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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:

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.

One of my favorites is Grant’s Lullaby that he wrote for his son:

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:

Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb) link:

Another film, scene from Crime Investigation role:

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.

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!

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 and Barnes &

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:
Facebook page:
Amazon Author Central:
BN order page:

joanna, ashley, me on marsha show...

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:

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:

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: 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.



author C. M. Wendleboe

author C. M. Wendleboe

  I’m in one of those great professions where people pay me to love. No, I don’t mean the proverbial “oldest profession.” It’s the second-oldest profession: the writing profession. I get paid to love my characters. To love the predicaments I can throw them into. To love the settings that hinder their efforts even further.  I get paid to love their interactions with other characters, whether it hampers or helps them solve the mystery they embark on—or just the mystery of who they are.


H. L. Mencken once said: “Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.” I think he was taking to me. Characters wind up in bizarre situations that they are witty enough not to have gotten themselves into to begin with—were it not for some pesky writer.


You wouldn’t pick up a mystery if you wanted to read about someone walking out the front door—fragrant daisies and lilacs lining the sidewalk, flapping birds and floating butterflies lazing in the air—waving joyously to his next-door neighbor, who is doing the same mundane thing. You want to read about the same guy waving to the same neighbor—because you have to figure out which one buried the body in the backyard.


Think about how you read the newspaper. Some kid gets busted swiping video games from a store and has to pay restitution. Some lady bounces a series of checks and has to spend the night in jail. Some dummy leaves his car running in front of a bar and some other drunk takes it for a joyride and crashes it. These police briefs are good, but you’re just warming up. Then you read where a homicide’s taken place only a few blocks from your home. The murderer has not been caught. People are in danger until he or she is caught. You want to know more. You have to know more. But first you have to jump up and lock your doors and windows. You close all the curtains and blinds. Double-check the locks. Peek out the curtains. Check the locks again. Then come back to finish the rest of the article, grasping the paper a little more tightly in your shaky hands.


Same with characters in fiction. I love when book clubs invite me to their get-togethers. Discussions often begin with the plot. But “what happens” is just the warm-up, almost incidental to the real discussion: the characters. The remainder of the discussion is a lot like speculating about the fate of celebrities featured on the latest tabloid magazine covers. When is Manny ever going to ask Clara to marry him? Is he ever going to quit wrecking so many cars and forgetting his gun? Doesn’t he realize why he keeps having these visions?


You, the reader, want to read mysteries about characters that become your characters. You want me, the author, to place your characters in a constant state of upheaval, facing complications and crises, dilemmas and disasters, confusion and commotion from all sides. You want them to be ordinary people, like you or me, only you want them to be in situations that are anything but ordinary: unwittingly involved in a scandal with the risk of humiliation, or inexorably caught up in a conflict with the threat of grave danger.


As a writer, I love my characters. I love putting characters in fear of losing everything they’ve worked for, in fear of losing their all their meaningful relationships, or—even better—in fear of losing their own lives. I love putting characters in circumstances that force them to do extraordinary things.


Death on the Greasy Grass by C. M. Wendleboe

Death on the Greasy Grass by C. M. Wendleboe

I have always loved writing. I even loved being a writer, paying my dues, long before I became a published author—still paying my dues, but also getting paid to love what I do. In the end, maybe the writing profession is like the “oldest profession,” like being a writing “gigolo.” As an author, I love to hear from readers who know my characters, mourning their losses and celebrating their successes. Only readers can give the characters lives of their own. “And when the end comes I know, they’ll say ‘just a gigolo,’ as life goes on without me.”

Chocoalate%20Cola%20Brownies%20THDon’t these look swoon-worthy? My son got our entire family hooked on the cola cake made by Cracker Barrel, so I was delighted to find this healthier version of the treat on Holly Clegg’s website. The recipe is from her cookbook Too Hot in the Kitchen.

Holly contributed recipes for my book Dead Pan. She also tweaks recipes for those fighting cancer, arthritis, and diabetes. Check out her website for more wonderful recipes and information on her books: Freezer Friendly Meals, Eating Well Through Cancer, Eating Well to Fight Arthritis, Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking, Kitchen 101, Gulf Coast Favorites, and Too Hot in the Kitchen.

Here is Holly’s recipe for Chocolate Cola Cake/Brownie. If you get around to making them before I do–and just go ahead and err on the side of caution–please call me. Having posted the recipe, I feel responsible for helping you taste-test them before giving them to your family. We might have to test to many that you’ll have to bake another batch, but that’s okay. We’re thorough. 🙂 By the way, the symbols to the right of the title indicate the recipe is freezer-friendly, vegetarian, and diabetic.

Chocolate Cola Cake/Brownie                

This recipe is from: Too Hot In the Kitchen: Secret To Sizzle At Any Age with  200 Simple and Sassy Recipes

The secret recipe is now out!!!   I participated in a regional diet coke promotion and this recipe was all the rage each year so I am excited to share it with you and included it in my cookbook for everyone to enjoy now.

Makes 60-70 squares


1/3 cup canola oil

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup diet cola

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

Cola Chocolate Icing (recipe follows)


1. Preheat oven 350°F. Coat 15x10x1-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In mixing bowl, beat together oil, sugar, egg and vanilla until creamy. In another bowl, mix together cola and buttermilk; set aside.

3. In small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda; set aside. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with cola mixture, mixing only until just blended. Stir in miniature marshmallows.

4. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 12-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven, and immediately pour Cola Chocolate Icing (see recipe) on top of cake and carefully spread. Cool to room temperature, cut into squares.

Cola Chocolate Icing This icing hardens on cake-delicious.

6 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup diet cola

1/4 cup cocoa

1 (16-ounce) box confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In medium pot, combine butter, cola, and cocoa, bring to boil. Remove from heat, and add confectioners sugar and vanilla, mixing until smooth. Icing will thicken.

Spicy Advice: For cakes like squares, make in 13x9x2-inch pan, bake 30-35 minutes.

Food Facts

Calories 84 Calories from fat 24% Fat 2g Saturated Fat 1g Cholesterol 6mg Sodium 29mg Carbohydrate 16g Dietary Fiber 0g Sugars 12g Protein 1g Dietary Exchanges: 1 other carbohydrate, 1/2 fat

I spent all of my early childhood living everywhere but the South. My father was a Master Sargent in the Air Force, so we traveled all over Europe and up America’s east coast. To this day, I am sure it was these years of exposure to diversity that shaped my appreciation for Dixie. When I came ‘home’ to Georgia to live with Granny—my maternal grandmother—at the age of ten (1967), I was greeted with recent stories about the surrounding area. The high school—directly across from Granny’s little house, where my mother graduated—burned to the ground one night, filling Granny’s bedroom with orange light, scaring her to death. And I was soon to find out my granny didn’t scare easily. And, only months before the fire, a jet pilot from the nearby Air Force Base flew into a two-story Victorian owned by two old maid sisters at the end of the road. One of the sisters and the pilot died. The only survivor was the sister who was wheelchair bound. Granny said the hand of fate sometime had a sick sense of humor. She was no stranger to a hardscrabble life.

granny and mama

granny and mama

Granny was very proper in her speech, the ways she dressed, and her choice of company. She was what was known in the South at that time as a white-glove lady. Meaning, if white gloves were appropriate for the occasion, she wore them. The year I came to live with her she had been a widow for thirty-eight years. My grandfather died during the Great Depression when my mother was six. Yet, Mother had no memory of him. This should have been a hint, a sneak peek into Granny’s past.

Twice a month Granny pulled her car out of the driveway and drove us into the mountains. Later I would learn this area was part of Appalachia, but at the time it seemed like as far away from Atlanta life as we could get. The four-lane highway became barely two lanes and twisted up into the thick woods with only the occasional house tittering on stacked field stones instead of a solid foundation. Sometimes there would be kids playing in the yard, who would stop and stare at us as we drove by in Granny’s brand new baby blue Oldsmobile.

My great aunts lived in a cluster of similarly described houses close to each other while the grown cousins were within walking distance. We always went to Aunt Stella’s (pronounced Stellar)  house. None of them had an indoor bathroom to my horror. Instead outhouses dotted the woods in back of the homes. On the first visit, I swore I would never go into such a place. Mother’s answer was a hard pinch to my inner arm. My first lesson in Southern manners.

Granny’s visits brought all the cousins and second cousins to visit. We gathered in Aunt Stella’s high-ceiling front room. Granny, when offered snuff, smiled and dipped the brown powder into her front lip. I thought I would die on the spot. This was the equivalent of witnessing the Queen of England smoke a cigarette. Each of us were given a jelly jar of thickly sweetened tea and a large wedge of homemade cake. My favorite was Aunt Stella’s orange cake. I always sat in the far corner of the room, seen but not heard. When the younger cousins went out to play in the bright sunshine, I stayed behind, blending into the rose covered wallpaper. Quiet. Listening. And the real stories were told. Tales of haints—in case you don’t know, that means ghosts—moonshine, and conjures were my lessons at the feet of these strong women. They taught me two important things: one catches a story and throws a spell.

wedding granny

wedding granny

My favorite ghost story was how my great uncle—dead for ten years—sat in the little straight back chair on the wide front porch each evening and watched the sun fade into that gray in-between place before pitch dark, and there was the one about the scent of lavender scooting through the room when the great aunts were talking—my long dead great grandmother had come to join in on the gossip. She died when Granny was five.

But the one story that made the biggest impact on my work was how my great grandmother’s death tainted the family’s life for generations. Great Grandmother Hawkins’s whole head turned black a few days after a little fall. The granny woman was called to no avail. She died. Folks in the area believed Great Grandfather Hawkins had a spell conjured on her. After all he married less than three months later. People were so convinced of his guilt they shunned him and the family was never the same. Of course the part left out of the story is the eight children, ranging from 6 months to 16 years, he was left to raise. In this time of history his quick marriage seemed normal, a business decision, seeing how his second wife had just become a widow with two boys.

One of my last visits to Great Stella’s still remains a poignant memory. Upon arrival we were ushered through the house to the kitchen where a bathroom had been added onto the house. Everything was stomach medicine pink, toilet, sink, and tub. We each were allowed one turn to flush the toilet.  It was in that moment I understood we all have a unique story to tell, and we owe it to the next generations.

Out of all those visits, I never heard the story of how Granny came to leave Appalachia for Atlanta. Then one day on our way back home, Mother pointed to a shed perched on the side of an embankment. “I slept in that barn. I could see the stars through the holes in the roof. Your granny took us away from the mountains. We left on foot and walked for days. And just when I thought we would starve to death a big dump truck pulled up beside us. The man picked us up, fed us, and help us get a room. Your granny found a job at Bell Bomber making plane parts for World War II. From that day forward she saved every paycheck she had until she bought us the little house we live in now. “

Later I would find out Granny had a twenty-five year relationship with the married dump truck driver. That day she had only one thing to say and subject never came up again. “Annie, you do what you have to do to survive. That’s what I learned growing up in the mountains. I’m not always proud of the choices I made, but I put a roof over your mama’s head and food on the table.”

These family roots turned me into a writer. I grew up with haints, conjures, and a brave risk-taking family. This gives me a wealth of material to keep me coming back to the page for as long as I want.  Visit the website

Cleo's Oak, novel by Pearle Munn Bishop

Cleo’s Oak, novel by Pearle Munn Bishop

Cleo, a psychic midwife from the 1800s channels her life story through Willow, an egotistical, contemporary sixteen-year-old girl.
x Does a mystical Celtic spirit live in Cleo’s oak?
x Are there really magic circles?
x Can a butterfly lead you out of deep despair?
x Can the dead tell their story through channelers?
Cleo’s Oak contains answers to all of these questions plus sex, birth, death, marriage, war, religion, adultery and perhaps murder.
Everyone that ever had a grandmother should read this book. You will agree that across time, human values have not changed.
—Pearle Munn Bishop


I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. I could write I hate it five hundred times and I would still hate it.
Cleo has forced me to spend my whole sixteenth summer telling her story. If I had wanted to tell a story it would be about myself. I am, first of all, beautiful. Everyone says so and I know it is true. I look like a young edition of the models you see on television and in magazines. I am five feet ten inches tall, weigh one hundred and twenty pounds. I have thick hair and long legs. My background is German-Lutheran, but my family on my mother’s side has been American for at least six generations. I have had everything money and prestige can give a girl in sixteen years—private schools, tutors, dance, music, tennis, golf, and skiing. Maybe I am vain but I have lots of friends and I was happy until one day everything changed.
While playing Frisbee with my younger brother, I fell and hit the back of my head on a rock. The blow knocked me unconscious for less than a minute. My mother was frantic. Doctor Johnson told her I seemed to just have a lump on the back of my head, for her to watch me for nausea, slurred speech, unresponsiveness, and for me to get some rest. Sleep came easy. My dreams were about people, mostly women in old-fashioned clothes. My mother must have called everyone she knew. Although I was at home, I received flowers from ten people and cards and email from people I hardly knew.
One thing I have always done is to write thank you notes as quickly as possible. When I started to write my first note, the words were not mine. They were about canning peaches, back porches, cows, pigs, then something about playing baseball. This was the beginning of the story you are reading. I had become a channeler for Cleo. My sixteenth summer was spent at my computer. I pray that Cleo is the only spirit that will use me to tell her story. I am not a part of her story—or perhaps I am.

Cleo’s Oak   Chapter 1: To Willow

Willow, I am Cleo. I want you to write my story.
My father Alexander Lamb came to America in the year 1844 at age sixteen working his way across the Atlantic on a sailing ship. His Scottish family was large and poor. His mother had second sight and predicted great things for the new country, America, although she never told Alexander if his future was revealed to her. In New York, Alexander found other people from the Isle of Bute and got a job with the city, building roads. He was restless. For a while he helped build sailing ships, then went to work in stables caring for horses.
A local policeman’s daughter, Rosa MacRay, kept her horse in this stable. My mother’s father was a hard-boiled, ambitious, angry Irishman that did not want his only daughter to become involved with a ne’er-do-well Scott who couldn’t hold a job and worked at a horse stable. Somehow, the young lovers found a way to be together. Sometimes they met on a rooftop, and as my father told me later, “they were married in the sight of God,” on a rooftop. My mother convinced friends to help them elope, and he married Rosa MacRay, the policeman’s daughter. I was born seven and a half months after the marriage. My mother must have been a romantic to name me Cleopatra. I have no memory of that period, of course, only what my father told me later. When I was about two years old, my mother died in childbirth. The stillborn baby boy was buried with her. After my mother’s death, my grandparents wanted to take me to raise. My father was afraid if he refused, he would wind up dead. Since my grandfather was a New York policeman, my father was sure he could find a way to kill him and suffer no repercussions.

Then started our period of wandering. My father’s feet were made for leaving, but he never left me but once. I was always a big, big part of who he was. He was a large, quiet, handsome man, a nice shy smile and he was always loving and protecting me. He was a listener—spoke only when he had something important to say. He read stories to me until I learned to read. Then I read to him. We sat for hours. I would sit on his lap or at his feet, wherever the light was better. He would hug me, touch my face or arms, and play with my hair. His jobs were varied. Sometimes we would live in town, sometimes in the country, nice houses or shacks. Early during the time my father was working, I would stay with different families. When he was off work, we were together. I went to so many different schools I lost count.
At my first school on the first school day I talked a lot. No one, not even father, had ever told me to shut up. Other children were talking as much as I. We got through one day, then the teacher took charge. Rule one, stay in your seat. Rule two, talk only when asked to by the teacher. Rule three, if you must speak, hold up your right hand. She had to teach most of us which was our right hand and what the other one was called. On the playground at recess, the teacher came over to the swing I was using, caught the rope, took hold of my shoulders with both hands, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You are a challenge.”
Challenge was a new word for me. I quit talking for the rest of the day. Later, Father listened to my stories of the day, smiled and said very little until I got to the word, “challenge.”
Then he told me about his childhood. He had been sent to a Catholic boarding school before he was two, had become a ward of the Church and cared for in a group of other children by two Greek nuns.His mother requested he be given lessons in swimming. If she gave the Priest a reason, my father was never told. He wondered if she had known he would cross the Atlantic as a sailor. He became a strong swimmer and loved the water. The Priest taught him English and Latin. The sisters taught him Greek. He also took classes in Hebrew, theology, rhetoric, composition, mathematics, public speaking, chemistry, astronomy, philosophy, history and law. He retained most everything he was taught. The whole school considered him a “challenge,” he was such a good student. When father was sixteen, the nuns went back to Greece and he knew he did not want to become a priest. The Father gave him new clothes and a small amount of money. His mother gave him a scarf she had woven from wool she had gathered on the farm where they lived. She also gave him a small green stone. He visited his family, said good-bye and went to sea. Until then, I had not realized the medical books I was taught to read were Latin and the beautiful book about the Greek Gods was Greek. The Bible was English. I made up my mind to always be a “challenge.”

Butterfly influence in novel by Pearle Munn Bishop, "Cleo's Oak"

Butterfly influence in novel by Pearle Munn Bishop, “Cleo’s Oak”

Father and I fished, swam and rode horses together. We ran instead of walked. We had runs down miles and miles of country roads. He loved me; I could not wait to spend time with him. As I became older I hung around his place of work. I rode horses, learned to care for them, drove the buggies, whatever I could do to be close to him. We always had a good horse and wagon. Talk—my mouth ran all my waking hours. If no one was around, I talked to the trees. “The moss on your north side is really thick this year. Does that mean a cold winter is coming?” The beauty of talking to the trees is they talk back. This I would do with rocks, chicks, people, dolls—whatever or whoever was around. Not only would I talk, I would listen. I knew secrets, some I was told, some I just knew. Sometimes knowing made me happy. Other times I would rather not know.
When I was about six, I told a woman I hardly knew that her three-year-old son would be washed away in the river and when his body was found, it would be eaten away by fish and turtles. This I had seen in a vision. I had not only seen it, I heard it, I smelled it—the water in the river was cold. What an uproar that caused. When three weeks later what I had told the mother came true, even I was frightened. How did I know this? Were all the things that filtered through my brain true? That ship wreck I “saw,” did it really happen? I knew that old lady Pridgen was going to die on Sunday, but most anyone else could figure that out. Maybe not see her as I did in her death bed and hear her last gasp of air, but surely everybody knew her time was near. After the death of the three-year-old boy, some people wanted me to tell them “things.” Other people would cross the road and hide when I was near. No one would look me in the eye.
Soon after that, one Friday, Father said it was time to move on. We packed our covered wagon with food, clothes, pots, pans, books, saddles and hay. Sometimes when we moved the people would give us a party. Not this time. The only gift I received was an all-black, five-week-old kitten. The five-year-old brother of the boy that drowned met our wagon about two miles down the road. Without a word, he handed her to me. I took her.No one spoke. I did not learn if she was a gift from the mother or the boy. I named her Friday. From then on, Friday and I seemed attached to each other. I had heard tales of witches and black cats but I knew I was not a witch. Witches were old crones with big noses, warts and hunched backs. They boiled things in pots. The things I boiled in pots were good to eat or maybe the kettle would hold our clothes boiled to get clean.

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(presented by Dame Betty Dravis)

cheryl for DOD blogI was born with a passion for books that started at a young age. One day, when I was about three, my mother caught me scribbling lines under each sentence of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat. She was appalled. She thought I was defacing the book. When she asked me what I was doing, I said, “I’m writing the story.” I think even then I realized how important books would become in my life.

About ten years passed and I had a book collection that was the envy of my friends. I had every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys book, plus numerous Bobbsey Twins novels and others. Every word was like gold to me―something to be treasured. While my mother read her romance novels and my father read his science fiction tomes, I slipped away into the world of youthful investigations, following clues and solving mysteries―often with a flashlight under my blanket. I was captivated by these authors’ golden words and often stayed way past my bedtime.

Reading is very therapeutic and can take your mind off stress and pain, so my books became my best friends, always there when times were rough. What better way to escape the mundane life of a pre-teen and forget about chores, school and low self-esteem issues than to bury oneself in an intriguing book? These stories took me away to other worlds, to ‘live’ other lives, if only for an hour or two.

As a young teen, I collected Barbara Cartland and Harlequin romances and other adult fiction. One day I was offered a job as a journalist for a small BC newspaper. I was thrilled. Masset Meanderings became my column and I was paid about $5.00/week. Years later, I wrote a health and beauty column for another newspaper. But my deepest passion rested in fiction and books.

At fifteen, I had a growing collection of Stephen King, John Saul and Dean Koontz books and was fascinated by stories of suspense and horror. Inspired, I began to write my first novel. It took me a year to complete and I was proud of that accomplishment. Yearning for someone to tell me it was good, I brought the typewritten manuscript to school and kept it in my locker until I could show it to my language arts teacher. However, when I returned to my locker, someone had broken in and my manuscript was gone, and since this was well before home computers and laptops, it was my only copy. I was devastated. This time, they were my golden words. And someone had stolen them. That day I learned that there is a deeper connection to the words we write. We own each word. If we have written something, those words have stemmed from our thoughts and feelings.

As a bestselling author of Canadian suspense novels who went from avid reader to avid writer, I have been blessed by words. I am not only a woman who loves to read, but an author who loves to impact other readers. After growing up reading books of every genre, I have learned to appreciate and respect those golden words as gifts given by an author. Books educate, motivate, inspire and enrich, and every one you read has the power to stretch your mind and imagination in ways that challenge you. A good book can make you shake with fear and check your doors and windows, make you question ethical practices, or make you feel better about yourself. Books can make you laugh out loud…or reach for a tissue. Words have power and reading is an investment, one that I believe is worth more than gold.

~ * ~

From Cheryl Kaye Tardif, the international bestselling author that brought you CHILDREN OF THE FOG, comes a terrifying new thriller that will leave you breathless…


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00067]

Submerged reads like an approaching storm, full of darkness, dread and electricity. Prepare for your skin to crawl.”

—Andrew Gross, New York Times bestselling author of 15 Seconds

Two strangers submerged in guilt, brought together by fate…

After a tragic car accident claims the lives of his wife, Jane, and son, Ryan, Marcus Taylor is immersed in grief. But his family isn’t the only thing he has lost. An addiction to painkillers has taken away his career as a paramedic. Working as a 911 operator is now the closest he gets to redemption—until he gets a call from a woman trapped in a car.

Rebecca Kingston yearns for a quiet weekend getaway, so she can think about her impending divorce from her abusive husband. When a mysterious truck runs her off the road, she is pinned behind the steering wheel, unable to help her two children in the back seat. Her only lifeline is a cell phone with a quickly depleting battery and a stranger’s calm voice on the other end telling her everything will be all right.

Get SUBMERGED today.

Learn more about Cheryl Kaye Tardif at and follow her on Twitter.


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