Philip Spires

In 2009, Philip Spires collaborated with the sporting legend, Martin Offiah, to produce a book, Martin Offiah’s 50 Of The Best, celebrating the skills and thrills of rugby league.

Hi Philip, Welcome to Literature & Fiction!  Please tell everyone a little about yourself.   

Philip: I was born in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, in 1952 and was brought up in Sharlston, then a mining village. I did grammar school in Normanton, took a chemical engineering degree from Imperial College, London, and then decided to teach, after a PGCE at King’s. I then went to Kenya for two years as a  volunteer. On returning to Britain, I did sixteen years in London education. But the travel bug was with me, and in 1992, my wife and I decided to move to Brunei, where we lived for almost seven years. Three years in Zayed University, Abu Dhabi,  followed and then semi-retirement beckoned and we moved to Spain. Since 2003, I have done some part-time teaching, we run a small tourist rental business and I have completed a PhD, as well as five books.  

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?  

Philip: The only time I have ever suffered travel sickness was when I was very young indeed. I insisted on writing out the story of The Three Little Pigs in an old desk diary while on the back seat of a Standard Eight – and I was very, very sick. I write better than that these days, I hope. So I must have enjoyed creative writing as a child. I even tried to write a couple of novels when I was a student. Thankfully, they are both lost. I even wrote poetry. Unfortunately, I still have it. I have kept a commonplace book since 1973. It’s a work-book, not a diary, full of random jottings, book reviews, concert reviews, travel writing, research notes and trivia.  In 1978, when I set about the first of my Kenyan novels, I used material I had written in the commonplace book while I lived in Kenya. The second Kenyan novel, Mission, arose out of issues that A Fool’s Knot could only skirt. The common-place book remains an idea bank that bears interest. There’s a wealth of material in it. Nowadays, it’s almost exclusively just book reviews, however.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?  

Philip: I have always been fascinated by politics, not only in the ideological sense, but also at the level of relationships between individuals and groups. It was Karl Marx’s  wonderful writing on the links between individual identity and roles within economic systems – means of production, if you like – that prompted me to revisit my own background. My home area, once proudly socialist and comprising miners and families who worked hard, played hard, but always fairly, and then died young, is now transformed into a shadow of its former dignity, populated by apparently compliant servants of consumerism, most of whom can’t afford to consume. In Kenya, I was fascinated by people’s  relationship with the poverty that dominated their lives. In Brunei and the Emirates, it was wealth and its pursuit that endowed respect, fed aspiration and moulded attitudes towards the poorer rest of the planet. How characters are formed by their nurture, how lives are sculpted by their social context, and how their presumptions generate interests that determine action continues to fascinate me. My writing explores these ideas and relationships – at least I hope it does! I write about ordinary people, because every life is extra-ordinary. Kings, queens, princesses, spies, celebrities, those famous by virtue of mere fame are, for me, smaller than life, their identities often a product of someone  else’s  marking concept rather than their own even canalised experience. I thus find such folk less than interesting. But the characters that populate the novels of writers such as Graham Greene, William Boyd, Julian Barnes or Pat Barker – to name but a few – are fascinating in every detail.  So, it is this process of nurture within nature that underpins what I write. Individual journeys through life are unique and intrinsically  interesting. There’ll  always be the odd issue to confront along the way!  

Briefly tell us about your latest book.  Is it part of a series or stand-alone?   

Philip: My latest book, Voyagers, examines several strands related to individual and group identity. It’s a set of short stories loosely based on the experience of travel. It is thus not travel writing, as such, but it may be writing about travellers. It opens with a novella, Discoverers. This is set inBrunei and tells how a college teacher sets out on a routine assignment that would be anything but routine for someone who did not live in primary rain forest. But the teacher’s time is up. His supervisors want him out, though he only becomes aware of the threat after its effects have already begun to bite. He is bright enough to counter and to outwit, but has he forgotten something? Maybe it has something to do with a political campaign he is running? Eventually, if we want our own way, who cares about the facts? In other stories, a little-travelled retiree is rudely intro-duced to the potential threat of the matriarchal. A young art student, apparently liberal, even revolutionary in taste and style, reverts to a new-found middle-class safety when confronted with a choice. In a distant future, a tele-transported man fails to be reunited with his own identity. Australian travellers feel threatened by the claims and connections of a casual acquaintance, but would you believe him? A young couple visit an idyllic village where local lives are anything but idyllic. Things are what they seem and simultaneously they are not. Things agree and contradict; it’s the interpreter that adds meaning and consequence. Reality is often merely neutral.

How do you develop characters? Setting?

Philip: The settings for the Voyagers stories are all real, culled from my own observations and descriptions of trips that I faithfully recorded over the years in my commonplace book. The stories visit some well-known tourist sites – Ephesus and Bodrum, Florence and Venice, the Vietnam coast, a Devon village. The Brunei rain forest is more out of the way, and I doubt many tourists visit the green room in Westminster Central Hall. Sometimes the events and the people are based on those encountered in my travels. The Australians were in Dubrovnik and they were talking to a spiv in a bar. There really was a field trip up the Belalong River into Temburong’s forest. The pub in Devon did exist. Some of the people in the stories were also there, but the characters are amalgams, constructs and juxtapositions to highlight relationships, habits, opportunities, threats. The child abuser I place inVietnam was quite real, but I encountered him inIndonesia. The writer and the politician who meet in Protesters are both real people, though the story does not name them. I know they met in that place because I was in the audience to hear both of them speak. I imagined what might have transpired between them behind the scenes, however. The characters in my Kenyan books also draw on real people, but real people conjoined, merged to create a narrative. There really was a man killed by his father as a result of a family disagreement based on cultural conflict. I never met either of them, but I knew the issue over which they disagreed, and that substance became the plot.

Who is the most unusual/most likeable character?

Philip: In Voyagers I like the central character in Assessors, the science fiction story, despite the fact that we never actually meet him. He is an engineer, a specialist in the maintenance of the urban domes in which people now live. He has been to a conference and has been – as usual – tele-transported back home. His problem arises out of his apparent re-classification at his destination. His body arrives intact, but his intellect has been down-graded, his knowledge and skill-base stripped out and replaced with only basic functions. He writes, apparently, an email asking for his case to be reassessed. If the downgrade was intended, then what motivated it? If it was not intended, then could he have his old intellect back, please? The fawning, grovelling style he adopts, however, might not necessarily be him. The story was inspired by a report of BBC Radio 4´s Today programme in which an American-Japanese physics professor predicted the imminent realisation of an ability to tele-transport large molecules by virtue of our intricate knowledge of genetic sequences. The very next report featured the opening of  Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Five, where travellers and their luggage could not be reunited.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had. 

Philip: Here are a few excerpts from Amazon reviews of Mission.

 A tragic accident is seen through the eyes of five different characters, including the victim. Unforgettable – I became totally absorbed. I will remember my time spent in Phil Spires’ African community for a long, long time.  Highly recommended.  (Maureen Moss)

 … Despite the events being trodden over by several people, there’s always something fresh to discover, a new insight into a character, a shocking revelation, and even though you think you know everything already, you read on, wanting to understand the individuals and their inner worlds, and still learn more. The narrative is coloured by the sights and smells of a small town in Africa, the petty tribal disagree-ments and the long-lasting resentment of past ignominies under colonial rule. It is not a light read, but it is rewarding. It’s obvious that these characters lived with Spires for several years, he knows them so well, and by the end of the book, we do too.  A memorable and quite remarkable book.  (Nik Morton)  

 The plot is centred round the lives of five characters who are more or less implicated in the death of Munyasya a derelict ex Kenyan army officer. Although the `accident’ occurred more than thirty years ago this tragedy is still playing out its dramatic consequences in their lives.  In reading the novel I was constantly reminded of Lawrence Darrell’s great work `The Alexandria Quartet’. In “Mission” the sense of place is not so poetically depicted but there is no doubt that we are in Africa its vibrancy and heat pervades each chapter and as in the Quartet we see one event or set of circumstances from the varying points of view of the main characters.  How differently each views those same events! (Michael Elsmere)  

 A fine story set in beautiful Kenya, colorful and filled with mystery, intrigue, and twists. The characters are real as is their perceptions when seen through their eyes. A  magnificent  story set in magnificent locale. (Bill Copeland)

 What are your current projects?

Philip: My next project is already finished in that the text is written. What I am doing at the moment is precisely nothing, however, except reflect on the ideas it contains. A couple of people have read the book and I am waiting a while before re-reading it myself. I might change some aspects of it. Who knows? It’s called A Search for Donald Cottee. Don, also known as Donkey because of a thicker than usual lower lip, has retired early after years on sickness benefit, having once been an electrician in a coal mine. He and his wife, Suzie, have driven to Spain in a Swift Sundance and have parked permanently on a Benidorm caravan site. Suzie, who prefers to hide a motor-accident scar on her left arm under a suitable garment, long ago adopted the nickname Poncho. So Donkey Cottee and Poncho Suzie seek a new and restful life in Spain. Don continues to campaign on environmental issues, being passionately against wind-farms. Via an old flame who threatens to reignite, Suzie takes on the management of a cabaret bar. Don meets women of his dreams, is disowned by the daughter he has, is captivated by the one he perhaps never had, falls into caves and gets mixed up with politics. Suzie makes a ripping success of a bar that the owners wanted to fail so they could demolish it. My parody of Don Quixote is a comedy that turns suddenly and devastatingly tragic. I hope to publish later this year.  

How does your environment/upbringing colour your writing?

Philip: From the material of A Search For Donald Cottee it will be clear that the experience of Yorkshire mining areas over the last four decades is an important element in the book. As youngsters, fired with the late 1950s and early 1960s myths of mobility, betterment and opportunity, Don and Suzie strove to realise their personal and shared dreams. Their daughter got everything she wanted only to reject it. They got their bigger house and a mortgage to match. When the strike of the 1980s began, Don continued to work because, as an electrician, he was “maintenance”. But he was duly ostracised, labelled a traitor by his colleagues, labelled at home perhaps in the same way that the rest of ThatcheriteBritain labelled the strikers as traitors. Don was thus doubly an outcast, damned for being and damned for not being… And then, after years on the “club”, Don retires to find he is still a little man in others’ bigger schemes, despite the film-set location of the Med, sunshine and cheap beer. But in the end we are still not sure what happened to Don or Suzie. He might just have had the last laugh, if there was one…

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Philip: I have a website at www.philipspires.co.uk where you can find some extracts from the books. A new page devoted to Donald Cottee will appear soon. Voyagers, my travel stories, have their own page at http://www.philipspires.co.uk/voyagers.htm.  Please do have a look at the material, but please do remember that all I want to do is write the kind of book that I would want to read. If you would like to share that experience, I would be at least flattered. The books are available now in Kindle and other ebook editions, though Voyagers can also be bought as paperback. Here’s the Amazon links for my work:

Amazon.co.uk  

Amazon.com

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Helen Wisocki

Hi Helen, Welcome to Literature & Fiction. Please tell everyone a little about yourself.

Helen: I grew up in Dearborn, Michigan and moved to Los Angeles, California, when I was twenty years old.  Moving to Massachusetts in 1977, I opened a clothing and jewelry boutique, which I still own and operate.  I’ve observed many different types of people through my business and how they interact with others, making for excellent character resources for my writing.  I’ve raised two children, who are now living in California, which is where I plan to retire someday.  Travel has always been a love of mine. 

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Helen: I loved writing fictional stories in high school, and my senior-year English teacher told me that I should submit my stories to magazines.  Never taking his advice, I instead wrote many colorful and detailed letters to family members in my travels around the country, usually starting with the words, “And the saga continues.”  I seemed to put myself in situations that made for good story telling. 

   When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Helen: I met a guy from high school at our thirtieth high school class reunion who told me about the horrors his family experienced after meeting their new pastor.  His family was torn apart by the pastor who used his clerical power to groom and manipulate his wife.  Their four daughters were horrified when their parents divorced and the pastor married their mother and moved into the family unit.  His story was so compelling that it became the first non-fiction book that I wrote called Innocence Betrayed.  We unfortunately had to change it to fiction after production began, possibly because of threats to the publisher by the church mentioned in the story.  The message in the story was an important one for readers to learn to recognize the grooming techniques that unscrupulous clergy will use to satisfy their narcissistic behavior.   
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone?

Helen: My latest book, Sins of the Abused is non-fiction.  It tells about the survival of a man who was abused by a priest at the age of ten, becoming hooked on sex, drugs, alcohol, pornography, and becoming an over-achiever.  It will most likely be the last story that I write about clergy abuse.  It is set to go into the editing phase in the spring of 2011 and published by the end of the year.

What’s the hook for the book?

Helen: The story is a timely one regarding the recent discovery of how high up in the Catholic Church the cover-ups of abuse actually were.  Victims were abused first by their trusted priests and again by the Church with lies, cover-ups, denial, and the statute of limitations.  Many of the victims did not survive the torturous life after the abuse, but my co-author was one who overcame the self-loathing, addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, and pornography, having the courage to come forward to tell his story and detailing what it took for him to get there.  He is brave in opening up to the graphic details of the grooming process and abuse, helping the reader to understand just how a young boy could be torn from an innocent and trusting childhood to a world of addiction and horror from which few survive. 

 How do you develop characters? Setting?

Helen: When I began working with my co-author on Sins of the Abused, he had already written a manuscript telling his story, but it was disjointed and rambling.  I had to read about fifty pages before I found a place to begin.  Since it is based on a true story, the characters were developed from real people, from my experience in already researching and writing about clergy abuse, and from being raised in the Catholic Church.  It was important to pull the needed information from my co-author that I felt was necessary for the reader to get a clear picture of how such a story could actually take place.     

Who is the most unusual/most likeable character?

Helen: I think my co-author, Marco, is the most unusual and likeable character, but he’s also the most hated character when he’s abusing drugs and alcohol, ruining relationships, setting his children up for pain and abuse, and destroying all that is good in his life.  It’s unusual that a person can survive what he endured.  He was a polite and trusting little boy who yearned for the love and attention his younger siblings received.  Little did he know that he was the perfect target for the coolest priest at church.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Helen: The way I maintained the course of the plot in my first book, Innocence Betrayed, was to use an outline and pages and pages of notes.  But for Sins of the Abused I was working with a manuscript that I had to continually go back and read through, moving chapters around and adding many newly written chapters to make things more clear and maintain the course of the plot.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Helen: I thoroughly enjoyed writing two short stories based on personal escapades in the anthology, Forever Friends where I wrote a story of surviving hard times with a “Circle of Friends” living together and sharing many combined talents to make ends meet.  In the anthology Forever Travels my story is called “A Most Excellent Adventure” and is based on my travel experiences driving across the United States with my son, who had just graduated from college and wanted to move to Los Angeles from Boston to begin a career in film and media. 

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Being the quiet and shy middle child in a happy two-parent home in Michigan with four sisters, I did a lot of observing.  I feel that this helped me to see both sides of a situation later in life, which helps in developing characters.  My daily journal entries gave me an outlet to express myself through writing.  I saw life as a story that played out in my mind, going wherever my imagination wanted to take it.  Imagination is a wonderful thing for someone who likes to write.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Helen: There were many great reviews for Innocence Betrayed, but this one from Kate, a survivor, was very special:

The contents of this book amazed me, because they are so similar to my own story. Having been in the place of hurt that the characters found themselves, I was able to really relate to this writing. I connected with the grooming, the manipulation, the Church cover-up, and the painful aftermath that something like this can bring. The story shows just how easily something like this can happen, and is a help to those it’s happened to, in seeing that they are not alone. Heartbreaking truth…and great writing. So glad to see a voice being given to such a painful topic!

5-stars *****

What are your current projects?

Helen: Right now I’m working with another survivor who wants to tell his story.  This young man is a survivor of three kidney transplants beginning at the age of two.   I’m also developing a series of adventure stories based on the many personal escapades I’ve experienced and continue to enjoy through life’s happenings.   

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Helen: I currently have two websites with information on my books and me.  One focuses on being an informational site for those abused by an authority figure at www.innocencebetrayedbyclergy.com and the other website is more general at www.freewebs.com/helenwisocki

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Chelle Cordero

Chelle Cordero is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various publications including The Journal News, Hudson Valley Magazine, Emergency Magazine, Spotlight, Auto Trim News, EMS Products, Sound Management Magazine, and Creator’s News supplements.

Hi Chelle, please tell everyone a little about yourself.

Chelle:  I am a Romantic Suspense author with eight novels (seven romantic suspense and one mystery) published by Vanilla Heart Publishing. I also have short stories in the anthologies With Arms Wide Open, Nature’s Gifts, Passionate Hearts (Vanilla Heart Publishing),Forever Friends and Forever Travels (Mandimam Press).

I have conducted several writing workshops and author the Amazon Kindle blog, Living, Breathing, Writing (available by subscription). I also do book and project editing in my “spare” time. Along with my husband Mark, I am a partner in By-Lines, an editorial and photography company catering to the business community. I am also a NYS EMT and my entire family volunteers with the local ambulance corps.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Chelle:  When it came to fiction writing, I was always a fan of romance. Today my favorite genre is romantic-suspense.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

Chelle: My latest work in progress is a stand-alone book that features a character first introduced in the novel, Final Sin. Matt Garratti was the heroine’s best friend; this book is his story.

What’s the hook for the book?

Chelle: Matt has moved his little family down south when he takes a job as a flight medic. A series of questionable events, unexplained deaths and ominous threats plague their world.

How do you develop characters?

Chelle: I like to build my characters before they even begin their journey – every character has a history and all of their actions and reactions reflect that history.

Who is the most likeable of all your characters?

Chelle: I recently wrote a short story called The Vacation (VHP anthology Passionate Hearts). The hero of the story is Bob, a wounded vet who served in Iraq. He’s in love with Darlene, a divorcee who is struggling to support her kids and home.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Chelle: I begin with a basic idea, setting or conflict and throw my characters into it. Then I let them just react, they wind up writing their own story.

Do you have a specific writing style or preferred POV?

Chelle: I like using third person point of view for most of my writing. However I found that interjecting first person POV as the antagonist in a murder mystery really helps to heighten the tension.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Chelle: I’ve always had a very vivid imagination and have always been involved in my community. I also had several very interesting jobs. Through the years I’ve had the opportunity to see otherwise normal situations from “other viewpoints” and then with my imagination, I’ve always been able to see more possibilities. Some of those possibilities make for very intriguing plots.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Chelle: Within the Law:

Chelle Cordero begins Within The Law with a great setup of murder, betrayal, and plot twists that engage the reader immediately. In Ken Follet style, the novel subsequently explores the tragic sequence of events keeping Tom and Alli from being together. The novel is, therefore, less courtroom murder mystery and more star-crossed love story.
Cordero’s writing and plot is engaging and entertaining. One is drawn to Tom and Alli and their story just as they are drawn to one another. The dialogue is real and crisp and the novel moves quickly. Within the Law makes a great summer beach read.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Chelle: I maintains an author’s blog at http://chellecordero.blogspot.com/, and my website at http://ChelleCordero.com

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Katherine Kane

Katherine Kane, is an urban dog owner with over thirty years experience working with dogs. Her first books focus on her love for pets, and take advantage of the experience she has had training and working with dogs. 

Shelagh: Hi Katherine. Please tell everyone about yourself.

Katherine: I have lived and traveled extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe, and Africa. The learnings from these experiences have been amazing and too numerous to count. The people I’ve met have proved to me that, across the world, we are more alike than different. Over the years, in addition to traveling, I have gathered graduate degrees, worked in academia and the corporate world, had two of the most wonderful daughters a person could ever have, and enjoyed every single day. (Well, some days have been better than others.) Now, my daughters are grown, my corporate life is wrapped up, and I can do what I want to do. So I’m writing books and playing golf.

Shelagh: When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Katherine: I’ve always wanted to write non-fiction, but was busy being a working single mom. Now that my daughters are grown and I am semi-retired, I have the time. My first book, Training The City Dog, was inspired by bringing a puppy home to my downtown highrise. There is very little information out there that is helpful to all of the challenges of raising an urban dog. Some dog training books have titles that indicate they are applicable to dogs in cities, but early in the book you get to the housebreaking chapter. When they tell you to take the puppy to a quiet and tranquil spot in the back yard, their credibility slips a bit. The dog trainers in our area are from the country or the suburbs, so they don’t even pretend to have much of a clue about how to help with urban matters. Thus Training The City Dog was born. 

Shelagh: When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Katherine: My goal was to help dog owners and their dogs be excellent city citizens. I talked with close to one hundred people – dog experts, city dog owners, and city dog dislikers – to find out how they deal with urban issues, and if they don’t have urban experience, how they would handle these issues if they did. I thought it was very important to consider the decisions property managers make to ban dogs from their buildings and the perspectives of people who wish dogs were banned from cities because their issues point to ways we can make our dogs more acceptable to everyone around. Although raising our dogs to be healthy, happy, and safe in urban environments that require special petiquette is a very serious matter, there is also a lot of humor underlying the experience. My book takes a lighthearted approach to these serious subjects. I want to deliver the message with good humor. There is a copy of my book in the salon I go to, and the woman who owns it says it is fun to hear people chuckle as they read through the book while sitting under the dryer or waiting for their appointment. 

Shelagh: Briefly tell us about your latest book.

When you live in a city, there is the matter of housebreaking a puppy without having doors leading to anything resembling a yard that is quiet and tranquil. There is the matter of elevators, which don’t bother some dogs, but are a total mystery to others. Elevators can be very threatening to dogs that are shy or that tend to be protective of their space and their owners – all those people smashed into that tiny space is difficult for them. In high-rises, there is the matter of fire alarms, which mostly go off in the middle of the night in a storm, requiring getting your dog down the stairs with lots of people who are not interested in tripping over it or waiting for it. And high-rises have hallways and lobbies with many people coming and going – challenging for dogs that want to either protect their space or greet everyone they hear with angry or happy barking. Outside, there is a wide variety of people and dogs to socialize with – lots of them. Sometimes lots of them all at once. And not all encounters are pleasant – there is the neighborhood monster dog and there are the people who are dog curmudgeons. There are busses and trucks and trains and cars belching and honking day and night. There are horse-drawn carriages and horses carrying mounted police. There are pot-belly pigs and cats being walked on leashes. There are sidewalk cafes and markets and festivals and fireworks.  There are ordinances about dogs, and no one wants to have to bail their furry friend out of dog jail. All of these present challenges for the urban dog owner. All of these topics, and more, are covered in Training The City Dog.

Shelagh: How do you develop characters and setting?

Katherine: Although this is a non-fiction, how-to book, it is full of four-legged characters! About the matter of housebreaking, there is Tiddly Winks, the tiny pup who can be litter box trained (much better than going out in a snowstorm at 3:00 a.m. to respond to calls of nature). And Homer, the puppy, who is totally distracted by the friendly man who owns the deli down the street, smells wonderful (at least to Homer), and wants to give him a hug and a treat – who wants to learn to potty in the proper spot when deli man here? And Moppet who learns how to ring the bell when she wants to go outside. There are lots of people – dog dislikers, dog lovers – without dogs, pickled people pouring out of the pubs at night, and people in uniform – who your dog should learn to bow to. There are dogs, cats, and other urban creatures – Monster Dog – just cross the street and don’t get near it. There is Bouncer the exuberant people lover. There are horses, chipmunks, squirrels, geese, monkeys, pot belly pigs, and cats. In the matter of critical commands, there is Doodles who has to learn Leave it!, Droopy who has to learn to Drop it!, Harvey who needs to learn to Heel! even if he doesn’t want to, and Dasher who is absolutely defiant about learning to Come! As for the matter of sidewalk cafes, Dino the Dinosaur Dog must never put his nose in someone’s nachos or sample anyone’s salad. Fluffy needs to know her manners when trotting through shops that let her in. Sweetie Pie must learn not to eat the sweet peas and petunias out of flower boxes. Dude has to learn how to wear snow boots, even if he rips them to shreds during the training process. Angel may not be so quiet when you are not at home and Yipper needs to stop yapping all the time – both need to read the chapter on Barking. Floppy may be terribly afraid of elevators, especially if she has to share it with Monster Dog. TatterTott the tiny pooch needs to be kept off the ground when she goes to festivals and markets and Sassy needs to turn into velcro-dog instead of flying around and jumping on produce tables at the market. The setting is the city – any city anywhere.

Shelagh: Are all your characters likeable?

Katherine: Of course I think all the canine characters are more than likeable. They are lovable and adorable. But some of the people characters are in need of help. As the saying goes, dogs don’t need nearly as much training as their owners do. Although I don’t give people names in Training The City Dog, there are definite character types. Monster Dog’s owner needs to get a grip – literally – on the leash and the dog. Cell phone Sally needs to stay off the phone and pay attention to all the people who are getting tangled up in the two retractable leashes she uses for her two rambunctious furry friends. Clueless Cathy needs to make sure that when the elevator door closes, both she and her dog are on the same side of the door. Old people trying to navigate through city parks can be stricken with terror at the friendly fuzzball that bounces around their ankles and crashes into their arthritic knees because fuzzball’s owner, Intense Ivan, is involved in an animated conversation instead of tending to Fuzzy. All of us city dog owners need to respect those poor people who don’t like dogs and who are afraid of dogs. Maybe if our dogs are good and polite and positively dripping with proper petiquette we can win them over. Maybe they won’t love our furry friends nearly as much as we do, but at least they won’t try to banish them to places beyond the city limits.

Shelagh: How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Katherine: My environment and my upbringing are both the color of my writing. I am a city girl. I love cities. When I visit the country, I have to take a recording of inebriated homeless people yelling at each other with sirens and cars honking in the background so that I can go to sleep at night. I was raised with dogs. When my dad came back from WWII, instead of bringing lovely English china and silver home to his new wife, he brought back an Irish Setter named O’Toole. When my grandfather decided that O’Toole, who he re-named Red, was his dog, we acquired Hairless, the English Sheepdog. Hairless was my constant companion and protector as a toddler, including protecting me from my parents when they got a bit angry over something I did that, in their opinion, was naughty. My mother was a breeder of Dalmations for a while (way before they soared to “popular dog” status and became the “dog of the year”). Chloe delivered 28 puppies who grew up and out to loving owners over her career as a mom. We had Snoozer, the boxer, who loved to be put into the pram. He sat up tall and proud, wrapped in a baby blanket and with a bonnet tied on his head, while we paraded him up and down the neighborhood sidewalks. My children were raised by Ruffy the black lab, who happily lead a team of burglars around the house so they wouldn’t miss anything that might be valuable (as the burglars reported to the police when they were captured). My dad hunted with standard poodles, and Luna (aka LoonyTunes by her vet, groomer, dog walker, and dog day care handlers) is my second black standard (following the loss of my beloved black standard Misha).

Shelagh: Do you have a favorite review?.  

Katherine: All of the reviews of Training The City Dog have been excellent, so I am not going to hurt anyone’s feelings by picking out a favorite.

Shelagh: What are your current projects?

Katherine: I have three current projects. 

1. Getting Training The City Dog out on the Kindle and the iPad (by mid December, 2010) and getting it up on Amazon U.K. and Amazon Canada before the end of the year.

2. My next book is still title-less. (I have trouble assigning titles until my webmaster and my editor get frustrated and tell me  “just land on something and lets go with it!”) It is an extensive and thoroughly-researched book about helping your dog live a happy, healthy, and safe life with you, whether you live in the city, in the country, or somewhere in between. It talks about the cost of dog ownership and selecting a dog. There is a how-to-pick-a… chapter about selecting a vet, a dog day care, a dog walker, a groomer, a pet sitter, a boarding kennel, and all the other caregivers we have for our dogs. There is a chapter on food and shelter, including a section on foods that may be dangerous for our dogs that is abridged at the back of Training The City Dog. There is a chapter on contributing to the community through fostering dogs or providing our dog as a therapy dog or a blood donor or a working dog. There is a chapter on fun things to do with your dog, like geocaching and agility and hunting and disc competition and tricks training (great for therapy dogs) and lots more activities. There is a chapter on health and safety. There is a chapter on traveling with your dog. And, of course, there is a chapter on dog and dog owner good manners. As with Training The City Dog, I am doing extensive research and talking with dog experts in every dog-related field. It is scheduled for publication in the spring of 2011.

3. My third book (also title-less at this point) is an anthology of dog stories by dog owners. I have the framework built and have some submissions. l may be posting a call for more submissions on multiple networking groups including LinkedIn, She Writes, Published Authors Network, Goodreads, and several dog-owner groups if I need more stories. In case any of your readers are interested in sending me a submission, have them contact me through the Contact Us form on our website, and I’ll send them the submission requirements. This book is scheduled for publication in the summer of 2011.

We are also publishing two other books by other authors, who are being shy about promotion at the moment, so I have to respect their wishes and keep silent about their books for a while longer.

 Katherine: People can learn more about City Pet Book projects and events from our website:  http://www.citypetbooks.com

We make sure the site is frequently updated with tips about dogs, topics for dog owners, and many resources that dog owners find interesting and valuable.

Shelagh: Thank you for joining us today, Katherine.

Katherine: Thanks so much for having me, Shelagh. And I hope all your readers give their dogs a huge hug, a good rubdown, and a yummy treat many times every day at a minimum! And I hope they tell their dogs, over and over, that they could not imagine life without them.

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Abe F. March

Today’s guest, Abe March, has an interesting and varied background that led to the writing of his first book, To Beirut and Back.

Shelagh: Welcome, Abe, please tell everyone about yourself.

Abe: I’m a retired international business consultant, entrepreneur and author living near Landau, Germany with my wife Gisela. For relaxation, I enjoy hiking in the nearby mountains exploring ancient castle ruins, walking through the local vineyards and singing in regional choirs. My career has taken me from my birthplace in the USA to Canada, Europe and the Middle East.

I grew up in York County, Pennsylvania and served in the USAF from 1957-61. My business career got underway with the computing sciences division of IBM’s service bureau. I later joined an international cosmetic company, which took me throughout the USA and into Canada, Greece and Germany.

With international experience and an entrepreneurial spirit, I started my own importing business headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon, for the distribution of cosmetics and toiletries to the Middle East markets. I also functioned as a locator of goods and services sought by Mid-Eastern clients before the civil war in Lebanon destroyed my successful business enterprise. I returned to the United States to start over, and was soon working on an international level again. My subsequent work involved Swan Technologies, Inc., a personal computer manufacturer. I established a subsidiary for Swan in West Germany serving as Managing Director. I returned to the US to work in procurement with Stork NV, a Dutch company, supporting a fleet of 1200 Fokker Aircraft, until my retirement.

Shelagh: When did you first begin to write, and in what genre(s)?

Abe:It started after I left Beirut in 1976 and began to type up my experiences (yes, we used typewriters back then) from notes into a manuscript, which would become To Beirut and Back about 30 years later. Although an autobiography, I’ve been told it reads like a novel.

Shelagh: Is there a message in your writing?

Abe: Yes, there was a message, especially with my first novel. I wanted to share my personal experience in dealing with various cultures and sensitive political issues. The events that caused my change in attitude toward the participants in the Middle East struggle was not unique; however, intimidation and threats of retaliation cause many to remain quiet. Telling the truth is not always easy or popular, but often necessary to effect change. The same is true with my second novel. As we have learned, for every action there is a reaction. Events that one may justify as necessary will have a reaction. That reaction can be in some form of retaliation — acts of revenge — and when it happens, oddly enough, many are surprised.

Shelagh: Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is this also based on real life?

Abe: My latest book, Journey Into the Past, with contributing author, Lynn Jett, is in part a time-travel romance story with the setting among the ancient castles in the Pfalz (Palatinate) region of Germany.Synopsis: Heather Wilson, a successful architect, needed time off from work and a chance to recover from a relationship gone sour. The poster of a 12th century castle helped her decide to make a trip to Germany and visit this castle. On the drawbridge to the castle, she meets Hans Hess, a retired American businessman who lives nearby. As they discuss the castle, their hands touch an ancient stone and they are briefly catapulted back in time. As Heather explores the castle, she finds a note but can’t translate it and asks Hans for assistance. The translation provides a clue that leads them to other nearby castles in search of additional clues to solve a mystery. Heather is not aware that Hans is married and that his wife is in a comatose state and therefore cannot understand his resistance to falling in love. As they discover more about the characters in the 12th century romance, they learn more about their own feelings and they succumb to its passion. When Hans’s wife recovers from her illness, it creates a heart-rending dilemma. Heather returns to her world without informing Hans that she is pregnant. Years later, an aged Hans learns about his daughter when she leads a group of students to explore the castle and Hans is requested to act as tour guide.

Shelagh: What’s the hook for the book?

Abe: There’s nothing that would constitute a clever hook, but simply: “When the paths of a vacationing American architect and a retired German businessman cross, the soul-mates embark on a journey through time; a journey triggered by a series of mysterious, hidden love notes written centuries before.”

Shelagh: How do you develop characters and setting?

Abe: The setting is always based on places I’ve been. In the case of non-fiction, the characters are real; however, in some instances, names are altered. For fiction, I try to use a facsimile and/or current events with a scenario of probability. With romance, it is a combination of true life and fantasy.

Shelagh: Who’s the most unusual character?

Abe: In the book, They Plotted Revenge Against America, the most unusual character would be David Levy. David is an American-born Jew who emigrates to Israel and becomes a member of the Mossad (secret service). For personal reasons, he turns into a double agent and works against his adopted country in training a team of young men and women who desire revenge against America.

Shelagh: Do you adopt any techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Abe: The course of the plot is natural progression. Trying to keep the reader wondering what happens next often requires some change in sequence, as with flashbacks.

Shelagh: Do you have your own way of writing or has anyone influenced your style of writing?

Abe: I do not try to copy anyone’s style. I write the way I talk. In dialogue, I use colloquial expressions and the manner of speaking that fits each character. Reading books of various genres has an influence. I don’t think it is something conscious; however, the manner of writing that catches my attention and keeps me reading is something that comes through naturally in my own writing.

Shelagh: How does your environment or upbringing affect your writing?

Abe: My upbringing and environment has an enormous influence on my writing. I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. The perpetual struggle to succeed, dealing with people of varied cultures, provided me with a broad range of experience. Understanding the needs and feeling of the poor, furnished me with useful insights. By contrast, the lifestyle and outlook of the rich, or people of nobility, enables me to understand a mentality that is often in conflict with the poorer class. To win and then lose everything is another experience that affects how one deals with problems. It certainly can alter one’s outlook on life.

Shelagh Please share with us the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Abe: The best review was from Malcolm Campbell, author of The Sun Singer and reviewer for PODRAM. The review was unsolicited. He bought my book and wrote the following review:

“Terrorism, by definition, operates outside the traditional rules of war. It’s hard to combat because attacks are no longer limited to people wearing military uniforms at well-formed battle lines: they can happen anywhere, at any time, and they may well target people who don’t have any direct knowledge of the peoples and issues involved.

This is the arena of Abe F. March’s chilling novel They Plotted Revenge Against America. The novel is chilling, not because it’s filled with larger than life James Bond daring-do in faraway trouble spots. Quite the contrary: this novel takes place on American soil as survivors of the American attack on Baghdad blend in to mainstream America to personally extract revenge against everyday citizens.

They Plotted Revenge Against America is a plausible, sobering, intricate and effectively plotted story about a group of well-trained, well-coordinated teams who slip into the U.S. with forged papers and then painstakingly work through a plan that will infect food and water supplies with a deadly virus.

These team members are not the gun-wielding, grenade-throwing stereotypical terrorists we see in most TV shows and movies. They are everyday people who have suffered personal loss and who want to fight back. Once their mission is complete, they plan–if possible–to go back to their normal lives. As the mission unfolds, they alternate between excitement and doubt while trying to avoid detection, and in the process, they discover while blending into community life, that Americans are not the monsters they expected.

Since the overall mission leader is a double agent working for Israel’s Mossad, group members must not only avoid Homeland Security and other U.S. law enforcement agencies, but the highly effective Israel intelligence agency as well. This subplot is a nice touch in a book that suggests we’re more vulnerable than we suspect.”

Shelagh: What are your current projects?

Abe: I have two projects: (1) the first one is to revise and expand my first novel, To Beirut and Back, since there was no editing by the publisher. I also want to add some pictures and maps of the region described in the book. (2) The second project is writing about my childhood. I may decide to fictionalize it so as to avoid potential problems with some of the characters or their relatives. As we age, much of our early life is now history to the younger generation. The advances in technology within the past 50 years are dramatic. Riding in a horse-drawn carriage, walking long distances to a one-room school, writing with a typewriter, strict and often harsh discipline, etc., much that seems antiquated today. Life was simpler but not without problems.

Shelagh: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Abe: The best source to learn about my books are on my website: http://www.abemarch.com and on Amazon.

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Deborah McCarragher

Deborah  McCarragher’s love of the Holy scripture and bible study are evident in her poetry and literary works. Her primary goal is to share her personal testimony with others while bringing hope and practical help through her books.

Shelagh: Please tell everyone a bit about your self, Deborah.

Deborah: I grew up in a military family and left home at age eighteen to marry my first husband.  I divorced four years later and returned to Florida to start my life over, and remarried in 1982 to my present husband.  I am a small business owner of over twenty years, and enjoy creative writing and bible study in my spare time.  I enjoy using my spiritual gifts of encouragement and teaching in my home church.   My husband and I have one married son in the US military and we reside in north Florida.

Shelagh: When did you begin writing and in what genre(s)?

Deborah: I first enjoyed creative writing in high school, but wrote my current book, Mission Possible, in l989.  It is a non-fiction Christian women’s book dealing with marriage.

Shelagh: When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish?

Deborah: Writing my first book was more of a labor of love and wasn’t pre-planned.  It was inspired by God, and my primary goal is to share my personal testimony with others while bringing hope and practical help through my book.

Shelagh: Briefly tell us about your latest book.

Deborah: I am a first-time author of the book Mission Possible.  It was written for women who struggle with spiritually uneven marriages, and is about my quest to reach my husband for Christ.

Shelagh: What’s the hook for the book?

Deborah: Author tackles delicate subject in marraige.  Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to stand in the gap for your mate’s soul.

Shelagh: Do you have a specific writing style or preferred POV?

Deborah: Mission Possible was written from the first person perspective as it is my personal testimony.

Shelagh: How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Deborah: My background and upbringing played absolutely no part in my book, Mission Possible, as I didn’t become a Christian until age thirty-five.

Shelagh: Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Deborah: If you are a Christian woman striving to introduce your husband to a saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior, you will truly love and embrace the inspiration and hope found in this book. Unlike other books with religious themes, “Mission Possible” is a clear road map leading to an everlasting peace within your home.  Right from the first paragraph, Deborah’s experience and passion will capture your undivided attention. Again and again, she presents her faith and conviction in the Scriptures with a pace that’s quick and always fresh. The heart filled passion and desire for her husband to find and establish a relationship with our Lord and Savior is virtually on every page.   (Reviewed By: Brian Knight)

Shelagh: What kinds of reactions has the book generated thus far?

Deborah: I have had great reaction to my little book.  Some women love it because it is not lengthy, and they can read it quickly – yet refer back to it over & over again.  One woman emailed me a testimony that she was nearly ready to leave her husband, but after reading the book, felt that God was leading her to give her marriage another try.  That was very humbling and gratifying for me.  I just want to help women see that there is an alternative to being miserable in your marriage.

Shelagh: What are your current projects?

Deborah: I am currently working on another non-fiction Christian book titled “Trees of the Bible – A Spiritual Journey”.  It discusses some of the more popular trees in scripture and their spiritual significance.  It features the Hebrew name and scientific classification.  You can view a sample on my website on the “Something New in the Wings” tab.

Shelagh: How can our readers learn more about you and contact you directly?

Deborah: They can visit my website at www.Godmissionpossible.com or email me at deb@alabasterboxpublishing.com

They can also visit my Blog page at www.Godmissionpossible.blogspot.com.

My book is available on my website at www.Godmissionpossible.com or at www.Amazon.com , as well as several other online retailers.

I have my book available as a trade paperback, audio book on CD, downloadable MP-3 format, and as an E-Book.

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Jess C. Scott

Jess C. Scott is primarily a writer/novelist/poet. In mid-2009, Jess decided to publish her first two books herself, after realizing those works weren’t exactly commercially categorizable. Her third novel is a more mainstream project.

Shelagh: Hi Jess, please tell us a little about yourself.

Jess: Writer. Artist. Dreamer. Doer. Twenty-three.

Shelagh: When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Jess: Before I turned five … I think it started with adventure. Crossed over into erotica when I turned eighteen. I write in several genres (young adult fiction, paranormal romance, GLBT, new media), but I’d lump most of it under “contemporary fiction.”

Shelagh: When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Jess: I derive a great amount of satisfaction and meaning from the writing process. Readers are free to deduce/interpret my work(s) however they wish 😉

Shelagh: Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone?

Jess: My debut blog/IM novel was/is a stand-alone. I have some other projects that are currently in-the-works.

Shelagh: What’s the hook for the book?

Jess: EyeLeash captures self-discovery in the 2000s, and showcases the colorful, intricate drama in two youths’ relentless search for themselves — and what’s really in their hearts.

Shelagh: How do you develop characters? Setting?

Jess: I drift into their world, so much so that the realm of imagination can often be more real than what’s actually defined as “reality,” heh.

Shelagh: Who is the most unusual character?

Jess: Thus far, I’d perhaps consider Lucius Young to be unusual (an incubus that features in my second book, 4:Play — a short story collection).

Shelagh: Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Jess: I plot and plan beforehand, to keep me focused.

Shelagh: Do you have a specific writing style?

Jess: It depends on the character(s) and the story.

Shelagh: How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Jess: There tends to be a multicultural aspect to most of my writing. I grew up in Singapore, a cosmopolitan and racially diverse city-state.

Shelagh: Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Jess: Review Excerpt of EyeLeash: “…Jade is not infuriatingly self-deprecating the way Bella Swan (main character from Twilight) is, among many other differences. She’s got confidence, and it’s refreshing to read a book about a girl who actually thinks she’s got a good body. I think that’s so important.” — unlikelyaristotle on LibraryThing

Review Excerpt of Wicked Lovely (from 4:Play): “I was surprised that I ended up liking “Wicked Lovely”. Not too into the whole incest thing, especially in brother-sister relationships. (I have a brother myself, so thinking about that sort of theme is generally something I don’t indulge in.) But it worked in this story. I can only think of one other instance in which a brother-sister relationship didn’t bother me (Angel Sanctuary series). The fact that they were brother and sister is overshadowed by their sheer desire to be with one another, that that other person is the only person for them. That made the story for me.” — The Basement Crew

Shelagh: What are your current projects?

Jess: I am currently working on two (separate) young adult novels. They’re more mainstream than my first two books. I’m also in my last year of college, so my to-do list’s pretty full usually…

Shelagh: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Jess: www.jesscscott.com
www.facebook.com/jesscscott
www.twitter.com/jesscscott

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