Thursday, August 28, 2014

Guest Blogger Nathan Barra

The Truth in Fiction
by Nathan Barra

For many, college is the first opportunity for true independence in a young adult’s life. You see, up until that point, I had focused on preparing myself for a highly technical education and career. However, now that I was in one of the best engineering schools in the country, I decided that I wanted to do something completely different, just for the joy of the activity and not for any personal gain. To this end, I spent three and a half years on stage performing live improvised comedy. Improv practices and shows were bastions of silliness and joy in an otherwise demanding curriculum, but they also taught me more about how to tell stories than anything that has come before or since. Despite going to an engineering school with a small liberal arts program, university was when I learned the most about my writer’s craft.
"You see Nathan,” one of my mentors in the troupe once told me, “there is a truth in comedy. People laugh because a joke makes them uncomfortable, makes them look at something in a new way, or because they appreciate the irony of a situation. In all these cases, the line you're delivering must ring true in order to get the best laugh." Though he was trying to improve my stagecraft, I have found that the validity of the maxim extends beyond the stage and onto the page. We find meaning in stories because they ring true to our lives and experience. We put our reader in impossible situations and rely on suspension of disbelief to carry the day. Yet, despite the killer robots, wizard battles, and intergalactic warfare, our readers will believe in our words and world if and only if the characters, their motivations, and decisions ring with a truth they can recognize.
When I was invited to submit to the One Horn to Rule Them All anthology, I struggled with several story concepts. They were all interesting and technically sound, but none felt true to me. However, several weeks before the anthology’s deadline, I attended Phoenix ComicCon. One of my favorite parts of conventions, especially ComicCons, is the cosplay. I am very passionate about stories, after all. To see characters from my favorite works step off the page and walk into the real world is thrilling.
During the long drive home from Phoenix, Arizona to West Texas, I had plenty of time to think about the convention and realized that I could take the idea of cosplay one step further. What would it take to make a cosplay so real that it crossed into reality? What if some magic existed that would bring the imagination to life? How would this power be used and abused? For me, it seemed pretty obvious that at some point, someone would make themselves into a superhero. That was the central truth, the catalyst I needed to make the rest of the story ideas I had brewing come together and fall into balance to become The Girl with the Artist’s Eyes.
From that initial concept, I started looking for other truths. For a cosplay to standout to a veteran ComicCon attendee, it had to be either fantastic or horrible. In this truth, I found the comedy I used to infuse Walter Sams’ heroic costume. Also, from my observations at conventions, cosplayers are just as fond of villains as they of are of heroes. From this truth, I found conflict and one of the dramatic twists my beta readers loved best. Finally, I needed to balance the fantastic ideality and antics of Walter Sams with a second main character. I turned to another truth; Life is hard, and it is our struggles that not only bring value to our experiences, but also reveal to us what it is that we value most. From this seed, I created the character that eventually became Catalina.
Mixing these pieces together and balancing their elements against each other, I created the main themes of my piece: good versus evil, the discrepancy between intent and reality, and the necessity of the choices we make to shape our world and the obligation they incur. Looking at these central concepts, you can see that they are based in solid truth, as almost any theme is. By grounding my story in truth, I allow my reader to accept the fantastic as a matter of course.
In the end, I'm very proud of the work I did with the story. It has taken its place in the One Horn to Rule Them All anthology next to professional and semi-pro authors I respect and admire. What makes this anthology even more special is the story behind the herd of purple unicorns. You see, I have been blessed enough in my career to be able to afford conventions like the Superstars Writing Seminar. It has been one of the most professionally rewarding experiences I have had, and has given me the opportunity to build a fiercely loyal and supportive tribe of fellow writers. However, because the seminar attracts big name writers and editors to teach, though fairly priced, the cost of attendance is out of the reach of some writers. Recognizing this, what started as a tongue-in-cheek example at last year’s seminar has turned into a charity project with the full support of the 19 authors and the publisher of the anthology. Early on in the project, the writers and publishers of the One Horn to Rule Them All anthology decided to channel all the profits from the sale of the anthology to a scholarship fund set aside for writers who would benefit from the seminar but cannot afford to go.
Most people don't expect highly technical types like myself to have hobbies like improv or writing novels. However, I find it perfectly suiting. You see, engineers are trained to take large complex situations, situations where the overwhelming quantity of details obscure the truth of a matter, and break everything down into simpler, more manageable parts. When constructing a story, there is so much more involved than just punctuation and grammar. Dozens of details need to be carefully orchestrated in order for a story to come together with the elegant precision needed to achieve maximum emotional effect. It’s like engineering in reverse; instead of deconstructing situations, I put them together and ensure that everything is balanced. At the core of this balance is an essential maxim: storytellers tell lies to our readers to reveal important truths. Without that core of meaning, the story falls flat, but with it, something truly magical can happen.

The Girl with the Artists Eyes is a story about a man who finds an ancient artifact which he uses to turn himself into a superhero in order to save Stan Lee from a crowd sourced ransom scheme, and the lengths to which Catalina, an innocent con staffer, must go to manage his incompetence and truly save the day. For more details on this story and other stories in the anthology, see

Though Nathan Barra is an engineer by profession, training and temperament, he is a storyteller by nature and at heart. Fascinated with the byplay of magic and technology, Nathan is drawn to urban fantasy and soft science fiction in both his reading and writing. He has been known, however, to wander off into other genres for “funzies.” He is an active blogger, not only on his own site,, but also with a group blog called the Fictorians ( Nathan is always up for a good conversation, so please drop him a line through his contact page, or write on his Facebook wall (

Review of FOR THE LOVE OF CHRISTOPHER by Ian Paul Lomax

Dear Gentle Readers,

    FOR THE LOVE OF CHRISTOPHER by Ian Paul Lomax is the true story of a British man who met a beautiful Greek girl while on vacation and the years of heartache, misery, and trauma that followed him in the quest to get his son back from abduction.
    I have read other true stories of child abduction, but from the mother's perspective.  This is the first I've read from the father's point of view.  Mr. Lomax wrote from his heart, and as I read his gut-wrenching story, I felt his pain and anguish and his utter frustration at dealing with international law and harsh, backward local mores.  Mr. Lomax included newspaper clippings and press releases from the time of the abduction, telling the backstory with integrity and heartfelt gentleness.  The blatant miscarriages of justice did not deter this man from acting with integrity and perseverance.  This is the story of one man's love for his child, and his absolute refusal to abandon that child.  I highly recommend it.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Trumbull Branch of The Butler Institute of American Art

Located in Howland Township at 9350 East Market Street, Warren, Ohio 44484, is the Trumbull County branch of Butler
Institute of American Art, dedicated in 1996.  A modern masterpiece of glass and white brick designed to showcase works of art by streaming natural light through large glass panels is the creation of locally well-known and loved architect, the late Thomas Schroth.  It is nestled on a four-acre wooded lot near the golf course, the ideal location for quiet contemplation or one really great party!  

Here is a map, but be
forewarned, it is closed on Monday and Tuesday and open Wednesday through Sunday from the hours of 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

However, even if you arrive when it is closed, there are two fantastic sculptures on the grounds to admire.  The Primary Compass by by American sculptor Don Gummer was specifically commissioned by the Butler to be the signature piece and identifying landmark for the Trumbull campus.  The Primary Compass is a 22 foot high, two ton sculpture of stainless steel and stained glass.  It was fabricated in Youngstown, Ohio and installed in it's place of distinction in 2000.
The interior is awash in natural light from the strategically placed walls of special glass and lighting to allow for optimal viewing.

The large, spacious gallery has a very special feel to it.  Intimate.  Warm.  Lovingly created.  Although it is a small satellite museum, it is certainly worth a little visit if you are in the area.

Ample free parking on the museum site.

None of the photos or material is my own here.  I've been there many times, but taking photos has never crossed my mind.  I like to sit or walk around and absorb the calming atmosphere.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ONE HORN TO RULE THEM ALL, A Purple Unicorn Anthology

Dear Gentle Readers,
We have a real treat today.  One of our favorite authors and bloggers, Nathan Barra, has contributed to a great new anthology entitled One Horn to Rule Them All, A Purple Unicorn Anthology.  All profits from the sale of the anthology will go to an annual scholarship for writers trying to break into the business.  Nathan tells us a little about this scholarship fund.

"The Superstars Writing Seminar is a seminar designed to teach students the ins and outs of being a professional writer. Where other seminars teach craft, this one focuses on the business hat and how to make it as a professional. It has been one of the most enriching experiences of my writing career, but tied to fantastic value is cost. However, to make the seminar more accessible for writers who would not otherwise be able to afford it, the scholarship fund based on the Purple Unicorn Anthology was formed.  There's actually a good story there! All the items in the cover come from the stories within. :-) I think it's really cool. If you read my story and look on the cover, you'll see Sams' ComicCon badge, the PU belt buckle and some comics that Catalina painted.  I'm so glad the cover turned out as well as it did.

The scholarship fund is actually tied to the story of how the anthology came to be. You see, last year at the Superstars Writing Seminar, one of the instructors was trying to make a point about professionalism as a writer. "If you are hired to write a story about something ridiculous, say a purple unicorn," she said, "then you write the best damn purple unicorn story you can come up with!" That idea snowballed into what became the anthology. Since we (especially the publisher) didn't want to deal with the idea of splitting royalties 20 ways, we decided to start up a scholarship.

The Superstars Writing Seminar is a seminar designed to teach students the ins and outs of being a professional writer. Where other seminars teach craft, this one focuses on the business hat and how to make it as a professional. It has been one of the most enriching experiences of my writing career, but tied to fantastic value is cost. However, to make the seminar more accessible for writers who would not otherwise be able to afford it, the scholarship fund based on the Purple Unicorn Anthology was formed.

Synopsis:  Unicorns, with their single ivory horn, are elusive and magical creatures of myth. Yet even more elusive are the purple unicorns.

First sighted at the Superstars Writing Seminar, their legend has grown year after year until it could only be contained in this anthology. Nineteen storytellers, including Peter S. Beagle, Todd McCaffrey, and Jody Lynn Nye, as well as new and rising authors, invite us into worlds both near and far, across a desert oasis, a pet shop, a Comic-Con exhibition floor, and more, and show us the many variations of purple unicorns, from the imaginary to the actual—and one very memorable half-unicorn, half-potato.

One Horn to Rule Them All is an unforgettable collection of imagination and creativity. So, saddle up, and take a ride beyond the rainbow.

All profits benefit the Superstars Writing Seminar Scholarship Fund.

Nathan’s Contribution: The Girl with the Artist’s Eyes (Story 12)
When Walter Sams finds a horn of magical wish fulfillment, he uses it to turn himself into a golden-age superhero just in time to save Stan Lee from a crowd sourced kidnapping and ransom scheme. It is up to Catalina, and her best friend George, to manage Sams’ incompetence and save the day despite the hero’s best efforts.

Buy Link:

Monday, August 25, 2014

An Interview with Author Ian Paul Lomax

Ian Paul Lomax
Bolton, Lancashire

Good morning, Ian, and welcome to Vision and Verse, The Place for Art and Authors.  Can you tell us a little about your book?
I have written a book called For the love of Christopher, a Father's Tale.  The book is about how I met and fell in love with a Greek girl called Helen in Corfu,and the problems I faced with her Greek family.  After receiving a beating and forced out of Athens, I decided I had to smuggle Helen
out of Greece so that we could be together.  We were finally married and had a son called Christopher in 1990.
After the birth of Christopher, I finally made peace with Helen's mother Maria and visited her family in Greece on various occasions every year.  Blissfully unaware that her mother and Helen  had plotted to abduct my son on holiday in Greece in 1998.  After the phone call I received to say  Helen and my son weren't coming home and my suit case thrown down the steps of Maria who then stated that I will never see my wife and son again .  The book then covers my struggles,  "a failed suicide attempt, " and the battles in the Greek courts for the rights to be a father.

Wow! Intense.  We are sorry you had to go through that, Ian.  No man deserves to be separated from his child.  Tell us a little about yourself, like your favorite food.
My favorite food is roast lamb with mint source with all the trimmings.

Tea or coffee?

Oh, no--brainer! A British man, what was I thinking?  Okay, pizza or ice cream?
Ice cream

Favorite musical artist.
My favourite musical artist is 
Michael Jackson... and Travis. 

What makes you laugh?

My work mates make me laugh with some of the things they get up to at work.

Favorite type of art and sculpture.
My favourite art and sculptures are anything that's Ancient Greece. 

How old were you when you started writing?
I was 56 years old when I started to write.

 Favorite author.
My Favourite Author is Jane Austin.

What's the best book you've ever read?
The Best Book I Have Ever Read is Pride And the Prejudice.

What's the last book you read?
The Last Book I Read was my own Book, For The Love Of Christopher, A Fathers Tale.

If you weren't a writer, what would he be doing?
If I wasn't a writer I would love to work for a charity helping homeless people.

Name the one person who was most influential in your personal life and why.
The main person who has helped me in my life is mother, she is my rock.

Name one person, living or dead, real or fictional, that you would like to sit down and have a conversation with and why.
If there was one person I could sit down with, 
it would be my son Christopher to tell him how much I love him and explain to him how much I tried in the Greek courts to bring him home.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a writer?
My advice to some one who wants to be a writer 
Is to get as much advice as you can and write from the heart .

That is good advice.  Do you have links for us to follow you?
My face book page link.

My twitter  @LomaxAuthor

My web site

NOTE FROM CAROL:  Look for my book review of Ian's heart wrenching novel, For the Love of Christopher, A Father's Tale on Thursday, Aug. 28th. 

Friday, August 22, 2014


 Dear Gentle Readers,

     Last week, my husband and I went on a quest to find a new book store.  And although we like the Barnes and Noble in Boardman, we still miss our local Borders, where there was a warmer, more personal atmosphere and a friendly, helpful staff who would knock themselves out to help you find or order whatever you were seeking.  Our quest took us to the neighboring state of Pennsylvania to Hermitage, where there were rumors of an exceptional bookstore with knowledgeable staff and actual books to touch and hold and open and... (sigh).
    The Shenango Valley Mall on E. State Street is a big brick rectangle that only labels the anchor stores, like Macy's and Penney's, so we stopped a friendly-looking woman crossing the street to ask her if there really was such a book store in this retail rectangle.  She knew the store and gave us parking and entrance advice, and expressing gratitude for not running her down.

Once inside the mall, the bookstore was easy to find.  The bright, colorful store was well-organized and inviting.  I found a really good Bridge book, (Bridge - the card game, not the architectural structure, though I like both) and the happy husband also found something of interest in the line of dull, boring finance.

I was thrilled to find a section devoted to local, independent authors, usually overlooked as not profitable by the big bookstore chains.

The store was meticulous and well-lit.  The variety and selection was equal to or better than the big bookstore chains As a retired primary and reading teacher, I was also impressed with the beautiful selection of children's book.  Old favorite series as well as new authors were displayed along side old favorites like Rainbow Fish, Goodnight Moon, and Love You Forever.  This is a Grandma's Book Shopping Heaven. And they have something called The Baby Shower Book Registry, where parents-to-be can choose books they would like to have to read to their new bundle of joy.

There was a great selection of calendars for next year on display. I couldn't resist a floral one for my newly redecorated office.  The magazine selection was also very good.

And the owner, the lovely, energetic Leana Hillard, who runs the store with her husband Vince, was pleasant and helpful and a wealth of knowledge about upcoming events in the book business.

Leana and Vince do so many cute activities for the local school age children, like The Ignor Ramus - A Curious Rhyme Coloring Contest and Student of the Month Displays.

This is what a local bookstore should be, and try as they may, this is why the big bookstores cannot replace the warm, friendly, knowledgeable literary atmosphere of the small, independent bookseller.  Shop local.

This is the lovely Leana with MY husband, William, holding my Bridge book. Vince Hillard was there, but I think he's camera-shy like me.

If you are in the area, you need to stop by
Leana's Books & More! I guarantee you will enjoy the experience.  Her prices are comparable
and she'll order something for you if it's not in stock.   She has a website and will ship your book for $.99.

Leana's Books & More
3341 E. State Street
Hermitage, PA 16148
Phone: 724.983.1649
Fax: 724.983.1802

Also follow Leana on Facebook:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

News and Reviews

Dear Gentle Readers,
    I am pleased to announce Vision and Verse, the Place for Art and Authors, has surpassed the  32,000 pageview milestone. We are thrilled and truly appreciative to you, our readers. Thank you for stopping by every day to see us!
    I leave you this morning with some reviews from my first novel, the one that started it all for me, BLUE LAKE. 

5.0 out of 5 stars Power of and beyond April 3, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
After enjoying Carol Kauffman's other novel, Bel Terra; I wanted to read Blue Lake. This novel has been composed and developed into a truly epic romantic novel spanning over 10 years in time. It crosses the United States from the West coast,across the Atlantic to England, Ireland, Italy. Even a couple of trips to Aruba adds to the visual appeal. Mrs. Kauffman describes the scenic areas so well that you can easily visualize yourself there. The main characters are so well developed that I seemed to need a box of tissues by my side when their plights and troubles were made apparent throughout their saga. I really became immersed in this story. It is a true tale of the Power of and beyond. If you enjoy romantic novels interspersed with action and the occasional quips that makes you smile; you'll enjoy this book.

5.0 out of 5 stars  Blue Lake July 13, 2012
By ebart
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the beginning to the final word. Carol Kauffman held my interest with this love story. Good reading with lots of action and with locations all over the globe. She loved him to the end and beyond through all their trials and tribulations.

5.0 out of 5 starsWionderfull! May 20, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
This was a brilliant novel, and everyone will enjoy reading it. It wasn't something I'd pick up for myself, but after reading it, I can't wait to read more! Great book, and well writtenWas this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars What a ride! March 27, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a fun, intricately plotted story of two lovers on a wild ride of an on-again, off-again love affair. I especially enjoyed the tenderness of the love scenes and the candid treatment of the May/December relationship. Looking forward to the next book in the series!

5.0 out of 5 starsWhat a great choice! January 25, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
When picking a book to read on my kindle, I'm never really sure of which one to pick because there are so many choices by all different authors. I took a chance on this book because the cost was in my price range but I was worried because I had never heard of this author before, and honestly I couldn't have been happier! This book is well written, and the love story is heart wrenching because I felt for both characters right away. The characters are so well written that I feel like they could be real, and I love that in a book. I hope there will be more in the future by this author. I completely recommend if your looking for a good book, with a nice story line, a little romance and well written prose! Blue Lake is definitely going to be one I will read again! Take a chance on this book, I promise you won't regret it! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The West Room, Butler Institute of American Art

Dear Gentle Readers,
     Yesterday was a beautiful day for a day trip, so we went to the Butler Institute of American Art on Wick Ave. in Youngstown, Ohio.  The Butler is never the same place twice.  I look forward to seeing my old favorites, but am always finding something new to admire.  Yesterday I found some delightful pastel nature paintings by actress Kim Novak and my husband, being a woodcarver himself, was really impressed with the Carousel Horse room.

     Above is a photo of the dear overworked and under-appreciated man in my life at the Butler.  He is perusing the Indian Chiefs in the West Room, Exploring the American West.  The layout and colors are fantastic.  The collection has never been displayed so perfectly. 

 This gallery on the American West is fabulous. They are not quite finished displaying the woven rugs yet, as it is just settling in to its new home on the second floor and it accessible through the new glass SKYWALK.  If you haven't been to the Butler lately, you haven't been to the Butler!

This is just one piece of the Navajo woven collection, beautifully flanked by portraits of the early chiefs and  the plexiglass box of handwoven baskets . 

There's more to see at the Butler than George Washington's wedding portrait and the famous Winslow Homer's Crack the Whip!

The Portraits of the West Collection is stunning and worth the trip.

The Butler Institute of American Art was the first museum dedicated exclusively to American art.  The curator is Dr. Louis A. Zona.  It was established by a local industrialist, philanthropist, avid reader, and humanitarian Joseph G. Butler.  It has been open since its dedication in 1919.  The beautiful structure is a McKim, Mead, and White design in the Second Renaissance Revival style.  It is free and open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 11A.M. to 4 P.M.  A docent is available for group tours.  Have coffee is Winslow's cafe and talk a look in the little gift shop.

The Butler Institute of American Art
524 Wick Ave,
Youngstown, OH

Butler Institute of American Art website

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Interview with Author Debbie Wall

Debbie Wall
Tweed, Ontario, Canada
This picture of me was taken at my daughters wedding in June one week after I uploaded my first book to Amazon, ironically from her house.

Good morning, Debbie, and welcome to Vision and Verse, the Place for Art and Authors.  We are delighted to have you with us this morning.  We hear you've been a very busy writer.  What have you written?  
The first book is Organic Pest Control For Everyone: Easy Homemade Insecticides and Traps.
The second book is Kneading Not Needed: Bread Recipes For Those With Arthritis.
The third is Kneading Not Needed: Gluten Free Recipes For Those With Arthritis, Book Two.
Book four is Kneading Not Needed: Bread Recipes For Those With Arthritis. Book Three.
I put together two sampler books for the above three books, one for Thanksgiving, and one for Christmas

The Big Book Of Pancakes
The Big Book Of Jello Shots This book is dedicated to my best friend, the late Donna Seymour. We loved to experiment and try out new concoctions people shared with us.
30 Plus Cherry Recipes Buddy's Best Biscuits My dog Buddy is on the front cover and he loves his treats.

Wow! That's an impressive list . What is your favorite genre to write?
Non Fiction. I'm always trying to find quicker, easier and less toxic ways of doing things. Anything to do with cooking because I love to eat.

Favorite food.
Gourmet Kraft Dinner. 1 box of KD, 1 pound of bacon cut in 1 inch pieces, onion and green peppers fried in bacon fat. Not very healthy but oh so good.

Tea or coffee?
Coffee! I'm not human until I'm on my second XL Tim Horton's black.

Pizza or ice cream.
Pizza with bacon, onion, green peppers and olives.

You're kidding!  Right?  No?  Okay. Where would you like to visit?
Australia. I want to see kangaroos and koalas.

Favorite musical artist.
The Beatles

Do you listen to music when you write? 
Not usually. I like to take my laptop outside and listen to the birds, ducks and lake.

What makes you laugh? 
My friends and neighbors, they're all crazy. My dog Buddy, especially when he tries to climb a tree after a raccoon.

Favorite work of art or sculpture
The wolf sculpture at the Cenotaph in Tweed and the fireman's boots at the World Trade Center memorial, both by the same artist Paul Shier.

How old were you when you started writing? 
In my early 20's I became a community activist in Scarborough, Ontario and started writing speeches.

Describe your perfect evening
A hot bath, candles, bubble bath, a glass of wine and my laptop.

Where do you get your inspiration? 
It comes from wanting to help others and change the world.

What do you do when you get a writer's block? 
I go sit by the lake or take a walk in the woods with my camera.

Who is your favorite author? 
I don't really have a favorite author.    

Best book you ever read. 
There have been so many good ones it's hard to pick one.

Last book you read. 
Back In The Game by Holly Chamberlin.

What would you do for a living if you weren’t a writer? 
If I had it to do all over again I would have went to law school.

Who is the one person who has influenced your personal life the most and why? 
My parents. They always supported me in my decisions and encouraged me to go after what I wanted.

If you could sit down and have a conversation with ONE person, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be and why?
Elvis Presley. When I first moved to Tweed from Toronto over 20 years ago there was a rumor that Elvis was living on a farm just outside Tweed. A restaurant, no longer in business, had a phone they called the Elvis hotline. Now every August Tweed holds an Elvis Festival that draws people from all over the world.

What advice would you give someone who aspired to be a writer?
Never give up on your dreams or yourself no matter how negative the people around you are. Nobody becomes a best seller overnight. Learn to take constructive criticism. Learn from your mistakes, we're all human and no one is perfect.

Do you have some links for us to follow you?
Amazon Author Page Facebook Author Page