But before we meet this interesting and versatile woman, here is a little about Toni, followed by a blurb and excerpt from her book.
Toni Sweeney was born in the state of Georgia (afterward called the state of Confusion) after the War between the States but before the Gulf War and her arrival was more devastating to the countryside than the War had been. Though an accident-prone klutz, she has managed to survive into her second century. Being a child on the cusp of
the Seventies, she did her best to become a Southern Belle a la Scarlett O’Hara but instead evolved into a modern Alice chasing after the White Rabbit with more than one run-in with the Cheshire Cat and Wonderland’s other slighty-mad inhabitants along the way. After a period of minor trauma centering around marriage, motherhood, and divorce, she was involved in an automobile accident which began her writing career during an extended convalescence. Since her recovery, she can’t seem to stay in place for more than a couple of decades, and has survived hurricanes in the South, tornados and snow-covered winters in the Midwest, and earthquakes, forest fires, and Santa Ana winds in California. A dare from a co-worker attributed to her
In her Southern youth, Toni was a member of the Children of the Confederacy and as
an adult has been associated with the South Coast Writer's Association of Orange
County, California, the Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers website, myspace, Facebook, and
YouTube. She presently has numerous novels in publication, as well as several short
stories featured in magazines, online, and on amazon.com/Shorts. A few years ago,
Toni suffered a split of literary personalities and now writes science fiction/fantasy/horror
under her own name, and romances using the pseudonym Icy Snow Blackstone. This name
originally belonged to her great-great-great-great-grandmother until it was appropriated
for a greater cause. So far, the original Icy Snow hasn’t objected.
This year, at the insistence of her family, Toni returned to Nebraska. She has a
son who is a math teacher, and a 7-year-old granddaughter and a 16-year-old grandson.
Though she loves animals, especially the small, fuzzy kind, and once owned five minia ture poodles at once as well as a cat who survived by convincing the dogs he w as one of them, this is the first time she’s been without a companion animal to keep her company.
Before her auto accident, she was an accomplished horsewoman and owned her own horses, as well as being a dancer, having studied with a pupil of the famous dancer Isadora Duncan. She was also active in college and local theatrical groups and was awarded a membership in Alpha Psi Omega, the national honorary drama fraternity, for her work while attending Mercer University.
Spacedog’s Best Friend
For a graduation gift, teenager Jenny Halpen is given a space cruise by her indulgent uncle. Everything is going smoothly until the ship sails into an asteroid shower and the passengers have to abandon ship. Jenny finds herself in an escape pod with three miniature poodles owned by one of the other passengers.
When they land on an uninhabited planet, the automatic distress signal goes off and Jenny settles down with the three furry castaways to wait for a rescue ship. She falls asleep, and...
A Jenny awoke, she couldn’t remember where she was, and she looked around the cabin with puzzlement.Slowly, as her memory returned, she sighed and closed her eyes again.
The night noises had stopped. Everything was so peaceful and...quiet....
Her eyes came open again and she sat up quickly, spilling the little dog in her lap onto the floor, where he landed with a thump and an indignant yelp.
“Omigosh! The signal! It stopped! What happened?”
She knelt by the machine, studying it frantically. Surely, there was some button...knob...switch...which would restart the signal. Her eyes swept over the smooth metal surface. Nothing--not even a word of print marred its gray veneer. She tapped the front and sides with one knuckle. “Come on, come on! Beep! Buzz! Do something! You can’t be broken! Why did you break down? Why?”
Something touched her arm. Something cold. The little white dog was pushing at her arm with his nose, looking up at her with anxious brown eyes. She pushed him away.
“Quit that! Can’t you see this is serious? No, of course you don’t! Oh, why couldn’t I have been marooned with a ‘droid or something? At least, it would be able to talk to me! Why did it have to be a bunch of dogs?”
Stranded. No clothes. No company. A tear trickled down her cheek. Here lies Jenny Halpen, Castaway.
A second tear followed the first, then another, and another.The dam burst.Face against her arms, she leaned against the seat of the nearest passenger chair, shoulders shaking. For a few minutes, only the sound of Jenny’s sobs broke the silence in the pod.
Don’t cry, Jenny.
The tears continued, wracking and heart-breaking.
Startled, Jenny stopped in mid-cry. Had she really heard someone call her name?
Stifling the last sob into a hiccough, she forced herself to be quiet. She had heard someone.
We’ll talk to you, Jenny--if that’s what you want.
“Wh-where are you?” She looked around quickly, as if expecting to see someone emerge from one of the other seats.
Right here. Where we’ve always been.
“Where? I can’t see you. Come out!”
We’re already out!
Quickly, she stood up. “But-- Where?”
Outside. That’s it. Another escape pod.
The little white dog immediately threw himself into her path, and when she dodged, jumped in front of her again so she nearly tripped over him in her haste to get to the door of the pod.
“Move, you stupid animal! Can’t you hear! There’s someone outside!”
Desperately, she picked him and tossed him out of the way. He landed against the signal box with a thud. She was at the door fumbling with the wheel-lock when the voice spoke again.
Hand on the wheel, she stopped, turning slowly to look back into the pod. The three little animals were sitting in the center of the aisle, the little white dog rubbed its head with the back of one paw.
Staring at the three of them, Jenny took a hesitant step forward.“If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that you just told me your head hurt,” she said to the white dog.
Jenny laughed, a nervous disbelieving laugh, with more than a twinge of hysteria in it. “Oh, no--that does it! My mind’s winged out! Dogs...talking...marooned...the shock of it all....”
The little white dog wiggled its shoulders in something resembling a shrug.
Something about her mind flying away.
“I’m losing my mind...no, I’ve lost it...zoom...gone!”
You know, all pink and squishy.
“Hold it! Hold it!” Jenny shouted. Three pairs of eyes turned toward her.
“Is this really true? Can you dogs, er--people--can you talk?” She stopped, threw her hands into the air. “What am I doing, asking these animals if they can talk?”
We were afraid-- that escape flight was pretty nerve-wracking, you must admit, and then-- Well, how did you react when Coni spoke to you?
“Wait a minute!” Jenny interrupted. “I’ve got to sit down.” And she did so. She had to. Her legs wouldn’t hold her up any longer. “They talk!” she said to herself. “They really talk!”
The sky turns as dark as midnight. Then in the distance, a spaceship appears, flashing like a beacon in the night. It comes closer, neon lights flashing, making a smoo
Thunderous applause explodes through cyber space as Sharon greets her guest with a warm embrace. Talk about a smooth landing! Sharon leans down to pet t
Toni: The landing may have been smooth but there were a few close calls with asteroids along the way. Luckily th
Sharon: Grins broadly at Conan’s response. But of course! Well, after that l
Oliver struts out singing and swooning, balancing a sterling silv
Oliver produces a crisp white hanky and presents it to Toni with a smile.
Sharon: Good help is so hard to find. Now, Toni, let’s chat about these little darlings. Sharon pats each of the miniature poodles’ heads. Your own poodles planted the seed in your brain to write this novel. It isn’t often when a rejection letter leads to a contract in two
Toni: At the time the st
Sharon: Now that’s what I call thinking on your feet. Sharon gives the tr
Sharon: Ah, the wonderful world of fiction. I’ve never tried my hand at children’s novels. Have you written any other books in this genre?
Toni: Not a one. I have another fragment about the pups but it’s told fro
Sharon: Oh, I hope so. I’m sure they will be best-sellers. So how did you feel when you got your first contract? Did you bathe in the after glow for a while or did
Toni: Oh I ran around telling everyone I could think of…the media…my
Sharon: LOL I know the feeling! You must have an incredible imagination to have come up with such a heart-warming story for kids. Tell us about your imagination. Does it work overtime or do you have to prompt your creative muse to come and play?
Toni: Up until 2000, I was a “writin’ fool.” Between 1975 and 1994, I turned out thirty novels, one right after the other and a good many of those have already been published or contracted. Then, in 2000, someth
Sharon: I think you are simply remarkable! Now Toni, you have done so much with your life I stand in awe of you. Tell us about your days as a dancer and your
Toni: First let me say, I stand in awe of you, Sharon. I have cataracts and my sight is limited but I’m assured some day it can be repaired, while you… Well, I applaud your courage. As to my dancing… Tere’s not so much to tell. My teacher was a wonderful lady named Gertrude Kelley who had studied under Eleanora Duse and Isadora Duncan. I know a lot of people today won’t recognize those names but believe me, they were innovators of dance in their day—which was in the early years of the 20th Century. Rfeal Free Spirits. There was even a movie called Isadora which I believed starred Vanessa Redgrave. Anyway, I studied ballet, tap, and acrobatic dancing. You may not believe it but I was once so limber it took me six months to learn to stand on my head. I used to be able to be able to lie on my stomach on the floor, raise my legs and put my toes under my chin—Warning! Do not try this at home! I was a dancer in two separate productions of Oklahoma! and as well as being in Kiss Me Kate. I was also in some non-musical plays such as The Crucible, the Cave Dwellers, and JB. In fact, I met my ex-husband in the theater. He was starring in Inherit the Wind at the time, and it was a typical two-actors-in-the-same-household-type marriage…a disaster from the words “I do.”
Toni: Membership is awarded for outstanding work done in drama. To be considered, one has to participate in all areas. My contributions were in acting, costume design, make-up, and stage managing. I also took several courses in drama and music as part of my major. (looks nostalgic) Ah, I remember it well… (looks off into the distance) I was stage-managing a double-bill—the World of Carl Sandburg and No Exit, for which I designed the programs, by the way—and afterward as the cast was taking their curtain calls, they called me onto the stage, presented me with a bouquet of red roses, and announced to the audience I’d been tapped for membership. I got a certificate and lots of congratulations. Still have it somewhere.
Sharon: Clasps her hands together in adoration. What troopers! (leans over and bestows a crown on Conan’s head and a jeweled tiera on both Amber and Crissy) More applause crackles through cyberspace.
Sharon: And like me, along with dogs, you love cats and horses. You owned your own horses and were once an accomplished horsewoman. I would love to hear about your riding days.
Toni: I got my first horse when I was 9 and several months later was stricken with appendicitis and couldn’t ride for six months. That was torture! I also have that first horse (he was a S
Sharon: How I can relate. Dancer threw me for a loop and I got right back on. Unfortunately, I’ve had other horses make me look the fool, but that’s another
Toni: Icy Snow was born in north Georgia where her father, the Reverend John Blackstone was active in local politics. He was an English émigré and I believe she was born around 1802. She married a minister and one of her children, my great-great-great-grandfather, was also a minister. The minute I heard her name I thought it sounded as if it should belong to a romance writer so when I started writing romances, I decided to use it. Icy Snow had seven or eight children and there’s even a website about her. One of her other descendants got in touch with me after seeing her name online and we discovered we lived in the same town in Georgia and never knew it. We’re something like fourth or fifth cousins, I think.
Sharon: I love it and find that entire history so fascinating! Oh here comes Oliver with dessert. With a sweeping bow, Oliver presents his culinary delight, a sinfully rich black cherry devil’s food cake with a hue dollop of peach ice cream on top. He feeds Toni a bite and waits. And while he’s waiting for her eyes to stop glazing over in ecstasy, he feeds more treats to the pooches.
Sharon: Oliver, did you forget about me, your boss, the woman who pays you? But Oliver turns his gaze to Toni.
Toni: Thank you, Oliver. You’re a man after my own heart—or any other body part, too. If you ever decide to leave Sharon’s employ, I imagine I can find a spot for you in my kitchen…or den…or some other room in the house.
Oliver dances with delight, blushes a deep crimson red and passes out cold. The pooches circle him and Conan tells him to wise up and take it like a man. Oliver struts off, his heart all a flutter.
Sharon: Well, now it’s time for my favorite question. Irish and superstitious, I love to collect legends and lore and traditions from my guests. Can you share a favorite with me?
Toni: Oh, I have quite a few. From the theatre: one never speaks of a role one wants until the casting list has been announced, and the title of one of Shakespeare’s plays is never spoken backstage. It’s always called the Scottish Play. (I imagine you can figure out which one I mean)
My own particular stage custom was on opening night to wear a ring my dance teacher gave me. There are plenty of Southern superstitions, of course…right hand itches, you’ll get money, left hand itches, you’ll spend it; if your tongue is sore, you’ve been telling lies; see a cardinal, make a wish. I have a rather morbid little superstition of my own: Always say goodbye. Several times in my life, I’ve left someone and not told them goodbye and I’ve never seen them again, so whenever I leave anyone, I always tell them goodbye, even though I may only be gone for a few minutes. If I don’t get to say it for some reason, I will worry until I actually see them again.
Sharon: Oh, Toni, you are a woman after my own heart! I adore all superstitions and those are some I will certainly add to my favorites. And that brings us to the end of our interview. And to my final three questions. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? If you could star in any literary fiction, which would it be and why? And last but not least, who would you want playing your romantic hero?
Toni: Now you’ve given me questions I’ll have a most difficult time answering. I have a lot ofplaces I’d like to visit…London…Honolulu…and live…for a while, but I’d really like to have a permanent home either on one of the Golden Isles off the coast of Georgia or in the writers’ colony at Laguna Beach, CA. If I could be any literary heroine, I’d like to be my own Andrea Talltrees from the Sinbad series. I put a lot of myself into Andi and I’d totally love to have a man like Sinbad! As for who would star as my “hero”…Travis Fimmel would be okay…or Brad Pitt in Achilles-mode…or…Oliver…he’s a good contender, too! (blows a kiss at him)
Sharon: Thank you for being such a wonderful guest. It’s been a pleasure. I wish you and the little darlings a pleasant voyage through space. Sharon gives them each a parting biscuit and a pat on the head. Come back again, Toni.
Toni: Thank you for having me, Sharon, and tell Oliver goodbye, also!
Spacedog’s Best Friend
http://www.amazon.com/ To read about Toni Sweeney and her other books available, visit her at:
http://www.tonivsweeney.com/; http://www.leucrotapress.com/; www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/