Thursday, April 29, 2010

A CONVERSATIONS EXCLUSIVE: Meet Kristine Mills-Noble, Creative Director for Kensington Books

by Cyrus Webb for Conversations Magazine

This is an interview you will find nowhere else...Her work has graced the covers of books by some of the most celebrated authors such as Brandon Massey, Evie Rhodes, Victor McGlothin, Janine A. Morris, Roz Bailey, Anita Bunkley, Gwynne Forster, Faye Snowden, Candice Dow and countless others. Meet Kristine Mills-Noble, a creative director for Kensington Books. You might not know her name, however, the contribution she has given to the literary community through her work is undeniable.

How did she begin on her journey? When did she discover her desire to create? Conversations explores this and more with the woman behind the designs.

Kristine, thank you for taking out the time to talk with us. I have to tell you that to have this opportunity to converse with the woman who has graced so many book covers with her work is an incredible honor. Do you remember what it felt like when you first saw your work on a finished product?
I remember it very well. It was about 20 years ago and a young lady was sitting across from me on the New York City subway reading a book, I looked up and it was one of my covers. So I walked over to her and asked her how was the book. We started a conversation about the author and why she chose that book. To my surprise I was amazed to hear that she almost always buy a book based on the cover. At that point I began to realize how important cover design was to the success of a book. Most people still judge a book by its cover.

Where did it all start for you? At what age did you know that you were creative and wanted to pursue that path?
I guess it really started for me when I graduated from college. I did not study art in undergraduate because it was something that I never thought about. I had no idea what a graphic artist did. You see I grow up in a traditional hard working family. My parents always encouraged us to be a doctor, lawyer or something that you could get a "Good Job" doing. Art was never introduced to us as a way to make money or have a career. So after receiving a degree in Bio-chemistry I took a job in a lab doing research. I thought that I was going to DIE. I had a friend who saw that I was unhappy and knew that I was a closet artist and told me about a job in the art department at a publishing house who would pay for me to go to art school, 20 years later I am still at it.

Were there others around you that shared similar interests? Did they encourage you and what advice did they give when those close to you saw that you were serious about your work?
Growing up, I did not have people around me that had similar interest. My encouragement has always come from my mom. She did not understand how I was going to make a living doing this, but she told me to go for it. I have also been blessed in coming across some incredible art directors early in my career who pushed me and made me think outside of the limitations of a book cover.

I'm sure you would agree that human beings are extremely visual creatures. As a visual artist myself, Kristine, I dare say that your work has been instrumental in elevating the book sales---and thus careers---of a great number of authors through your eye-catching designs. Can you tell us what type of planning goes into deciding what will work with a particular book?
Lots and lots of planning goes into a book cover. The first step is to work with the editor to get a sense of the story and voice of the author. I often times will read the manuscript to get some ideas. I will then decide if this should be a photographic package or illustrated one. This will be determined after I get input from the author, the editor, the publisher, the sales team, the marketing team, and the buyer. So you see its not as easy as designing a cover that looks good, I have to keep everyone’s input in mind. I have to sit down and come up with something that is dramatic, eye-catching and meets its targeting audience in 5 seconds. That is all the time i have to make an impact. when a consumer is in a bookstore they are scanning the shelves for something that catches their eye.

Readers are quick to remember the author's name and not so familiar with the illustrators and cover designers. Have you gotten any feedback from the authors as to what their readers are saying about the covers.
You are right, the average person do not know who I am or remember my name. My kudos come when I see an author’s career began to take off. I get many thank you notes from authors and agents saying that they were very happy with the covers. I also know that I am doing something right when I see other publishing houses picking up my designs.

One author I have had the pleasure to interview several times is award-winning horror writer Brandon Massey. His covers, which you have designed since his second book DARK CORNER, are quite darker than your work for author Anita Bunkley's novel SILENT WAGER. Does it help you to know a great deal about each storyline before beginning your plans for the design?
It’s crucial to a package’s success that I have a “feel” for the story. Brandon and Anita are very different types of writers, so I would never package them similarly.

When you look back at the body of work you have acquired, why do you think you have become one of the memorable cover designers that are linked to contemporary fiction?
Once again, I think having the opportunity to work with some incredible talents who have always forced me never to take the easy way out, but to think of each project separate and apart from the rest. I could look back over my work and see so many different looks and styles. There are covers that I am very close to because they were more difficult to package then others. Making me really dig deep for the solution to the problem. An art director told me very early in my career that cover designers are problem solvers. Always come up with the most creative way to solve the problems.

Kristine, before I interview someone I try to do as much research as I can about that individual so I can be more knowledgeable about their past and accomplishments. I have to say, though, that it was hard to find any other interviews that you have done. Have you purposely tried to stay in the background, away from the limelight?
I enjoy working behind the scenes. My joy is in conceiving and creating a look for authors. As you mentioned earlier most people don’t remember the book designer. However in the book design world i have won many awards and have been interviewed by many trade people.

More than ever, young people are looking to graphic design as the vehicle they want to use as a career. What advice do you have for those who might be reading this and they are looking for guidance?
I would encourage young African Americans to consider going into graphic arts in publishing. Our numbers are quite small and we shouldn’t limit ourselves. Although people say “Don’t judge a book by its cover” that isn’t always true. The cover of a book is a huge selling tool and a signal to readers of what to expect. I would love to see more of us in the creative departments of book publishing.

Has there been a time that you thought this was not going to be the career for you? What motivated you not to give up?
As with anything there are going to be difficult times. Mines usually come when i have non art people telling art people how to create. What makes me not give up is that although there are times when I don’t always agree with the politics or policies of a corporation I love what I do. I love creating, and book covers are the best way to do that. Each story is different, each voice is different allowing me to challenge myself every day. The authors always help me not give up. They allow me to take that journey with them as they follow their own dreams.

Again, thank you for your hard work and positive example, Kristine. Any last words you have for our readers?

Cyrus Webb Discusses "What Makes Me ME?" With Students At Peeples Middle School (Jackson, MS)

(May 4-5, 2010) Since 1999 Cyrus Webb has been visiting public schools in his homestate of Mississippi sharing his love of the arts and discussing topics that matter to the students. On Monday, May 4th and May 5th, he will spend the entire day a Peeples Middle School in Jackson, MS talking with those in Mrs. Jacqueline Bolden's classes about the topic "What Makes Me ME?"

"It seems like an easy question to answer," says Webb, 34, "but your response has alot to do with what you are personally going through." Webb realizes that alot of the students are dealing with challenges that may affect the way they look at life and their own future. He will be talking with them about expressing those feelings, and they will all be writing about how they see themselves.

On Mon. May 17, 2010 Webb will return to the school for them to share from their work with their classmates. Joining him during this year's project will be recording artist Lo Watts of Playa Connected.

For more information about similar projects hosted by Webb, visit He can be reached at or 601.896.5616.

Jon Boy, star of VH1's WHITE RAPPER SHOW endorses HIPHOP AND BOOKS

The Hiphop and Books Committee is pleased to announce that Virginia rapper Jon Boy---known worldwide from the VH1 reality show THE WHITE RAPPER SHOW---has formally endorsed the Hiphop & Books Initiative. Look for him to encourage reading and the importance of staying in school.
Below you will find an interview with Jon Boy conducted by H&B Founder Cyrus A. Webb. They discuss Jon's beginnings, how he came to be a part of a reality show and how he remains true to himself.
Thanks Jon Boy for taking out the time to talk with us about yourself and your career. Many people know you from The White Rapper Show on VH1, but I want to go back to your life before then. When did you know you were interested in music, and more specifically rap?
I’ve been into music my whole life; I really got into rap when I was 6 yrs old. I remember out of no where mysteriously finding a mix tape with Dougie Fresh’s The Show, I listened to that song over and over again, there were other rap artists featured on the mix tape, but “The Show” was definitely my favorite. I always had a fascination with music, there is a photo of me at the age of two holding a guitar, my mother said I would play with that guitar for hours and hours everyday until it finally fell apart. Looking back, I always had musical instruments at home whether it was a karaoke machine, a saxophone I played in middle school or playing my keyboards at the age of 9. Any extracurricular activities such as sports, I always had an element of music around with any and everything I did.

As I got older, I started listening to a RUN DMC cassette and The House of Pain and other rap artists. Professionally, I started practicing and working with various studios in the Hampton Roads, VA area in my late teens, around 17 or 18. My interest in rap was that it was a voice for the common person, it allows you to express yourself and not be confined to the rules of society, and that’s why I have so much respect for the genre.

Did it as a surprise to your family and friends that rap was something you were drawn to?
No, I don’t think so, my family and friends always knew I would choose something unique, they saw I was working hard and going to various studios and working towards my goals by making myself better. They support me in anything that I do. I was brought up to believe in myself and work hard to attain what I wanted in life; my choice was to become a successful rap artist.

If you had to describe your style, what would you say?
Versatile, none of my songs sound alike. I’m always trying something new, and people are always surprised about what I’ll come up with next. I love the challenge as an artist to continue to bring something new and fresh to my fans.

Since Vanilla Ice there haven't been a great deal of high-profile white rappers coming into their own. What told you that you could be one of the few?
I don’t look at it in terms of being one of the few; I look at everyone in the industry no matter their race as my fellow peers and competition. I’m honestly not looking to be the next White HYPE or that next White Rapper. I’m looking to be a great musician that is apart of a genre that has been very gracious to me and in return, I want to give my all and make publicity for all the “right reasons” by giving back to the Hip-Hop community and culture.

Has it been your experienced that the hiphop community as a whole has been acceptable of you and your talent?
Absolutely, I think the hip-hop community has been very accepting of me. Many industry professionals have given me pointers, and have helped me along the way. I’ve always been truthful and honest about who I am as an artist and most importantly as a person. Those I’ve worked with know that I’m genuine and have been working on my craft for several years.

For example, when I first started recording with Ernest Smith who ran MITROD Studios, in Norfolk, VA he mentored me and gave me direction and pointers on becoming a great musician, writer and producer. The more people give, the more I would listen; I attribute the advice of Ernest Smith and many others over the years for me being a great artist. The hip hop audience is very intelligent and takes pride in their music; they know when you’re not being real. I’m a rap artist that isn’t trying to be anyone but himself and the hip-hop community they appreciate and respect that.

Okay, let's get into The White Rapper Show. How did you initially learn of the project and did you have any hesitation of joining a reality show cast?
Well, I was doing various shows within the college circuit, a young woman who was coordinating shows for me heard about the auditions on Craig’s list. Yes, big ups to craigslist, so she contacted the guy who did my promotions, he then contacted me at work on my cell phone. At this point everything I tried, everyone had been telling me to change the topic matter, or edit my lyrics and sometimes wanted me to dance.

Initially, I didn’t want to audition, I felt, here we go again…!!! I wasn’t going to be able to be my authentic self as an artist. When I was told about the 100 (g’s) on the line, and that I only had to submit a 16 bar tape of me rapping accepela and an interview, so I saw this as an opportunity to give it my best shot and was true to myself as an artist, with no holds barred. I felt they were either really going to like it or hate it, either way; I was going to be myself.

So 4 days later, they called and said they loved the tape and the interview. They had regional try-outs in 4 major cities one was in NY, so I was invited to audition and went to New York. I did several free-styles and just about everything I could to be noticed; I basically acted a fool. Then they choose me to be in the top 25 and the rest was on Vh1 which reached a world-wide audience.

Probably one of the most controversial moments was with Persia and the use of what many simply call the "N" word. I'm curious as to how you saw that situation. The word is used allot in the culture. Why not be able to use it?
People are always going to have different opinions on the usage of the N word. With this country being built on freedom of speech, you will have people that are going to say what they say, and there is no way you can truly stop the usage of the word. I don’t like the word; I personally choose to not use the word.

After you left the show, what would say was the changing point for you to guide you into where you are now?
The moment I came home from New York after the show and all the local rappers that I worked with no longer wanted to work with me. They were jealous, starting rumors, my intentions were to work with them and teach them what I learned when I returned, so together we could be the best team, but it never happened. After my associates turned their backs on me that gave me the drive and determination that I never had before. I focused on myself and perfecting my talent and skills. I felt like the opportunity being cast on The White Rapper Show showed me the golden rule of music, which is to not count on the next man for anything, that it’s all on me.

As you know, I'm working on the Hiphop & Books project, an initiative to encourage lovers of hiphop and R&B music to remember the importance of reading an staying in school. We are pleased now to have you and your management involved in it with us. Why do you think programs like this are so important?
Programs like Hip Hop & Books is important, because many kids fantasize about being an entertainer or athlete. If you want to be a singer or actor you need to know how to read or write. You have to know how to read music or lyrics to be a singer or read scripts to be an actor. As a ball player its necessary to be able to read plays and memorize them, which are essential learning skills. Kids, when they get older start to find themselves, and with programs like Hip Hop & Books it gives them the access to books that will provide confidence and basic skills to take advantage of opportunities to become successful in various facets of their lives.

Reading and writing has been the greatest advancement in the history of mankind and to be apart of this history you must be literate. Hip Hop & Books is doing a great deed; I’m proud to be apart of it and will give everything I have to make sure that reading is number one in the lives of all children.

Since we are on the subject, what is the book that has impacted you the most in your life.
The Bible, because the word of god is the most important thing to me.

Jon Boy, who would you say has kept you encouraged along the way, telling you not to give up even when the situation looked bleak?
I’m a highly motivated person, the few times that have really set me back, the encouragement came from my mother, her wisdom and strength have gotten me through some of the roughest storms.

Other than working with Hiphop & Books, I know you are working on other projects. If our readers want to keep up with you, where can they find you online?
My online presence is on my MySpace page. My management is currently working on my Official Jon Boy Website that will have a calendar of events and a blog to correspond with me. Go to: stay posted on the MySpace page it’ll keep you posted of all upcoming show dates, appearances and information of the new site launch.

Thanks again for the interview. Do you have any last words for your fans?
To my fans I appreciate your support and all the kind words over the course of my career. Always stay focused on your goals and strive to be the best in all you do. Embrace who you are as a person and never let anyone take your swagger or sense of self away from you. Support a cause that will in turn help to make you a better person. Keep up with the Hip Hop & Books Tour, it is a cause that means a lot to me. Pass the word on to others, because together we can make a difference in the lives of those who are in dire need of books. Literacy is the key to everyone’s success in life. To keep up with the cause, or help please go to and

Sunday, April 25, 2010

(April 26-30, 2010) This Week On Conversations LIVE! Radio

(April 26-30, 2010)  Tens of thousands of individuals have tuned in to Conversations LIVE! Radio, making it one of the most successful programs produced on Blogtalkradio--- and this week's conversations show exactly why the show is so popular. Bringing listeners the best in current events, arts and entertainment from around the world, host and executive producer Cyrus Webb talks to movers and shakers in various fields as well as introduces new voices who need to be heard.

To listen to any of the shows live, simply visit Missed the live shows? Catch up for free at

MONDAY, APRIL 26, 2010 @ 1p.m. EST(12p.m. CST/10a.m.PT) --- Authors Norm Carroll and Toriano Porter 
Cyrus Webb welcomes author Norm Carroll to Conversations LIVE! Radio to discuss his career as a writer and his new book MIRACLES, MESSAGES and METAPHORS. At 30 min. past the hour, author Toriano Porter returns to Conversations to update Webb on his career.

MONDAY, APRIL 26, 2010 @ 8p.m. EST (7p.m. CST/5p.m. PT) --- Author Marissa Wilson and Talk Show Host Jordan Mercedes
Cyrus Webb welcomes author Marissa Wilson to Conversations LIVE! Radio to discuss her debut novel NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK and what she hopes readers get from the book. At 30 min. past the hour, Jordan Mercedes return to talk about her upcoming Vision Board project and how she is helping others to help themselves.

TUESDAY, APRIL 27, 2010 @ 1p.m. EST (12p.m. CST/10a.m. PT) --- Cyrus Webb Presents "The Rhonda Teague Story: Invisible No More"
Host Cyrus Webb welcomes Rhonda Teague to Conversations LIVE! Radio to tell her story of living with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), how it impacts not just her but everyone around her as well---and what you need to know about the neurological condition. On June 10, 2004 Teague was bitten by a teen girl at the residential facility she worked at--- thus beginning the years of pain and discomfort. Never heard of the condition? She and over 200,000 and upwards of a million in the USA are left silent many times by lack of knowledge of this syndrome in the medical profession as well as the general public. Through this special presentation, Conversations LIVE! Radio will give her a voice and a unique opportunity to share her story with others. Join the conversation online through the live chat, the switchboard (347.426.3645) and email your questions to Webb at This is one discussion you don't want to miss!

TUESDAY, APRIL 27, 2010 @ 8p.m. EST (7p.m. CST/5p.m. PT) --- Authors Deatri King-Bey and Shawnise Hadley
Cyrus Webb welcomes back author Deatri King-Bey to talk about her writing career and what's next for her in 2010. At 30 min. past the hour, Webb welcomes author Shawnise Hadley to the program in her first live primetime interview to discuss her book.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 28, 2010 @ 1p.m. EST (12p.m. CST/10a.m. PT) --- Author Martin Levin
Cyrus Webb welcomes back author Martin Levin to Conversations LIVE! Radio to discuss the events that led to the writing of his book WE WERE RELENTLESS.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 28, 2010 @ 8p.m. EST (7p.m. CST/5p.m. PT) --- Author Kip Kreiling
In a special one-hour edition of Conversations LIVE! Radio, host Cyrus Webb welcomes author Kip Kreiling to discuss his new book THE IMPOSTER? and his battle with addiction. Webb and Kreiling will also discuss what others can do to break the cycle of addiction and answer your questions!

THURSDAY, APRIL 29, 2010 @ 1p.m. EST (12p.m. CST/10a.m. PT) --Cyrus Webb Presents "The Patricia Singleton Story: From Victim To Survivor"
With the recent admissions of rape and incest among celebrities like Monique and others, attention is once again being brought on this important topic. Host Cyrus Webb welcomes Patricia Singleton to Conversations LIVE! Radio to share her own story of surviving such abuse and how she is using her experience to help others and continue to heal in the process. The phone lines and chat room will be open for this timely conversation.

THURSDAY, APRIL 29, 2010 @ 8p.m. EST (7p.m. CST/5p.m. PT) --- Author/Poet James Cherry
Cyrus Webb welcomes author James Cherry to Conversations LIVE! Radio to discuss his career as a writer, the messages he hopes to pass on to readers and what's next for him in 2010.

FRIDAY, APRIL 30, 2010 @ 1p.m. EST (12p.m. CST/10a.m. PT) --- Author Nikki Turner and "Fashion Forward with Gail Ambeau"
At the top of the hour Conversations LIVE! welcomes bestselling author Nikki Turner to discuss her latest book. At 30 min. past the hour, Gail Ambeau hosts "Fashion Forward" with special guest supermodel Miguel Pardomo.

  For information on underwriting a program, advertising or being a guest, contact Cyrus Webb at or 601.896.5616.

ENRICO DELVES: Proving Music Has No Boundaries

Though London is his home, the talent of recording artist Enrico Delves is definitely crossing geographical borders and even those created by various genres. There seems to be no limit to his abilities, and no matter how humble he is about the international buzz he has created, Enrico is on the verge of making a permanent mark for himself in music.

Conversations Magazine first became aware of him through his rendition of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" on Youtube. In that performance he showed off his range and gift for making any song his own. Now Enrico is preparing for the release of his own EP, and is using his popularity online to ensure that everyone knows about it.

In this interview, he talks about his beginnings, what separates him from other talent in music and how social networking and other online avenues are aiding in his dreams coming through.

This is our conversation.

Enrico, thank you for talking with Conversations Magazine. Before we get into what you are working on now, I want to talk about how you got here. When did you realize that music was something you were interested in?

I have been singing since I was 10, but only realised that music was something I wanted to get deeper into when I hit reached aged 14 or 15. I did my first performance and although I had horrific nerves, the adrenalin I got from doing something I loved has kept me engaged.

When you look back on the time you have been singing and producing music, does it surprise you the effect your voice has on others?

It really is a shocking thing to know that people enjoy listening to me. I love music so much, and I am pleased to know that people like what I do.

I found out about you through Twitter when you were promoting your performance of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance". How have social networking tools help you in getting more exposure?

I think besides from performing, all social networking sites drastically boosts anybody's exposure. Online promotion is really effective because you can target any market worldwide without leaving your house (laughs). I hate technology but realized I have to use it wisely to create a fan base. I would say that twitter is an amazing site to talk to people and get a buzz circulating your name so quickly if you use it properly.

Success is measured by people in different ways. What is success for you?

I consider success as a goal that is reached. I believe if we set targets and achieve them can be the most rewarding success. But money does sometimes help. (laughs)

It's not easy to get noticed sometimes in the entertainment business. What are you doing to set yourself apart?

My songwriting and voice sets me apart from a lot of artists. I believe my bold song concepts and vocal range creates something dynamic and reflects old school soul, with a contemporary twist that makes it relevant for the present time in music.

Motivation is also important. How do you stay encouraged when it seems as though your goals are not met as quickly as you would like?

Firstly, I pray for courage and wisdom. I tend to watch documentaries about the rise of musicians for inspiration and reassurance, hard work does eventually get you to where you want to be---as cheesy as that sounds. (laughs)

Thanks again for the time, Enrico. If our readers want to find out more information about you, where would you suggest they go online?

I can be reached at,, on Myspace and Facebook. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Monique's Success Inspires Up-And-Coming Designer To Dream Big

by Cyrus Webb for

It's not just those in the worlds of comedy, tv and movies that have found an inspiration in Academy Award-winning actress/comedian Monique. She has also encouraged an up-and-coming designer in Jackson, MS.

Wife, mother, grandmother, visual artist are just a few of the other hats that fashion designer Gail Rayford-Ambeau wears. In spite of the day to day challenges everyone faces, she has shown no signs of backing down or giving up. Instead she has joined aothers who are taking the bull by its horns and moving forward to their destiny. Just like one of her biggest sources of inspiration: Monique.

"When I look at what Monique has gone through and what she has achieved in spite of challenges," says Gail, "I can't help but think that if she could do it, then so can I."

Gail has been involved in art and fashion ever since she was five- years- old. As an eight-year-old student at Hawkins Elementary School in Toledo, Ohio a young Gail Rayford made her first complete outfit for her class show and tell. Dressed in a pair of purple pants made of that 1970’s 100 percent polyester, a matching denim vest and a hat that mixed both of the fabrics, Gail excitingly awaited her turn to show what she had crafted.

Almost 40 years later, that excitement contins. Today Gail is a fashion designer, stylist, radio show host, seamstress, visual artist and founder of Ambeau’s Art and Fashion. When many are saying that "Thin is in", like Monique, Gail is hoping to show that true beauty begins on the inside and can be visible in what one does---instead of what you look like on the outside.

In 2008 she hosted a fashion show in Jackson, MS with national recording artist and author Jacki-O as the special guest. In 2009 one of her garments was the key piece for national Gospel recording artist and Gospel Music Channel’s 2008 Gospel Dreams winner Melinda Watts debut video--- So Good. She also participated in the Florida Designers’ Expo which lead to styling model Tiffany Richardson from America’s Next Top Model (cycle 4) for a photo shoot with celebrity photographer Derek Blanks.

Her newest endeavors include motivational speaking and co-executive producer and host of Fashion Forward with Gail Ambeau on Conversations LIVE! Radio. She discusses fashion tips, trends to look out for and interviews celebrity guests. So far she has talked with actor and recording artist Tray Chaney (HBO's The Wire), singing sensations Willie Taylor (Day 26), Bertell and Abraham McDonald along with fashion designers Rami Kashou, Chris March and Laura Bennett from Project Runway fame.

At 45 years young, Gail may be a latecomer to the fashion industry, but she definitely believes that all things happen in God’s timing. “I can honestly say that it has not been easy but I have no regrets about the decisions that have been made thus far”. Her advice to those who aspire to follow their dream is to “first obey the voice of God, be willing to stick with it through the hard times to make it to the other side and be willing to give up some things.”

When she talks about who she would like in one of her designs, Monique's name always comes up. "I would love to show my appreciation for what she stands for to me," says Gail. "Monique represents for the everyday woman, especially the big girls like myself." For now she will continue to take each day as it comes, confident that dreams come true for those who believe.

Cyrus Webb is the Editor-In-Chief of Conversations Magazine and freelance writer. He can be reached at or at Additional information about Gail can be found at or at

Sunday, April 11, 2010

(April 12, 2010) News from Shadow Play Entertainment

(Monday, April 12, 2010) As a thriving public relations and marketing organization, Shadow Play Entertainment has found itself involved in projects across the United States as well as the United Kingdom and Africa. It's continuing mission of "Molding To Meet Your Needs" has helped it continue to thrive and excel, making its success and that of its clients possible.

* President of Shadow Play Entertainment/Host of Conversations LIVE! Radio announces month-long hiatus to promote new project. Cyrus Webb, President and client of Shadow Play Entertainment, will be taking the month of June 2010 off from his daily radio show Conversations LIVE in order to promote the first book of his serialized novel BLESSED called In The Beginning. Webb will also be preparing to celebrate the seventh year anniversary of his radio program in July 2010. During the month of June 2010, hosts Bruce Tretter, Herschel Dixon and Gail Ambeau will also be on break from their respective shows until July 2010. For more information abou Webb's novel BLESSED, visit

* April 15-17, 2010 --- National Recording artist/author Jacki-O will be visiting Mississippi to promote the importance of reading, her novel GROWN & GANGSTA and discuss her upcoming autobiography RELENTLESS. Joining her during the visit will be author D. D. Turner (Chronicles of a Hip Hop Legend) and Shadow Play Entertainment clients/authors Jermnine Demouchette (James Demouchette VS. The State of Texas) and Mr. Mean Mug (TATTOO TEARS). For full details, visit

* (Saturday, May 1, 2010) Dr. Diane Hassan visits Mississippi to talk about the people of Iraq and her moving book ANGELS AMONG US...EVEN IN IRAQ. Details will be posted at

* (Friday, May 21st and Saturday, May 22, 2010) Actor/Author/Recording artist Tray Chaney will make his first trip to Mississippi to promote not just the importance of reading and his book THE TRUTH YOU CAN'T BETRAY, but his love of music as well. Details will be posted shortly at For information about booking Chaney during his visit for appearances or performances, contact Cyrus Webb at or 601.896.5616.

* AUTHORS OF SHADOW PLAY GO ON TOUR THROUGH A CONFERENCE CALL NEAR YOU: One of the most exciting new developments for Shadow Play Entertainment is the announcement of the authors it represents discussing their careers and work with groups across the country without ever having to travel or stay in a hotel! Are you a member of a book club or group that wants to host such an event with an author at no cost to you? Then booking a stop on the "Conference Call Conversations Tour" is just right for you!The process is simple: 1) Contact Cyrus Webb at or 601.896.5616 to discuss what author you are interested in conversing with along with the date you have in mind for the conversation, city/state and approx number of . 2) Webb will check with the author on their availablility for the proposed date and help the group order autographed copies of the book as well as ensure the group gets the best price. 3)Once the date is book for the "Conference Call Conversations Tour", Webb will give the group the number they will call for the 'tour stop' with the author and aide in promoting the event online for other interested persons to be able to participate. It's that easy, and groups can schedule multiple 'stops' with as many authors as they would like. Participating authors include Electa Rome Parks (DIARY OF A STALKER), Jermaine Demouchette (JAMES DEMOUCHETTE VS. THE STATE OF TEXAS), J. Nicole Spencer (SARAH'S SECRETS), Andre Johnson (YEARNING FOR CONTROL), Steve Hyppolite (A WARRIOR'S PASSAGE), Mr. Mean Mug (TATTOO TEARS), Maria Stewart (LOOKING FOR CLOSURE), Mark Eller (TRAITOR), Gary Kaschak (LIFESTONE), Rita B. Davis (OVERWHELMED), Patricia A. Thomas (GOD REVEALS A MYSTERY), H. Michael Harvey (PAPER PUZZLE), T. C. Alexander (CONSEQUENCES OF ADULTERY), Dr. Diane Hassan (ANGELS AMONG US...EVEN IN IRAQ) and Tray Chaney (THE TRUTH YOU CAN'T BETRAY). What a great way to support authors and talk directly with the authors you love to read! Are you an author not represented by Shadow Play Entertainment but would like to join its authors on "tour" during the Spring and Summer? Contact Cyrus Webb using the information above.

For more information on any of the above news items, contact Cyrus Webb at, 601.896.5616 or visit

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What We Can All Learn About Jacki-O's GROWN & GANGSTA

by Cyrus Webb

"The game wasn't his life...the game was for living the life. A stepping stone that too many cats got stuck on..."--- from GROWN & GANGSTA by Jacki-O
I know what many of you might already be thinking. GROWN & GANGSTA? Not really a title you would normally see yourself discussing over the dinner table, right? Well, there was a time when I would have said the same thing.

As an avid reader---and someone who literally reads books as a part of my livelihood---I have found great satisfaction in being able to take lessons from the books I read and share them with others. Believe it or not, with all that is going on in the world right now, a book like Jacki-O's GROWN & GANGSTA is just what many of us need to give a chance---especially those who have children. Why?

The book introduces us to six friends: Monique, Tatiana, Inch, Malcolm, Quentin and Iz. I have called it an urban version of the show Friends. The characters have all come from nothing and for the most part have made dramatic strides in their lives as adults, but that hasn't taken the streets out of them. If I was to use the movie rating system for the book, I would have to give it a PG-13 rating due to some sexual passages, violence and language. But don't let those things stop you from gving the book a chance, because there is truly a larger picture than might initially meet the eye.

Take the most controversial character of the book, Inch. Short in stature but a giant by reputation, there are a lot of issues that he has to deal with, including how to admit when he is wrong and really wants somethng better than the life he has become known for. After making enemies even among those he thinks are his friends, will his grimey ways come back to haunt him?

Then you have the great Malcolm. He is a chameleon that slips easily between Wall Street and the streets, but it is obvious that he is no fan of the life he has tried to leave behind. Success has come to him many times over, but it is never enough to remove what he feels like are the wrongs of his life, including betraying a friend. Can he have the best of both worlds---or will it all come crashing down?

Tatiana could easily be dismissed as the opportunist of the group. She believes in having what she wants, when she wants it---even at the sake of what might be best for her. Inch is the man she wants, but in his absence, she does what she has to in order to survive. Tatiana looks at her mother as the one thing she doesn't want to be, but when her deceptions come to light, she realizes they have more in common than anyone could have guessed. Will it be too late for her to stand on her own?

Out of the two female friends, Monique's star seems to be shining the brightest among the six. She is on the fast track to success as the A & R Rep for Harlem World Records. She has the dream job, the house, the car and a beautiful son, but the correctional system has her man. With so much at stake, will Monique choose her man or her career in the end?

The only character we meet from the beginning that is in prison would be the love of Monique's life, Iz. He understood the rules of the streets going in, so he took his 15-year bid and vowed to make the most out of it. He longs for those close to him on the outside, but when misunderstandings develop among those he loves the most, will he find that all is lost and he is truly alone?

Lastly, there is Quentin. Like Malcolm, he is living a double life and finding it a delicate balance as he excels as a restaurant owner while still earning his livelihood from the streets. In the process, Quentin is recovering from a dead-end marriage, and his ex-wife has his back against the wall as she threatens to expose his real business. How long will Quentin allow her to use this as leverage?

The lessons in GROWN & GANGSTA go deeper than showing off what you have or what you can do. At the heart of it all is the simple question: What are you willing to do for those you love? Each of the characters have their flaws and can easily be anyone that we know. It doesn't matter where you think you are in life, I think you can find yourself relating to one or more of them---whether you want to or not...

"They had grown up gangsta, but now it was time to be just plain grown..."--- GROWN AND GANGTA

Jacki-O will be signing copies of her must-read novel GROWN & GANGSTA April 15-17, 2010 in events held in Mississippi. Can't make it to the events but want to get a signed copy?

Order yours today! Place your order and let us know how the book should be personalized. The book will be shipped beginning Monday, April 19, 2010 and should arrive in 5 business days. All prices include shipping!

Signed Copy of Grown and Gangsta by Jacki-O

Have questions? Contact Cyrus Webb at or 601.896.5616.

Grown & Gangsta

Saturday, April 3, 2010

LO AND YELLOW BOY: Staying "Connected" After Suffering Loss

LO AND YELLOW BOY: Staying "Connected" After Suffering Loss
by Cyrus Webb

Music was the unifying force between the members of the Mississippi-based Hip Hop group known as Playa Connected---and its founder, Carl Watts aka C. Watts, was also the face of it's name. For years they had been working to get their music heard and build their brand as an independent voice in the streets; however, on Friday, February 26, 2010, the group was delivered a heart-breaking blow with the death of the man who was it's driving force. Carl Watts passed away at the young age of 33, leaving remaining members Yellow Boy (age 25), Lo (age 22), Shaud (age 20), Iceberg (age 20) and Lil Earl (age 19) behind with a difficult decision: would they press on or would Playa Connected die with its leader?

The answer was simple.

"Playa Connected lives on," says Lo, who was not just a member of the group but related to Watts. "C. Watts didn't get to see his dream fully realized, so it's up to us to make sure we take it as far as we can. We can't give up."

For Yellow Boy, it's just as personal. "It was Carl that got me into rapping. I saw his drive and the passion he had for music, and that inspired me to get into it. I'm even more determined now, because I'm doing it for him and for all of us."

(Carl Watts seen here just two days before his death on Fri. February 26, 2010) Carl Watts managed to inspire people in and outside of music. There were many things that could have sidelined him: dealing with a speech impediment, several health issues and in 2009 suffering the loss of his mother---yet he pushed onward, accomplishing more than some individuals twice his age. In 2008, C. Watts was invited to New Orleans to perform in front of major label executives during a music showcase. In 2009 the group was able to get some radio play of their song "Habit", and other songs like "Substitute" were creating a modest buzz as well.

"Music was a part of the way he dealt with what was going on around him," Lo explains. "With music he didn't stutter. It was as if that was when he was truly alive."

Both Lo and Yellow Boy agree that Carl also stressed the business side of the music industry as well, letting them know the importance of marketing and promoting. "If something was going on dealing with music," says Yellow Boy, "Carl was going to be there if he could. He believed in networking just as much as performing. It wsa about keeping the name out there and being seen."

The members of Playa Connected have also vowed to keep up the work their founder did outside of music,too. In 2008 Carl became involved in a literacy-based project called Hip Hop and Books. It was a unique campaign began by fellow Mississippi native Cyrus Webb and national recording artist C-Murder geared towards encouraging reading among the urban community. The events included not just books but music as well. In early 2010 it was announced that this year's National Spokesperson for Hip Hop and Books would be National Recording artist/author Jacki-O---someone who Carl was a big fan of.

(Watts seen here with Jacki-O in 2010) Watts and Jacki-O had met in 2008 when she was in Mississippi promoting her novel GROWN AND GANGSTA. In fact, the last post on Watts' Facebook page before he died was that he was reading her book.

"We were just talking about Jacki-O and the book the day he died," Lo recalls. "He was telling me how good it was and some of the things going on in it. It made me want to read it."

Though it hasn't been easy to go into the studio without the man who gave them their start, both Lo and Yellow Boy know they have a responsibility to do it not just for themselves but to show appreciation for C. Watts' memory and hard work.

"It's Playa Connected for life," says Lo, who has taken on the name Lo Watts in honor of his cousin and friend's memory. "We can't stop. Watts' music will live on in us all. We're going to make sure of it."

For more information about Lo and Yellow Boy, contact Cyrus Webb at or 601.896.5616. You can also visit