Sands of Sorrow to debut at Rocket City Lit Fest This Weekend!

The Cycle of Ages Saga is returning to Huntsville, Alabama, this weekend for the first annual Rocket City Lit Fest at Von Braun Civic Center. Jeremy Hicks will be there to debut Sands of Sorrow, the highly anticipated sequel to Finders Keepers. Come out Saturday or Sunday if you’d like a signed copy of either novel. Paperbacks will be 2 for $20 all weekend, so you’ll be able to buy both novels at a steep discount. There will be some promotional items available on a first-come-first-serve basis. Plus, 100 other authors, artists, vendors, and others will have booths and tables filling the convention hall. Panels will be held. Select readings will be, well, read. Hopefully, read well as well. 😉 And you can be a part of it all.

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For more details on Rocket City Lit Fest, click HERE.

Burlesque Interview: The Sizzling Shay Blaze!

Today, I have the pleasure and privilege of interviewing the sizzling Shay Blaze, burlesque performer, cosplayer, and, last but certainly not least, my friend. She is a petite, almost fae-like beauty with a smile and personality bigger and brighter than the sun itself. And if you’re like me, you are already looking forward to learning more about her. Without further adieu, I give you the lithe, the lovely Shay Blaze.

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J: Let’s start with something simple. How long have you been performing as a burlesque dancer? And how did you start performing?

S: I’ve been performing burlesque for 5 years now. It all started when a good friend of mine told me about a local audition here in Alabama and I just fell in love with it.

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J: Did you decide on your stage name or was that moniker applied by someone else? Either way, what does that name mean to you?

S: I chose my name after quite a bit of searching. Shay is something I’ve actually been called for years. Blaze came from the energy and passion I have on stage and the bright red hair I have from time to time.

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J: How would you describe your style of performance? Did you develop it over time or did you know what you wanted to do when you started?

S: My performance style is always changing and has evolved so much over the years. There are so many beautiful styles of performance out there and I want to experience all of them. I love to keep my fans guessing and fully entertained.

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J: Before venturing into the world of burlesque, did you have a background in dance, music, theatre, or other performance art?

S: As a child, I always dreamed of being a dancer or a circus performer. I dabbled in pageants early on and found out quickly that I thrive under the spotlight. I actually began with visual art which soon opened the door to makeup and hair styling. Then came fashion which led to cosplay and costume design. Once I discovered burlesque it was all over. I fell head over heels for it. It allows me to enjoy every creative hobby I’ve ever had or wanted all in one place.

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J: When we first met at Alabama Phoenix Festival, you were helping to promote Warehouse 31, one of Birmingham’s premiere haunted houses. Could you tell us more about W31? Do you perform there?

S: I have not performed there actually. I used to do some acting at Sloss Fright Furnace way before I started burlesque. Since then, some of my friends/co-workers from Sloss are now at W31. They are all very wonderful people.

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J: At Phoenix Fest, you did a fantastic job cosplaying Harley Quinn and Tinker Bell. What other characters do you cosplay and would you consider yourself a professional cosplayer?

S: Thank you! Cosplay is a hobby for me. I don’t really consider myself a pro just yet. I do have big plans for Dragon*con particularly this year. I’ve been fortunate enough to work conventions with the amazing artist Patrick Giles. He and I will be representing DC Comics for Dragon this year and I will be premiering a new Harley cosplay along with X-Men’s Emma Frost, and DC’s Black Canary.

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J: What are your favorite parts of performing and cosplaying? Do you have a least favorite part?

S: It’s hard to pick a favorite part honestly. I love everything about both of them from start to finish.

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J: Are there any common misconceptions about burlesque, or cosplay for that matter, that you’d like to clear up for people?

S: Oh boy, I’m not sure where to begin on that subject. Burlesque is a wonderful thing to experience. It differs a lot from what people initially think of when they hear “stripper”. To me, burlesque is beautiful and playful celebration of the body. It has a grand theatrical element that you won’t see anywhere else.

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J: Finally, where can people follow you online? And when and where will we be able to see you onstage?

S: You can keep up with my ever-changing antics and show dates on my website shayblaze.com and of course social media.

https://www.facebook.com/Shandycakess

Instagram: @shandycakess

Or you can come to my next show this Friday June 19th at Das Haus! It’s going to be epic!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1453077718326316/

Doors open at 8pm CST. Show starts at 9pm CST.

Doors open at 8pm CST. Show starts at 9pm CST.

Thanks for sitting down with us, Shay. You’ve been engaging and enlightening as always. Cannot wait to see the new cosplays as well as the performance this Friday. If you’re in the Birmingham area, be sure to come out to Das Haus on Friday night for Shay, a sideshow, and much more. Hope to see you there!

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Author Interview: The Charismatic Kimberly Richardson

For my final author interview this month, I am fortunate enough to have snagged some of the valuable time of the charismatic Kimberly Richardson, my friend and the editor of the Cycle of Ages Saga. Let’s get down to business, Kim. I’m sure the readers out there are eager to learn more about you and your work.

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J:  Judging from our conversations and your stories, you have a vivid imagination. Where do you find the inspiration to fuel this creative fire and turn your wild ideas into amazing stories?

K:  I get inspiration by simply observing the world around me. The world is filled with magick and wonder; all one has to do is simply open your eyes. Even a simple conversation between two people in a coffee shop can inspire an awesome story – several of my stories began that way.

Photo by Kimberly Richardson.

Photo by Kimberly Richardson.

J:  You’ve reached some manner of acclaim in a short period of time as a professional writer. In fact, two of your novels were considered for the Pulitzer list a couple of years ago. Could you tell us more about that experience as well as your other accolades/honors?

K:  Being enlisted for the Pulitzer was quite a learning experience for me; it felt wonderful to know that my work stood a chance to receive such an honour. I do plan to enlist again very soon! I was also a finalist for several awards as well as edited several anthologies that later won awards through certain stories.

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J: Which of your fantastical tales has generated the most feedback from readers? What was their overall response to it?

K:  It is spread across the board; I get feedback from people about everything! Generally, the feedback has been great followed with questions of when my next work will be available. Either that, or they ask me if I’ve ever committed any of the “incidents” that are in my stories. I consider that to be a compliment.

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J:  What writers have influenced you the most? And which of their books are your favorites?

K:  That answer is very, very long but I will say that roughly 100+ writers have influenced me. The list of books is too long as well. I take little bits from those who inspire me and add it to my own mixture. The mixture is always changing and blending to whatever I’m either reading or writing.

J:  If you could talk to any of these writers, living or dead, who would it be, and what would you discuss?

K:  Actually, I really wouldn’t want to speak with any of them, strangely enough. They are in my mind in certain ways and for me to possibly speak with them might shatter that “image”. I know that sounds lame but it is the truth. Let them continue being that certain “thing” in my mind and I’m happy enough.

J:  Doesn’t sound strange to me at all. After having my own mental image of certain celebrities shattered by meeting them in person, I tend to avoid those who have had the deepest impact on me. Nice to know that I’m not the only one who would hate to be disappointed in the humanity of my heroes and idols.

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J:  In addition to writing, do you have any other hobbies or creative pursuits?

K:  Photography, tea blending, traveling, cooking, hiking, mycology, attending ballets, opera and the theatre in general, reading books (of course!).

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J:  Could you tell us more about your experiences as an editor for Dark Oak Press and others? Do you prefer to write your own material or help edit and shape the work of others?

K:  They are equal in my world. When I first began editing for Dark Oak, I wasn’t sure of what I was doing. After many bruises, scrapes, cuss words and failures later, I think I’ve gotten the hang of it. With regards to my work – I still enjoy it. That will never die even as I continue my work as an Editor.

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J:  As a writer and editor, what advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to become published professionals?

K:  Don’t stop, no matter what. I can’t get any more blunt than that.

Photo by Kimberly Richardson.

Photo by Kimberly Richardson.

J:  What project are you working on currently? Without spoiling anything, could you provide us with a snippet from it?

K:  As of now, I’m working through the second round of edits for my Southern Gothic novel, Open A. The novel is about a Memphian named Graydon Fayette who is also a world renowned violinist. He is also a member of a very old family that more than just dabbles in the dark side.

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J:  Do you have any new or upcoming releases that you’d like to promote here?

K:  Open A should be out next year if not sooner. Tales From a Goth Librarian II was released this past February. Both are/will be through Dark Oak Press. I also have a short story called “The Master of Tea” that will be released in Asian Pulp through Pro Se Press this year.

J:  Thanks for sharing, Kim. As always, it’s a pleasure to hear more about you and your passion for writing and editing, as well as your other creative pursuits. I wish you all the best on your upcoming releases. Maybe we’ll be seeing you on the Pulitzer list again soon.

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.