Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Interview: The Delectable Daisy Foxxx

For my first Cherry Sparkle Burlesque interview for the Spring of 2015, it’s appropriate that I welcome the vibrant, vivacious Daisy Foxx, a delectable young lady with a heart full of song and a spring in her step. She’s the original hooper for the CSBC and fast becoming a good friend, especially after offering to bake me cupcakes following my back surgery. Thanks, Daisy. Happy to have you here on the blog today. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

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J: When you joined the company, why did you choose to be known as Daisy Foxxx? What does that persona mean to you?

D: Well, I’m sweet like a daisy but also foxy. 

J: Have to agree there. Definitely as sweet as a daisy. And the foxy part goes without saying.

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J: What prompted you to join Cherry Sparkle? And how long have you been a member?

D: I saw a post about it on facebook. I’ve been looking for a group like this for awhile. When you live in a small town full of people who don’t really get art and freedom of expression, it’s a bit tough. I love my group. I joined in August 2014.

J: Ah, the glories of Facebook. Happy that you found a match with Cherry Sparkle. They are some wonderful people. And very accepting. This area can be very draining for all creative types, but I hope that our influences can open people up to new experiences and forms of entertainment.

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J: Do you have a background in dance, theater, or performance art?

D: I do have a little bit of a background. I used to do chorus and drama in my church…till I was in high school. I have always been interested in dance; I think it’s so beautiful how our bodies can move and be used to create and express ourselves.

J: Well, in your case, Daisy, it’s a beautiful expression. For me, it’s more like a spastic rhino on the dance floor, so I’ll leave it to the professionals like you. 🙂

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J: What about other creative interests or hobbies?

D: I do photography on the side. I really do enjoy taking photos. You capture a moment that you can only go back to by looking at the photo itself.

J: You’re certainly in good company if you want to develop those skills. Joel did amazing work on the Cherry Sparkle calendar, and I know several of the dolls are photography hobbyists too.

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J: Could you tell us about your role in the company and your performance style?

D: I like to look sweet and innocent, but draw you in with my magical hoop and sexy ways.

J: Miss Daisy, you manage that with little more than a smile and a few kind words. The hoop is just icing on the cake.

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J: How did your hula hoop come by its name? And how long have you been performing together?

D: I used to hula hoop when I was a child. My school held a talent show and that was my first performance with a hula hoop. I did the cha-cha slide while hooping. It’s a connection, you just simply go with the flow and enjoy the movement.

J: Again, I guess this comes down to you being naturally fluid, flexible, and fantastically creative. With the addition of a second hooper to the company, I hope to see more complex routines from you and her in the future too.

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J: Given complete creative control and few limitations on budget, what song would you perform to onstage and what would you wear for this performance of a lifetime?

D: Gosh that’s a hard one. Hmm…let’s see…probably Lana Del Rey. She’s inspirational to me. I would probably also use a LED hoop. It lights up with different patterns pretty sick.

J: Sounds pretty trippy. And reminds me of your psychedelic photo in the new Cherry Sparkle calendar. I’d share it here but would rather people go out and buy their own copy.

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J: What’s your favorite part of a burlesque show? What’s your least favorite part of performing?

D: Honestly, everything. When we all get ready together and set up [for the show]. Tell each other how we all look great; we are really like a team. Yet all of us are all unique in our own way. Then the butterflies set in, but it’s so rewarding afterwards. It’s a wonderful feeling almost like a high. It feels good doing something you enjoy.

J: Performance art at its best. Sounds like group synergy at its best too, when the group become family.

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Thanks again for agreeing to this interview, Daisy. Great hearing back from you about your life and times with the Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Company. Come check out her and the other dolls and guys of Cherry Sparkle at their next show at Caldwell Tavern (formerly the Crimson Tiger) in Anniston, Alabama on the 4th of April 2015.

Stay tuned for more upcoming interviews with authors, artists, dancers, and more. It’s bound to be a busy year.

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Author Interview: The Magical Mindscape of J.L. Mulvihill

For our first author interview of the year, I have the privilege of probing the magical mindscape of J.L. Mulvihill, Southern Haunts editor and writer of fantasy, horror, steampunk, and more. She’s the author of poems, short stories, and several novels, including Lost Daughter of Easa, Boxcar Baby, and Crossings.

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Let’s start off with something basic but fundamental. How long have you been writing and what prompted you to go from amateur to professional?

Well, the funny thing is, I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I found an old journal of my mothers and there is an entry there that said “Today Jennifer made up her first poem, ‘light, light, burning bright’.” Okay so I didn’t actually write that, I was only two years old but I think if I could have written it I would have. We will just say I have been writing poetry and short stories as long as I have been able to write. I just saw it as a hobby and sometimes therapy. When I got into bands, I started writing song lyrics too. One day however, about eleven years ago, I had a strange nightmare about being chased through the woods by a giant spider. The dream would not leave my head but kept playing over and over until characters started emerging. I told my family about it and they encouraged me to write the story down. I did and the next thing I knew I had 180,000 words down on paper. What to do with that now I wondered. Well, that was when I started the long trek to getting the story published and it became my first novel, The Lost Daughter of Easa.

Frankly, I find that story fascinating and a bit terrifying. I’m a bit arachnophobia too, but it’s more of an irrational hatred toward them. Too quiet. Too many eyes and legs. Bleh. But you’ve just sold me on reading Lost Daughter now. It’s bound to be a fright-filled tale.

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Which writers have influenced you the most along the way?

I, of course, am a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, L. Frank Baum, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lois Lenski, Robert A. Heinlein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, Anne McCaffrey, Terry Brooks, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King. I could probably go on for a while since I read a lot when I was a kid that was all I pretty much did was listen to music and read books.

Apparently, you forgot about Stan Lee. I dug up this picture of you and him together at Dragon*Con 2014. 😉

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Name five favorite novels that either influenced you or have simply stuck with you?

The Strawberry Girl – Lois Lenski;
The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien;
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradury;
Dragonflight – Anne McCaffrey;
Lost Horizon – James Hilton

The Hobbit and many works by Bradbury would be on my list as well. I can see a lot of Bradbury’s influence in the coming-of-age aspect of Boxcar Baby, especially focusing on a gritty, darker side of it.

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I know you field this question on a lot of writing panels. But I’ll ask it again here. Always leads us into the mind of the writer. Where have you found inspiration for your stories/books?

Inspiration for my stories and books come from my dreams, parts of my life, my children and family, the world and people around me. Sometimes it’s something I hear on the history channel or Discovery and then develops into an idea. Maybe an object I see in a shop or on the ground. I guess most of my ideas just come from the twisted world inside my head.

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You have worked as an editor on Seventh Star Press’s Southern Haunts series as well as authored several stories and books yourself. Which work do you find more fulfilling, writing and editing your own stories or editing, and shaping, those of others?

I think I prefer to work on my own stories because I feel like I am invading on peoples’ creativity when I edit. However, there is a certain satisfaction one can achieve when an anthology is created and finished. Especially when the idea of the anthology like Southern Haunts was something you helped come up with from the beginning.

I agree wholeheartedly there, Jen. I always feel intrusive if I’m doing more than proofing someone’s work. And even then, you can run into subjective disagreements about exposition, dialogue, and basic grammar. I’d rather be writing than editing anyday.

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Your young adult fantasy novel, The Lost Daughter of Easa, and The Steel Roots series, which I’d term as a steampunk fairy tale and coming-of-age story, are rich worlds with descriptions and characters that fill them out in great detail. From outside appearances, both seem to involve heavy world-building and a lot of planning and outlining.

Could you tell us about your creative process with these pieces, with a focus on these topics?

When people say heavy world building, I feel like I am cheating because those worlds are in my head; and, yes, I guess I did create them but to me it is not such a hard task as it sounds. For Lost Daughter of Easa, I literally have a tri-board with sticky notes on it with regards to characters, places and things. I actually do have an outline, in fact an entire book filled with notes about everything from mythological creatures to the string theory and traveling between worlds. I follow my outline, and when I come to a creature or object, I look it up or research for good measure. Here is the trick though; I have books for this series. A lot of people rely heavily on the internet; I have books of all sorts about giants, and fairies and elves and dragons. The only things I do not have books on are spiders, because I hate spiders, and I will not even have a book about them. I look those up at the library or, yes, the internet. Now as far as the world, like I said it is alive in my head, so I just close my eyes and can go there. I see all my scenes as if they are really happening before me.

The steampunk series is a little different. I did a lot of research both in books and online about the 1800s and the Victorian era as well as the revolutionary time period, workhouses, and factories. The cool thing about this story is that it is in America, not a fictional place. Although it is set in my alternate history, I can look up these towns and see what they used to look like and then describe them, maybe altering bits and pieces here and there. Some the Steel Roots series has elements from my childhood as well that I have incorporated in the story to make it real. For instance, the very first sentence is taken from when I lived with my grandparents. I would hear the train whistle every night and every morning far off in the distance, and it would comfort me. I, of course, do a fair bit of research about trains, hobos, and the like. I go to museums and take notes. I immerse myself in so much research that sometimes I forget I am supposed to be writing.

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How many installments will we see in The Steel Roots series? And will we see a sequel to Lost Daughter on the shelves this year?

Crossings, Book #2 of the Steel Roots series was just released in December of 2014. The publisher is expecting another one from me this year, so I guess there will only be three, though I dare say with so many characters afoot there could be some spin offs maybe, I am hopeful. As for the sequel to Lost Daughter of Easa, I cannot guarantee it will be out in 2015, but I can guarantee I will be done with the manuscript in 2015.

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What are you working on currently? And can you provide us with a snippet from it?

I am currently working on both the sequel to Lost Daughter and the next Steel Roots book, as for a snippet, let’s just say in Lost Daughter the dragons will awaken. As for Steel Roots, I can only tell you that it will be the greatest invention ever. Spoilers, Sweetie, spoilers.

As winsome and evasive as River Song herself, eh, Jen? I guess that’s part of the mysterious allure that keeps readers coming back for more. Frankly, I’m looking forward to continuing AB’Gale’s journey.

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What new creative works will you have hitting the shelves or the web in 2015?

I know that the Steel Roots sequel is slotted for release sometime in 2015, as for the rest we will just have to wait and see what 2015 has to bring.

One last question before we go, Jen. Where can we read more about you and your works? Do you have a writing blog or website(s) that you’d like to promote here?

You can find out more about me on www.elsielind.com or go to jlsbooks.blogspot.com/

You can also find out more about Authora and some poetry at the following link: http://home.comcast.net/~mulvijen/site/

Or catch me on my Facebook pages:

https://www.facebook.com/JLMulvihill

https://www.facebook.com/mulvijen?ref=hl

https://www.facebook.com/TheElsieLindSeries?ref=hl

https://www.facebook.com/SteelRootsSeries?ref=hl

Jen cosplaying The Spider Witch from Lost Daughter of Easa.

Jen cosplaying The Spider Witch from Lost Daughter of Easa.

Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Jen. It’s been great chatting with you again and letting our readers learn more about you and what you have planned for the new year. Wish you the best in 2015. Hope to see you back on the Southern Fandom Convention Circuit soon.

If you would like to meet J.L. Mulvihill in person and pick up a signed copy of one of her works, you can find her at the First Annual Dark Oak Press Book Signing at the Barnes & Noble in Ridgeland, Mississippi on January 24, 2015. Alexander S. Brown, Kalila Smith, Kimberly Richardson, and publisher Allan Gilbreath will be in attendance.

For more details, find the event on Facebook HERE.

Stay tuned to this blog for more interviews, announcements, updates, and more.

Author Interview: Traumatizing Minds with Alexander S. Brown

When I first met Alexander S. Brown at a fandom convention, I had no idea that I was meeting the scariest man to pass through Vicksburg, Mississippi since General Grant. But after reading “Traumatized”, his self-published horror anthology, I was convinced. I was no longer just a friend or colleague but a fan as well. Today, I am happy to be able to shine some light on the dark, fruitful imagination of this wonderful writer and what he has in store for his fans in the future.

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When did you know you wanted to be a professional writer? And how long did it take you to make that dream happen?

My senior year of high school was when I decided to be a professional writer. Although I have written books through the ages of 18 and 29, my actual dream hadn’t reached fruition until the last year. Although I was overly thrilled to produce short fiction for anthologies: Dreams of Steam, Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells, Luna’s Children, and Capes and Clockworks, it wasn’t until I helped produce Southern Haunts volume 1 and 2, and published Traumatized and Syrenthia Falls that I finally felt my career had begun.

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Which writers have influenced you the most along the way?

My biggest influences have been Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, Chuck Palahniuk, Anne Rice, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and the list continues.

If you could talk to any of those writers, living or dead, which one would it be and why? What would you want to discuss?

I would pick Clive Barker. He is a brilliant name in the horror genre that provides a great diversity of being poetic and horrific. I also admire his fantasy themed horror: Imagica, The Thief of Always, Weaveworld, etc. I would want to discuss with him how different scare tactics captivate audiences. I would also enjoy speaking of story ideas.

Good choice! Barker’s Weaveworld is one of my all-time favorite novels. Ranks up there with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dune. Poe, Lovecraft, Kind, and Palahniuk have influences me as well. Koontz and Rice have too but to a lesser extent. I’m more of a fan of Rice’s works written under the Rampling pseudonym than her vampire novels.

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How did growing up in the Deep South affect the content and style of your writing? Have you worked any of those real-life experiences into your stories?

A lot of what I have written about has been inspired by actual places, events, or southern folklore. Growing up in the South has provided a great deal of opportunities for my writings, especially by living in a secluded, wooded area for the majority of my life. The Southern culture can be seen most in these following pieces: Syrenthia Falls, Southern Haunts 1 & 2, and Traumatized.

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What genre(s) do you prefer to write? Are there any that you avoid entirely?

I have no problems writing in any genre as long as I can keep the genre themed with suspense and horror.

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You started out as a self-published (or indie) writer but have transitioned to traditional publishing with the Southern Haunt anthologies from Seventh Star, the new edition of Traumatized from Pro Se, and your first novel (Syrenthia Falls) released by Dark Oak Press earlier this year. In your experience, what are the pros and cons of self-publishing versus the traditional route?

To say being self-published is the greatest nightmare alive would be untrue. When Traumatized was first published, I had no one to help or represent me in the world of publishing, so I used a vanity press that charged its authors to get published.

The only good thing that came from this was I now had a product that I could sell and I could attend conventions and promote myself. Had I never done this, I would have never learned about the con circuit and I would probably still be in the dark. With that said, I gained placement in three publishing houses: Seventh Star Press, Dark Oak Press, and Pro Se Press (Pro Se Press is now in control of Traumatized as it was pulled from the original press).

In this interview, my goal with this question is to direct unpublished authors to attend conventions and converse with other authors and publishers. If you are serious about your work, then this will give you the opportunity to fish it around.

I am in complete agreement there, Alex. Attending conventions is what led to me being published. Without the networking opportunities facilitated by conventions, namely meeting authors and publishers face-to-face, we’d never have hooked up with Dark Oak Press, much less Pro Se. In fact, this very interview series is a direct result of meeting authors, editors, artists, publishers, and others at these fandom conventions.

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Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing (or the process of polishing, editing, and publishing your stories), and how do you deal with this?

Writing isn’t the hard part, editing is. There are so many ways a sentence can be structured. Also there are plenty of times where less is more and I overdo it. Sometimes cutting multiple paragraphs to pages from my stories are necessary when I finish writing.

In my opinion, editing is what separates the amateur from the professional. Anyone can write. Anyone can write a story. But very few people are willing to take the time and effort, much less spend the money on a professional, to whip their story into shape for publication. Those of us who can slog through it, take the criticism from ourself as well as others, and make the changes necessary to turn out a polished product are the real professionals, whether we are published traditionally or self-published.

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What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write your entire manuscript and while you’re writing it look for publishers who are small or medium sized. After you finish writing your manuscript, edit, edit, edit, and start building an audience on social media sites. Also, write blogs in regard to the subjects that focus on your writing genre.

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Are you working on anything currently? Can you provide a snippet from it?

I am working on a few things that are top secret, if I shared them with you, I would have to kill you. However, I’m happy to share a segment of the last ebook that Pro Se Press published and a segment of Syrenthia Falls.

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From Outhouse published by Pro Se Press, Story 3 in the Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out series

I crossed tha kitchen floor and gazed out left and right. I ain’t seen nothin’ scary and nothin’ ain’t sound spooked. Tha night was calm. Although that shoulda made me feel better, I wondered how fast I could run ta tha outhouse and back.

I took a deep breath and opened tha door. Tha rusted hinges hollered. Once I was on tha porch, tha cool wind blew in my face, causin’ my bonnet ta tickle my forehead and tha sides of my cheeks. I shivered out of fear and coldness, and also tha pressure in my bladder.

Tha screen door done slammed behind me, causin’ me ta jump. Then I shot off tha porch like lightenin’. I went left, round tha back of tha house that looked over some of our crops and that hill where Poppa and me done flew kites. In tha dead night, I heard it. It was a growl, lot like a riled mongrel.

I looked ta tha crops. No more than twenty feet away, thirty at best, was somethin’ that struck fear in my soul. Hidin’ in ‘em crops out yonder, crouched close ta tha ground was two eyes as big as saucers. And they were glowin’, jus’ like Poppa said. And they were red, jus’ like tha tobacco in his pipe when he smoked it.

Not far down from ‘em spaced eyes was a pulled back meat eatin’ grin. In that moonlight, I could see its teeth and theys were jus’ like a bear trap. Its skin was withered like Poppa said. It also had a saggy chest, remindin’ me of some of tha old ladies of our church, where ‘eir breasts dropped when they lost tha perk. Its stomach was a gross pot belly that dropped between its squattin’ legs. When tha wind blew, it caused its thin hair ta sway in tha night like moss.

Fer what seemed seconds, we stared at one another. It let out a tongue tha size of a cow’s tongue and lapped its lips. Not wastin’ anotha second, it charged at me.

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From Syrenthia Falls published by Dark Oak Press

“You guys are good storytellers,” chuckled Syrenthia.

“Speaking of which,” mumbled Blake with a mouthful of taco salad.

Blake swallowed, then chugged the carton of milk as if he had gone the whole day without a drink. He wiped the milk residue from his upper lip with an open hand as Syrenthia listened in anticipation.

“Okay, there’s a place called Owen Falls, it’s in the northeast part of town. You take Old Foster Road. After you hang a left, you’ll come to a concrete bridge. After pulling over, you follow a trail under the bridge into the woods, and then you see The Falls,” explained Blake while Syrenthia yearned for the punchline.

“Five years ago was when the murders started, and it only happens on nights of a full moon. But these aren’t just murders, they’re mutilations. Most bodies have been found so shredded that it takes dental records to identify them,” continued Blake as Lynn stopped eating.

“You’re joking,” claimed Syrenthia. “It’s an urban legend right? No bodies were really found were they?”

“No, it’s true. My cousin’s friend was one of the policemen that restricted the area,” insisted Danny.

“Isn’t that how urban legends start?” Syrenthia quizzed. “It always happens to a friend of a friend?”

“Yeah,” Danny agreed, “but the area is restricted.”

“That’s a useless defense,” interrupted Sarah.

Syrenthia’s eyes widened and her desire for more information grew. Blake returned to eating his food as if the story had no effect on him and Danny began speaking.

“You see, three months after the murders, a warden staked out the area. Story goes, the watchman for that night rigged up a hunting stand so he could see everything… What he saw made him stay in that tree the whole night. The next day, investigators came for him. When they found him, his hair had turned white and since then he has never said another word.”

“Why didn’t he radio for help?” Syrenthia questioned.

“The story is bullshit,” added Sarah.

“Does anybody know what caused the murders?” Syrenthia asked.

Lynn shivered. “No. Two summers ago, a couple went to The Falls on the night of a full moon. Story has it that when the police found the couple, every single body part had been mauled or ripped from their bodies.”

Danny interrupted. “They were some of the last victims, but the police discovered something. You see, out of the five years the murders happened, the victims had either slash marks or were mutilated beyond recognition. The murders could have been done with a machete or knife, but the couple that was ripped apart had something strange left with them.”

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Thanks, Alex. Let’s hope those teasers send our audience scrambling to order a copy of both from Amazon.

Do you have a new or upcoming release you want to plug here? If so, when and where can we find it?

Pro Se is publishing a short story monthly from my collection The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out. I’m writing Traumatized 2, editing Southern Haunts 3, and writing a sequel to Syrenthia Falls called Starla’s Moonlight. Southern Haunts 3 can be expected out in 2015. My other works such as Traumatized 2 or Starla’s Moonlight will hopefully see publication in 2016 or so.

I appreciate you sitting for the interview, Alex. I’m sure the readers enjoyed learning more about you, and I hope aspiring writers out there appreciate the advice. Best of luck with the next edition of Southern Haunts, your Pro Se Digital Short Series, and the sequel to Syrenthia Falls. Look forward to all of them. Thanks again and keep on writing, my friend.

For more about Alexander S. Brown and his works of fiction, check out his Amazon author page HERE.

To follow his blog, click HERE.

Author Interview: Dark-eyed, Light-hearted A.G. Porter, Author of The Darkness Trilogy

For my first author interview in December, I have the pleasure of sitting down with A.G. (Amanda) Porter, indie author of The Darkness Trilogy. On her blog, she lists writing as her favorite past time; and in this writer’s fortunate experiences with Amanda, she makes a great beta reader and an even better friend. Like me, she grew up in the hilly countryside of Alabama, where she resides today with her husband, stepson, and self-described furbabies.

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Could you tell us about your journey to the exciting, fast-paced world of writing fiction?

Oh gosh, where do I start? As cliché as it sounds, I know it began when I was just a little girl and I watched my mom typing away at her typewriter. Yes, a typewriter. She would writer the scariest stories! She still does and I can’t wait for her to put them out for the world to read!

I had always been an avid reader of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street Series. In high school, I carried around a 5-subject notebook that I would use to write my stories in. I wonder if my parents still have them because I’m sure those stories would be so funny to read now and probably really embarrassing!

After graduating from school I thought I had to get out in the real world and get a real job. I went to school, got a degree in business, and went into the corporate world. All the while, I was still writing. It hit me one day that I was never going to know if anyone would be interested in reading my books if I didn’t put them out there. Then in 2012, after being told “No” for the millionth time by literary agents, I decided to just do it myself and I’ve never been happier.

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Did you have someone helping you along the road to self-publication or was it an entirely self-taught experience?

I had plenty of encouragement from family and friends, but most of the process was just me. I had to figure things out on my own. For example, where to find a cover artist, how to convert the Word document into an ebook, etc. I thought once I was finished writing then that was it. I was so wrong. There is so much more to being an Indie Author than just writing a book. You don’t realize that you’re actually a small business and you’re not only an artist, but you’re a marketer, a personal assistant, a promoter and the list just goes on.

It would have been nice to have a mentor to help, you know, someone who had been through it before. I know many self-published authors who are more than willing to help now, but back then I didn’t know anyone! Ha! That is why if I see someone who I know is new I try my best to reach out to them or if someone reaches out to me I will drop whatever I am doing and help them.

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What have you learned about the rigors of the writing, editing, and self-publishing process from Book One of the Darkness Trilogy to Book Two?

Don’t rush it. Yes, you will have readers that want you hurry up and get those books out and that is get, but you will be doing them a disservice if you rush the books just to get them out of the door. Also, you can’t edit your own stuff. Let someone else look over it. Be prepared to pay a pretty penny to make your stuff look good, but not just to anyone. Do your research! There are some people out there who just want to take your money.

If you want to use Beta Readers, please, please, for the love of all that is holy, please make sure this person is trustworthy. I have heard so many horrors about Beta Readers being Book Pirates. I can’t imagine seeing my work online for sale by someone else just because I thought I could trust someone to read an ARC. Again, do your research.

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Do you have a preference in genres that you prefer to write? Any that you plan to avoid?

I have always loved the paranormal, so I will probably stick to that most of the time. One day I would love to try a Sci-Fi story. I love that genre, but we’ll see. I plan to try my hand in fantasy as well. I have a dragon rider series that I have been working for about 10 years that my stepson wants me to finish. We shall see!
I’m not too much into Romance. There are romantic elements in my books because I believe that people love to be in love, but I couldn’t write a book that is entirely centered on someone’s romantic relationship.

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You mentioned that you weave your faith and beliefs into your storytelling. How do you go about it without coming off like you’re proselytizing to your audience? Have your received any feedback, positive or negative, about it?

My faith is just a part of who I am, I suppose. It just automatically comes out into the words that I write. I’m not sure about most authors, but for me, my books reflect my mind when it comes to my faith. I’ll also say that my books have a lot darkness in it, but that isn’t me at all. I’ll put it this way because someone else approached me with a similiar question. This is how life is; you have goodness and darkness. Sometimes they come at you at the same time and you have to fight with all you have in you to hold on to the light. For me and my writing style, I fight with my faith.

However, I know that there are people out there who do not share my beliefs so I would never want to come across as shoving what I believe down their throats. The main character of my book, Rayna, is dealing with an evil presence, a darkness, so she clings to the light, her faith, to fight it off. She also knows that she has to find her inner strength as well. There isn’t one time in the book that she or anyone else says, “You better go to church or you’re going to Hell.” Haha!

There are many characters in the book that have no religious upbringing and mention nothing about faith because, again, we’re all different. I’ve just created a world where (think Supernatural or Buffy) demons roam the earth so you better watch out. So Rayna uses her gifts and her faith to fight that evil off. So far, the feedback has been positive and I think it’s because the readers know it’s a work of fiction.

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As with any discussion of faith and religion, my mind drifts to sin, to guilty pleasures. What book is your guilty reading pleasure? Why?

Hmm. I would probably have to Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and all her other vampire books. I guess it’s a guilty pleasure because Ms. Rice can get pretty dark. I started reading those books when I was pretty young and they were darker than anything I read at the time. So I felt like I being mischievous. Haha!

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Bringing the conversation back around to your writing, could you tell us a bit about your creative process? Are you much of a “plotter” or do you write by the seat of your pants…or tights as the case may be? 😉

Haha! I am not a plotter. I sit down and let it fly, for the most part, when it comes to my paranormal books. The fantasy book is something different though. That series has so many characters that I’ve had to create a list and have even drawn a map. It’s a terrible map because I’m not a cartographer! I wanted to draw it though so I could have a visual of the world I was creating. I haven’t really created an outline for it, but it’s more preparation than I’ve ever done for a book.

What other authors have influenced you the most as a writer?

R.L. Stine and Dean Koontz for sure are at the top of my list. I love their writing style and the strong careers that both of them have had. If I ever get the chance to meet them, I think I might just pass out. 😉

The Geek Gathering 2014

The Geek Gathering 2014

Are you working on anything currently? Would you provide a brief excerpt from it?

Why yes, I am working on book three of The Darkness Trilogy. I’ll be glad to share something. Here you go:

He didn’t get to finish his sentence. An ear splitting sound ripped through the night sky and blinding pain stabbed me in the back. A force, stronger than I had ever felt, kicked me in the spine and threw me across the yard. I landed hard on the gravel, skidding for a while before I stopped.

My back felt hot and my face was raw. I was fairly certain that more than one bone in my body was broken. I tried raising my head, but the muscles in my neck didn’t seem want to work. My eyelids were heavy and I really wanted to sleep. Something was telling that I shouldn’t, that if I did, I wouldn’t wake back up.

The Shadow descended on me, crushing my will to stay awake. He held me underneath his power, wrapping my broken body in his powerful arms. Using his strength, he pulled me up into the sky where I had a bird eye view of the carnage below. It was hard to look at, like something from a war zone.

Up here the air was cold and my breath turned to mist as soon as it left my mouth. My fingers and toes were numb and my nose started to run though I was unsure if it was blood or not. Tears turned to ice as they stung the corners of my eyes.

I saw my body lying on the ground; my left leg was twisted at a grotesque angle. My right arm was underneath my body and it looked as though I wasn’t breathing. A large chunk of my hair was burned and the back of my shirt was scorched off, revealing red flesh that would take time to heal if I lived that long.

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Is there an upcoming (or recent) release that you’d like to promote here? If so, what’s it about and where can we find it?

My most recent release is Book 2, The Forsaken, of The Darkness Trilogy. You can find it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IP1DBCA

Thanks again, Amanda. Let’s hope the new year brings with it the final installment of The Darkness Trilogy. Best of luck on finishing it. I’m sure your fans are as eager as your friends to see this project brought to fruition.

For more about A.G. Porter and The Darkness Trilogy, check out her blog at the following URL:

https://agporter.wordpress.com

Stay tuned to this blog for more interviews. My next author interview is Alexander S. Brown, author of Traumatized and Syrenthia Falls. Plus, we’ll talk more with the sexy dolls of Cherry Sparkle Burlesque.

Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Interview: The Fantastic Phoenix Rose

Once again, I have the privilege and pleasure of interviewing one of the ladies of Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Company. In my interactions with her, Phoenix Rose has come across as a woman who is as creative as she is beautiful, as humorous as she is engaging. Today, I have a chance to find out more about her and showcase her beauty and talents for all the blogosphere to behold.

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How did you decide on the stage name Phoenix Rose? And what does it mean to you?

I just thought about the Phoenix being a beautiful, powerful, creature and rose because it’s a symbol of love. I feel like it’s an empowering name that I can carry with me beyond the stage.

Empowering indeed. I think your electric blue eyes transmit that energy and verve quite well. And photographers seem to have no problem capturing it when you’re their subject.

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By my recollection, you were originally the person responsible for makeup and styling for Cherry Sparkle. How, when, and why did you make the transition to performer?

I was doing Ms. Cherry Sparkle’s makeup one evening and I asked about the audition process. I’ve always loved to perform and dance so I figured I’d audition, what could it hurt? I joined in May and had my first performance on July 26th. I love doing their hair and makeup but performing with these amazing men and women was definitely higher up on the wish list. I still do their hair and makeup though. Lol

I can certainly see why they’d want to make full use of your talents, especially after seeing you work your makeup magic at the Seven Deadly Sins photo shoot. I am not sure what impressed me more, the transformative work you did on the dolls at the shoot or your quiet confidence and professional demeanor.

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How would you describe your role in the company and your performance style?

I think my main role is to keep it interesting. I always bring the crazy makeup, weird props, and slightly dysfunctional humor.

From G.I. Jayne’s candy-and-cake makeup and design for the Seven Deadly Sins shoot to your sexy, sizzling interpretation of DC Comics’s Poison Ivy at the Halloween show, I’d say you’ve nailed your role with the precision and grace of an Olympic gymnast.

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From what I have witnessed, you have a special partner that helps you out on occasion with your performances. Could you tell us more about him/her/it?

I do indeed have a very special assistant. I perform with my snake “Fluffy”. She’s a 15 year old, five and a half foot long ball python. She’s a lot of fun to work with and it’s awesome to witness the audience’s reaction when she comes out of “Pandora’s Box”.

Personally, my reaction was a full blown flashback to one of the steamy scenes of my childhood. I pictured the exotic dancer in Bladerunner taking the stage with her own snake. You really should check out that movie sometime; not only is it an amazing work of science fiction, but it might give you some ideas if the company ever does a show with a sci-fi or cosplay theme.

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Given complete creative control and few limitations on budget, what song would you perform to onstage and how would you garb yourself for this performance of a lifetime?

Wow, that’s a tough one. I think my dream routine would be a Lyra hoop/feather fan dance. Lol, of course there are hundreds of songs on my to-do list, but I think Hozier “Take me to Church” would be at the top of the list.

Speaking as a fan, and as a man, I hope you have the chance to make it through your to-do list. 🙂

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Besides burlesque, do you have any other creative interests, pursuits, or hobbies?

I have a few things I like to do outside of Burlesque. I’m a mom, wife, I’m in school full time for cosmetology and esthetics. I work full time as a vet tech at Valley Vet. My favorite hobbies are probably modeling, hair and makeup, photography, and sewing.

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It sounds to me like you enjoy working on both sides of the camera. How long have you been a photographer? And how long have you been modeling? Do you have a personal website or other location(s) where we can check out your work?

It’s definitely a lot of fun. I’ve been doing photography for a year now. I owe a lot of thanks to my mentor Joel Price for teaching me about photography. I’ve modeled off and on since I was 23. It’s one of my favorite creative outlets.

Here are the links to my hair and makeup and photography pages. I’m currently working on my website. It’s jennaQ.com, should be up and running by the New Year.

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You can find Phoenix Rose’s hair, makeup, and photography work online at the following links:

https://www.facebook.com/quinnessentialphotography

https://www.facebook.com/Quinnessentialhairmakeupandphotography

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Bringing the conversation back around to burlesque, what’s your favorite part of a performance? And what is your least favorite aspect?

My favorite part of the performance is just seeing the entire show come together. It’s truly is amazing how much hard work everyone puts into their routines.

My least favorite part (and this may sound harsh but it’s the truth) is ignorance about Burlesque. Most people hear the word and immediately assume we’re all strippers. Burlesque means an absurd or comically exaggerated imitation of something, especially in a literary or dramatic work; a parody or performance. To entertain and that’s exactly what we do. We have singers, dancers, hula hoopers, acts of unfathomable flexibility, comedians, the list goes on. You want strippers go to a strip club, if you want mind blowing entertainment go to a Burlesque show.

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That’s a great quote about distinguishing between those two forms of exotic dancing. “You want strippers go to a strip club, if you want mind blowing entertainment go to a Burlesque show.” Really sums up how I feel about it too. For the most part, strip clubs are badly lit, boring, and designed to drain money from lonely drunk guys or people trying to impress their friends by making it rain singles. Burlesque, on the other hand, is an extravaganza, a visual feast for the eyes that tickles the funny bone at the same time. It is inspired by the combined creativity, sensuality, and wit of the performers. Over all, the energy is so much more positive at a burlesque performance.

Sadly, Phoenix Rose, we’re nearing the end of the interview. But it’s been a treat having you. One last question: When will we be able to see you onstage again?

I’m not sure when our next show is. Guess you’ll just have to keep an eye on the Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Company page on Facebook to find out. I can say we’ll all be making a fabulous appearance in our new 2015 Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Company Calendar.

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I really appreciate you taking the time to tell us more about you and your creative pursuits. Best of luck with all of them. It’s been a pleasure, Phoenix Rose. Although the January show at The Ritz in Gadsden fell through, I know we’ll be seeing you and the rest of the guys and dolls of Cherry Sparkle Burlesque back on stage soon enough.

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Stay tuned to this blog for upcoming interviews with authors and burlesque performers, book reviews, and more news about the soon-to-be published sequel to The Cycle of Ages Saga.

Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Interview: The Illustrious Illusiona

Evening seems to come quicker in the autumn, an illusion created by turning back our clocks, a shared illusion that becomes accepted reality as the season proceeds. Today’s interview subject talks heavily about illusions, the power of the mind and body, and other esoteric subjects. As a result, I am very pleased to welcome the illustrious Illusiona, a lady as deeply intellectual and spiritual as she is lithe, strong, and flexible. This intriguing, brainy beauty comes to us from the Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Company and joins the other guys and dolls in this continuing series.

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Illusiona conjures up images that befuddle our senses and manipulate our perception of reality itself. After witnessing you’re breathtaking performances, I can see how this label applies to you. But how do you see it? And why did you choose to be called Illusiona?

Because everything you see is just an illusion, including me.

Not only an interesting answer, but one that coincides closely with my own view of this level of reality.

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How long have you been a member of Cherry Sparkle? And why did you join?

I have been a member for over a year, ever since day one of the group. I wanted to join because I like to dance and wanted to try something new. Always try new things.

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We actually met during the genesis of Cherry Sparkle. The first time I laid eyes on you and had the pleasure of speaking to you was in between our interviews for WLJS 92J’s Midweek Metal Fest. My friend Jon spoke very highly of you. And over the course of our burgeoning friendship, I have come to think highly of you as well.

How would you describe your role in the company and your performance style?

My role in the company is to perform with awesome, great friends, and always push to do more, to be better. Just like my life.

Illusiona with the ladies of Cherry Sparkle at Rumble on Noble 2014.

Illusiona with the ladies of Cherry Sparkle at Rumble on Noble 2014.

From our previous conversations, I take it that you have an extensive background in dance and yoga. Could you tell us more about those experiences and how it applies to your burlesque performances?

I have very little dance experience. Yoga, however, has been a part of my life for a couple years. This brings a different style of performing to the group.

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Besides yoga, dancing, and burlesque, do you any other creative pursuits or hobbies?

I like to study dreams; I practice lucid dreaming and dream walking. I am a full time JSU student and graduate with a BSW (Bachelor of Social Work) this summer. All of this along with my three children keep my fairly busy. Life is exactly what I want it to be right now.

So in addition to being intellectually and physically gifted, you’re interested in introspection, self-discovery, and helping others. On top of that, you’re a busy but dedicated mom who is comfortable with her self and her life. Amazing! In case it ever comes up in conversation, I’ll be sure to cite you as an example of a living superwoman.
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At the Halloween show, you performed an amazing dance with nothing but a song and folding chair to support you. It was truly a wonder to behold, and the strength, endurance, dexterity, and flexibility required to do it looked to be almost superhuman. How did you choreograph that challenging routine, much less train for it? And will you be working on variations of it for future shows?

It’s all in your mind. If we train our minds, our lives indescribably transform to exactly how we would like for it to. I body was mostly already trained for this routine; I just had to put it together. This routine left many bruises for the two weeks I practiced it. It was all worth it, though, and I’m super excited to practice and add to it for the next show. We all are superhuman. Limitation is just an illusion.

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Given complete creative control and few limitations on budget, what song would you perform to onstage and how would you garb yourself for this performance of a lifetime?

I do everything I want without limitations already. Every performance is a performance of a lifetime.

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What’s your favorite part of a show?

My favorite part of the shows are getting to connect with an amazing group of people and feel each other’s energy.

What’s your least favorite part of performing?

My least favorite part of performing is it being so late. I like to sleep during the dark hours.

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Before I ask my final question, I’d just like to say that this has been pleasure. Rarely, do I have the chance to converse with someone so positive, empowered, and genuinely happy. I love your attitude on life, the universe, and everything we’ve discussed.

Finally, when and where will we be able to see you onstage again?

In Gadsden at the RITZ, we will be having a big show in January.

Thanks again, Illusiona. Happy to have had a chance to find out more about you and your interests. And to showcase them here on my blog. If I don’t see you again before the next show, keep up the hardwork. And keep on smiling. If not for your sake, then for ours. The world would be a darker place without it. 🙂

Illusiona and our next interview candidate.

Illusiona and our next interview candidate.

Click here to see Illusiona and Cherry Sparkle perform to Britney Spears’s Work Bitch:

To find out more about Cherry Sparkle Burlesque, check them out on Facebook.

A Happening Halloween with Rachael Hill

As I prepare for Halloween this year, I am excited to report those plans include spending the weekend at HallowCon with some of my favorite creative minds in the Southeast. To add to the excitement, I had the special pleasure of interviewing one of them beforehand. As imaginative and talented as she is pale and lovely, my friend Rachael Hill is the subject of today’s interview. Rachael is the author of Cuisine from Beyond, a professional photographer, experienced welder, culinary artist, and much more, as you’ll find out during the course of our interview.

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You’ve been called the Gothic Rachel Ray. Could you tell us about the book that spawned this apt description?

The book, Cuisine from Beyond, is a horror-themed cookbook inspired by H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos as a whole. I’ve always wanted to write a cookbook, but I didn’t want it to look like every other cookbook out there. I had to stand out and reflect my vision.

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If your vision included a visual feast for the eyes, I’d say you succeeded beyond your wildest expectations. Did you do all of the design work on your own or did you have help in putting it together?

I knew exactly what I wanted the cover and pages to look like. I just had to have help getting the images out of my head onto the pages. Mark Helwig did the cover art. He was somehow able to bring my idea of Chef Cthulhu to life. He is really brilliant at that. And as far as the rest of the design work, it was collaboration between me and the publisher. I’m sure I was quite the diva about it.

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How much experimentation did you do with the recipes beforehand? And have you gotten any feedback from people who have prepared your recipes?

Some of the recipes are recipes that I make often. But there are some that honestly had zero experimentation. I would literally have an idea, sometimes while in the grocery store, and roll with it. Sometimes it worked out and ended up in the book. Actually, it worked a lot of the time.

As far as feedback, yes, I’ve had several people contact me about cooking recipes from the book and that they loved them. A good bit of the feedback is about how easy the recipes are to follow. I also know of at least 2 people that have made every recipe from the book.

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How long have you been cooking creatively? And do you have any particular culinary mentors or other sources of inspiration?

I’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember. I don’t necessarily have any culinary mentors, but I grew up living next door to my grandparents and my grandmother was always cooking something. I can remember pulling a chair next to her and helping. She would make jellies and jams, from fruits her and my grandfather grew. I still make jams and jellies to this day. So, I suppose keeping those skills and memories alive is my inspiration.

Moon photograph taken by Rachael Hill

Moon photograph taken by Rachael Hill

In addition to your culinary and literary endeavors, you’re also a brilliant photographer, capturing everything from American bands to individual snowflakes to the icy rings of Saturn. And from what I understand you also set up most of the shots in your vaunted cookbook. How long have you been a photographer? And what are your favorite subjects/themes to explore?

Haha, I wouldn’t say brilliant. When I started the book, I was also learning about photography, so in the beginning I didn’t know too much. By the end of the book, I was MegaDiva about the shots. But, all photos were collaboration between me and Kevin and Joe. We all three put our heads together to make these shots beautiful.

I’ve only been a photographer for 4 years. I started in 2010 and it just took off.
My favorite subject by far to shoot is live music. I also love macro photography and astrophotography. My main goal with every photo I take is to capture feeling and emotion, not just an image.

Frozen bubble. Photograph taken by Rachael Hill.

Frozen bubble. Photograph taken by Rachael Hill.

A true Renaissance woman, you are also a painter. How would you describe your style and process? Do you have particular themes that you like to explore using paint and canvas?

I don’t consider myself a painter, at all. I know way too many artists that are brilliant at what they do, and to call myself an artist or painter is just nuts. But, I do, on occasion throw paint at canvas. I call it fast and messy art. Haha. There generally isn’t a theme. I guess whatever mood I’m in at the time reflects how I paint.

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Speaking of colorful canvases, like me, you’re a fan of ink and seem to find comfort under the needle. How many tattoos do you have so far? What are they? And what’s next?

Yes, I love being under those needles. I call it “tattoo therapy”. I only have like 8 tattoos. The number isn’t big, but the sizes of the tattoos are. I have a sleeve on my left arm. An original voodoo inspired artwork on my right forearm. A skull/flower piece on my chest. A demon hand ripping out of me on my left ribcage and the words “Somethings are Beyond Therapy” and the Ludovico Technique logo (the band that the quote came from) on my left ribcage that looks carved into my skin. Ummm.. a outline of a shark on my right ankle and a Winnie the Pooh on my left calf. Yes…a Winnie the Pooh.. don’t judge. Then there a few tribal tats here and there.

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What’s next.. hummm.. let’s see. There is a story behind the demon hand and the lyric carved into my side. Basically, in a nutshell, most people try to get rid of their inner demon. I embrace mine. I’ve also discovered the whole Supernatural fandom. So, I’m thinking my next tattoos will be something Supernatural-related that also ties with the whole “keeping my demon in” theme.

Andy Deane from Bella Morte at RavenCon. Photograph by Rachael Hill.

Andy Deane from Bella Morte at RavenCon. Photograph by Rachael Hill.

I like to ask a variation of this question of my interview subjects. If you could party with any creative type, living or dead, who would it be, and what would you drink and discuss?

This is such a hard question. I am so lucky to be able to know and hang out with so many creative types already. And I’m friends with someone that has inspired me so much already and that is Andy Deane of the band Bella Morte. I don’t really have an author that inspired me want to write or an artist that inspired me to create. So, after days of consideration, here is my answer. I pull a lot of inspiration from music, which is weird because I’m not a musician. And I’m not much of a partier or drinker, so I would probably just want to hang out and chill. But as far as a dead creative person, I’d say Peter Steele from Type O Negative. No idea what we’d drink, or discuss, but I “found my goth” by listening to Type O Negative. But the living person is someone that I’ve not actually physically spoken to and that would be Ben V. from Ludovico Technique. His music and lyrics have had such a huge impact on me personally. I’d drink Red Bull and water. I think I’d tell him how his words have helped me through some rough times, and then maybe we’d get out the telescopes and do some astrophotography. And now that I’ve went total fan girl and made a fool of myself, next question please.

Ben V. from the Ludovic Technique. Photograph & Jack-o-lantern by Rachael Hill

Ben V. from the Ludovic Technique. Photograph & Jack-o-lantern by Rachael Hill

Most people probably do not realize this, but the Gothic Rachel Ray is also a world-class industrial welder. Have you ever applied your skills with a welder or blowtorch to an industrial, metalwork, or steampunk-themed project? And if you have yet to do so, why in Dio’s name not?

Well, welding is my full time job. I’ve been welding for 19 years. And while I’m decent at it, I do not want to do it outside of my job. I’ve never applied my skills to any art or metalwork. And as far as a steampunk-themed project? I am going to make a few enemies here, but, you will NEVER see me do anything steampunk-themed. I am not a fan of steampunk at all. The only steampunk thing I even remotely like is the band Abney Park, outside of that, nope, no steampunk in my future.

Lemur Zombie. Photograph taken by Rachael Hill.

Lemur Zombie. Photograph taken by Rachael Hill.

What creative project are you working on currently?

Currently, I’m trying to get back into the artistic side of photography. I got so busy doing portraits and weddings that I lost that side of photography. I would only pick up my camera if I had to. I’m also working on releasing a small magazine/digest version of my book with all new recipes. And I am working on starting my blog back up, though I’ve really dropped the ball on that.

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Last but not least, when and where will you be making your next public appearance?

My next public appearance has yet to be determined. I will be attending HallowCon (in Dalton, GA) on Halloween weekend. There will be a table there with my books for sale.

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Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about yourself. I know you prefer the darkness and behind humble, so I appreciate you letting me sing your praises and shine some light on you and your various creative pursuits. As always, talking with you has been a pleasure. I look forward to the sequel to Cuisine from Beyond almost as much as I look forward to hanging out with you at HallowCon once again.

To find out more about Rachael Hill Photography, check out her page on Facebook here:

https://www.facebook.com/Rachael.Hill.Photography

You can follow Rachael Hill on Flickr at the following URL:

http://www.flickr.com/rdhill

To purchase Cuisine from Beyond on Amazon, click the following URL:

http://www.amazon.com/Cuisine-Beyond-Rachael-D-Hill/dp/0977043789

For more information about HallowCon, click on the picture below:

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