I’m pleased to have author Rosalind Barden here from Los Angeles, California here to speak about her writing and new release, Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case that’s on blog tour with Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book.
Welcome, Rosalind. How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.
“TV Monster,” a children’s picture book I wrote and illustrated, is my first published work in 1988. My latest is “Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case,” 2018, Mystery and Horror LLC. The following is my complete list:
- TV MONSTER, Crown, 1988. I both wrote and illustrated this children’s picture book.
- SPARKY OF BUNKER HILL AND THE COLD KID CASE, Mystery and Horror LLC, 2018. First novel in the SPARKY OF BUNKER HILL Young Adult mystery series
- AMERICAN WITCH, self-published e-book through Amazon, 2012.
Print Short Story Anthologies:
- STRANGELY FUNNY V, anthology with my short story, “CHILDREN OF THE DONUT,” Mystery and Horror LLC, 2018.
- STRANGELY FUNNY III, anthology with my short story, WEREMAN OF A SOUTH PACIFIC ISLAND, Mystery and Horror LLC, 2016.
- STRANGELY FUNNY 2 1/2, anthology with my short story, THE DEMON OF CITY HALL, Mystery and Horror LLC, 2015.
- HISTORY AND MYSTERY, OH MY!, anthology with my short story, THE MONKEY’S GHOST, Mystery and Horror LLC, 2015. This anthology won the 2015 FAPA President’s Book Awards Silver Medalist for Short Fiction.
- MARDI GRAS MURDER, anthology with my short story, INTERNATIONAL VOGUE AND THE PAJAMA FIASCO WEEKEND, Mystery and Horror LLC, 2014.
- STRANGELY FUNNY, anthology with my short story, INDRICOTHERIUM, Mystery and Horror LLC, 2013.
- CERN ZOO (Nemonymous 9), anthology with my short story, LION FRIEND, Megazanthus Press, 2009. British Fantasy Society nominee for 2010 Best Anthology. Ellen Datlow selected LION FRIEND as a 2010 Best Horror of The Year Volume 2 Honorable Mention.
- STRANGE STORIES OF SAND AND SEA, anthology with my short story, THE PROBLEM WITH WOMEN, Fine Tooth Press, 2007.
- TWISTED CAT TALES , anthology with my short story, CAT DISCIPLINE, Coscom, 2006.
Webzine Short Stories:
- THE FLIGHT OF THE GUINEA PIG, SpeckLit.com, 2015.
- THE HUMAN DYNAMO THEORY, SpeckLit.com, 2015.
- RESCUED CHILD, The Dark Krypt, 2006.
- THE FEMINIST ARGUMENT, Whispers of Wickedness, 2006.
- PROPER WEAPONRY, Exquisite Death, 2005.
- DRUMMER BOYS, The Dark Krypt, 2005.
- FORTY YEARS OF TALKING, Whispers of Wickedness, 2005.
- MISSY’S HOBBY, Issue # 16 Dark Fire Fiction, 2005.
- SEA MONSTER, Gothic Revue, 2005.
- THAT BOY, Gothic Revue, 2005.
- THE ARRANGEMENT, Camp Horror, 2005.
- THE GOOD FORTUNE OF BEAVERS, Gothic Revue, 2005.
- A MOCKERY OF A DOG, Gothic Revue, 2005.
- HELLO, PAT!, Whispers of Wickedness, 2005
- SHOWER DEBACLE, Camp Horror, 2005.
- DIETING DILEMMAS, Gothic Revue, 2004.
- REGINALD, Volume V Bloodletters, 2004.
- THE FLORIDA ROOM, Halloween Issue Camp Horror, 2004.
- UNFASHIONABLE FLOWER, Gothic Revue, 2004.
- DESICCATED MOUSE, Whispers of Wickedness, 2004.
- DEVIL’S TAIL ROAD, Camp Horror, 2004.
- PERFECT FLOORING, Gothic Revue, 2004.
- REFRIGERATOR, Whispers of Wickedness, 2004.
- TIGER BEATS COUGAR, Issue #10 Dark Fire Fiction, 2004.
- A FAILURE Of SELF-HELP, Fools Motley, 2004.
- DECORATING MOTIFS, Gothic Revue, 2004.
- DEITY DIFFICULTIES, Issue #9 Dark Fire Fiction, 2004.
- EXEMPTION, Gothic Revue, 2004.
- JURY BOX , Gothic Revue, 2004.
- FENG SHUI: POWER IN ACTION, Gothic Revue, 2004.
Wow! That’s quite impressive. Tell us a little bit about your books — if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.
“Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case,” was recently published by Mystery and Horror LLC. “Sparky” unfolds in downtown Los Angeles’ old Bunker Hill neighborhood in 1932. It takes a wacky look at the noir mystery genre. Though it’s a Young Adult mystery, and the main character, Sparky, is eleven, grownups will enjoy the book’s off-beat sense of fun too. Fingers crossed, “Sparky” will be the first in a series of Young Audit mystery novels. I’m currently writing book two in the “Sparky of Bunker Hill” series, tentatively titled, “Sparky of Bunker Hill and the No Nose Knucklehead.” After that, “Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Monkey Island Murder.”
Originally, I planned to keep Sparky frozen in time. She’d never leave the summer of 1932, but would continue to have adventures while solving mysteries. With prodding from the publisher, I changed this notion and realized it’ll be more interesting to have her grow up through the series. She’s a street kid, so has been out of school for awhile. Going back to school, which happens in “Monkey Island Murder,” will be a real challenge for independent, smart-mouthed Sparky.
Most of what I’ve written have been short stories published in print anthologies or webzines. I have stories in four of the six “Strangely Funny” print anthologies from Mystery and Horror LLC. I’m fortunate this publisher has taken a liking to my strange brand of humor. The most recent anthology, “Strangely Funny V,” came out this year with my short story, “Children of the Donut.” This story was inspired by a weight-loss challenge I participated in last year, and, of course, my mind created a strange, satirical twist on my real-life experience.
Very interesting. Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?
In five years, I’d love to work full-time as a writer, instead of only in stolen moments. To have more books in the “Sparky” series published would be wonderful. I’d love to get back into picture books, plus finish all the projects that I don’t have time for now. Writing is a tough business, but my plan is to keep plugging away.
Those are good goals. I think all writers would love to work full-time if they can. It’s my dream retirement job, but it won’t be for quite a few years. In the meantime, like you, I’m plugging away with my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series and other books/stories.
What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?
Any reader with a sense of humor who is looking for something different will be interested in “Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case.” Readers who enjoy noir films and mysteries will get a kick out of it too. “Sparky” is a Young Adult mystery, but I didn’t write it with that specific market in mind. My humor tends to be on the subversive side, which the grownup readers will appreciate.
Can I make a plug for the return of short stories? In this day and age of no-time and zero attention spans, what is more perfect than short stories? Add some humor and weirdness, and the “Strangely Funny” anthology series is perfect.
I think that many readers are wary of short stories, because they think of the “serious, literary-approved” stories from school days. There’s certainly a readership for those kinds of stories. But the world’s a big place, full of lots of different readers. There’s plenty of room for wacky, strange stories too.
I think that the growth and innovation in the short story is happening now in the genres: horror, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery (and don’t get mad if I left a genre out). I hope readers take a look at the genre short stories and give them a try.
Excellent reply, and I’m glad you included information about short stories. I agree that there’s a lot of room for growth for genre short stories. I’m working on several right now and already have quite a few published in addition to my books.
What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
Keep at it. If you feel that one project is stuck, try another one. You can always circle back to the first one. Don’t be afraid to try different types of writing. For example, if your screenplays aren’t getting anywhere, how about short stories? That’s what I did.
Also, just because one publisher rejects your work, that doesn’t mean another won’t think it’s great. Opinions about any creative projects, be they art or prose or music, are all subjective.
That brings me to another piece of advice: be careful about rules on how you’re “supposed” to write. What one person thinks is the only way, someone else feels the opposite. It’s all subjective. So why not follow your own style and write what you want? When you’re a new writer, it can be hard to tell the difference between good, solid feedback (“I couldn’t tell if the ghost or the rabbit caused the real estate crash”) or pompous put-downs (“Stories about ghosts and rabbits causing real estate crashes are not serious literature”).
Follow your gut. If you don’t really like writing a certain way, or in a certain genre, or what’s supposed to be “hot” or “correct,” don’t. You’ll do better if your heart is in it. If you’re given advice, what does your gut say? If you feel depressed and hopeless after, it’s probably a pompous put-down to be ignored. But if you feel that little light bulb in the back of your head saying, “Oh, yeah, maybe I didn’t make clear that the ghost and the rabbit are one in the same,” then it’s probably good feedback.
Your answers are great, Rosalind. I’m currently querying agents for some unpublished manuscripts, and I totally agree with your advice about following or ignoring feedback.
What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?
It’s tough to get your foot in the publishing door. For my first book, “TV Monster,” a 1988 picture book that I wrote and illustrated, I had no luck submitting to publishers through the mail. At that time, author/illustrators could still go to New York and make appointments to see editors in person. I did that, showed my work, and Crown Publishers was interested. I thought I was on my way, but then I found that getting a second picture book published was even harder than the first.
So, I tried my hand at screenwriting. Despite placing in several competitions and putting a huge amount of work into the screenwriting, I wasn’t able to crack that door open. Then I switched to short stories, which I found work really well for a writer like myself with limited time. And it’s a great way to put to paper all those ideas swimming around in my head, without the commitment of a full-length novel.
That said, in between these other writing adventures, I’m always working on one novel or another. Novels are a bear. Just the logistics of putting all those scenes together, making what’s happening on page one consistent with what’s happening on page 101, that’s tough. For “Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case,” I created a character list so I could keep straight who I named what. It was an invaluable help. After all the hard work is done, there’s nothing more satisfying than actually finishing a novel.
I’m fortunate that I am flexible as a writer, and can write in different formats and different genres. I know that not everyone can do that easily.
That’s true. I also enjoy writing in different formats and genres, although I do prefer my mysteries.
Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?
Sisters in Crime, and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Nice to meet another fellow Sisters in Crime member.
What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
Writing takes up most of my free time, but when I can, I love to travel. Travel is a great way to jumpstart the mind. I find that ideas will come tumbling into my head during a trip. I think getting out of my usual environment, my usual set of worries and mundane to-dos, subconsciously gives me permission to let my mind wander down interesting paths.
I enjoy traveling, too, although I don’t get much of an opportunity to do so because I work full-time and have a daughter in school.
What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
What I like most is the process of creating, when I get lost in a story and time flies by as I’m writing away, or daydreaming about plots and scenes. Toughest challenge is time. That’s the wall I’m always bumping up against. That and having a story rejected. The disappointment never gets better.
And promotion, that’s a huge challenge. I like to hole up and write things, but emerging from the hole to talk about what I write? It’s not easy for me to come up with the “elevator pitch” for my latest story, or explain where I get my ideas from (“I make stuff up,” doesn’t usually satisfy). Again, it eats up time, which I’m always running short on.
Those are very common challenges. Time, rejection, and promotion with time being the biggest for most writers.
What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?
Cozy mysteries typically have more humor, which I like, both as a reader and a writer. I enjoy creating wacky characters and situations, which fit well in cozy mysteries. I think cozy mystery readers are open to more fun. I know I am! Also, I feel that cozy readers enjoy creativity and appreciate authors who take chances.
I agree and that’s why I enjoy writing my cozy mystery series.
Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?
It’s hard to pick one excerpt because I have so many favorite scenes in “Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case.” Here’s an except from the end of Chapter 10. It includes a short bit about the “bonkers lady.” This is her only appearance in the book, but her brief scene is one of my favorites because it’s strange, humorous, and sad all at the same time. This section also touches on the dynamic between Sparky and Bobby:
Keeping low so Marigold’s mom wouldn’t see us over the fence line, we took off. We slipped behind another fence into a backyard that was always empty because the lady who lived in the house was bonkers and did nothing but talk to her bathroom mirror all day. We could hear her soft voice but couldn’t see her clearly through the white lace curtains that moved in and out her open bathroom window in the hot breeze: “Oh, yes, Charlie, I’d love to go there. You know how I enjoy dancing the cha-cha.”
“Sparky, we need to go back to Creepy House,” he said in his low voice.
“They’ll get mad at me for running around. The goblin told me to stay put.”
“I know. But they’re really worried. Besides, we have to let them know what we found out. Maybe they’ll have some ideas.”
“Yeah, maybe. You know, I think Onion Girl might be a girl gangster. I don’t know for sure. But, what else would she be?”
“Holy Moly. We have to tell them that.”
“But we can’t tell them everything. Tootsie doesn’t want goblin to know about the City Hall car because then he’d know that she beat up the bad man to find out.”
Bobby tapped the bug jar on his chin, thinking. “Maybe we can say that bookie told you.”
“Nah, better leave him out. Tootsie doesn’t like the sounds of him.”
“Hey, we’ll say we found out about the car at the rooming house or something.”
Bobby shrugged. “Okay. We have to let Gilbert know somehow. We need his ideas and Tootsie’s.”
I wasn’t sure if any ideas would come, but I did know I was starving. My stomach decided to growl, proving my point.
We worked out another game plan. Bobby would walk the streets, bold as a brass button. If any cops stopped him, he still had the bug in the jar, plus the extra ammunition of his for-real library card. When he got close to Creepy House, he’d duck into a back yard a couple houses away and sneak over, being careful not to muss his clothes. “I have to keep my parents in the dark. That’s imperative.”
Did I tell you Bobby liked to show off his big words?
And me? More crawling and scrambling. My overalls were still wet from the rain barrel I had to hide in, and they stank so bad, any extra dirt wouldn’t make a difference.
Before we parted ways, Bobby leaned in close, like he was going to kiss me. I braced myself. But then he pulled back. “Sparky, you stink bad. Really bad.”
Thank you, stinky slop-covered overalls.
He was about to leave again, but then he stopped and said, “What is it with you and Marigold?”
My heart turned to ice. Oh, no.
Great excerpt. Thank you.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?
“Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case,” grew out of my short story, “The Monkey’s Ghost,” which appears in the short mystery anthology, “History and Mystery, Oh My!,” published by Mystery and Horror LLC in 2015. Some of the characters are the same, though I made Marigold older in “Sparky.” The main characters in “Sparky” are new, except silent screen vamp, Tootsie, who is pulled from another, unpublished short story of mine. That story explains Tootsie’s early, pre-stardom days that are only eluded to in “Sparky.”
For “The Monkey’s Ghost,” I was influenced by a short story from 1902, “A Study in Piracy” by Josephine Dodge Daskam, which was republished by “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine” in April 1999. I love this story about the wacky misadventures of a group of kids. In Chapter 12 of “Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case,” Sparky explores the cellar of Creepy House and finds, “. . . a brass ball that might be from an old horse harness.” That’s a bit I boldly borrowed from Ms. Dodge Daskam’s story (hope she doesn’t mind).
Added to this influence, is the strange and sad history of Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles. Long before I knew its story, I was drawn to Bunker Hill and still am. Though I’ve lived most of my life in Los Angeles, I didn’t grow up here. I spent my elementary years in a place called Fairview Hill, that rises steeply up from downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Before Bunker Hill was razed and shortened in a burst of wild post-war redevelopment, I suspect it was a lot like my childhood home, Fairview Hill, which is populated with old houses and nooks and crannies fascinating to a kid. I took the feeling of running around Fairview Hill as a kid, and added it to both “The Monkey’s Ghost” and “Sparky.”
I’m sure readers will find that back information interesting.
Thank you so much for the wonderful interview, and best wishes on your new release. I’m sharing your blog tour and giveaway below.
Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case
by Rosalind Barden
About the Book
Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case
Young Adult Mystery
Mystery & Horror, LLC (October 9, 2018)
Paperback: 216 pages
Digital ASIN: B07H49P46T
Lots of characters have it bad, in my Bunker Hill neighborhood smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles, but I’ve had it rougher than most.
There may be something to this 13th business.
That’s my birthday, and I’m learning to dread seeing it roll around. My mother died on one birthday. The cousins dumped me on my last. This year, 1932, I found a dead kid on a park bench. It’s my eleventh birthday, and the day me, Sparky, ended up on the run, wanted for murder.
If the dead girl wasn’t enough, the dirty newspapers pinned every body in LA on me, and even blamed me for the Great War. I wasn’t even born then. The price on my head got bigger by the day.
It was up to me to find out who killed the girl and why I got framed, before I ended up dangling from the hangman’s rope.
About the Author
Over thirty of Rosalind Barden’s short stories have appeared in print anthologies and webzines, including the U.K.’s acclaimed Whispers of Wickedness. Mystery and Horror, LLC has included her stories in their anthologies History and Mystery, Oh My! (FAPA President’s Book Award Silver Medalist), Mardi Gras Murder, and four of the Strangely Funny series. Ellen Datlow selected her short story “Lion Friend” as a Best Horror of the Year Honorable Mention after it appeared in Cern Zoo, a British Fantasy Society nominee for best anthology, part of DF Lewis’ award-winning Nemonymous anthology series. TV Monster is her print children’s book that she wrote and illustrated. Her satirical literary novel American Witch is available as an e-book. In addition, her scripts, novel manuscripts, and short fiction have placed in numerous competitions, including the Writers’ Digest Screenplay Competition and the Shriekfast Film Festival. She lives in Los Angeles, California. Discover more at RosalindBarden.com
Website – http://rosalindbarden.com/
Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/Rosalind-Barden/e/B001KDZ344/
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