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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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.

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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…

View original post 1,951 more words

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.

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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.

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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

Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Interview: Discussing the Stars and Stage with Astrostud

In a bit of a twist, today’s interview has me discussing the stars, stage, and more with one of the guys of Cherry Sparkle Burlesque. He is one of the few but proud men to accompany the lovely dolls on stage. And in this interviewer’s opinion, he’s one brave soul for doing it. So without further flavor text, let me introduce you to Astrostud.

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When you joined Cherry Sparkle Burlesque, you selected the out-of-this-world stage name of Astrostud. What does it mean to you?

The name is a split of my imagination describing an astrology student as well as a good looking guy.

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

I joined last year; Ms. Cherry Sparkle and I go back at least a handful of years.

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How would you describe your role in Cherry Sparkle Burlesque and your performance style?

I’d consider myself supportive; my style is unique. I have a lot of practice and exercise to do still.

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

Publicly, no.

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With your chiseled physique, one has to wonder if it is a byproduct of genetics, hard work, or both. What do you have to say on the subject? And what sort of workout do you use to keep in shape for Cherry Sparkle?

Haha! Thanks, bud. I think genetics has some to do with it. Well, I do walk a lot and drink water and pure grapefruit juice. Stretching is a big deal.

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I have a friendly wager going with Kaitie over who will get the most views with these interviews. With the number of female romance and erotica writers, editors, and publishers on Facebook and my other social networks, I am willing to bet it will be you or one of the other guys. If one of these writers or publishers approaches you online and wants to use you on the cover of a steamy tale of desire, would you be game for it?

More than likely, but I’m gonna ask them there zodiac sign first.

What is your sign? And could you elaborate on your interest in Astrology and what it means to you?

I’m a Virgo Sun. I’ve had a deep interest in astrology for some years now. it helps me talk to people. I’ve asked almost everyone I’ve met since around 2010.

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When you’re not practicing or performing with the other guys and dolls, do you engage in other creative pursuits or hobbies?

I like to draw.

What do you like to draw? How would you describe your style?

I like to draw people. They usually turn out looking cartoony. Haha! I couldn’t really put a label on my style. It’s eclectic.

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What’s your favorite part of a burlesque show?

The team talking about ideas and then performing them.

What’s your least favorite part of performing?

The wait.

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And last but not least, when and where will you be on stage with Cherry Sparkle again?

Our Halloween show at the Crimson Tiger (on the night of October 11th in Anniston, Alabama.)

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Thanks again for sitting down with me to answer a few questions about you and your pursuits. Hopefully, the ladies reading this and a fair number of the gents will come out to see your perform.

For more about Astrostud and the other guys and dolls of Cherry Sparkle, check out the link below:

Cherry Sparkle Burlesque’s Facebook Page

INTERVIEWER’S NOTE: The location of the Cherry Sparkle Halloween show has been changed from Darkhorse Saloon to the Crimson Tiger.