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Today, the Dames are pleased to present multi-genre author/poet/songwriter Allen Rizzi. Welcome, Allen. Tell us about your latest book, Our First Year – Sketches from an Alpine Village.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur First Year – Sketches from an Alpine Village is the true story of an American couple’s first year living abroad in northern Italy. Told through short, often humorous sketches, this book introduces the reader to life in Italy’s South Tirol region through the eyes of newly arrived American residents. Centered in the small alpine village of Tret, the people, language, and customs here come to life through a personal narrative of everyday living. This book is available exclusively through Amazon’s Kindle Store.

I’m not much of a traveler but if I ever do travel abroad, Italy would be #1 on my list of places to go. Since I’m terrified of flying, I’ll have to read your book and live vicariously through you and your wife. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

I have just released a second book on Amazon’s Kindle platform entitled, The Blackest of Canyons. This is a personal memoir set against a background of 50 years of fly fishing in the American West.

Two other books will be released in March of 2013. The first is scholarly work devoted to the history and restoration of an antique cemetery in northern Italy. The second is an anthology of my 1970s song lyrics. I have also just started an historical fiction novel about the inner workings of the music industry entitled, Hey, Mr. Publisher. These are diverse subjects, to be sure!

Very diverse! It sounds as if you have a little bit of something for everyone. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

I have always loved T.S. Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Mark Twain and Homer. They get to the point and waste very little ink while forcing the reader into their worlds. As a child I read a whole lot of poetry. I think Poe, Coleridge and Eliot taught me the rhythm and meter that I have used successfully in all of my writing, from music to nonfiction. As a child I was introduced to obscure and formidable classics such as Homer and Chaucer. What I took away from reading these was that I’d better learn to be a really terrific writer just to get by.

A few of my own favorites in there. How long have you been writing?

I have been a professional (paid) writer for over 50 years. I started writing poetry as a child and received my first check at thirteen. I have successful experience in poetry, drama, fiction, non-fiction, and music. Additionally, I have written biographies, human interest stories and articles for magazines and periodicals. I currently write in English, Italian and German.

Your first check at thirteen? That’s impressive, as is the fact that you write in so many different genres and forms. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

My family has been the biggest influence because of their support and encouragement. Writers need a bit of applause now and then and I have been fortunate to receive that from my parents and my wife. As far as song writing is concerned, I would have to mention both Gordon Lightfoot and Johnny Rivers as both influenced my lyric and composition styles.

Oh, yes, every writer needs a bit of applause in their world and family is often the best source of encouragement—at least that I’ve found. Tell us a little bit about where you live.

Currently, my wife and I live both in Etowah, North Carolina and Tret, Italy. We have been residents of Italy for eleven years and honorary southerners for only three years. We find both locations fascinating with loads of great people. I have been retired for ten years and I do a lot of volunteer work both here and in Italy. Some examples include cemetery restoration and teaching genealogy, English, Italian and German. Prior to retiring, I worked as a teacher, music producer and petroleum consultant in California and Oregon.

Honorary southerners, I like that. You sure do stay busy and I’m sure Etowah is delighted to have you and your wife in their midst. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

I often find inspiration in the past, perhaps from an old photograph, an old piece of music or simply wondering where someone else’s life has taken them. Also, certain musical chords (E minor, A minor 7, etc.) often propel me into a writing theme or mood. Travelling the world and learning foreign cultures has also inspired much of my recent work. Ideas for my writing have even come from obituaries.

I’m with you on the old photographs and obituaries, both of those have played an important part in my writing. Traveling also, but only within the confines of our state—there’s that fear of flying thing again! What are major themes or motifs in your work? Do your readers ever surprise you by seeing something else in your stories than you think you wrote?

My major themes almost always involve appreciation for the past, acceptance, and optimism for tomorrow. I also like the occasional epiphany. I am a realist who doesn’t see the point in complaining about yesterday. The reason behind raw emotions is a recurring motif as well. My readers don’t normally find anything in my work that was not specifically intended.

Again, I’m with you on the appreciation for the past and optimism for tomorrow. I used to hate anything to do with history but since my sister and I started writing about our great aunt’s life, I’m hooked. During our research, I’ve often been amazed at the hardships they faced and their faith that they can accomplish anything. How many hours a day do you write, where, and are there any specific circumstances that help or hurt your process?

I am very sporadic. Sometimes, I will write for ten hours or more without a break. Sometimes, I don’t write forRizziAllen months. I write, on average, two hours a day. However, I vary my writing time and balance my writing with the rest of my life. I write at home and while travelling. The surroundings often help rather than hinder my writing. Quiet reflective moments are best. However, I once wrote a song with a complete score while eating lunch. Basically, I write when I have something to say that I feel is important.

It’s nice to hear another writer say their writing is sporadic. I never have been an “every day” writer and often wonder if it’s a curse or a blessing that I can’t seem to force myself to sit down every day at the computer and pound out a certain amount of words. But I dearly love those times when I can’t force myself to quit! What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know?”

You’re talking to a believer! I write only what I know and not what I might like to know. Since my motivation for writing is to share, I can only share what I know. I call it the “Colonel Sanders” way of writing; don’t try to be all things to all people and do it right.

I’ve never heard it referred to as a “Colonel Sanders” way of writing, but it sure does fit! Any family influences? Memoirs in the making?

BlackCanyonCoverFinalI come from a creative, competitive family. My brother is a well known poet, my sister is a writer and my father was a concert violinist. My mother supported her entire family’s creative endeavors and was the most widely read person I’ve known. Our home always encouraged reading and the value of creativity. I have completed two memoirs of sorts: The Blackest of Canyons and Three A.M., the latter being a song lyric anthology with complete histories of 81 song lyrics.

Wow, there’s that family influence again. How wonderful for you to have such a supportive and creative family. Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?

My wife and I have e-readers. I am a recent convert to electronic publishing and proud that I was able to overcome close to a half century of “old school” thinking as a writer. The internet and e-readers have broadened my audience to include people who live all over the world. I certainly could not have had this opportunity years ago with just my typewriter and local publishing house.

Thank you for joining us today, Allen. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you a little better—even though we’re in a writers’ group together, the time for socializing isn’t always there. I hope you’ll come back and visit us often on the blog.

For more information on Allen and his books, visit his Amazon Author Page, or find him at http://allenrizzi.wordpress.com or on Linkedin.

 

 

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Today, the Dames are pleased to present multi-genre author Colleen Kelly Mellor. First, a little bit about Colleen’s books:

bk1cover--lastone                          bk2gandt--lastone

Named ‘Cool Gifts for Kids’ by the biggest international truckers’ association, OOIDA, in “Landline” magazine, Grandpa and the Truck: Tales (for Kids by a Long-Haul Trucker, Books 1 and 2 track the real-life adventures of a big rig driver who traveled America’s highways for 30 years. In the process, he went through every state but one. Each book is comprised of two stories, set in different states. In addition, there’s trucker lingo, maps, and question pages to accompany text. Books 1 and 2 are currently available at their website, http://www.grandpaandthetruck.com, or at Amazon.com.

“We teach geography…and a whole lot more.”

Welcome, Colleen. Anything else you want to add?

Grandpa and the Truck books are Tales (for Kids) by a Long-Haul Trucker. Books 1 and 2, were just published this past summer and fall. We were selected by the biggest international truckers association, OOIDA, as “Cool Gifts for Kids” in their “Landline” magazine. In addition, WomenInTrucking (WIT) endorses us, too.

As a teacher, I can tell you these sound like books I’d love to have in my classroom. From the WNC Writers’ Guild meetings, I know you’re also working on an adult book that’s close to your heart, Patient Witness. Tell us about that.

I took a bit of a break after a punishing round producing those books and I’m working on Patient Witness, story of my lifetime interaction with medical industry.

I’ve heard a bit of the back story in our meetings and I’m looking forward to reading it when it’s finished. How long have you been writing?

Seems forever, but it really took off 33 years ago when my second husband was battling      cancer that went the route lung…bone…brain. If Nero fiddled while Rome burned, I wrote till the wee hours of morning to stave off insanity.  Don’t know if it worked.

I’ve met a lot of authors who tell me it was a personal crisis that got them started writing, too. That’s what happened with me and I like to think it helped keep me sane—although at times I think it might be driving me in the other direction! Are there any major themes or motifs in your work? Do your readers ever surprise you by seeing something else in your stories than you think you wrote?

I’ve had many crises in life, and I needed to be my own champion, hence in my blog (at www.biddybytes.com), I encourage others to persevere, though it can look darkest at the moment. By 42, I had divorced one highly-abusive man and buried two more husbands. Life was extremely difficult. I raised two daughters ten years apart in age, myself, while teaching. I did that career for 30 years. I’m a breast cancer survivor of 11 years who’s been diagnosed with MS (it’s not awful). Our Grandpa and the Truck books came out of despair, also:  My husband, the quintessential trucker (named one of Atlas Van Lines’s Elite Fleet of Drivers) was hit on a mountain road, in Weaverville, by a 12-year-old girl driving her uncle’s truck. He “died” at the hospital, was brought back via paddles, but the damage was done. We’ve been coming back from that, ever since. I write real-life stories that grew out of despair.

I didn’t know you had MS. How did I miss that? As Joan Rivers says, “we need to talk!” I was diagnosed almost ten years ago and as you say, it isn’t awful and since it’s what got me started writing, I’m even thankful for it at times. Enough about me, who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

This one’s easy—Mark Twain for his honesty in portrayal of the humanness of people…their peccadilloes…their flaws. But he did it in a loving manner. I also like Charles Dickens but I am ever amazed that people flocked to weekly newspapers, in England, to get the latest segment of his Great Expectations, etc. That’d never happen today.  People won’t invest in the way one needs to do to read Dickens. As for keeping current, I read Huffington Post, CNN, Providence Journal on line…

I love Dickens too, but rarely read him anymore because it is an investment. I do, however, take the time to read his “A Christmas Carol” every year at Christmas. So, Dickens and Twain, how about personally, who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

I once sent a story to National Geographic Traveler editor, Keith Bellow, who told me to call him.  He also said “You’ve got talent (but I’m not going to use this piece.)” I was crushed, sent him a couple of other things and never heard back.  Then I reasoned, “I’m never going to be going to these posh places NG focuses on, so ‘Forget it.’” I had to be real:  I was single Mom raising two daughters alone, a teacher with no extra money. So, I deep-sixed my drive for publication there but kept his advice, front and center, to keep me believing in myself.  My other biggest influence was the major editor of our state newspaper, Carol Young. She advised me to keep going, even if the paper couldn’t hire me at the time. They wanted me as free-lancer. I did this for years.

What a wonderful story of perseverance! Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Nature is a major source of inspiration.  I get choked up seeing practically anything that’s naturally gorgeous. Husband and I bike for many miles, on excursions, and this nourishes my soul….I am refreshed and can go back to writing, energized and pumped. I also get tremendous motivation from observing people.

Nature pretty much does it for me every time. What is a typical writing day like for you?

I get up at 7:00AM and work steadily till 12:00 noon—sometimes beyond. But then I quit and do other things…

Wow, wish I had your dedication. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never been able to get myself on a schedule and stick with it! Tell us a little bit about where you live.

Two states…Rhode Island I for 7 months of the year and Western North Carolina—Weaverville—for another 5 months.  We have the best of both worlds—the ocean and the mountains.

I love the mountains and ocean and find them both inspirational settings but I prefer the mountains—which probably comes from the fact I was born and raised in East Tennessee. When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

Well, if you’re talking about our trucker books, the character driving the big rig better be in control…I guess my characters are always in control because they’re always talking through me…I am the medium.

The medium…I never thought of it quite that way before but I like it. Don’t be surprised if you hear me refer to it that way in future meetings. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

Connections with others…the fact my words have made a difference in another’s lives. The thrill about writing our trucker stories for kids?  I can’t say how many women have written to me to tell me “Thanks” for putting these stories out there.  They want the thread of continuity…they now have a vehicle (pun intended) to tell their little ones what their Dad, Mom, or grandparent did for a living, when they drove the big rigs across this country.  No one’s done this before my husband and me, a fact we find astounding, for who’s a big rig driver’s best fan club?  Little kids. But being a 30-year teacher, I combine lots of factual material, along with the adventures, so children learn as they ride along with Grandpa (he’s a young trucker in these stories.)

Great answer, Colleen. One last question, what’s your attitude toward the standard advice: write what you know?

Our Grandpa and the Truck books are all about that…Children ride along with Grandpa (when he was a young trucker) seeing the wonders of our country. He drove through all 49 states (kids will learn which one he couldn’t go through); they’ll note topographical changes; maps are provided. Since I’m a teacher, I provide Question pages as well, to guide the journey.  But the stories are exciting, from a 5-car pileup that occurred on a coastal California highway in the fog, to a Category 5 hurricane Camille that ripped the roof off this trucker’s motel, a romp one night when Grandpa’s trucker buddy went for fuel and came back with a pack of bloodhounds nipping at his heels. “Girl Truckers’ take center stage in story 2 of Book 2, proving all people should do what they wish, for careers. Our children’s books are offered at www.grandpaandthetruck.com.

In my other works, I write of difficult things that I overcame, with a message that others can, too. “Encouragement in a Difficult World:  Biddy Bytes Blog” at www.biddybytes.com is all about that.

My latest blog, Patient Witness (at www.colleenkellymellor.com) will showcase my eventual book (by the same name and to be released this year,) that will document my lifetime experiences, with the medical industry.  It will encourage others to become their own advocates in crises. But it has, as its kernel, that tragic event when my husband was struck on that mountain road, just outside of Asheville, three years ago. In weeks following the crisis, I exploded at my husband’s surgeon, for I’d determined I’d no longer put up with his dismissive, arrogant remarks. My book will invite dialogue between hospitals/doctors and the patients/families they serve.

2coversinone,sidebysideHere’s a link to our reviews on Amazon for the Grandpa and the Truck books (scroll down for Book 1 and Book 2): http://www.amazon.com/Grandpa-Truck-Book-One-Long-Haul/product-reviews/0985677007/ref=pr_all_summary_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

But please note—If you buy from us, at our website, we can personalize for the child and sign as author.  Same price, too, as Amazon, because we don’t charge for shipping. www.grandpaandthetruck.com and please stay tuned for Patient Witness

I definitely will! Thanks so much for being here today, Colleen, and thanks for including the links to your sites so our readers can find out more about you.

The Dames are pleased to have author Georganne Spruce with us today. Welcome, Georganne! Tell us about your latest book.

attd_kindleAwakening to the Dance: A Journey to Wholeness is a memoir of my spiritual journey. It was my desire to become authentically who I was, apart from society’s stereotypes of women in the 1950s and 1960s, and find a life where I could follow my passions for dance and writing, find a soul mate, and integrate my spirituality into everyday life. As I tell the stories of relationship, health, family and career challenges, I explore how I was able to use meditation, Buddhist and Science of Mind (law of attraction) teachings, a fear-releasing technique, Jungian dream interpretation, and other practices to expand my awareness and create the life I wanted. I hope others are able to learn from what I’ve experienced.

Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

I plan to write a small book on how to release your psychological fear. I teach workshops on the technique I have used effectively for years, but I want to reach more people. Fear is at core of every negative thought, emotion and action, so by releasing it, we remove most of the blocks that keep us from living the life we want.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

I start round 9:00 and work for 3 hours. I may return in the afternoon to do some rewriting, but not always.

Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

I like Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood, Alice Hoffman, Alice Walker because I can relate to their female characters. Lately I’ve been reading mysteries, Michael Connelly, Sue Grafton, and Sue Grimes. How a writer can create so much suspense fascinates me, and these balance the deeper reading I do. On the spiritual side, I often reread Eckhart Tolle and Oneness by Rasha, and they just take me deeper and expand my understanding of life.

Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

I’m still really learning about this, but I do have a page on Facebook and I started an inspirational blog, Awakening to the Dance, two years ago to attract readers. I’m also doing book signings and networking with writing, spiritual, and business groups.

How long have you been writing?

All my life, but I didn’t seriously start trying to be published until 2006 when I finally had a few essays and poetry published.

Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

First of all, my mother taught me to love books. When I was fourteen, she shocked the local librarian by allowing me to read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. I learned so much about through books and that motivated me to want to write, but I fell in love with modern dance and pursued it first because I could only do that with a young body. Surprisingly, I learned a great deal from dance about creativity, especially improvisation, that was a great preparation for writing. I love to experiment and don’t always need to know what comes next. After I stopped dancing, I started taking writing classes and began writing more often, but teaching full-time left me little time to write until the last few years.

Also, as a teenager, I was very influenced by Edsel Ford, an Arkansas poet, long since passed, who was a family friend. He encouraged my poetry writing and inspired me to believe I had talent.

What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer? Inspiring people. So many people live their lives in an unconscious way, missing out on who they really are at a deeper level or accepting a life that isn’t satisfying. I love it when what I’ve written awakens a reader or makes a difference in someone’s life.

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

000_0031(2)In the daily events of life. I live in the south and every southerner has a story. I have a conversation, read something, or experience something and it sets my mind to working. I start asking questions: What does this mean? Why did this person do that? What are the consequences? I’m curious about everything, but I am most interested in how we see ourselves and what guides our lives. I see this as a spiritual journey

If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?

Jean Houston. I loved her memoir, A Mythic Life.

What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?

I don’t like plotting. I love character development. I wrote Awakening to the Dance like a novel so, although the story already existed, I had to create a structure in which to organize the story. That was challenging because the main story is an internal journey.

Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?

I don’t like the word block. It’s a pause—time to let things germinate. When I don’t know what to write next, I wait and ideas usually come. If they don’t, I take a break, go outside, or have a snack. When I go to bed, I ask, “What do I need to do with this?” Sometimes, I get the answer in the middle of the night or the next morning. But I’m not writing on deadline so I have this luxury.

To find out more about Georganne and her work, go to:

Blog: http://awakeningtothedance.com/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/georgannesprucewriter?ref=hl

July Alter front porchI bought my house because I love its front porch—it stretches across the front of the 1922 red-brick bungalow, with about two-thirds of it roofed.  There are hanging baskets of ferns and Wandering Jew, pots of sweet potatoes vines, basil, sage, plumbago, oregano, and chives, and planters full of thyme, dill, tansy (I’ll never plant dill again because the caterpillars decimated it, and this year a grasshopper ate a lot of oregano but the hardy plant recovered). When I’m cooking, I can go out and snip oregano, thyme, chives—whatever’s needed for what I’m cooking. For the best of food, herbs, like everything else, need to be fresh. I can tell the difference in the dishes I prepare.

Judy Alter, authorOne fall morning this year, I sat out there while my four-year-old grandson ran around, and we had a nature lesson. He tasted various herbs, said he liked most of them but didn’t swallow them. I think he liked the chives best. The he watched birds and squirrels, and I set him to looking for the geckos that live on the red brick. He also likes to find spiders and for a while had one spider whose web he watched every time he came to visit. Alas, it went the way of spiders and their webs. I’ve taught him that geckos and spiders are our friends but somehow I haven’t gotten the lesson across with roly-polys. He carries them, studies them, watches them crawl on his hand, and then stomps on them, saying to me, “That was a bad roly-poly.”

I can sit out on the porch on a spring or summer evening and watch people go by, walking their dogs or just themselves. They wave, and some stop to chat. I’ve gotten to know my neighbors that way. Sometimes someone will see me sitting out there and come to visit, maybe bringing a glass of wine or a beer or just a glass of water. Sometimes, when the weather and the light are right, I teach writing classes on the porch—best done in the spring. Lovely as the fall is, we lose the light too early.

Mine is an old neighborhood, blessed with huge trees that arch over the street—I always fear for the elm in front of my house. It’s a wonderful anchor to the street, but I know it’s old and for a while it lost limbs with frightening regularity. It seems pretty solid now. But when I sit there, looking out at the trees along the street, I sort of feel like I’m in a bower of green. I love living in an older house, in spite of the maintenance problems—large rooms, high ceilings, and most of all, the front porch.

Front porches are a throwback to the days when the house was built when they were a tradition, a sign of sociability. Sitting on your front porch meant you were open and friendly to your neighbors. Somewhere in the middle of the twentieth century, the trend became ranch houses with fenced back yards, patios, and swimming pools. Families were locked into their own little worlds and often didn’t visit with their neighbors. Front porches were reduced to what our grandparents would have called stoops—small square of brick or concrete or decorative tile. Sometimes they’re invitingly decorated with door wreaths, pots of something green or blooming, but there’s no room for chairs, no visible space that says, “Come on, neighbor, come and visit.”

Sue-Ellen Likes to Dance by Judy Alter

Cooking My Way Through Life by Judy Alter

I do read on the porch, but I never write out there. That’s a desk activity. I’m the author of numerous books about the American West, fiction and nonfiction, written for both young adults and adults. My two most recent books are Sue Ellen Learns to Dance and Other Stories, a collection of fifteen stories about women in the West. The stories are sad and funny, historical and contemporary, urban and rural. One makes me cry every time I have to read it to an audience. But a book that brought me great joy is Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and Books. It’s a memoir cookbook of my life as a parent, author, and  publisher. It breaks my life into four cooking phases: my Chicago childhood, my marriage and move to Texas, my years as the single parent of four, and my current years of living alone, cooking and entertaining frequently. A lot of recipes, all easy to follow. Follow me on Judy’s Stew—a blend of writing, cooking, and grandmothering (http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com).

I’d like to preface this by stating, as a dog lover, I truly appreciate what Bo is doing with his enjoyable and fun-to-read book. It’s dedicated to shelter workers, rescue groups, and animal welfare proponents, and 10% of the proceeds are donated to help homeless dogs and cats.  Bo’s also giving away a free copy of his book at his website: www.badtothebonememoir.com.

Below you’ll see Bo’s YouTube video (which is a hoot!) and after the interview I’ve posted Chapter 1 of his book which I hope you’ll read – a great way to brighten your day!

Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Bo. You’re the first dog we’ve interviewed and this is one interview I’ve really looked forward to. Tell us about your book, Bad to the Bone, Memoir of a Rebel Doggie Blogger. 

First, let me say, I’m honored to be the first dog to be interviewed on Dames of Dialogue.  Bad To The Bone is a memoir written through the eyes of man’s best friend, the family dog.  That’s me, Bo.

My book focuses on how I—and two seemingly normal people—wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world while creating a lifelong bond in the process. All the stories are true and will leave dog lovers laughing out loud. The only tears you will shed are tears of laughter.

I’ve dedicated my book to all the rescue and shelter workers who make this world a better place, one animal at a time. I donate 10% of my proceeds to help homeless dogs…and cats.

Before you were a novelist, you were a doggie blogger. Can you provide the url for your blog? When did you start blogging and why? 

My blog is Boknowsonline.com.  I started blogging in July 2007. While reading the news on a daily basis, I like to keep current; I noticed there was so much sad animal news out there.  I thought it would be nice if there was a place for people to come and read something funny. I introduce a ridiculous story from my perspective and then excerpt the relevant parts. My specialty is any wacky story with an animal angle. As long as the protagonist in the story can’t speak a human language (parrots get a pass) and they’ve caused trouble or embarrassment for humans, I’ll cover them.

You’ve gotten some really great reviews for your book. Any particular ones special to you?    

I especially like the reviews where the reader writes the book made them laugh out loud.  That’s exactly why I wrote the book, to make people laugh at the crazy antics that happen when you have a dog in your life.  Hopefully, the book will give you a little break from the seriousness of what’s happening in the world and remind you of the special bond between pet and owner.

One of my favorites, besides yours, is by a reader named Sarah. It starts off ‘The best book I’ve read all year.’   Let’s just hope she’s read more than one.

Your book is dedicated to shelter workers, rescue groups and animal welfare proponents, calling them “unsung heroes”. I agree. As a former shelter dog (and I have to state here, they do make the best pets!), what advice would you give to those (of the two-legged variety) wanting to adopt?

First off, anyone and everyone who is involved in helping to rescue dogs (and all animals) get a big bark out from me. I dedicated my book to them because they are truly the unsung heroes for the voiceless among us. I can’t thank them enough for all they do!!

For potential owners, the best words of wisdom I can share is to make sure you get a pup that fits into your lifestyle. If you’re lazy, get some dog like me. If you live in an apartment, get a tiny pup. If you’re aloof and like animals pooping in your house, get a cat.

Every dog has the potential to change a human’s life, given the opportunity. One lonely, frightened dog sitting in cage staring back at you in a shelter can make a bigger difference in your life than you would ever expect.

I got a kick out of the sweet couple who adopted you and all they went through. How do they feel about your success as an author?

 I don’t know about my success as an author, but thank you.  I think I’ll know I made it when I’m up there with Marley and Enzo.  My folks are proud of my determination, and that as a young pup I learned to never accept the word ‘no’.  It’s not always easy being a writer in a fur suit, but I learned the only one that can set limits on you, is you. If you believe in something, go for it.  Regardless of species or breed.

As of the time the book was published, you were 1 for 433 in the ongoing squirrel chase (poor Rocky). Is that status quo or has it changed?

Unfortunately, no. And lately, the only thing I’ve caught is a cold.

Since you’ve broken ground for other dogs, what advice would you give for a dog just starting out in this field?

Do it as a hobby and have fun with it…all else is gravy.

Describe a typical writing day for you. 

I get up, have breakfast, write between 10 am-noon, and then nap. Repeat for lunch and dinner, minus the writing. 

What’s your favorite snack?  

Peanut Butter. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a Kong, smothered on one of my daily pills, or fed to me on a spoon. Anything that hides a tasty treat is a winner in my book…maybe that’s why I like the kitty litter box so much.

What’s your favorite pastime?  

Since I’m about 107 in people years, it would have to be napping and being waited on hand and paw.

 Which do you prefer, being a Yankee dog or a Southern dog?  

Well, I was born a Yankee dog, so that’s what I’ll always be at heart. But you can’t beat southern cooking. Who wouldn’t like everything, including their dog food, fried? 

Chapter 1: Of All The Gin Joints In All The World…

We met back in the early ‘90’s, December of ’92 to be exact. I just had a major blowout with my first, somewhat dysfunctional family and decided that it was best for all if I just left. My foster dad gave me a ride to nowhere and before I knew it, I was at a boarding house in upstate New York. The place was great, warm with plenty of company, and their cheesy poof biscuits were to die for. On the downside, it was loud and smelly, not unlike me.

Even a lowly pug could smell her coming from miles away. It was Monday, as I recall, and the bells on the door jingled to announce her arrival. She was a beautiful blonde with a quick smile and a determined look. We’d seen this type before; they usually left with one of the pure bred puppies, but something was different about this one. My instincts told me that any canine would be darn lucky to go home with a girl like her, so I made it my top priority to be that hound.

She wandered back to where we lived. Frankly, I was a bit embarrassed about the condition of the place. Some of my cage mates were not very clean and some even took to pooping where they ate. My next cage neighbor’s lack of etiquette was particularly noteworthy as he took to eating kitty snickers (that’s slang for cat poo in the big house) openly. Sure they taste good, but you’re not getting adopted if you’re seen eating one.

As she came closer to my humble accommodations, I tried everything I could to grab her attention. When she finally got to me I made direct eye contact with her, tilted my oversized cranium at a 45 degree angle and gave her my trademark ‘BoPawÔ’ reach.

I could see instantly she wanted me. Needed me. Had to have me. Hey who wouldn’t?

She reached out and petted me with her finely manicured nails. She was clearly enjoying our encounter. How easy these humans are to manipulate, I thought. Her hands were refreshingly cool and her smell put me in a state of delight. I was in love. I could tell she loved me too.

After a few gushing, “He’s so cute!” comments, she, gave me one last look and proceeded on to Pumpkin’s cage.

Realizing I was still sitting there with a half-cocked head and a paw in the air, I felt my muzzle glow red hot under my furry face as the other dogs chuckled with delight. Hey lady, we just made a connection. You can’t move on. Our story ends here if you keep going. But that’s exactly what she did. By the time I regained my bearings, she had moved through the room, out the door and out of my life.

My hope for a better life was gone as quickly as it had come. The brief glimpse of a finer existence with a loving, caring human was replaced with the stark reality that I may spend the rest of my life at this boarding house.  What was once a fun and refreshing place became a dark and daunting cave.

I admit this brush with love, and the subsequent loss of it, had me thinking of ending things in this world. I had heard the stories of the different ways to get to rainbow bridge, but I knew that if I were going to get there, there was only one canine to whom I could turn.

His given name was Charlemagne Brutus the IV, but he was better known in the big house as the Candyman. His studded dog collar betrayed an otherwise noble and tame appearance. He was well-connected, and his lifestyle was proof of that. C’man slept on the best blankets, drank from the shiniest bowls and rarely took to begging for human food.

I approached Candyman during exercise time in the yard. While the other dogs were working on their begging routines, he let on to me that he had a shipment of Hershey’s Dark Chocolate candy bars on the way. For the right price he would let me have them. I knew, as did he, chocolate will kill a canine quicker than a game of “chase the cat” in traffic. Yeah, that quickly.

Death by chocolate, as it is commonly referred to in the restaurant business, was only two Hershey bars away for me. Once ingested, I would soon be patrolling the pearly gates of heaven, looking, of course, for a place to dig out. Paradise awaited me.

But the price was steep; a greenie and a peanut butter filled Kong for the candy bars. I had no money and I was unemployed, so I resigned myself to the situation at hand. At least death would come seven times faster than it does for others on this lonely, desolate planet.

I lowered my already slouched body onto the well worn blanket covering the cage’s tin floor. Surely there was another way out of this situation.

I lay there, thinking about my options. Maybe during exercise time I could climb the fence and escape? I would be free again. The trouble was the shelter workers were on high alert ever since Hairy Houdini, the border-collie mix, escaped last month. Maybe I could steal the German Shepherd’ treats. Surely, once Ruger found out, he’d give me the business end of a chewy shiv. Hmmm, that sounds a little too painful.

Maybe if I . . .

I laid there for hours, searching for a solution. When I finally fell asleep, the perfect escape was still out of my paws’ grasp.

 When I awoke, an angel was standing over me. The very same blonde angel that had visited me earlier in the day. Next to her was a very handsome young man. So handsome you might think he was gay, but let me assure the reader he is not. He looked at me and said, “He’s cute. Let’s get him.”

“I want you to look at this one over here too,” the angel countered.

What? Another dog? She’s betraying me all over again.  It was Christmas season, and I felt just like a Douglas Fir being picked up, manhandled, and then tossed aside in favor of a bigger, better tree.

Fortunately the man had his wits about him “No, I like this one, he’s so dopey looking. We don’t need to look at any of the others. He’s the one.” I didn’t much care for his attitude but his decision-making capability was flawless.

The attendant, known as Nurse Ratchet by the inmates, lingered nearby.  She was eager to get rid of me after my failed attempt at unionizing the locals to get better victuals. “Would you like to take him out for a walk, just to make sure you like him?” she offered, knowing full well that once prospective parents take a dog for a ‘test’ walk, they will adopt the pet 98% of the time.

Once outside, I made a beeline for my potential owner’s car.  It was easy to pick out; my sense of smell is incredible.  In a show of respect I immediately peed on the front driver’s side tire. The couple tried to fawn all over me, but I ignored them. Once you have them this far, you show them you don’t want them and they’ll want you more.

Remember, don’t hate the player; hate the game.

The ploy worked like a charm; while they informed Ratchet they wanted me,  I pranced back toward my former home to pack my belongings.

 “Not so fast my friend,” Ratchet cackled, “We need to make sure you get all your required shots before we can release you to these fine folks.”

What do you mean I can’t leave yet? What a shot in the nads, which by the way were already gone. My new parents were told to come pick me up later in the week.

As they went to put me back in my cage, I abandoned my “good boy” act and did my best to stop this course of action. I sat down and refused to move, forcing two, it might have been three, of the staff’s goons to drag me across the floor and into lockdown. As they dragged me away, I got one last look at my new owners, who stared at the commotion with shocked looks that said, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”

It’s a look they would share many times in our future together.

Excerpted from BAD TO THE BONE by BO HOEFINGER Copyright © 2009 by Horst Hoefinger. Excerpted by permission.All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

Nora Percival began her life as a pampered, well-loved child in Samara, Russia, on the banks of the Volga River. Her father was a businessman, her mother a talented pianist. Her early years were fun and happy, and Nora was a bubbly, curious child. Soon, though, upheaval overtook her life with the advent of the Russian Revolution. Nora’s weatheroftheheartcoverfather, targeted by the Communist regime, escaped to America, leaving behind Nora and her mother, a woman in fragile health who suffered from depression. The two were forced to move in with Nora’s grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousins in a small apartment, where food and heat were scarce. Everyone, from the wealthy to the poorest, suffered during this time. Starvation was rampant and Nora’s family became alarmed when first small domestic animals disappeared, then small children. Nora’s father finally managed to get funds to the family, and eventually Nora and her mother sailed to America. But Nora’s mother’s homesickness sent them back across the ocean, only as far as England, where Nora’s mother was hospitalized and Nora ended up first in a work house, then in a hostel for transmigrates, where she anxiously awaited word from her father and longed to be back in America.

What an interesting, wonderful story. Nora is a prodigious child who learns to read at an early age and teaches herself English. Her effervescent personality shines throughout the book, and one feels sorrow for such a young girl forced to live in horrific depravity, while taking on adult responsibilities and caring for her mother, whose depression never lessens. Percival excels at drawing the reader into her story with rich descriptives and prolific insight enmeshed within a period of history that is as fascinating as it is tragic. Historic buffs will appreciate a first-hand look at the events leading up to the Russian Revolution as well as those during and after. Excellent book. Highly recommended.

Did you ever think of your own history in terms of the shoes you’ve chosen? I decided to have fun with the idea and came up with this unusual memoir.

1951, age 2, San Antonio, Texas, barefoot; white buckle, smooth soled shoes with white ankle socks; black lace-up shoes with white ankle socks. (Hair kept long.)

1955, age 6, Hemmingford Abbotts, England, lace-up shoes for Scottish dance lessons in first grade; rubber boots; black lace-up shoes with white ankle socks (wore skirts).

1956, age 7, Ramersdorf, Germany, black lace-up shoes with white socks.

1958, age 9, Sedalia, Missouri, barefoot for Judo and swimming lessons; tap and ballet shoes; white buckle shoes with white socks.

Zories (flip flops)1962, age 13, Tokyo, Japan, barefoot; zories (flip flops); cheerleading shoes black tennis with white laces; English riding boots for horse back riding lessons.RidingBoots

1963, age 14, Tokyo, Japan, learned to walk in heels at Patricia Charm school.

1964, age 15, Goldsboro, North Carolina, barefoot; flip flops; cheerleading tennis shoes.

1966, age 17, Burns Flat, Oklahoma, barefoot; kitten heels at Junior/Senior dance.

1968, age 18, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, flip flops; brown slip-ons (changed from skirts to jeans at Slay Dorm).

1970, age 21, Goldsboro, NC, low heels. (Ran out of college funds; worked in suits– back to skirts)

1973, age 24, Jacksonville, NC, low heels; boots “these boots are made for walking”

1974, age 25, back at ECU, Greenville, NC, flip flops; barefoot (jeans); jazz shoes for class.

1979, age 30, Clemson, South Carolina, 2″ heels (business suits and short hair for first time); golf shoesGolfShoes

1980, age 31, Spartanburg, South Carolina, hiking boots (for five day backpacking trip on Appalachian Trail)

1986, age 37, York, Pennsylvania, riding boots (Honeymoon at Dude Ranch), heels and flats (still in suits for work).

1994, age 45, Boone, North Carolina, barefoot; ski boots (Ski patrol at Sugar Mountain); hiking boots

2000, age 51, Boone, NC, tennis shoes (work as Census taker), flip flops (earned first cruise)

2009, age 60, Boone, NC, barefoot (author working at computer); kitten heels (to writer group meetings); hiking boots; high heels (on cruise); flip flops.

That was a fun visit to my past. What is your history in shoes?

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