Dancing in Combat Boots

This show caught my eye not only because it’s such an intriguing topic, but the performer is a local writer. Teresa Funke, of Fort Collins, worked as a researcher for PBS and her essays and short stories have appeared in numerous commercial and literary magazines and anthologies.

Today, Funke is the author of four books, and she is a speaker, presenter and writer’s coach.

Funke’s book “Dancing in Combat Boots: Stories of American Women in WWII” is the inspiration for her one woman show called Dancing in Combat Boots. Funke writes that the book, eight years in the making, was a “labor of love.” The book contains eleven fictional stories based on real women during WWII, including Irene who bucks rivets in an aircraft factory and Marjorie who survives the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

“Dancing in Combat Boots” was a 2008 Colorado Book Award Finalist and won the 2007 EVVY Award for juvenile fiction and cover design. The book celebrates the roles woman played during WWII, a role often overlooked by history.

In Funke’s show the women from her book come alive – their hopes, their struggles and their courage.

See the show on Sunday, October 3, 2010 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Fort Collins Senior Center. A question and answer session and a meet-the-author reception will follow the performance. Donuts and coffee will be served.

The Fort Collins Senior Center is located at 1200 Raintree Drive. This show is open to the public and is for all ages. Admission is $14 for senior center members and $16 for non-members. Learn more about Teresa Funke and her books at

Writing: it’s so easy caveman can do it

How many of you have said these words,  either publicly, or in your head, “I’d like to write a novel” ?

Well, now is your chance. November is National Novel Writing Month. The goal of NNWM is to write a 175-page, 50,000 word novel by midnight on November 30.   That’s approximately 1,666 words a day, and take it from someone who writes for a living, that’s not very many words.  (FYI 500 words  =  about  one page, single spaced)

The key word here is “write.”  Not edit, not  publish, just WRITE!  

Now for some brutal honesty.  I have taken on this challenge, but I sort of cheated. I started last week, well, technically  last year. I’ve had a story  knocking around in my head and I’ve written bits and pieces, but  this November I am going to attempt to get it out!!!    

Last month, I was inspired to start working on my  story  by Stephenie Meyer (“Twilight” series author). If she can write a novel, with all the smirking, smouldering and other useless adjectives,  I can certainly write one at least half as well, if not better… right?

If you are interested, I found a great  Web site to keep you on track:

If writing isn’t your thing, it’s also No Shave November. Instead of writing a novel, you can let all the hair on your body  grow wild while your  razors stay sharp. Personally, I’d prefer to write a novel.

Ready…. set… WRITE!

One of HeidiTown’s favorite authors in Denver this month

Where Men Win GloryJon Krakauer is best known for “Into Thin Air,”  the story of the fateful 1996 season on Everest and “Into the Wild,” recently adapted as a major motion  picture (read my review  HERE).

Krakauer has long been one of my favorite non-fiction authors and this month he will be visiting the Tattered Cover Bookstore  in Denver to discuss his newest book, “Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman.”      

The event will include a silent auction  to  benefit Veterans Helping Veterans Now (VHVnow).   Bidders may bid on  signed first-edition  Krakauer books, and  Krakauer will match the winning bids, as well as any additional donations to VHVnow.

The event will be held on September 21, 2009, at  7:30 p.m.   275 free tickets will be given out starting on September 15.   To find out more and to  order your signed copy of “Where Men Win Glory” visit  Tattered Cover.

Party Across America with Ft. Collins author Michael Guerriero

By, Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer  to the  Berthoud Weekly  Surveyor

Originally published October 29, 2008

Party Across AmericaFort Collins resident, Michael Gurriero, likes to have a good time and he has turned his passion for partying into a book called, “Party Across America! 101 of the Greatest Festivals, Sporting Events, and Celebrations in the U.S.” Originally from Pennsylvania, after college, Guerriero moved to Lake Tahoe to work a little and play a lot. While living in Tahoe, he and his friends would road trip back to the East Coast. To make the trip less daunting and a lot more entertaining, the group timed their trips with various festivals.

“We wanted to make it as much of a crazy, fun road trip across the country as possible. We would stop in random states and go to some sort of party or celebration that we’d found online or always wanted to go to,” stated Guerriero. These zigzagging cross-country trips set the backdrop for his future book.

“When it was time to get a real job I wanted to move somewhere with skiing and that’s how I ended up in Colorado,” said Guerriero. He went to work for Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company, but never lost his love of a good party.

“I was at the Memphis Blues Festival in 2006, for my bachelor party. I remember sitting there, at a barbeque joint, and the idea just kind of hit me. What if I made a guide to the best celebration in the U.S.?” said Guerriero.

His idea for the party guide continued to simmer, and then, in May 2008, Guerriero was laid off. He used this unfortunate circumstance to his advantage and began working relentlessly to turn his passion for the party book into a reality. Clearly Guerriero been to a lot of parties and celebrations, so experience wasn’t a problem, however one small issue stood in his way – he was not a writer, but he wasn’t about to turn his back on his party book epiphany.

Michael Gurriero“I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I was sort of like someone who liked playing softball but never tried out for the team,” said Guerriero. “I put together a proposal, got a book on agents and started sending out the proposal.” Many agents told Guerriero to “jump in a lake” because of his lack of writing experience, but one agent liked the idea and decided to take a chance on Guerriero.

Guerriero used a three-part formula to decide what events would be included in the book. “The energy level of the event had to be through the roof, with people looking forward to the event all year long. Attendance played a role; most of the events in the book are attended by thousands. The third is the uniqueness of the event. And a lot of it had to do with whether I got to the event and how much I enjoyed it,” said Guerriero.

The Gasparilla Pirate Festival held each January in Tampa, Florida, is Guerriero’s favorite festival in the book. “The largest, fully functioning pirate ship in the world comes sailing into Tampa Bay and it is just nuts. The mayor of Tampa comes aboard and surrenders the keys to the city – it’s recreating an actual event that happened,” he explained. “From there it’s a 500,000 person parade from the bay down the longest continual sidewalk in the U.S. Once the parade hits downtown Tampa it’s craziness all night. It was a blast.”

The book includes huge events, such as the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, and obscure events like the Testicle Festival in Clinton, Montana. Each event in the book is summarized and includes ticket prices, where to stay, how to get there, what to pack and party tips.

The publishing of the book is well timed; 55% of U.S. residents say they will take fewer trips in 2009, than they have in the past, and 67% of U.S. residents say they will only take weekend trips instead of the standard two week vacation. This past summer, the word “Staycation” has been used frequently. It refers to a vacation closer to home and the popularity of these “staycations” has risen due to high gas prices and economic hardships.

For Coloradoan’s planning to stay close to home this coming year, Guerrioro highlights five Colorado festivals and several in surrounding states. And even if you can’t make it to the Punkin Chunkin World Championships, held in Bridgeville, Delaware each November, you can take an armchair tour of the somewhat messy, and comical event by reading “Party Across America! 101 of the Greatest Festivals, Sporting Events, and Celebrations in the U.S.”

Check your local bookstore, or buy this book at

"District 9" a review

District 9

Troy Cook, Guest Writer  

Should I stay or should I go now? That’s the question we all face with a new movie and I have to say that “District 9″ is a definite go. It’s an unusual and highly original science-fiction film that… continue reading review.

HeidiTown features Guest Writer

HeidiTown is proud to feature guest writer Troy Cook. He is  a former movie director and author of two popular mystery novels, “47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers,” and “The One Minute Assassin.”


Cook will use his skills as a writer and  his vast knowledge of the movie  industry  to review “District 9.”

Read all about Troy Cook here.

Visit Troy Cook’s Website at

Troy Cook, local man of mystery


Article originally published in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor, December 3, 2008.

By Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer

As a former resident of the Tinsletown, Troy Cook worked as a child actor and eventually went to work as a cameraman and then movie director. He wrote and directed movies for fifteen years and his work took him all over the world, including crime-ridden Russia.

Loveland, Colorado is a long way from the bright lights of Hollywood and on most days, Cook prefers it that way. However, his past experiences in the film industry serve him well in his new profession as an author.

After leaving California, ten years ago, Cook started a house painting company in Loveland, but he soon began to miss his creative side. About five years ago he decided to write a novel. “I’d always wanted to give it a try, and it has worked out pretty good so far,” said Cook.

“Screenplays are about one-third the length of a novel. Novels are a lot more intricate. I studied up on how to do what I wanted to do and then I started thinking about the things I like when I’m reading,” explained Cook. “I like things that make me laugh and that is why I wrote a book with a lot of humor in it, but I also wanted it to be a genre-type piece so it was accessible to the most amount of people.”

Cook wanted to write mystery novels about criminals because, “they [criminals] are humorous by nature – often they are stupid and the things they do often lends itself to nature humor in the story.” But this wasn’t the only reason Cook decided to write about criminals, he has first-hand experience with the criminal world. As it turns out the movie business is a good way to launder money and during his years in the movie industry, Cook brushed shoulders with more than a few mafia-types, inside and outside of the United States.

With his ambition in sync with a plan of attack, Cook wrote his first book, “47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers.” It went on to receive critical acclaim and numerous book award nominations and wins, including the #1 “Killer Pick” by the Independent Mystery Book Seller’s Assn., and a Silver Evvy Award. Publishers Weekly called the book, “An Indie Surprise,” and Library Journal’s review read, “A literary jewel. Don’t miss it.”  

The success, however, of Cook’s first book wasn’t just good luck. “A lot of authors think I’m very lucky, and I am lucky, but I also work really hard to get my books out to the right places,” said Cook. “Luck does play a part, but working hard to spread the word makes it possible for that luck to happen, or at least make it a lot more likely.”

OMAfinal[1]As soon as Cook’s first book hit stores, he hit the pavement. On his first book tour, he visited 100 bookstores across the country. When his second book, “The One Minute Assassin,” was published in September 2007, Cook didn’t slow his marketing campaign. He has now visited over 200 bookstores, and he attends book and author conventions across the country. He also enjoys giving presentations to local book clubs and writer groups.

Cook considers his job as a writer an artistic and business venture. “It is a business. It’s similar to the movie business. They don’t make a creative motion picture to have it not make money. They always want it to make money. So you have to marry the interesting creative ideas with stuff people want to see. It has to be something people want to see, want to read, want to hear, depending on whatever art you are doing – if you want it to be successful you must marry the two,” said Cook.  

All of Cook’s book titles have been inspired by the title of a famous business book titles. “It’s a hook. It’s the same thing we’d do on movie posters, a tagline to make people interested to see the movie. So I was thinking of this from a marketing standpoint,” explained Cook.

From 90-year-old grannies to 13-year-old boys, Cook’s books appeal to a wide audience. His first book has been translated into several languages, though Cook has no idea if the humor in his stories translates well to a foreign audience. While attending a mystery convention this past year, Cook was approached by a Japanese fan clutching the Japanese version of “47 Rules.” It was the first time Cook had gotten the opportunity to see a translated version of his book. “It was a real treat for me,” stated Cook.        

Perhaps the most exciting development in Cook’s career as a novelist has just become public. “I’ve had some success in movie companies interested in my novels. Not from my old contacts in the business because I’ve been out of that for ten years. I think because I write in a way that helps people visualize the story it helps Hollywood visualize the story too. So I was lucky enough to have several companies want the rights to the first novel,” said Cook.

Hollywood director, Richard Gladstein, and his production company, FilmColony, have acquired the film rights to “47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers.” Gladstein’s credits include “Bourne Identity,” “Cider House Rules,” “Finding Neverland,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “Jackie Brown.” The company is currently packaging director, writer and cast for the big screen adaptation of Cook’s first novel.

Learn more at

Book Review: The Dogs of Babel

book_thumbnail_dogs-of-babelby Carolyn Parkhurst

Paul comes home to find his wife, Lexy, is dead. She has fallen from a 25-foot apple tree in their backyard; the only witness is their dog, Lorelei. The police rule the death an accident, but why Lexy had climbed the tree is a mystery. As far as Paul knows she had never climbed the tree before, or any other tree. Paul becomes obsessed with finding out why Lexy was up the tree and what happened in the time leading up to her death.

As a professor of linguistics at a local college, Paul has an intense interest in language. As the witness to Lexy’s accident, Paul believes that Lorelei, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, holds the clues to his wife’s death. He decides to take a sabbatical and devote the time to teaching Lorelei to talk so he can unlock the mystery of Lexy’s fatal fall.

“The Dogs of Babel” is an easy read. I almost read the entire book on a short flight from Kansas City to Denver. There are some odd shifts in tenses in the story because it is alternates between Paul and Lexy’s relationship prior to and after her death and I think at times even the author got a little confused. It is an issue creative writing professors beat to death; constantly pointing out tenses problems. However, it is a “rule” I find even the most prolific authors often ignore. Parkhurst’s writing has a nice flow and I didn’t get too hung up on the ever-changing tenses.

The metaphors in this novel are not obscure and are sort of “in your face,” but I do not think it was Parkhurst intent to write a story with hidden meanings requiring deep thought or prolonged consideration. It is a simple love story ending in an inexplicable tragedy with a dog becoming essential to the healing process.  

On the dust jacket the book is misrepresented as a mystery. It is actually a story about grief and the healing process. Written in the first person, grieving widower Paul recounts his life with Lexy. He narrates their happy courtship and eventually marriage, reliving each moment with the reader. We laugh as he recalls Lexy’s spontaneity, so different from his own less adventurous personality. Yet, as he fondly remembers life with his wife, the reader begins to discover the answers to Paul’s original question; eventually Paul discovers the answers he has been seeking have been right in front of him all along.

I have read many debut novels and this one is very good. The writing is clever and the story takes some unique and unexpected turns. Parkhurst style is mesmerizing, not in a Stephen King sort of way, but in a lyrical sense. We are pulled into Paul’s world through a direct and constant dialogue Paul is having with himself and in turn with the reader. The book is funny, painful and thoughtful. It is about the human condition – something we all relate too.

It is obvious Parkhurst has had close relationship of the canine kind. Being a dog person, I intensely related to the scenes involving Lorelei and her curious canine behaviors. I think many dog owners will enjoy this book. However, anyone who has loved or has experienced loss will also like “The Dogs of Babel.” I recommend this book for a straightforward, swift and intriguing summer read.  


**Also appearing in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor

HeidiTown’s favorite non-fiction authors

Jon Krakauer is best known for Into Thin Air,  the story of the fateful 1996 season on Everest and Into the Wild (see my review of the major motion picture adapted from this book under Movie Reviews). Krakauer has written several other books, mostly concerning outdoor topics, however, one of his best books diverts from his usual subject matter. Under the Banner of Heaven: a Story of Violent Faith, is an  up-close look at the history and modern day Church of Latter Day Saints, better known as Mormons.

Under the Banner of Heaven is an  eye-opening look at the skeletons in the closet of the fastest growing church in the world. Krakauer’s methodical research and presentation of the facts make for a riveting and  enlightening read.

Mark Bowden is a journalist who can actually put together a fascinating book – this cannot be said of all journalists-turned-authors. Arguably Bowden’s most famous book, Black Hawk Down, made into a film by the same name in 2001, documents the true story of the failed 1993 humanitarian mission conducted  by the  U.S.  military in Somalia.  Over  500  Somalians were killed and eighteen U.S. soldiers lost their lives in the conflict. I enjoyed this book, but sometimes got bogged down in the military lingo; my husband also read the book and had no problem with that particular aspect.

My favorite Bowden book is Killing Pablo: the hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw,  which has also been made into a documentary  frequently shown  The History Channel. The book is the fascinating true story  of Pablo Escobar’s rise to power as a drug lord in Columbia and his eventual  fall from power made possible through the help of the United States government.

While Bowden was on tour for his newest book, Breakfast with the Ayatollah: The  First Battle  in America’s War with Militant Islam,Ryan and I had a chance to hear him speak in-person at Denver’s downtown Tattered Cover. It becomes clear Bowden is a journalist/writer who is interested in finding the facts of a case and presenting them in a straightforward style so the reader may draw his or her own conclusions. He doesn’t appear to have any other agenda, political or otherwise. He is genuinely interested by the stories he writes about and though the audience was able to get him to answer a few questions regarding his personal opinons (many questions pertained to his opinion of the current situation in Somalia), he was able to stay noticeably neutral in his responses.

I believe it is Bowden’s dedication to finding the truth about a story allows him to obtain hard-to-get  interviews with ex-governmental operatives an others who trust he will write an unbiased account  of the subject matter.

Both Krakauer and Bowden  tackle challenging topics and presented them well.

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