Bobby Mendoza: age 23 dark brown curly hair. Brown eyes 5’10” hundred 80 pounds with a slim physique and a defined six-pack Greek /Latino mixed heritage
KV: who are you?
Bobby: what’s it to you?
KV: drop the attitude, Bob!
Bobby: it’s Bobby, never Bob. Get it right or else!
KV: okay fine, be a jerk. What do you do for a living?
Bobby: I’m a pizza chef. I work for my dippy do-gooder uncle. I hate the job but I get to flirt with the cute ladies know what I mean?
KV: do they let you?
Bobby: mostly, I mean face it, I’m hot! Who could resist this real estate?
KV: what about Halle Greenwood?
KV: the woman you almost raped!
Bobby: oh her, she had it coming. I was being nice and she totally burned me. I had to let her know who was the boss.
KV: did your mom teach you to be this way?
Bobby: you leave my mama out of this!
KV: no Bobby, this is important.
Bobby: fine, she’s weak. She met my dad beat us. She never stood up for me sure she gives me what I want why not take advantage of that.
KV: I bet she’d be ashamed if she knew you were drugging women to have sex with them.
Bobby: I don’t care!
KV: so what are your plans?
Bobby: I’m in a finish what I started with Greenwood. Then I’m going to get the guy who interfered with my little party.
KV: how do you feel about Hollywood?
Bobby: everyone is so freaking phony, they all want something!
KV; sounds a lot like you!
Bobby: don’t ever compare me to them!
KV: or what, you’ll kill me?
Bobby: now there’s an idea I can get behind!
KV: are you prepared to pay the consequences should you get caught?
Bobby: I’m not going to get caught. And if I were you I would watch my back! I’m outta here. Sayonara sucker!
Many authors hold multiple positions in other areas of our lives. However, regardless of how busy we are, nor how many books we have written, it does not change the fact that each time we have a new release we feel the same as any other author exposing themselves to the world for the very first time. Feelings are often are the combination of joy, nervous anticipation, excitement, and a slight element of fear (at least for me). Dellani Oakes is no exception to the rule of a woman with multiple roles; she is a busy wife, mother, Blog Talk Radio host, publisher, and an author. She lives in Florida, grew up in Western Nebraska, has lived in multiple states, and being a people watcher by nature, this has given her the opportunity to gather information over the years for her work.
She’s written multiple novels, but now has a new romance, set to release November 1, 2017, from Tirgearr Publishing, titled – So Much It Hurts. I’m thrilled to say I had the opportunity to interview Dellani about her work and her new novel.
The main character, Pia Donovan, Pia has just moved to the City from a tiny town in Nebraska. Overwhelmed by the fast pace, and after a long day of getting lost in the worst part of the city possible, she finally arrives at her destination, a historic, grand hotel in the downtown area. Picking her way across the rutted ground in front of the building, she loses her balance, practically falling into the arms of Flynn Chancellor. Handsome and friendly, Flynn presents a happy distraction for a girl who’s trying to recover from a broken heart.
1) You have written several novels. Is this your first romance?
Dellani: I have written other straight romances, but this is the first published romance. The others are either romantic suspense or sci-fi.
2) Does Pia resemble anyone you know?
Dellani: She resembles me in several ways. First of all, she’s an academic brat. My father was a college professor. For Pia, it’s her mom. We both grew up in Nebraska, though she’s from the east and I grew up out west. It’s still the small town girl vibe. Also, her musical loves are mine – hands down, exactly like me.
3) Is the protagonist, Pia, a heroine, victim or neither?
Dellani: She is certainly no victim, though she has some hurt in her life. She does suffer a little in the story, but she rises above. I wouldn’t call her a heroine, as there is no real villain. However, she is a strong female lead.
4) When I think of romance, I often think of love stories. Is this a typical love story?
Dellani: It is a love story, with a bit of a surprise. If you’re asking if this follows the standard romance formula, no. But it is a sweet story of loss, love and redemption.
5) I am sure some scenes maybe steamy. How would you rate them, R rated or X?
Dellani: This particular story is very mild. There are some heavy make-out scenes and certain acts are mentioned, but there is no graphic sex in the story. It’s more of an understood thing. Because there are some sensitive people out there, I would give it a light R. It would be appropriate for 17+
6) Being a visual writer (myself), do you have to visualize your scenes. If so, how fun 🙂 but on another note, is it emotionally draining at times being in someone else’s relationship?
Dellani: Yes and yes. I see the scenes play out in detail. I hear them talking in their individual voices, and try to capture their individual styles.
There are times when character’s don’t get along. That’s inevitable. It’s hard when the actions of one character adversely affect another. Sometimes, there’s reparation. Other times, there’s an irreparable split. Those are hard, especially if I really like both characters.
7) I know by nature you are an observer; the material is all around you, but writing romance, is it hard to find good relationships to mimic these days?
Dellani: I don’t really try to mimic any relationships. If anything, their couple dynamic is similar to my own marriage. We’ve been together 35 years and still have fun together. Our style is a little avaunt-garde but it works for us.
8) If you had to tell your audience/readers one thing about this book that you want them to know?
Dellani: Don’t pick it up expecting a “typical romance”. Anyone who knows my work already knows this, but new readers don’t. I have never followed the boy meets girl, boy and girl fight, boy and girl makeup and live horribly ever after. I can’t even imagine people hating one another throughout a book, then realizing they are in love. I give it a year—maybe.
My couples meet, feel a spark and work together against conflict. They resolve their issues and work through them together.
9) Flynn sounds as if he is gorgeous and delightful, but is he a nice person? Don’t answer if it gives away your story 🙂
Dellani: Flynn is a great guy, but he has some baggage that even he doesn’t recognize. He’s learning and growing as a person. I love Flynn. (I love Yancy and Pia as well) 🙂
10) While writing romance is hard to put original spins on twists that are already out there and make them your own?
Dellani: Yes, it can be. People have certain expectations for romance, which I don’t give them. I do my best to find ways to bring my characters closer, not drive them apart. Not to say they don’t have problems, but at least they try. Finding a new spin isn’t easy, but I hope I still deliver a good story.
11) Greenlee honestly could have been any kid, in any town, anywhere in America. Could Pia be any woman, anywhere, in any small town or is she special?
Dellani: She’s very universal, in my eyes. Although she is a musician, she could be anyone, anywhere—a displaced small town girl in the big city. I love that she’s like that, but retains her individuality – just as Greenlee did. (I love her)
12) Who is your favorite character in this book, and why?
Dellani: I love all my leads, but as far as favorite – I’m gonna have to go with Oz. He’s not a major character, but he is pivotal. Oz is special, a young man with Asperger’s, who lives down the hall from Pia. He is fiercely loyal, intuitive and sees into a person with a great clarity. He talks to Pia about seeing the pattern. At first, she’s not quite sure, but when she sings for a group of the residents, she sees it quite clearly. Glancing at Oz, she realizes that he knows what she’s seeing. It’s a cool moment.
13) What would you tell your fans excites you about this release?
Dellani: I love this book! I fell in love with the characters, I love the plot twists and I can’t wait for it to be out so that they can enjoy it too.
14) Did you learn anything about your self while writing this piece?
Dellani: Yes, I learned that I’m very sarcastic and have bizarre sense of humor. Oh wait, I knew that already. Let’s say that the dialogue made that abundantly clear.
15) I cannot go back and reread my pieces for a long time. I would change too many things (it is a personal author/writer thing). Now your new book is ready for release, is there a single thing you would have written differently and will you ever go back and rewrite it?
Dellani: Usually, I’m the same way. I read my books later and find things I’d change. This time, I can’t say that. I am really pleased with how this came out. Of course, five years from now, I might feel differently, but right now, no.
16) Will you write a sequel to this piece?
Dellani: I’m not sure about a sequel. It’s possible, but I think I tied up the loose threads successfully. However, I’m very likely to bring these characters into other books set in the same city. There are a few incidental characters that the three core characters encounter, who are featured in other of my books (which aren’t published yet).
17) Is there an element of mystery to this romance?
Dellani: For once, there is no real mystery involved. Since I mostly write romantic suspense, I thought it would be interesting to break away from that for once. I think I was successful.
18) How do you define success as an author?
Dellani: If I get positive feedback from readers, I feel I’ve been successful. I would love to be the writer making millions (who wouldn’t?) but I’m realistic. Those contracts are rare. If I make even one reader laugh, cry or sweat, I have done my job.
19) Define the best makebelieve day as a writer?
Dellani: My best makebelieve day would be to have a movie company call me up and tell me they want to turn one of my books into a movie and I can pick the leads.
20) If you could speak to a stadium full of Dellani Oakes fans about this book, what is the very first thing you would say after the initial introduction?
Dellani: I think I’d channel comedienne Minnie Pearl. I’d walk onto the stage in a big, flowered hat, wave my hand and say, “Howdy!” Once I had everyone laughing, then I’d start to talk.
“You weren’t kidding about how close it all is. I’ll have to explore Making Music soon. I can’t go long without a fix.”
“We can go in now, if you want.” He turned to face the store.
The front window was filled with shiny saxophones, sparkling flutes, and tantalizing objects Flynn couldn’t name. It caught his artist’s eye, drawing him in.
“Today’s goal is campus.”
“As the lady wishes.” He swung her around to face the way they’d been going. “I should see if they’ll let me do a camo piece there. I could have fun with all the shiny objects. Matching things like metal and leather is tricky.”
“I imagine so. The textures and the way it catches the light. And suede versus tanned hide would be an additional challenge.”
“You must have taken painting classes.”
“A few. Mom thought we should all have a well-rounded education. Her granddad was an artist in Mexico. Quite well known. Maybe you know the name. Rafael Dominguez?”
Flynn stopped in his tracks. “No! Really? Shit!” His hand flew to his head, searching for a cap that wasn’t there. He grasped his hair instead. “I am the hugest fan of his work. My first copies were of his Santa Rosada Sitting. The colors are so hard to match, I couldn’t do it justice. It’s phenomenal.”
Pia’s eyes watered and she sniffled. “That was my great-grandmother. He painted that of her just before she died.”
“The play of light…the textures…his use of bold colors. It just leapt off the canvas. Incredible! Is it true he made his own paints?”
“Yes. Mom even has some containers of his original paints. Would you believe, they’re still good? We don’t use them, of course, but Mom has his recipes. Virtually unintelligible, though. We’re hoping someone will be able to read through them and figure them out. He used a very bizarre shorthand, since he couldn’t read or write.”
Flynn dug his hands into his pockets, biting his lower lip. “I need a project for my final semester. I chose the work of Rafael Dominguez. Do you have copies of the notes, or could you get them? Because I would be honored to try to translate them.”
“I do! Well, Mom does. We loaned the originals to a museum, along with some of his paintings, and sketches. They scanned them for us and put them in a display case. I can make that happen.”
Swept away by the moment, Flynn grabbed her face and kissed her. It was brash and impulsive, but he didn’t even think. As soon as he realized what he was doing, he considered stopping, but Pia took his face in her hands and kissed him back. From there, it took on a life of its own and he couldn’t stop. Sighing contentedly, Pia disengaged and smiled up at him.
“Unexpected,” she murmured. “Nice.”
“I’m sorry. I got carried away…”
“Don’t apologize unless I rack your balls.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He pulled her close, resting his forehead against hers. “Does that mean I can hope for another?”
“We’ll see.” She cut her eyes at him, grinning. Swishing away, she walked down the street.
JD Holiday is another driving force behind Cereal Authors and has been in the group since its inception. Author and illustrator of children’s books, she has created lovable characters for readers of all ages.
Author and illustrator, J.D. Holiday is the author of four children’s books: Janoose the Goose and the sequel Ganoose and the Fall Feather Fair, The Spy Game, and a chapter book for six to nine-year-olds, The Great Snowball Escapade: and for adults, a collection of short stories, stories and imaginings for the reading spot. She has written a variety of short stories and articles.
Have you ever, over the years, lost yourself in a certain piece (novel) to such a degree your family, friends, and even YOU, didn’t recognize yourself, and if so was it worth it?
Yes. It was a romance that now, 45 years later, I can’t remember the title though the author was Janet Dailey. I do remember the story itself. I couldn’t cope with life at the time; family deaths, oppressive in-laws who we had to live with for a time. My husband considered that reading was all I did. While reading this one book I cried my heart out and wished I could be living the heiress’ life, or anybody elses life for that matter. I guess, in hindsight it might have given my husband some insight that I was not coping with his family after the deaths of my parents.
Describe your Muse and the working relationship you share.
I don’t have a muse that I know of. All my inspiration comes from my wonderful childhood. Oh, it wasn’t all roses, but it was fun. Every one of my stories comes from it.
How long does it take you to write and illustrate a book?
That always depends on what is going on around me. Most of my stories I wrote years ago, but I think most of them took a few months to write and even up to eight months for the longer stories. My book, The Great Snowball Escapade, is a chapter book for 6 to 9 year olds which I wrote in 1989. The illustrations took about 6 months fitting them in around my family, work, cooking and pets who all come first.
If you had to start your writing career over would you do anything differently?
I would have started self-publishing years before I did.
What are your publishing goals? Meaning: Would you like to become a bestseller or just make a comfortable living at it?
Yes, I always wanted to make money from my books and maybe have a movie made of one. I still could happen! Really!
What does your favorite book say to you? What do you feel it might say to someone else?
My favorite book is To Kill A Mockingbird. It has taught me how race differences are only skin color. No more. It shows you there will always be bad people and good people, and that you can be a good one. This story should say the same to everyone else who reads it, if they are on honest with themselves and no matter what race they are.
What makes you laugh or cry?
I laugh a lot when my family is around. We always find things to laugh about, even if hard times.
The state of my country makes my cry. I haven’t felt this sorrow in years.
An Interview with Author and Illustrator, Cheryl Johnson
A recipient of the Mom’s Choice Award, the 10th of October, 2014 marked the day when Cheryl was awarded the seal of excellence for her first three books. It meant that her first three stories passed a rigorous panel of judges who evaluate both the stories themselves and the illustrations. As a non-traditional aged student starting art college at 38 years old, going to school was certainly a challenge. Cheryl was a single parent of four children, worked as a cake decorator in a local family bakery and commuted over an hour each way to the city of Portland to work. Working hard it took seven long years to get her degree in Fine Arts, with a minor in Art History from MECA, Maine College of Art. Today, Cheryl has published many children’s stories and illustrated others for authors.
Hi Cheryl! So glad you could do this interview with me!
Cheryl, what circumstances inspired you to pursue your art?
Well, I was interested in drawing from a very tender age-about 2 or 3.I drew television sets with rabbit ear antennas and UFO space ships on the floral papered walls of our dining room. It didn’t get appreciated.
That’s one of my first memories of drawing. I ALWAYS loved to color and by the time I was ten,I was drawing for hours at a time. I made home made books in the 5th and 6th grade with my friends as characters.
At 15 I was convinced I would be a female Leonardo Da Vinci when I grew up.
Drawing what was in my imagination was a way to control something,create my own world. It was an escape from a chaotic home life. It was an addiction,along with music I loved that kept me from using drugs or alcohol as a teen.
I loved the idea of creating my own stories from preteen. Again,it was a way of controlling my world. I was a loner as a child and spent a lot of time walking in our woods or fields,talking to myself and spinning fantasies in a force field that surrounded me.
What drew me to writing mostly for children is the freedom. I get to write from what I still connect to,I remember everything about my childhood and myself.I remember reading fairy tales and books like Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time and they fed my imagination. I love writing children’s stories because I can really run with them.
To me, it feels as though they have no rules or boundaries in imagination. I can make snails play the guitar and mushrooms bounce.
How have you come up with the characters in the books?
Oh my gosh. I think of new characters every day. When I walk my three miles,it seems to unleash a lot of creativity in me.That’s how I came up with my Cloud Hill book.It rushed at me from the universe-the whole story and 8 days later I had it up on Createspace published.
Tell us about your characters, Mish, Chonk, Sidley, Snee, Pobkin and their relationship, if any?
My characters of Mish,Sid,Chonk just started to grown from one little story about 35 years ago.Now I have a head FULL of additional characters waiting to see the light of day. The latest addition is Brax-a very small mushroom man who came from the “bad side of the forest”. I am introducing two not so savory mushroom men named Malvin,the leader and his side kick Grut. I LOVE drawing these guys.They have rubber faces. It’s hard to stop coming up with more ideas for stories. I don’t even try to stop the flow. Cheryl, you are the recipient of the Mom’s Choice Award! Where in you home does is the award displayed?
I was a nobody. But now, I can use sites like Createspace to self publish and I’m THRILLED.
My original goal as a writer and an artist was to hold a book in my hands that I actually published. I have done almost 20 now. It is the most gratifying accomplishment in my career to date,and I am just getting started. I published Mish #1 in Oct 2013. I intend to surpass Dr.Suess in quantity by 2017. Hopefully there will be a best seller in there somewhere.
What mediums do you work in?
I draw for my children’s books exclusively with my Wacom tablet. I used to use Prisma markers but once I was introduced to digital art,I was hooked. It is without waste,or limits.I feel as though I was gifted a magic wand 3 years ago and thank heaven EVERY day!
You were a single parent of four children working as a cake decorator in a bakery and commuted over an hour each way to work and it took seven years to get your Art degree. What drove you?
Story by Susan Darling
Yes it took 7 years to get my degree. I LOVED college,but it took it’s toll on my children and myself. I was diagnosed with cancer shortly after graduation in 2000 and had to take deferments on my college loan.It’s been a night mare but that’s another story.I started self publishing as a way to use my talents to try and make enough to pay back my loans. Although I have sold over 1100 books,it’s a far cry from being solvent. I will not give up hope though.
Was there any particular children’s author or authors who influenced you?
I was influenced by several children’s book artists. They are Maraja,Nardini and Addrienne Segur. I have my childhood books still with their fabulous artwork in them. They are very precious to me.
My advice to other aspiring authors or illustrators is to love what you do.
I paint a lot of traditional commission work to pay the bills but I make sure I spend a fair amount of time focusing on what I love.
I can’t stress enough that you have to be passionate about your work.It’s what keeps you going when no one is watching or paying you.
I am working on about 4 books right now, of my own-one is Brax The Little Rebel.I have a chapter book waiting to finish called Steven’s Visit. I have an autobiography called Cheryl’s London Summer of ’73. I’m working on my own adult coloring book,which will probably take me to 2020. I also do artwork for other authors and that keeps me busy at times. Where can people find your artwork?
For writers who wish to learn more about penning and publishing personal essays for Chicken Soup for the Soul and other anthologies, classes are now forming at Coffee House for Writers (coffeehouseforwriters.com). Author Linda O’Connell is the instructor.
Linda is a former teacher and a multi-published freelance writer who has contributed to 24 Chicken Soup for the Soul books and many other anthologies. She also created an anthology, Not Your Mother’s Book on Family (along with the editors and publishers of Publishing Syndicate). Linda’s inspirational essays and prose have been widely published in regional, national, and international markets. One of her heartfelt personal essays was published in singer Gloria Gaynor’s anthology, We Will Survive, which is based on her #1 hit song, “I Will Survive.”
Here’s what other writers have to say about Linda’s brand of writing instruction:
“Linda, aka the Queen of Chicken Soup for the Soul Books, will be teaching the fine art of essay writing and I can’t think of anyone better suited for the task. If you’ve been trying and trying and trying to get your essays published, try taking this class. I promise you’ll improve with Linda leading the way to publication.” ~ Cathy C. Hall
“I’ve seen Linda―in a matter of minutes―deftly rearrange someone’s essay, along with giving suggestions on how to rework the beginning and end. And it’s all doled out as suggestions and padded with praise.” ~ Sioux Roslawski
I caught up with Linda to ask a few questions about her upcoming course. Here’s what she had to say:
1) You’ve been a teacher for a long time. Why did you decide to also become an online writing instructor?
Jennifer Brown Banks contacted me and invited me to join her team of professionals. Years ago I read her article in a writing magazine about breaking the rules. I took her advice and became a successful freelance writer. We have followed each other’s blogs ever since. I find it rewarding and fulfilling to help others find a way to publication. This is an ideal position for me.
2) Information at Coffee House for Writers states that students will submit one piece of writing to you for feedback and guidance. Can you provide a few more details about the class?
Students will submit one personal essay which we will work on together. Enrollment began May 1st, and classes are forming now. I look forward to having a full class of 15 students. My class interaction will be on an as-needed basis, so we will work around schedules.
4) How fast can students expect to receive feedback on their rough drafts after they’ve submitted them to you?
I enjoy editing, critiquing, and revising, so the turnaround should be fairly quick. I co-created an anthology, Not Your Mother’s Book on Family, and I found working with contributors enjoyable.
5) Will you make other suggestions not related to Chicken Soup for the Soul if an author has a different market in mind for his or her personal essay?
I intend to help students develop essays that are publishable. A Chicken Soup-type story has a certain formula and is marketable elsewhere. I do intend to suggest other personal essay markets. Everyone is always seeking more markets.
6) Do you have a story coming up soon in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book?
My latest story is about the horrific 9/11 event, which happened when I was in school. When no one knew what to say or do, I provided a way for the students to express their emotions. My story, “The Feelings Flag,” will be released June 7th in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America. I have stories in 24 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I submit regularly.
Thank you for this interview. I look forward to helping other writers develop marketable stories.
The moment Lora Mitchell sets foot on the stimulating, exciting rich land of culture, concrete and skyscrapers, it’s an immediate love affair. Walk with her down the streets of the early 1960’s as she paints a captivating picture of the spirit of the city, the landscape, its people, different neighborhoods and certain ethnic foods, which puzzle her. A desire to begin a theatrical career, young, naive, unsophisticated, Lora moves into the Rehearsal Club, a safe-haven sanctuary for young, aspiring actresses model where she lives for two years. During that time, she experiences the heartbreaking JFK tragedy and travels with four other Club members to Washington, DC for the funeral.
Lora began a second career as a published writer. Lora won 1st prize for her poem in an anthology titled: LOVE IN NEW YORK and enjoys writing Flash Fiction short stories in the eBook titled: MISTY BLUE. Her eBook II is titled: TIME SPEAKS. (Both eBooks are collections of 100-Word Flash Fiction Short Stories).
Based on a personal journal and a 30-yr. career as a SAG/AFTRA/AEA actress/model,THE BROWNSTONE ON WEST 53RD STREET: Rehearsal Club Memoir, Lora writes of her studies with famous drama and dance teachers, including anecdotes of her Club housemates, celebrities and male friends. She also reveals poignant secrets of her closest roommates and how they affected her in a way she never expected. Lora also has short stories and poems in books/ anthologies titled: TREASURED MEMORIES, ROCKIN’ CHAIR COWBOYS, SWEET DREAM MAKERS, FLASH FICTION (1 photo, 50 Authors, 100 Words), plus 2 pieces in the book SIX-WORD MEMOIRS ON LOVE AND HEARTBREAK. Another 6-word memoir was published in AARP’s MODERN MATURITY MAGAZINE. Lora has several future writing projects. Lora also won 2nd prize for a flash fiction children’s short story titled: LITTLE CHICK. Hi Lora, Thank you so much for doing this interview! I admire you greatly! I read THE BROWNSTONE ON WEST 53RD STREET: Rehearsal Club Memoir, which I LOVE. Your stories are heart warming and took me back to a time in my own life that at the time I never thought I would miss.
Tell us more about your professional acting, singing and modeling career.
Where do I begin? Like most kids, living in a small town, I did not grow up wanting a professional career…didn’t even know what that was. I had no idea what I wanted to be or do. It was really a fluke how my career began. After high school, I acquired a secretarial job in a nearby city and lived at the residential YWCA; a place I loved. One weekend, in the community kitchen, I met the most striking female I had ever seen. More beautiful than all the gorgeous Hollywood movie stars I had long admired. Long, shoulder-length blond hair, peachy skin, sandals, Daisy-Mae, cut off short jeans and blouse tied at the waist. No makeup or fingernail polish. She took my breath away. We chatted and became fast friends. I soon learned that she was not only a busy model and famous Breck girl but the local beauty pageant winner who competed in the Ms. America contest. Was I impressed? You bet. I have no idea what she saw in me sitting there eating my burger …but she obviously did because in a few days, she took it upon herself to spend time with this average-looking secretary…and transformed her into someone I didn’t recognize. She worked on me every day… after work and on weekends. I thought it was fun girly stuff, but she had an ulterior motive which I was not privy to at the time. Makeup lessons, hair-coloring from drab brown to blonde, modeling poses, manicures and wardrobe shopping which included a demure one-piece bathing suit. I soon learned she was recruiting girls for the next local beauty pageant and set her eyes on me. Terrified, I balked. Except for singing a simple duet in the high school variety show, I had no formal training, so she gave me a few lessons. How did I ever get the nerve to go on? But I did and became 1st runner-up. That led to various modeling jobs and singing on weekends with a local band. I was so excited and hooked on this new career, my boyfriend at the time, horrified by the attention I was getting, broke off with me. A week or so after the pageant, my beautiful, generous mentor married her sweetheart and moved to another state. I never saw her again. About a year or two later, I moved to another city, auditioned for summer-stock and appeared in a series of musicals. At the end of the season, the musical director from New York told me I was wasting my talent in that small city and recommended that I move to New York City to pursue a career. And that’s exactly what I did. I studied with top acting teachers, famous dance teachers, etc. and began auditioning and working professionally.
What were some of the pitfalls you ran into in your acting career? I was aware of the pitfalls from the very beginning and managed to shield myself by being instinctive, intuitive and alert, but there were two incidents that caught me off guard. I managed to escape each incident with my pride, reputation and dignity intact.
Early on in my career, the first one was an upsetting episode with a middle-aged, crude, cigar-chopping, summer stock Actors Equity producer who fooled me into believing I was cast and signed to principal and secondary roles. But upon reading the contract more closely, I learned I was to be a non-salaried apprentice. When I asked about housing accommodations, he told me there was no ample housing for the entire cast, so I would be rooming with him !!! Trembling, I shredded the contract in his presence, walked out and took a taxi to Actors Equity to report him. The second incident was later in my career, after I was long established in the business, when a well-known casting director foolishly tried the casting couch bit in his office. I say foolish, because he was in business with the man I was currently dating and there would have been serious repercussions had I reported his behavior. However, I did report both men to Actors Equity.
Is there any advice you would give to young people who want to go into acting?
First of all, don’t be in a hurry. Get a well-rounded education. Participate in school and local productions. But most of all… be alive. See, feel, hear, touch and observe everything around you…expand your mind, because if you are self-involved, self-centered, selfish and narrow-minded, you will fail as an actor. Study with the best teachers and coaches available. Read their books on acting. Socialize with working actors. Don’t hang around negative actors who pipedream and talk big, but never work, because the minute you start working and building credible credits, they will despise you. Final word. Always listen to that small voice inside you and you will never go wrong.
When did you realize you had stories to tell?
Probably during or after therapy…when I got clarity and realized what I had lived through.
As a singer, I was first interested in lyrics. I joined a songwriter’s workshop which was comprised of lyricists and young composers. It was exciting and thrilling the first time I heard my simple lyrical poem set to music. We then took the music into a studio, hired a singer and made a demo. About the same time, a neighbor/friend told me he was collecting short poems about love for an anthology he was publishing and asked if I would like to send him something. I submitted a simple ditty and forgot about it until I received a copy of the book titled: “Love in New York” with an invitation to the book reading and award banquet. To my amazement, my simple, little ditty won First Prize. Long out-of-print, I still have my copy…ragged that it is. I went back to my acting career, wrote and produced a few plays. When family tragedies interrupted my art, I did not attempt to write again until 2008, nine years later.
I’m a short story writer myself.Why did you decide to write short stories? It all happened with Facebook. Larry Smith posted something about a book he was publishing, seeking 6-word memoirs. I submitted a few. He chose two … a 3-word memoir and a 6-word memoir and published it in his book titled: Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak (by writers famous and obscure). I then submitted a 6-word memoir to AARP’s magazine, which was also was published. About the same time, a FB member mentioned an on-line writing group called Friday Fictioneers. Writers from all over the world submitted 100-Word Flash Fiction Short Stories based on the same photo prompt. Eventually, I gathered my stories and put them into two eBooks for Amazon.com. Then a woman/writer from Texas posted…asking for short stories for her short story anthology. I submitted one or two and she accepted them. She then requested add’l short stories for her next book and published those as well. I realized how much I loved writing short stories.
On the set of Blondes Prefer Gentlemen, filmed at the Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md. The cinamaphotographer is lighting me for my close up
Do most of your stories convey themes or messages?
I’m aware that I do convey themes and messages in my Flash Fiction Short Stories.
What were some of the pitfalls you ran into in your writing career?
None so far. Probably because I am self-publishing.
Tell us about your books TIME SPEAKS, MISTY BLUE and THE BROWNSTONE ON WEST 53RD ST. (REHEARSAL CLUB MEMOIR)?
MISTY BLUE is my first eBook, A collection of the 100-word Flash Fiction Short Stories I wrote for Friday Fictioneers. Most stories are inspirational in nature.
TIME SPEAKS is my second eBook. Another collection of 100-word Flash Fiction Short Stories. A few stories are extracted from Friday Fictioneers but most are original. Many are memory pieces based on my life, career and people I have known.
THE BROWNSTONE ON WEST 53RD STREET (REHEARSAL CLUB MEMOIR)
BROWNSTONE is based on a personal journal I kept while living at the Rehearsal Club for 2 years; a safe-haven for young aspiring actresses.
When I first arrive in my adopted city, NYC, I invite the reader to walk down the path with me as I discover its wonders and begin a theatrical career. I include anecdotes of my famous teachers, celebrities, male friends, Club housemates and close roommates.
What other writing credits do you have
SHORT STORIES published in the following collections and anthologies:
TREASURED MEMORIES – Short story anthology
ROCKIN’ CHAIR COWBOYS – Short story anthology
FLASH FICTION (1 Photo, 50 Authors, 100-Words SIX-WORD MEMOIRS ON LOVE AND HEARTBREAK (2 Pieces)
SHORT STORY TITLED: “THE SHACK” – Smith Magazine (On-line)
Was there any particular book or author who influenced you?
Being an avid reader, I would say several but I’d like to single out the Pulitzer Prize winner (1996), New York Times national correspondent, Rick Bragg and his heartfelt memoir titled: All Over but the Shoutin.’
Lora with Joltin’ Joe. Yankee slugger, Joe D’Maggio
while filming the Bowery Savings Bank TV commercial together
What authors or type of books do you read?
I love history. For a time, I was reading anything and everything I could on WWII. A recent favorite was Quiet Hero (Secrets from my Father’s (WWII) Past) by Rita Cosby.
In the late 60’s, I read the epic: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich from cover to cover. I read the bestseller: Nicholas and Alexandra … about the reign and life of the Russian Czar and never forgot it. Time willing, I would like to re-read it.
I also love re-reading the classics, such as: Wuthering Heights, Gatsby, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, To Kill a Mockingbird, Letter from an Unknown Woman, etc. I recently re-read Steinbeck’s masterpiece, “East of Eden.”
Are you writing now?
Yes, I am writing the sequel to Brownstone.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would not give her any advice. I would wipe her tears, give her a huge hug and thank her for being brave and staying strong against all the odds and struggles that faced her along a difficult, frightening and lonely journey. I would thank her for keeping her faith, morals and ethics and most of all, staying true to herself and always listening to that little voice inside her.
Sweet, Lora! Thank you so much, Lora for coming on my blog and thank you for the signed
copy of THE BROWNSTONE ON WEST 53RD STREET: Rehearsal Club Memoir. As I say, loved it!
THE BROWNSTONE ON WEST 53RD STREET: Rehearsal Club Memoir
A self proclaimed wise-ass, Award Winning Author, Jeff Lee IS ALSO Jeff worked for more than thirty years as a copywriter and creative director for some of the advertising industry’s most recognizable agencies, winning numerous awards for his creativity. His books are full of Humor, Comedy, Crime, Murder, Mystery and contains some of the most hysterical sex scenes ever written.an award-winning writer of humorous ads andcommercials. A former Army cook who is still considered deadly with a spatula. And, YES, a wise-ass who, one of these days, is going to get his.
Hi Jeff! Thank you for being on my blog today.
The advertising business is a high pressure job. How did that prepare you for writing books?
I spent more than forty years writing humorous ads, commercials, outdoor boards and Lord knows what else. And, it was a great training ground for what I do now. I learned how to work against the pressure of a deadline; how to be funny on command; how to make sure that each and every word works – in other words, how to write without a lot of fat. I also learned how to defend myself and my work to people who either didn’t get it, or wanted it written their way. In short, working as an advertising copywriter taught me how to write fast, be really good at working with words, funny as hell and fearless when it comes to my work.
What brought you to the point where you decided to write books?
Every copywriter I ever knew had a desk drawer or a carton at home, stuffed to overflowing with short stories, plays, novels and screenplays they’d written, and I was no exception. Being a copywriter, winning a lot of silly awards and then becoming a creative director made me hungry to write my own stuff. To tell my own stories. If you’re a copywriter, sooner or later, you find you want – make that, you have – to paint on a larger canvas.
Early on, what author or authors influenced you?
I was a voracious reader; used to devour books. So, my list of favorite authors could probably fill pages. But here are the ones that come to mind first. Top of the list has to be William Goldman; the man is the god of putting characters, words and stories together. Among other things, he’s responsible for writing Boys and Girls Together, Magic, Marathon Man, No Way To Treat a Lady, Soldier in the Rain, Harper, and probably twenty other books, INCLUDING The Princess Bride. Plus the screenplays for any of these that became movies, along with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He’s also rumored to have script doctored Goodwill Hunting. ‘Nuff said. Other writers? Let’s see. Anything by Michener. Joe Heller. Leon Uris. James Clavell. Yes, even Ian Fleming. John Fowles. Dan Greenberg. Ludlum. Trevanian. Raymond Chandler. Dashiel Hammet. Faulkner. Michael Crichton. Some Hemingway. And God knows, there’s a lot more. Looking at the list, I’m obviously a sucker for great characters and a good story, told extremely well.
Does being a wise-ass pay off?
In what way? As a copywriter, it earned me a shelf full of silly awards for my alleged creativity, as well as the raises and promotions that went along with them. As a novelist, it might not have earned me much money yet. But my wise-ass nature has earned my books nothing but 4 and 5-star reviews, with pretty hard-boiled reviewers gushing about how funny my books were, and how they can’t wait for the next one to come out. And I’ve got to tell you, reading a 5-star review from someone who’s laughing so hard they can’t type is so damn gratifying it puts a nice warm glow on a meager sales day.
Are there parts of your life that are in your stories?
Not really. That’s the way the guys at Witness Protection want it. So, who am I to argue?
How did your story, Chump Change, which is about “Fish” Fishbein,” a bounty hunter and repo guy in La-La Land come about?
Hair of the Dog, the second book in my Adventures in La-La Land series had been out for about six months or so and was getting all 4 and 5-star reviews. Then my publisher announced they were going out of business. Which royally pissed me off and left me wondering if I even wanted to write another book again. About six months after that, all of a sudden, I was hungry to write another book for the series. And this time around, I got really ambitious. It was going to feature four times as many villains, a lot more murders and be funny as Hell. Then the thought occurred to me, what would happen if someone stole a small fortune in small change? Like, an armored car full of quarters. Which would be almost what the city of Los Angeles used to rake in from their parking meter racket. The rest is history. By the time I finished the first draft I had a gang of un-wise guys; a corrupt televangelist and fledgling porn producer; his wife and co-minister, who was nuts about winning toddler beauty pageants; her brother, the city of L.A.’s Parking Meter Czar; a defrocked talent agent; a porn shoot gone hysterically off the rails; a marching band full of naked Roman zombies; and a porn star who talked like Colonel Klink from Hogan’s Heroes. Oh, and a slow-speed freeway chase involving a repo’ed Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile and the armed and dangerous deadbeat who owned it. But please, don’t give away the surprise middle.
Tell us about, The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour?
A dozen or so years ago, I had a partner and we owned a small ad agency. One of our clients was this huge association for trailer and RV oowners. It was like the triple A, but with a social side. I used to love to sit with the executive director and hear stories about some of the shenanigans that went on at their yearly member jamborees and conventions. I mean, nothing could fire up a night of X-rated hootin’ and hollerin’ like a heavy storm, a rain-soaked field stuffed with a couple of thousand RV’s and trailers, hundreds of liquored-up WWII and Korean War vets, and thigh-high mud. Which started me thinking up a story about three BFF’s, a humongous RV, gallons of Chardonnay and a magical mystery tour around the western US. Along with a quest to find the perfect place to bury the body of the waste-of-skin boyfriend of one of them, who’s frozen solid and stuck in a big freezer in the belly of the rig.
Do your books usually convey a theme or message?
Not really, other than L.A. can be a hugely entertaining and funny place in which to live. And, if you think your life is a couple of clicks past nuts, check out what Fish Fishbein, my series MC has to deal with on a daily basis throughout the Adventures in La-La Land series.
Writing a book is one thing, when did you start looking to get your work published?
I finished the first draft of The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour during the summer of 2005. Then I started sending out query letters to every literary agent I could find. Six years later, I had amassed a collection of more than 500 rejection letters. Most were form letters saying, thanks, but I don’t work in your genre; or, I only represent non-fiction; or, I love your book, but don’t know any editors who work with comedy; or, you’ve got such a unique voice that I don’t have a clue how to sell you, or to whom. And, that doesn’t include the hundreds of others, who never bothered responding in the first place. So, in 2011, I said the hell with the “publishing” industry and put my book up on Amazon, as an eBook.
What was your ambition for your writing career to start with and what is it now?
There are two things I’m extremely good at and passionate about: cooking and writing. And there’s no way in Hell I’m ever going to open a restaurant. I mean, that way lies madness. I love to write and keep people entertained. That’s my ambition. The more, the merrier.
Who do you read?
Funny, between first drafts and a ton of editing, then all the administrative foo-fah that goes into constantly marketing and supporting my work, I don’t even have time to catch a bad reality series on TV, let alone read. The last book I read was several months ago, titled MASTERED. It was written by K. L. Silver, a very good friend of mine, who’s a damn good writer and works primarily in erotica. Aside from my own work (I do dozens of polish drafts before I publish anything), that’s the list. And here you probably thought that being a writer was all about A-list parties, hanging out with other celebs and either getting hammered with Capote and Hemingway, or tearing across the country with Kerouac in a hot sedan full of blondes, burgundy and benzedrine. As if…
What advice would you give to your younger self?
1. Sit up straight, clean your plate…and keep your eyes and ears open. Because you never know where or when you’re going to see something or hear a line you’re going to want to use in a book.
2. Don’t write to please other people. The world already has plenty of Ian Flemings, Steven Kings, Woody Allens and Ludlums. And it doesn’t need – or want – another one. Find your own voice, your own unique way of telling a story. And once you’ve found your voice, never, under any circumstances, let it go.
3. Pay special attention to anyone who’s ever pissed you off, let you down, made you feel crummy about yourself, turned you down for a date, or given you an STD. Because as a writer, you’ll get to have the last word and the last laugh. I’ve written four books and am working on my fifth. So far, I’ve murdered an ex-professor who hated my guts and a former close friend who tried to rip me off, and made countless horses’ patoots out of other former friends, dates, bosses, drill sergeants and even a relative or two. Lemme tell you, it’s good to be the king.
Jeff, you have two other books, what is happening with them and will readers get a chance to read them?
When my publisher went out of business, I had two books with them, which were selling on Amazon. Hair of the Dog and Bird Boy. Since the publisher had put them up, their Amazon pages immediately disappeared, along with their pages on GoodReads and every other online EBook seller. I’ve gotten the rights back to both books, and in my spare time, I’m getting them in shape to re-publish. This time around, I’ll be self publishing them.
What are you writing now?
I’m about 20,000 words into the first draft of Fish Fishbein’s next big Adventure in La-La Land. Since he and his two assistants are heavily tattooed Harley riders, the best place for them to find a murder victim has to be in the middle of the biggest, loudest, druken-est biker rally on the planet. Yup, fasten your seatbelts. The boys are off to Sturgis.