Robin Tidwell, author

Robin Tidwell, author

Back in 2012 when the idea for my book series popped into my head—thanks to some late-night salsa and chips that triggered a bizarre dream—the more I researched and thought and planned and figured, the more I began to really wonder “what if?”

That’s what started my journey into our newest big project: self-sufficiency.

In spite of several so-called projects over the years, a cleaning service, an old-time photography business, even a bookstore, this new one is big. Huge. I’m wondering if we can actually do this, you know?

We bought a farm.

It’s 35 acres, out in the middle of nowhere. With WiFi, of course. Perfect, right? I think so . . .

See, while writing my books, I really got into baking our bread, canning, increasing my gardening, and cooking almost everything from scratch. I’d been doing some of this for a long time, but I stepped up my game—this year’s garden, for example, will be a full acre between our current home and the farm. That’s enough to feed the three of us for the whole year.

We stock supplies, we tromp around in the woods, we either knew how or learned how to do things like track, construct shelters, survive, shoot, and build things. I even bought some yarn and knitting needles and printed out instructions. Sadly, that’s as far as I’ve gotten at this point.

So, yeah, you could call us preppers. Or crazy. Some people do that.

But that’s okay. I can live with “crazy.”

Why do we do this? Well, it’s kinda fun to do all that pioneer-type stuff. And too, things are nuts around here lately—I live in St. Louis. Traffic is awful, all the piddly little municipal regulations are enough to drive me to drink, and crime seems to have increased a lot. I really just want to be out in the woods, away from it all.

So, over the next year (still have one kid in high school), we’ll be renovating a fairly new small house, bulldozing an older wreck of a house, finishing out a barn, and getting the farm in generally good shape to live and work there. And spending a lot of money . . .

How did we get to this point? Well, you know how, when you read a book, you sometimes absorb or take on some of the characteristics of the protagonist? Oh, wait. Maybe that’s just me? Anyway, I do this—and it was much stronger when I was writing a book . . .

Thanks to Girl Scouts, I already had a lot of knowledge and some skills, so I started building on those. I also began to stock supplies, a few sale items here and there. I dragged out the old dehydrator and dried fruits and vegetables, and froze and canned more.

I’m not a fanatic, I even eat junk food or fast food sometimes. And no, I’m not preparing for a zombie apocalypse, but what if the power goes out? Or a water main breaks? Or a tornado rips through the area? If you can get to the store, there might not be much to choose from and besides, you’ll have to fight the crowds. Why not be ready and stay put, at home, with everything you need?

Robin’s latest book in the REDUCED SERIES, REPEAT, is due out this month (slight delay as she kept playing in the garden instead of writing), and you can read more about her and her self-sufficiency project at Prep Monday, one of her weekly blog posts.

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

By the time I finish the first draft of a novel, my desk is awash in file cards, stacks of books, notebook pages, scraps of paper, pencil stubs, coffee mugs, and other things that don’t bear close inspection—some of which may possibly have legs.

Because everything falls by the wayside when I’m in the home stretch of a novel, there are also smudges on the computer screen, smears on the phone, crumbs in the keyboard, and spider webs in the corners. Not to mention dust, dog hair, and general disarray.

Clearly, it’s time to clean.

It’s also time to organize.

Being a Virgo, I embrace the concept of organization. Sadly, that embrace isn’t always a close or long-lasting one.

And, being a Virgo, before I take action, I prefer to have a plan. A plan, of course, requires a list. (I love making lists. I REALLY love checking off the tasks I’ve completed.)

The best list is made on a fresh, crisp, bright white sheet of paper and written in pen, never pencil. Tasks noted in ink are more difficult to erase or write over and therefore signal genuine commitment. So, pen in hand—a pen containing black ink and featuring a medium or thick point—I make a list of the steps involved in tackling the project.

#1 Assessing the Situation. Depending on the time of day, I might do this while sipping a mug of coffee, or I might have an adult beverage in hand.

#2 Gathering Materials. This part is almost as good as making lists because it involves searching through cabinets for folders and binders and colorful plastic tabs. It may also involve—oh, joy!—a trip to an office supply store where I can roam the aisles for an hour or more gazing a plastic tubs, rolling carts, clips, tacks, and tape.

#3 Deciding Where to Begin. Should I organize first and clean later? Stuff every stray bit in a garbage sack, clean, and then file and arrange those bits? Start in one corner and clean and organize as I go? Start right now? Put it off until tomorrow morning? Should I gather a few more materials first? Change the vacuum filter? Buy a new container of spray wax?

#4 Deciding What to Toss and What to Keep. Like many writers, I’ve accumulated newspaper clippings, Internet articles, and notes jotted on napkins, file cards, and grocery lists. Some are stacked at the edge of my desk and some tacked to my four bulletin boards. My fear is that I’ll toss the one note or article that might be the seed for a book, so the stacks lean like that tower in Pisa and the bulletin boards are as shaggy as the pelt of a yak. And then there are the file cabinets and those boxes in the closet under the stairs. But let’s not go there. Let’s just admit that darn few things get tossed—at least not for a few years.

#5 Getting to work. Often this requires a return to Step #1 and the fortification of a beverage.

#6 Admiring What I’ve Accomplished. Ah, the clean window, the gleaming desk, the crumb-free keyboard. Each time I enter, I pause in the doorway, gaze around, and sigh at the perfection of it all. But because of what comes next, I never capture the clean moment with a camera.

#7 Vowing Never to Sink to Such Depths Again. Notice that I don’t vow to keep my office neat and organized. I know I’ll get tunnel vision toward the end of a project and be overcome by clutter. So I stick with a promise to remain somewhere above the previous level of grunge and grubbiness. Not having that level documented in a photograph allows me to kid myself into believing I manage to do that.

What about you? Are you also prone to let things slide until you’re overtaken by a tumble of jumble? Or do you keep up with your clutter and crud? Most important, do you have a secret system for keeping up—or a creative and believable rationalization for falling behind—that you’d like to share?

No Substitute for Money by Carolyn J. Rose

No Substitute for Money by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton (The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor, Deception at Devil’s Harbor, and the short story collection Sucker Punches).

Mystery writer Nancy Lynn Jarvis wanted to share this with our readers. Although I can’t be in San Francisco on March 22nd, I do plan to buy her books to support her cause. If you haven’t read her books yet, I suggest you give them a try- she writes a terrific mystery series called the Regan McHenry Real Estate mystery series. I’d appreciate it if you would help network this important event. ~Christy~

From Nancy:

Like Tom Brokaw, my husband has multiple myeloma, a plasma cell cancer. He was diagnosed a little more than two years ago. If he’d developed this disease a decade ago, he’d likely be dead by now, instead he’s doing well. Fortunately great strides have been made and survival times keep getting pushed out because of research, new medicines, and new treatments.

The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation has been instrumental in fundraising dedicated to finding a cure for the disease. Supporters have answered their call to do creative fundraising. There’s a cat litter manufacturer who donates a portion of sales as part of a “Cats for Cancer” campaign. Ditto a Louisiana seafood producer who sells “Crayfish for Cancer.” It seems this group loves alliteration and it occurred to me that as a mystery writer I could donate books for sale and dub them “Mysteries for Myeloma.”

Five of my books are real estate mysteries set in Santa Cruz. My husband and I also edited a terrific cookbook called “Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes” which qualifies in the mystery category because all the recipes are from mystery writers.

This year’s Greater Bay Area MMRF event is a 5K Walk/Run which will be held in San Francisco at the Marina Green on March 22nd. I’ll be there selling books. All proceeds will be donated to MMRF. For people with e-readers or those who can’t make the event, profits from e-books purchased on Amazon that day will also be donated. (My Amazon Author page is if you want to take a look at the books or get ready to buy one on March 22nd. “Mags and the AARP Gang,” another book I’ve written will also be included for those who prefer humor to mysteries or cookbooks.

Please spread the word about the fundraiser. Email your friends. Post about it on your blog. Tweet and share thru social media. E-books are only $3 or $4 each — such a small donation to make — but if enough people buy one, not only will they get a book they may enjoy reading, but we will raise some real money…perhaps enough to keep my husband and many others around for those who love them.


presented by Betty Dravis

booksigning at bn san jose

Author Betty Dravis Talks ‘Toonies’ at Barnes & Noble Book-signing

Before we share what author Ashley Fontainne has to say on the subject of fulfilling our dreams, let me tell you a little about her. I’m sure most of you already know of her works, but for those who don’t: Award-winning and International best-selling author Ashley Fontainne is an avid reader of mostly the classics. Ashley became a fan of the written word in her youth, starting with the Nancy Drew mystery series. Stories that immerse the reader deep into the human psyche and the monsters that lurk within us are her favorite reads.

Her muse for penning the popular Eviscerating the Snake series was The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Ashley’s love for this book is what sparked her desire to write her debut novel, Accountable to None, the first book in the trilogy. With a modern setting to the tale, Ashley delves into just what lengths a person is willing to go when they seek personal justice for heinous acts perpetrated upon them. The second novel in the series, Zero Balance, focuses on the cost and reciprocal cycle that obtaining revenge has on the seeker. For once the cycle starts, where does it end? How far will the tendrils of revenge expand? Adjusting Journal Entries answered that question: far and wide.

ashleys books for DOD

Her short thriller entitled Number Seventy-Five, touches upon the sometimes dangerous world of online dating. Number Seventy-Five took home the bronze medal in fiction/suspense at the 2013 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards contest and is currently in production for a feature film.

Her paranormal thriller entitled The Lie, won the gold medal in the 2013 Illumination Book Awards for fiction/suspense and is also in production for a feature film.

The suspenseful mystery Empty Shell, released September 29, 2014. Ashley then delves into the paranormal with a Southern Gothic horror/suspense novel, Growl, her latest release. Plus, she has teamed-up with Lillian Hansen (Ashley calls her Mom!) to pen a three-part murder mystery/suspense series entitled The Magnolia Series. The first book, Blood Ties, is due out the Summer of 2015.

ashley growl for DOD

Ashley also hosts The WriteStuff, a popular BlogTalk Radio show, each Friday night at 10 p.m. CST.

And now on to what this accomplished author has to say about overcoming fear:

ashley two books

Best-selling Author Ashley Fontainne

by best-selling author Ashley Fontainne

Do you have a dream? Something tickling the corners of your mind, wanting to be released, but you ignore it? Does fear of the unknown, how others will react, or the worry of failing keep it locked away?

Fear. No. More.

Unleash your creativity. Paint the first stroke. Mold your first piece of clay. Write your first story. Is it a scary thing to let go of your fears by showing the world what’s been crawling around inside your brain? Terrifying… Your stomach will clench in knots, your heart will pound, and your palms will exude gallons of sweat. Your brain will buzz with the annoying sounds of self-doubt.

Do. It. Anyway.

It took me reaching my forties to finally let go of my fears and publish my first novel. Since that moment in April, 2011, my life has changed in ways I never thought possible when I sat in my Creative Writing class in college, fiddling around with ideas for a book. It took the gentle urgings of a very dedicated professor to embrace my worries and then let them go. Once I did, even though I truly was petrified when I clicked “submit” on Amazon, I also felt a tremendous sense of joy.

Now, four years, seven books and two movie deals later, I still feel anxious on the eve of a new release. The entire creative process is akin to raising a child, hoping and praying you have done your best, waving goodbye with tears in your eyes as they leave the nest for the first time. After all, the world can be a cruel, harsh place. Some will love your little bundle, others will despise it. It is a gamble each and every time.

blood ties

The banner for the first book in The Magnolia Series that Fontainne is writing with her mother Lillian Hansen

But the rewards are well worth it. The sense of accomplishment is overwhelming. The biggest joy I receive with each new book is the knowledge that my words impacted the life of another human being. As a voracious reader, one who has found so much enjoyment in works of others, to even have the opportunity to try and do the same for others is amazing and humbling.

So, I challenge you today to step out of your comfort zone. Break the chains holding you back, and release your creative side, whatever it may be.

Paint. Draw. Sculpt. Design. Write. Embrace the fear and use it as a tool to hone your work… not to hold it back.

foreseen poster

Sneak Peek at the poster for the movie Foreseen, based on Fontainne’s book The Lie; directed by Jermaine Alexander, produced by Sabrina Stewart; in production

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pets

Some writers reach the final chapters of a work in progress and get a huge burst of energy and enthusiasm. As they burn the midnight oil, their fingers become as one with the keyboard. Words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages explode onto the computer screen.

Not me.

Even when I long to write THE END, have a clear idea of all facets of the conclusion, and possess the file cards to lead me there, I move like a geriatric sloth on a chilly day.

Why? Fear the project will fail? A desire to remain close to my characters and live in their fictional world longer? Poor work habits developed in childhood? All of the above?

I have no idea. But it happens every time I close in on the final 50 pages. I lounge in bed longer, read the entire paper, fill the bird feeder, let the dogs in and out and in again, add to the grocery list, etc. Once I’m in my office, I revise and rework, cut and paste, add and delete. When I hit a wall with that, I get right down to the process of wasting time. A LOT of time.

Recently—while wasting time avoiding work on the final chapters of No Substitute for Myth—I made a list of my top 10 ways to burn hours—all without leaving the room in which I write.

• Cleaning. This can range from washing the window to running the vacuum to dusting to dragging a Q-Tip between the keys to dislodge crumbs.

• Filing. Sticking receipts in their proper folders is mind-numbing, so I let them pile up for a day when I need time-wasting projects.

• Considering the merits of light bulbs. Should I try a different wattage, another brand, a new lamp? Research can stretch for hours.

• Chair adjustment. Should it be higher or lower? Do I need a cushion? A footstool? Better lumbar support? What about the armrests? More research is required.

• Rearranging. This covers the desktop, bookshelves, other furniture, contents of the drawers, items pinned to the bulletin board, and paintings on the wall. If I tackle documents and pictures saved in my computer, I can waste a day or more.

• Phone calls. Relatives? Old friends? New friends? Neighbors? Timeshare salesmen? Sure.

• Personal care. What better time to file and polish my nails than when I’m about to launch the final big scene? When I’m done applying lotion, I’ll use my reflection in the computer screen to pluck my eyebrows. Then it will be time to massage my neck, flex joints, and do a round of chair exercises before putting my head down on the desk for a restorative nap.

• Computer games. The sky’s the limit for this one, and that’s why I stick to Solitaire. Until recently I deluded myself into believing I was playing only a few games a day, but my new computer keeps track. Let’s just say that if I had a dollar for every game, I could buy a tropical island.

• Paperclip jewelry and accessories. Why stop at a necklace when I can make a belt or a tiara?

• Searching for quotes involving the wasting of time. Even Shakespeare had a few of those. And if I happen to be writing a blog about wasting time, I can call it research.

The added bonus of wasting time at or near my desk, no matter how I go about it, is that within seconds I can pop my work in progress onto the screen and appear to be doing some actual writing. This is useful if the other writer in the house passes by. “I didn’t realize you were still writing,” he’ll say. And then he’ll back out of the room and trek down the hallway to scrounge something for dinner, allowing me to play that black queen on the red king.

I’m always looking for some fresh ways to goof off, so please use the comment space to share. Remember, the time has to be wasted without leaving your workspace.

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, No Substitute for Maturity, and, coming early this summer, No Substitute for Myth), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone) and other works. She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.,

Snow, Sleet … and ‘Sang Tea.

via Snow, Sleet … and ‘Sang Tea.

CHRISTY TILLERY FRENCH: Betty, as one of the Dames and a fan, I’ve been thrilled at the attention your books are receiving. And now the good news that two short stories are being made into movies! Can you tell us about that?

BETTY DRAVIS: Thanks, Christy, for your ongoing interest in my books and now my short-films. I’m glad you’re Betty Dravis in black hatasking about my short-films. I’m so excited… I have fulfilled every author’s dream in getting some of my works into film. I was delighted when Mina Ownlee, actor and founder of KPF Productions of Orlando, Florida, offered me a contract to do a short-film of The Snack, one of my three offerings in a horror anthology titled Six-Pack of Fear. As you know, the renowned paranormal author, Barbara Watkins, is my co-author on that book.

Word around the Net spreads fast and when several more production companies began inquiring about my other works, I was over the moon… The first offer fell apart when the producer was in a serious auto accident, but then I signed another contract with Suniil, In Transit Productions, actor and founder of Hollywood, California, who has won awards for his first two short-films. He is going to short-film my humorous adventure Uncle Herman’s Harem, which debuted in Best Short Stories of 2005.

And that’s not all: I also have offers for two feature films to be made from my longer works, but no contracts yet, so can’t go into detail on them… I’m keeping my fingers crossed and praying. I think you know that I’m a huge advocate of short-films, but a feature film has always been my big dream.

CHRISTY TILLERY FRENCH: Do you have a release date for either one?betty dravis.the shack 2

BETTY DRAVIS: Your timing is perfect, Christy. Producer Ownlee just released the DVD of The Snack last week and it has already gone global with sales in New Zealand and Canada. That’s unusual because usually the premiere (or first screening) traditionally comes before the DVD. But a number of problems arose on the set during production, which caused such long delays that Mina and I agreed to put the DVD out as soon as possible. Our friendly fans were getting impatient to see how Mina adapted my story and what my unending hype was all about. I’m happy to report that the first week’s sales exceeded our expectations and we’re hoping work spreads fast…and far. Thanks to you, we will now reach even more people via your gracious and numerous Dames of Dialogues readers. We sincerely appreciate your interest.

As for my second short-film, Uncle Herman’s Harem, Producer Suniil Sadarangani is aiming for mid-to-late 2015. He’s busy putting together the package for his first “passion”: making a feature film of his current short-film In Transit. That was his first short and he achieved phenomenal results by having it nominated for a nomination to the Academy Awards last year. In Transit and his second short-film Blind both won awards. Suniil informed me he is tying my Uncle Herman’s Harem in with the coming In Transit packaging, which is good news for me.

CHRISTY TILLERY FRENCH: Tell us about the actors who are playing roles in these films.

BETTY DRAVIS: I’m very pleased with the actors in The Snack; they all come from Florida since KPF studio is located there. The main lead is a newcomer to acting, Brian Mason, who plays the part of father Mike Kirby. I’ve shown betty dravis. the snackthis film to several Hollywood directors and all agree he handles his role with believable drama and “shows a lot of potential.” KPF founder, Mina Ownlee (stage name simply Mina) plays the role of mother Michelle Kirby. Mina has been acting since childhood in The Bronx and gives her usual stellar performance. Makaylee Rinaldo plays the important role of the child Cayla who is in danger from paranormal forces. Since her father is Kelly D. Weaver, a popular Florida film producer, and her mother, Amy Rinaldo, serves in numerous film capacities, Makaylee has many film credits. Next we come to the fourth main lead: Cindy Long plays the role of Morning Star and she’s an acclaimed actress with many credits from Disney to TV. Look for her in two big features coming in 2015: S.O.U.L. directed by the legendary Armand Mastroianni and Big Sky, coming soon to prime-time TV.

Then there is the cute teen-ager, Romanita Collazo, who plays the part of Roma Star. This is her very first acting job and she leaves a fine impression. In addition, cameo roles are played by Amy Rinaldo and Bonnie Cobb who play the detectives. I’m so impressed with all of them…

CHRISTY TILLERY FRENCH: And ala Stephen King and Alfred Hitchcock, will you have a cameo role?

BETTY DRAVIS: Hahaha, Christy… I am such a ham, years ago I would have loved that, but due to my advanced age,betty dravis. the snack characters I might not even be able to make it to Florida for the premiere/screening. Mina is setting that up at the present time. However, I have arranged through a long-time producer friend for a premiere in Hollywood’s famous House of Blues. This is part of the Innovative of West Hollywood Film Festival. My producer friend is Martin DeLuca, the founder of WHFF. I won’t be attending that either, but I hope to have representatives at both events.

CHRISTY TILLERY FRENCH: You’re receiving attention from celebrities – several of whom you’ve interviewed here at Dames of Dialogue and in your books Dream Reachers I and II. You’ve developed friendships with many of these celebrities and I wonder if you’ve ever had a negative experience with one (no need to name names!).

BETTY DRAVIS: No serious negative experiences, but I can think of three minor issues. One interview subject disagreed with my co-author over interview rights and pulled her interview from the first book, then opted back in for the second Dream Reachers. Another woman that I interviewed presented a minor problem when she made my job take much longer than it should have; she called on the phone, wanting to change too much text while adding over 2,000 words to the space we had allotted her. The third thing I recall could have been a little more serious; one person mentioned by a Hollywood celebrity didn’t like what she had said about him, so I obliged him by taking it out. All three of us ended on an amicable note, so it worked out and we are still friends to this day.

bettydravis.snackcharctersCHRISTY TILLERY FRENCH: Will there be a third Dream Reachers?

BETTY DRAVIS: Due to the amount of work involved with each interview, sorting through photographs and all that’s involved in book production, I doubt it, Christy. My co-author Chase Von and I worked till three in the morning for four or five months putting those books together. It was a labor of love because we do love spotting potential talent before they become big household names. And we’re elated that so many of them have gone on to greater glory. To name a few: Kashy Keegan (#1 hit song in Hong Kong), Jenny McShane and Shawn Richardz (prime-time TV roles) and the great Joan Baker, famous Voice-Over coach who is taking New York by storm… Since we spot-lighted over seventy talents, there are many more who are doing even greater. Even though the books weren’t major hits, we’re happy that they inspired other talented people to pursue their dreams. I can’t believe the e-mails we received from grateful readers who reported being inspired by these books.

I might one day do a digital version of Dream Reachers, show-casing about eight or ten celebrities, both major and minor. That would be “doable”…

CHRISTY TILLERY FRENCH: You also have a background as a journalist during which time you interviewed betty dravis booksfamous celebrities such as Clint Eastwood (lucky you!). What fun you must have had! Do you miss those days in the past when you were buzzing around Hollywood conducting these interviews?

BETTY DRAVIS: There is that mistaken impression that I flitted about Hollywood doing my interviews of the rich and famous. But that’s not how it worked. All my contacts were through my newspaper work. It’s common for newspapers to attract celebrities because publicity is the name of their game. The more good press the better… Thus whenever they’re on the road their publicists inform the media and we take it from there. That’s how I met super-star Jane Russell and interviewed her at a round-table session at Trader Vic’s in San Francisco. I was editor of The Gilroy (California) News Herald at the time. The same with country/western singer Tanya Tucker who was in the nearby town of San Martin to perform at Bobby McGee’s Night Club… She was staying at the ranch of a family friend and I got invited to be in their entourage for various activities over the week-end, including Tanya’s birthday party. And then there was SenatorTed Kennedy…

My all-time favorite interview was with the very handsome, talented living legend Clint Eastwood. I lucked out with him, meeting him through his college friend whom I had featured in a story when I was a feature writer/columnist for The East San Jose Sun. I’ll never forget the night I had a private interview with him in her home. He was so charming and complimentary of my writing skills, encouraging me to follow my dreams. I published those stories and three others in the book Dream Reachers that I wrote with celebrity interviewer/poet Chase Von and later in digital format in Star Struck: Interviews with Dirty Harry and Other Hollywood Icons.

Christy, as for wishing for days gone by, NO, I don’t. It was fun at the time, but I have never been one to dwell on the past. I couldn’t reach my dreams if I did that. I believe in living in the present, enjoying it while still pushing onward to fulfill our dreams and follow our passions into the future. There will be time enough to dream of the past when I am too old to work.

betty dravis.the hiss of evilCHRISTY TILLERY FRENCH: Let’s turn to your author life. You’re a prolific writer and have crossed several genres. What is your favorite genre to write and do you have a favorite book?

BETTY DRAVIS: I love writing scary stories with a bit of twisted humor, but have no idea why, Christy. I don’t actually have a favorite genre but I don’t like writing romance unless it’s a light comedy. I write whatever story seems dominant in my mind at the time. I can tell you this, though: I had the most fun writing a cross/genre young adult book The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley. I think it’s because I could let my imagination soar. I was elated when Apple’s famous Steve “Woz” Wozniak agreed to a cameo speaking role in the book.

I can tell you stories about each of my nine books, but that would take too long. My “heart” book is 1106 Grand Boulevard because it’s about my beautiful older sister and her seven marriages and is set around our childhood home in Hamilton, Ohio. It was hard writing about my family, but I felt it was a story that needed to be told.

As for favorite book, I do believe 1106 Grand Boulevard would have to be it (for above reasons). I have a great fondness for the Six-Pack books that I wrote with the popular paranormal writer Barbara Watkins: Six-Pack of Blood and Six-Pack of Fear. It was through the Fear book that about four producers took an interest in my works, but we discussed that in the opening of this article.

CHRISTY TILLERY FRENCH: Do you have an upcoming release?

BETTY DRAVIS: Within the past month I released a short humorous/adventure story, The Search for Bobby McGee, through my publisher, Wendy Dingwall of Canterbury House. I’m still doing PR on that one while trying to launch The Snack DVD simultaneously. Even at that, the answer is YES, I have a new release coming. It’s my first full-length horror novel, titled The Hiss of Evil. Wendy was kind enough to loan me out to Janet Beasley of JLB Creatives Publishing for this one selection.

A generous friend created a cover that I’m just nuts about; one that Janet already approved. I will share it to your readers in this article for the very first public showing. I hope to hear your fans’ opinion on this cover. And so it goes. Being an author yourself, you know that we are always juggling projects. However, even though I dreamed of having movies made of my stories, I truthfully never thought I would be juggling books and movies simultaneously. I’m over the moon at the moment, and will probably be intolerable when I get that feature film out there.

CHRISTY TILLERY FRENCH: I’ve always found you very knowledgeable about promoting and, to be honest, you remind me of the Energizer Bunny when it comes to this. What do you like best about promoting? What do you like least?

BETTY DRAVIS: Well, the Bunny is now 86 years young, and losing some of that energy, but I will keep pushing. Onward and upward, I say… I really enjoy the writing, Christy, but don’t like the promoting. It takes too much time from my true passion of writing. That’s what I dislike about it, and what I like about it is that I get to meet many new and lovely friends. People like the Dames and my Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter friends.

CHRISTY TILLERY FRENCH: As an accomplished author, do you have any advice you can offer a novice or struggling writer?

BETTY DRAVIS: This advice might sound trite but the best advice I can give is to never give up and to remember there is no such thing as a writer. We are all re-writers; meaning write it as many times as it takes until you are confident it works. If this means getting a professional editor, then that’s a must. The American language is complicated, so make sure you have your text edited before sending it out into the world. Reviewers are critical and won’t hesitate to point out all your errors. They have long memories, so get it right the first time. Another very important point is creating your own “voice.” Don’t imitate other writers… It takes time before we “feel” our own voice; you may not find it until your second or even third book. But it will come… There is so much more, but there are many books on the subject of writing. Stephen King has a great one on the market.

CHRISTY TILLERY FRENCH: Let’s get personal. What’s your most favorite pastime Favorite food? Favorite saying? Favorite place?

BETTY DRAVIS: My favorite pastime is writing, of course, and spending time with my lovely children and grandchildren. I even have three great-greats… I don’t really have a favorite food, but I like seafood, salads, Mexican food… and cornbread. My favorite saying is one my mother used to say: “I wouldn’t give a nickel for another child, but wouldn’t take a million for any one of mine.” Some of my favorite words are: flabbergasted, funky, kinky, lickety-split. As for my favorite place, it’s home. The old saying, “There’s no place like home,” is absolutely right. Nowadays I can’t make up my mind whether to choose my “Girl Cave” where I write and reflect or my bed…

CHRISTY TILLERY FRENCH: I guess we covered all the important points, Betty. It’s been fun and enlightening talking to you. Speaking for myself and all the Dames, we’re very happy for you. Congratulations on your two short-films and we look forward to a feature film in the future for you. In closing I’m going to share your various links so our readers know where to find your books, your biography and other things about you. TTYL (talk to you later), as they say in phone texts…

Betty’s The Snack DVD purchase link:!kpf-store/c3jc

Betty’s Amazon Central Author page:

Betty’s website:

Betty’s Facebook page:

The Snack: Movie page


Although I don’t consider myself a star graduate of the write-what-you-know school of crafting a novel, I’ve found personal experience provides a firm foundation. Still, a few months ago I found myself on shaky ground, deep in write-what-you-don’t-know land.

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pets

When I pounded out the final pages of Through a Yellow Wood back in 2011, I thought I wouldn’t visit Hemlock Lake again. So, in tying up loose ends and leaving the characters looking toward the future, I gave Camille a baby bump.

2014 rolled around and my fictional folks started lobbying for me to continue their lives in a third book. Since the previous mysteries began in the spring and concluded in September—and since I’m a Virgo and can’t resist a pattern—I knew this one would start as winter retreated from the Catskills. That meant Camille would have her baby on the pages of The Devil’s Tombstone.

And that meant I was in big trouble. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but giving birth wasn’t one of them. What if I got it wrong?

Channeling Butterfly McQueen as Prissy in Gone With the Wind, I raced to my husband’s office (AKA the man cave in the basement) crying, “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies!”

“Pick an evening when I’m out,” he counseled when I calmed down. “Invite your gal pals over for one of those macaroni-and-cheese-fueled talk sessions. They’ll give you graphic details.”

Eeekkkk. That was exactly what I wanted to avoid.

As the oldest of a pack of cousins, I often overheard my mother and aunts sharing their experiences during labor and delivery. I was too young to fully understand, but old enough to pick up on words like pain, exhaustion, intense pain, contractions, endless pain, pushing, screaming pain, etc.

I got the idea—giving birth was a far cry from a walk in the woods or a picnic at the beach. I also got that each woman experiences labor in different ways, and that time and pain could vary greatly.

A few hours spent scouring the Internet and a slew of postings confirmed that I had plenty of leeway. If I wanted Camille’s baby to pop out, that could happen. If I wanted labor to go on for a day or more, that could also happen.

I decided Camille would be in enough trouble already—stranded by a snowstorm miles from medical assistance—so I cut labor short. But being stranded created new problems for Camille. And for me.

Back on the Internet, I scrounged information on home deliveries and problems that could arise. I read about dilation and contractions, umbilical cords and the placenta. My head spun about like it belonged to the girl in The Exorcist.

How much detail would female readers want? What about male readers? And what about my male protagonist?

I couldn’t recall my father or uncles hanging around while their wives recounted birthing stories. In fact, I recall them doing disappearing acts worthy of the greatest illusionists.

In the end, I glossed over parts of the process and left out far more than I put in. After reading the scene a friend told me, “At first I was angry that you didn’t describe the birth. I felt cheated. Then I realized that anything you wrote wouldn’t be my experience and I would feel angry about that as well.”

That doesn’t exactly mean I got it all right. But maybe it means I didn’t get it all wrong.

Did I learn a lesson from my venture into write-what-you-don’t-know land? You bet. I’m close to 200 pages along in No Substitute for Myth and sticking to writing what I know. Um, except for the parts about Bigfoot.

The Devil's Tombstone by Carolyn J. Rose

The Devil’s Tombstone by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton (The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor, Deception at Devil’s Harbor, and the short story collection Sucker Punches).

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.

Confessions of a Shoeoholic
In 1890, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in Journal, “The sense of being perfectly well-dressed gives a feeling of inner tranquility which religion is powerless to bestow.” I couldn’t agree more except to add “perfectly well-dressed and wearing a pair of red stilettos.”
There are only two things I collect: books and shoes. My book collection is larger than my shoe collection only because books are more affordable. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d send each of my sisters a big check, donate to my favorite animal rescue organizations, and then I’d head for the nearest city and buy every pair of shoes that caught my eye.

shoes and butterflies

shoes and butterflies

I suspect my shoe obsession had something to do with the need to rebel against my mother, not that she denied me footwear. But I do remember my mother commenting once on one of her friends having owned sixteen pairs of shoes, and “who did she think she was?” I also remember my mother ogling a pair of red shoes, but not buying them because she already owned a pair on red shoes and “what would people think?” Because of my mother’s beliefs and her reluctance to live wild, I swore I’d never own less than sixteen pairs of shoes and I’d buy as many red ones as I could afford. Right now, I have six pair.
And guess what else? I saw a news flash the other morning announcing that women who wear high heels well into their seventies are less likely to experience life-threatening falls. Seems that high heels improves one’s balance.

Kathleen Kaska, author

Kathleen Kaska, author

My love of shoes found its way into my Sydney Lockhart mysteries. Being a private detective, and having to dress in disguise on occasion, Sydney’s usual footwear are saddle shoes (the series is set in the 1950s), and cowboy boots (Sydney’s from Texas). But when she’s not chasing bad guys, Sydney dresses up in snug sweaters, pencil shirts, and high heels. There’s also a bit of rebel in Sydney too. Much to her mother’s annoyance, Sydney refers to her high heels as her tart shoes. And her sidekick cousin, Ruth Echland, wouldn’t be caught dead in anything but the latest Ferragamos.
Check out my latest Sydney Lockhart mystery, Murder at the Driskill.

Kathleen Kaska writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mysteries set in the 1950s. Her first two books Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queens Book Group, the largest book group in the country.

Murder at the Driskill by Kathleen Kaska

Murder at the Driskill by Kathleen Kaska

The third book in the series, Murder at the Galvez, is set at the Galvez Hotel in Galveston. Kaska also writes the Classic Triviography Mystery Series, which includes The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book, The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book. The Alfred Hitchcock and the Sherlock Holmes trivia books are finalists for the 2013 EPIC award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida), was published in 2012.,

It rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest. Yearly totals exceed the national average. Some folks describe the climate here in Washington as nine months of rain followed by three months of drought. Those nine wet months have given birth to a wealth of terms to describe the stuff dropping from the sky. Increased interest in weather phenomena has helped add to that list.

Carolyn J. Rose, author, 2015

Carolyn J. Rose, author, 2015

When I grew up in the Catskills back in the 1950s, long before 24/7 weather reporting and weather-related reality shows, we had relatively few words to describe precipitation: snow, sleet, rain, thunderstorms, hail, and drizzle. Today, I hear more descriptive words: mist, mizzle, sprinkles, deluge, drenching rain, driving rain, pouring rain, torrential rain, continuous rain, freezing rain, and intermittent all of the above. There’s also fog, freezing fog, and snow in all its forms and accumulations.
All that winter precipitation makes for glorious green growth, tall trees and rushing rivers. It makes for great skiing, boating, fishing, gardening, and dozens of other recreational opportunities.
It also makes for a lot of dank and dreary days.
My first Northwest winter (1989-90) was filled with new experiences and I scarcely noticed the weather. My second winter, however, was ugly. Fog moved in, not on little cat feet, but like a 200-pound cougar driving a bulldozer. That fog hung around for weeks. I made it through by indulging in massive bouts of comfort eating followed by rolling up in a quilt for yet another nap.
The next fall, having finally shed the winter poundage, I vowed to adopt a healthier lifestyle and focus on the weather in my fictional settings instead of outside my window. By spring I was halfway through a novel and hardly noticing the thick drops hammering on the roof. (Except when the gutters clogged with leaves or a leak appeared in the living room ceiling.)
Since then, I’ve followed the same plan:
• Step up those vitamin D capsules.
• Beam on those bulbs. Light up the workspace. Strings of twinkle lights are always fun. Phototherapy with a light box may brighten your mood and regulate your circadian rhythms.
• Cut back on greasy foods and heavy meals. (I know, I know. That’s tough to do with those holiday parties and treats, but give it your best shot.)
• Don’t overdo coffee and caffeine. Sure, it wakes you up on a dreary morning, but too much can mess with your sleep patterns.
• The same goes for alcohol.
• Escalate the exercise.
• Get out and confront precipitation. Walk in all weather.
• Concentrate on what you can control and try not to think about what you can’t.
• Do nice things for yourself.
• Vary the routine. Go places you’ve never been—even if it’s just a new coffee shop or walking trail.
• Catch up on movies you’ve been meaning to get to and books yet to be read.
• Reconnect with old friends and make new ones.
• Ask for advice about beating the blahs.
If you have tips for powering your writing through the winter, please share them in the comment space. I’m always looking for ideas to add to the list.


The Devil's Tombstone by Carolyn J. Rose

The Devil’s Tombstone by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone, just released). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton (The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor, Deception at Devil’s Harbor, and the short story collection Sucker Punches).

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.

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