Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New Post in The Detroit News: The Legal Aspects of Parenting

Attribution Some rights reserved by DonkeyHotey

Just wanted to give everyone a heads up that my newest post for The Detroit News went live. Parenting is a multifaceted endeavor, including legal issues. This article relates to folks who live in the US, so my friends in other countries should seek legal advice there. Hope you enjoy! Click here to go to the article.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Author Interview: A Wish for Christmas author Maggie Jones

Today, I'm excited to introduce you to fellow A Wish For Christmas author, Maggie Jones. Maggie wrote the title story for the book, a wonderful story about a boy named Matt, who when asked about what his one wish would be, has a surprising answer. She stopped by to chat about all things Christmas today. Welcome, Maggie! Here goes:

Maggie Jones 

1. What is your favorite holiday memory?

Christmas to me is a time to be with your family.  And my favourite holiday memoires are, every year being at home with my Mum, Dad, my three sisters and my Grandparents.  All I can remember is the tears of laughter and happiness we had playing cards, talking and catching up on news.  Every Boxing Day, we would go to my Mum’s cousins, and have a big family get together.  

2. Do you have any iron clad holiday traditions that your family insists on every year?

Every year we loved to go to see a Pantomime, but since moving to the Isle of Wight, and my girls getting older we didn’t do it as often.  So normally now on Christmas Eve we like to go to the cinema.  When my daughters were younger, we liked to take them to see a Disney Movie, but then as they got older we went and saw anything that took our fancy.  Last year it was just me and my hubby Graeme, and I was really keen to see the Life of Pi.  I had to laugh, as there was only me and him and about 3 others in the cinema watching it.  And, it really wasn’t his kind of film, as I had to wake him up a couple of times.  Note to myself, this year; take him to see a film he wants to see lol 

3. Any Christmas disasters?

One year I thought it would be great to get my hubby G and the girls a Wii Fit.  So I got one and wrapped it putting it under the tree.  This particular year, everyone wanted one; they were like gold dust to get.  G told me that he and the girls had got me something I would really like.  On Christmas Day, I gave him his present and he gave me mine.  I looked at both gifts thinking they looked very similar.  Anyway, as I started to un-wrap mine, I thought for one minute I had got his present by mistake.  Because, when he undid his, our faces were both a picture.  We had got each other the same thing.  All I can say is my girls are good at keeping secrets.

4. Where can readers find more of your work?

If readers enjoy my short story in A Wish for Christmas, they can also find other short stories of mine in Came as Me, Left as We, and Read It Again.  Readers can download my work at  Alfie Dog Fiction.  I am also chair of a local writing circle The Wight Fair Writers, here on the Isle of Wight, and we have a website where readers can go and see what we are getting up to.

Don't forget that A Wish For Christmas is also available through Amazon (paperback and kindle) and Smashwords (for all you non-kindle users) and makes a fantastic stocking stuffer.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Author Interview with Alan Jankowski

Today fellow "A Wish for Christmas" author Alan Jankowski stopped by to talk about all things Christmas. As one of two gentlemen included in the anthology, Alan has a lot to say about writing and Christmas. Here goes!

1. Your story, "His Christmas Wish," was included in Alfie Dog's holiday collection, "A Wish for Christmas." What was your inspiration?

My story "His Christmas Wish" is actually the first 3300 words of a longer story called "Her Christmas Wish" which was written for an erotic story contest on Lush Stories.  I had started out writing by writing erotic stories back in 2009, and a story of mine came in third in their Christmas contest in that year.  The winner was a very romantic, tear-jerker written by a retired journalist, complete with returning war hero who adopts his new girlfriend's kids.  I told him it read like a Lifetime movie.  The following year, I thought to myself what I could possibly come up with that might be equally heartstring tugging.  I half jokingly thought about a story with a little boy in a snowstorm looking for a lost puppy.  The idea seemed a bit over the top at first, but after thinking about it a while, I figured as long as no children or animals were harmed in the process, I just might be able to pull it off.  Anyway, I wrote the intro which I called "His Christmas Wish" on December 20, 2010 and wrote up the rest of the story the following night.  If you read the story in this book, and think that Gary and Pam are destined to get together, you are right...they do in the longer story.  The longer story didn't win anything in the contest that year, but I've had some success with the shorter, non-erotic version.  This is the third time this story will be in print btw., the first time being in a Christmas anthology released in 2011, and now out of print.

2. What is your favorite holiday memory?

My favorite holiday memories would have to being going over my grandmother's house when I was a kid.  It was nice getting together with the relatives at Christmas time.  My grandmother Mary Jankowski lived to be 102 btw.

3. Do you have any iron clad holiday traditions that your family insists on every year?

I can't say we have any ironclad traditions anymore.  I don't see the relatives as much as when I was a kid, for instance.

4. Where can readers find more of your work?

I have been in quite a few things, as you can see from my Amazon page...though I really only have one book of my own out "I Often Wonder: a collection of poetry and prose" which is published by Inner Child Press.

Btw, I'm most famous for one poem, and here's a short interview video of me talking about it which appeared on a number of Gannett news sites on the East Coast of the US on Sept. 11...

Alan lives and writes from New Jersey.

Remember folks, "A Wish for Christmas" can be purchased on Amazon. For non-kindle users, Smashwords is a good option as well as going right to the source and downloading from Alfie Dog

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Parenting: The Ultimate Challenge in Adaptive Leadership

Just wanted to let you all know that I have a new blog post on The Detroit News MichMoms blog. You guessed it, it's about parenting and adaptive leadership. Want to know more? Check the post out by clicking here. Join the conversation by leaving a comment about your adaptive leadership challenges. My editors love it when people join the conversation!

In a few days, take a break from your Black Friday shopping to stop by and meet fellow "A Wish For Christmas" author, Alan Jankowski.

In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Author Interview with Patsy Collins

Today I am thrilled to introduce you to Patsy Collins, a fellow "A Wish for Christmas" author. Patsy writes short stories and novels and lives with her husband in the south of England. We connected soon after we both were published on Alfie Dog. Thanks for stopping by, Patsy. Take it away!

1. Your story, "Granddad's Snowman," was included in Alfie Dog's holiday collection, "A Wish for Christmas." What was your inspiration for the story?

You've started with a hard one! I very rarely know precisely what inspired any of my stories. I'm sure my own grandad had something to do with this one though as I always have him in mind when writing about grandfathers. I was lucky to have him around until I was in my thirties so have lots of good memories associated with him.

He and my grandma lived close by on the family farm and I remember him gathering holly to bring indoors over Christmas and he'd get my brother and I to help choose the very best sprig to go on the pudding before we set it alight. We did of course make snowmen with him too.

2. What is your favorite holiday memory?

My childhood memories of Christmas involve a house full of people. My other grandmother and aunts and uncles all visited. We played daft games, sang carols (extremely badly) and exchanged gifts. I was the first grandchild, so you can imagine that I got made a real fuss of.

A huge meal would be cooked on the wood fired range. It included Brussels sprouts, roasted parsnips and potatoes grown on the farm and the pudding, made months previously and steeped in brandy, was served with cream from our cows. There'd be a turkey, joint of beef, bread and cranberry sauce as well as gravy. To go with that would be little sausages wrapped in bacon, sage and onion stuffing, baked onions and seasonal vegetables.

The pudding was a rich mix of dried fruits and nuts, treacle, butter, eggs, flour and spices. It would be brought flaming to the table. Once cut into slices we melted on a piece of brandy butter and aded cream, brandy sauce or ice cream. (Or in my dad's case all of them!)

The first Christmas with my husband was special too. We went away in our campervan, just the two of us. The cold weather was no problem to a pair of newlyweds.

3. Do you have any iron clad holiday traditions that your family insists on every year?

We always walk along the beach whilst dinner is cooking. Actually it's me who insists on that one. I also put out extra food for the birds as I like to see a robin on Christmas morning.

4. Reader's in the US think that England is the most Christmas-y place on earth, probably thanks to Charles Dickens. What would you like tell American readers about the holiday season in the UK?

Other than the snow, which doesn't usually fall until January, the Dickensian vision of Christmas isn't far off. That's because Dickens was writing about long established traditions. When I say long established I mean more than 2,000 years, as the winter solstice was celebrated long before Christianity. The Church cleverly incorporated the midwinter feast into its own calender, so people could continue to decorate their homes with greenery, eat rich food, sing and drink mead weather they stayed pagan or converted to the new religion.

We tend to be a bit cynical about Christmas over here and don't admit we like it until the last minute. Then we go overboard.

Btw, in England 'holiday season' is august – that's when the schools are off and many people take a vacation. Christmas isn't a holiday, it's just a few days off work, eating and drinking and getting together with family. A bit like your thanksgiving, I think?

5. Where can readers find more of your work?

There are links to my books on my blog.
If you'd like to read a scene about an English family Christmas you can find one in my romance, A Year and a Day.

Remember folks, "A Wish for Christmas," as well as some of Patsy's other works can be purchased on Amazon. For non-kindle users, Smashwords is a good option as well as going right to the source and downloading from Alfie Dog

I'll have more interviews with "A Wish for Christmas" authors in the future, but in the meantime, to my US readers, please have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Author Interview With Pauline Wiles

Available for download through Amazon
 or Smashwords
As most of you know, I've had the privilege of having one of my stories, "The Christmas Tree Miracle," included in an anthology of holiday themed stories. I'm one of nineteen authors that have contributed to the collection. I thought it would be fun for my readers to meet some of the other authors that have works included in "A Wish for Christmas."

My first interview is with Pauline Wiles, an author living on the west coast of the US. Originally from England, she moved across the pond nine years ago. Her wonderful story "Travels with a Persian Rug" is about "house-proud Tess who is running out of patience with her husband's family, their eccentric ways and flamboyant gifts. Can her marriage possibly survive the burden of an unwanted Persian carpet?"

Welcome Pauline, I'm thrilled to have you join me today.

Pauline Wiles

Thank you so much!

1. Your story, "Travels with a Persian rug," was included in Alfie Dog's holiday collection, "A Wish for Christmas." What was your inspiration for the story?

This is probably one of the most auto-biographical things I've ever written and I'm peeking through my fingers in case it's discovered by those who might recognize themselves!  Suffice to say, I was once given an antique rug, and at the time I thought it was a bizarre present. However, it has grown in my affection since then and does now live happily in my dining room.

2. As a transplant from England to the United States, what is the biggest difference in celebrating the holidays between the two countries?

Well, in England, "holidays" usually mean our summer vacation, and we are politically incorrect in using the blanket label of Christmas for this time of year. The most obvious difference is the complete absence of Thanksgiving in the UK (at least, for native Brits) and I think that means, despite best efforts by retailers, we tend to get into the festive mood a little later. Hence, turkey is our typical meal for December 25, not late November. We accompany that with all kinds of quirky touches like crackers (party decorations with a slightly explosive 'snap' inside and usually a silly paper hat, which we insist on wearing at the lunch table) and mince pies, which in fact are sweet and contain no meat at all. Oh, and we like to set light to our dessert. To be honest, it's all a bit loopy.

3. What is your favorite holiday memory?

When I was young, my family owned a labrador mix named Brandy. He was hugely enthusiastic about Christmas, usually guarding the presents under the tree for several days beforehand. For the sake of his health, we limited his own (edible) gifts but wrapped them in many layers of paper to make them last longer. Watching him parade around with his parcel and eventually unearth the contents was a real treat. Naturally he supervised Christmas lunch preparations very diligently, too.

4. Do you have any iron clad holiday traditions that your family insists on every year?

Moving 5,000 miles from my parents has made a bit of a mess of family traditions! But when we're together, you can be pretty certain a brisk walk will feature somewhere in the morning, a really stinky Stilton cheese will feature somewhere near midday, and collective napping will feature in the afternoon. After the Queen's speech, of course. It would be rude to snore during that.

5. Where can readers find more of your work?

Thanks for asking! Links to my short stories and debut novel can be found here:
Bio: British by birth, Pauline Wiles moved to California nine years ago and, apart from a yearning for afternoon tea and historic homes, has never looked back. Her work has been published by House of Fifty, Toasted Cheese and Alfie Dog Fiction. Saving Saffron Sweeting is her first novel. When not writing, she can be found getting the steps wrong in a Zumba class or calculating how many miles she has to run to justify an extra piece of cake. Her ambition is to sell enough books to cover the cost of flying herself and a reader to London for tea. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Story Included in International Holiday Collection

“The Christmas Tree Miracle” by Jeanne E.Tepper of West Bloomfield is one of the stories included in a new release, A Wish for Christmas, from the British publisher Alfie Dog Fiction. The holiday themed anthology presents an international perspective on the Christmas season by twenty authors from around the world. The selection of stories offers inspiration, romance, and laughter in settings across the globe. Tepper’s story, selected by editor and publisher Rosemary J. Kind, will appeal to anyone who has considered becoming a parent, but who thinks the options are limited.

Tepper is a published short story author and a veteran blogger. She currently writes for The Detroit News Parenting site’s “MichMoms” blog:

Alfie Dog Fiction specializes in publishing short stories for down load as well as in book form and has over 1200 stories on its website

A Wish for Christmas is available in print or as a download through Amazon and other leading online retailers starting November 18.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Blogging for The Detroit News

Dear Friends:

I'm so excited to announce that I've been selected to blog for The Detroit News! I'm contributing to the MichMoms blog which is all about parenting and being a mom. I'll be creating interesting and informative posts about moms, kids, and all things parent. I hope you'll take the time to stop by and check out my first post entitled  "Puberty: Mother Nature's way of making sure we let go of our teen." I'd love to hear from you in the comments section.  I'll be posting links to my writing on my Facebook page and on twitter as well as here on my blog. The links are below if you prefer to follow me that way. 

Wishing you a wonderful day.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Ten Reasons Not to Kill My Teen

As the parent of a teenaged girl, I fluctuate between thinking she's the best kid on the planet and trying to find the return instructions. I keep the following list on the fridge and refer to it whenever I’m provoked into a homicidal rage by my teen’s casual dismissiveness of my advice, time, and worth as a person.


1. Life on the Lam. As romantic and attractive as running away from home sounds, in reality, it’s probably a bummer. If I knock the kid off and make a break for it, I’ll have to memorize new personal details like social security and phone numbers, not to mention fake childhood traumas. I’m lucky I remember why I walked into the kitchen five minutes ago. Forget recalling my name is now Beatrice.

2. The Police Investigation. If I dispatch her and decide to stick around, I’ll have to deal with the police investigation of my child’s mysterious disappearance. Listen, I’m busy. I don’t have time to answer a lot of questions and attend news conferences begging for my child’s safe return. Especially when I know she’s safely buried under the rhododendrons.

3. My Husband. If he doesn’t agree to the early termination of my parental responsibilities, I’ll have a problem. My husband is a great guy and and he can cook. I’d hate to have to bump him off for not supporting my decision. I’d starve to death and there isn’t enough room under the rhododendrons.

4. The school district. If I decide to rub out the kid and pretend she’s still around, I’m in trouble. Think the police are bad? The district has the educational equivalent of a tactical SWAT team ready to invade my house if my teen racks up one unexcused absence. Just thinking about fabricating that many reasons for my daughter missing classes gives me a headache.

5. The Internet. Assuming I manage to fool the adults, I’ll have to maintain my daughter’s online life. Otherwise, I’ll be repeating that line from every Scooby Doo show ever made. “I’d have gotten away with it, except for those meddling kids!” I’ll have to brush up on my OMGs, 143s, and LOLs. Luckily, kids think text or Facebook activity equals a heartbeat. God knows someone wouldn’t pretend to be a teenager online.

6. Waste of time. After re-learning my math facts, English grammar, and all the science projects I “helped” make, eliminating her now would mean that was all a monumental waste of time. Throwing fourteen years of hard labor out the window doesn’t sit too well with me. And I’m not starting over now.

7. Free Labor: Who else is going to rake leaves, clean the cat boxes, or empty the dishwasher if I get rid of my teen? Sure, I won’t have to endure the sighs and eye rolls as she accomplishes the task at glacial speeds, but I won’t have to do it myself. It’s probably cheaper to feed her than it is to hire someone. Luckily, I don’t have boys.  Even with work house conditions I wouldn’t break even on the food bill. 

8. Technology: I’m a neanderthal. I wasn’t born with an iPod grafted to my body. If I ice my kid now, I’ll never figure out the remote, how to take a screen shot on my iPhone, or what Tumblr is. I’ll be consigned to living in a world that is so thirty seconds ago.

9. Adulthood. If she doesn’t end up living in my basement with her slacker boyfriend, I’ll actually like my child again. She’ll have moved out of my house and stopped treating me like the village idiot. Do I want to miss the moment when it dawns on her that I really was right? No way.

10. Revenge. Right now, the thought of my self-centered, know-it-all, hormone-driven teenager reproducing makes me want to jump. Eventually it’ll happen, though, and I’ll be ready to spoil my grandchildren rotten and laugh uproariously while the little darlings torture my now grown teen, giving her in spades what she gave me while growing up. Who said revenge isn’t sweet?

I usually read this list in between strikes of my forehead against the refrigerator doors. It reminds me to keep my hands to myself, this is a just a phase, and that I can get through it. Then she dances into the kitchen, plugged in and singing on the top of her lungs, completely unaware of her brush with death. She busts a move and grins at me. I rub my bruised head, grin back and think, “I’m glad you came to live at my house.”

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What I'm Reading Now: Rules of Civility By Amor Towles

*Spoiler Alert*

Dear Susan:

The last time we spoke on the phone, you asked if I'd read Rules of Civility. You have been such an enthusiastic supporter of it and so very patient as I worked my way through a whopping back log of reading. I finally finished it and have wanted to talk to you about it, our own little private book club!
But fate, or rather your travels, intervened and we haven't been able to connect. I decided to write this blog post just for you (and anyone who comes across it in their Internet travels, but know I am thinking of you as I write it).

I loved this book. It's the best I've read since Shine, Shine, Shine by Lydia Netzer last fall. Amor Towles did such a great job creating memorable characters with unique voices, capturing New York City and the era. He not only presented an interesting story, but also asked thought provoking questions about social status that are relevant to today's world. The ending surprised me, which rarely happens. As a writer I was blown away.

My favorite character had to be Wally. Like Tinker, he knew who he really was as a person, but was willing to put that person aside. The difference is that Wally put himself aside for family expectations about who he should be whereas Tinker did it for money. Tinker may have told himself it was for his family, but he knew Hank was an unwilling recipient. Wally also was more open about who he really was and didn't try to cover it up.  In that way, I think Wally is the more noble. I loved how Wally's stutter disappeared when he was on what he perceived as solid ground, talking about guns or out hiking. Towles did such a great job drawing the characters though Katey's point of view. I found it interesting that both Wally and Tinker eventually couldn't continue the charade and the price was suicide: Wally going off to the Spanish Civil War and literally dying, Tinker leaving Ann which resulted in social and financial hari-kari. Again, Wally's the more noble cause.  In thinking back, maybe the fizzling out of the romance between Wally and Kate, even though it resulted in a close friendship, was a foreshadowing of the ending of her relationship with Tinker. Who was your favorite character?

Having worked in New York and visited with my family and grandparents over the years, it was fun to read about the city. Years ago, Michael and I had dinner at 21 Club in the secret vault where they kept the booze during prohibition. I could just imagine the restaurant as the author painted it during the late '30's with the glittering people in fancy dresses and tuxedos. He also took me back down Mott Street, where my grandfather used to take us for dim sum. During the era that the novel was written, it was still part of Little Italy, but I could see it in my head along with The Waldorf-Astoria, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the buzz of people rushing everywhere. It was like taking a little vacation.

I thought Towles asked some interesting questions about social status and power. What's the price? The author made it clear that status came with a steep cost. Tinker prostituted himself, Wally suppressed himself, Eve literally went through a windshield. Each ended up rejecting the price in the end: Wally left for war, Tinker left Ann, and Eve just left. I think Eve summed it up best "I'd rather be any where than under some one's thumb." They were all under some one's thumb in one way or another and decided that the cost was too high, so they stopped paying.

Being a writer, I'm sensitive to subtle changes in language and word choice, so I like to think I pick a lot up as I read. That said, Tinker's relationship with Ann completely surprised me, a rare occurrence. Although when it was revealed, a lot of pieces fell into place. Tinker's reaction to her presence at 21 Club, the question of where Tinker was getting his money (I picked up he wasn't from wealth in the beginning). I appreciate that once it was revealed, those pieces did fall into place, otherwise it would have felt like the author made it up to write his way out of a corner. Did you see it coming?

Reading books this good can be a little intimidating for me: Will I ever be this good? I ask myself. I can only hope that when my own novel is finished, it will be as well written as this one. I found inspiration in the Q&A on the author's website. He's close in age to me and this is his first novel, so I don't feel so weird starting a new thing now. It also had practical advice that I'll be taking: keep the point of view simple, imagine as much as possible before you start writing, then give yourself a deadline. So I'll take it to heart and do some planning then jump back into the writing. All in all, though it's inspirational to know that someone can write such a great book. I truly found it an entertaining experience.

I'm looking forward to talking to you about Rules of Civility when you've settled back down at home.
Travel safe.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

What I'm Reading Now: Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy

All three of these books have been reviewed to death. I could go off about flabby middles, slow plots, and how they could have easily been combined into one, better book, but everyone else has done that. I want to talk about McDonald's instead.

I love to eat and I'm a dedicated foodie. My husband is a classically trained chef and I've eaten in some of the finest establishments in the country. I've also eaten at fast food restaurants, food trucks, and beach-side barbecue vendors. It's rare that I have a truly bad meal. Here's why: expectation and intention.

When I walk into McDonald's I don't presume I'll eat a five star meal. That would be ridiculous. It's a fast food joint and has no intention of being anything else. I imagine I'll get a burger served up relatively quickly and hot. I don't even expect a good burger, just a fast food burger. If I walk into a McDonald's and compare their food to the meal I had at that Michelin three star café in Paris, where the burger is made of filet, sirloin, and braised short rib and served on freshly baked brioche with an accompaniment of fries prepared in duck fat, that makes me a food snob. An unhappy food snob at that because the intent is completely different between the two establishments and I didn't moderate my expectations based on that information.

The Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy is the Big Mac of literature. I can already hear keening and the rent of clothing from my literary writer friends because I used the words "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "literature" in the same sentence. Listen, sometimes I like it rough. I want to annotate a short story by John Steinbeck, examine his style, note the metaphors, and scrutinize his word choices. It's part of studying writing and I love it. However, there are days when all I want is a little dose of low commitment "popcorn for the eyes." That's where books like Fifty Shades of Grey come in. And just like McDonald's, I don't open the cover expecting fine literature, I expect a standard romance with a little kinky sex thrown in. Because I moderate my expectations, I'm happy reading it.

My literary friends hold all books to the same high standards but they are missing the intent. Yes, some books are fine literature examining man's role in the world and other such lofty ideas. But some are just a story, a story of two people and their handcuffs, but just a story nonetheless. To expect a book to rise above the intent of the author is just as ridiculous as walking into McDonalds and expecting a five star experience. You'll be a disappointed literary snob.

This question is a big one for me as a writer. I want to produce a great stories that are engaging and that people want to read. Do I want to explore some existential corner of human existence? Sometimes. But other times, I just want to tell a funny, or sad, or inspirational story, a Big Mac story. Does this make me a bad writer? I don't think so, just a person who wants to connect by telling a tale.