Thursday, January 31, 2019

INTERVIEW: Young Adult Author Dana Burkey

Dana Burkey
Bellingham, WA 

Good morning, Dana, and welcome to Vision and Verse, the site for book and art lovers. Can you tell us a little about what you've written?
Since I started self publishing back in August of 2014 I have published more than a dozen books. My books that are most known are my TNT Force Cheer Series that are the only young adult fiction series about all star cheerleading.

What is your favorite genre to write?
I love writing YA! Even when I was younger and that genre wasn’t really as established like it was now, I was still writing for that age range even if I didn’t quite understand it just yet. I work with kids K-5 every day, and knowing that I can create stories that the older kids can read and take interest in brings me so much joy.

Favorite food.

Tea or coffee?
Coffee! All day every day please! 

Pizza or ice cream?

Wine or beer or soda?
Dr Pepper in the day, but a glass of wine at night would be perfection.

Where would you like to visit?
I would love to go to Chernobyl. One of my books was focused around the 1986 nuclear power plant meltdown in fact, since I’ve been fascinated with the area for years. 

Favorite musical artist.  

Do you listen to music when you write?  What?
I don’t listen to music since it’s hard for me to focus on the lyrics and what I’m writing. But I do like putting on movies in the background. 
It has to be something I’ve seen a few times though so I won’t be tempted to stop and watch the whole thing.

What makes you laugh?
All kinds of things. I’m a fun loving person and like to be silly and crazy often! 

This is an Art AND Author blog, so I am obliged to ask: Favorite work of art or sculpture.
Starry Night

How old were you when you started writing?
Although I wrote for fun when I was as young as elementary school I started seriously self publishing when I was 29.

Do you plan out your book with outlines and notecards? Or just write?
I usually make note cards that have a chapter title or a general idea on the front and details on the back in bullet points. Some books I have actually gone through and made an outline in bullet points for the whole thing before I sit down to write as well.

Describe your perfect evening.
Dinner with friends, followed by relaxing at home with nothing to do. No dishes, no laundry, and no plans that I need to worry about accomplishing. Just time to relax.

Where do you get your inspiration?
I get inspired by the most random things at the most random times. Since I write about all star cheerleading the most though that is a sport and world that I am often inspired by. Also, when I have readers come up to me and let me know they enjoy my books when I am at a cheerleading competition it makes me feel beyond amazing and makes me want to keep writing!

What do you do when you get a writer's block?
If I am in the process of writing a book and I get a block I try to work through it. I just keep writing even if what I am putting on the page is going to be terrible. Often if I can get through the scene I am stuck on then I’ll be good to keep going on to better moments and things. But, if I don’t feel like writing at all sometimes I will go weeks and even months without sitting down to work on a project. This often happens when I get too busy during the all star cheer season when I am attending events and vlogging for my YouTube channel.

Who is your favorite author?
Rick Riordan

Best book you ever read.
So many to choose from! I would say Battle Of The Labyrinth (Rick Riordan), The Host(Stephanie Myers), Ready Player One(Ernest Cline), and The Maze Runner(James Dashner)

Last book you read.
I honestly think it might have been my third read of Ready Player One

What would you do for a living if you weren’t a writer?
I actually work full time in Christian Camping. I am the assistant director in charge of programing for a before and after school program, so I work with about 100 K-5thgraders every day!

Who is the one person who has influenced your personal life the most and why?
I have two! When I was in middle school Mr. Cordon was the first teacher to really put a focus on story writing. His writing prompts were what really continued to grow and build my passion for writing. And then Jon Lundwall who helped me choose full time camping as my career after my first summer working at camp in Ohio. 

If you could sit down and have a conversation with ONE person, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be and why?
I would love to hang out with Grace Helbig. She is my favorite YouTuber and also someone I think I would just get along with. Her brand of comedy is something I love a lot, and just getting to know her process and enjoy a drink with her would be a fabulous day!

What advice would you give someone who aspired to be a writer?
I had a teacher in college once tell us that everyone has a story to tell. That really stuck with me since I found it to be so true. Weather a movie, a book, a poem, or even just speaking everyone has something to share with the world. So, even when it feels scary to put it out there, or like too much work to sit down and write, DO IT! It will be worth it to share the story that is uniquely you. 

Do you have some links for us to follow you?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

ART: The Fabulous Dutch Artist Suzan Drummen

This gorgeous circular artwork is like giant floor jewelry.  I have never seen anything like the work of Dutch artist Suzan Drummen.

Suzan Drummen is a visual arts teacher in the Netherlands.  Some have called her work psychedelic.  The beads, stones, mirrors, etc. are placed loosely on the floor, making them ethereal and very vulnerable to destruction. 

 Side-view of Suzan's work look like giant sundaes with cherries on the top.  The must be viewed from above to get the full effect.

Directly from the Website
From this website you can view many multidisciplinary works in the media of painting, photography, installation and public art. The works are a playful investigation of space, illusion, optical effects and other visual phenomena as part of a broad exploration of visual perception and the limits of beauty. There is an ongoing inquiry into the limits of seduction and repulsion.
The installations for example, are made from crystal, chrome-plated metal, precious stones, mirrors and optical glass. From a distance they appear clear and orderly, yet upon closer inspection, the eyes become disoriented by the many details and visual stimuli. That moment, of being able to take it all in or not, is explored, time and time again. The visual perception is challenged, requisitioned and intensified.

This website features a selection of the work, in chronological order, with the most recent work at the top. 

Thanks to: family, friends, fellow artists, exhibition curators, art advisors, clients, commissioners, architects and those involved in the production and realisation of the works. 

Suzan Drummen

1990 – Present (23 years) Amsterdam
"As an artist I make multidisciplinary works in the media of painting, photography,installation, and public art.  The works are a playful investigation of the space, illusion, optical effects, and other phenomena as a part of a broad exploration of visual perception and the limits of beauty.  There is an ongoing inquiry into the limits of seduction and repulsion.


The installation is a series of  chrome-plated metal, precious stones, mirrors and optical glass. From a distance they appear clear and orderly, yet upon closer inspection, the eyes become disoriented by the many details and visual stimuli. That moment, of being able to take it all in or not is explored, time and time again. The visual perception is challenged, requisitioned and intensified. Once again, none of these are my own. I just want to share the beautiful work of this very talented Dutch artist. 


"Developing my own visual work is the main thing I do, but many other activities such as teaching, being member of art committees and initiate new art projects are so interwoven that I can hardly make a distinction between my activities. It is a great a stream of actions, meetings and findings that fertilize each other immensely."       

                                                                - Suzan

The fabulous Dutch Artist Suzan Drummen uses a very special canvas for her work.  She uses the floor!  She uses crystals, chromed metals, precious stones, mirrors, and faceted optical lens to make large scale murals using complex circular patterns, reminding me of Tibetan sand painting... and the circular written language of Gallifrey.d

*Once again

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

ART BOOK: The New York Dance Project

New York Dance Project

Oh, thrilling! I love it when the words Art and Book come up in 
the same sentence.The New York Dance Project is an artistic 
venture designed to call attention to dance and dancers and 
the extraordinary grace of their bodies. 

This initiative was founded by fashion photographer 

Ken Brower and dancer/photographer Deborah Ory.

These gorgeous photos are part of a collection of fifteen 
featured in a book entitled The Art of DanceThere are many 
more images in the book. Each one of these beautiful photos 
expresses the joy of movement.

Ken and Deborah came up with this idea when they were 

decorating their daughter's bedroom. Their daughter is an 
aspiring ballerina and they wanted artwork of 
contemporary dancers for the walls. But they couldn't find 
what they were looking for, so they decided to photograph 
the dancers themselves.

They contacted a principal dancer from the American Ballet 
Theatre and he agreed.
Soon the word spread and Ken and Deborah began getting 
requests for collaboration with other members of the New York 
Dance community. 

Here is what others are saying:

"Dance lovers, here is your Rodeo Drive shopping spree, your Four Seasons spa day,
your celeb-indulgence wrapped in intoxicating finery. All you need ask yourself is: Do I
prefer my ballerinas in tutus or in ball gowns? Here, the dramatic lighting and compressed
storytelling of a Vogue shoot are paired with gorgeous creatures who seem to be floating,
flying or balanced on nothingness." - The Washington Post

 "A new book from NYC Dance Projects captures the stunning athleticism of ballet."
Self Magazine

"The photos capture the art and athleticism of some of today's best dancers with striking
and intimate portraits." - CNN 

"In The Art of Movement: NYC Dance Project, stars from the world of dance are captured
in evocative poses that sometime suggest weightlessness or even flight. "
 - Photo District News

 "What makes Browar and Ory's photos stand out is that they communicate not just
movement, but interact with the viewer on a personal and emotional level. Their
photographs are now gathered together in a sumptuous new book, The Art of Movement, 
where they have been beautifully reproduced and bound; a worthy frame to enhance their
work. The book's title is a modest one, because the art of movement comes from their
subjects, but it is the art of the photographer which captures it so vividly. Unputdownable."

The book came out last October and can be purchased here: 

Monday, January 28, 2019

BLOG: Ramblings of an Unknown Author, 01/28.19

Dear Gentle Readers,

This week I was named as one of the Top 50 Indies Writers You Need To Be Reading. I can hardly believe it.  I am so pleased, but totally surprised, and deeply honored by Caleb and Linda Prittle, to be included on this list. As you can tell from the title of this blog, even after seven years as an author, I still think of myself of an unknown.   

If you have a minute, maybe you'd like to read about it.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

SCHEDULE: January 28 - February 1, 2019

Mon., Jan. 28 - BLOG:
 Ramblings of an Unknown Author
Tues., Jan. 29 - ART BOOK:
The New York Dance Project
Wed., Jan. 30 - ART:
The Fabulous Work of Dutch Artist
Suzan Drummen
Thurs., Jan. 31 - INTERVIEW:
Young Adult Author Dana Burkey 
Fri., Feb. 1 - BOOK:
The Captain and the Ambassador 
by Carol Ann Kauffman, 
An Excerpt for You

Friday, January 25, 2019

BOOK: The Cat Collier Mystery Short Story Series by Carol Ann Kauffman

Dear Gentle Readers,
The Cat Collier series began with a short story called January Black Ice. It's written in the style of a 1940's first person detective story. It's been called by some of my associates "Mike Hammer meets Nancy Drew." There are many NE Ohio references and local color. The small town where Mary Catherine Collier lives is called Heaton Valley, a reference to one of Niles, Ohio's former names, Heaton's Furnace, named for the founding father of Niles, 
the industrialist James Heaton.

Also mentioned is the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna, Ohio, the Mahoning River, and the beautiful library and post office in downtown Niles.   

This is a serial book series. To understand what's going on and the relationship between these strangers who've band together to form a family of their own, you need to start at the beginning. Here are the first few pages of January Black Ice:

January Black Ice
A Cat Collier Mystery

“Name, please,” asked the unknown polite man in the wrinkled suit at the front desk of the Palazzo Castellano in the heart of beautiful downtown Heaton Valley, Ohio. I looked for a nametag. These guys are always more agreeable when you call them by name. No nametag.
“Mary Catherine Collier.”
“Oh, the obituary writer for the Herald?”
“I thought you’d be…older.” He squinted at me as if I were out of focus.
“I’m here to see Mr. Bittmor,” I answered as quietly as I could, not for his sake but for mine. My head was killing me.
“Do you have an appointment?” He scanned an appointment calendar in front of him. “Collier…Collier.” 
“Would I be here so damn early in the morning on this cold, gray, snow-clogged, icy, miserable day if I didn’t?” I was seriously considering leaping over the counter and choking him. Not a death-grip. I’m not a violent person. Just a little squeeze.
“Shall I take that as a yes?”
“Yes,” I smiled instead of choking him, a much better option I thought, mainly because I still might need his help in the event the cantankerous, old Mr. Detrick Bittmor was less than cooperative.
“Ahh, yes, here you are. ‘Cat’. Mr. Bittmor will see you in the lounge, madam.” He pointed toward the bar. What decent, self-respecting bar is open at seventy-thirty in the morning? And who the hell is madam?
“Madam?” I squealed. “Just what do you think I’m delivery this morning, buddy?” I tried to pull in my bristles, but it wasn’t working. I needed sleep. I needed warmth.
“I have no idea, madam. I’ll bring you some coffee as soon as I ring Mr. Bittmor’s suite.”
“What happened to Fred? I liked Fred.”
“Fred retired. “ 
“Thank you, ur…”
“Rodney,” he answered with a nod and the teeniest smile, making old wrinkly Rodney appear slightly less creepy, for the moment.
“Thank you, Rodney.” I happily strolled into the lounge, found a table where there was enough light for me to see what I was doing, pulled out my notebook and pen, and patiently waited…for the coffee, not so much for Bittmor.

Detrick Bittmor was the city’s oldest living lawyer-turn-recluse. He’d made his fortune defending the good, the bad, and the downright guilty. It didn’t matter to Bittmor. The only thing that mattered was if you could afford him. 
Bittmor lived in the penthouse suite, which occupied the top floor of the Palazzo Castellano Hotel. It overlooked the heart of the once bustling and beautiful city of Heaton Valley, Ohio. Founded in 1806, the city center was set in the middle of Central Park, complete with monuments, statues, and meticulously maintained lush greenness and graceful, curved brick walkways that spread all the way to the Mahoning River. There were two major areas flanking the park, the downtown circular retail section, affectionately called ‘the doughnut’ by the residents, and the Heaton Valley Athletic Club, which housed the convention center, a gym, a restaurant, a smaller, less expensive hotel, a few boutiques, and some little craft shops. 
Detrick Bittmor’s suite was his reward for negotiating a settlement in a case involving the federal government versus hotel owner, the now-deceased Elwin Foster, also known as Boss Foster, and his ring of underage Russian girls who were brought to town on the pretense of participating in a work-study program in hotel management, which turned out to be room and board and sex acts. Rumor had it Bittmor bought the hotel when Foster died, but the owner is listed as a holding company in Canada.
Rodney carried in a tray with white mugs and a pot of coffee. He carefully placed a mug in front of me and poured. It was hot and dark and steamy. I wrapped my cold, stiff fingers around the mug and sipped. Heaven…
I was pulled out of my religious experience by the clomp of Mr. Bittmor and his cane moving slowly but steadily across the wooden floor toward me.
“Cat! Thank you for coming so early in the morning. I wanted some privacy while we discuss my proposal.”
“Ahh, that’s sweet, Mr. Bittmor, but I can’t marry you. We’re both Pisces. That would be four fishes swimming around in opposite directions. We’d never get anything done.”
“No,” he chuckled, clutching his chest, “that’s not what I meant. I have a… matter I wish to discuss with you, something I think you are uniquely qualified to handle. It’s a very personal matter to me and I ask your utmost discretion. And I pay very well.”
“I don’t do anything illegal.”
“I know that. What I’m asking you to do is not outside the legal parameters of the law.”
“Your outside and my outside are two different playgrounds.”
“There a new resident in Heaton Valley, a young man about your age. I need some information on him.”
“That’s it? Sure, I can do that. All I need is his full name and date of birth and I can pull him up on the computer.”
“I do not have that information.”
“You don’t have his birthdate?”
“That’s okay, most of the online databases will work with an estimate. You say he’s about my age? So we’ll go with between twenty-two and twenty-eight, does that sound about right?”
“He’s twenty-four.”
“Okay, twenty-four year old male,” I jotted notes in my notebook. “Name?”
“I believe he is using the alias, Carter Brooks.”
“An alias is probably a dead-end.”
 “He’s been here about a month. He’s working at the drugstore on the corner. He spent Christmas Day on that park bench, looking up at my windows. 
“Maybe he’s homeless. Did you send Rodney out to invite him in for Christmas?”
“Did you at least send him food? It was Christmas, Detrick! You don’t let a guy sit alone and hungry on a park bench in the cold on Christmas Day!”
“I never gave it a thought.  He eats his lunch on that park bench across the street and stares up at my apartment every day.”
“Mr. Bittmor, maybe this poor guy is just looking at the sky. The sky is a gorgeous, vibrant blue in January.  The clouds are beautiful. Wait until February when the sky is as cold and gray as the streets, the buildings, and our dispositions. See if he’s still staring up toward the sky then! Why do you think he’s looking at your penthouse apartment?”
“I’m suddenly very tired, Miss Collier. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.” He held his head and the color seemed to drain right out of him.  “I think I need a nap.”
He attempted to get up. I reached out and touched his arm. “Detrick, I want to help you. But I can’t help you if you’re not honest with me. You know whatever you tell me will be completely confidential.”
“Oh, I know. That’s why I called you. You are trustworthy, and that’s not an adjective I’ve tossed around lightly in my lifetime. Trust and loyalty, Cat, are hard to come by these days. I know whatever I tell you is completely confidential. I can invoke the client and his obituary-writer privilege, you know. Not a word until I die! This is just a delicate subject with me.”
I stared at the old man. He seemed much older than his seventy-two years this morning. But I got up at seven o’clock in the morning and slid my way through the ice and snow to get here, I had a headache, and I needed to buy new snow tires, so I wasn’t letting him off the hook.
“Who do youthinkthis man is, Detrick?”
“I believe he’s my son.”

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