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: Introducing the Kickass Kittie Von Carnage

Let’s start this short week off on the right note, with something to give thanks about, the next installment of my interviews with the performers of Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Company. This week I’m talking with the kickass Kitty Von Carnage, a snarky sexpot with a mind as hypnotic as her dark eyes and disarming smile.

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I must say that I love your stage name, Kittie von Carnage. It conjures up the image of a hardcore, hard-edged woman who doesn’t take any shit from anyone. She embraces her sexuality and uses it to empower her, to embolden her and her performances.  Is that far from the truth? What does that moniker mean to you? And does that stage persona carry over into your daily life, once you’re off stage?

Your image of Kittie Von Carnage is exactly what I want to portray. Not only does the name empower me, but I hope to spread that confident and badass energy to anyone and everyone in the audience that needs it. Being a full figured woman I definitely want to embrace my sexuality and that women (and men) of all shapes and sizes have the power to be incredibly sexy. I won’t shy away from saying that  before becoming Kittie Von Carnage I lacked confidence, but I can honestly see a huge change in how I see myself daily and keep her in my mind every day to make sure I stay strong.

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From what I’ve come to know about you and your life, staying strong sounds like what you do best. With your indomitable spirit, strong work ethic, and sense of humor, I’m sure you’ll succeed at whatever you put your mind to in life.

How did you come to join Cherry Sparkle Burlesque? And how long have you been a member?

I was actually watching the movie Burlesque thinking to myself how I wish I could perform in that setting and I coincidentally saw a Facebook post advertising auditions for the company. I almost immediately messaged Kaitie for more information. I ended up not auditioning at that time because of fear that I wouldn’t be accepted being that I am a larger female. I finally decided a few weeks after that to give it a shot and I am so glad I did. I auditioned, got the job, and right off the bat I felt an amazing sense of acceptance and self-worth from this wonderful group of people I like to call my Cherry Sparkle family.

I have been with Cherry Sparkle only a short time now but I look forward to continuing on much longer. My first show was August 30th and it was a most intoxicating feeling to perform.

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With a few notable exceptions like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, I never thought I’d be thankful for a musical, but I can see I’ll have to add Burlesque to the list for inspiring you to perform.

Did you have a background in dance, theater, or performance art before joining?

I performed in a few community theater productions at a very young age, but other than that I have no professional background in it. As far as dance background, I have only taken various classes at my gym for fitness purposes. But I do have an awesome group of people to ask for help if ever I get “dancer’s block.”

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How would you describe your role in CSB and your performance style?

I currently perform vintage burlesque dance, and I love every moment of the art of the strip tease. My performance style has not had a ton of chances to shine yet as I am still new to the company but it surely will soon. My first show I performed to The Dope Show by Marilyn Manson. I will be performing to that type of music mainly. I really like that hard, sexy music and may throw in a little tasteful shock value.

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One of my favorite caveats holds true here, great minds do think alike. Because I love the art of strip tease, especially coupled with hard rock and a sexy, shocking dancer like you.

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

I love everything about the shows so far. I love the beginning of the process from picking a song and concept, to coming up with a costume and choreographing. On show days it is invigorating to get into hair, makeup, and full costume to perform for an always supportive audience.

I wish I could watch the performances because I know everyone does an incredible job, but I have no least favorite part about the shows.

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

I have a dangerous addiction to Pinterest. If I think I can DIY, I will more than likely attempt it. I love to paint, draw, any number of creative things. I have a love for learning how to do new things so I often find myself looking up tutorial videos. I can also cook the hell out of some food. I have been in chili cook offs most of my life and I often place in the competition. I make some killer pretzels too. It takes a lot of calories to keep my body in this shape so I obviously know how to cook. haha

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Whatever you’re doing, please keep it up. It’s worked to create one helluva Kittie Von Carnage!

You’re not only a self-described Disney fangirl, but you’ve worked for them as well. Given no budgetary or content restrictions, what character and/or scene from the vast Disney archives would you turn into a burlesque performance? And what song would you use while performing this fantasy piece?

You have stumped me with this question for sure. I would probably go with Disney’s darker side and do a villainous performance. I love the villains and it would tie in perfectly with my stage presence. Maleficent is my favorite villain so I think it would be awesome to use her character. I mean, she turns into a dragon so how is that not cool? J Add a little “Disney green” fire to the performance and I am set.

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Judging by our previous conversations, you’re also part of the unofficial lifetime learners club known as Nerdom. Given no budgetary, geographical, or temporal restrictions on your education, where would you go, what would you learn, and why? What would you do with your new found knowledge and credentials?

So many options, but there is no doubt in my mind that I would don a Sherlock Holmes hat and travel the world to solve Earth’s greatest mysteries. I’ve always had an interest in urban legends, myths, and anything unknown or unsolved. I would want to explore things such as Atlantis, and the Nazca lines. Just put me with Sherlock and Indiana Jones and send me on my way to explore. My mind just had a Nerdgasm so I think I’ll move on now.

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Getting back to the topic of burlesque, in my last interview with Phoenix Rose, she mentioned an upcoming Cherry Sparkle calendar. Can you tell us more about it, like what month you’ll be or when it will be available, or is that project top secret for now?

You know about as much as I do. I am super excited to find out what month I will be featured as. I can tell you that from the pictures I have seen, this calendar is absolutely something that people will want to own. We all brought our stage personalities to life in photo form so of course my photos show a dark side. And we have an incredibly talented photographer as well. There really are not enough positive words to describe what he is capable of capturing behind that camera lens.

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Finally, when will we be able to see you onstage with Cherry Sparkle again?

We actually have two shows coming up very soon in December. “Tits for Toys” is one that will be on Friday, December 12th and The Smoking Moose and it is a charity performance so the cover charge will be an unwrapped toy that we will donate. We want people to understand that we have generous and caring hearts to go along with these lovely faces and giving back to the community is a huge interest for the Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Company.

“Can-Can for Cans” is another upcoming show on December 20th at the newly opening Dark Horse Saloon. This place is going to be an amazing venue so I certainly hope plenty of people come to check it out. The cover for this show is either 5 cans of food or $5.00 all to be donated to a local charity.

We appreciate all of our supporters and I hope that people will help us make this a successful form of charitable action by coming to these shows and participating in giving back.

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Tits for Toys? Now there’s a Christmas charity that I can get behind. Or in front of. Hell, as long as I’m within eyesight of the tits or toys I’ll be fine. But in all seriousness, I think it’s a wonderful thing that your organization is reaching out to the community and helping bring joy to the disadvantaged for the holidays. It’s heartwarming.

Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Miss Kittie. I’ve had a great time getting to know you. And I am sure those out there reading this feel the same. The best part about this is making new friends and introducing them to the world. Good luck with your future performances and the rest of your creative, educational, and professional pursuits.

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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:

hallowcon2014

Horror Author, Jeremy Hicks talks about The Cycle of Ages Saga: Finders Keepers

Author A.G. Porter interviews me about writing horror and the Cycle of Ages Saga. Check it out for a snippet from the upcoming sequel novel, Sands of Sorrow.

A.G. Porter

Jeremy Hicks       Jeremy Hicks

Author Jeremy Hicks is one of the first authors I met when I started going to conventions. Let me tell you, if you’re just starting out and haven’t had the opportunity to meet your fellow authors, conventions can be very intimidating. Meeting Jeremy immediately put me at ease. I knew if all of the authors I met were like him, then I was going to have a great time!

Jeremy has been on my blog before and I am so glad that he’s back to talk to us about his horror novel The Cycle of Ages Saga: Finders Keepers. He’s also giving away a paperback copy! Enter below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/5c01ba827/

AP: Where did you get the idea for The Cycle of Ages Saga: Finders Keepers?

JH: The idea came from my past role-playing experiences, specifically playing in a D&D campaign run by my friend…

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Author Interview: The Awe-Inspiring Andrea Judy

Today’s interview comes with a disclaimer. Both for legal and ethical reasons.

I met Andrea Judy at the Pro Se Press booth at MidSouthCon 2013 in Memphis, and I was hooked. From her animated personality to her action-packed pulp tales, this author left a lasting impression. And became a good friend in the process. Since then, I have had the privilege of sharing a dinner table as well as a table of contents with the awesome Andi Judy, as she is known in some writing circles. I refer to her respectfully (and with her permission) as the Pixie Princess of New Pulp, because anyone who knows her knows that she, like her characters and stories, is larger than life, despite her elfin appearance. All while being one of the sweetest, most down-to-earth people you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting. As she continues to evolve as a writer and storyteller, I look forward to the weird, wild tales that she’ll introduce to me and the rest of the world.

Without further adieu, I give you the awe-inspiring Andrea Judy.

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First of all, could you tell our audience what kind of stories you write and what kind of themes you explore in your writing?

I write stories that I want to read. I’ve had my writing described as colorfully morbid and I think that’s a good description for me. I tend to look towards the dark side of life and try to explore how there’s never really a clear good/evil divide. I also tend to favor writing stories with women protagonists because growing up, I didn’t have many stories that had a woman as the protagonist.

I think that’s a perfect way to describe you and your writing. Somehow you shine like a brilliant gem on a sunny day but still manage to explore the dark side of humanity with that lovely gray matter of yours.

For me, the strong female character has been one of the most striking features about your writing. From Senorita Scorpion to the Pulptress and her archenemy, The Bone Queen, women are kicking ass and taking names from the first page onward. Makes for exciting, empowering stories in my opinion.

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How long have you been writing? And what started you along this path?

I think I’m like most writers in that I always wrote. From a very young age I was a storyteller. I don’t know if I can pinpoint an exact moment that started me along the path of writing but the first moment I considered myself a writer was when I received my very first rejection letter.

Isn’t that the truth. But I agree. You’re not a real writer until you’ve submitted your work and had it rejected. Rejection, like mistakes and often defeats, are learning experiences that build character. And with writing, I find it leads me to closer reading and editing of my own work to find out what went wrong with my story in the opinion of that editor or publisher.

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What writers influenced you along the way?

I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, but I also love Lisa Mannetti, and Margaret Atwood.

If you could sit down and talk to any of those writers, living or dead, who would it be and what would you discuss?

I would love to just shoot the breeze with Margaret Atwood and listen to stories about what’s she seen in her life. I think she would have some wild and awesome tales to tell!

I must admit that that answer surprises me. I would have bet real money on Neil Gaiman. After our close encounter with Neil at his signing in Decatur, Georgia, not to mention him re-tweeting your blog post about it, I figured you’d want to sit down and talk with him again. But then again, I’m sure Margaret Atwood could provide a lot of insight on what it was like for female genre writers forging their way to the top in decades past. I imagine she’s as hard-boiled and iron-willed as any of your pulp heroines.

Pulptress FC

What books have stayed with you over the years?

My top ten books over the years:
10. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
9. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
8. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
7. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
6. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
5. On Writing by Stephen King
4. The Gentling Box by Lisa Mannetti Author
3. Beloved by Toni Morrison
2. The Book of Men by Dorianne Laux
1. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine

Excellent list. There are a few on there I’ll have to add to my reading list. A Wrinkle in Time is one of my all-time favs. And most anything by Gaiman, King, or Morrison makes for a good read.

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What advice would you give someone attempting to write professionally and seeking to be published traditionally?

Finish the book. Don’t get distracted by the shiny, great new idea. Finish the project you’re on and then go after the new idea. I think a lot of people get caught up in trying to write the PERFECT BEST MOST ORIGINAL IDEA EVER and never finish anything. You can’t edit or publish a blank sheet of paper.

You’ve mentioned your recent forays into riding horses on the weekend. And we’ve played Cards Against Humanity on occasion. What other activities or hobbies do you enjoy? And if you’ll pardon the pun, do you find that they help spur your imagination or work their way into your writing?

Honestly I have very few hobbies. Almost all of my free time is devoted to writing. Right now my hobby probably includes playing with my new cat, Kamala, and occasionally playing a video game.

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As I understand it, you handle marketing and promotions as a part of your day job. Has that helped you to promote your own material? And if so, what advice could you give to writers struggling to market their works on their own?

I work in a marketing department and run the social media accounts for my day job so I get to spend all day on Facebook, Twitter, etc. It has been helpful but it also leaves me a bit burned out by the time I get home.
It has helped me learn more about the dos and don’ts of social media, and it lets me experiment and see what works and doesn’t work. The difference is, marketing yourself as a brand is different than marketing a company so there is some crossover but there are still big differences.

I think my best advice for writers is to not try to do everything. You don’t need to be on every social media channel. Find the one or two you like the best and go to town on those. Social media is about building a community, so interact with people and have fun with it.

Thanks for the advice. I’m learning the hard way about stretching myself too thin on social media. Led to me burning out on the whole deal and neglecting all of my social network promotions for books and such. As I move back into the field of book promotions and building a community of dedicated fans, I’ll keep your experiences in mind.

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As part of the New Pulp movement, do you find yourself set free or more limited by the expectations of fans as well as publishers associated with this rising subset of the American fiction market?

I think that there are limitations with the pulp market, and that the audience wants a certain type of story. I like the pulp style of a lot of action and adventure, and I’ve enjoyed writing in it, but I’m looking forward to starting to explore other styles in the future.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. And I have had similar experiences while trying to meet the expectations of fans as well as publishers of this sort of material. In the end, I think we have to do what you advised and write what we want to read. Then even if no one else reads it, at least we enjoy the process and our final product.

Dark Crystal

From what I understand, you were a finalist in a contest that involved writing a sequel to The Dark Crystal. Could you tell us more about that experience and the upcoming trip you will be taking thanks to it?

Well, The Dark Crystal was one of my favorite movies growing up. A friend told me that there was a contest for a prequel novel in the world of The Dark Crystal. I dove totally into it and worked really hard on my entry. I did not win, but I was in the top 25, and an editor’s choice. This September I received an email inviting me to a reception with the winner of the contest, and representatives from the contest, a small reception to acknowledge the hard work put into the stories. So, I’ll be heading off to New York to attend that reception, and to meet a friend or two who lives that way as well. I’m really excited about the trip and the entire Dark Crystal experience.

You should have a great time in NYC. Really sounds like a once in a lifetime experience. And who knows? If they do more Dark Crystal books, which is likely with the success of a prequel or sequel, the editor who liked your work might recommend you for the job. I’d second that recommendation in a heartbeat. 🙂

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What writing project are you working on currently? And can you provide a snippet from it?

I am currently edited the second Bone Queen novel, and working on an essay about fandom. The only snippet I’ve got is from my fandom essay.

“As I supervised the towering pile of tentacle hentai, my boss started cursing behind me. “Dammit, dammit! Sell it all, sell it all! They’re going out of business.” It was the first time I ever realized that conventions were more than costumes, and fun; an entire industry ran on the backs of the fans.”

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Last but not least, what is your latest release? And where can readers find it?

My most recent release is the short story, “Catching Steam”, in Capes and Clockwork which you can find on Amazon. I’m also working to get the second Bone Queen novel out before 2015.

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Thanks again, Andrea. I appreciate you taking the time for this interview. It’s always a pleasure when I have the chance to learn more about you and your writing. Happy to have had the chance to share you and your creative endeavors with the world. I hope the readers out there who haven’t experienced your storytelling prowess yet will feel the impact of your stories as deeply as I have. Because I’m not only a lifelong friend but a lifelong fan.

Super Girl

To find out more about this super author and her amazing stories, check out Andrea Judy at the following links:

Judy Black Cloud WordPress Blog

JudyBlackCloud.com Blog

Andrea Judy’s Facebook Author Page

Andrea Judy’s Pro Se Author Page