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by Betty Dravis

Well, here I am again! My final chance this go-round to tell you about my books. I’ve already written about The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley and 1106 Grand Boulevard, so that leaves the two books in the Dream Reachers series and Millennium Babe: The Prophecy. Since I can’t cover all three in-depth in one post, today I’ll share about Dream Reachers, leaving my Babe for another day. And if you can resist moving to the bottom of this story prematurely, I might have a surprise ending for you. 🙂

The first question most people ask me when discussing the Dream Reachers books is: How did you and your co-author Chase Von decide to publish the Dream Reachers series? 

Like most good things, the idea occurred in a natural way. As most of you know, Chase is a poet and a celebrity interviewer. My author friend Chrissy K. McVay told him about me and when he asked to interview me for his blog on Student Operated Press (SOP), I was honored. After reading about the struggles overcome by his other very successful interviewees–Jenny McShane, MT Robison, Darcy Donavan, Kitty Kavey and Jason Seitz to name a few–I suggested that his interviews with those talented entertainers, authors and other artists would make an inspiring book. He thought about it and told me he would do it if I went in it with him. He wanted my stories of Clint Eastwood and five other legendary icons to be in the book. One thing led to another and Dream Reachers (Vol. One) was born.

Remember, in the first DR book, I interviewed no new subjects; simply used the fantastic subjects I had interviewed during my journalism career: Actor/Director/Producer Clint Eastwood, mentioned above; U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy; Actors Jane Russell, Ann Sothern; Singer/Actor Tanya Tucker; and then-San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto. Well, needless to say, I caught the interviewing bug all over again and just had to interview more people, as did Chase. Dream Reachers II evolved naturally.

Creating both Dream Reachers books was hard work but fun, also, because during the course of interviewing enchanting people and editing the books, I met many of the featured subjects and formed some new, lasting relationships. Now, in addition to working on another book, I’m interviewing more up-and-coming entertainers myself. I publish them on this Dames of Dialogue blog, sharing my treasures with the four other Dames (authors Maggie Bishop, Christy Tillery French, Cyndi Hodges, aka Caitlyn Hunter, and Laurel Rain-Snow). Christy, being the site’s co-founder, appointed me as their official celebrity interviewer.

Our friends and fans enjoyed the first DREAM REACHERS book so much that we had to do DREAM REACHERS II… Since we were meeting all kinds of fabulous people–like Katherin Kovin Pacino, lovely actress and step-mom of Al Pacino, Hollie “Hot Stuff” Dunaway, four-time World Champion Female Boxer and many more–we knew you’d be interested in learning how they surmounted all the obstacles in their paths to fulfill their dreams.

The complete roster of DREAM REACHERS (a club founded by Jessica Gilbert, founder of the popular Talent Spotlight Magazine) now totals 70; 37 from book one and 33 from book two. For your information, here’s the list of amazing people who brighten the pages of DREAM REACHERS II (in order of appearance):

Jenny McShane, actress, model, musician; Bryant McGill, counselor to the stars, radio show host, author, founder of Good Will Peace Treaty; Katherin Kovin Pacino, actress, singer (step-mother of Al Pacino); Tony Tarantino, actor, film director, producer (father of Quentin Tarantino); Antonia Tosini; screenwriter, author, Italy’s Goodwill Ambassador; Frank Nappi, award-winning author (two books going into film); Susan Kennington, actress, screenwriter, model; C. Robert Lee, retired photojournalist, author; Cheryl Kaye Tardif, best-selling Canadian author, Imajin Books publisher/owner; Marissa Autumn, actress, model, singer; Stan C. Countz, publisher, promoter, poet, musician and lyricist; Jessica Gilbert, talent promoter and founder of Talent Spotlight Magazine; Sherwin Buydens, actor, realty investment entrepreneur; Dr. Linda Salvin, psychic, radio show host; John Manha, Vietnam vet, entrepreneur; K. Michael Crawford, award-winning children’s author, illustrator; Rob Waterlander, “People Whisperer,” LIfe Coach; Jackie Krudop, founder of Pacino Worldwide; Joshua “Deous” Gennari, Washington State Movie Director/Producer; Hollie “Hot Stuff” Dunaway, four-times World Champion Female Boxer; Ed Roberts, poet, author; Elham “Elie” Madani, model, actress; Gretchen Hirsch, author, professional editor; Alexa Dectis, singer, actress, TV show host; Claire Dodin, actress, model from France; Jamie McCall, actress, model, author, poet; Yolanda “Yo” Jackson, AKA Poetic Flow, poet, author; Diane Wayne, singer/songwriter, actress, poet and founder of children’s charity, “A Music Mission”; Nicollette Varanelli, model, singer, songwriter; Wodige Wehali, AKA Reggie Solomon, musician, singer, songwriter; Joan Baker, “Queen of Voiceover” and actress; Judyth Piazza, journalist, Student Operated Press founder and radio talk-show host; Ada “Ace” Velez, six-times World Champion Female Boxer.


As you can see, Dream Reachers II has a vast variety of high achievers; some are already stars, while others are people like you and me…still reaching for that top rung. They all have two things in common: God-given talent and perseverance!

To put it in gorgeous Susan Kennington’s words: “True DREAM REACHERS aren’t just DREAMERS, we are also DOERS!”

Now for a sample of what’s in store for you, here is a portion of the first interview in Dream Reachers II…the lovely, talented actress Jenny McShane:

Interview with Jenny McShane

LOVELY ACTRESS SINGS LIKE AN ANGEL

Betty Dravis: Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Jenny. Christy Tillery French, co-founder of this select band of female authors, appointed me as celebrity interviewer of the group. As you know, the Dames usually interview people in the publishing industry, but since I co-author a series of Dream Reachers books, they think it will add fascinating variety to interview people from the other arts. You are one of the most popular artists in Dream Reachers and were so helpful to me and Chase Von during its production that I wanted to interview you again for this edition.

Jenny, you have done so much in the entertainment industry, I’m sure our readers will enjoy you as much as your current fans do. I know from your section in Dream Reachers about your father’s job choice, but can you tell us a little about that and how you went from there to being such a successful actress?

Jenny McShane: I wanted to be an actress since the age of three when I tortured neighborhood kids by performing on a ledge in my basement with an empty paper-towel holder as my microphone. I asked my parents for a piano when I was in second grade. I had a deep desire to get whatever it was inside out, I think! Most people who know me say I like attention, but I think it is more than that––I like to see people happy. I think music and entertaining lets people momentarily escape whatever stress they may have. When I see people’s faces respond with a happy gaze, it makes me happy. Entertaining helps me to escape, as well, and gives me a deep inner peace.

Betty Dravis: You chose your career for an admirable reason, Jenny, but it looks like it chose you, too. I have to grin at the image of the “little girl you” in that basement. I bet you get a lot of mileage from being the “daughter of a pig farmer” too…and a lot more laughs, all good-natured and in the right spirit, I’m sure. Nobody can argue with success. I’ll get into some of your movies and your leading men later, but can you tell us about when you first started singing and playing guitar? I understand you formed your own band for a while, but that you recently joined an up-and-coming band with a very unusual name. Do you mind sharing about how you met “Harry the Dog” and where you’re currently performing?

Jenny McShane: I do, oddly enough, get a lot of mileage out of the Pig Farmer’s Daughter line. My mother gets so upset, especially when they included Pig Farmer’s Daughter in an interview The New York Times did on me. “Couldn’t you say Hog Farmer’s Daughter, Jen?” she asked. “It sounds so much nicer.”… I think the funniest thing that ever happened with the pig stories was meeting Smokey Hormel. Smokey was the son of the famous Hormel family, which is where I drove with my family to take our pigs when it was time for them to go to market. Smokey became a guitar player in Bruce Willis’s band. I started playing guitar and singing when I realized I could get out of some more work.

When we were growing up, my parents made a music room for us in the house. Mom and Dad loved to listen to me play the piano at night after chores. I honestly liked playing but knew it would also make them forget about extra things that might need to be done. My father is one of twenty-two children. His brothers and sisters and mother were all very musical and I was in heaven when I went to my grandma’s house and heard them all singing and playing various instruments together. It was so beautiful. My grandmother played the violin and was an expert tap dancer, so she was always the highlight of the show.

It was such a sense of achievement when I learned to play guitar and piano and could sit in with Dad’s family and keep up. I took piano lessons at the convent next to the Catholic school, from Marguerite McPartland, another Irish lass. The piano was great, as you can read music and it helps you learn other instruments easily. I can play accordion and guitar based on the basics of the piano lessons.

I did have my own band, called Little Rubie, for a little bit seven years ago. I put it together to keep myself busy when I wasn’t working in acting. In April of this year I joined a band called Harry the Dog and the Traveling Soul Circus. My boyfriend is from England and has a whole crew of English people in LA who really stick together like a posse. He is friends and a big fan of Harry Bridgen’s band. I accidentally ran into Harry at an English pub called Cat N Fiddle on Sunset. I overheard one of Harry’s friends saying they were looking for a female guitar player because a girl in the band was going on tour with Pink. When I heard Pink, that grabbed my attention! I am a big fan of Pink, so I asked if I could audition to be in the band and Harry agreed. I took Bruno Frasca, the expert guitar player in the band, to Chateau Marmont and proceeded to play the piano and the guitar for the guests that were there that night. The last song I played on the guitar was “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. All the other hotel guests joined in; even the actor Josh Hartnett enjoyed it and was singing along. Needless to say, I was invited to join the band. I am on guitar and back-up vocals for the group. I also helped the band write and record a very cool song titled “American Man.”

Jenny McShane with Dion Jackson, Dustin Hoffman and her sister Karee Miller Jaeger.

Betty Dravis: That’s a fun, interesting story, Jenny. Best of luck with the group! I haven’t had the good fortune to be in the LA area to see you perform, but I’ve seen YouTube videos and photos on various Hollywood websites. You certainly are a good singer, pick a mean guitar and your energy is endless. How do you keep in such fine shape? And please give us some links to your various websites.

Jenny McShane: I do have a lot of natural energy. I think it was growing up with all the manual labor. Now I have to work out at least five times a week just to feel like I am doing something. It makes my spirit positive to run, lift weights, ride a bike, etc. I think if you are an entertainer it is your responsibility to respect your fans and show them you have morals and drive. I love to watch Rocky as many times a year as I can; it inspires me. Drive and being in great shape is something I admire in any performer. Who likes to drive a dirty car? is how I look at it! I love that Clint Eastwood is in top shape to this day. Any of the performers I admire are always in great shape in person!

I have my own website which is www.jennymcshane.com but I need to get some updates on there! I also post my current gigs on my Facebook page.

Betty Dravis: I hear you loud and clear about updating your website, Jenny. That seems like an endless task, especially for someone who does as much as you. I’ve seen five of your movies: Furnace, which is your latest (with the very handsome Michael Pare); Shark Attack, in which you starred with Casper Van Dien; The Watcher, starring Keanu Reeves, where you played the lead female detective; Shark Attack 3, where you co-starred opposite John Barrowman; and Stag. I expected Stag to be an actual stag party, which is not to my taste, so was pleasantly surprised to see that it was about something tragic that happened at the beginning of a stag party, rather than going in-depth with a so-called “sex” movie. It has some nudity, but is more of a thriller, IMO. How many movies have you been in, Jenny? Dream Reachers went in-depth on this subject, so keep it brief. Then tell us about some of your modeling jobs. I’d love to hear your take on that, as I’m sure our readers will.

Jenny McShane: I have been in about twenty movies, but only on four television shows. I never keep an exact tab, though. The movie Stag has a real message. The film is quite scary as it shows kids and adults that some of our decisions can end up affecting our entire lives. After filming Stag, I met a director in London who told me his eighteen-year-old son had been drunk driving and hit and killed two people and would be serving the rest of his life in prison. The character I played in Stag was difficult to play. The original script had the back-story that was not included in the movie. The mother of the two sisters in the movie was dying of cancer and since they didn’t have insurance, they stripped to get the money quickly to help the family.

Modeling is the way I started in the business. There is some misinformation about modeling. Modeling is a job description and every model isn’t perfect. The majority of modeling I did was commercial as opposed to editorial. Editorial models were stunning, in my eyes. We commercial models were basically girl-next-door types. I did a lot of Budweiser/Anheuser Busch ads and catalog shoots, as well as Target and Dayton Hudson ads when I started. I also did a lot of industrial shoots for various companies, including Fingerhut, 3M, etc. I don’t consider photos that I do now to be modeling, but rather publicity for my likeness.

Betty Dravis: That’s a modest appraisal, Jenny. I can see the girl-next-door in you, but I also see the “stunning” that you see in others. In fact, you look so different in so many photos and movies that you’re like a chameleon…which is a wonderful attribute for an actress, so keep on doing what you’re doing. But back to the acting, who was the first big actor you met and what were your feelings at the time? Cowboy actor Jim Davis was the first one I met. He was quite popular in the 50s, if I have my dates straight, but I remember him more as J.R. Ewing’s father in the later Dallas TV series. Meeting him was impressionable, but it didn’t move me nearly as much as meeting Clint Eastwood later, a story I relate in Dream Reachers.

Jenny McShane: Oh, Betty, I love the story of how you met the iconic Clint Eastwood. He’s one of my favorite actors. The first actor I met was Kyle T. Heffner. I met Kyle in a café in Chicago, during one of my mother’s visits. He was the third lead in a film I loved–– Flashdance! He also starred on Golden Girls and Seinfeld. He was working in Chicago in a play with Brian Donehy, another actor I loved. My thought when meeting him was: I have just met somebody who can tell me how to become an actor because he is one! Since then, Kyle has coached me on any role I really wanted. I think it was meant to be, as he knows everything about me and keeps me the person I first was… And I guess I do that in return, now that I have had some success. I keep him in check and he does the same for me! Being in the business for a long while now. I have seen people get big breaks and totally screw them up with bad decisions. I think the acting profession can be compared to gambling: There are no guarantees and it feels like you are walking a tight rope at all times. I don’t think there is any performer who has had smooth sailing. My profession isn’t an easy life.

Betty Dravis: I’ve heard that you’re well respected in Hollywood for your dependability and professionalism, Jenny. That says a lot for what you’ve learned. What is your routine when working on a movie…your schedule? Which role was your biggest challenge? And are you between roles now? If so, what do you do to fill the time while waiting?

Jenny McShane: My routine when I am working on a movie is to get my environment situated and feel at home first. Next I try to get into the community and find some down-home people to hang out with after work. As a performer you can’t take a drive with a stranger, so it takes a little bit of detective work. But I usually find some good people and end up keeping in touch years later. I like to find out about the places I am working in, if I can, and what the people are like and what makes them tick. One of my first movies was shot in Moscow, Russia. Wow, did I go through some scary moments there. The Russian people are very scared of “The Americans” and don’t trust us, so that was a very uneasy time. I guess it was like being a skunk and thinking you could go hang out with the cats after work.

I have had the amazing opportunities to work on films in Bulgaria, Russia, India, London, South Africa and Canada. I am between jobs right now and I know a lot of fellow actors are, as well. Work is very lean out there right now, but it is for everyone, so I am keeping busy with my band until I land the next gig. The people at Gibson Guitars have been amazing by giving me different guitars every time I play with my band. That inspires me to play as much as I can because I love Gibson Guitars. Currently the band that I am playing in, Harry The Dog and the Circus of Lost Souls, is doing a series of four concerts at The Unknown Theater in Hollywood. The Unknown Theater is four years old and is a nonprofit theater similar to Steppenwolf in Chicago. If you haven’t seen the theater, you have to go just to admire the beauty of the place.

I have a few bites on the line, in fishing terms, as far as jobs go, so as soon as I land a job, my vacation is over. I pray that our economy and world come to peace, the troops come home from Iraq and we can all have a great Christmas and end 2010 with a bang!

Betty Dravis: That’s my prayer, too, Jenny… I suppose most actors do similar things to fill the time, but now tell us what you love about acting? What do you hate? I’d enjoy seeing you in a hit TV series…one that would make you a household name. What are your thoughts about that? This curious mind wants to know…as I’m sure our readers do.

Jenny McShane: What I love about acting is getting paid to do something I love which I know a lot of people would love to do. I meet people every day that are doing manual labor just to support their families and give their children education and opportunities they never had. I also love the actors I admired when I was growing up and have now had the opportunity to work beside.

There is nothing I hate about acting! I love it all! I would love to be in a hit TV series. I had a blast in an episode of Don Johnson’s TV hit Chase Nash; I played guitar and sang my rendition of “Desperado.”… I have a great casting director fan that is a fan of April Webster. I came close to getting two TV series with April Webster. I think I will when the timing is right. It has to be the right fit. I wish I could play a gunslinger in an old Western. The character has to be totally ME, so hopefully it comes my way soon. I am a big fan of The Mentalist and Mad Men. Those television series fit the actors in the cast like gloves! Hopefully, one of those talented writers reads this and thinks of me…

Betty Dravis: You have certainly met a lot of big names…people you led us to while creating Dream Reachers. Chase and I are grateful to you for introducing us to the famous photographer Jim Marshall, who photographed huge talents, like The Beatles, Janis Joplin, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix…too many to list. In fact, he was the only photographer used by The Beatles near the end of their career. You graciously gave me his phone number and he was so helpful, putting me in touch with the right people at Rolling Stone magazine when we needed to use a picture of Tanya Tucker on one of their old covers. What a charming man! And you put me in touch with Mike Regan, VP of Marketing and Acquisitions for Melee Entertainment, when we needed permission to use movie stills from Avi Lerner, the BIG producer of Slumdog Millionaire and other huge box-office hits.

But for your next question, what advice do you have for aspiring actors?

Jenny McShane: Be prepared for the opportunity. Know your craft and then make the steps to go for it. If you want something bad enough, you can get it!

END OF PORTION OF JENNY McSHANE INTERVIEW… I hate to leave you hanging, but to learn more, I hope you can buy our books on Amazon and other online bookstores.

http://www.amazon.com/Dream-Reachers-II-Betty-Dravis/dp/0982346476/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1305660993&sr=1-1#productPromotions

http://www.amazon.com/Dream-Reachers-Chase-Von/dp/0976678780/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1305784038&sr=1-1

http://www.bettydravis.com/#

All of the above demonstrates that Chase and I are proud of our “Chubby Baby,” which is what we fondly call our Dream Reachers II because it’s 838 pages in length and contains about 300 awesome photographs (some action, some glam, but all eye candy). 🙂

I promised you a secret at the end of this blog, so here it is! A sneak peek at the new cover for Dream Reachers II. Chase and I decided to change it because the first cover turned out too dark and small icon versions didn’t show up as much as we expected. Since cinematographer Mario Prado had sent us such an enchanting photo of lovely actress Katherin Kovin Pacino, we felt like the cover needed a Hollywood “face-lift”  to best enhance the perfection of our gorgeous subject.  Thanks to author and graphic artist Daniel L. Carter for “catching my vision” in creating this new cover. The change has already been submitted to the printer and will be featured on the various websites asap. I loooooooooooove it… Let us know what you think. (Please help us keep our secret by not sharing this cover until we tell you. *Wink* *Wink* (Of course, we hope that you will Tweet and FB the link to this blog. Buttons at top of comment section… And do leave your comments. Group hug to you all.)

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by Betty Dravis

As most of you know, I’m a big ham and a Drama Queen who enjoys tooting my own horn. The good news is that I’m forgiven by everyone because I also enjoy tooting theirs… I love people and it shows!

So by way of celebrating the release of my latest book and to tell you about two more to follow, I decided to write this blog and invite some of my favorite authors to answer a fun question, thus giving them some good PRESS also.

I’m also introducing a new author, C. Robert Lee,  a high-school friend whose first book will soon be published.  (YES, people of our generation are still active and productive, so knock off those snide remarks, please…)  After you read about my latest books and go purchase Dream Reachers II on Amazon.com or BN.com, then and only then can you finish reading this blog. 🙂

DREAM REACHERS II is second in a series of celebrity interview books wherein my co-author Chase Von and I interview high-achievers who work hard to make their dreams come true. Some are celebs, like Bryant McGill, founder of the Good Will Peace Treaty & famous author/radio host; actress Katherin Kovin Pacino (Al’s Step-mother); Actor/Director Tony Tarantino (Quentin’s father); Hollie “Hot Stuff” Dunaway, four times world female boxing champio; SOP and American Perspective Founder Judyth Piazza, etc. And some are average people like you and me. This book has been two years in the making, following the publication of the first Dream Reachers. It can be purchased on any online bookstore, but here’s the most popular link: http://tinyurl.com/3gdw4gz

Published by Von Chase Publishing Company of Southern California.

(We all adore the photo of the beautiful actress and pop star Darcy Donavan on the cover of the first Dream Reachers, but are elated with the cover on DRII. It’s adorned by a rare, special photo of the gracious, talented actress Katherin Kovin Pacino. The cover has a special story behind it and deserves a blog of its own…which I promise to write in the near future.) You will see what I mean in the montage below:

TWO MORE BOOKS COMING SOON: Another dream of mine is being fulfilled by a two-book contract with Canterbury House Publishing who is re-releasing my most popular out-of-print books… I’ve desired to bring back 1106 GRAND BOULEVARD and THE TOONIES INVADE SILICON VALLEY in the innovative e-Book format, so am pleased that Wendy Dingwall of Canterbury House took an interest in me. When she told me she was going to “take Toonies to the moon” she blew me away… I expect her to keep her word because I’m ready for some heady adventures. 🙂

Following is a montage of the covers of the new e-Books and the two DR books (my latest works). When I signed up with Canterbury I had no idea they would work so fast and that the release of the e-Books would come so close to the release of DRII… Double PR work, but with the help of my friends and readers, like you, the word will spread. I am impressed with the covers on all these books, aren’t you? 🙂

OK, and now that you have ordered MY books, I welcome you back so you can check out my guests and order their creative books. There is something here for all literary tastes: YA, Romance, Mystery, Humor, Dark Humor, Fantasy, Adventure, etc. – Betty Dravis – http://www.bettydravis.com

Chris Platt, Author of Willow King, RWA Golden Heart Award Winner

I’m Chris Platt and I write horse books for the eight-to-thirteen-year-old crowd. My fifteenth book just came out this past September, but the character that I liked best came out of my second book, Race The Wind, and she wasn’t even a main character. RTW was a sequel to my first book, Willow King, and I was looking to add a new character to the ones already established in the first book. The character of Camela, a little blind girl, kept popping into my head.

I kept tossing the idea out because it would be really tough to be around horses and stay safe if you couldn’t see. But the idea wouldn’t go away, so I put the little girl in the book and had a great time writing that character. Even though she was blind, she had excellent hearing and a good sense of place and distance. When there were people she didn’t like, she’d trip them with her cane, then stand around and look all innocent. She also spouted old Irish sayings that she got from her grandpa. I need to write another character like that; she was a lot of fun and very courageous.

Chris Platt – RWA Golden Heart Winner – http://tinyurl.com/3uz3qmx

Author Michele Van Ort Cozzens Has an Easy Choice

My favorite character is Anne Shields from the novel Irish Twins—although I must pause and reflect on whether or not I can claim full responsibility for “creating” her. Anne, an eighty-year-old woman who dies while water-skiing and then narrates this family saga from the afterlife, has a rather provocative opening line:

“I have a little God in me,” she claims.

Granted, I created that line for her—and no matter how many workshop critics didn’t approve of it—I kept it for good reasons. There were powerful forces of imagination at work as I told the story of her life; however, Anne Shields was based on the true character of my mother, who did indeed die back in 1999 while water-skiing. Since my mother didn’t share much about her life with me, or any of her children, I elected to use the few things I did know to tell the story called Irish Twins, and made up the rest. Because her character was developed with love and respect, she materialized on the pages in a manner that made her not only loveable to me—which encouraged me to continue writing—but also to my readers.

When initially work-shopping the material that would become Irish Twins, I had used multiple voices. Anne was first, but I also used her sister—her Irish Twin Molly—who greets her in the afterlife, and the voices of Anne’s children—her own Irish Twins, Jenny and Caylie. Anytime I posted a chapter that wasn’t narrated by Anne, a wave of protests ensued. Readers, without question, wanted MORE ANNE!

Even though the story begins with Anne’s death, she is the driving force and heart and soul of this tale. Having her voice in my head as I wrote kept my actual mother alive for me, and it helped me to appreciate her life and her choices in ways I never anticipated. I also didn’t anticipate the incredible loss I felt once I finished writing the story. For a brief time, it was like losing her all over again.

I truly believe that because of Anne Shields and my mom—twins in my mind—Irish Twins is the best thing I’ve ever written.

Michele Van Ort Cozzens – http://tinyurl.com/3fv4ysk

Author Lance Carbuncle Has a Tough Choice

It’s a funny thing trying to come up with a good answer to the question: “Who is the favorite character you ever created?” It’s kind of like trying to decide which one of your children you love most. It is an unfair question and, for me, one that’s impossible to answer. I’ve created many characters (and many children) and I love each and every one of them in different ways and for different reasons.  But, I would have to say that currently, I am quite proud of the titular characters of Grundish and Askew. I can’t say that I like one more than the other. They complete each other and come together as a single unit (much like one can consider a married couple as one person). Considered individually, each character would come off as slovenly, immoral, corrupt, contemptible, violent and scary. They are the kind of guys that you would give a wide berth on the street. But together they bring out each other’s humanity and even become (hopefully) loveable in some twisted way.

I found my inspiration for Grundish and Askew in the Elvis-obsessed Japanese lovers in Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train.  At this point, I cannot even remember much about the movie or the couple. But I do know that I loved the interaction between them. Something about the way that they argued, but clearly still cared about each other, gave me the starting point that I wanted for Grundish and Askew. I wanted them to argue about things constantly. I wanted them to get on each other’s nerves. And, in the end, I wanted them to be the most important things in each other’s lives. Those two white-trash, bottom-of-the-barrel losers had nothing. They lived in a trailer park amidst a swarm of convicted sex offenders. In Grundish’s case, he repeatedly found himself incarcerated. Those boys couldn’t keep jobs or girls or even self-respect. But together, they found something meaningful. They found true friendship of a quality that many will never be lucky enough to experience.

I loved the challenge of taking two detestable bums and digging deep to try to make my readers feel a connection to them. Yes, Grundish and Askew burglarize houses. They’re dirty and probably smelly. Grundish abuses substances and sleeps with his probation officer to avoid being thrown back in prison. Askew becomes an out-of-control psychotic – he kills and maims people. These are guys on an absurd crime spree. But through it all they stick together. They have each other’s backs. They are family. And, somehow, despite the fact that they should be thoroughly unlikable, I think my readers want to see Grundish and Askew come out on top at the end of the book. And that, for me, was the joy of creating the characters of Grundish and Askew – taking those two good-for-nothings and somehow crafting them to be endearing characters.

Lance Carbuncle – http://tinyurl.com/3e5ocnl

Deborah Grace Staley: on Miss Estelee of the Angel Ridge Series

I write a series called the Angel Ridge Novels in which three of six have been published by Bell Bridge Books. Book One was Only You (May 2009), Book Two was A Home for Christmas (December 2009), and Book Three was What the Heart Wants (September 2010). Book Four will be out later this year.

Angel Ridge is a small southern town in East Tennessee filled with a cast of, shall we say, “unique” characters that readers get to visit each time they read one of the novels; that’s the series part. Each novel also features a different sweet romance.

I think my favorite character in Angel Ridge has to be Miss Estelee. She’s the town’s oldest resident. In fact, she’s so old, no one knows how old she is. No one knows her last name either. She lives in the oldest house in the town proper. The streets are lined with hundred-year-old Victorians, but her house doesn’t have all the fancy architectural details of a Victorian, save the gingerbread trim, which has angel’s wings in it.

Legend has it that an angel appeared to the first settlers in Angel Ridge and saved them from an Indian attack. In appreciation, the settlers named the town Angel Ridge (see the short story that appears at the end of Only You). Miss Estelee has a particular attachment to the focal component of the Town Square: a bronze statue of a warrior angel standing sentinel on a brick pedestal. She sees that flowers are planted around him in the spring and fall. She also says he reminds her of her only love, yet she never married.

Miss Estelee turns up at odd times in the novels, as if she knows in advance where she’s needed. She’s full of folksy wisdom for the town’s residents, particularly in matters of the heart. There were women in Southern Appalachian history known as “granny women.” These women just knew things, like what sex a baby would be, when someone was coming, how to heal common ailments, and when something bad was about to happen. Some people from outside these mountain communities called these women witches. Having come from a long line of these women, I say they were full of common sense, practical knowledge and were more than a little clairvoyant.

Another oddity about Miss Estelee is that when she’s around, nothing bad seems to happen. But when she’s gone, like the time she disappeared in the middle of What the Heart Wants, trouble abounds in Angel Ridge. Readers have speculated that Miss Estelee is an angel. When asked to confirm or deny, I can only say, “What do you think?” Truth is, I don’t think I’ll know myself until I write the last word of Book Six.

For more information on the Angel Ridge Series, see http://www.deborahgracestaley.com and http://www.bellbridgebooks.com. Books may be purchased at http://www.amazon.com. For a chance to win an autographed book, “like” Deborah Grace Staley’s Fan Page on Facebook.

Deborah Grace Staley – http://tinyurl.com/5vve2xj

 Poet Dawn Huffaker Selects Her Favorite Poet

What poet do I admire, and why? Well, as a teenager, my first love was Robert Frost. His poems would draw me in and totally captivate me. The nature poems were my favorite. I felt as if I was there with him and could see the poetic scene of deep snow or falling leaves.

As I compared our writing styles, I noticed that they were very similar. The poems were:

1.   about nature or country life

2.   in blank or free verse form

3.   with a “bigger picture” message as a poem’s basis

4.   inspirational and meaningful

There was a poster in my bedroom. It had a light green frame around a forest of trees. At the bottom was written the last few lines of A Road Not Taken. They were:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

When I saw those words for the first time, they gave me chills. They were words to live by. I decided to use them as my philosophy.

Time moved on. High school came and went. College flew by. Then, I had to make a decision for a job. At that time, working with computers was a more stable income than trying to publish poetry. I founded a local computer store. Kept it running for seventeen years. After a lengthy illness, the business was closed in the spring of 2007.

As a hobby, I have returned to writing. Still not completely well, but I have progressed quite a ways. I compose poetry and short stories while looking out into the forest from my window. It is a very peaceful and inspiring place to be.

Robert Frost encouraged me to see the beauty all around me. And, after my business closed, I came back to the two roads in his forest and I’ve chosen the road less traveled again. I thank him for both of these.

In closing, I’d like to share one of my poems.

Night Made Day

Night made day

By moon on snow.

Sleeping trees whisper

In their dreams.

Biting air keeps the animals

In their burrows.

Branch shadows glide across snow

With ease.

I look out with wonder

At the scene before me.

Magical it has become

After the mighty storm.

Nothing is as it was, and

The world is weighted down.

Only the wind can come and go

As it pleases.

What a blessing it is

To live in my mountain home!

God’s handiwork is so close

I can touch it with my own hands.

Indeed, I am made rich with the bounty

That is set right before me.

Nothing man-made can compare

With His Masterpiece.

2011 © Dawn L. Huffaker

All rights reserved.

 I’ve self-published two books. One is a collection of poems that were written over twenty-five years. The title is Flights of Fancy (Volume 1). The next book is a collaboration with a floral photographer, Michele Duncan, where I wrote a poem for each of her wonderful photos. The title for this one is Flower Escapes (Book 1). The poems are about God’s garden. They give an inspirational boost to people who need a little TLC. Both are at Amazon and Lulu.

Dawn Huffaker – http://tinyurl.com/3vbmonk

Author Laurel Rain Snow’s Characters Are Her Friends

My characters feel like they are my friends, especially the ones who show up again and again, like Rainbow Luft. We meet her in Miles to Go, at a point in her life when the secrets of her past are beginning to surface. We see her again in Web of Tyranny, in “prequel” moments that showcase her time during the 1960s.

When she first appears on the canvas in MTG, she is an artist who supports herself after the end of her marriage by working in restaurants, and then later takes a job in an art gallery.

In the early 1970s, she is still clinging to the freewheeling “hippie” lifestyle, and, as someone once described her, she looks like a “moving sculpture” with colorful layers draped over her body. Her frizzy hair stands out like an aura around her slightly moon-shaped face. But her ebullient energy, combined with a peaceful demeanor, draw others to her.

She first meets Lindsay Malone and Gia Greenbaum in a consciousness-raising group in midtown Sacramento. To the others in the group, she is like a leader. She seems to have incorporated all the feminist teachings and epitomizes everything about freedom and independence that the others only dream of espousing.

But beneath that serene exterior lie the secrets of the past that haunt her. What happened to Rainbow in her turbulent teens that led her to a commune in the sixties? And what deeply buried pain continues to daunt her days, even as she pursues her art? Who will finally unlock the key to the previous versions of Rainbow and lead her into a happier life? And then, when she finally believes that the past has been dealt with, what betrayals will catapult her backwards into pain and despair?

Laurel Rain Snow – http://tinyurl.com/5srynrn

 Circles of Destiny Author C. Robert Lee Chooses Professor Danny Barcea

This blog is about a character from Book One of the trilogy, Circles of Destiny, titled The Other Face of God. The story is set in the Peru of 1968. This book will be published by Imajin books and be available as an e-book around July 1, 2011.

Professor of anthropology, Danny Barcea, PhD, finds a way to non-violently free 2,567 feudal serfs whose ancestors have been attached by law to a forty-thousand acre fundo for four hundred years. He helps them gain title to the fundo and teaches them how to compete in a twentieth-century marketplace.

By 1955, the professor’s teachings and actions shame the Peruvian legislature into passing an emancipation law that goes widely unenforced . By 1968, two percent of the population owns ninety-eight percent of all arable land. Oligarchic large land owners are frightened and infuriated by a new president sympathetic to land reform. The lords of the fundos back a dictator-in-the-making to assassinate the president and to establish a secret policy of genocide to stop the outcries for land reform generated by the professor’s ideas and actions.

The professor’s assassination is made to look like an accident on a mountain road between his car and a bus in which forty-eight people die fiery deaths. The blueprint of his work in the form of an autobiographical manuscript is hidden deep underground in a secret vault known only to his son and daughter who are now marked for death by the dictator. On his last night alive, Danny Barcea shares secrets with Father Ryan that he would never share with a family member. The professor’s work becomes the seminal reality that subsequently results in land reform without civil war.

His spirit of sacrifice and generosity resonates throughout the trilogy. The name of the corporation he forms on behalf of the Indian owners is an ancient Quechan word, Achirana, that means: That Which Is Clean Flowing Into That Which Is Beautiful.

Excerpt from The Other Face of God:

Epitaph on professor Danny Barcea’s gravestone.

HE GAVE LAND REFORM A HEART AND POURED HIS OWN BLOOD INTO IT

 Loud applause greeted President Ricardo Soriano’s arrival on stage at Danny’s Wake. He began, “Most of you don’t know that Danny Barcea was my best friend. We both enrolled at Cornell University the same year, Danny in Anthropology, me in Architecture. He was best man at my wedding.

“We had a lot of disagreements as young men often do who are trying to set a course for their lives. The question Danny always asked himself was ‘Does this action help without hurting?’ One of his eternal verities that went on to include ‘Does this act contain any seeds of self deception that in time will grow into a choking vine of self destruction? If so, it will also hurt others as well and should be avoided at all costs.’

“Almost every day of my life I have awakened with Danny’s question. Finding an answer to the question has saved me from making many mistakes. His legacy of love for the disenfranchised will last forever.”

ENDNOTE: Bob’s new website is under construction and I’ll share the link when he launches it and his first book. Best of luck, my friend.

Author Linda Rettstatt Invites Readers to Meet Photographer Rylee Morgan

My favorite character is photographer Rylee Morgan in Shooting Into the Sun. When I began to develop this story (no pun intended), I started with the title and mindful of one of the cardinal rules of outdoor photography: Never shoot into the sun. The story unfolded from the ‘what if’ question: What if a young female nature photographer worked according to the rules of her trade and lived her life in much the same manner—within the bounds of the rules? What I love about Rylee Morgan is that she is eventually willing to admit, at least to herself, that the rules keep life orderly, but also keep her lonely.

I needed a character who was strong and who had been shaped by events in her past that had a negative impact on her and skewed her view of life. And to highlight Rylee’s strengths and challenge her character flaws, I created Lexie—her younger sister and polar opposite. Many readers have been drawn to Lexie and asked about a sequel telling her story. Well, we’ll see about that.

Rylee is both complex and transparent all at once. She’s not that good at disguising her emotions or her motives. Her list of rules mostly consists of the things one does not do, leading Lexie to ask Rylee if she even has a ‘do’ list. The rules are what give Rylee’s life order and safety. But I admire her willingness to finally take chances when she comes to terms with the fact that those things that create safe boundaries to keep the bad out are the very same things that keep her locked inside. It’s not easy for Rylee to admit she’s wrong or to let her guard down. But a cross-country trip with Lexie and the hitchhiker, Josh, whom Lexie invites to join them, stretches Rylee’s rule book to the limit.

Rylee’s transformation is not without cost, soul-searching and a lot of emotional turmoil. But she dares to delve into the depths of her own fear and anger to find freedom and happiness.

I like to think that Rylee is a composite of women I’ve known. But my friends who have read Shooting Into the Sun tell me Rylee has a lot of my qualities, characteristics and stubbornness. Okay, so maybe they’re right—just a little bit. And perhaps that’s why, of all the characters I’ve come to know, Rylee holds a special place in my heart. That and the fact that as a former psychotherapist, I love to see someone plumb the depths of their inner fears and past hurts and come out whole. Who doesn’t love a happy ending?

Linda Rettstatt – http://www.lindarettstatt.com

2010 Author of the Year – Champagne Books

by Betty Dravis

Betty Dravis: Welcome to our growing slate of Dream Reachers, Stan. It’s a pleasure to have such a talented man from the California Central Valley with us today. I moved from Silicon Valley to the Central Valley two years ago. While I live in the smaller town of Manteca and you live in the booming metropolis of Modesto (laughs), we’re in the same “neck of the woods.” I met you on Facebook and you drew my interest because you promote local merchants, have a background in publishing, TV show production and are a prolific poet and wordsmith. When I saw the quality of your full-color Valley Views Magazine, I knew you were a man of vision…a man I wanted to interview.

Before we get to know “Stan the adult,” I’d like to give our readers a peek at “Stan the child.” Where did you grow up? What were you like as a kid? What were your first ambitions?

Stan C. Countz: Thanks, Betty, I’m happy to be here. To start at the beginning, my parents met and married in the Central Valley city of Turlock during the fabulous fifties. My mom, Myrna Louise Wymar, was an avid horse enthusiast and barrel rider and a member of the Turlock Cavaliers. My dad, Charles Alvin Countz, was like the original “Fonzie.” He wore his hair in a duck-tail and was a member of a car club, like most guys in those days. They fell for each other and, before you know it, I was on my way. They got married and moved to the Bay Area where my two brothers and I were born and raised. I lived in Martinez, Walnut Creek, Danville and Alamo before moving back to the Turlock area in 1967. From the sixth grade through high school, I lived there; my parents built a countertop manufacturing and installation business (Countz Counter Tops).

In high school, I was a member of the track team and during this time I was confronted with the claims of Christ and decided to accept Him into my life. This decision was to have tremendous impact on the course of my life and the lives of my family and friends. This was at the height of the “Jesus Movement” of the early 70’s. After receiving Christ, I was walking on “Cloud Nine” from about the middle of my freshman year through my senior year in high school.

I was one of those guys that brought my Bible to school and actually read it. I was involved with the early days of contemporary Christian music and enjoyed listening to early Christian rock artists such as  Barry McGuire, Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Chuck Girard and other pioneers of that genre. During this time, I had a voracious appetite for Bible Study, prayer, evangelism and Christian fellowship. I wrote a weekly column in The Turlock Journal, entitled “For Real.” Several articles were picked up by national publications. I took a class taught by Margaret J. Anderson, author of The Christian Writer’s Handbook, who happened to live in Turlock at the time.  

Betty Dravis: Your parents sound “Fifties Cool,” Stan. Thanks for painting a vivid picture of that era; your description brings back pleasant memories for me. It’s also interesting to hear about your accepting Jesus into your life.

Your interest in singing may have been sparked by those Christian singers and your interest in writing must have gotten a big boost when a few of your articles made it national. I find it interesting how everything in our lives tends to blend together to form who we become as adults. Using myself as an example, I started writing poetry at about age eleven, took private elocution lessons, favored English, journalism and creative writing throughout my school years. It didn’t surprise anyone when those skills followed me throughout my working life.

Stan and his beautiful wife Teresa.

Stan C. Countz: You’re right, Betty; that’s how it was for me too. After graduating from Turlock High School in 1974, I majored in English and minored in Journalism at Modesto Junior College. I wrote for the college newspaper and was inspired to continue writing when I won an award for an investigative journalism piece from the California Community College Association.

Unfortunately, writing jobs were not too plentiful, so after graduating, I took a few minimum wage general laborer jobs before I discovered I could sell. My first sales job was working for Fuller Brush, selling degreasers, germicidal cleaners and brushes door to door. I met my wife Teresa at Modesto Junior College and hired her to deliver and collect on all the products I was selling. I went from selling brushes to selling freezer food plans.

When I made enough money so I didn’t need to take just anything that came along, I interviewed with media companies–including TV stations, radio stations and newspapers–and was hired by a new FM radio station in the Modesto area. K102 (today referred to as Sunny 102.3) was the first contemporary station on the FM dial in the Modesto area. I was given ninety days to “sink or swim.” Luckily, I excelled at radio-advertising sales and subsequently started a Christian radio show, The Right On Rock, which eventually aired on three rock stations in the Modesto area over an eight-year period.

In 1979 I left the radio station as an account executive and was hired by a local advertising agency where I had the opportunity to produce TV shows, direct mail-coupon mailers, bus-bench advertising and other innovative local advertising programs. In 1979 I launched Advertising Alternatives and began publishing specialty tabloids and publications. In March of 1980, I founded Valley Views magazine.

Betty Dravis: Well, you earned your way to the top, Stan, through diligence and hard work, the old-fashioned way. (laughs) It’s great that your wife worked with you to help you get started. That’s impressive and says a lot for both of you.

My research shows that Valley Views magazine was the first city/regional magazine ever published in the Central Valley. Before telling us about your current projects and your ambitious plans, please tell us what happened to the original publication and what you did in the interim…before starting up again.

Stan C. Countz: I put out thirty consecutive issues of the original Valley Views between 1980 and 1983. The magazine was a victim of its own success. After approximately twenty-eight issues of the magazine, I convinced myself that I needed investment capital to take it to the next level. I spent hundreds of man-hours with my business consultant, Brad Schuber, putting together a complete business plan. The first person I showed it to, a CPA, jumped at it and brought in his printer business associate.

They offered to set up a new corporation and issue me 40% of the stock in the new entity. I had always told myself that I would never give up controlling interest in any of my businesses, but I had convinced myself of the need for this capital. Well, in a nutshell, I was left holding the liabilities of the sole-proprietorship and all the assets were transferred to the new corporation. Once this was done, these investors surprised me by asking me to step down from my role as publisher. Once I did that, there was no one to assume my responsibilities and so they put a couple of issues out without me, but, basically, there was no one who could generate the ad sales so the magazine took one last breath and “gave up the ghost” after I stepped down.

Remember, I did all of this while I was in my early 20’s way before anyone else even thought of producing a magazine for the Central Valley.

Betty Dravis: That’s really something for someone so young to build a magazine like that, only to have it “snatched” from beneath you by unscrupulous businessmen. I bet you learned valuable life lessons from that, though. Seems like they “cut off their noses to spite their faces,” though, so you must have had the last laugh. So, what happened next, Stan? Where did you go from there?

Another of Stan's advertising promotions.Stan C. Countz: I was disheartened by that setback, of course, Betty, but I carried on and stayed in the advertising field for another twelve years. I produced direct mail coupon books and published Modesto Lifestyles and Stanislaus Business, special-interest newsprint publications. In 1990, I was the top ad-sales rep for the Valley Yellow Pages for Stanislaus County and Sacramento County. In 1993, I decided to pursue other business interests…

All that time, I missed the publishing business; it gets in your blood, as you must know. So in 2003, I decided to go back into the publishing and advertising business.

In the previous twenty years, publishing technology had changed drastically, so I was in for a steep learning curve. I hooked up with graphic designers, freelance writers and photographers and a heat-set web printer and put out a forty-page magazine. This was followed by a fifty-six-page magazine. Once I changed the name back to Valley Views, it jumped up to eighty pages and then a hundred. The success of Valley Views magazine spawned and inspired other magazines as well. For example, as soon as I changed the name of the magazine from Modesto Homes & Lifestyles to Valley Views, almost every paper in the Valley changed their names.

Tony Zoccoli, who published two Valley magazines, confided in me over the phone years later that he had watched for every new issue of Valley Views to see if he could match the quality of the content and the design. He changed his distribution strategy and format of his publications to mirror Valley Views and today is still publishing a successful magazine covering the San Joaquin County area.

In an attempt to diversify my brand and add depth to my coverage, I also launched a website and a TV show Valley Views Spotlight that featured “documercials” promoting life in the Valley, Bay and foothills. We produced four episodes of Valley Views Spotlight. A successful developer, who had bought up much of downtown Sutter Creek, saw the potential of doing some “destination marketing” and jumped on board prior to the building of the bypass that everyone knew was coming. Here is a link to the introduction to Episode IV of Valley Views Spotlight: http://www.vimeo.com/7962515

Stan & Teresa at Jacob's Fine Dining in Modesto.

Betty Dravis: That’s interesting, Stan. I enjoy hearing about your publishing career because I relate to your struggles and your successes. For fifteen years before my retirement, I owned and published a 20,000-circulation newspaper in Silicon Valley. Construction Labor News was the “Official Voice of Labor in Silicon Valley and Beyond.” It was a highly political newspaper, as you might guess, because our subscribers were Unions affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council.

But, aside from my interest, I’m sure our readers will enjoy learning more about you and your ventures. You have an outstanding video on the internet wherein you speak of the original Valley Views Magazine and your plans for your new “baby.” You rekindled fond memories of my own publishing days when you spoke of the old-fashioned way of cutting-and-pasting with an X-Acto knife. I remember those days from when I edited the Gilroy News Herald. In fact, we always needed “filler” stories in various lengths to fill gaps in layout when the writers didn’t “guesstimate” length correctly. It was funny when the “paste-up man”—which is what we called our graphic artist in those days–stuck his head in the door, saying, “We need a three-inch story.” (laughs)

Since you openly discuss Valley Views Magazine in one segment of the video, while other segments feature great places to visit in the Central Valley, I’m sharing the internet link with our readers: http://www.valleyviews.biz/ It’s a fascinating video and I hope our readers take time to watch all the segments and surf the site. I couldn’t drag myself away from it; all that yummy food, breath-taking scenery, the news segments, etc. The Central Valley is, indeed, a lovely area with much to offer residents and visitors.  I hear you have launched a big “Local First” campaign. Tell us about it, Stan.

Stan C. Countz: Well, I think many communities throughout the country could benefit from being in better touch with their local resources, local talent and local business and non-profit organizations. Also, I believe a community resource guide can inform and educate people about the importance of supporting locally-owned and locally grown companies, non-profits and talent. For the last three years, I have been working on ways of rewarding consumers who think and shop locally first. To this end, I believe I have found several creative ways to tap into the growing “Local First” movement by launching a local search portal and publishing local community resource guides and/or coupon directories that educate, inform and entertain their respective communities while rewarding local consumers with local shopping rewards, online, print and video coupons.

The community resource guide ought to profile successful local business leaders, non-profit organizations, artists, entertainers, authors, actors, models, etc. and ought to be a source of community pride and solidarity. It should cover the “Who’s Who & Who’s New” in the community. Due to the current economic downturn, however, we thought it prudent to format the publication in such a way that the break-even point is reached easier than was the break-even point for Valley Views. To this end, we have come up with a simple, duplicable print and online publishing platform and format that would work in nearly any cohesive community that wants to improve the economic climate of its local economy.

Betty Dravis: So it appears you’re no longer publishing Valley Views and are back into promoting again. I thought that Tim Tafolla, your ad designer and associate on VV, was quite talented. What’s he doing now that VV is no longer being published?

Stan C. Countz: Well, Betty, Valley Views is still a brand we want to keep and promote, but we are holding it for when an economic resurgence occurs. That’s why we’re doing smaller, less-ambitious community resource guides for ultra-local neighborhood target marketing. We organize a “school of little fish,” instead of trying to land a couple of “big fish.” Many of the big fish have moved to deeper waters.

Thanks for asking about my friend, Tim Tafolla, Betty. I’m sorry to report that his office building was gutted by a tragic fire about eight months ago. He had to start all over again from scratch, so he moved to North Modesto where he’s currently operating his photography and graphic-design business from his home. He is moving towards fashion photography and videography and is going forward in his business. I designed his website and his company Facebook fan page. His new company name is Maya Media Studio. I believe he is also managing another business as well.

Betty Dravis: It’s too bad the magazine is out of print, but the print industry has always been a hard, competitive business that’s prone to huge shifts in advertising revenue as the economy rises and falls.

I hear that you’re contemplating a different kind of TV production for the Central Valley, Stan, and I think this is a good place to give readers an impression of its size: As we Californians know, the Valley stretches approximately 500 miles (800 km) from north to south. It boggled my mind when I learned that it’s around 42,000 square miles, making it roughly the same size as the state of Tennessee. Its northern half is referred to as the Sacramento Valley and its southern half as the San Joaquin Valley. That said, is it too soon to talk about your new venture?

Stan C. Countz: As you may have noticed, there’s nothing I like better than talking business, Betty. (laughs) When the economy took a dump in the fall of 2006, I curtailed my plans for both the magazine and the TV show. However, through Tim Tafolla, I have recently been connected with a very talented video editor who is looking to co-produce a TV show for the Spanish-speaking Central California market and I am in discussions with him exploring the possibility of producing a show for both the Anglo and Hispanic markets. The show would air on a couple of English-language and a couple of Spanish-language broadcast channels out of Sacramento and would beam all over the Northern San Joaquin and Sacramento Valley. This program would give us an opportunity to promote local businesses, local artists and local events and destinations to an audience of millions of regional viewers.

Betty Dravis: That sounds fascinating, Stan, and is something I think the public would favor. If anyone can make it work, you can. Best of luck…

Stan, you send tempting Facebook invitations to the most fabulous places in the Valley, but you spoke about that above when telling about the “Shop Local” and “Who’s Who and Who’s New” campaigns. I can tell you’re proud of this area we call home. You certainly promote it well and belong to all the civic organizations. I saw some of your videos and am impressed with your on-camera persona and with the logos you created. The premise makes lots of sense to me and I understand it’s sweeping the country, with Chambers of Commerce and local leaders joining the national trend. And as seems to be your way, you’re on the cutting edge again.

Stan C. Countz: Yes, I am proud of this area, Betty; my heart, my home and my family are here. I’m sure you have seen, heard or read some of the sensational stories that have been produced or written about our area. If one is to believe all they have heard about our region, no one would want to live here, much less raise a family here. Our media outlets have become very adept at airing our “dirty laundry,” but, for some reason, they are reticent to cover any story that shows our region in a positive light. They can never be found when someone “does it right.”

I would like to try to rectify that. I think the local media should be there with our video cameras, our microphones and our notepads when someone does something noteworthy or worthy of praise, rather than following the scent of blood, like a bunch of crazed bloodhounds. I believe we can make a difference in our local communities by supporting locally-owned businesses, local talent and causes in which we believe.

Betty Dravis: You’re right about that, Stan, and I think that holds true of all the media: sensationalism is the name of the news game nowadays, it appears. I, personally, enjoy shopping and dining in my little corner of the Valley. I’ve found some amazing restaurants in Manteca, not to mention some fabulous clothing and shoe shops. (laughs)

Among many other things, Stan, you also sing, play guitar and compose lyrics. I’ve seen videos of you singing your own compositions and like them very much. I especially enjoy one entitled “Stand for Somethin’ or You’ll Fall for Anything.” That’s sound advice, Stan, and confirms that you are a true Dream Reacher, a man who believes in stretching to reach your dreams. But how and when did you start writing verse, Stan?

Stan C. Countz: In the spring of 2005, my mother, Myrna Louise (Wymar) Countz, passed away at the age of sixty-six. About a year after she passed away, out of the blue and unexpectedly, I started writing poetry and verse. Perhaps it was a “coping mechanism,” but I prefer to believe that it was a gift of God. All of a sudden, I started writing lyrics and verses and poems like a madman. Since that time–I think it was 2007–I have become quite prolific in my lyric-writing. Two of my poems have been featured in international poetry anthologies. Several of them have been re-tooled as songs, been recorded by bands and are being played on radio and on the internet all over the world. One song, Recipe for a Broken Heart, was recorded in Chet McCracken’s studio; Chet was the original drummer for The Doobie Brothers when they were featured on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine in their heyday. This song was recorded by the band Big Rain, out of Aptos, California, and played on radio stations all over the world. I wrote the lyrics and Bruce Guynn wrote the tune.

Here’s a little something I wrote, entitled I Write a Lot, that describes my writing habits:

I write quite a bit, usually every night and sit in front of my computer composing megabits of verse and rhyme. How often do I do it? All the time…to my wife’s shock and dismay, I write around the clock and every day. I never stop or have writer’s block. But I’m still trying to make it pay. I’ve written hard rock, doo-wop, country and pop. It may seem silly, but I write non-stop for hillbillies, fillies, tikes and tots. Some say I’m crazy, some say I’m not. Some say I’m lazy. Some say I’m hot, but either way, I write a lot.

Betty Dravis: That’s sad your mother passed on so relatively young, Stan. My belated condolences…

And I must say, the end of your little ditty above is really funny, but the poem is a little hard to read in places. For better effect, I’d like to hear you sing it…or speak it as poetry. Do you still sing and play guitar? And do you have any albums or CDs recorded yet?

Stan C. Countz: Yes, I still sing and play—every chance I get. (laughs) I also play drums, Betty. I have recorded enough of my songs to produce an album, but I need to focus on pulling everything together, get everything tweaked and mastered and released. I did my first wedding last month and would love to do more weddings and events. It was great. I especially enjoy performing for “Baby Boomers,” since I write for them and they “get” my lyrics better than any other age group. But I will perform for any group or gathering, if given half a chance. I also enjoy discovering local talent and promoting it. I have been producing some local talent showcases lately and would like to expand the effort to a monthly. Check out http://localfirst.biz/local-talent.htm

Betty Dravis: As I said above, I’ve heard a few of your tapes and you have a definite talent, Stan, but I can understand how and why Local First is your main focus now. Since you also help plan many grand openings and special events, serving as master-of-ceremonies at many, do you ever perform at any of these events?

Stan C. Countz: Right again, Betty… My main focus right now is promoting the Local First message. Along with a huge media campaign, we are looking to organize Local First Local Talent Showcases and networking events to introduce the local business community to the non-profits and the local talent. We had our Local First kick-off in Turlock July 7th at Sweet River Grill and had a standing-room-only launch that pulled three times as many people as the venue expected. http://localfirst.biz/blog.htm

Betty Dravis: Congrats on the Turlock event, Stan; I hear it was a lot of fun. Best of luck with all your projects.

You have an impressive array of photos on Facebook; from cruise ship to playing guitar to weddings to your lovely family to magazine covers. These photos represent many facets of your life. I could comment on each of them, but I’m really curious about those awesome convertibles from back in the day. They are way beyond cool, reminding me of the movie American Graffiti. Tell us about that photo, Stan. And while on the subject, were parts of American Graffiti filmed in Modesto?

Stan C. Countz: Although American Graffiti was loosely based on George Lucas’s life growing up in the Modesto area, it is my understanding that the actual filming of American Graffiti was done in the Petaluma area. However, Modesto has had a love affair with cruising since I can remember. We used to have Graffiti Night in Modesto when people came from all over to cruise up and down McHenry Avenue. Several years ago it was outlawed, but now they have converted the entire month of June to Graffiti Summer. Check out this video produced by Valley Views Spotlight (my former TV show) that chronicles some of the 2006 activities in the Modesto area: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMva9uHXWK0

Betty Dravis: That is, indeed, a famous movie; we’re all enamored of that era. But moving on: Stan, how important is family to you? We would enjoy knowing a little about yours.

Stan C. Countz: I have been married to my saint of a wife, Teresa, for nearly thirty-three years. We have twin daughters who are eighteen years old and we are getting close to becoming “empty nesters.” My mom, both of my brothers and my dad have all preceded me in death. I’m the last of the Mohicans, so to speak. My daughters are working on getting their driver’s licenses and buying their first cars. We are very close with my wife’s family. She comes from a family of seven and has three sisters and a brother who all live in the Modesto area. Her mom and dad only live ten houses down from us. Her mom is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico and her father is originally from Mexico City. My wife and all her siblings were born and raised in Modesto. My wife is very close to her family. Her family members are some of her best friends and confidants.  http://countzfamily.blogspot.com/

Stan with his three gorgeous girls: daughters Jessica & Vanessa & wife Teresa.

One big happy family.

Betty Dravis: Nothing beats a close-knit family, Stan. You are surely blessed.

Okay, now for a lighter question: If it were possible to spend the day with anyone throughout history, who would you choose…and why?

Stan C. Countz: I would like to stay for a day with Jesus, son of Joseph, during his three-year ministry as he went about the Judean countryside. In fact, I wrote a lyric entitled “Carpenter’s Son.” It paints a scene that might take you back in time to when he was turning water into wine and giving sight to the blind and blowing the Pharisee’s minds. Internet link to read the poem: http://happyholidaysfromstan.blogspot.com/2008_11_23_archive.html

Betty Dravis: Jesus is the perfect choice, Stan; that would be a divine blessing, for sure. I hope to be able to hear you sing that song one day. That would be a real treat… But moving on, I know how important the Central Valley and home are to you, but everyone likes to get away from time to time. What are your favorite vacation spots? And what do you do for recreation?

Stan C. Countz: We like to get away to Pine Crest up in the Sierras or the Santa Cruz/Monterey area on the coast. We also enjoy the Morro Bay and Pismo/Avila Beach area. My wife enjoys scrapbooking and I enjoy writing poetry and songwriting. (laughs) I also enjoy jamming with other musicians and creating memorable songs that change the way people think.

Betty Dravis: I’m happy you get away with the family, Stan. My children and I take to water too. In fact, as I conduct this interview, it’s Labor Day weekend and my adult kids and some of the grandkids are headed to the beach home of friends in Santa Cruz. I’d be with them, but I have to work. (laughs)

There’s a lot of talk about “paying it forward” in recent times, so tell us, Stan, how do you show appreciation for your good fortune in life?

Stan C. Countz: I like to encourage talent in all forms where I find it. Talent comes in all shapes and sizes. I like to encourage people to dig in, set their goals and don’t let anyone steal their dreams. There is so much that is discouraging out there. I want to be that one bright light in the night that shines its beacon and warns of the rocks and shoals ahead, so the ship can make it safely into harbor. If I find a flower blooming in a desert place, I want to water it, fertilize it and see how big it will grow.

Betty Dravis: Good analogy, Stan… Encouraging talent is an admirable way to pay it forward. In a way you are doing what Chase Von and I do when creating our “Dream Reachers” books: inspiring people to dream big! I admire that about you, Stan. Keep up the great work.

But now we’re nearing the end of this interview, so before I tell our readers where they can contact you, is there anything I missed that you’d like to share today? And what advice do you have for young people just getting started in journalism or writing, in general?

Stan C. Countz: Read good writing and write good writing. The way you spot a counterfeit is to become so familiar with the real thing that when a fake comes along, you can spot it immediately. Become acquainted with good writing, so you can recognize it when you see it. And I encourage writers to keep a journal or online blog. If you do not know how to set up a blog, contact me. I’ll get you all set up.

Betty Dravis: I’m sure your advice will be welcome, Stan. It’s been a pleasure talking with you today. Thanks for sharing your dreams with us and for standing up for your convictions. That said, this is the perfect place to share more links where fans, friends and potential advertisers can reach you on the internet:

http://www.localfirst.biz

http://www.linkedin.com/in/valleyviews

http://whoswhowhosnew.blogspot.com

http://www.valleyviews.biz

http://catgotyertongue.blogspot.com

http://dancinontheceilin.blogspot.com

http://www.shoutlife.com/prodigal

http://stanandbecounted.blogspot.com

http://www.viddler.com/explore/stancountz/videos/5/

http://www.facebook.com/LocalStan?v=wall

http://betweenthethieves.blogspot.com/2009/08/between-thieves.html

And now before leaving, thanks again, Stan. Best of luck with all your projects… And I’ll be seeing you on Facebook, Twitter and in the pages of Who’s Who & Who’s New, I’m sure. (laughs) Don’t forget to check back with us and keep us in the loop.

Stan C. Countz: It’s been fun, Betty. Thanks for including me with all these fascinating high-achievers. I’ll try to live up to your expectations and stretch to become a top-notch “Dream Reacher.” And don’t forget: Shop & Search Local First. (laughs)

Interview by Betty Dravis

Jessica on vacation in Italy

Betty Dravis: Hey, Jessica… It’s great to see you. I’m overwhelmed by the number of entertainers and artists who suggested you for this interview. You’re a promoter of new talent, building fan bases for them, but it looks like you have a big fan base yourself. (laughs) On your various websites you state that you couldn’t live without music in your life. I assume that’s why you love entertainers so much and want to help them succeed.

There’s so much I want to ask you, but where to begin? Hmmmm… How about at the beginning…with your childhood in Canada? What kind of precocious kid were you, Jessica? When did you first start swaying along to music and realize you enjoyed it so much? Were you pushing your little friends off the merry-go-round, encouraging them to sing and dance instead? I bet you did something like that…

Jessica Gilbert: Hi, Betty. Thanks so much for having me here. I feel very honored to be among so many wonderful and talented people. You’re right, music (and the arts) is something I can’t live without, but I never went so far as pushing my childhood friends to perform. (laughs)

I truly love working with artists and being a part of their journey to the top. There is so much great talent out there and being able to assist an artist in even a small way makes me feel good because it’s one step closer to helping them reach their dreams.

Jessica as her fans see her; she's an MT Robison "Street Angel" too.

I was born in Montreal, Canada, but left as a baby for Houston, Texas. I spent my childhood there until the age of ten. I was, generally, a very good and independent child because I was as happy doing things on my own as I was being with other children or adults. As a child I liked creative endeavors too: drawing, painting, coloring, writing and especially puzzles. I had learned the alphabet through the medium of puzzles by the age of two, which apparently was unusual, according to the playgroup “directrice”…much to my Mother’s surprise. I loved the performing arts: took ballet and tap-dance lessons; enjoyed singing to myself and making up songs and recording them as I came up with the words. At about age eight I organized a school play, Return to Oz, in which I was involved in all parts of the production, placing myself in the lead role. (laughs) I was also engaged in fundraising activities for various causes. In fact, at my school I was the first child to initiate a fundraising activity which led to many other student fundraisers.

Betty Dravis: Just as I suspected, Jessica, you were a precocious child. (laughs) And then when you grew up, did you start attending concerts? If so, can you recall your first concert (who you were with, who was performing, etc.)? Please share the emotions the live music aroused.

Jessica Gilbert: Yes, Betty, I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend many concerts! My first concert was Tina Turner in Målaga, Spain at age ten with my parents and sister in the summer outdoors. I can’t say it was the best concert experience because it started really late. It was also hot, buggy and I got tired of standing. However, I still loved seeing her live! Back then I played Tina’s music a lot as she was one of my top favorite artists (still is today), so getting to see her in concert was an exciting experience for me. I was overwhelmed with joy to be there.

Jessica with popular singer Kelly Clarkson

 

I’m not sure what I’d do without music because not only is it great for entertainment or inspiration, but soothing to the soul. Literally, I go to sleep listening to music, listen to it when I wake up and throughout the day have some music playing. Music gives me an inspiration to think, create, write and relax.

Betty Dravis: Wow, Jessica, that’s a lot of music, but if it inspires you, that’s what matters. I can understand how that works for some people, but do you choose different music to create different moods? For instance, what do you listen to while writing? While relaxing?

Jessica Gilbert: Yes, Betty, the kind of music I listen to depends on what I’m doing, time of day, how I’m feeling, etc. For instance, while writing or painting I like inspirational music. While relaxing or before bedtime I like soft music. I even have a playlist in my iTunes called “Relaxing Mix.”

Betty Dravis: That sounds sensible for a person so attuned to music, as you are. I’m curious about your writing, Jessica. In addition to articles for your new online magazine, what type of writing interests you? We’ll talk about the magazine later.

Jessica Gilbert: I’ve written short stories, and screenwriting has always been an interest of mine. In college I took a film-writing class, so learned the technique for this type of writing. For the class assignment, we had to write a seven-minute script, which turned out to be a success. Subsequently, I thought it would be great to turn it into a feature-length script. I also have an idea for another one inspired by actual events in my life. However, any screenwriting I do will be an extra thing when time permits.

Betty Dravis: I wish you luck with all your projects, Jessica. While on the subject of writing, in your Facebook notes you posted a lengthy list of biographies and autobiographies of famous people. It contains a fascinating array of movie stars from Rita Hayworth and Ray Milland to Jane Fonda. What prompted you to post that?

Jessica Gilbert: Betty, the list of biographies and autobiographies that I posted was on behalf of a friend of mine who has this book collection for sale. So, I wanted to help spread the word about it.

Betty Dravis: He certainly has an interesting collection. Do you aspire to write a book someday? If so, are you interested in fiction or nonfiction?

Jessica Gilbert: Yes, I’d love to write and illustrate a children’s book. Since I like to draw, paint, write…and I love children, I think this kind of book would be a great opportunity to combine all these elements together. Actually, Betty, I have a couple of ideas for children’s books. (smile)

Betty Dravis: Oh, you’d be a natural for children’s picture books, Jessica. I’m here to tell you that they are a joy to write; takes one back to one’s own childhood. I’ve only published one YA, The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley, but I have three unsubmitted picture books that are partially illustrated by my granddaughter, Kristy Soza. I would so enjoy doing my own illustrations, but, unfortunately, don’t have the talent of a kindergartner. (laughs)

But changing the subject, you wrote somewhere: “I’m not your average girl.” What do you mean by that, Jessica?

Jessica tours Venice in a gondola.

Jessica Gilbert: Well, Betty, I’m not your average girl because I’ve lived a life that many people don’t get to experience. I’ve lived in three countries (USA, Spain and Canada) and traveled extensively throughout much of Canada, USA, Europe and the Dominican Republic. So I feel very fortunate to have experienced living in different countries and cultures. Also to have been able to do all the traveling I’ve done up to this point in my life.

Betty Dravis: You’re right about that, Jessica: You are fortunate. I’m about twice your age and have only been in two bordering countries and about twenty of our United States. (laughs)

I hear you just returned from Italy, which is one place I would love to visit. I’d enjoy going there now while filmmaker Tony Tarantino is directing Between the Olive Trees. I could kill three birds with one stone: meet Tony, actress Susan Kennington who has a prime role in that movie, and Antonia Tosini, talented author of the book the film is being made from. Now that would be a thrill.

Was your trip vacation or business? And did you meet any new artists while there?

Jessica Gilbert: Betty, my trip to Italy was a much-needed vacation. (smile) I had such a blast traveling throughout Italy and got to see so much in twelve days. The highlights of my trip were Venice and Capri. I love Italy, so hope to make it back there again soon. I didn’t meet any new artists while there, but finally got to meet one of my MySpace friends in person…a gifted photographer.

 

Jessica with parents Freda and Adrian Gilbert and sister Lauren in Spain.

Betty Dravis: I saw photographs of your trip, Jessica, and Italy’s as picturesque as you say. Breath-taking, in fact… I know you love to travel and get around much more than the “average girl,” so I’m sure your time there is a treasured memory.

But I’m the most curious about the promotion aspect of your life. I know that you promote a number of talented people: musicians, authors, singers, dancers, artists, etc. But from the sheer number of musicians you help, it’s obvious you prefer them. I know you promote singer/guitarist/lyricist MT Robison and The Messengers and are a huge fan. I met you through M.T. after he was featured in our first Dream Reachers book. He’s awesome and has some clever promotion going on himself. For instance, he calls his fans his “Street Angels” and a white feather is one of his trademarks. Like you, I’m a Street Angel, too, Jessica; I adore MT. He certainly has it all “going on”: the look, the voice, and the creativity—not to mention a huge stage presence. He can’t miss with a publicist like the talented Linda Shrader in his corner.

How many fan clubs have you founded and who else do you promote besides M.T.?

Jessica Gilbert: I do promote many musicians, but it isn’t that I prefer them over the others because I love all types of artists. I just end up connecting with more musicians simply because so many more come my way on the various social networking sites. Yes, I do promote MT and The Messengers. I adore MT so much…as both artist and person. Linda Shrader is amazing and he truly is lucky to have her as his publicist.

I’ve founded eight fan clubs for various musicians. To tell you about all the wonderful artists I promote would be a whole interview itself because there are so-ooo many of them. However, to name a few: Kashy Keegan, Wildon Ash, Michael J. Scott, Neil Barlow, David Blair, David Barreto, Kadesha, Lizann, Daz, Elena Vogt, Tima Montemayor, Olivia Gray, Tobiah and Orly Vardy. They are all amazing artists that can be found on MySpace and I highly recommend checking out their music.

Betty Dravis: That’s quite a roster, Jessica. I expect many of those to be big names in the future; you certainly have an eye and ear that’s attuned to the pulse of the world. You were even kind enough to start a Dream Reachers Fan Club on MySpace and on Facebook. My co-author Chase Von and I are humbled by that. Just to be included on the same page with all your talented friends is an honor. Thanks so much for your faith in us.

Speaking of MySpace, your MS page is incredible, chock-full of talented people and current bios and links. Each time I visit your page, the photos and art are so appealing that it boggles my mind. I feel like I felt the first time my mom took me to an ice-cream parlor. How could I choose just one flavor? I wanted them all… That must be how you feel when deciding who to promote. What’s the first thing that draws your attention to a promising artist, Jessica?

Jessica Gilbert: It was my pleasure to start a Dream Reachers Fan Club for you and Chase Von. It’s a wonderful and inspirational book that everyone would enjoy reading.

When I visit ice cream parlors I always have a hard time choosing flavors too. (laughs) Yes, I feel exactly the same way when deciding which artists to promote. It’s going to be really hard choosing who to interview for each issue of my magazine because I really do love so many artists. What draws my attention the most to a promising artist is how much they give of themselves, which leads to our connection. One of the qualities I value most of all, besides talent, is originality.

Betty Dravis: You probably don’t know this, Jessica, but originality is the first thing I notice when choosing a book to read and review, also.

Since you currently do the publicity and promotion as a labor of love, do you plan to make a career of it? If so, is your forthcoming magazine the first step towards making your dream come true? I know you “wear three hats” with the business: publisher/managing editor/freelance writer. As a former print newspaper owner myself, I can testify that there are many more hats than that. (laughs) But tell us more about Talent Spotlight Magazine, Jessica. When will you launch your debut edition? And can you give us a sneak peek at a few artists you’re interviewing for the first edition?

Jessica Gilbert: Betty, I would like to make a career in artist promotions (and possibly even in other aspects of the music or film industry) because I’m passionate about promoting and working with all types of artists. Perhaps I might work for a record company in the PR department.

Talent Spotlight Magazine came into creation as a result of my desire to participate in the creative process of talent. It is very fulfilling for me to offer artists a creative venue to promote their talent. As well, selfishly speaking, I hope this creative venue will be a good means to get myself out there as a promoter. I’ve thought about doing something like this for a while now and always wanted to work with a magazine. So, now I can…with my own. (smile)

TSM will be an online magazine that will come out bimonthly, starting this October. It will feature in-depth interviews with talent from all genres of the arts: music, photography, art, film, print and more. The magazine’s primary focus will be on new and emerging artists. However, it will feature more established ones as well. Each issue will also feature an organization or cause–there are so many wonderful causes and organizations out there that I feel it would be great to promote them too–reviews and more! It will have a whole variety of different artists in each issue, making it a more diverse magazine. Some of the artists that will be in the launch issue are two of your original “Dream Reachers”: Kashy Keegan and MT Robison. I will also be featuring April Star Davis, a jewelry designer whose designs have been featured in numerous fashion magazines and in various movies. Her jewelry has also been worn by many top celebrities.

Betty Dravis: Great minds think alike, Jessica: I thought about interviewing a famous jewelry designer for Dream Reachers: Vol. 2, but due to heavy demand for the available slots, I didn’t have time. I look forward to reading your story about April Star, and of course, dear Kashy and MT. As you know, they were interviewed by my Dream Reachers co-author Chase Von for that book. Your first edition sounds like a winner.

I understand that the talented writer Michelle Jackson will be working with you on the   magazine. Did you know that she wrote the following about you?:

I am wonderfully blessed to call Jessica my friend and to be on this great journey with her. She is extremely talented in the arts and has a heart of gold, reaching out to others who possess the same passion. She is motivated and driven to help artists of all genres to reach their dreams in this great Industry. I have great hope that she will succeed in achieving these goals

That’s high praise, Jessica, and “heart of gold” is how many of the artists describe you. Can you tell us a little more about Michelle and her duties with TSM?

Talent Spotlight Magazine Writer Michelle Jackson

Jessica Gilbert: Yes, Betty, I’m blessed to have Michelle Jackson working with me on the magazine. I connected with her instantly awhile back through a friend. We share a love for the arts, plus she’s also a wonderful writer. Michelle is a great singer too and I have told her she should put her music out there. Then I can promote her as well. (smile) I didn’t know what Michelle wrote about me until it was up on the TSM MySpace site. I’m infinitely grateful to her for her kind words and generosity. She will primarily be a contributing writer with interviews for the magazine.

Betty Dravis: Michelle sounds like a real “keeper.” You two have a lot of mutual respect and admiration for each other. I look forward to reading her articles too.

Talent Spotlight Magazine–that’s a perfect, self-descriptive name, Jessica, and your logo is very attractive. It’s all the buzz with many artists that I know. I’ve been hearing about TSM for months and months. We’re eager to see your first edition and wish you incredible good fortune.

Jessica Gilbert: Glad you like the magazine name and logo. (smile) I designed the logo myself and received positive feedback on it, so am pleased that people like it. Awhile back in Canada, I took an intensive graphic design course as I enjoy playing with graphics as well. I know that many people have been anxiously waiting for the launch of the magazine and I promise that wait will soon be over. Thank you, Betty, and to everyone else for your tremendous support for TSM.

Betty Dravis: The late promoter Bill Graham, who was the best in his day, had some incredible stories to tell about how he got started. After meeting the San Francisco Mime Troupe at a free concert in Golden Gate Park, he gave up a promising business career to manage the troupe in 1965. After Mime Troupe leader Ronny Davis was arrested on obscenity charges during an outdoor performance, Graham organized a benefit concert to cover the troupe’s legal fees. The concert was a success and Graham saw a business opportunity. He was an American impresario and rock concert promoter from the 1960s until his death in 1991. We wish you fame and good fortune, too, but hope your success begins with less public scrutiny than Graham’s. (laughs)

Jessica, being such a lovely, dynamic and active young woman, when do you find time for dating? Or is that something you’re postponing for the time being?

Jessica Gilbert: That’s interesting about Bill Graham, Betty. I bet he did have great stories about his work as a promoter! Perhaps after I have more experience, I’ll write a book about it someday.

But to answer the big “dating” question: While I am busy with all the work I do, I always have time for dating. (smile) Finding Mr. Right and settling down is high on my priority list.

Betty Dravis: I thought you’d say that, Jessica, but I’m glad to hear you confirm it. All work and no play makes Jessica…well, you know how that old saying goes. (laughs) Okay, now that your priorities are settled, let’s move on…

I hear that the very talented David Barreto, one of the musicians you promote, wrote a lovely song about you. Tell us about him and how that made you feel? I find that incredibly romantic. Do you have a link where our readers can hear the song and do you mind sharing the lyrics with us?

Jessica Gilbert: Yes, David Barreto did write a wonderful song about me titled “Jessica.” I was really honored and flattered he did this song for me and will cherish it forever. Friends who have heard it said he really captured the essence of me. I don’t have the lyrics, but people can hear the song on my “Jessica’s Artist Network” page. David truly is a talented and amazing musician, one I proudly promote. (smile) BTW, he also did a Talent Spotlight Magazine jingle for the website.

Betty Dravis: Oh, Jessica, I love that catchy jingle; the way David drags out the words (Talent…Spotlight…Magazine) is so cool. Makes me want to dance…

Since you’re multi-tasking now, Jessica, do I dare ask if you have a “day job?” If so, where do you work? If not, let us in on the secret of survival without working. Are you an heiress or some rich man’s daughter? (laughs)

Jessica Gilbert: LOL, Betty… I’ve been taking Spanish classes in the mornings to brush up on my speaking skills. The rest of the day is a combination of artist promotions, magazine work and painting/drawing. Recently, I got back into my art and would like to build up a body of work to sell (originals and prints). My background is in art, as I majored in studio art with an emphasis on painting/drawing at university. Soon I shall also be offering an official listing of my services and rates for online promotions and management.

Betty Dravis: I’m glad to hear you’ll soon be going professional with your promotions, Jessica, and the news about your art is welcome too. I would love to have an “original by Jessica,” so keep us posted about that too. Meanwhile, I invite our readers to view your online gallery (under Art in your Facebook photos) and if they see anything they like, to contact you.

 

Landscape Near Royal Victoria Hospital in Watercolor 1998 - My favorite painting in Jessica's gallery.

Since we all must prioritize our schedules, here’s a food-for-thought question that might be fun to answer: Can you name three things in your life that you couldn’t live without?

Jessica with Joshua Radin, American folk recording artist, songwriter and occasional actor.

Jessica Gilbert: That’s an easy one, Betty… I can’t live without my family/friends, travel and live music.

Betty Dravis: Well, that’s short and sweet, Jessica, but it says a lot for your character and values. Thanks.

Another question that usually brings out the humor in people is: What’s the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?

Jessica Gilbert: You know, Betty, I really can’t think of an embarrassing thing that has happened to me. I’ll share a funny story with you instead. For my tenth birthday in Texas (it was also my last one there before I moved to Spain the first time around), my dad got a piñata. For people who don’t know what it is, it’s something made from either a clay container or a cardboard shape covered in paper mache. The tradition with a piñata is that you fill up the inside with sweets and goodies. Then everyone is blindfolded and hits it with a stick until it breaks and the sweets fall out. However, that didn’t quite work out the way it should have. My friends and I were hitting the piñata non-stop, waiting for all the sweets to come out–but no traces of any.

What my dad didn’t know was that he was supposed to fill the piñata with sweets himself. So, all the hard work hitting that piñata to get it open didn’t pay off with sweets. This was one of those occasions where you just had to be there. (laughs)

Betty Dravis: Oh, no-ooo, Jessica… That’s hilarious! You poor kids, but I feel sorry for your father too. I hope the kids didn’t get after him with those sticks… (laughs)

Now for another question: If you could spend an entire day with just one person (living or dead) who would you choose and why?

 

Jessica with Joss Stone, English soul and R&B singer–songwriter and actress.

Jessica Gilbert: This is a tough question, Betty, because I’d like to meet people from all walks of life who work in different fields because everything fascinates me and I can learn something from everyone I meet. But since I have to pick one, I’d choose to spend an entire day with Ellen DeGeneres because she has had all types of people on her show and must have many wonderful stories to share about her experiences meeting them all. An entire day would be needed to hear about much of them, plus I think she would just be so much fun to hang out with in person. (smile)

Some celebs I’d love to have an encounter with include: Julie Andrews, Wentworth Miller, Anthony Hopkins, Barbara Walters, Brad Pitt, Alec Baldwin, Robin Williams, Scott Wolf, Bette Midler, Adam Lambert, David Cook, James Blunt, Bon Jovi, Enrique Iglesias, Five For Fighting, INXS, Daughtry, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jewel, and lots of others.

There are so-ooo many celebs I’d love to meet. I’ve been fortunate to have already met some of them, including: Cyndi Lauper, Bryan Adams, Rob Thomas, Rosie O’Donnell, Gary Sinise, Kurt Browning, Joss Stone, Kelly Clarkson, Joshua Radin, David Usher, Suzie McNeil and some others.

I received a phone call from Alec Baldwin when he filmed the TV mini-series “Nuremberg” in Montreal and came close to meeting him. I would still love to meet him.

 

Jessica with Alexa Wilkinson, singer-songwriter, guitarist and trumpet player.

Betty Dravis: Wow, you’ve met a lot of celebs, Jessica. My daughter Allie used to adore Cyndi Lauper. In fact she resembled her so much that she dressed like her one Halloween; a dead ringer in that pink dress, black mesh hose and black-and-white, high-top sneakers. A wonderful memory…

As for meeting Alec Baldwin–you and me both… The funny thing about Alec is that I like him better today in his maturity than I did when he was younger. I often wonder why that’s true with certain actors. But you must share the story about how you came “close” to meeting Alec. I want to hear all the juicy details… (laughs)

Jessica Gilbert: Well, Betty, it was simpler than I thought it would be. I just sent Alec Baldwin a note expressing my appreciation for his work; included my number and also shared some pix of my art. So, one night I got an unexpected call from him. That took me by complete surprise since this doesn’t happen often–at least not between a celeb and fan. When we spoke, he expressed interest in meeting and seeing my art work, saying that he would get in touch with me again if it were possible. I never heard back from him, so that’s why the meeting never took place.

However, a couple months later I did receive a lovely, personal note from him mentioning how much he admired my work and one day hoped to own one of my pieces. So, I actually sent him a small painting as a gift and got a nice thank you note from him.

Anyway, he’s not the only celeb I’ve received mail from; I used to enjoy sending letters of appreciation to many of my favorite celebs. I have over a hundred autographs. Some I did write to through the film’s production office when they filmed movies in Montreal (at one time they were filming tons of movies there).

However, with Gary Sinise and Nicolas Cage, I left letters for them with assistants on the movie set. I was actually one of the thousands of extras in that movie; you can’t see me though. I had an awesome day, watching the filming in action under the direction of Brian de Palma, and also had a free lunch and t-shirts imprinted with the name of the movie and cast.

In response to my letter to Gary Sinise, his personal assistant called, inviting me to the wrap party.  I went, of course, and met Gary there. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a pic with him. His sweet, pretty assistant told me he was overwhelmed with pictures. But I received two signed pix in the mail later on. It was also unfortunate that Nicolas Cage and de Palma weren’t present at the wrap party; they had already left town. Nicolas Cage also responded back to me, signing and writing a short message on the pic I had enclosed. I want to share this story about Cage and Sinise with you, too, since it’s a nice story.

Betty Dravis: You’re right, Jessica, those are heart-warming stories, reinforcing my opinion that high-ranking people are not much different than you and me. The majority of them are hard-working, sincere, down-to-earth and friendly. I’ve seen that same caring quality in many of the celebs I’ve interviewed. It’s good to know that about Alec, Gary and Nicholas; thanks for sharing.

Well, Jessica, we’re nearing the end of the interview, so this is a good time to mention anything that I might have missed. I’ll post your links in closing, so your fans and friends can find anything else they might wish to know about you.

Jessica Gilbert: You didn’t miss much, Betty, but I’d also like to add that I have a children’s page dedicated to all causes and organizations related to children. People can check that out on my Artist Network page. It’s called “Jessica’s Precious Treasures of Hope.” At some point in the near future, I’d like to create some kind of fundraiser project to raise money for some of those that I strongly support. If anyone would be interested in working with me on something, please get in touch with me.

Betty Dravis: That’s an important point to mention, Jessica. Children are our future and I’m pleased to know you have plans to help them also. Now, so that our readers can keep track of you and your many projects, I’m going to post your main websites:

http://www.myspace.com/Jessicaartistpromotions

http://www.myspace.com/talentspotlightmagazine

http://www.talentspotlightmagazine.com

It’s been delightful chatting with you, Jessica, but the time flew and I must bid you a fond farewell. We learned a lot more about you today and definitely look forward to reading and becoming a fan of Talent Spotlight Magazine. It will be cool to follow the careers of you and your clients…your awesome artists!

Thanks for sharing your dreams with us. You’re a caring, dynamic woman with a heart of gold, as you have heard many times before. May all your dreams come true, and keep rocking to the beat of your own drummer! I’m so happy to add you to the growing list of our Dream Reachers.

Jessica Gilbert: Betty, thank you so much for inviting me to be here, and I will keep you posted on everything! Love and Blessings xo

Your Memory Lingers on, Jim Marshall

by Betty Dravis

Chase Von, my co-author of Dream Reachers, and I are saddened to learn of the passing of legendary rock icon, photographer Jim Marshall.  We knew of him through his awesome photography that captured rock-and-roll legends, including the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and many others…at work and in repose.

I am impressed that Marshall was the only photographer granted backstage access at what turned out to be the final Beatles concert at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1966. Good timing and his rapport with musicians also helped him catch Johnny Cash memorably “flipping the bird” at a 1969 performance at San Quentin Prison.

Marshall’s death at age 74 in New York City was confirmed Wednesday by Aaron Zych, a manager at the Morrison Hotel Galleries, which hosted one of the photographer’s last exhibits.

Marshall had been scheduled to appear at a reception Wednesday night to promote his new book Match Print with celebrity photographer Timothy White. He apparently died in his sleep sometime overnight while alone in his New York hotel room, Zych said. The cause of death was not immediately known.

“Jim’s work is legendary,” Zych said. “As far as music photographers, he is the godfather.”

Chase and I were introduced to Jim Marshall by talented actress/musician Jenny McShane (Shark Attack 1 & 3, The Furnace, etc.). Jenny is featured in Dream Reachers and when she learned we were having difficulty securing permission from Rolling Stone Magazine to use a photo of country/Western singer Tanya Tucker that adorned one of their early covers, Jenny immediately knew who to call: Jim Marshall!

And like magic, Jim opened the door for us!

I spoke to him at his San Francisco home and he generously gave me the name of the person who could give permission. “Just mention my name,” he said, a laugh in his voice. He actually talked to me for quite a while, even inviting me to lunch with him “the next time I hit San Francisco.” What a gentleman…a good-hearted man!

I spoke with Jenny McShane today and she said, “Jim had a heart of gold. I wish everyone could know him as I did; he was such a kind, generous man to those he believed in.

Actress Jenny McShane

“I’ll never forget the evening he took me and music manager Mariella Bradford to dinner, afterwards surprising us by taking us to Billy Bob Thornton’s to see Billy Bob’s band play in his home and recording studio. It was exciting meeting Billy Bob and to sit in on a Jim Marshall photo-shoot! He took photos of Billy, his band and me. Ohhh, how I wish I could see those photos.”

Jenny went on to tell me that she also met Billy Bob’s beautiful wife who had just arrived home from Disneyland with their gorgeous baby girl who was about three at the time. Jenny laughed as she recalled what a busy household it was that day because Billy Bob’s fifteen-year-old son also came to the studio to hang out with his dad, the band and the rest of them.

“Jim told us that he met Billy Bob through a photo he had taken of the famous actor Robert Mitchum,” Jenny continued. “Billy Bob loved that photo, wanted it and apparently got it. While we were there, he showed us the photo and it was incredible! Incidentally, we also learned an interesting bit of trivia about Billy Bob: He started in the business as a “roadie” for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.”

Jenny raved over the photos that Marshall gave her—photos of himself, Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin. He also gave her father photos of Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson and Bill Monroe for his Bluegrass Room at his home in Minnesota. “Jim was a real pro with that camera,” Jenny said, “I will always cherish those photos. He will be missed by all who knew him.”

To read the full news story about this talented, generous man, visit this link:  http://tinyurl.com/yavav8x

And here is a link to a video where he reminisces about meeting and photographing some of his famous subjects:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-npezwmgtA&feature=player_embedded

Marshall has also published five books of his photographs. Check them out on Amazon.com.  They will soon become collector’s items and increase in value; always pricey and in huge demand, Jim’s photography will now soar in value.

What a magnificent legacy to leave behind! RIP, Jim Marshall.

Janice Joplin adorns cover of Jim Marshall's TRUST photo book

Betty Dravis: Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Chase. As you know, we interview a lot of authors, but we also feature people from all walks of life. Since you wear a lot of hats––poet, author, celebrity interviewer and publisher––I think our readers will be very interested in you. I want to tell our readers right up front that you are the co-author on my latest book “Dream Reachers.” Can you tell us a little bit about the experience of working with me? You don’t have to tell them what a big whip I carry, Chase.headshotthough. And please don’t pump me up…LOL…

Chase Von: Working with you, Betty, has been one of the very best experiences of my entire life. I will admit though, it wasn’t easy dealing with a perfectionist and I found out really quickly you’re a sweetheart outside the writing world but inside it, when it comes to things being as they should, you’re a TIGER!

(Good thing I’m the Last Panther or you’d be picking your teeth with my bones. Heh, heh…)

Being a poet first (where there is so much artistic freedom), I wasn’t prepared for the truly technical structure of writing that you brought to the table. But I’ve learned so much from you and consider you not only a co-author and a friend, but also a mentor. Mentally, you’ve smacked me around quite a bit, but I really have to thank God for your being in my life and I say that in all seriousness because you are an angel.  You’re hard, but fair, Marine…er… I mean Betty! Heh, heh… But there’s no doubt in my mind, you could be a Drill Sergeant.

Betty Dravis: I told you not to pump me up, Chase, but I kinda like it! (I just wanted you to admit I do have a tougher, more serious side than most people see, especially when I’m editing.) But back to you: I know you are an esteemed poet with two published volumes. The titles of both are unique, but I’m most curious about “Your Chance to Hear the Last Panther Speak.” I understand that you are “The Last Panther.” How did that come about and what does it mean?

YourChancetoHear.bookcoverChase Von: I think it’s in recognition of my American Indian heritage. Ethnically, I’m black, Blackfoot Indian, Cherokee Indian, and according to family lore, French, as well.  The Last Panther is no different to me than saying Black Elk or Sitting Bull. It confuses some people; they read it wrong and think I’m a “Black Panther.” I’m okay with that, as well.  If you read my books or get to know me, you know I’m not a member of that organization, but I also understand why that group formed and I also know they’ve done a lot of good, like initiating the before-school breakfast programs, for one example. Speaking of that, did you know there is no such thing as a black panther? Tigers have tigers, lions have other lions, and so on, but there is no “black panther” species.  Sometimes some are born black, though. It always mystifies me how people get “Black Panther” when I clearly state “Last Panther.”  I guess their minds wander when they read…

Betty Dravis: I like that name for you, Chase; it suits you and your philosophy of life. And thanks for the information about the panther species.  I also think our readers will be interested in your poetry. I’ve read PANTHER and am impressed that your words seem to flow from your heart; you have penned some powerful thoughts. I’m even more fascinated by your celebrity interviewer status. Author Christy Tillery French termed me a “celebrity interviewer” but when I interviewed a few stars back in my day, I was actually a columnist and it was just part of my job at the various newspapers where I worked. How did you get started interviewing celebrities? I notice that all the people you interview aren’t celebrities in the normal sense of the word. What is your definition of celebrity?

Chase Von: I got introduced by Willard Barth to Judyth Piazza, and did an interview with her. She’s the creator and founder of the Student Operated Press. After the interview she asked me if I would like to write for her.  Because I write, I’ve met a lot of interesting people, so in addition to mentoring on SOP and sharing some of my own work, I decided to interview some of the very interesting people I know. They are not  “world famous,” but they’re extremely talented and if they stretch to reach their dreams, they could one day be icons. I interview interesting people whether they are famous or not. To me each person is to be celebrated, whether they are known only by their family and friends or by the whole world. I enjoy meeting new people, talking to them, learning from them and writing about them. And I do it for that reason.  I like learning because if you aren’t learning, you aren’t growing, and there is no better way to learn than to ask questions.

Betty Dravis: I admire that about you, Chase, and I agree; everyone’s life is a celebration of wonder. Now I’m curious about which genre you most enjoy writing: poems, short stories or nonfiction, such as “Dream Reachers?”

Chase Von: It’s still something that confuses me unless I really think about it: Fiction isn’t true, and nonfiction is…yes?  For some reason, that just seems backwards to me.  So let’s just say “real” or “made-up” to make this easier for me. (Maybe I’m a tad dyslexic.)  With my own writing, I prefer making things up, mostly because that’s what I do. I’m a “thought catcher” who turns thoughts into poetry. Whether I write about love or dreams, I hope readers can relate to it in a “real” sense––pulled out of thin air or not. It’s always interesting to interview people and write the facts of their lives, but poetry is my first love.

Betty Dravis: I can understand that, but getting back to celebrity interviewing, since you do your interviews by phone and email, have you met any celebrities in person? If so, tell us a little about the first one and the most recent one you’ve met.

Chase Von: The first celebrity I met was the famous boxer Joe Frazier; I met him at a 7-Eleven when I was going to a high school football game. And famous Olympian Carl Lewis’s Dad was my winter track coach in Willingboro, New Jersey. The last celebrity I spent time with on the phone was Hollywood actress Jenny McShane, who is a beautiful person both inside and out. The last one I have actually spent time with is musician M.T. Robison and his band “The Messengers.” I was a personal guest at their recent gig in Hollywood.

I’ve pulled security for Sinbad, Cedric The Entertainer, Shelia E’s family and The Weeper and I’ve also met Kidd Rock, Alyssa Milano, Lee Anne Womack, Brittany Murphy and many others.  I do want to say here, though, that Brittany Murphy and Jenny McShane are like twins, personality wise.

Betty Dravis: What are your ideal writing conditions? Do you listen to music while writing? And how do you go about promoting your books when published?

Chase Von: I really don’t have any ideal conditions, as I’m a “thought catcher,” as mentioned before.  I might be on a bus, in my backyard, on a ship or driving in a car and something will hit me and I have to write it down.  I don’t have to catch all of it, but the gist of it. I might write it on a matchbook or a napkin, or if I’m lucky enough to be at home, the computer.  Thoughts don’t always introduce themselves at convenient times; they come when they want to come.

Betty Dravis: I suppose most writers are a little bit like that, too, Chase.  You know, I love the complete act of writing and hate the marketing.  What do you love about it? What do you hate? I bet your answer will be a lot like mine, but this curious mind wants to know…as I’m sure our readers do.

Chase Von: I think in today’s world, writers have to help sell their own books…to make a dent, but I much prefer writing to marketing.  Marketing is work; writing is a part of who I am. It’s also difficult for me to “sell myself” because I don’t think on the level of: I’m all THAT and a ‘bag of chips.’ I’d call it humility, but if someone likes what I write, I’m deeply touched. I’m the type of person who likes to let what I do speak for itself. Perhaps this is outdated, but what I’m generally saying is, if you’re good, the world will beat a path to your door. So I’m waiting.

Betty Dravis: What advice would you give other writers?

Chase Von: Read!  Writers to me are like verbal painters, and if you have a limited vocabulary, it’s like trying to paint a picture with two or three colors when you could be using the entire spectrum of colors.  Another thing is: learn things you don’t know and admit that you don’t know it all.  I’d like to share a poem here, if I may?

There are so many people

Who will never know

More than what they know

Because what they know

Actually prevents them

From learning

What they could know

Betty Dravis: That’s lovely, Chase…thought-provoking… Do you have a current mentor? If so, tell us about him or her and about others who have influenced your life.

Chase Von: Not to sound corny, but I think just about everyone that teaches me things I don’t know is a mentor: Judyth Piazza, yourself, Willard Barth, Bryant McGill, Ed Roberts…and I could go on and on here. But I also want to say something that might sound a bit crazy to a lot of people—God! Someone gave me something years ago, a little card that said…and this is from memory: “God Still Speaks, To Those Who Listen.” I believe that.

Betty Dravis:  That doesn’t sound crazy at all to me, Chase, because I credit God as my main mentor too.  Now, tell us a little about your family who must be thrilled that you’re a published author.

Chase Von: I have a lovely wife and three kids…a dog and two fish… And no matter how others might admire things I do and have done, to my kids I’m Dad. I’m the one my youngest shows his cars to, my daughter tells about her “Beanie Babies,” and whose oldest son has to be called a couple of times because he can’t hear because he’s on the phone with a girl….

Speaking of family, I would like to wish my Mom a happy birthday in a public format; she celebrated in July. She turned 29 again. Heh, heh…

Betty Dravis: Well, that’s a woman’s prerogative, they say, Chase, but I know a few men like that too. But now for the fun question: I waited till the end to put you on the spot, but do you mind sharing the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you in connection with your writing?

Chase Von: Perhaps not in the vein you’re expecting, but a teacher once told me and the entire class that “few people change.” It triggered me to write one of my first poems: “So long.”  When I showed it to that teacher, she couldn’t believe that I wrote it and thought I had copied some adult’s writing. To prove (to herself, I imagine) that I didn’t write it she had the entire class do something else and told me to write a poem.

I even remember what I wrote that day…  From memory:

I’ve been on this earth

Since my birth

Like most others

I’m pretty well sure

A brain I am not

But I know quite a lot

Enough to get by

I’m sure

I could go on and on

About the things I know

How the sun stays lit

And why rivers flow

But there’s one subject

I will never know

And that subject

Is life

Well, in her thinking, it wasn’t on the same level as “So long”––so I was embarrassed, even when I shouldn’t have been. It was years before I showed anything else I wrote to an actual “Adult.”

I was in Ansbach, Germany when my former high school counselor asked me if they could put one of my poems in a high school yearbook.  (It was my rival high school, and she and my former teacher had ended up there, both on the yearbook staff.) “Probably Will” was included in that yearbook and when the teacher recognized my name, she said, “I remember him!  He’s the one that wrote this?”  She then went on to tell my once-high-school counselor about the childhood incident and the counselor said, “So you’re the one?” The teacher then relayed an apology. A little late… Nonetheless, I forgave her long ago and don’t want to end this on a sour note, but to be accused at such a young age, sat off by myself and forced to write (which any writer knows isn’t how any of us do it)…. Well, that brings a two-time war veteran like myself to unfavorable memories because it is still painful to be treated like that by someone in an established position, one who you thought you would be pleasing.

Yes, that was embarrassing, but I got over it. But any teacher who jumps to conclusions about how advanced a young child’s writings skills should be––or whatever talent they exhibit––isn’t a teacher to me. She (or he) is a “Dream Vampire!”

I survived and went on to win accolades for my poetry. I wonder how many people out there might have laid down their pens for good because of experiences like that.  And this isn’t a book plug––though some might think it is––but I’ve learned not to be too concerned with that as of late. I really think people who have had similar experiences need to read the book we put together, Angel Betty: “Dream Reachers.”  If they are still letting something like that hold them back, maybe our book will inspire them to forgive and move forward to go after their dreams.

I’ll be damned if I’m going to let anyone slow me down or stop me from reaching for my dreams. No one has the right to take that from me, regardless of what their credentials might be.

Betty Dravis: It’s sad, Chase, that some teachers intimidate students that way, and I agree: it can harm them for life. I’m glad you came out okay and continued writing inspiring poetry­­––like my favorite one that’s on the final page of “Dream Reachers.” Do you mind sharing it with Dames of Dialogue and our guests? We all appreciate your visiting with us today and I think it would be a perfect way to end this interview

Chase Von:  Sure, I’m happy to share the poem, and thanks for inviting me to be your guest.  It’s been my pleasure. Peace and love to y’all.

If the universe

Is big enough

To hold countless stars

And uncountable galaxies

Is it really a stretch

Of the imagination

To believe within it

It can also hold

Your dreams?

Author Betty Dravis and celebrity interviewer and poet Chase Von have together penned an inspiring collection of interviews with people who not only dare to dream but strive to make their dreams happen, ranging from mega movie star/director/ producer Clint Eastwood to politico Ted Kennedy along with a plethora of actors, dreamreachersactresses, poets, artists, singers, dancers, musicians, photographers and more. One of this reviewer’s favorites: the interview with Debra D. Griffin, author and photographer, who lost her battle with cancer. Debra’s inspiring words: “Smile and keep a lot of smiling faces around you. Keep busy; take this time to do all your favorite things. Sing and make a joyful noise.” Very poignant words from a gifted woman.

One common denominator that stands out with this collection of interviews: the belief that life is a gift. These talented people understand and appreciate they are each unique unto themselves and blessed with life, which inspires them to reach for their dreams, some of whom have made it, others who are well on their way.

Dream Reachers is an intriguing read which will motivate those readers who until now might not have taken that first step toward their dream to reach out and grab for it as well as those working toward their dream to keep going. All readers will enjoy the stories behind the interviews and the powerful message each interview delivers.

The authors generously donate a portion of the profits from the sale of this book to the Breast Cancer Care Research Center.

For more info: http://bettydravis.com

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