Posted in Creekside Cafe, event, interview, News, promo

Welcome Phil Bowie to Creekside Cafe

Bio: A lifelong freelancer, Phil Bowie earned his chops selling 300 articles and short stories to magazines. One article, about deaf Hollywood stunt woman Kitty O’neal, came out in The Saturday Evening Post and was reprinted in Reader’s Digest, reaching 26 million readers in 23 languages. Several of his short stories have won awards, including a first-place contest winner, “The Cat From Hell,” a yarn begun by Stephen King.

    Phil began writing novels in the 2,000s. His debut, GUNS, about the world black-market weapons trade, earned Honorable Mention at the London Book Festival among 400 entries, and was endorsed by Lee Child, number one NY Times international best-selling author of the Jack Reacher series. (One hundred million copies sold to date.) Three more novels in Phil’s suspense series have followed: Diamondback, about a lost Great Smokies Cherokee gold mine, KLLRS, featuring a deadly outlaw motorcycle gang, and Deathsman, set against the illegal synthetic drugs trade.

    Phil also has two stand-alone thrillers: Killing Ground, about African elephant poaching, and Dawn Light, starring a yacht delivery captain and his rebellious teenage mentee aboard a boat carrying a lethal secret in her belly.

    Phil has been a pilot with his own Cessna, a Coast Guard-licensed boat captain, a draftsman, co-owner of a graphics business, a fiddler, an inventor, and a motorcycle rider. He lives with his partner, Naomi, and their cat, McKenzie, in a cottage he restored on a shore of the Neuse River.

Sherri: Welcome Phil, it’s great to have you on my virtual café. I wish it was a real place we could hang out and have a drink, talk books and writing but maybe someday that will happen. It sounds like you have had a fun and interesting life so far and I’m excited to learn more. In your bio you said you were a lifelong freelancer; did you make your living as a writer? How did you get started writing? Have you always written? Was there a point in your life when you said, this is what I’m going to do or did you just kind of fall into it?

Phil: Thanks for having me, Sherri. I like your café atmosphere.  

     It’s been a somewhat checkered life, some would say, but yes, fun and most interesting. I went to a rural high school in the Berkshire village of Williamsburg, Massachusetts. There were only 22 in my class, so we got spoiled. My English teacher, Lulu Smith, I guess saw a spark in me and offered lots of encouragement. My mother, Edith, an excellent newspaper reporter who once interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt, instilled in me the power and beauty of the language. At Clemson, I was fortunate to have a tough creative writing professor we called Flunking Felder, who got my first short story published in the college literary magazine, and I’ve been writing on and off since, most often as a sideline to a variety of bills-paying jobs.

Sherri: In your article about Kitty O’Neil, did you get to interview her? What is your process for writing articles and how does that differ from writing novels?

Phil: I’d long been interested in the World Land Speed Record, so in the late seventies, when I heard of an upcoming record attempt at Bonneville in a three-wheeled rocket vehicle, I raided my meager savings, grabbed my photo gear, and, on pure speculation, drove a borrowed tin-can Fiat 2,400 miles to cover it. I was the only journalist there, because historically most attempts had failed, and nobody else was going to cover it until it looked like a record might actually be broken as the hydrogen peroxide-powered rocket car built up speed in ever-faster trial runs over several days. Kitty was going for the female record and stunt man Hall Needham (who wrote the Smokey and the Bandit script), a buddy of actor Burt Reynolds, was driving for the male record.

     Although she was deaf, Kitty had already been an Olympic diver and a motorcycle racer and had set several records like water skiing at 104 miles per hour. She’d stunted as Wonder Woman and in several other movies. She was part Cherokee, beautiful, and fearless, the first woman admitted into the Hollywood Stunts Unlimited organization. I interviewed and photographed her at length and wrote a piece for the Post, which was reprinted in Reader’s Digest. I like to think I gave her career a modest boost. No record was set during that attempt for technical reasons, but she did later set the female record at five hundred and twelve miles an hour on a dry lakebed in Oregon. They eventually did a movie about her called Silent Victory. She’s gone now, but it’s no coincidence that the love interest in my suspense series is beautiful, part Cherokee, and named Kitty.

     All riveting fiction and non-fiction is based on conflict, and the more intense the conflict, the more interesting the story, real or imagined, will be, so the basic approach for either articles or stories has always been similar for me. I mostly look for subjects with an unusual aspect of adventure or danger or human endeavor against odds. In articles, I’ve covered everything from angling for blue marlin in the Gulf Stream, to a jet-powered show truck called Shockwave (which I took a 200 mph ride in at Cherry Point) to bottlenose porpoise communication research, to the last builder of wooden Chesapeake Bay sailing Skipjacks, to Dolly Parton and her Dollywood, to how to pilot a plane for skydiving. Short stories have varied widely in a variety of magazines, and a while back I put out a collection of 17 of them called Dagger and other tales.   

Sherri: Your debut novel, GUNS, was endorsed by Lee Child? Now that’s impressive. Did you get the opportunity to meet Mr. Child? Do you feel his endorsement has helped your sales? How can an author set themselves up for such an endorsement or other opportunities that would aid in their marketing?

Phil: Yes, the Lee Child endorsement was a nice boost. He’d been an idol of mine, so I sent the raw manuscript to him through his agent. Lee read it, liked it, and got back to me. On their dime, my then-publisher, Medallion, sent me to the Sleuthfest conference in Fort Lauderdale to meet him. He was the guest of honor and keynote speaker for the 500 attendees. Like his protagonist, Jack Reacher, Lee is a big guy, six-five. He came up to me and shook my hand, which made my year. That night, we sat out by the Hilton pool talking about life and writing into the small hours.

     I’d advise any budding writer to try for best-seller author endorsements through their publishers or literary agents. Nothing to lose by trying. I’ve garnered endorsements from best-sellers Ridley Pearson and Stephen Coonts (Flight of the Intruder) using the same approach. The top gun authors I’ve met at conferences like Killer Nashville and Bouchercon in Baltimore have been gracious and friendly. At that same Sleuthfest, for example, I had breakfast with the prolific and enchanting best-seller Heather Graham and her pleasant daughter.

Sherri: Do you read the reviews of your books, if so, do you learn from them, or do they affect your attitude? As creatives, it’s often difficult to separate ourselves from our work. On days I feel objective I can read my reviews and say, okay, I need to work on this, or I can see why they said that and it’s fine, it’s how I do things, but there are other days when they can be a boost or a devastation depending on the review.

Phil: Reviews from respected sources like Publishers Weekly, newspapers, magazines, and some of the online bloggers and critics are well worth soliciting, and they’ve certainly helped me by giving me a boost and occasionally by stinging me. A Publishers Weekly review of GUNS, for example, did both. While praising the book warmly overall, the reviewer berated me for including pages of lyrical material that did not advance the plot, so I hung my head and revised an updated version of the novel to tighten it up.

     You’re always going to hear from those few who roam the Net putting everything and everybody down while never accomplishing much of anything themselves, so you can’t ever let those people get you down. You’re less likely to hear from those readers who’ve liked your work (except through respectable royalty figures), though it’s always nice to get an email or a website note from somebody who does like your stuff. I admit to keeping a file of those and it’s thick enough to be of some comfort on a dark winter night when doubts assail.

     I’ve always just tried to concentrate on researching and writing the absolute best I can, and that seems to have paid off okay over the years.

Sherri: From some of your reviews one of the comments was your political bias showing in your stories, especially GUNS. We as writers often have a difficult time taking our own voice out of the story and letting the characters’ point of view shine. Do your characters represent or echo your own voice, or do they vary in their opinions? When choosing the characters, themes and topics for your novels, how much of real life enters into your work? What influences or inspires your stories?

Phil: You’re right that we should be invisible to readers. The story is always paramount, and the trick is to immerse readers in it thoroughly while staying behind the scenes, much like a movie director.

     I suppose some of my political feelings have bled into my fiction at times, but it’s never a good idea to let that happen, because no matter what your views are, you’re going to make enemies.

     I do firmly believe it’s important to write what you know, thus much of my work is themed on some conflict or other I’ve been somehow involved in or am at least familiar with, and I’ve drawn on my own sometimes crazy experiences—piloting, parachuting, riding motorcycles, and so on—to lend realism to plots and characters. The protagonist in my suspense series and in one of my stand-alone novels is a pilot, for example. An elderly couple in the series is based largely on my maternal stonemason grandfather (one of my enduring idols) and his good wife, and readers seem to especially like the couple. Other characters in any novel or short story may begin as ethereal figures, but they soon become as real to me as anybody I’ve known, and they can only perform on my stage as who and what I’ve molded them to be.

I also use story settings that I’ve either spent a lot of time in, like the Great Smokies, or that I’ve researched extensively enough to give me confidence, as in the novel about African elephant poaching.

Sherri: When you are writing, do you plan or plot your books ahead of time or do you just sit down and write? What is the most difficult part of writing and how do you overcome it? Where do your ideas come from?

Phil: Each short story or novel begins with a theme that I think has enough inherent conflict to build an engaging story on. GUNS, for example, is about the black-market trade in weapons. I had a friend who’d spent a career in naval intelligence, and he helped fill me in on that.

     For a novel, I’ll spend weeks just digging and jotting the occasional plot idea. Copies of all my research materials go into a dedicated file box for easy reference. I’ll sketch out a rough plot longhand on a legal pad (old habit), and then launch into the story on the computer with some intense and vivid scene meant mostly to hook the reader. Then I’ll just forge on, letting my characters guide me. If I get stuck along the way, I’ll often take a long walk, which seems to break up the logjam. I rewrite and revise a lot as I go.

     This is a tough, solitary business, as I’m sure you know. Weeks and months of sitting behind the screen trying to fill those blank pages with a hundred-thousand-word story that will engage and reach out and touch a reader. It’s at once a long, long slog and a wonderous and rewarding experience. I’m hopelessly hooked on it.

Sherri: I saw your publisher was listed as Bowker. Are you independently published or is this a small publishing company? What has publishing been like from the first book to the most recent? How have things changed? What do you wish you’d known in the beginning?

Phil: That’s an Amazon glitch I need to fix. Bowker was only the provider of that book’s bar code.

     Over the years, much of my article and short story writing has been on pure speculation. I’d write something and then try to sell it. Early on, my work was rejected a lot, but accepted and paid for just enough to keep me plowing onward while learning and honing the craft. That led to working on assignment for several magazines at much better pay and without the marketing hassle.

     If I had it to do over, I think I’d have a lot more confidence in myself and would be more aggressive.

     Writing has changed in many ways since I began decades ago. I once had to research laboriously through libraries, write on a typewriter, and take photos on several kinds of expensive film with a whole heavy bag full of gear, never knowing what exactly I had until the transparencies came back from the lab. It’s so much easier now to research, write, edit, and correspond on a computer, and my digital Canon camera is amazing.

     The advent of the Net, of course, has changed the whole business profoundly. Back in the day, editors filtered submissions, only buying and publishing those books they figured would earn their way. Now millions of books get published on Amazon, and it’s easy for your work to get buried in that constant avalanche. A whole generation of readers expect to get Kindle books dirt cheap or even free. Many out there are lost in Smartphoneland and don’t read books at all.

     I sold my first three novels to Medallion Press under traditional advance/royalty contracts. They treated me well, but lack of distribution became an issue, so I finally asked for all rights back, added a fourth novel to the series, and self-published as Proud Eagle Publishing, which comprises me, my best friend, editor, incisive critic, and life companion, Naomi (who is also part Cherokee) and our cat, McKenzie. I write and edit, rewrite, create my own covers, put everything up on Amazon myself, promote myself, and sell through a number of indy stores I’ve set up. The six novels have sold more than 150,000 copies to date in print and Kindle, so people seem to like them.

     As long as they do, I’ll keep on writing.

Sherri: Phil, it’s been a pleasure having you at Creekside Café. If you all enjoyed our interview you can learn more about Phil from his links below, order his books or come out to our Book Festival at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th from 1 to 4 pm and meet him there. Remember, books make great holiday gifts, and they can even help you survive them. We hope to see you there.

Visit him at

    He’ll be signing all six of his novels at Author Sunday.

                                                         * * *



Buy links (in the order of publication):







Posted in Creekside Cafe, interview

On the Porch with North Carolina Author, Sandra Cox

Today I’d like to welcome fellow North Carolina author, Sandra Cox to my virtual café. Welcome Sandra to Creekside Café.

Sandra: Thanks, Sherri, I’m thrilled to be here.

Sherri: It is kind of funny that you and I met on Twitter through writer friends that live all over the country, some even out of the US and we’re both in North Carolina.

Sandra: I love it: It amazes me how many North Carolina writers are out there.

Sherri: I read your ebook Queen of Diamonds and I loved it. What a fantastic twist. Do all of your books have an element of suspense and romance?

Sandra: Yes. I like an action/suspense storyline with a romance woven through it.

Sherri: If I’ve counted correctly, you have 38 published books.

Sandra: I blush to admit, I’m not sure.  I’ve retired quite a few and republished others.

Sherri: And your latest book is a western, is this your preferred genre?

Sandra: It is. Everything I write now from the old West to paranormal has a Western theme.

Sherri: Tell us about Keeper Tyree. Who is he? What is his code? How does he end up mixed up with this interesting cast of characters?

Sandra: Keeper is hard, no-nonsense and crusty, and believes a man’s word is his bond. But beneath the hardness, he’s got a soft spot for youngsters and respects women.

He can’t walk away from a woman or child in peril.  Men are another matter. He’s a big believer in minding his own business. Cathleen has other ideas and when she digs in her heels, she usually manages to get her way.

Sherri: Who is your favorite character in Keeper Tyree? Who was the most fun to write and who created more of a challenge? Or are they the same?

Sandra: As far as my favorite character and fun to write, it was definitely Keeper. I enjoyed his discomfort as he falls hard for a ‘good woman’. So did his friends and traveling companions. My challenge was fleshing out Cathleen O’Donnell’s character. Keeper’s was larger than life and no problem to write.  Cathleen was more withdrawn and kept parts of herself hidden.

Sherri: Have you always been a writer? When did you first start writing?

Sandra: I’ve been writing forever. I was first offered a contract in 2006 or 2007. Remember Ellora’s Cave? They had a sweet line called Cerridwen Press. They published THE CRYSTAL.

Sherri: Of all your books, is there one that still holds your heart?

Sandra: That’s a tough one. As far as holding my heart, I guess I’d have to say The Catarau Series. When I lost my twelve-year-old cat to cancer, I grieved and wanted him back. So, I wrote a fantasy story where he used one of his lives to come home.

Sherri: Who is your favorite all-time character in all of your books? Would you write another book with them in it?

Sandra: At the moment, Keeper. He’s a keeper after allI’m toying with writing a sequel that takes up where KEEPER TYREE leaves off.

Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with multi-genre, multi-published author, Sandra Cox, come back June 23rd when I will be doing an interview with Keeper Tyree. Unfortunately, the gunman is a bit busy and won’t be able to make out to the café. No planes, trains or automobiles in the old west, so, I’ll be taking the old mare out and see if I can meet up with the man on the trail. Here’s wishing you all Happy Trails.

All Things Western

By S. Cox


By Sandra Cox

Western Romance

Gwen Slade, Bounty Hunter



Time Travel Western Romance

Montana Shootists


Shapeshifter Modern Day Western Romance

Mateo’s Law


Romantic Suspense with a touch of Paranormal

The Crystal

Paranormal Romance

Tall, Dark and Undead

Romantic Suspense

Queen of Diamonds

About Sandra Cox

Sandra is a vegetarian, animal lover and avid gardener. She lives with her husband, their dog and cats in sunny North Carolina.

Her stories consist of all things Western and more. She is a category bestselling Amazon, and award-winning, author.

Follow Sandra on social media and don’t forget to come back next week when we’ll meet up with Keeper Tyree. 

Posted in Creekside Cafe

On the Porch with Parker McCoy

It’s a lovely autumn day in eastern North Carolina, and I’m happy to welcome Parker McCoy to my virtual cafe.

Parker: Thank you so much for having me, Sherri. Happy to be here!!

Sherri: We’re almost kissing cousins, I understand you grew up in Tennessee?

Parker: Yes, I have always lived in west Tennessee. Lots of green hills and quiet country which always draws me in.

Sherri: How long have you been writing? Did you write stories as a child?

Parker: Well, when I was a kid, I often came up with characters. I loved the Dick Tracey movie when it came out in 1990. My friends and I would make up villains and draw them out and give them names. We never wrote stories. Just drew and made up the characters. I didn’t read a ton of stuff as a kid. I didn’t read a lot of books until I hit my twenties. I’m almost forty now. So, I have had plenty of experience at this point. But no, as a kid, I mainly watched cartoons and read comic books and played with action figures in a huge backyard for hours on end by myself. I think I was always making up stories in my head, but I wasn’t writing them down, which is what separates a writer from a normal person. We actually have to write these things down or we forget them. I’ve always had a big imagination, though. I really enjoy coming up with stories and would do it rather I put my work out there or not. I figure why not share it with the world, I may get a laugh or two out of it.

Sherri: Is Fairfax and Glew your first books? Tell us a little about them?

Parker: No, I’ve written other books under another name, but I also have Thinking Me Dead under Parker McCoy. Fairfax and Glew center around George Fairfax, who is the black sheep of his family and is also an adventurous dude who doesn’t like to sit still for long. Wally Glew is a private eye with too much time on his hands and together they go after thieves and other petty criminals. You won’t find murder or mayhem in these stories. They’re lighter tales with a humorous side. If you want to read about a guy who steals Marie Callender dinners, this series is for you.

Sherri: What are your plans for your writing future? Do you have more Fairfax and Glew stories or are you thinking of trying something new?

Parker: Oh, I have many, many plans for Fairfax and Glew. I can envision volume ten and beyond that. The farther it goes, the more interesting and developed the characters and of course, introducing new characters is always a thrill as well. I also love it that this series doesn’t take itself too seriously and so I can play around and have a blast. It’s definitely the most fun I’ve ever had through my many years of writing. As for other projects, I’m not currently on anything but who knows? If something strikes me, sure. I’ll take on another project but for now, it’s all about Fairfax and Glew.

Sherri: I have read several of your shorts on your blog. I like your writing style. Is this how your stories are in your books?

Parker: Yes, I like to focus on action and dialogue. I’m not big on lots of reflection or lengthy descriptions of things. I like stories that really move which I think works well for my genre. The first fourteen stories on the blog are written in first-person from Fairfax’s point of view. I like first-person but for a series, I don’t think it works as well. So, I switched to third-person limited so I could pop around in other characters’ heads which has been a blast. It’s opened up whole new worlds for me. But yes, if you like the blog stories, you’ll love the books. However, the stories in the books are longer but they’re in the same style. So, same style and more story. Win, win!!

Sherri: How did you come up with the characters of Fairfax and Glew? Did anyone influence their inception?

Parker: I’d written different books and stories but generally, with one main protagonist. So I played around with a buddy-type, duo story and decided it was something I wanted to do. I came up with Fairfax although he was named Kenneth Fairfax at first. However, I decided he needed to come from a wealthy family who named their children after royalty-kings and queens. As it turned out, there was no King Kenneth. So I changed that to George. Glew popped up on a search and then Wally popped right into my head right after. As far as influence, I think all my characters are a combination of different people I’ve met. That is what’s so cool about meeting and hanging out with a lot of different people.

Sherri: What or whom has been the biggest influence on your writing?

Parker: I’d say laughter. Anytime I quote a movie or book or show to my friends, it’s always the funny parts, even if the movie or show is not a comedy. I think that drives me. When I can make people laugh and forgot about the cruel world out there, I feel great. It starts with making myself laugh and then I hope it moves onto the readers. So far, I think that’s been the case with many. Knock on wood…

Sherri: What do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors?

Parker: I’m a big fan of crime and short stories. Edgar Alan Poe was definitely an influence. Donald Westlake was for sure, since he combined humor with crime stories. Charles Dickens wrote my favorite book- A Christmas Carol. I’ve also enjoyed work by Stephen Hunter, Jim Thompson, Ambrose Bierce, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, James Lee Burke, Dashiell Hammett, and Patricia Highsmith. I also love just about anything involving Alfred Hitchcock.

Sherri: Do you belong to any writing groups or organizations? Do you have Beta readers? Are you traditionally or indie published?

Parker: I don’t currently belong to any writing groups, but I would like to. I just haven’t branched out in that area. I use beta readers and enjoy their input. I’m indie published and proud of it!

Sherri: If you could learn from or talk about writing with one person, who would that be? Why?

Parker: I’d love to talk with Donald Westlake and ask him how he churned out so much material, even when things weren’t going so well for him since all writers have tough spots in their careers. He really put in the work.

Sherri: If your stories were picked up for a movie deal, do you have anyone in mind to play your main characters?

Parker: You know, I have nothing against movie adaptations of books, but I really like to picture my characters in my head. When I see them in a movie, it takes something away. It’s like my imagination dies a little. Personally, I’d like to see two unknown actors handle the job. There’s nothing better than seeing a hungry young actor take on a role and break out.

Sherri: Parker and I are part of the Shameless Self Promo group on Twitter, we’re an eclectic group that has found strength and courage with each other. What would you say to someone who is just starting out as a writer or first-time author?

Parker: I would give them some advice that I saw Ray Bradbury give to a young group one time which is to write a short story a week for a year. At the end of the year, you have fifty-two stories. Some won’t be good but there may be a gem or two and you will have so much experience in writing about different characters and different scenarios. Writing is definitely a long game. Very few find success early on. Makes sure it’s fun for you and that you’d do it if you didn’t get paid for it. Focus on telling a story purely. Listen to family members and friends who always captivate people when they tell stories. Learn from them. They are naturals, even though most of them never write anything down. And lastly, of course, have fun at it! If it isn’t fun, move onto a project that is and have a ball!

Sherri: Parker, thank you for joining me at my virtual cafe, stick around a while, the fishing is good and if you brought some good Tennessee whiskey, we can swap some fish stories though I’m not much of a fisherman myself.

Parker: Oh, we don’t need to fish to swap great stories, and whiskey is not a necessity, but the stories may flow better with a little lubricant. Ha-ha. Thank you so much for having me, Sherri. It’s a real pleasure. Or a real McCoy, you might say.




Book links-

Fairfax & Glew: Volume 1-
Fairfax & Glew Volume Tew-