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Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Ben. Tell us about your latest book.

Shadow Dance Murders: Detective Carson Chandler draws the short straw — the assignment to untangle a series of murders at the Antebellum Community Theater, in Charlotte, NC. As he pulls back the curtain the spotlight reveals the unglamorous inner workings and politics of the Theater. The large pool of suspects includes: actors, directors, staff, Board members, and shady real estate developers that are willing to do whatever to grab the choice Theater property.

As Chandler works to solve the case, his life is increasingly complicated by two intriguing, yet polar-opposite women. Ben Furman_Book Cover_ (2)One is a successful Broadway actress he’s loved since childhood, or at least that is what he believes. But this belief is challenged by an incident that occurs in the scorching sands of Pakistan. He saves a mysterious female Mossad agent, who is seriously wounded in a terrorist ambush. He cares for her wound, and immediately her comrades whisk her away to a secret location. He’s left with only her first name. His military tour is cut short by a sniper’s bullet. He returns home following months of rehabilitation and struggles daily with the physical and mental effects of battle. He tries, but can’t erase the striking Israeli woman from his mind, and then when he least expects it, she reaches out.

The Shadow Dance Murders has a unique “hook” that to the best of my knowledge has not been encountered before by homicide detectives. There is a secondary hook at the ending that establishes the groundwork for a sequel.

Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

Several key characters move forward with Chandler in much broader international thriller.

General O’Malley, Chandler’s control, says, “Your wealth gives you unique credentials that allow you to infiltrate the world of power brokers that make kings and bring down governments. These days, friends turn foes faster than a short order cook flips pancakes. As an insider you can sniff out problem areas and identify hostile alliances that can’t be done by electronic means or satellites.

“If a corporation has changing attitudes that are favorable to our enemies, especially the Russians and Chinese, we have to know. We’ve ear-marked large US companies that are doing business with terrorist organizations, supplying them with embargoed goods, and laundering their blood-soaked money. Identify the key players, and then……”

What is a typical writing day like for you?

I write early, around six a.m., which includes the entire process of researching, editing, and head-scratching about the dumb stuff I wrote the day before that I thought was so brilliant. I close shop before noon or earlier if my brain goes numb. But, not being at the keyboard doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about the twists-and-turns of the story, so at six the next day I’m at it again.

When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

Most often I’m in control, but I do listen to the characters. If they show me something I think will add to the story, okay, if not I tell them to get back in line.

Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

Elmore Leonard: He wrote small, tight stories that ordinary people could understand, and chose to stay away from world-ending, apocalyptic, international thrillers. He was malleable, and successfully moved from writing westerns in his early years, such as 3:10 to Yuma, to a crime writer that had his work adapted to movies and television series, like Justified.

David Baldacci: The years he spend practicing law in Washington, DC gave him a first-hand look at the power brokers and political maneuvering that occurs with the inside the “beltway” crowd. He used this knowledge to write Absolute Power, and his body of work has an authentic feel because of his background. Plus, he’s used his fame and money to do considerable charitable work for multiple sclerosis and formed a foundation to combat illiteracy.

Robert Ludlum: I got hooked on his break-neck paced spy thrillers such as The Scarlatti Inheritance, and The Bourne Identity and its sequels. He was one of the first writers to use former CIA agents to supply his books with authentic background information and procedures. And because of his experience as an actor and producer, he brought a theatrical flair to his writing.

Promotion is a big – and usually the most hated – part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

Over the years I’ve run through the promotion gauntlet to include radio and television interviews, signings at book stores, talking at book clubs, blogs, and employing professionals (literary agents — there really are such things) to sing my praises to book buyers.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing off-and-on for thirty years, and seriously for the past eight.

If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?

Harper Lee.

Describe your writing process once you sit down to write – or the preliminaries.

I back-read recent work to pull me back into the story to verify the tone and atmosphere are correct, and then I check my outline to make sure I’m moving the story forward rather than meandering about. With the first key stroke I’m back in the zone.

Where do you get your ideas?

I rely a great deal on my life experiences, and when I find something of interest I try to come up with a different twist or angle that will help weave an interesting tale.

 Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?

I grew up in a house of readers. Even though my parents didn’t mandate that I read, it seemed the easy, natural thing for me to do. My grandmother, on the other hand, was a task master. She read everything in sight, expected the same of me, so I got in lock-step with her and eventually came to cherish our time together discussing books, etc.

Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?

I have. Electronic publishing continues gaining traction and “respectability.” The cost-savings of “on demand” publishing and digitized e-books are substantial, which is important in this day of tight pocket books. The big expense of warehousing books, delivering them to the bricks-and-mortar houses, and then bearing the expense of unsold inventory that’s circled back, has been eliminated. Kids are growing up in an instant everything world that they access through I-phones and I-pads. They’re not inclined to spend time browsing bookstore aisles when they can access millions of titles online. Overall, electronic publishing allows a broader spectrum of writers to participate in the business, and provides readers with an excellent, inexpensive variety of material from which to choose.

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BIO

 

Mr. Furman retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the North Carolina field division. His investigative and managerial expertise was directed against domestic and international terrorism and organized crime.

Currently he is the CEO of the Rexus Corporation, a background screening company and private investigative company headquartered in Charlotte, NC.

Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Jeffrey. Tell us one strange and provocative tidbit from your life that nobody has heard before.

They say that everyone in the world has a double, an exact lookalike. I was surprised to find a few years ago that mine is a celebrity. I’m mistaken internationally for Steve Wozniak, the computer guy Jeffrey McQuain Author Image (2)who cofounded Apple and then performed on “Dancing With the Stars.” When I try to explain politely that I’m not “the Woz,” as he’s nicknamed, people don’t believe me or look disappointed to learn the truth that I can’t dance or build computers. If my novel “The Shakespeare Conspiracy” succeeds, though, I’m hoping somebody somewhere asks the Woz, “Aren’t you the guy who writes those Shakespeare thrillers?”

Tell us about your latest book.

I’m very excited about my first novel. It’s a thriller based on the Bard’s racial background. The main character, Professor Christopher Klewe, teaches Shakespeare at William and Mary in Virginia. When his best friend is murdered by a secret society in Washington, he has only three days to outrun killers on two continents and reveal the biggest conspiracy in literary history. Much in the style of Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code,” my novel uses fast pacing and cliffhangers to move the story along and to allow readers a whole new way to see Shakespeare.

Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

My next novel in the Christopher Klewe series is a prequel to the first one and will be titled “The Shakespeare Trap.” It shows how Klewe became caught up in solving Shakespeare mysteries as he tracks a serial killer who leaves clues from the Bard’s tragedies. This second novel takes place in Williamsburg, Virginia, and it should be ready later this year.

When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

I hate to say it, but I think novelists tend to be control freaks. We invent the world and the characters, often forcing them to do what we want. That being said, there are moments that the characters rebel against all my good intentions. In “The Shakespeare Conspiracy,” for example, one character was originally meant to die, but she was too important to let go, so she was granted a reprieve in my final rewrite.  Now here’s the strange part: when the characters do take control, the writing becomes an almost out-of-body experience for me, and that’s my favorite part of being a novelist. In other words, sometimes I’m driving the bus, and sometimes I’m just along for the ride.

Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

My favorite writer is Shakespeare, of course, but I find that my preferred modern writers are mostly women, particularly in the mystery genre. I think that women tend to be more detailoriented and make scenes come to live more vividly. Among mystery writers, I read everyone from Agatha Christie (the best at plotting) to Martha Grimes (the best at characterization). Try any Grimes novel about Detective Richard Jury, but I especially recommend her Shakespeare story, “The Dirty Duck.”

Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…” Do you have a favorite southern saying you can share with our readers?

I tend to travel around the South a lot, and I’m always hearing lines that I want to save. My latest nonfiction book is “Ebony Swan,” which makes me think of the favorite Southern euphemism, “I swan” (meaning “I swear”). I’ve also heard “I could use a skinny nap,” as well as the greeting when two women met on the street: “If I’d known you’d be here,” announced the one with a grin, “I’d have brought my gun.” I also love Southern signs. There’s a bar in Daytona Beach, for instance, across from the town cemetery. The sign says, “Order a drink and have a seat. You’re better off here than across the street.”

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

I started thinking about a mystery/thriller series while reading and teaching Shakespeare. My inspirations come from everywhere, though, and I have to keep paper and pen nearby at all times. In fact, even my dreams can contribute. One night I was dreaming about being chased through a library, and I soon started writing “The Shakespeare Conspiracy.”  Of course, one drawback is that I can’t control when an idea strikes. I may be in conversation with you when my eyes glaze over with thoughts for a fictional murder, but I promise it’s not personal.

If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?

jmcquain.theshakespeareconspiracyI don’t know what I’d ask Shakespeare, so I suppose I’d talk with my favorite modern writer, the novelist Shirley Jackson. She’s the only writer I know who can frighten me with one story and have me laughing uproariously at another. I wrote a graduate thesis about her work and was allowed to use her personal papers at the Library of Congress. It was a thrill to see her unpublished letters and find a four-leaf  clover pressed in her childhood diary. She died in 1965, so I’ll never get to ask her about the secrets to her multifaceted writing, but she was my biggest inspiration to become a writer.

Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?

Yes, books were always important in my house. My mother worked outside the house as a library aide, so she was always telling me about books she enjoyed. My father worked for NASA as a meteorologist, and I remember that he would sit down in the evenings to smoke a pipe and read a dictionary he kept beside the chair. I have one brother, Dan, who is older and the most prodigious reader I’ve ever met, so I had to learn to read early just to keep up with him.

Any teachers who influenced you…encouraged you or discouraged?

I had a drama teacher named Marguerite Coley when I was in high school. She was exceptionally good at encouraging students not to worry about limitations.

I even tried acting for a while as a result of her courses, but soon I turned to writing as my creative release. Years later, when I started teaching, I remembered many of her acting lessons to use in teaching Shakespeare classes across the country.

 Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?

The best secret I can share is not to force it. Turn your attention to other things. Daydream a little. Brush up your Shakespeare. Often I have an inspiration about another way to approach a scene. It helps also to keep more than one project going at a time. That way, when I’m blocked on one, I can usually make progress on something else. Finally, I’d heard that Ernest Hemingway would stop working midsentence at the end of his day, so he’d know where to pick up the next day. (To be fair, though, I’ve tried this system and found I had no idea where I was going with that sentence.)

Any books on writing you have found most helpful? Or classes you’ve taken?

The mystery writer Martha Grimes once taught at a Maryland community college I attended, but I regret never taking her class. Instead, I’ve read the writing lectures by Shirley Jackson and I recommend them as well as the Strunk and White classic “Elements of English.” I also wrote a book on writing called “Power Language,” in which I advised writers to inject humor whenever it’s appropriate.

The truth, though, is that writing is an organic process that uses everything you’ve ever seen or done. You must take those experiences and craft them into a finished product. That’s why I’m excited about my first novel, “The Shakespeare Conspiracy,” and I’ve found I’m enjoying myself writing fiction more and more. I’m already plotting the third novel in the series and thinking of other projects, including a stage play of my nonfiction book “Ebony Swan: The Case for Shakespeare’s Race”.

by Betty Dravis

1. terry cowboyLike most women I know, cowboys top my list of “favorite male hunks.”

The first movie cowboy I ever saw was Gene Autry, the singing cowboy of my youth. Then in my heyday, my all-time favorite and life-long “crush” Clint Eastwood rode into my life. And now there is Scott Eastwood, star of the blockbuster movie The Longest Ride… and Terry G. Reed.

“Who,” you might ask, “is Terry G. Reed?” Well, before I tell you a little about this Los Angeles actor–born in Ohio but spent most of his adult life in Tennessee–here is a photograph that captured my eye. If you can look past the man, don’t you just love his shirt? I wish they would bring this style back.

Terry G. Reed is a SAG-AFTRA actor who will play the role of Russell Rawlings in the coming TV series Big Sky. Rawlings is a rancher who is running for mayor. Big Sky has a huge cast with many of my Florida friends playing various roles. (I just learned yesterday that another of my California actor friends, Tia Barr, has also been added to the cast.) From all I have read and seen, Big Sky should be a big hit. Here is the link to the edited reel that helped Terry land the role: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fD69BCOnA7Y&sns=em

6. Terry G. Reed for Big Sky Banner

After seeing Terry’s demo and pictures, what do you think, ladies? He sounds and looks like a force to be reckoned with, in my opinion.

In real life, Terry is not a cowboy, but that’s how I see him and most likely will always think of him that way. However, since he plays business and bad-boy roles with equal ease, I doubt if he’ll get type-cast. But being type-cast as a cowboy is not a bad thing… On the contrary, take Clint Eastwood, for example. In addition to cowboys, Eastwood played roles from detectives to radio disc jockeys, but what image pops into your head when his name is mentioned? That’s right: a handsome, rugged, sexy cowboy!

Terry’s IMDb lists many former roles, from coroner, assassin to pro baseball scout. Just to name of few of his movie roles, Terry was a security chief in Rejourer (2011); a school principal in Truly Blessed (2009); and in In Da Cut he played the role of Kelly. He has an impressive list of TV credits, also. A few examples: The role of coroner in Howard Hughes Revealed; in The World’s Astonishing News TV Series, he played Joannie’s father in The Joannie Rochette Story; the part of Ray Kitchen in Eaten Ali3. terry closeup my faveve; Killer Bears episode; and a security and pit boss in Las Vegas. The list goes on…

In addition to his cowboy role in TV’s Big Sky—which I am personally anticipating—Terry has two films in pre-production: Dolphin’s Song and Cowgirl Romance.

Terry is a songwriter and guitarist. In case you’d like to hear some of his music, following are links to a few of his videos. He wrote the songs in some of his videos, plays guitar on others.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_hHTPfnpOY

One of my favorites is Grant’s Lullaby that he wrote for his son:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmg0w8XqLcA&sns=em

Terry has a good sense of humor, so it isn’t surprising that he can now laugh when recalling that for a TV role he once had to cry around twenty-three times in a two-day period. He said after that, he never wanted to cry on set again. He learned the hard way–on a shoot–that yellow jackets are attracted to fake blood.

5 facebook_1438038295931Coincidentally with this cowboy theme, Terry was encouraged as an actor by popular cowboy star Clint Walker and Bill McKinney who fought both Eastwood and John Wayne in the movies.

Since Terry’s coming role in Big Sky set my mind on a cowboy “tangent,” I asked my agent at Reel World Talent LLC and several popular authors to say a few words about cowboys who stood out in their memories.

Author Mary Lou Cheatham Recalls
Saturday Afternoon Matinee Cowboys

Roy-Rogers_1424127c“Back in the fifties in Taylorsville, Mississippi, my friends and I went to the Melroy Theater on Saturday afternoons to see the Westerns. I loved Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I thought about them all week. Gene Autry was a favorite too. Back then I thought all cowboys were singers.”

Author Loretta Wheeler Chose Audie Murphy

audie murphy“I was asked to write a little something about my favorite cowboy. Being from Texas, of course, that didn’t seem a very difficult request. But, my take on it will probably make a few scratch their heads and say ‘Who?’ And then, ‘Why him?’

“The cowboy that sticks in my mind from way back is Audie Murphy. Here’s a short bio of him, followed by my reasons for choosing him:

“‘Audie Murphy was one of the most decorated American combat soldiers of World War II, receiving every military combat award for valor available from the U.S. Army, as well as French and Belgian awards for heroism. At the age of nineteen, Murphy received the Medal of Honor after single-handedly holding off an entire company of German soldiers for an hour at the Colmar Pocket in France in January 1945, then leading a successful counterattack while wounded and out of ammunition.’

“After the war, Murphy became a popular movie star, often portraying cowboys. So, dig through Netflix and find one of his old cowboy movies, fix yourself a bowl of popcorn, and sit back and watch a man portraying all the things we hold dear in cowboys, and know that he embodied those qualities in his “real” life too.”

Author Joanna Lee Doster Chose Clint Walker

clint walker“I just discovered and have begun watching Cheyenne with Clint Walker. I love the show. He is always honorable and always seeks justice. He takes off his shirt in almost every episode. He is the strong and silent type but he always saves the day. Six feet, six inches makes him the record champion. In 1969, New York Times film critic Howard Thompson, in reviewing Walker’s performance in the movie More Dead Than Alive, described the actor as ‘a big, fine-looking chap and about as live-looking as any man could be. And there is something winning about his taciturn earnestness as an actor, although real emotion seldom breaks through.’ In 1958, Thompson described the actor, then starring in Fort Dobbs, as ‘the biggest, finest-looking Western hero ever to sag a horse, with a pair of shoulders rivaling King Kong’s.’”

Michael McGregor of Reel World Talent LLC
Likes Singing Cowboys

“My favorite Cowboy…. hmmm…. I have two actually; both cowboys who sing. The first is Kenny Lee of the great state of Tennessee, and the second is Don Allen of the Gold Coast of Australia. Kenny Lee just finished producing Don Allen’s latest CD and I had the pleasure of listening to it on Kenny’s computer while he and Don cut-up and joked around. It was a great evening of friendship and witnessing amazing talent by both Kenny and Don!”

Terry G

Now, that I have, hopefully, intrigued you and gained a few more fans for Terry’s long list, why not meander on over to his Facebook page and invite him to be your friend. Also check out some of his old films to see him in action and follow him in Big Sky when it’s released. His shoulders might not be as huge as Clint Walker’s, but he’s long and lean like Clint Eastwood (or even Gary Cooper)… and he cuts a “mighty fine figure” in the role of rancher Russell Rawlings.

Facebook link:
https://www.facebook.com/terrygreed9?fref=ts:

Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb) link:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2744358

Another film, scene from Crime Investigation role:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZC6gwoKxzA&sns=emsoccerforme@sbcglobal.net

The Dames of Dialogue and our readers wish Terry huge success in his acting career. We love your cowboy persona. But whatever the role, as you ride off into the sunset–as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans always sang–“Happy trails to you…”

7 Terry film reels by fan Wendy J. Willett

Graphic made for Terry by fan Wendy J. Willett

presented by Betty Dravis

Betty headshot turquoise braceletAs you all know, I’m the celebrity interviewer for Dames of Dialogue. I apologize for missing quite a few blogs due to multi-tasking with my own books and several short films.

I finally made time to come around to visit the Dames in order to introduce a young artist who caught my eye through friends. Kerry James Junior is very popular in his home state of Indiana, landing more TV and radio gigs on a weekly basis. I came across the following short blog about Kerry in the online paper New Scene Music.

I think the kid is good, but check him out for yourself. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002430081915&fref=ts

by Mike Tree

Kerry james jr 1Kerry James Jr… Wasup, Errbodyt It’s ya boy Mike Tree reporting a New Artist Alert as I checked in with a regional sensation by the name of Kerry James Junior, better known as K.J. He creates a very special connection between his supporters, media and fans that he calls KJayers at this stage in his career

K.J. contributes the majority of his celebrity status to his support system; his soulful, self-taught talent is just a plus. K.J. sets himself apart from the pack mostly by his homely attire. In almost every video you can catch him in flip-flops and a hunter’s hat as just an added player of the “connect-ability” he has with his fans. Quite a sense of solidarity, in my opinion.

Kerry James Jr. 2

When i asked K.J. if there was anything he’d like to add to the story, he stated, in true K.J. fashion, that this article is dedicated to his “home team,” so to speak: first, his mother, Wendy M Sanders-Johnson, his #1 inspiring woman; second, his sisters, Kelly Jo Rogers and Crystal Nicole Conway; third, his brother, Robert Sanders; and last but not least, his God-Uncles, Mike Brown, Lake County recorder & Northwest Indiana freelance writer/journalist, and Anthony Alonzo.

They say a picture is worth a hundred words, so take note and look out for K.J. in some performances  near you!

Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Amy. Tell us about your latest book.

Down a country road not far from Charleston, South Carolina, stands an antebellum plantation as old as the oaks arching their leafy limbs over the long drive leading to the great house. Known as Peppernell Manor, the home has seen better days.

Cora Camille Chadwick-Peppernell, the matriarch of the Peppernell family, has finally decided to have her home amy readerestored. She offers the job to Carleigh Warner, an old college friend of her granddaughter, Evie. Carleigh, a restoration specialist living and working in Chicago, jumps at the chance to relocate, at least temporarily, to South Carolina and restore the old manor, which she fondly remembers visiting during her college days. With permission from her ex-husband, she takes her young daughter, Lucy, with her to the sultry South.

Once Carleigh arrives at the old manor, it doesn’t take her long to learn that not everyone in the Peppernell family is happy about the direction the restoration is taking. There are certain family members who would like to see the plantation under the management of a firm that would turn the property into a tourist destination. As disagreements begin to take a menacing turn under the hanging Spanish moss and violence visits the manor, Carleigh must choose whether to stay in South Carolina or leave it all behind for her own safety and that of her little girl.

The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor was released on April 28th.  It is not a ghost story. There are a couple characters who believe in ghosts, but the ghosts in the story are metaphorical, not real.

Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

Just last week I sent my publisher the full manuscript for my next novel, which is due out in March, 2016. It doesn’t even have an official title yet. For now, its working title is The House of Hanging Jade, but I fully expect that to change.

It’s the story of a young sous chef in Washington, D.C., Kailani Kanaka, who returns to her native Hawaii to take a job as the personal chef to a family living on the island of Hawaii, often called the Big Island.

Kailani is soon called on to deal with more than the job description called for, with a family in desperate turmoil and an unexpected and unwanted visitor from her past. Before long the secrets and the tensions in the home begin to build and Kailani must find the courage to stay and follow her heart.

When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

I am in control when I write. I’m not the kind of writer that can sit down and let the characters take over, though sometimes I wish I were. Before I write anything I have an outline of exactly where I want to go with the story and what situations the characters will find themselves in.

Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

There are lots of writers I love, but probably my favorite (at least today) is M.C. Beaton. She writes the Agatha Raisin series and the Hamish Macbeth series, and I just can’t get enough of them. The Agatha Raisin books are set in the Cotswolds and the Hamish Macbeth books are set in the Scottish Highlands. I love the books for their humor, their quirky characters, their settings, and their mysteries.

I also enjoy reading anything by Ernest Hemingway or Jane Austen. And I’m currently working on two books: Senseless Acts of Beauty by Lisa Verge Higgins and The One You Love by Paul Pilkington.

Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

I actually like to promote, but I do wish it didn’t take so much time and I wish the results were instantaneous. I promote on social media, on my blog, on my website, on other blogs, in person (at book signings, conferences, and library talks), in newspapers, on online radio, and in magazines, both online and print.

Promotion takes away from the time I have to actually write, but I’m thankful to have that problem.

What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

amy reade bookDefinitely all the people I’ve met, both writers and readers. There’s nothing nicer than opening my email and finding a message from a reader who enjoyed my books. I am so grateful for all my readers, but especially the ones who reach out to me like that.

And as for writers, the ones I’ve met are an absolutely wonderful group of people. They’re supportive, encouraging, kind, and gracious. I couldn’t ask for a better group of colleagues.

Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?

I read voraciously as a child. Probably my favorite “author” when I was young wasn’t a single author at all, but Carolyn Keene, the group of authors who wrote the Nancy Drew mysteries. One of my favorite books was Down, Down the Mountain by Ellis Credle. And when I was older, I read every word by James Herriott that I could find.

If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?

I’d talk to my grandmother. She died several years ago and there are lots of questions I would ask her about her childhood that only she can answer.

What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

I once wrote a blog post about that question. I followed the advice and wrote what I knew for my first book, Secrets of Hallstead House, which was set in the Thousand Islands region of northern New York, but I also wrote what I wanted to know. The main character was a nurse and I didn’t know enough about nursing to write thoroughly about it, so I did quite a lot of research on nursing for that book. For The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, I researched endlessly the decorating and restoration of Civil War-era plantation houses. I didn’t know anything about those topics when I started planning the book.

How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.

I classify myself as a fiction writer. Under the fiction umbrella I consider myself a writer of women’s fiction with a romantic suspense bent.

Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?      

I have a Kindle that I love. I know a lot of people prefer books they can hold in their hands, but e-readers definitely have some advantages over books. First, I can increase the font if I want to. Second, instead of taking a heavy pile of books when I go somewhere, I can put them on my Kindle and have everything on one device at my fingertips. And third, ebooks are very often cheaper than both hardcover and paperback books.  Yes, there’s the smell of books and the feeling of pages under your fingertips, and I love paper books, too, but I can’t say that I prefer them to e-readers.

Any books on writing you have found most helpful? Or classes you’ve taken?

The book I’ve found most helpful, the book that is never far from my desk, the book that I have highlighted and dog-eared to death, is Phyllis Whitney’s Guide to Fiction Writing. It takes an aspiring writer step-by-step through the practical and organizational processes she recommends to produce a finished novel. I know her methods aren’t for everyone (there are lots of writers, called “pantsters,” who write without outlines and reams of notes), but they work very well for me.

P.S. Thank you so much for hosting this interview on Dames of Dialogue. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Thanks for joining us today, Amy. I really enjoyed the interview. For more information about Amy, visit her website at: www.amymreade.com

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

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: http://kpfproduction6.wix.com/kpfproductions#!kpf-store/c3jc

Betty’s Amazon Central Author page: http://www.amazon.com/Betty-Dravis/e/B002BLJJIU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Betty’s website: http://www.bettydravis.com

Betty’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/betty.dravis

The Snack: Movie page https://www.facebook.com/TheSnackmovie

 

intro by Betty Dravis

Most of our readers are probably familiar with author/writer Joanna Lee Doster, but ever since I selected her exciting book Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit for a Betty Award for Book with Best Movie Potential, I wanted to share her story on Dames of Dialogue.

Joanna and Wonder Dog Jack

Joanna and Wonder Dog Jack

Doster is a writer and author whose published books include Celebrity Bedroom Retreats (Rockport Publishing) and the aforementioned Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit (MPI Publishing). The new edition of her family drama and motorsports racing thriller was released on May 4, 2014 on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

She has also written a series of nationally syndicated celebrity profiles that featured legendary sports figures. Doster is a freelance journalist for syndicated newspapers (Gannett as one example), magazines and blogs. In addition, she has held executive positions in Cable Television (Arts & Entertainment, The Learning Channel and PBS communications) and the entertainment industry. She and her husband live in New York.

Now Doster has written the following, especially for our Dames of Dialogue readers.

by Joanna Lee Doster

Most people ask what inspired me to write a stock-car racing thriller. To keep it as simple as possible, I transitioned from my previous non-fiction book and publications to following the need to express myself with expansive, epic stories. I knew I needed powerful characters, with generational back stories; families with complex relationships from the past leading to the present. I satisfied my writing needs in Maximum Speed by writing about three generations of a stock-car-racing family.

joanna max speed cover
Since I love to explore the different kinds of interactions my characters have and how they maneuver throughout their lives, my book about car racing became a metaphor for life. People are racing to or away from something. It’s not so much their destination that determines the type of person they are. It’s their journey to the finish line that determines that. My main characters have flaws and handicaps that most of them bravely overcome. Everyone chooses the path they take in life and how they travel on that path defines them. Ergo, the racing metaphor…
I became intrigued with stock-car racing when I began to realize that it’s not just drivers going aimlessly around tracks. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline, endurance, precision and focus. Driving around tracks for at least four hours with the glaring sun in their eyes, breathing in some residues of carbon monoxide inside a two-ton car that has 2 g forces is difficult enough. The experience is grueling when coupled with when to let up on the gas, when to make a pit stop, knowing when to avoid hitting another car and avoiding track debris, other crashing cars, etc. The list is endless…
I developed complex multi-layered characters that are a composite of people I have known. What I always loved about reading great books was that the well delineated characters always hooked you right away whether they were the heroes or the villains. You wanted to know what happened to them even after you finished reading. In Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit I show their human frailties right from the start and they draw you in and you do want to know what happens to them at the end of the book. I also naively always believed in justice and so I try to balance out the imbalances in some of the character’s lives. But usually life has a way of meting out its own justice, so it’s not up to me, the author, to do that. I found that it’s best to let the characters take over and show that through their action and dialogue.
My protagonist Sean Devlin has been living on the edge his whole life, making speed and danger his constant companions in order to cover up a deep hole of loneliness and shame from the painful stigma of his childhood stutter. Reckless and testing the limits of life, he finally realizes that he doesn’t have to overcompensate for his speech handicap and conquer the world and his family to be number one. As Taylor, his mother, always told him, “You have no competition, as long as you believe you’re number one.”

The theme of “winning at all costs” philosophy is a thread that runs throughout my latest 2014 edition of Maximum Speed. People are always pushing the limit in their lives in order to achieve great success, whether they are celebrities like the ones in Celebrity Bedroom Retreats (Cher and Versace to name a few) or like the race-car drivers in Maximum Speed. Some of my characters push the limit on and off the racetrack with reckless disregard for their fellow teammates and or loved ones. My protagonist, a young champion racer, has an inordinate amount of drive, determination and obsessiveness for victory lane, overcompensating for a bullied childhood.
Joanna Lee Doster links:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorjdoster
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/joannalee.doster
Amazon Author Central: http://www.amazon.com/Joanna-Lee-Doster/e/B001K8KFNI/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
BN order page: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/maximum-speed-joanna-lee-doster/1102419753?ean=9780996017916

joanna, ashley, me on marsha show...

Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Denise! Tell us about your latest book.

My most recent release is Bright as Gold, fourth and final novel of The Georgia Gold Series. The series, which begins with Sautee Shadows in the time of the 1830s Georgia Gold Rush, connects the mountains and the coast as readers follow four fictional families through the mid-1800s. One of my main characters is Mahala Franklin, a half-Cherokee girl who grows up trying to find out who killed her father and stole the gold he mined from the Sautee Valley. Eventually, her white innkeeper grandmother brings her to town to raise her as a proper young lady. There she meets Carolyn Calhoun, an unwilling and shy socialite forced to choose a husband between two very different brothers, and Jack Randall, shipping entrepreneur from Savannah. When Jack buys a competing hotel and the two also fight their attraction to each other, sparks fly. The middle two novels include lots of adventure set during The Civil War, and the most recent one is Reconstruction-era. It’s a more introspective and relational look at how the characters overcome during a very difficult period of time.

When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

I start the momentum with my research, timeline and plot plans, but the characters have been known to take over at times. I think we have to be deniseweimersensitive to what a certain character would or would not do. If it doesn’t feel true to their personality or development, we need to find a little flexibility.

Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

I started local, doing signings at book stores, gift shops, festivals, book clubs, etc. I crafted a basic news release that could be altered for each. I also contacted clubs and groups in the region which might have interest in an author’s visit. I supported all that with online publicity. Recently my publisher and I have worked to get the word out past the hour-and-a-half radius where I can personally appear. I’ve joined Goodreads and Twitter as well as Facebook and am doing more guest blogging, author networking, requesting reviews, and conducting giveaways. I’m also planning a book signing tour to a wider area.

How long have you been writing?

I began writing at age 11. We don’t have to talk about how long ago that was, do we? I grew up visiting historic sites with my parents. My active imagination would wonder what type of people had lived in the homes or towns and what their lives might have been like. Eventually I bought spiral-bound notebooks and would whip those out and scribble down the stories from right there in the back seat as we traveled. I went straight to writing novels, of course, although I wouldn’t want anyone to read those now!

What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

I love this advice. It’s great to apply to selecting the setting for our books, for starters. If we create a story set near where we live, we are more apt to accurately capture the local “feel:” the ins and outs of the way people think, their ethnicity and heritage, the hole-in-the-wall places they frequent, their lingo, their history; the sounds, sights and smells of nature there; the area’s secrets and idiosyncrasies. Research is far easier; we run less risk of either error or the expense of visiting our chosen locale. Marketing is far easier; we have a strong natural geographic starting base for events with an instant niche. I believe it’s also good to write what we know in terms of what we have experienced. If we’ve lived through something, there’s a reason. There’s wisdom in finding the meaning in that experience. We can relate it with authentic emotion that will pierce the consciousness of the reader and share life lessons that may encourage others.

How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.

The Georgia Gold Series is historical fiction or Southern literature (or could be dubbed historical romance). While I will probably write more in that genre in the future, I expect there will be some out-of-genre surprises.

Besides “writer,” what else are you; what is your “day job”?

Wife, mother of two daughters, and keeper of the home. Swim/taxi mom most specifically. I spend a lot of time commuting and sitting in car rider lines. But writing is what has allowed me to be flexible and available for my family. I really feel the flip side of writer is saleswoman. I’ve created a blog article on that shocking conversion as well.

Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries.

I’m an organized type of person, so I like to do my research first. I put facts in the mental hopper and allow them to percolate. As plot ideas spring forth randomly over time, I overlay those on my timelines. Then I’m free to daydream and let the actual scenes come to me – the fun part! – grab a pen or my laptop, and start composing.

Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?

In my childhood home, academics and literature were greatly appreciated. My parents encouraged me to read the classics and would read aloud to me from series like Little House on the Prairie and The Chronicles of Narnia. My parents provided great examples of how being well-read made you well-educated and able to interact on a variety of subjects.

Any teachers who influenced you…encouraged you or discouraged?

deniseweimer.brightasgoldWell, I had one who scared me, and sometimes that can be motivational. She was my 8th grade English teacher. We’d do these exercises in class where we had to fill in a blank that had to do with the correct form of a verb or part of speech. But she’d do it in rapid-fire succession. We’d try our best to count ahead to which question might hit us, but she liked to mix things up. Everyone in class would be trembling like they were about to be tied to the execution pole. Because if you got the answer wrong she’d explode with something like, “NO! You ding-dong! That’s a dangling modifier!” Or some such nonsense. This was before calling children in a classroom names was politically incorrect. And she had a startling repertoire of originally insulting but not quite cursing names. We won’t even talk about how hard it was to get an ‘A’ in there. But … when I had to recite the balcony scene from “Romeo & Juliet,” she looked quite entranced. And there was a calendar she kept with literary scenes on it. The last month in her class “The Lady of Shalott” graced the wall. Of course I had a fascination with that poem then because the GPTV “Anne of Green Gables” had just come out. I would stare at the romantic depiction of the lady in the boat and wish it was me, “drifting down to Camelot,” away from English class. At the end of the school year, I asked Mrs. S for that page. Her look of surprised pleasure almost cracked into a warm smile. I walked away with a firm command of sentence structure and a print that now hangs matted and framed in my Victorian-style guest bedroom.

Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?

I do have a Kindle. I hear there are some people who are e-reader-only people and others who are print-only people. I’m sure this is true, but I have found for me (and probably others, too) there’s a place for both. I love to find free and discounted books for the Kindle and take it with me on trips for ease of packing. But for books I want to keep forever because I love them that much or a friend wrote them – or a situation like with my Georgia Gold novels where the covers are one-of-a-kind prints done by a regionally collected artist – I value the physical copy on my shelf.

How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?

My characters often come to me in those “loosely constructed” or “unplugged” moments described in the question on writer’s block. But before that happens, I spend time pondering what sort of person I want to represent a certain group of people and how I want them to be shaped from beginning to end by the trials and circumstances of history or what’s going on in the story. Mostly they are their own people, but occasionally a real-life person will bear some influence. An example of this would be Maddy, the hotel cook in my Georgia Gold Series. She was my grandma who has since passed away, who cleaned immaculately and was a wonderful cook but was never satisfied with her own efforts.

Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?

I just read some fascinating research having to do with brainstorming. Basically it stated that we use different parts of our brain at different times in the creative process. And that the best thing to do when you’re stuck is to “unplug” your brain for a while … just take a walk or do another task requiring less concentration. The ideas will start to flow. That’s why we have our best inspiration at odd moments. Check out my blog at deniseweimerbooks.webs.com for an upcoming article on this!

Why do you write?

I write because when God gives you a gifting and a desire in the same area, you don’t squander it. There are so many talented writers out there, and I have no claims or delusions of fame. But I do believe if you’re a writer, you know it, and God will also give you the story or the manuscript, whether it be meant to entertain, instruct or encourage.

Thank for joining us today, Denise. For more information about Denise:

 

 

by Betty Dravis

Susan Alcott Jardine is an amazing woman! Not only is she an author, an artist, former actress and an award-winning screenwriter, she and her equally-amazing husband, Neal, are among the most active animal activists in California, and possibly, the nation.

I met Susan about four years ago, shortly after interviewing her former high-school friend, Actor/Producer Tony Tarantino, for Dream Reachers II, a book I co-authored with Chase Von. Susan’s book, The Channel: Stories from L.A., came out about the same time, so I jumped at the chance to review it. A haunting, well-written book… Needless to say, Susan has a way with words… The Channel is available at many online bookstores, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon:

susan triple pic art book and green door

Susan was born and raised in Los Angeles where she majored in theatre arts at El Camino College and California State University, LA. As mentioned above, she worked as an actress in theatre, television and film before working behind the scenes in music production/publishing, as a writer/editor for entertainer Kenny Rogers’s “Special Friends” newsletter, in entertainment law and broadcast television. She and her writing partner Marc Havoc received the WGA Foundation Award for their screenplay Lullabyeland.

susan in bus stop

ECC Theater Production of “Bus Stop,” directed by Joseph D’Agosta who also played Bo to Susan’s Cherie. — with Neal Jardine at El Camino College, Torance, CA.

While playing a role in a film at Paramount Pictures, Susan not only met Tony Bennett and the late Stephen Boyd, she also became friends with the acclaimed screenwriter Harlan Ellison who wrote the screenplay for The Oscar, among many other acclaimed literary/cinematic successes. Ellison became her mentor, actually critiquing her first published story from The Channel: Stories from L.A.,The Metamorphosis of Nathanial Kronstadt, which was first published in Ellery Queens’s Mystery Magazine back in 1985. She acknowledges Ellison as “a turning point and inspiration” in her life. For more about Harlan Ellison, check Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlan_Ellison

susan with neal by artThis versatile and talented woman is also a painter, and her artwork is in private collections in the US, San Salvador, and Kenya, East Africa, including the permanent collection of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband Neal and many rescued cats.
Art website: http://www.GreenDoorEditions.com

While most of us writers dream of having movies developed from our books, Susan’s dream is much more altruistic: she and her husband Neal dream of founding a Feral and Stray Cat Foundation.

Since 2006, Susan and Neal have been actively rescuing feral and stray cats from the freeway berm that runs behind their home. Over the years they have been trapping, spaying, neutering and moving mother cats, kittens and new litters into their Green Door Editions (GDE) art studio, as well as using it for a recovery area for sick and injured cats. The Jardines named the studio their “temporary kitty hospital.”

susan's neal with cats on bed

Susan confided, “’Life’ and recent unforeseen events sent us into a tailspin here at GDE, forcing us to regroup and formulate a Plan B. But, from the chaos and re-grouping, New Doors opened up to a new path for us here at GDE. Through a loving gift from my late parents’ Trust, as if by magic, there was a ‘Gift’ to be used to start our animal rescue foundation.”

In 2015, the Jardines plan to open their non-profit foundation: “Alex & Friends’ Foundation” which will benefit ‘Feral & Stray Cat Rescue.’ Neal will be working from the legal aspect to set up a non-profit (501) (c) (3) to comply with Federal and state Regulations, and Susan will utilize her art & writing to create the logo and artwork for small gift items that can be added to a new website for the foundation.

dog with poster“It won’t happen overnight,” Susan said, “but by baby steps, we can slowly set it up and connect with other non-profits in the community. We will keep you posted and let you know when we’re finally up and running. A lot of legal work needs to be done before we can go forward, like setting up our Board of Directors, financial account, etc. The good news is that the non-profit status has already been approved by the IRS. We are moving forward and will keep you posted when it is finally up and running as a non-profit animal rescue foundation.”

I’m excited for Susan and Neal…and for all the animals they are helping. I admire them and others who care enough about animals to devote their lives and resources to them. To learn more about all the animals they help, check Susan’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/susan.alcottjardine?fref=ts Don’t forget to check Susan’s site on a regular basis so you can either rescue a pet yourself or donate to this worthy cause.

ENDNOTE: Not essential to this story is a fact I would like to mention before closing: Neal’s brother is the famous Al Jardine of the Beach Boys. Since we and most of our fans love The Beach Boys, I thought you might enjoy that interesting tidbit.

Susan and Neal with Al Jardine

Neal and Susan celebrated with Al Jardine at his performance and book signing on the Target stage at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA. After performing his hit song, “Sloop John B,” Al greeted fans and signed copies of his children’s book, “Sloop John B: A Pirate’s Tale,” which also contained a CD of the song.

al jardine with brian wilson at bb concert in indio ca august 30 2014

BEACH BOYS Brian Wilson & Al Jardine still going strong as they prove at a recent concert in Indio, California. Next year they will take the ever-popular songs of the Boys to the UK.

 

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