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by Betty Dravis

Betty Dravis: Christy, before I get into your fabulous writing career, I’d like to know a little about the Dames of Dialogue. Thanks to you for inducting me into this hallowed group. (laughs) I understand that you and author Maggie Bishop were the first two Dames. Please share with us how you decided to start this group of writers who care so much for other writers…and how it grew to five members.

Christy Tillery French: My sister Cyndi Hodges (aka Caitlyn Hunter) and I had talked about doing a blog for writers, and not long after that, we were attending a writers conference and Maggie approached me with the idea of starting a blog to help other writers promote their works. I told Maggie that Cyndi and I had been discussing the same thing, and as simple as that, Dames of Dialogue was born. We agreed early on to limit the number of Dames and started with Maggie, Cyndi and me. I knew you’d be a bonus, Betty, with your background and popularity. I had read and reviewed Laurel-Rain Snow’s books and thought she’d be a good fit for us too. I think we’re a diverse group of writers and love the rapport the Dames have with one another. We each have something unique to offer as well as readers and fans who support our efforts.

Betty Dravis: Thanks for sharing that, Christy. I enjoy my time with the Dames and was pleased that you Southern Belles asked us two sunny Cali girls to join you. Diversity, indeed… (laughs)

As you know from monitoring this blog, I like to start at the beginning, so please tell us when you first started writing and when you decided to make a career of it. Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?

Christy Tillery French: I first started writing when I was in the fifth grade. The principal asked me to publish a weekly newspaper for the school and I found myself writer, editor and occasional cartoonist. Think stick figures… (laughs) I fell in love with writing at that point although I didn’t actually write a book until my son and daughter were in school and old enough to trust to be in a room alone together without killing one another.

At that point, I had started a medical transcription service and when I wasn’t busy with that, I entertained myself by writing a romantic comedy about the relationship between two complete opposites. That book ended up being over 1,000 pages, has never been published and is sitting on a closet shelf. But it was a fun book to write. I occasionally play around with the idea of polishing it up, drastically reducing the word count and submitting it, but I’ve yet to actually do anything with it.

Betty Dravis: See, Christy, you had God-given talent and endless energy that wouldn’t be denied–even at that young age. Smart principal! I’m hoping that someday you might dust that first work off, revise it and give your fans another great read, but I can see how you are much too busy to do it anytime soon. (laughs)

Well, Christy, I and your fans are glad you decided to continue writing. Otherwise we wouldn’t have such great books as the Bodyguard series, the Chasing series and Wayne’s Dead. I’ve read them all, except that one and it was one of your first books.

Christy Tillery French: Oh, thanks, Betty. Wayne’s Dead is a psychological suspense about a serial killer suffering from multiple personality disorder, also called dissociative identity disorder. I got the idea while running my medical transcription service. Most of my clients were psychologists and psychiatrists and I learned a lot about psychological disorders through them. I initially titled the book Symbolic Killings but my agent didn’t like that and talked me into Wayne’s Dead, which to me sounds a lot like Wayne’s World. I get a lot of comments about that, let me tell you. (laughs)

This was probably one of the hardest books I’ve written because it not only required much research but I felt as if I were visiting a dark world while writing the serial killer character. I had help with the forensics from Arthur Bohanan, who is a renowned forensic scientist and the inventor of lifting fingerprints off of bodies. He’s also a featured character in the Jefferson Bass Body Farm books and one of the most generous, as well as interesting, resources I’ve ever used.

Betty Dravis: Well, now I must go back and read that one, Christy. And I know what you mean about getting into that dark world. In fact, I had to study Nigel Cawthorne’s Serial Killers and Mass Murderers: Profiles of the World’s Most Barbaric Criminals to get inside the mind of my serial killer in Dead Women Don’t Talk Back, which should be my next print book…or will it be an e-book? Only my publisher knows for sure. (laughs)

You’re an excellent writer, Christy, and I like all your works, but am really hooked on the Bodyguard series. You certainly have a dynamic, winning love match with Natasha and Striker. I’m rooting for them to resolve their differences in the next book in the series…but everyone who reads these books says the same thing. (laughs) I don’t know how you keep the series going so long and make it so captivating without them taking the wedding vows.

Have you started the next book yet? How many will that make? And do you have a title yet? Please tell us a little bit about that, if you can at this early stage.

The cover of the original print version of the first Bodyguard book.

Christy Tillery French: Thank you, Betty, for your kind comments. The conflict between Striker and Natasha over her choice of career is what keeps the series going. After all, how many TV series have we seen go downhill once the two conflicting characters come together (i.e. Cheers, Friends, to name a couple)? Striker, who owns a security service and tends to be over-protective toward Natasha, is well aware of the dangers of being a bodyguard and wants nothing more than for Natasha to quit this field and marry him. Natasha–who loves Striker immensely yet is fearful of being absorbed by him–refuses to give up the career she feels validates her as a person and fulfills her great need to protect those (humans and animals) who, for whatever reason, cannot protect themselves.

Striker is a traditional man, Natasha more contemporary. They have karma and acknowledge they are life mates, yet have to find a way to overcome this vast difference. I am sure the final book in the series will end with the wedding scene between the two (for those readers who have asked me this). I can’t picture their relationship ending any other way.

The cover of the e-book version of the first Bodyguard book.

The next book, which will be the sixth, is The Bodyguard and Bridezilla. I got this idea during the year-long process of planning my daughter’s wedding. My husband and I eloped and I had no idea planning a wedding could be so arduous and stressful. After watching my daughter have one of her “meltdowns” over a problem–along with the interactions between her and her bridesmaids over some misperceived statement or when a glitch would occur—the thought occurred to me: What a great character for Natasha to protect! A “bridezilla”–not that I’m calling my daughter that–who manages to alienate everyone with whom she comes in contact… (laughs) That’s one thing I like about this series, there is a plethora of quirky characters I can place around my bodyguard.

Betty Dravis: Wow, Christy, another great title and a fabulous idea. Quirky, indeed, but that makes for the best romantic comedies. I can’t wait to read it!

I read on one of the blogs in Dames of Dialogue that you and your sister–Cyndi Hodges who writes under the pen name of Caitlyn Hunter, as mentioned above–have a big, nonfiction work in progress. What’s that all about?

Christy Tillery French: Whistling Woman is what I call a faction (part fact, part fiction). By the way, I picked that up from you with your 1106 Grand Boulevard. (laughs) I am really excited about the book and am honored to co-author with Cyndi, whose voice is so magical to me. It’s about our great-aunt Bessie who grew up in Hot Springs, North Carolina during the late 1800s. Her father was marshal, and our dad tells these wonderful, humorous stories about Aunt Bessie’s growing up years with his great-grandfather (her father), as well as about other mountain people he knew. We tried to incorporate as many of his stories as we could into the book along with historical information concerning Cherokee medicine, the Melungeons, the Dorland Bell Institute, the healing waters of Hot Springs as well as Hot Springs itself. We’re receiving a lot of interest from people in that area and will be launching the book there.

I have to share with you that Cyndi and I think we channeled Aunt Bessie while writing this book. We each wrote different chapters and I thought I could never match my voice to Cyndi’s (she reminds me so much of Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird – that Southern, genteel, poetic cadence I find so appealing), yet now that the book is finished, there are places where neither one of us can tell who wrote what.

Also, in the first chapter, Cyndi describes the house Bessie was living in at that time in her life. Our dad had told us that his great-grandfather was a carpenter and Daddy thought one of the houses he built was still standing in Hot Springs. During a visit to Hot Springs, we stopped in at Harvest Moon Gallery, Gifts & Music, which is in a house greater than 100 years old, and it was like stepping back into that book. The house was laid out exactly as Cyndi had described, with a front parlor, steps in both the front room and kitchen which is in the back of the house, etc. We both looked at one another and knew Aunt Bessie had been talking to us from “beyond.” A very weird, yet comforting feeling…

The above painting belongs to the authors' father who often told a sad story of an old woman and her chicken. Christy and Cyndi used the story in "Whistling Women" so are using this photo on the book cover.

Betty Dravis: OMG, channeling your aunt! You are spooking me, Christy… (laughs) But it certainly seems possible that Aunt Bessie could have taken you and Cyndi over for brief “spells” during the writing of Whistling Woman. I know what you mean by the cadence of your sister’s writing voice, too. I also adore her tremendous sense of humor. Talent certainly runs in the family… I can’t wait to read this one, even if it is a departure from your usual fiction, and it’s a smart move to launch it in Hot Springs.

I’ve often wondered about your middle name. Is that your maiden name? Tell us about your parents and your lovely daughter Meghann.

Christy Tillery French: My dad, for some reason unexplained to this day, did not want any of his daughters to have a middle name, so I use my maiden name, Tillery. My daughter named her daughter (my first grandchild!) Gabriella Tillery Parrilla, which I think is lovely.

My dad is a talented artist and storyteller. Whenever we’re around him, we’re always pestering him to tell us stories of his childhood and the mountain people of North Carolina. Whistling Woman is a legacy to him as we’re passing down some of the stories he told us. We’re also using one of his paintings as the cover for the book. My mom is the strongest woman I’ve ever met. She’s in her 70s, yet healthy and vibrant. She’s the one who taught me, by example, to love reading. I remember, when I was a child, she would always get up early in the morning to have a cup of coffee and read a bit before the day began. Each week, she’d take all five of her children to the library where we could pick out books, and she’d buy us each a bottled coke afterward. Absolutely my favorite day of the week…

My bodyguard Natasha is based on my daughter Meghann. Meghann is athletic, smart, and beautiful. Although she has two degrees, one in psychology and the other in social science with an emphasis on criminal justice, she works a security position for the government, carrying a gun and malevolent-looking equipment. She oversees her own team and loves to train so she can shoot machine guns, throw grenades, wreak havoc on all kinds of things. She’s independent, passionate about life, and a hoot to be around. I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter. Oh, and she can make you pass out in five seconds… Just saying… (laughs)

Betty Dravis: Wow, Christy, your description of Meghann confused me for a second; thought you were describing Natasha. You’re absolutely right! They are alike! But remind me to always write complimentary material about you! I certainly don’t want Meghann (or Natasha) coming after me. (laughs)

Three books in the Chasing series.

I know you’ve won many awards with your books. In fact, they’re too numerous to mention here, but if anyone wants to know more they can check your website where they’ll also find your poetry awards and other credits listed.

I’m very impressed, Christy, and in addition to all the awards, your books have been chosen by numerous book clubs across America as their Book of the Month, and all nine books have been placed with the McClung Historical Collection of the East Tennessee Historical Center as part of the local and genealogical history of East Tennessee.

I know you were born and raised in the south, are proud of your home state and are on the Board of Directors of Tennessee Mountain Writers. You also served on the Board of the Southeast Mystery Writers of America (SEMWA) Skill Build Committee, representing East Tennessee, and organized and hosted a skill build in Knoxville, Tennessee in August of 2005, sponsored by SEMWA. Does this account for your joy in writing about quirky southern women?

And do you work outside the home? If so, how in the world do you multi-task so efficiently?

Christy Tillery French: Thank you, Betty. I’m honored to have received the awards and to have my books featured in the museum. Yes, I love quirky Southern women. They’re feisty, independent, outspoken, and not afraid to stand up for what they believe in. And very much fun to write… I think I respect these women so much because I grew up in a strict Southern Baptist environment, my parents espousing the opinion children should be seen and not heard. So, in essence, I learned to keep my mouth shut. Through these fictional women, I get the chance to portray a strong woman who is not afraid to stand up and be heard. The type of woman I hope I’ve become.

I do bookwork for C&S Forklift Inc., an industrial equipment business my husband and I own. I did have my office at our building, but moved it home a few months ago so I can babysit Gabi when Meghann and her husband Roberto are working.

As for multi-tasking, that’s debatable! I used to be so much more organized than I am now and hope to get back to that so I can at least finish the next Bodyguard book!

 Betty Dravis: Yes, you are a strong woman, Christy… and a bit quirky too. (laughs) Thanks for sharing about your “real” work. It’s always enlightening to be able to picture our favorite authors in all aspects of their lives.

Christy, I’ve always been fascinated by good book covers and you certainly have some dramatic, eye-appealing ones. I’m really intrigued by foreign covers and since the translation rights for Wayne’s Dead were sold to Yacom Publishers of Seoul, South Korea and the translation rights for Chasing Demons were sold to Futami Shobo Publishers of Tokyo, Japan, can you share those covers with us today? Do you display them along with your other books when attending book signings?

The original book covers for all five of French's books in the Bodyguard series.

Christy Tillery French: I think book covers are an integral part of the book, Betty. I’m sorry to say I don’t have the jpg for either one. I was pleased that Chasing Demons went into a second printing in Japan shortly after its release and I’m happy to say that during its first year, it outsold all my other books combined. I don’t display my foreign books with my others simply because they’re in another language and not sold in the States in that format.

Betty Dravis: Aw-www, I’m disappointed because it’s always interesting to see how other cultures depict our books and our characters, but perhaps one day you will take a photo holding the books that garnered foreign interest… just for me… (laughs) Seriously, congratulations on Chasing Demons doing so well in Japan. That’s wonderful.

But speaking of characters, which of yours is closest to your heart? And why…? In the same vein, which one (or two) lines is your favorite from all your works? This would also be a good place to share your all-time favorite male author and female author and share why you chose those particular writers.

Christy Tillery French: My favorite character from my stand-alone books is Bessie’s dad, John Daniels, in Whistling Woman. Cyndi and I both really liked him more and more as the book progressed. And I have to add Bessie. She was born a hundred years before her time and was a true “whistling woman.”

As for my series, I would say Natasha. I purposefully wrote her as a young, somewhat immature woman so she could mature as the series did. I like her feistiness, commitment to protecting others, her great love for Striker.

Favorite male author: Two: Stephen King and Dean Koontz – their earlier works.

Favorite female author: My sister Cyndi… I love her voice. I also like Tess Gerritsen and Shelly Fredman and, of course, the Dames…

Betty Dravis: Very good choices, Christy. King and Koontz used to be my very favorites, too, but I switched to Pat Conroy after I read Prince of Tides and to Joseph Finder when his High Crimes became a movie. I still love horror, though, so King and Koontz are still up there…

This is not an unusual or original question, Christy, but please tell us about your writing day… Where is your favorite place to write and what’s your best time?

Christy Tillery French: I’m not as disciplined about writing as I used to be. I usually work on business matters for C&S Forklift in the morning and in the afternoon devote time to answering emails, promoting, and trying to work on manuscripts. Once Whistling Woman is released, I’ll be doing a bit of traveling with Cyndi, promoting the book and doing signings. I’m looking forward to that as it will give me a chance to spend time with one of my most favorite people in the world.

I usually write in my office at home. We have a houseboat and I try really hard to write there, but water has such a calming effect on me, I don’t get much done. Besides, I’d rather play when I’m at the lake. No self-discipline at all there!

Christy with her beloved Weimeraners Amma and Memphis.

Christy with her beloved Weimeraners Emma and Memphis.

Betty Dravis: I can see you bustling about your morning chores with the business, then switching to writing mode in your home office. I wonder if you whistle as you work? (laughs) You also paint a pretty picture (in my mind) of you trying to write on the houseboat, while the water lulls you. It’s the opposite with me: I have fond memories of finishing The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley on my balcony that overlooked New Brighton Beach when I lived in Capitola.

Besides water, what distracts you the most when trying to write? (laughs) And who or what is your biggest inspiration? This is a great place to tell us about your mentors, if you have any.

Christy Tillery French: Without a doubt, my grand-dog Memphis distracts me the most. That dog barks at any and everything and runs in and out of the house like a little kid. When I’ve got Gabi, nothing gets done. She’s almost walking now and into everything. It’s fascinating watching her reactions to new things and interacting with her. I adore her…

My biggest inspiration… Actually, I have two: Cyndi and my dad. Cyndi is always upbeat and positive and certainly understands the frustrations of writing. As an artist, my dad does, as well, in regards to creating. Every time I talk to him, he wants to know what I’m working on, how it’s going. I always have Cyndi read my manuscripts before I submit them because she is great at catching glitches or inconsistencies. And she’s honest with what works for her and what doesn’t, which I appreciate. When I’m going through writer’s block, Cyndi and my dad commiserate. It really helps having people who understand the process.

Christy's beloved sister Cyndi Hodges (aka Caitlyn Hunter) is pictured here with her dog and one of her print books.

Betty Dravis: That’s encouraging that your family supports your writing the way they do. I’ve interviewed many people who were held back due to lack of support from their families. In my opinion, that’s the biggest help any artist can have.

Christy, I love receiving reviews and input from my readers and know you do too. I bet you have had some interesting fan mail and reviews. Please tell us about some of the more unusual incidents, ones that moved you the most.

Christy Tillery French: The most moving fan mail I received was from a woman who told me she had been going through a really difficult time in her life and that my Bodyguard books helped her to laugh again and escape from her worries for a time. I wanted so much to be able to give that woman a hug. Her words moved me a great deal. I could feel her pain and felt such empathy for her.

My favorite is a letter I received from Dolly Parton who told me she loved my books and that I’m as “crazy and out there” as she is. I cherish that letter.

As to other writers, I’ve had reviews where it was obvious the reviewer hadn’t read the book and had their own agenda in placing the review. I always wonder at that. I’m happy to say that most of my reviews are good ones. I appreciate the legitimate reviews, whether good or bad, because they sometimes give me a different perspective. It’s very hard to be objective about one’s own work.

 Betty Dravis: Wow, that letter from Dolly Parton must have really perked you up. To be “crazy and out there” like her is not a bad place to be… (laughs) And as for the woman who wrote that you had lifted her up out of a hard place… Well, that’s what we all hope for from our readers. Good for you, Christy!

What is the most unusual place you’ve ever held a book-signing?

Christy Tillery French: At different hospitals around East Tennessee. A dear friend of mine, Sherry Russell, had a medical connection and she and I teamed up and did signings together at hospitals and medical centers. I really liked the tag-team approach. I would talk her book up, she’d talk mine up, and we managed to sell quite a few books together. Sherry has since moved to Florida and I miss her.

 Betty Dravis: That is different, Christy, and I bet the people there appreciated you and Sherry sharing your books with them. My most unusual signing was at a Christian men’s luncheon, complete with opening prayer and gospel music. It was a lot of fun, as well as spiritually uplifting. (laughs)

What’s the wackiest thing that ever happened to you as an author? An embarrassing moment or something…?

William Thourlby, the original Marlboro Man.

Christy Tillery French: Wacky…? This may not be so wacky, perhaps, but it was certainly interesting: During a get-together at a book fest at East Tennessee State, I met the original Marlboro man, William Thourlby (who told me he was never a smoker). (laughs) Even though he’s quite a bit older, he’s very handsome and writes self-help books. We connected and spent a lot of time talking. He encouraged me to write romantic comedy, which motivated me to write the Bodyguard series. I really enjoyed meeting him.

Betty Dravis: I’d like to learn more about William Thourlby, Christy. He would make a fabulous interview subject. I’ll never forget those first Marlboro ads; he was gorgeous…but Tom Selleck stands out in my mind as a later Marlboro model. Me and a million other women… (laughs)

Getting serious again, in addition to your business with your husband, tell us about your previous jobs.

Christy Tillery French: Oh, boy, Betty… I’ve owned a medical transcription service, court reporting transcription service, co-owned an industrial battery service, industrial tire service, cartage company, and industrial equipment service. My first job was as a legal secretary, moving up to paralegal status, then office manager.

Betty Dravis: Wow, Christy, you have done a lot of fascinating things in your life… And now you have an amazing career as a writer and are well-loved by your many fans. I’m curious about how you feel about marketing and how you help your publisher, L&L Dreamspell, market your books. Is most of your marketing in the Internet Social Media?

Christy Tillery French: And I love my fans, Betty. Nothing pleases me more than hearing from them. Most of my promoting is via the internet. Due to recovering from a lengthy illness, I don’t promote as actively as I used to but plan to get back to that. I’ve found, however, that word of mouth is the best promotion. As an example, author Shelly Fredman, who writes the popular Brandy Alexander series, was kind enough to recommend me to her readers and I’ve been lucky enough to cultivate fans among her readers who have told their friends, and so on; kind of a snowball effect. I really appreciate that.

Betty Dravis: I find that to be true, too, Christy, and it works with my celebrity interviews, also. One person told another person they liked my interview and pretty soon I had more wonderful people to interview than I could handle. I love it… (laughs)

Christy, there was a time when I would not even dream of reading on an electronic reader (e-reader). The very thought seemed almost sacrilegious to me and made me feel disloyal to traditional print books. But my son bought me a Kindle and now I can’t pull myself away from it. In fact, all my novels are now in e-book format and they’re outselling my print books. That’s a bit frightening, especially to a traditionalist like me.

I notice most of your books are now in electronic form also. How do you feel about the electronic revolution in the publishing industry? In a way, I feel that New York publishers asked for it by shutting so many good authors out for too many years.

The e-book cover of Christy's novel "Chasing Demons."

Christy Tillery French: E-books are the future, no doubt. I was like you, Betty, once preferring a dead-tree book to the electronic format. Once I got my Kindle, that all went out the window. I love e-books and rarely pick up a paperback or hardback unless it’s one that’s been sent to me for review. Like you, my e-books outsell my paperbacks.

As for New York publishers, they seem to be trying to catch up re: e-books, but they still don’t get it. I don’t understand why they price their e-books as much as their paperbacks, but do hope that will encourage readers to look around at authors with small or independent publishers who offer e-books at a much lower price. And yes, they have shut out good authors, but that’s their loss.

However, the problem with e-books is that anyone can publish one, so I fear it will make it harder for readers to cull the good from the bad. But I think every author needs to read J.A. Konrath’s views re; publishing e-books. Even though he’s published through one of the major publishers, he is very honest about the reality of e-books and how well his self-published ones are doing in that format.

 Betty Dravis: I’ve read Konrath and also John Locke, who was the first one to sell a million e-books. We should be so lucky, and we can learn a lot from them. I definitely agree with you about anyone and everyone jumping on the e-book bandwagon. I have been stung by buying a few that were definitely bad, but I’m learning to check a little closer and “cull the good from the bad,” as you so adequately describe it. (laughs)

I would be remiss if I failed to ask you the question I ask almost all the people I interview: If you could spend an entire day with any person in the world (living or dead) who would you choose and why. It will be fun hearing your response. (laughs)

Christy Tillery French: I’m sure many answer the same, but God. I’d like to know how the universe can be infinite; after all, everything has a beginning and an end, doesn’t it? And what’s beyond the universe, if anything? Were we put here for a purpose or are we some kind of wacky experiment to see what we’ll do to each other and this world? Who or what created God? How can He hear each and every prayer? Does He check in from time to time, or are we watched constantly? Are we alone? I could go on forever…

Betty Dravis: Your choice is excellent, Christy. But poor God… It sounds like you would interview Him for Dames of Dialogue…or something. The Bible tells us only He knows all the answers and we will know when we get to Heaven… It will come clear to us then, so please be patient. (laughs)

Can you tell us one thing about yourself that readers would be surprised to know?

Christy with her first grandchild, adorable Gabi.

Christy Tillery French: That’s hard, Betty. I guess it would be that I married my husband after only knowing him for thirty days–and 39 years and counting, we’re still together. (laughs)

Betty Dravis: Congratulations to you and your husband, Christy. I always love hearing about successful marriages, and have always wondered how some make it after knowing each other for a short time, while others who have “been together” for years and years often don’t make it. One of life’s mysteries…

I read that you live on a mini-farm in Tennessee with your husband, four dogs and two cats. I know you have a great love for Weimaraners and part of your book proceeds are donated to their causes. Please tell us about your work with animals.

Another cherished photo of little Gabi.

Christy Tillery French: I love animals, especially dogs, horses and cats. Weims are wonderful dogs but require a special kind of owner. They’re called the Velcro dog because they attach themselves to their owner(s) and want to be with them constantly. They are not what I consider a dog-dog (I call them hu-dogs, part human, part dog) because they prefer to interact with humans than other dogs. Very intelligent, crafty and manipulative…

We also have a black Lab and Australian blue heeler who are best friends to the point that I’m already worried about how the other will react when one of them dies.

I donate proceeds to our local animal shelter, Wolf Creek Weimaraner Rescue, ASPCA and Doris Day Animal League. I’m a volunteer with Wolf Creek, where we take in abandoned and neglected Weims and find forever homes for them. In a perfect world, there would be no kill shelters, all animals would have a loving home, and animal abusers would face the same fate as those who abuse humans.

Betty Dravis: Well, that’s the first I’ve heard of a “hu-dog,” Christy. (laughs) Your pets all sound so special, and it’s commendable that you donate so much time and money caring for other animals, as well as your own. You are, indeed a dynamic, caring woman.

But back to your books: If your Bodyguard series ever becomes a movie, as many of us would love to see happen, who do you envision as Natasha and Striker?

Christy Tillery French: For Striker, I envision a younger version of actor Eric Schweig who played Uncas in The Last of the Mohicans. He’s gorgeous. As for Natasha, that’s hard. If my daughter were an actress, I’d say her!

Betty Dravis: Sounds good to me, Christy. Like you say, Schweig is a hunk, all right, and your daughter is beautiful enough to be an actress and has the skills of a body guard, too.

Since a book-to-film is every author’s dream, Christy, I’ll leave you on that happy note and with the wish that you’ll become the next best-seller among my author friends. But before closing, please share the thing that’s most exciting to you at this very moment.

Christy Tillery French: Thanks, Betty. And right back at you, kiddo… Most exciting: waiting for Whistling Woman to be released. Cyndi and I are both excited about this book and hope others may perceive it to be on par with To Kill a Mockingbird. It was fun to write and I know we’re going to have fun promoting it.

Betty Dravis: Wow, you’re on fire, Christy! So many projects going on… I, the other Dames and all your readers are rooting for you. Go, girl…and Cyndi too.

And last, but not least, here are your important links, so more people can find you and become involved with Natasha, Striker and the other fascinating characters that spring from your fertile imagination.

www.christytilleryfrench.com

www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=688649644

www.authorsden.com/christytfrench

Thanks a million for taking time to be with us, Christy. I appreciate it and I’ll keep track of you by following every blog that Dames of Dialogue post. Cheers, sweet Southern Belle.

Christy Tillery French: Thank you, Betty, for taking the time to put together these intriguing questions.

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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

I’ve always been interested in acting ever since high school drama classes. I played the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland and that hooked me.

I should have pursued acting at a younger age, but instead I became a contractor and owner. I did very well for many years until the economy went down-hill. At that point, I wondered what I should do and immediately thought of entertainment. But which part of the industry…? Acting? Comedy? Music?

Acting didn’t seem to be a realistic choice, since I live in Ohio; for that I knew I would need to be in L.A. Unwilling or unable to relocate so far away, I took a loan out of my 401k and that kept me afloat for awhile.

Comedy seemed to be a better choice… I was always good at being the “class clown,” so I started doing some stand-up comedy in local clubs. I made the people laugh, but didn’t find my niche in stand-up. I’m still working on that… (Laughs.)

As for music, there was my guitar, so I practiced on that. I could carry a tune, all right, but still I’d be better off playing the rubber band. Boing… Boing… But my mind was set on entertaining. I knew I had acting in my back pocket, but wasn’t quite sure where to start.

I thought of going back to school, but I wasn’t rich like Rodney Dangerfield. After awhile, I started getting really worried because I needed a new career. I needed a break….a foot in the door. Since I was on a serious budget, I had to stay persistent.

Well, one night I was watching CBS News when they announced that an audition was being held for a short film called The Movement….I felt lucky, so I went to the audition and tried out for the part. The role was as a bus driver and I lost out to an older gentleman. That’s the bad news… The good news is that I got the part of a homeless guy, which was ironic because at that point I was almost homeless! (Laughs.)

Small part, small pay-check, but my foot was in the door.

They were using the bus that was in the movie Speed with Sandra Bullock and during the shooting I got to thinking about driving the same bus that gave Sandra Bullock her first big start. That would have been fun—and perhaps a good omen–but I was happy, anyway. I had a part… I was busy… And everyone has to start somewhere! I learned a lot from that short film; it was the first time I saw the business end of a film production up close.

The director told me that if I was serious about being in movies, I would have to go to L.A. I smiled as I said, “Maybe someday, Kind Sir.” So when that movie ‘wrapped,’ there I was–on the hunt for my next project, ready to audition and work for food. I was hungry and wanted work, but didn’t know where to turn or what to do. I knew I couldn’t make it to L.A. California was out because I needed to have a good resume and build some credits before going there…or anywhere.

So there I was: Sitting in my office looking at Craig’s List when I found an audition for a film called The Black Doveand lo and behold, it was right here in my town of Cincinnati!

I was like that dog in the commercial that smelled bacon and ran around the house like a maniac! I read their want ad and saw many roles I could audition for, one particular was a role for a “bar bouncer.” I could do that, so I hurried off to the audition. After I was sitting, waiting for over an hour, this beautiful young lady walks over and asks, “What part are you trying for?” When I told her, she replied, “You fit that part very well.”

I smiled from ear to ear and was impressed when later I found out that she’s the Assistant Producer Robin McKerrell. Even though it’s a small part, I was so excited when I got the call telling me I had gotten the part and production started September 27, 2010 in Mason, Ohio.

I cruised up there on my Harley Davidson and it was about sixty-three degrees. I was surprised that so many well-known actors are in the movie. I walked into the bar and was sitting on a bar stool when Red West walked up to me and said, “Sure is cold here in Ohio.”

I knew who he was right off the bat–good ol’ Elvis Presley’s top security back in the day—so I smiled and said, “Yes, Sir.” Red plays the detective in the movie and he talked to me like he had always known me. Then when actor Lou Beatty, Jr. walked over I was thinking I sure picked a lucky bar stool. He looked at me really hard and said, “Don’t I know you?”

I replied, “No, Sir” and introduced myself. I started getting to know a lot of people, some famous and some not, but finding out that everyone on the set was really “nice people.”

Gregory de Long with Actor John Savage who plays lead role in "The Black Dove"

Well, my first day on the set went well, so I was excited when I went home. Robin McKerrell called to tell me to be on location at a certain time. I showed up early and since I felt so comfortable the day before, I claimed my same “lucky bar stool” while waiting for them to let me know when they were ready for me.  That’s when Actor Jimmy Lee Williams walked over. We started talking and next thing I knew, we were joking and laughing. After that, I spotted someone very familiar: John Savage and Abby Wathen, the actors who play the lead roles in the movie. But I kept my cool and never approached anyone to make them feel uncomfortable.

In addition to having a part in The Black Dove and learning more about the film industry, it was exciting to meet most of the actors on the set. I didn’t meet them all, but I met the stars, such good people. I could get used to this… (Laughs.)

Producer Michael Caporale auditioned me and is the one who picked me as one of his bar bouncers, but I never would have guessed they would all be so wonderful. Performing my role, after throwing John Savage out of the bar, we finished the scene and he said, “Come inside with me.” We walked back in and sat at a table where he ordered two coffees. Bar patrons were also buying me rounds of beer as we talked and said our goodbyes. John Savage treated me like a friend and is a great guy. I was so glad to have met him and hope I see him again.

I was really impressed with the acting skills of Savage, Wathen and the others, but Producer/Director Michael Caporale is the one who really inspired me. His perseverance blew me away… I’ve seen and heard of hard-working people, but that man shot his entire movie with a collapsed lung and a tumor blocking his airway. Later, he had his lung removed, but he healed up and seems to be doing well. God bless his heart…

I thank Michael Caporale and Robin McKerrell for giving me such an opportunity and for setting such a fine example. As Caporale worked past his obstacles to get his movie filmed, I plan to follow his example and make it in this very challenging industry. We must work hard for success.

I understand that the premiere of The Black Dove has been delayed due to Caporale’s health issues, but the last I heard it may premiere in May in theaters nationwide.

Just recently I sent my headshots to a movie called Blood in the Woods. I missed the audition, but am encouraged because the director called me and is giving me a late audition since “I have the look he wants.” I’m working on that request from him now…

When I first started writing I had a friend who helped critique my writing. This was one of the best things I could have done, in my opinion. I was able to see the story I was writing from a reader’s perspective. There were many great tips that I received. However, one of them stood out among the rest. My friend pointed out several sections of my manuscript where I over-explained the scene. Let me explain what this is and what it does to a reader.

OVER-EXPLAINED: When an author/writer spells out exactly every detail of a scene so as to leave no room for a reader’s imagination to be sparked.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

Example 1:

Carla nervously paced back and forth in the kitchen with her arms crossed and her right index finger tapping her left arm. When the teapot started to whistle she reached up into the cupboard to the left of the sink with her right hand and grabbed her favorite red and blue coffee mug. She eagerly looked for her tan canister along the wall on the counter in front of her to grab a tea bag. Steam rose up into her face as she poured the boiling hot water into her mug and then proceeded to quickly dip the tea bag with her left hand that was holding the spoon she had grabbed from the nearby utensil drawer on her right side. (I could go on and on like this.)

This is probably how the writer saw the scene in his or her head. However, it is meaningless to the story or character profile unless the killer had been left-handed and liked tea. If there is no relevant reason for this example, don’t put it in the story. It’s boring! You leave no room for the imagination of the reader and it makes the reader feel cheated and thought of as stupid. Don’t tell me what hand the character used unless it’s important to show positioning of the scene, character development or relevant to the plot. Otherwise you could have just said, “Carla paced her kitchen and nervously made a cup of tea while she waited for the phone to ring.” Something like that… As an author/writer I need to give the readers the benefit of the doubt so that they can fill in the blanks, such as Carla grabbing a mug to drink from and a utensil to stir the teabag.

Example 2:

Carla sat down on the bed next to her husband. Placing both her hands on each of her thighs and leaning forward slightly, she sighed and said, “I need to tell you something important, Frank.”

Frank turned slightly to look at her as his eyebrows rose in anticipation. “What is it, Carla?”

Placing her left hand on his right thigh, the corners of her mouth curled slightly upward into a smile. “I’m finally pregnant with our first child.”

Frank’s eyes opened wide at the surprising news, followed by them narrowing quickly. “How can that be?” he asked as his face gave way to a look of anger. “I’ve had a vasectomy! So who’s the father?”

Madonna strikes a pose (for example)...

This example is what I like to call “Strike-a-Pose Writing.” I notice I’m guilty of this when I go back through my manuscripts for editing. There are many of the same elements of the first example, but with a specific pattern. There’s a need to set up each character’s movements and expressions before or right after speaking. Again this takes away from the reader’s imagination. Many editors will tell you that the dialogue should tell you what’s happening without you having to explain.

As a reader I am pretty sure that if Carla just told Frank she was pregnant, but he was unable to get her pregnant, it’s not a far cry to understand he’s mad and the simple “!” made that point known to me. Also the fact that Carla said she needed to talk to him about something important negates the need to know she sighed and composed herself prior to saying it.

The sentence could have read: Carla slowly sat down next to her husband and said… This conveys everything that I need to know about the situation. Carla’s not being flippant about the conversation she’s about to have without all the hand gestures and typical ‘Sigh’ that characters seem to make in books. On a side note, if people in real life sighed as much as the characters that I read in books do, I’d wonder if they were just trying to get attention or need their inhaler. Just saying…

Since I received a Kindle for Christmas, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately and I’m truly surprised at the amount of “Strike-a-Pose Writing” there is. Especially coming from the large publishing houses, I expect a higher quality of writing, but that is not the case anymore. I am finding that the writing of smaller publishing houses is on the same level as the larger, more established publishers–and in many cases, better.

As authors/writers we need to keep in mind that the reader doesn’t always need to be led by the hand through a scene. Give the reader credit that they can understand and fill in the blanks when necessary. By doing this, the reader will become more involved and invested in the story, making for a better experience. – Blessings – Daniel L. Carter, author of The Unwanted trilogy

Self-portrait by K. Michael Crawford

I can’t believe the day is finally here. After months of keeping my head to the grindstone to finish my latest book, I am getting a vacation.  So now, I can gather up my finest vacation wear and head out the door for a little fun in the sun or maybe a Shirley Temple on the beach. Wherever this vacation goes, I will follow.

Before I head out the door, I know that every good vacation needs the essentials. So, with first things first, I forge through my closet to make sure I have the perfect vacation clothing. You have to look just right, part “world traveler” and part “oh yeah, I don’t stand out too much and look like an idiot.” To select the right look, I put on a slightly wrinkled top with comfortable wrinkled pants. Next, comfortable sneakers are always my choice of shoes for getting away from it all. Besides being great for walking, they are great with the “airline only lets me have one bag now” look.  The last thing I do, as far as my appearance goes, is put my hair up for easy maneuvering through new and exotic places.

Now, for the add-ons. Everyone knows that you need a big wamping camera to announce to the locals, “Come and get me. I am just waiting to be mugged.” So I place my Hubble Telescope camera around my neck, followed by a straw hat large enough to house a small family. The hat is also used to shield any type of ray from the sun two universes over and prevent any orbiting satellites from identifying that it’s me in the photo.

Any good tourist knows what goes in their backpack or satchel is the most important element to enjoying that fun-filled vacation. You never know what you will stumble upon, so you want to be prepared for the unexpected, or in my case most of the time, the unexplained.  The first thing to go into my pack is food and water. Although, I always wind up eating at some delightful and fun places, I like to be prepared in case I become stuck on some back road or an airport runway for ten hours. As you may know, it is illegal to depart a waiting plane to hit McDee’s, even if you’re the flight attendant.

Next, I throw my sketchbook and pencils into the backpack so that I am prepared to draw funny pictures of the people sitting around me– in case my travel plans surround me with the best characters I have ever seen.  Then, I throw in a few paper towels in case of spills or “sleeping slobber” from the tourist next to me. A ten-gallon container of hand-sanitizer for those Johnny’s on the spots or I-haven’t-been-cleaned-since-the-Nixon-Administration gas stations. I also include a box of tissues, a cell phone with 52 apps, video games, a book, band-aids, everything from my medicine cabinet and a partridge in a pear tree. The last thing I do is I make sure I haven’t missed anything. I don’t know why they put a restriction on how much you can carry on a plane nowadays. Don’t they know you will need all that stuff, especially if you crash on an island like the cast of “Lost”?

I’m packed and all ready to head out the door for a vacation in my own town. Yes, you hear me correctly. I am going to be a “touri” (what I call a tourist) in my own town for the day. You can’t imagine all the wonderful things there are to see within a 30-minute radius of your own front door. I can hear you now, “Well that’s easy for you to say. There are lots of things to see and do where you live.” I believe that wherever you live there are tons of things to see, even if it’s just revisiting the nature in your own backyard. If you haven’t trimmed the grass in a while, then there is going to be a lot more nature to see.

One of my favorite places to visit on a one-day vacation is hysterical (better known to you as historical) Ellicott City, Maryland. The city has quite a shady past and dates back to 1772 when John, Andrew and Joseph Ellicott founded the mill town. So the town has lots of whimsical characters roaming the streets, some of them living and some not. I have to admit what I like most about the town is its seedy past and ghost stories. For example, a few years ago, a restaurant owner mysteriously disappeared and was never seen again. My imagination goes into overload with that bit of information– he took up with pirates and is now raiding cruise ships for their delicious pastries and margarita bars.

Can you think of a better way to keep your imagination active when you visit somewhere familiar and look for new things in a place that’s as old as the hills?

Ellicott City is also a place that changes on a daily basis, whether it’s a mysterious person building cairns in the river or a new shop opening up. It’s a place that reminds me to always look at life as if I am seeing it for the first time and that’s important for the author/artist side of me. Never mind the fact that it’s the only place in the area I can get Chocolate Baby Candies.

So, I will keep taking my mini-vacations or holidays, just to see where they will take my imagination and me. I am thankful there is no need for me to put my tray table and seat in their upright positions, for I am always ready for “take off” in my own town.

NOTE FROM BETTY DRAVIS: K. Michael Crawford is the creator and mastermind behind the first-of-their-kind adventure drawing books, The Mystery of Journeys Crowne, The Island of Zadu and Batty Malgoony’s Mystic Carnivale. K. Michael has illustrated over thirty books and won a number of awards in the magical journey of Children’s Books. To learn more, visit http://www.happilyeverart.com. Happy Adventures!

Author Susan Hatler

Before watching The Last Song last night, the main thing I knew about Miley Cyrus was that she’d posed for some “revealing” photos for Vanity Fair.  I’d never seen Hannah Montana, but had been in a hurry to grab a “free” video (rent three, get one free or some dealio) and The Last Song looked like a cute love story, so I pulled it from the shelf and rented it.

The Last Song, based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, gave me more than just a love story.  It was about a brother and sister who spend a summer with their dad, who’d divorced their mom years ago.  There were interesting family dynamics, teen issues, and of course, the love story (always my favorite part).

I thought this was a cute movie if you’re looking for something to watch.  Miley’s character was very layered and Liam Hemsworth had an interesting character, too (plus he is quite the cutie). I really enjoyed it because Nicholas Sparks is a fantastic writer and Hannah Montana was actually quite good in the role. I could be biased since I’m from Montana and all…

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Speaking of books, I’m very excited at the moment. I just sold my book Shaken to Turquoise Morning Press and it will be released on August 1, 2011. I’d like to share with you other writers the evolution of the manuscript.

Shaken, is a teen novel with paranormal elements that came to me on a whim.  I’d been working on an adult Chick Lit novel when my mind wandered and I typed out the beginning of a teen novel I’d then titled, The Mind Reader. I met my crit partners at the coffee shop for our weekly critique session and handed them pages for my new YA–no surprise for them that I’d changed genres, they were used to me getting off track.  My mind?  Wander?  No way…

My crit partners read the beginning pages of The Mind Reader and they loved it.  They urged me to pause my WIP and crank out The Mind Reader first.  So, I wrote and wrote, and eventually popped out the first draft.  Then professionals gave me advice: great story, but something wasn’t quite right with the love interest.  Hmmm…

Over the years, The Mind Reader bopped from front burner to back burner.  I’d work on other manuscripts while it percolated in my brain–never too far, from my thoughts.  Professionals had all given me the same advice, so they probably had something there (har-har).  But how could I change what I’d initially envisioned?  Believe me, it was H-A-R-D.  That is, it was hard until I actually started to edit.

"Zombie Love" is unpublished; ms. being shopped around.

Then, I edited, edited, and edited.  Re-read, thought, and edited some more.  The more I revised it, the better it worked.  The Mind Reader became Linked, then became Peek-A-Boo Brain, and then became Shaken. It went through many beta readers, critiques and revisions before it felt ready.  Yay!  I finally submitted Shaken to Kim Jacobs at Turquoise Morning Press and went to work on my other projects.

Kim got back to me and told me she adored Shaken and offered me a contract with TMP.  Now, it’s official!  Shaken is going to be published. It will be released on August 1, 2011, as I said above, and we’re starting to talk about ideas for the cover. Keep checking back for more details as I know them. My website is: http://susanhatler.com

Writing has always been a passion of mine, something I completely lose myself in for hours on end until my fingers cramp and my eyes can barely stay open.  It’s been my dream to become a published author.  I encourage everyone to pursue their dreams.  It feels amazing when they come true.

Thanks, Dames, for letting me announce my fabulous news on Dames of Dialogue, and thanks to Betty Dravis for inviting me.

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

Betty Dravis: Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Kat. It’s a pleasure to have such a fine actress and Hollywood “insider” with us today. I met you on Facebook, of all places–which isn’t as odd as it seems in today’s high-tech world.  I related to what you said beneath your profile picture: “I believe in actors helping actors. When I find a good thing to share, I like letting people know! It’s all about the art…and giving from the heart!”

Since I feel the same way about authors helping authors, you hooked me up front. You sounded so interesting, I just had to look up your film credits and read your biography. Needless to say, your fascinating background intrigued me and I knew our readers would love to meet you. I hoped you would be open for an interview…and here you are!

As you know, my interviews are all about high achievers who aren’t afraid to dream big and to act upon those dreams to see them to fulfillment. Since you are so successful in all you do, you are the personification of the ultimate Dream Reacher.

I read that you were born in Chicago, grew up in St. Louis and moved to Escondido, California with your parents when you were a teen. I’m wondering how you went from being the “pampered daughter of a jewelry tycoon/businessman” to Hollywood where you eventually made your film debut in Holy Hollywood. You played a principal role as “Tyler’s mom” when that film was released in 1999. I bet that first role was thrilling. How did you feel at that time? Have you acted all your life, or just when did you get the acting bug?

Katherin Kovin Pacino: Thanks for inviting me to be part of your project, Betty. I read Dream Reachers and really enjoyed learning new things about various artists, some I know, some I don’t, but it’s a fun, informative, inspiring book.

About my parents, Arnold and Rozalind Kovin, they owned the Arnie Kovin Jewelry store chain, also Arnex Watches. And they did spoil me to some extent because I had all the luxuries, but they also taught me family values, respect for others and all I needed to know to succeed in life. I’m adopted and they loved me so much… I’m lucky. But no, my dad was not exactly a tycoon… He was a multi-millionaire… A very good, hard-working successful man…and Mom was all I could ask for in a mother.

Yes, those first years in acting were thrilling, but every time I go on stage or before a camera, I still get that magical feeling, that surge of energy. I love everything about acting and ever since I was a young girl I wanted to be an actress. I started out by playing extras and began getting better roles, so the Holy Hollywood role was not my first, just my first larger role.

 

Kat & Sal Pacino

 

Betty Dravis: Your second film followed three years later. In I SoldatiThe Soldier in the U.S.–you did an impressive job in a supporting role, which happened to be the love interest of your own husband, Sal Pacino. Kat, I don’t mind telling you that my ears perked up when I learned you were married to the late father of the living legend Al Pacino. Since Sal was an actor first, is it safe to say that he encouraged Al to follow in his footsteps?

Katherin Kovin Pacino: Truthfully, Betty, he didn’t have to encourage him; Al always wanted to be an actor. When he was a little kid, he saw an old Ray Milland movie and ran around reciting some of the lines over and over. In fact, when he accepted the AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, Al said, “By age three, I was doing Al Jolson. I found, in the theater, this place I could go to. I found this peace.” Sal said that even at three Al was a charmer and Sal supported his son in everything he did… They had a close relationship.

Betty Dravis: Although Sal passed away in 2005 and you’ve managed to get on with your life, I wish to express belated condolences. That was a sad time for you, but our readers would appreciate hearing about the fun times when you met Sal. I’m a sucker for love stories and am curious about how you met, where you met, and if there were any humorous little anecdotes from that time. I admit that I’m dying to know if you had much interaction with Al…as are our readers! Would you care to share, Kat? (How did you two get along? Was there any conflict because you are younger than he is? … Just little things like that…lol…)

Katherin Kovin Pacino: (laughs) Everyone asks me about Sal and Al, Betty, and I love talking about them too. It brings back some of the happiest times of my life. I was devastated when my husband passed away… I’m glad you asked me about the happy times because I’d rather think about the good times. Playing his love interest in I Soldati was interesting and fun. It seemed like an extension of our off-camera life because he was always so loving and supportive of me and such a joy to be around.

I met Sal through a mutual friend who had known him over twenty years. The friend was after me but I thought he was too young for me, so set him up with one of my girlfriends. That lasted about three days, but Sal and I lasted over twelve-and-a-half years. We clicked right from the first and were married in Las Vegas in the Little Chapel of the Flowers…a candlelight ceremony for close friends and family. Sal always joked that it was “love at first fright.”

Sal was in the insurance business for over thirty years and in addition to acting, he was a Union negotiator, which was fortunate for me due to the good benefits packages that give me more security, even now.

As for Al Pacino, yes, Betty, he’s a living legend—an enormous talent–and we are extremely proud of him. Since he became so famous, he is always so busy that we don’t see him as often as before. When his father was alive, we all got together for private family events: dinners, birthdays, anniversaries…things like that. But after Al’s phenomenal success in the Godfather trilogy, the studios had him hopping from one box-office hit to another. I respect his privacy, but he won’t mind my sharing that he still keeps in touch as much as he can. Whenever he’s in a show or wins an award or something, he always sends tickets…and we bump into each other at social events, at the Sheraton-Hilton and other places. He’s just too busy to keep close touch with anyone, really.

Al and I always got along fine and there was no jealousy… Sure, Al is older than I am–this month marks his 70th birthday–but that was never a problem between us or anyone in the family. I was his father’s fifth wife, so Al was always understanding and accepting of that. He and his father were close, as I said before, and accepted each other’s life choices.

 

Sal Pacino with son Al

 

 

Al Pacino at Twins' 4th Birthday Party; photo from personal collection of Katherin Kovin Pacino

 

Betty Dravis: Now that the big, important subject of Al is out of the way, I admit I’m more curious about you, the independent Katherin. Let’s talk about your movie and TV career a little more, and then I’ll get into your other interests in and outside the entertainment industry. Tell us about the role of Lady Catherine in your last movie in 2005. And what is the favorite role you’ve played and why you liked it so much?

Katherin Kovin Pacino: It’s an odd coincidence that you should ask about my role as Lady Catherine, Betty.  That was the part I played in the documentary Bolivar: Path to Glory and it’s my favorite role. It was made in 2005 by Bob DeBrino Entertainment and was set in Venezuela. The reason I favor that role is because I got to act with Sal again and traveling to Venezuela to shoot was like having a family vacation while doing what we both liked best—acting! Venezuela is a scenic wonder and seeing the country and meeting Venezuelan stars was the frosting on the cake.  With that film we had the best of both worlds. He was excellent in the role of General De Miranda, but sadly, it was our last movie together. We worked well together…

 

Kat at a Vin Diesel Event FIND ME GUILTY

 

Betty Dravis: That does sound like a dream role and a dream vacation, Kat. I enjoy seeing husband-and-wife teams in movies. Two coupless that come to mind are Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, not to mention Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I’m glad you had the pleasure of acting with Sal and have those beautiful memories.

Now, switching subjects… If I recall the facts, Mickey Rooney played a cameo role in one of your films. Since he’s also a living legend and beloved throughout the world, can you share any behind-the-scenes stories of him and his interaction with the cast? I and our readers would appreciate your sharing more of your former connections and adventures along the way, but we’ll get to those later.

Katherin Kovin Pacino: Well, Betty, Mickey was easy to work with, very nice and supportive and a lot of fun to be around. I admire him so much. It’s hard to believe that he’ll be ninety this year and he’s in another movie, Johnny Blue, which is in preproduction.  He’s led a fascinating life, and according to Hollywood lore, as of 2007, he’s the only surviving screen actor to appear in silent films and still continues to act in movies into the new millennium. His debut was in the movie Not to Be Trusted at the age of four. That astonishes me.

Betty Dravis: Wow, I didn’t know that, Kat. That is amazing! No wonder he received the Lifetime Achievement Oscar! You must have met a lot of important industry people in your life, but do you have one that stands out above all others? And who are some of the people who had the greatest influence on your life?

 

Kat & Hubby Bill Lashbrook

 

Katherin Kovin Pacino: Sal, of course, my current husband Bill Lashbrook and my parents were great, positive role models for me. They stand out above the crowd, but as for classic stars, I’ve been most impressed by Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler. Both have outstanding talent and have tackled other ends of the industry too. It’s awesome what they’ve accomplished.

Betty Dravis: Kat, I know that you’ve done a variety of important things in your life. You have worked as a makeup/fashion/image consultant to companies such as Merle Norman, Revlon, Clientele, and have done makeup promos for Estee Lauder, Borghese, and other famous lines, as well. In addition to that, you’ve worked for public relation people such as the late Irving Zussman in New York, also as an entertainment business manager with Martin Licker, CPA (who handled names such as James Caan, Gary Sinise and several other celebs).

I enjoy working with famous, accomplished people because they’re so stimulating, so that must have been exciting. I admire James Caan’s acting ability and was captivated by his role of Sonny in The Godfather. What a blockbuster trilogy of movies that was! Did you have any personal dealings with Caan or any of Licker’s celebrated clients?

Katherin Kovin Pacino: Believe it or not, Jimmy Caan never came up there. However, I did meet his ex-wife, his son Scott (now an actor himself), his brother, and his fun-loving aunts, whom he helped support. They came to the office about every two weeks for their “upkeep” check. It felt like Godfather all over again! (laughs)

I also met Gary Sinise, who since then has made a mark for himself. He was such an earthy, nice guy… It’s no surprise that today he ships supplies to the men fighting abroad for our country!  And I met Jeff Wald who was totally very rude, to say the least. I remember that I answered the phone one morning, and he greeted me with: “F*** YOU!”… Since he represented some of the biggest names in show business, I expected more class from him. This was the same guy who was married to Aussie singer Helen Reddy of the “I am Woman” fame. That song was number one around the world, so I guess that went to his head…or was it the coke? That marriage ended in divorce and he married Candy Clark of The Blob. That ended in a divorce just a couple of years later, too! Gee… No wonder… Are we surprised? (laughs)

 

Kat with Al's fans at Hollywood Event

 

Betty Dravis: What goes around, comes around, Kat…but we don’t always see it. It’s always rewarding to see the nice guys like Gary Sinise go on to achieve their dreams. I always admired him and was happy when he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Role in Forrest Gump (1995). In fact, he has won an Emmy and so many other awards, it’s hard to keep track of. Wow! Go, Gary!

And then there are the jerks like Wald who was so rude to you. I understand that he has a son by Reddy and that marriage lasted fifteen years, but he only lasted a year with Clark. I guess we can speak of his addiction since it’s reported in his biography on IMDb (Internet Movie Database). His former addiction to cocaine is public knowledge. I also read that he has cleaned up his act and is once again producing. I have no idea if he still manages any big names, but among his former clients were Sylvester Stallone, George Foreman, James Brolin, Tom Skerritt, George Carlin, Elliott Gould, Donna Summer, Flip Wilson and Marvin Gaye, and musical groups such as Deep Purple, Chicago and Crosby Stills & Nash, to name only a few. I suppose success like that could go to anyone’s head. Since everyone deserves a second chance, I’m glad that he ultimately overcame his addiction and has made a come-back. Hopefully, he has learned respect for others during the rehab process.

You know, Kat, that Clint Eastwood was my first big celebrity interview when I was a young, starry-eyed journalist, and he was a class act; treated me like an equal, like a lady. He influenced me to dream big and act on my dreams, as he did. He’s awesome. Have you ever run into him around Hollywood?

 

Kat with Samantha Gustadt/REALTV 2009 Oscar Party

 

Katherin Kovin Pacino: I never met Clint, but came close to it once. I was invited to meet him at a luncheon, but I was married then and was always careful to consider my husband’s feelings, so I had to decline.

Betty Dravis: Kat, the people with whom I’ve discussed this interview speak very highly of you; the first words that come out of their mouths are: elegant…gracious…lovely. In my short time with you, I have to agree with them. You are all that and more! I’ve also come to see a lighter, more playful side to your nature. I know you don’t wish to be thought of as perfect, so to add to your mystique and send our readers away with smiles on their faces, can you share your most embarrassing moment, onstage or off, with us?

Katherin Kovin Pacino: That’s a hard question to answer, Betty. I honestly can’t think of an embarrassing time in the context you mean, but there is one big embarrassment that still bothers me. And it is not the “laughing matter” kind of story. I can’t give too many details without embarrassing others, but I can say that the head people were having trouble booking a hotel for an important industry event and I offered to help. I booked the place for them only to find out later the hotel didn’t have the proper speakers and camera equipment. It was a big mess, but once again I stepped up to the challenge and it all worked out.

Betty Dravis: OMG, I thought you would come up with something like you spilled a drink on a lead star when you were an extra or you tripped onstage…something in retrospect that would be laughable… But you came up with a real whopper! That would be embarrassing, Kat, but at least you found a solution.

I don’t mind admitting, Kat, I’m intrigued by your acting career, but am also impressed that you played a big role in starting the West Hollywood International Film Festival (WHIFF) with Martin DeLuca, an Argentinean filmmaker and photographer. I have a photo or two to share with our readers from the recent awards ceremony, but I’d like to hear more about WHIFF. When was it founded? How you got involved? The latest buzz, please…

Katherin Kovin Pacino: The Festival is only two years old, but the idea for the Festival was a collaborative effort and I worked hard to help put it together. It was exhilarating work and I was happy to serve on the board of directors for a time. I stepped down when my other commitments got too heavy, but I took part in this year’s awards ceremony. It went great this year, so I hope they make it and it becomes bigger and better.

 

Kat with actors & CEO on Opening Night of WHIFF

 

Betty Dravis: We’d all like to hear more about your new projects, Kat, but now I’d like to ask you a lighter question. If you could spend the day with one person besides your husband–someone in history, a favorite author, a public figure, a character in a book, etc.–who would you choose and why?

Katherin Kovin Pacino: I have always admired Shirley MacLaine. I’ll never forget her role in Some Like it Hot…and all the huge roles that followed. Her breakout role was the one following­­–The Apartment, a melancholy comedy with Jack Lemmon–but I have always liked her later roles too. She was hilarious in Steel Magnolias. She has a lot of talent but I like her zest for life and would like to spend a day with her. I could learn so much… The closest I ever came to her was when I was an extra on a set.

Betty Dravis: I like her, too, Kat. Her role in Steel Magnolias was also one of my favorites…and she was superb with Jack Nicholson in Terms of Endearment.

But moving on, you now split your time between Hollywood where your career interests lie and Marin County, near San Francisco, where your husband Bill Lashbrook grew up. Both places are breath-taking areas, vibrant and alive with talent and natural wonders. You’ve shared with me in our chats that Bill is a successful businessman and interested in Shakespearean acting. What line of work is he in and how is he involved with the Shakespearean community?  He’s such a devoted, supportive partner, working with you in many capacities, but I’m also curious about how you met. Guess I’m just a romantic at heart, so I hope you don’t feel this is too intimate to share. If so, we understand.

 

Kat & Bill Lashbrook - Oscar Party

 

Katherin Kovin Pacino: Exactly, Betty… Bill is a successful businessman but is now venturing into public speaking and is interested in consulting. He’s very charismatic and alive with energy, so he’ll succeed in whatever he sets his mind to. We work well as a team, so I’ll help him as he helps me. We both enjoy Shakespeare and attend some plays and lectures whenever we have time. Bill was never in film, but enjoys stage acting…classical acting. He’s a Shakespearean actor of the old school and will be the first to tell you it was more of a hobby than a career, but it brought him many years of pleasure.

But now to satisfy your “romantic nature,” Betty, I’ll share how Bill and I met. (laughs) As with Sal, we met through a mutual friend. It was shortly after Sal passed away and I lucked out in love again. Bill is wonderful and we’ve built a happy life together. We both have a great love of theatre; whether on camera or onstage, it’s our great passion, so we work on most of our projects together. Currently, we’re both interested in voiceover and would like to find a good teacher.

Betty Dravis: Voiceover is cutting-edge at present, I believe, Kat. It’s a coincidence, but Chase Von, my co-author on Dream Reachers, recently interviewed Joan Baker, a fascinating woman who is one of the most sought-after voiceover teachers in the industry; she’s also an author and has some awesome credits. Have you ever heard of her? She’s based in New York, but may have a branch in LA. Anyway, she’s on Facebook, too, so you might want to send her a message to ask her. At any rate, she could recommend someone in the LA area. But first check her astounding website on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/joanthevoice. She has photographs with actor Will Smith and others you may know.

Now that brings us to more of your current projects, Kat. I hear that you have a lot of things in the works…from writing books to producing your own movies. It’s rumored that you’re helping develop a WWII movie too. I’d love to hear about those exciting endeavors. The versatility of actors blows my mind. It’s inspiring to me that you have such multi-tasking abilities and dare to venture into the writing and production end of the industry. I can see why Bill calls you the “Atomic Blonde.”

 

Billboard Oscar Party at Beverly Hilton 2009 with Jeffrey R. Gund

Billboard Oscar Party at Beverly Hilton 2009 with Jeffrey R. Gund

 

Katherin Kovin Pacino: (laughs) Well, I do keep busy, but that World War II movie is off the table at present. As far as my current and future workings, I’m attached to several IPs (Intellectual Properties), one written by American playwright David Mamet with William H. Macy, as an associate producer; also associate producer of a comedy Tall Order of Love by J. Porrazzo; and am acting in J. Porrazzo’s The Queen of Hollywood. Also, since I’m a spokesperson with Prince Ali of Afghanistan on his record Party All Night and am also a background recording artist on that record, you can see why Bill calls me “Atomic Blonde.”

I also have other future attachments that are hush-hush at this time, and I have plans to write several children’s books and a “How To” book about romance… the do’s and don’ts, you know. Katherin (laughs as she refers to herself in first person) is still showing the ladies–and men—the proper application of makeup, the skills to put together a wardrobe, and the correct use of color/Image. Since I was brought up in that background, those skills come natural to me.  I enjoy “paying it forward,” as they say.

Betty Dravis: Yep, Katherin is showing us all how to be more glam, that’s for sure! Actually, I’m beginning to think I have a Wonder Woman on my hands. That’s an intimidating array of projects in the works, Kat. You also have a second Facebook page called Kat’s Meow that gives people tips on where to get the most bang for their buck; from quality clothing to inexpensive bling to fine dining, you point them in the right direction. I enjoy reading the comments on that page and the opportunity for your fans to share their tips too. That’s a fun, interactive site.

Since I love writing, I’m very interested in the books that you plan to write. Be sure to keep us informed when they’re released and when any of your movies premiere too. Writing must run in the family; I understand your brother has also written a few books recently. Since our readers are not only interested in the entertainment industry but also in books, I’m sure they would like to hear more about him. The buzz around LA is that he also owns a popular restaurant. The scoop, please, Kat…

 

Kat's brother John's book

 

Katherin Kovin Pacino: Of course, Betty… I love spreading my brother’s good news. His name is John Adam Kovin and he’s written two books: How to Play the Game of Life and Win and Taking God to Bed With You: The truth they don’t want you to know about God, sex and the way the world really is.

John also owns a restaurant, Chili Addiction, on Restaurant Row. It’s located at 408 N. La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills. His chili is to die for and he also serves a concoction I bet you haven’t heard of—french-fried sweet potatoes. (laughs) I tried them and they’re delicious. If you ever get down here, Bill and I will take you to dinner. You’d love my brother; he’s a real go-getter.

Betty Dravis: OMG, we all love chili! But french-fried sweet potatoes? I can honestly say, Kat, my friend in Maine told me about them, but I’ve never tried them. They do sound yummy, though, and I’ll take you up on that dinner offer when and if I get to Southern California again. That’s very kind of you and Bill. By the way, does Bill call your brother “Atomic John?”  (laughs)

Kat, I appreciate your sharing so openly with us about your life. I enjoyed learning more about your brother and Bill’s family too. Bill shared that his daughter, Jessica Lashbrook, owns Marin Feed and Tack in the quaint, colorful township of Fairfax, near San Rafael where my son lives. When I tell Bob and his Patty how gracious you and Bill are to me, I just know they’ll be dropping by Jessica’s business to say hello.

It’s been a delight getting to know more about you, especially your new endeavors. I’m sure our readers will want to know even more about you, so in closing, is there anything you’d like to add? I think you’re seeking a new agent, so I hope any who read this will get in touch with you. You have so much to offer with everything you do. You’re an exceptional woman; not only are you a talented actress, you have the necessary business acumen. How can interested parties get in touch with you? I know you’re easy to find on Facebook, but do you have any websites or links you would like to share with us?

 

Onstage with Prince Ali of Afghanistan's "Party All Night"

 

Katherin Kovin Pacino: I’m glad for this last chance to add a few things, Betty. Since we first talked, I do have a new agent. I’m excited about that; his name is David Brown and he’s one of the best in the business, in my opinion.

I also forgot to mention two projects that are dear to my heart: I have a part in a documentary Sudan Hope. Les LeMotte is executive director on that project. As you might know, he’s also an award-winning songwriter. I also have an acting role in The Tim Brooks Story, a movie about the first African-American cowboy. Musician Ben Rombouts and Rodney Allen Rippy, the child actor who is so famous for his Jack in the Box commercials are affiliated with this film. I look forward to working with them.

I don’t have a website yet, but I can be found on Facebook on the Internet, as you said, Betty. That link is:

http://www.facebook.com/kovinpacino?ref=ts

And for my biography, photos and film credits as listed on the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb), please visit this link: www.imdb.com/name/nm1178989

Link to my photo gallery:

http://images.google.com/images?q=Katherin+Kovin+Pacino&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=6-GRS7SQIIjmswPEo-z8Aw&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=4&ved=0CCEQsAQwAw

And finally, The Kat’s “MEOW” Facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/posted.php?id=324214167739#!/pages/The-Kats-MEOW-Katherin-Kat-Kovin-Pacino/324214167739

Betty Dravis: Thanks again, Kat, and best of luck with your novels, producing those movies and with your acting. Please keep in touch and let us know when any of your projects go live, when your next red carpet event takes place, etc. Inquiring minds want to know! (laughs) It’s been a pure delight working with you on this interview. You are, indeed as elegant, gracious and lovely as your fans told me.

Katherin Kovin Pacino: The pleasure is mine, Betty. Thanks for inviting me. It’s been fun and I look forward to meeting you in the near future. I’ll keep in touch, via email and Facebook, of course. Xo

ENDNOTE: I had the pleasure of having dinner with Kat and her husband Bill Lashbrook on April 10th in San Rafael. My son Robert, his girl-friend Patty Carrillo and her mother Roma Vargas joined us. We had a delightful time: chatting, eating laughing. I hope you don’t mind my adding a few photos of our party that evening. (My website: http://bettydravis.com )

 

Author Betty Dravis with Katherin "Kat" Kovin Pacino

 

 

Author's son Robert and Patty Carrillo, seated; Kat Kovin Pacino, Bill Lashbrook and Roma Vargas, standing.

 

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

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