can actually affect the plotline. Then . . . with sleeves rolled up, we negotiate. Here’s our typical scenario.

Larry: You cut that whole paragraph! It’s cruel—operating without anesthesia.

R: Just a little judicious pruning, dear. (That’s an expression I learned as an assistant editor at Harper’s.)

Larry: But it took me hours to create those metaphors.

R: It's too much already. Less is more.

Larry: Talk about overdoing. Your description of the grocery clerk goes on for a whole page.

R: But his backstory really gives him depth.

Larry: He’s a pass-through, not a major character.

R: You’re squashing my creativity.

Larry: You’re trimming my subordinate clauses.

R: You’re acting like a spoiled brat.

Larry: I can’t stand to hear a woman cry.

R: Our jousting is usually short-lived. I sigh and submit. Larry licks his wounds, and we resign ourselves to the compromises required. Maalox helps, too. Larry groans when I even edit a one-paragraph business letter he’s written. Well, you know how it is. Stephen King said, “To write is human. To edit is divine.” Harlan Coben said it in a more earthy way. “If somebody tells me he doesn’t rewrite, I don’t want to party with him.”

Larry: The great advantage to co-authoring is that you’re never working in a vacuum. Reading aloud to each other slows down the word rate to a point where the minutiae, typos, and errors literally jump out at us. It’s so necessary to hear what we wrote— what it sounds like. We might discover Clara walking into the room in a sequined gown and leaving in cut-off jeans. It’s during the reading process that our individual writing styles blend into a single seamless product.

Gail: While Paco does the heavy lifting involved in sleuthing, Molly often delivers comic relief through a delightful amalgam of misused words. Can you give an example of the malapropisms that Molly sprinkles throughout the novels? What inspired you to develop this characteristic?

R: Molly says: “I have to take my calcium so I don’t get osteoferocious.” Or she accuses a villain of “defecation of character.” She’s based on a real person: my psychoanalyst father’s fabulous housekeeper/gourmet cook. She never went past the tenth grade, but she was smart. He was so fascinated by the way she skewed the English language that he made a secret list of what we call “Mollyprops.” After my father passed away, we found his list in his desk drawer and decided Molly would be a great character for a mystery. She was also nosy and observant, which made her a perfect sidekick for Paco.

Gail: Each of the titles for your Paco and Molly Murder Mysteries offers an interesting play on words, something Molly might say. Do you choose the titles of your novels as a team? Which comes first, the manuscript’s plot line or the title?

R: Larry creates the plots, then makes up the titles. They contain food because Molly is a gourmet cook. But they’re also puns because Larry is an incurable punster! The night we met, on a blind date, he slipped a pun or two into our dinner conversation. I retorted: “Do you pun in your sleep?” "Sure,” he said. “I was born in the Year of the Pun. That’s the thirteenth sign of the Zaniac.” I still laugh. I’m pretty sure our marriage depends on it.

Gail: Your stand-alone novel, Cry Ohana: Adventure and Suspense in Hawaii, is the story of a local family, a Hawaiian ohana, torn apart by the reckless act of one of its members. The danger described in this novel is darker and highly personal. Was your research for this story more extensive than for the Paco and Molly novels? Did you conduct your research on each of the Islands mentioned?

R: We’ve spent our winters in Hawaii for eighteen years, so we’ve been soaking up the “research” all that time. Also, I have pounds of newspaper clippings and other documentation from every island and locale, so the book is rich with authentic local color and cultures. Last year we attended Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a convention for mystery writers and fans. We were on a panel discussion and I talked about our killer in Cry Ohana. He uses his skills as a lover to get women to help him in his illegal business deals. A man in the audience asked Larry: “Who does the research for your sex scenes?” And Larry said: “I do not farm that out!” The author sitting next to Larry, Penny Warner, leaned over to him and said in a sultry voice, “What’s your room number?” She brought down the house!

Gail: “They” say that all good writers are voracious readers. What keeps you entertained or active when you are taking a break from reading and writing?

Rosemary: We walk at Magic Island several days a week. We attend the Hawaii Opera Theatre season with friends, plus the Metropolitan Opera simulcasts at Dole movie theater. We’re involved in our synagogues both here and at home in Maryland. We’re Washington Redskins fans (always hoping for a better season), and watch most NFL games, which begin at 8 a.m. on Sundays here. In Boston Scream Pie, Paco's two macaws squawk "Touchdown" and "Ten-yard penalty." But what is most precious to us in Honolulu is our family here: our daughter, Chinese-American son-in-law; and two granddaughters. They’re the reason we chose Honolulu as our second home.

I also write nonfiction. I just published my second memoir, Miriam's World—and Mine, about our daughter Miriam Wolfe, whom we lost on Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. It deals with love, loss, and political betrayal, and I think of it as moving from grief to grace: one mother’s guide to getting there.

All our books are available on, Kindle and Nook.
You can email us at if you’d like a personally autographed, discount copy.
Our website is

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fast Five Interview with Author Erik Hanberg

Today's guest is Erik Hanberg, author of The Marinara Murders. He is the Executive Director of a civic non-profit and sits on the distribution committee for a foundation that gives away more than $200,000 a year. Erik lives in Tacoma Washington with his wife Mary, where in addition to writing novels, he is a Park Commissioner.

Good Morning, Erik. Welcome and thank you for visiting today. Rather than an “elevator pitch” of 140 characters, can you share with us a more detailed account of this novel?

ERIK HANBERG: The Marinara Murders is about a mother and son detective team. Arthur Beautyman is a detective who was fired from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for a case gone terribly wrong. He’s taken up in his mom’s basement, and she’s trying to get him out of it and employed again.

Her solution: that her son should take a case for her close friend, whose grandson has disappeared. Eventually, they team up to solve the case, as they go deeper and deeper into a world of blackmail, murder, and extortion.

FAST FIVE: Is “the job” the most important part of your protagonist’s life?

ERIK HANBERG: Ruth Beautyman and her son Arthur each have lives outside of “the job.” For Ruth, she’s active in church, plays bridge, and is working on her memoirs. Arthur is a computer hacker—just don’t tell his mom that—and he’s starting to realize that maybe he needs a little more in life. Part of his journey in the book is coming to understand that he’s been hiding in mom’s basement for too long and that he needs to get a life. His bigger journey in the book is discovering that his mom is a full person with her own life.

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

ERIK HANBERG: As a mother/son detective team, Ruth and Arthur Beautyman are a unique pair. His hacking skills sometimes help him find clues, but he has to keep the true source of the information hidden from his mom. Ruth meanwhile brings to the case an extensive network of friends, all of whom are able to shed some light on the case. Eventually, they start to differ on the true nature of the crime, and begin their own separate, competing investigations.

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

ERIK HANBERG: With Ruth’s son a former detective and a computer hacker, she’s able to learn details of the case—even if she doesn’t always know where he got the information.

FAST FIVE: Ruth and Arthur Beautyman make up an effective detective team that could head some interesting investigations. Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?

ERIK HANBERG: The Marinara Murders is the first book in a series about Beautyman & Beautyman Investigations. It has a prequel on the Kindle called The Saints Go Dying, that details the case that got Arthur thrown off the force. Currently, I am working on a short story that follows this book, as well as another full-length sequel.

FAST FIVE: I am looking forward to reading more about the investigations of Beautyman and Beautyman. 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.

ERIK HANBERG: Venice! Always Venice.

Learn more about author Erik Hanberg and his novels through the following links:

Twitter: @erikhanberg

Erik Hanberg novels: