Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Second Empress - A Novel of Napolean's Court from Author Michelle Moran

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

Q&A about the novel The Second Empress:

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

Q: What inspired you to write THE SECOND EMPRESS?
I knew I wanted to write something that would chronologically follow my fourth book, MADAME TUSSAUD. Toward the end of TUSSAUD, the narrator is imprisoned with a woman named Rose Beauharnais. Those who are familiar with French history will recognize this name, because she later becomes Napoleon’s wife, the empress Joséphine. Originally, I was interested in writing on her. Then I discovered that after Napoleon divorced Joséphine, he married a nineteen year-old Austrian archduchess who was equally fascinating. I wanted to know what it must have been like for this young girl to arrive in France with the expectation that she fill Joséphine’s shoes and command a small army of servants and courtiers. At the time, the French court was a wild place, and Marie-Louise—Napoleon’s second wife—was young, shy, and politically inexperienced. Her arrival shocked many, but no one was a shocked as she was herself. 

Q: Why did you tell the novel from three different points of view?
A: I wanted readers to come away with a clear sense of just how powerful Napoleon really was. He was the sun around which all people orbited, whether those people were family members or servants. For this reason, I chose to tell the story from the points of view of his sister, his wife, and a young Haitian chamberlain. With all three people providing commentary, I felt the reader would be better able to judge Napoleon for his/herself, since the three narrators each have slightly different views of this man.

Q: Are the characters true to life? In other words, did Pauline really want to marry her brother?
A: I tried to remain as close as possible to the historical record, especially where personalities were concerned. This means that, yes, Pauline Bonaparte was really as wild and unpredictable as she is in this book. There is very good evidence that she wanted her brother to conqueror Egypt and reign as Pharaoh—with her as his queen. There are a variety of explanations for this, and I try to cover them all in the novel.

Q: Many letters exist in which Marie-Louise praises Napoleon. So why is she portrayed in the novel as being vehemently against her marriage to him?
A: For the purposes of the book, I took the position that Marie-Louise was simply writing what Napoleon’s spies wanted to hear. There is very little chance she would have criticized Napoleon in her letters to her father, knowing that each one would be read as soon as it left her hand. Napoleon conquered her nation, then took her hand in marriage without telling either her or her father. Unless Marie Louise was uncommonly naïve or dense, I don’t believe that any woman in her situation would be happy about it. Especially given Napoleon’s reputation with women.

Q: What is the one thing you hope your readers will take away from this book? A: An understanding of Napoleon’s court, and an appreciation for how difficult it was to be in his sphere of influence and not succumb to his magnetism. Ambition and drive in a leader is intoxicating. People want to believe that bigger and greater things are just ahead. Napoleon was highly skilled at rallying his troops, and this magnetism extended into his personal life as well. Here was a man who regularly insulted women and behaved abominably toward his political equals. Yet people still gravitated toward him, and not just because of his power or influence. They were attracted by his vision of the future in which the entire world belonged to him. It was radical and insane and somehow appealing, especially for those who imagined themselves as being part of his quest.

Q: What kind of research did you do for this book? Did you visit France? A: France is like a second home to me! For more than ten years, I spent every summer in Paris, and I was fortunate enough to be able to visit each of the locations written about in the novel. Napoleon’s life—and the lives of those around him—was very well documented, and I drew mainly from the letters and memoirs of the people who feature most heavily in this book. The letters between Joséphine and Napoleon were especially useful, since they showed a side of Napoleon which he rarely displayed in public. For me, research is the best part of writing a book. There’s nothing like visiting Napoleon’s library in person, or seeing the heavily embroidered gowns that Marie-Louise, or her predecessor, Joséphine, once wore. As an historical fiction author, those are the things you try to capture in a book—a sense of place and style. A well-researched novel can have the power to transport someone through time, and I hope that’s what THE SECOND EMPRESS does for my readers.

Available for pre-order is Michelle's newest book:

Rebel Queen

Visit Michelle Moran on Facebook

Saturday, August 30, 2014

How I Spent My Summer

Have to say that I am an Autumn girl, but this past Summer has been one of the best. Spent time with sisters, hosted a fundraiser, interviews on our blog, the weather has been fantastic, and just had such a great time!

Sharing some pics. Thimble Islands, Author Suzanne Palmieri, Zac, Actress Rachel Alig, Judy Whitney, and a pic of my Sisters.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ghostline - Interview with Actress Rachel Alig

An interview with lead actress Rachel Alig, from the movie Ghostline by Dean Whitney:

How old were you when you started acting? And where and how did you start?
Rachel - I was ten years old when I started acting. First, I put on shows for my entire family in our living room. Thankfully, my mother and father allowed me to take classes and audition at The Children's Theatre of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. It was pure bliss for me! By the time I was twelve years old, I had representation at a Cincinnati talent agency, Wing's Model Management. I have been living and working in Los Angeles as a full-time actress for four years.

How is your role in Ghostline different from others that you have previously played?
Rachel - I fell in love with my character in Ghostline almost immediately. 'Chelsea Watkins' knows who she is and is fiercely outspoken and headstrong. She is different from other characters I have previously played in the fact that she is strongly committed to her relationship with her boyfriend, 'Tyler Jantsen', played by Zack Gold. I've never played a character who made their significant other their number one. Chelsea's top priority in life, was Tyler's well-being. With this in mind, it made many of my scenes as 'Chelsea', much more about her love for, 'Tyler'.

Do you identify with your character in any way?
Rachel - I definitely identified with Chelsea in many ways. My own self-awareness is something that I pride myself on and, 'Chelsea', also knew herself very well. Also, I believe Chelsea is selective in who she trust and loves. If she loves you, then she really loves you. When considering friendships and relationships in my own life, I value quality over quantity.

What is your process for acting? Are you a method actor like Daniel Day-Lewis and Meryl Streep, assume a role from the moment you step onto the set the first time, and never leave the role until the film wraps? Or do you prepare or research your roles or characters?
Rachel - I don't like to say I have a specific formula for acting. What I hope to achieve in every scene and every project, is a sense of realness and truthfulness. I do practice techniques of a method actor, but I am willing to step out of character at times. Much of my acting comes from the preparation I do in developing my character and committing to her belief system and maintaining her characteristics. When I am in a scene, I like to let go of everything and allow for real emotions to brew.

Who are your favorite actors, who inspires you, and why?
Rachel - I have a long list of actors who I absolutely admire and respect. Those who really stand out are Sean Penn, Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts, Joaquin Phoenix, Jessica Chastain, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Olsen, and of course, Meryl Streep. All of these artists take risks, their screen presence is captivating, and I never doubt them for a minute. They inspire me because they aren't afraid to bare their hearts and souls. Because they have all played a variety of such convincing characters, I feel as if I don't know how they would truly act as themselves. That's what I want to achieve; I want people guessing what 'Rachel Alig' is actually like as a person.

What would be your dream role or what would you like to accomplish as an actor?
Rachel - My dream role requires a total transformation in the physical sense and the emotional state of being. I want a character in which I have to gain 40 pounds, shave my head, and add a few tattoos. I don't want to look like me, resemble me, or have any familiar traits of me. That's the physical transformation I want. As far as the character's emotional state goes, I want it to be on the brink of madness. This person has moments of great clarity but finds themselves tormented by their own demons. I want a challenge! As an actor, I hope I continue to improve, grow, and develop so much that the projects I am on are on a higher tier. I want to be surrounded by professionals who respect the art of acting, film making, and storytelling. It is a craft that I am honored to be practicing as a professional. Eventually, I hope to be producing my own content.

Any advice for aspiring actors?
Rachel - Prepare for the highs and lows. I have found some success and believe I will continue to do so on my acting journey, but even now I'm dealing with a great letdown. It hurts. It sucks. It feels like a slap in the face. However, I know it's only temporary and the next time I get that phone call saying, 'We'd like to offer you the part', the pain will all be worth it. Also, you must be willing to work each and every day. It is rare that I have a day off. If I'm not filming, I'm auditioning. If I'm not auditioning, I'm in class. If I'm not in class, I'm updating my reel and website. It is never ending. You must love it so much, that you give a piece of yourself to your craft everyday.

A fun fact about you that you’d be willing to share?
Rachel - I'm addicted to cheesecake. No, seriously, I have to have a piece a day...... :)

Thank you Rachel! Looking forward to the release of Ghostline! See the entire cast and crew here on IMDb!

An Update: Rachel Alig will be performing the role of Kelly Hooker in The Final Table 

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Interviews and updates coming for the movie Ghostline! From Dean Whitney, Judy Whitney and featuring actress Rachel Alig.

Stay tuned!

And from Judy Whitney: Hi's an important information about Ghostline; we could really use the help!!! I realize that most of you have already seen our trailer, but very few have left comments. Positive (and recent) comments will go a long way toward helping us secure distribution. We ask that you re-visit the link and leave a comment. We will gather all the names of those who leave comments, put them in a hat, and draw one on 9/19. That person will receive an advance DVD copy of GHOSTLINE.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Billie Z

We've been away for a while. We lost our dear friend and blog designer, and just haven't had the heart to post or continue. But, time helps to accept that which we cannot change and we know Billie wouldn't have wanted us to stop posting on our blog. So, we're back. It will never look as amazing as when Billie used her creativity to make it beautiful, but we'll try.

Miss you Billie!

November 14, 1951 - March 26, 2014

Billie Jo (Sweeden) Zoch, age 62, of Bayard, Iowa, formally of Arthur, Iowa passed away on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at the Iowa Methodist Medical Center of Des Moines, Iowa.

A Memorial Service will be held at 2:00 PM, Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at the Christensen - Van Houten Funeral Home of Odebolt, Iowa. The Reverend Trish Underberg will officiate. Burial will follow in the Odebolt Cemetery of Odebolt, Iowa. Visitation will be held from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at the Christensen - Van Houten Funeral Home of Odebolt, Iowa. The Christensen ~ Van Houten Funeral Home of Odebolt, Iowa is in charge of the funeral arrangements. Condolences may be sent online to

Billie was born at the Ida Grove Hospital to Billy Ross and Dorothy L. (Albrecht) Sweeden on November 14, 1951.  The family made their home in Odebolt until 1955, when they moved to Arthur.  Billie attended Odebolt-Arthur School, graduating in 1969.  She attended college and later got a job at Boesen the Florist in Des Moines.  In 1972, she returned to her hometown of Odebolt to work at her mom’s floral shop, Dorothy’s Flowers & Gifts. She married Tommy Allan Zoch on January 4, 1975, in Odebolt.  The couple later had two children: Carrie Jo Zoch and Luke Allan Zoch.  Billie spent several years as a stay-at-home mom and continued her love for creating by selling crafts out of the family’s home.

The years took Billie many miles away from home and in many directions.  Her most recent professions included being a graphic designer, a contracted transcriptionist, and owner of Pink Castle Design with her daughter and granddaughter.  Billie had issues with her heart over the years, but in February of 2014, she was diagnosed with cancer.  She passed away on March 26, 2014, from a massive heart attack.

Billie was a very creative person.  She loved all crafts: floral design, painting, woodworking, crocheting, and much more.  She also enjoyed reading, watching wildlife, fishing with her family, cooking, Latin dancing, the changing seasons, and spending time with her precious grandchildren.   

Left to cherish memories of Billie are her loving children, Carrie Zoch of Bayard and Luke (Jennifer) Zoch of Alta; brothers David Sweeden of Odebolt (special friend) Kit Svendsen of Ida Grove and Jeff (Naomi) Sweeden of Arthur; her mother, Dorothy L. (Albrecht) Sweeden of Arthur; grandchildren: Brexton and Dixen of Bayard, and Bryan, Landon and Cayden of Alta; as well as many other cherished family members and friends. 

Billie was preceded in death by her father, Billy Ross Sweeden; maternal grandparents Clifford and Etta Albrecht; and paternal grandparents Robert and Laura Sweeden.

Your song Billie: Ain't No Mountain High Enough from Stepmom

Monday, February 17, 2014

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Sharing some links to music on You Tube!

Holiday Road - for those who had to work today!

Highway Sing-A-Long Holiday Edition  - for those who were stuck in traffic!

Christmas Vacation - for those who have time off!

And just because it's Christmas,
Christmas Eve Sarajevo

Sing! Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ghostline - The Interview with Director Dean Whitney

An interview with Dean Whitney for Ghostline, the movie:

Tell us about yourself. What's your background? What made you get into filmmaking?

My background is in the music business as a writer, performer, publisher, producer, and independent record company owner. I was fairly successful as a producer & publisher, but not so much on the others. With the music biz basically winding down for me starting around 2002, I was forced to make some hard decisions on what I wanted to be when I grew up. Deciding to stick with my creative side, I wrote & self-published a novel entitled "Pinch Hitter" in 2008. While working on a second novel a year later, I decided to try my hand at writing screenplays. To make a very long story short, after a few years of waiting for someone to buy one of my scripts, I finally came to the realization that if I ever wanted to see any of them come alive on the screen, I'd have to figure out a way to do it myself.

Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and your living?
Just as it was with the music biz, I approach writing and filmmaking strictly from a business point of view. It's a very tough and competitive business and a lot of research and preparation is necessary if you intend on being successful. While writing and filmmaking has been my life for the past five years, I cannot say that it is my living. But I'm working very hard on changing that.
What was your inspiration for Ghostline?

Two things. First, a 1964 Twilight Zone episode entitled "Night Call".  It's about an elderly woman who begins to receive phone calls from a man buried in a local cemetery after a phone line—which was knocked down by a storm—lands directly atop his grave. For some reason, that story remained etched in my mind all these years. Second, I once lived in a duplex that had a ghostline, which is a phone line from which one can make phone calls without having a specific number. I could call out, but no one could call in. With those two concepts in mind, I concocted the storyline for our film.

I love a scary movie, one that is fraught with unexpected surprises, tension, and mystery, so Ghostline appeals to me on all of those levels. Who is your audience for this movie?

Wow! Add to that a bit of well-placed humor and you just described "Ghostline"! Because our film contains a plot, it may not appeal to the younger audience that tends to gravitate toward excessively violent "slasher" films, such as "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". I firmly believe that those who follow the "Paranormal Activity" franchise will enjoy "Ghostline".

Between writing, directing, producing, casting and filming, which is the most difficult and which is the most enjoyable? Tell us about your creative process.

In my humble opinion, the most difficult aspect of filmmaking is post production. Why? Well, for the most part, it's out of my control. As the writer, casting director, director, and producer, I'm in control of the how, where, and when. Once I turn it over to my editor, visual FX artist, composer, and sound designer, it's basically out of my hands because they work on their own time. And because we all communicate via email, the process can be a bit tedious.

By far, the most enjoyable aspect of what I do is writing. Unlike most screenwriters who spend six months or longer writing a single script, I normally spend about a month on mine. That includes formulating the story in my head, the first draft, several re-writes, and then correcting  typos after Judy proofs it for me. That said, the "Ghostline" script was a work in progress up to and during the actual filming.

The actors – some just have that “it” quality. How do you find and cast the right actors? 

While mega-budget films have the luxury of working with casting directors who can bring in "A" list actors, we low-budget indie producers must rely on ourselves to find the best available talent for our projects. Fortunately for us, there are many fine actors & actresses champing at the bit to work on indie projects such as ours. Being the writer, I pretty much know what I'm looking for in an actor for a specific role. Also, having been a child actress, my wife and co-producer has a very sharp eye for talent. Even though I have the final say, I rely very heavily on her input.

What other movies have you made? 

As a writer and director, my only other film is a short we produced in 2012 entitled "The Body Bag", which was awarded "Best California Short 2012" by the California Film Awards. However, over the past few years I've contributed to several other indie projects in one capacity or another. To see my various credits, please visit my IMDb page:

We're currently planning our next feature, "Specter of Fear", which we hope to shoot in Big Bear, California, next summer. My screenplay "The Final Table" is slated for production later this year by Strong Image Films in Las Vegas. Future projects include a full length version of "The Body Bag" ("Curse of the Bokor") and a sequel to "Ghostline".

Have you taken part in film festivals or social media to promote Ghostline or your other movies? If so, which ones?

We're relying very heavily on social media to promote "Ghostline". As of today, we have 7,640 Facebook followers and are looking to add more (hint hint). We are also on Twitter, but I'm personally not a fan. Our website is in the works and should be up within a month.  I did attend a few film festivals with "The Body Bag", but really don't put much faith in their usefulness in attracting the attention of distributors. In actuality, there are only about six film festivals that  help in that regard and, unfortunately, none of them of them are interested in films like "Ghostline". Therefore, it's unlikely that we'll do any film festivals.

Who are your biggest film influences?

Inasmuch as I enjoy many different genres, it's difficult for me to answer that. There are so many that I respect and admire. I will say, however, that I've always been a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock films, which is interesting because I ended up marrying a girl who appeared in my all-time favorite, "The Birds". And I've always loved the ingenuity of maverick filmmakers such as George Romero, Robert Rodriquez, and Quentin Tarantino.

Where and when will Ghostline be released? Where can we see it?

Wish I could answer that. Once the film is complete and ready for viewing, which likely won't be until the end of February, our task will be to seek out US and Worldwide distribution. It's anybody's guess as to how long that'll take. Ideally, we'd like to have it available on VOD, DVD, and Blu-Ray before Halloween 2014. Meanwhile, everyone is invited to follow us on Facebook where we post screen shots, behind the scenes photos, and updates concerning our progress.

Thank you so much Dean! I can't wait to see Ghostline!

See the trailer here: Ghostline

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ghostline the Movie

I am thrilled to share a trailer of the movie Ghostline. I can't wait to see this movie. We all want to be scared sometimes, and this movie trailer does that for me, and makes me want to see more.

Click on the link and see the trailer for yourself. And stay tuned, as an interview with Dean Whitney, the mastermind behind this movie, is following soon!

"Life takes a terrifying and unpredictable turn for Tyler & Chelsea when they begin to receive menacing phone calls from a seemingly unstable woman who insists that Tyler's her ex-boyfriend."


Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Nostalgic Christmas

I love our new blog design from the fabulous Billie at Pink Castle Design! We wanted a nostalgic Christmas theme, and Billie delivered! Just beautiful!

Sharing a very old childhood pic from one of us Seashore Sisters, when something as simple as a little doll meant everything. Look at that very retro kitchen in the background. Memories are a wonderful thing.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Shadowbox from Casey's Mini Shop

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day! Now counting down to Christmas.

I love finding the perfect gift for someone, or finding a shop / seller who can create that perfect gift. I found Caseys Mini Shop on Etsy and loved her Rustic Wine Shadowbox, so I contacted Casey and asked if she could design and create a custom shadowbox. She could and did!

I'm sharing some pics of the shadowbox, which include designs and miniatures, all representative of my best friend's wedding. Casey also made a replica of a slice of the wedding cake, and included the happy couple.  

Casey creates handmade polymer clay miniatures & food themed jewelry and charms. Beautiful work! Thank you Casey!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New England Autumn Lingers on the Shoreline

So, so cold here! Winter has paid us a visit these last few days, though it's supposed to warm up a bit. It really is still Autumn here and it's beautiful.

I'm sharing some of that New England Autumn with you, and being by the shore, it means lots of blue, boats, water as clear as glass, colorful trees, and gorgeous skies. So, here's a glimpse of Autumn on the shoreline.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Goodbye Halloween!

Goodbye Halloween! See you next year!
Sharing a drawing of mine on a digital background. I named it "Haunted"
And some digital art...
Love this? Visit Folkvangar

Want to do this? Try DAZ

Friday, November 1, 2013


Ghostline is a supernatural thriller due out March 6, 2014.

"Life takes a terrifying and unpredictable turn for Tyler & Chelsea when they begin to receive menacing phone calls from a seemingly unstable woman who insists that Tyler's her ex-boyfriend."

I'll post more about this soon, so stay tuned!