Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Wednesday Guest- Patricia Gulley
Patricia started her career in the travel industry in New York City working for Eastern Airlines in their reservations department. She worked with one of the first computers ever used by an airline, which still required IBM card to be filled out. She moved to BOAC (before they merged with BEA and became British Airways) and worked in the refunds department and on their fares desk.
Pregnant, she and her husband moved to Oregon where she eventually became a travel agent; moving with the never-ending-changes in the industry, and ended up being forced into retirement when the large worldwide agency she worked for closed ninety percent of its branch offices. That was December 2001.
She has published several short stories, a few as mystery SF/fantasy crossover and humorous mysteries that take place in a moorage for floating homes. The first of the humorous mysteries was in the anthology Murder Across The Map. Pat lives in a floating home on the slough side of an island in The Columbia River.
Having a travel agent character in your books, do you travel to places for research? If so where was your favorite place?
All travel agents travel for business and pleasure. When it is on business, the company send them to learn a little about the place (sites of interest) but mostly it is to learn from the wholesaler who is sponsoring the (fam) familiarization trip. The wholesaler has a package that they want the retail travel agent to sell. Mind you, I'm speaking of a leisure agent, which is different from a corporate agent. Leisure agents deal in vacation, corporate agents book business travelers. So, the leisure agent troups around to what feels like 100 hotels, learns about the transfer services from the airport, learns about all the options the wholesaler has available, and if meals are included, agents will have to watch a sales film or slide show first, eat, then sit and go over the wholesalers brochure with a fine tooth comb. Information about documentation to enter different countries are reviewed, insurance polices for cancellations by the client, if offered, and what to do if they aren't.
The purpose of a travel agent is to make sure the trip to be taken goes smoothly by being sure you know everything you need to do before you go, and why all the additional costs are necessary or not. The agent is there to give major assistance if something goes wrong.
Needless to say, I am not talking about someone buying an airline ticket to go visit grandma, or booking a hotel.
The important thing to remember about a travel agent, which a lot of people get confused with, is that the agent is NOT a tour escort, though some craz......ah, well some agents do go on group movements with their clients.
NO, I do not go off and visit a place calling it research. I've visited many places on business and on my own. I've been on companies tours that my company wanted me to sell, and I've done a lot of cruising because it is a major love of mine. I'm retired, and if I did write about a location, I'd never write about a place I haven't been to. Though I will say, in my book, my protagonist and her agents do book people to places I haven't been to and I did this so that trips around the world were in the book.
I have several very favorite cities. New York City, London, Quebec City, St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, and I hope to add Santa Fe soon. I've been to many cities, but would not call them favorites. Bruges, The Hague, Stockholm, Tallin, Copenhagen, lots more, and many I'd never turn down to go back to.
My phylosophy is to JUST KEEP TRAVELING! No, I don't do nature stuff or sports stuff, but I could book it for others with no problem.
Why do you write mysteries?
I love mysteries, by which I mean in the traditional sense. I love the following clues and solving the puzzle. I'm not much for thrillers, I don't want to know the culprit, I just want to be clever and find him--or her. My novel and some short stories are mysteries, but I'm a great SF fan, no not fantasy, but do not have the science knowledge to really write an SF novel. And I'd want it to be a mystery, but I do like to write SF/mystery short stories.
Go to: http://www.wingsepress.com/
Click on short stories and scroll down to The Observer for a free read of one of my SF/mysteries.
What's next for you?
I'm heading to LCC in Santa Fe in March to promote my book, Downsized To Death. I'm also working on a sequel. I'm also working on a SF/vampire/mystery and toying with a Jane Austen character mystery.
Blurb Downsized to Death:
Branch manager of a national travel company, Prudence Peters’ demotion is not the only bad news that begins a week from hell. Offices will close, more work for the remaining agents, lay-offs and no more raises. But one of Pru’s agents is fired and by week’s end the agent has disappeared.
Pru arrives at her office the following Monday to find a detective waiting for her. Not only is the fired agent still missing, but the supervisor has been murdered. Fearing the missing agent will be blamed for the murder, Pru sets out to find her, but everything she discovers laps over into the murder case. Head office in Atlanta claims they authorized no firings and fears for their reputation puts all the offices in Oregon in jeopardy. Suddenly, Pru must find a killer to save her life, her office and her job.
Pru disconnected with a press of a button, pulled off her earphone and tossed it onto the clutter on her desk. The mention of closures scared her. Granted the internet and commission cuts during the economic boom years of the nineties had made being profitable much harder, but Pru’s office had done it, and the high traffic volume that started the new millennium last year had given all offices a boost. So to suddenly have her job put in jeopardy came as a shock.
She had just turned fifty—with a great party that had rocked her floating home into the wee hours—and she wasn’t feeling the least bit old. Mentally she felt in her thirties, no matter what her mirror said. And speaking of the party, it was the second date she had with that nice guy from Everything Hawaiian Tours. Why hadn’t she seen him since? Oh yeah, he called but she hadn’t managed to call back. How many weeks ago was that?
She pushed that unpleasant thought away and replaced it with another. If the worst happened and she had to go out looking for a new job, would she have to worry about age discrimination, being considered too high salaried or over qualified? How depressing was that? To chase stomach-churning thoughts away, she moved her thoughts to her agents, remembering one had to be laid off by month end. She assessed her four agents’ good points as her eyes moved from desk to desk lined up from the front door to her own in the back of the office.
Harriet, her senior agent and one of the top producing cruise specialists on the West Coast, made the million-dollar club every year. She was safe. Gwen, her Asian and South Pacific expert, always made quota and occasionally hit the million-dollar club. She should be safe, and if not, she could bounce to another office anywhere in the country. She’d done it before.
Pru ran her fingers through her blonde hair, messing it into the look most people were used to seeing on her, then grabbed a bunch and squeezed. The pressure on the roots acted as a stimulant to her scalp and usually curbed her headaches. This time it just hurt. She grimaced and felt every line on her face crease deeper, but kept thinking.
Two agents left. Meg Shultz manned the front desk. Like Claudia, she was hired five years ago and handled the majority of walk-ins that wanted small packages and wholesale air tickets. She was a satisfactory agent in a company that did not employ receptionists.
The other was Pru’s newbie of two years. June Withers had spectacular sales, many of which were from California, clients that had stayed with her when she moved up to Portland. She had made quota her first year.
Against them: Harriet was the oldest and highest salaried; Gwen’s north Pacific business had been dwindling for the last several years; Meg had never made quota, and June was the last one hired.
It would not be her decision to make, but if she had to speculate, she expected the company to stand by Harriet. Making the million-dollar club fifteen years in a row and having a clientele that would cruise the river Styx if she recommended it made her a keeper. And though June should be the one to go, her large group sales and the fact that she was a friend of Claudia’s made it doubtful. Gwen’s sales were as good as June’s, so that left Meg. Well, at least she’d have severance with health care for several weeks while she looked for another job.
Irene, her cashier and bookkeeper, fell under a different management branch in the company. As lead agent for all the cashiers in Oregon, she had a job until the last door closed. No sense worrying about her.
With these last two thoughts, Pru felt the headache begin to fade. It returned with a vengeance when the glass entrance to the office flew open and Claudia Gage swept in like a sandstorm. She stopped in front of Pru’s desk and dropped her purse and briefcase on the client chair.
Pru had not expected her so soon. She must have left her office the moment she hung up from the conference call.
“I have a few announcements to make to the staff before I start the reviews,” she chirped, in her usual brisk-though-superior tone. “When everyone is off calls, get them over here in front of your desk.”
Expecting more bad news, and feeling a need to be contrary, Pru asked, “Now, Claudia, during working hours?” Discussions of any sort were always held after hours so as not to interfere with a business that depended on phone calls and walk-ins. At least that was company policy for as long as Pru had worked for the company.
Claudia brushed her off with a clipped response. “You’ll just have to work around it, but first I want to talk to you privately in the back room.”
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