Monday, October 16, 2017

#AuthorInterview with James and Charlotte Golden

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kristi Benedict is talking with James and Charlotte Goldin, authors of The 18th Rune: (The Aesir Kids, Volume 2)

FQ: What was most useful in your research for the Norse Gods?

JAMES: The primary research was my childhood copy ofNorse Gods and Giants by the D’Aulaires (reissued as D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths). Plus Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Thor stories from the 1960’s.

CHARLOTTE: I always read them growing up and we would sometimes make up stories about the different gods. Then one day I just randomly created Fire since I was also reading the Thor comics and thought there should be more super-heroish stuff; he has flame powers. And he has the three Norns for moms – because, why not?

JAMES: We made up games about the Aesir Kids before we started writing. As far as primary sources, I’ve read the Eddas of Snorri Sturlusson (in translation, of course). Parts of Tacitus’s Germania inspired our presentation of Vanaheim, the realm of the other or rival Norse gods. I’ve found some food for thought online in the videos of Maria Kvilhaug and Dr. Jackson Crawford. Oh, and going to Viking festivals was great! One time when she was 12, Charlotte hurled six spears in a row into a target. That helps make everything real for both of us.

CHARLOTTE: I threw axes, too. And a fish.

JAMES: But where we went off from mythology in a new direction, that was usually you.

CHARLOTTE: Right. In the myths, Fenris the giant wolf is a monster. I wanted him to be a lovable giant puppy since I always wanted a dog. And I made up the groblins (the beings who live underneath Vanaheim).

JAMES: And you didn’t name Skogurvegg and Tryggvin (the Vanaheim counselor and his teenage assistant) but you invented the characters and how they looked. And Ice (the frost-wielding jotun girl) was your idea, too. One of the main characters, Gersemi, isn’t much more than a name in the myths. You gave her a character, and that special vine in her hair. The key myth that inspired “The 18th Rune” was the war between Asgard and Vanaheim, a warrior culture versus a more Nature-oriented one. Neither side could beat the other, but Asgard, home of the Aesir, clearly got the better deal in the truce. The best gods from Vanaheim moved to Asgard and Odin’s brother Hoenir ended up ruling Vanaheim. The myths suggest there might be some lingering resentment in Vanaheim, so that’s what we based our book on – kids going to a place where they’re resented because of things that happened in the previous generation. Can you overcome that? If so, how?

FQ: All of the children characters are quite unique, especially when compared to their famous parents - what was the process for developing them to keep them so unique?

JAMES: Thank you! First, we tried to figure out who these kids were based on a very few clues in the myths. A kind of reverse-engineering. Take Thor’s daughter Thrud. Her name means “might,” so you figure she’d be super-strong. Her name is on a list of Valkyries, so we figured that would be her career goal. If you want to be a Valkyrie, you like horses (flying horses) and armor and you want to be decisive; but you’re not interested in romantic relationships.

CHARLOTTE: So she and Fire are just friends. Forseti is the son of Balder, the non-violent god of light, and according to the myths, when Forseti grows up, he’ll be a great judge among the Aesir. So he had to be “the smart one,” who tries to reason things out a bit more than the others.
JAMES: Everybody’s character is based on where they come from.

FQ: Where did the inspiration for the two mortal children Tjalfi and Roskva come from?

JAMES: They’re real! That is, they’re mythological. Their origin is told in the Prose Edda—long story short, Tjalfi accidentally hurt one of Thor’s goat’s legs, so he and his sister left their farm to become the thunder god’s sidekicks. It’s part of the story of the giant Utgardsloki. In that story Tjalfi is said to be an extremely fast runner, so super-speed was obviously his power in Asgard—and he’s clearly a little impulsive, but always well-meaning and totally loyal to Thor. In other Norse stories or poems, Tjalfi helps Thor fight a kind of stone robot and some werewolf-women – we may have to re-tell those sometime! There are no surviving stories of Roskva, though. So we had to give her a character and a power. I thought about super-hearing, which at first may not seem like much, but in “The 18th Rune” she can not only keep track of events miles away, but focus on a person’s breathing and heartbeat to tell whether or not they’re lying.

CHARLOTTE: I was kind of forcing him to find as many kids in the Norse myths as we could – it’s a lot harder than Greek because there you can just say “Oh, well, this god had a half-kid.” That really does not happen here so we got most of them from myths. I de-aged some of them by a few years.

FQ: With all the lineage of the characters in this book, did you have to keep your own log book to keep it all straight?

JAMES: For me, who was related to who wasn’t as tricky as remembering who was doing what where! I re-read The Hobbit again just to see how Tolkien handled 15 characters at once! Not to mention some close readings of The Avengers and The Legion of Super-Heroes.

CHARLOTTE: I can usually keep track of like 10 characters at a time and I come up with about 80-85% of what each character will be doing and where, and who might be related to who and then my dad does the rest.

JAMES: I didn’t use a log book, but there were a lot of post-its!

FQ: Did you plan for this to be a multi-series project when you wrote the first book?

JAMES: Nope! We did think we’d put out a few smaller stories in the “Aesir Kids” universe, but about a year after we published Book 1, Charlotte informed me that “everything has to be a trilogy.” And we got to work. And Vanaheim hadn’t really been used very much in other books, so that seemed like a good way to continue the adventures in a different world.

CHARLOTTE: Yeah it was definitely not in the plan.

JAMES: But then you changed the plan.

CHARLOTTE: Well, I read a bunch of novels that were all trilogies so I went “DAD OH MY ODIN WE HAVE TO WRITE 2 MORE BOOKS!!!!” and he basically went “Yeah, okay.”

FQ: Which character did you enjoy writing about most?

CHARLOTTE: Probably Thrud. It’s like a perfect girl who doesn’t have to be feminine and can still kick monster butt. I was a Viking (I always thought it was her) for two straight Halloweens.
JAMES: You’re a lot like Thrud. But you have a better temper.

FQ: The landscape in Vanaheim is very important in your story - was there any specific inspiration for that land?

JAMES: Nothing is directly copied from life, but I remembered the woods and fields when I was a kid going to summer camp in Maine. But the scene where everyone rolls down a hill actually comes from a much smaller spot where I used to do that behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Chieftain’s Hall was somewhat inspired by a huge wooden lodge Charlotte and I saw in Yellowstone.

CHARLOTTE: it is not really so much being inspired but being in what is quintessentially the perfect forest. There can be a connection be we have to remember that this is not Midgard. We can mash up stuff, but at the same time, it has to be completely new, it’s the world of the gods after all.

FQ: What is the easiest part of a story for you to write, the beginning or the end?

JAMES: I find that it always helps to have the ending in mind before you write. In the case of The 18th Rune, Charlotte had a version of the last line of the book in her head from the beginning – and Charlotte can be very insistent on some things. So from the time we started writing, everything had to build towards that last line. I think we rewrote the last two or three chapters more than any other section, to get to the end fairly. It’s the unraveling of a mystery, and so we had to have the clues laid out, and we had to have more than a dozen characters figure out the mystery together. AND – because it’s also a cliffhanger, we wanted to make sure that Book 2 was satisfying in itself while still making readers want to go on to Book 3...which will be out in 2018.

CHARLOTTE: In all the trilogies I’ve read the first book has to be what could be a standalone, the second has to end with a cliffhanger, and third has to have an epic battle. I really wanted that to be the ending before we had even written the plot, characters, anything. Sometimes there is that one line you know has to be in the book and you find a way to make it work.

To learn more about The 18th Rune: (The Aesir Kids, Volume 2) please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Interview with Author Simon Plaster

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Simon Plaster, author of SPOTS: A Tale of Star-Struck Misfame and Misfortune

FQ: Let us begin with this: You are either an AVID TV-watcher or you have done research to the nth degree on TV advertising. How on earth did you get all of those brands and slogans for these companies wrapped into your mystery? And for fun...if you had to pick a favorite, which brand/slogan would it be?

PLASTER: Thank you, Amy, thank you very much for reading my book. Most folks out here seem to prefer old Farmers Almanacs. Like most folks everywhere tend to click off TV commercials that interrupt the shows. I my own self will take a Geico spot over a Saturday Night Live skit any ol' night of the week. That contrary inclination, I suppose, goes back to my favorite TVC of all time: The one for Buster Brown Shoes that hooked me with its opening line, to-wit: "Plunk your magic twanger, Froggie!"

FQ: Finish this sentence: If I had not become a writer, I would be a __________ .

PLASTER: I would be a less big-bottomed ol' boy, less broke, with more time on my hands to court gals. Writing books makes the days go by way too fast and tires you out.

FQ: Commercials and ads have taken over our lives, especially with the internet "popping" up advertising campaigns all the time. Even authors get wrapped up into having to do internet campaigning with blogs, websites, tweets, etc. How do you personally feel about that area of the writing world? Would you prefer it if it went back to more book signing events where you meet people in person and move away from the digital realm?

PLASTER: Not liking those ads popping up makes you your own self sound like one of the "whack-a-mole" TIVO types I mentioned, Amy. I my own self would druther chat online with a purty gal like you than go to a book signing, where the few who come are big ol' boys wanting their money back.

FQ: I am a lover of humor/satire/sarcasm, although there are many who may not "get it." Upon saying that, do you ever worry about backlash that could come from some of your words?

PLASTER: Yes, I hardly ever leave the house due to backlash by a neighbor's dog, who took offense at me calling her ---- the neighbor ---- the b-word after she about chewed off my right foot.

FQ: It seems that everything is either a "platform" or a "debate" in these modern times. Which usually always leads to an argument. Do you have any ideas on how we can get the world to lighten up a bit?

PLASTER: Well, like you say, there are those who stubbornly argue for low carbs and those who debate lard versus vegetables. I my own self follow the "drinking man's diet," even though I have yet to lose any weight.

FQ: Are readers going to stay with Henrietta in OKC for awhile? What do we have to look forward to in 2018?

PLASTER: Henrietta her own self would like to be stayed with by a boyfriend who has a steady job and can afford to pay half the rent on an apartment. Readers can look forward to a next tale about a docudrama film getting made in OKC, which has high hopes of becoming the Hollywood of the Plains.

FQ: Do you have a personal mentor when it comes to writing?

PLASTER: Yes. Though he has repeatedly demanded that I not to tell anyone, Marty Lowry ---- a jack of all trades at Mossik Press ---- is largely to blame for my penmanship.

FQ: Is it possible the citizens of OKC will run you out of town? (LOL) Or do they have a sense of humor when it comes to your writing?

PLASTER: Like I say, OKC citizens who I know pretty much stick to the Farmers Almanac ---- or at least say that's all the reading they have time for --- and seem not much interested in my writing. For entirely other reasons, however, several locals ---- mainly gals ---- have told me to go away.

To learn more about SPOTS: A Tale of Star-Struck Misfame and Misfortune please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

#BookReview - Seducing the Defendant

Seducing the Defendant (The Conflict of Interest Series Book 2)

By: Chantal Fernando
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: November 2017
ISBN: 978-1501172366
Review by: Jennifer Rearick
Review Date: October 2017

Jaxon Bentley may seem like your typical high class lawyer, but in reality there is more than meets the eye. Jaxon works and partly owns one of the best law firms in the city. Although he seems tough on the outside, he does have demons of his own. Jaxon was taking a break after the death of his sister Olivia, when he receives a phone call about a case that will change his life forever.

Scarlett Reyes is charged with the murder of her husband, Officer Darren Melvin. Darren went missing two years prior, around the same time that Scarlett left the country to take care of her sick aunt. Since his body was never found, no one was ever charged with anything. Two years later, Darren’s body is found in the river with a gunshot wound to the head. With Darren being one of their own, the police will do anything to solve the case. Upon searching their home, the police find the same kind of gun that killed Darren in their house. After finding Darren, Scarlett is asked to return home from Paris. She is then charged with the murder of her husband. Scarlett, claiming her innocence, seeks Jaxon to take her case. While Tristan, Jaxon’s business partner, works on getting Scarlett out on bail, Jaxon begins looking over her case.

When Jaxon initially meets Scarlett, their meeting does not go very well. Scarlett is very standoffish and does not provide Jaxon with much information. Although Jaxon agrees to take her case, and promises to do everything he can to keep her out of prison, he feels that there is something that she is not telling him.

Jaxon and his team begin working on Scarlett’s case immediately. While they are looking into phone records and credit card statements to find anything that can help, they see a name that continues to turn up - Valentina Sullivan. Jaxon’s team continues digging and to find out as much information about Sullivan in order to see if Darren was living a double life. Ultimately they find that not only was Darren living a double life, but that he was doing so with the money and property that Scarlett’s father left her.

Jaxon and his team continue investigating and throughout this process Jaxon finds some unexpected information. With enough evidence, Jaxon goes to court with what he has. Although the case is solved, the outcome is a little unexpected.

After Darren’s case is solved, Scarlett and Jaxon start seeing each other more. Scarlett also becomes friends with Valentina, bonding over everything that they went through with Darren. Although Jaxon does not like that Scarlett is friends with Valentina and the motorcycle gang she hangs out with, Jaxon and Scarlett begin dating each other. Even though Jaxon and Scarlett’s relationship is going well, she feels that there is something that Jaxon is not telling her. Eventually Scarlett gets the courage to ask Jaxon about it, but first, she wants to talk about it to Valentina. When Scarlett never shows up for their meeting, Valentina knows that something must be wrong. Soon Jaxon finds that Scarlett was abducted and he joins forces with Valentina and her gang to find her. When they finally figure out who took Scarlett, everything with Darren comes full circle and they find that although the case was solved, it was never really over. Soon Jaxon and Valentina are in a race against the clock to find Scarlett before she has to pay for everything Darren did.

Seducing the Defendant is a really great book. It is a good mix between crime/mystery and romance. It begins immediately with the crime aspect and leaves you going back and forth between thinking that Scarlett did it/didn’t do it. Then once the case is solved, it leaves you thinking that everything is going to be fine and they are finally going to live a happy life. Although things are going well, you still get this feeling that Darren’s case really isn’t over yet. The book leaves you thinking that something completely unexpected is going to happen. Then more of the crime aspect comes back and really brings the story full circle and ties it all together. It truly was a great read.

Quill says: This is a great read if you love crime/mystery and romance.

#BookReview - Addicted to American

Addicted to Americana: Celebrating Classic & Kitschy American Life & Style

By: Charles Phoenix
Publisher: Prospect Park Books
Publication Date: October 2017
ISBN: 978-1945551192
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 15, 2017

Charles Phoenix, the "Ambassador of Americana," is at it again with a fantastic collection of all things "Americana" in his latest book, Addicted to Americana.
First, a little background. What exactly is "Americana"? Loosely defined, it's anything (buildings, advertisements, license plates, etc.,) that are vestiges of an earlier time in America, a time people associate with small towns and happier days. With seven books to his credit, all focusing on various aspects of Americana, Charles Phoenix is addicted to finding cool nostalgic things that trigger wonderful memories of those times from the 50's and 60's. In this, his newest book, Phoenix has amassed a great collection of "things" from that long ago era.

Addicted to Americana is divided into several sections - "Themeparkland!," "Let's Eat," and "5-4-3-2-1...Blast-Off!" (travel related things). Themeparkland! includes the early days of Disneyland right through to the Las Vegas strip. With numerous pages dedicated to Disneyland, it's easy to see that this is one of the author's favorite places to visit. Check out the all-plastic house of the future built in 1957 at Disneyland, and learn its history - how, when Disney tried to demolish it, the wrecking ball bounced right off the house! The author managed to track the house to a landfill and suggests we all get together and dig it up. Sounds like fun!

Let's Eat is full of all those vintage restaurants you might expect to see along an old highway. There's so many little eateries to check out here, some even designed to look like the food they serve, such as the "Tail of the Pup" that looks like a hot dog in a bun.

In the Blast Off! section, as expected, there's an homage to various monorails, with, of course, the Disneyland monorail leading the way. There are also some lesser-known monorails such as the Pink Pig featured here. In addition, this section includes trains, planes and automobiles. The author, a big classic car collector, has included a nice assortment of cool cars, from the 1958 Edsel to the 1956 Astra-Gnome.

Addicted to American is, simply put, a fun book. Primarily a photo book, with short factoids about each item, the book is a visual funfest for those who love nostalgia. For those who remember the 50s and/or 60s, the book will be particularly enjoyable. It's also the sort of book that you may want to read by flipping around to those items that catch your eye, rather than read from front to back. With retro colors and fonts that help set the mood, the book is definitely a tribute to all things Americana.

Quill says: Yes, Addicted to Americana is classic, it is kitschy, and it is definitely a lot of fun.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

#BookReview - Spots

Spots: A Tale of Star-Struck Misfame and Misfortune

By: Simon Plaster
Publisher: Mossik Press
Publication Date: September 2017
ISBN: 978-0-991448098
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 13, 2017

The satirical master who last brought you the mystery OPRY has done it once again. He has written a great mystery, while also reaching the apex of great satire...which is a tough mountain to climb. Henrietta is our lead; a fantastic character who has starred in Simon Plaster books before, and one that readers need to get to know because she’s one of the best in literature to-date.

We begin by sitting beside Henrietta, one of the reporters for the OKC SCENE News Group. She is a reporter who wants more than anything to “get that story” and win herself a Pulitzer. Unfortunately, even with all the great work she just did by unwinding a mystery involving a beer joint named Honky Tonk, Henrietta finds herself outside her boss’s office waiting to be fired. Instead, she’s given a job to cover the “Academy of Television Commercials Arts and Sciences” awards for the year’s best in TV commercials. It also seems that anonymous death threats have been made against (no one really knows who) people who end up attending these festivities.

Deano DeBoffo, famous Hollywood director/producer, arrives in the city on a mission to get his own career back on track. He wants to make friends with the right people and put together a TV docudrama called, “What’s in Your Wallet?” He runs into a pair that may just help him out. Flo, the famous star of those Progressive commercials has an estranged sister named Chloe or “Clo.” The sister does a lot of work, yet Flo has a better career. But Deano may just get Clo as the female lead for his docudrama. And if he generates some gossip at the event about Clo, he may just bring in a few more money men to help with his project. As you know, bad publicity is still publicity!

There’s an actor named Jimmy who attends; he ends up falling to his death from the hotel where the event is being held. A moment that Henrietta just happens to see. However, Jimmy also appears in new ads after he has supposedly died. There’s also a woman named Shirley who loves her Harley, but is having a mid-life crisis that makes it look like she could be the person who has delivered those anonymous threats.

We meet up with those famous boys who appear in all the SONIC commercials; the Mayor of OKC is worried about the fate of one of these guys...but not the other. We even meet the woman who has fallen down and hasn’t been able to get up for years when she’s apparently poisoned by Alka-Seltzer.
It must be said: When it comes to this author and his ideas, he would definitely get my vote for being “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” So, pick up a bottle of Dos Equis, sit down in a leisurely spot, and read this book!

Quill says: This is most definitely an author who needs to have 9-Lives (get it?) so that readers can enjoy his words for the next thousand years!

For more information on SPOTS: A Tale of Star-Struck Misfame and Misfortune, please visit the book's Goodreads page.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

#AuthorInterview with Steve Zell @SteveZellTales

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Steve Zell, author of Running Cold.

FQ: How did Running Cold come about? I know you love Jerome, AZ (which I am a huge fan of, by the way), did that play into the landscaping of the novel?

ZELL: The idea of something as fun as creation going terribly wrong is always on my mind. With a quiet, German engineer dad, and a gregarious Italian mom, I identify with Michael’s (main character in Running Cold) “half-halfs.” I was the first interdisciplinary studies graduate from the University of Arizona where Chemistry and Fine Arts were more or less my majors. I love creating, and I really love using technology to do it! But creation is always an experiment, and experiments don’t always yield predictable results...

As far as Jerome goes – I have a story that might explain the direction I’ve taken in writing. When I was a kid, a lot of Jerome was still abandoned – you could walk right into the old buildings and explore. I was combing for souvenirs inside a crumbling, old hotel where the only light came from broken out windows and holes in the walls. In one of the furthest rooms in, someone had scrawled a message on the far wall, “Stop me before I kill again.” Scared the hell out of me.

Jerome & Tombstone, AZ, and Bodie, CA, all figure more into my first novel, WiZrD – where the town of Pinon Rim literally cycles through periods of euphoric boom and deadly bust – but La Vista in Running Cold is also a place that “use to be” something other than what it seems to be when Michael and Brit arrive.

FQ: It would be interesting for readers to hear about “A Day in the Writing Life of Steve Zell.” What is that like? Music in the background? Prefer to write outside or inside? Is writing time set aside each and every day, or do you just sit down and begin?

ZELL: The day always begins with coffee – loads of it! My favorite place and time to write is in a coffee house before the sun comes up. I like to write while I’m still partly in a dream state, which keeps the images flowing and I don’t tend to edit my thoughts, and I like the chatter in the background. I wrote quite a bit of Running Cold in a great little coffee house called Sponda in Hermosa Beach, CA, which, sadly is gone now (the coffee house, not the town – I guess I need to be clear on that...). A lot of Sandy’s dialogue actually came from the surfers who were regulars there – and one in particular, whom I picture when I see Sandy. If I write in my office at home, I tend to have Steely Dan playing. I tend to jump back and forth between drawing, music, and writing.
One other odd bit about writing in coffee shops. I love to build computers out of odd things like briefcases and paint boxes, and use those to write with. I’ll try to include a picture or two. The only bad thing is they don’t run on batteries so I need to be near an outlet to use them.

FQ: What is the best ghost town you’ve ever explored, and why? Will it (or has it) appeared in one of your books? Is there one ghostly location you are dying to explore, like your own “Overlook Hotel” that King made so famous?

ZELL: Tombstone is great (go there in October for Helldorado Days – they recreate the shootout at the OK Corral) – I was the cartoonist for The Tombstone Epitaph while at UA. Tombstone was famously, “too tough to die” so it probably never was technically a ghost town, although a lot of people were killed there for really dumb reasons (including mishandling a package at the post office). I’d say my favorite so far is Bodie, CA. I haven’t been there in a while, but the townspeople left in a hurry - there are still books sitting on the desks in the schoolhouse – it really IS a ghost town.
Part of the actual Overlook from Kubrick’s The Shining is Timberline Lodge here in Oregon – and I’ve yet to go through it. I understand it’s been remodeled which is sad. What I’d most like to do at this point as far as haunted experiences go is spend some time in Gettysburg at night. The ghosts of the Civil War must have a lot to say.

FQ: Your resume is long and varied. Can you tell readers about being the “Voice of Doom” for Baywatch? Can you also share a bit about the Intel Audio Alliance and the work they do?

ZELL: Yeah, if a lifeguard died or had a bad day for whatever reason, you’d hear me singing the sad rock ballad in the middle of the show while they ran a montage of his/her Baywatch life. In one of the more “famous” situations, Mitch (David Hasselhoff) fell in love and proposed to a character who contracted and died of cancer within two episodes. I’m singing over a montage that includes Mitch kidnapping her from the hospital and carrying her to the Santa Monica cliffs for one last sunset. I’ll include the YouTube bitly link for that one YouTube). The set on Will Rogers Beach was fun, and the people (and food) were great! These were the Pamela Anderson, Yasmine Bleeth, Nicole Eggert (whom I’d first met when she was a kid while warming up the audience on the Charles In Charge set days), and it was pretty lively. Robin and Judithe Randall were the songwriting team and they did really nice work there and in general. I sang their original demo for a song called, “Tomorrow Doesn’t Matter Tonight” which was the third single on “Knee Deep in the Hoopla,” the Starship album featuring, “We Built this City,” and “Sara.” That song sadly “stiffed” (quit rising up the charts) when the payola scandal hit the industry.

The Intel Audio Alliance was a great group of folks. I was hired at Intel for my experience with 3D animation and I began our Dreamworks partnership. What I found was that although video was being taken seriously, audio was being ignored on the “serious” workstation side despite being recognized as important on the consumer PC side. I had to argue that animators didn’t animate in silence – we almost ALWAYS animate to audio cues. I found a couple like-minded folks in different divisions, cobbled together a budget, and worked with my friends at Cakewalk, who created music software that ran exclusively on Windows-Intel based machines at the time, and put together the Intel Audio Alliance with their help and the help of Rory Kaplan – an amazing keyboardist who worked with Michael Jackson among others. We essentially went everywhere from Skywalker Ranch to Zoe Thrall’s Las Vegas, Studio at the Palms, with folks like Billy Bob Thornton (who roadied for Blood, Sweat, and Tears as a kid and is actually an accomplished songwriter and drummer), Graham Nash, and some amazing engineers and producers – convincing folks you didn’t HAVE to use Apple machines to make music! Eventually even Apple converted over to Intel based processors (I’m not saying we did that – but we played a part). And...the Intel Audio Alliance was responsible for one of the greatest nights in my life – after an incredible music video party/demo at Zoe Thrall’s studio, I spent an amazing night at the V-Bar with Billy Bob, Graham Nash, Billy Gibbons, Rory Kaplan, Lisa Roy...and a bottle of Grey Goose.

Author Steve Zell enjoying one of his hobbies -
tinkering with computers
FQ: You write music, blog, run your own publishing company...where do you get the time? If you had to choose, is there one artistic path you like more than the others? Or is it nice to get a break from one to do the other?

ZELL: The truth is, I never have enough time, and likely won’t. When I was also working full time I literally felt as though my instruments and workstations were under twelve feet of water – and I could only use them as long as I could hold my breath. That feeling hasn’t completely left me.

I really do love doing anything I can creatively – and yes, I jump back and forth. It helps keep things fresh for me. It’s also the great thing about technology – you can easily hop from one activity to the other without a lot of extra setup (although I’ve built separate workstations for each thing I do, have named them, and I treat them more or less as pets). I really have fun “painting” the covers for my books – but I haven’t actually used physical paint or a pencil to draw in a couple decades. Not sure what the policy is on links here, but I’ll include one more to a song called Hero I wrote right after narrating, Running Cold ( Narrating is fun too – I love acting and I do community theater whenever I can here at the Hillsboro Artists Regional Theater (HART) – but producing audio is a major chore! That song is a good indication of my state of mind while editing audio (combined with all the craziness in the country right now). Getting better at audio production…but it really is more necessity than fun at this point.

FQ: Along those same lines, when it comes to music, you offer up a lot of ‘odes’ to the Beach Boys in your books; is this your favorite band? What about their music speaks to you?

ZELL: I love their harmonies, and the painfully innocent and heartfelt lyrics. Songs like Warmth of the Sun, In My Room, and God Only Knows, in particular, still break my heart. My favorite band, hands down, is Steely Dan. I find something new in their songs every time I listen – so glad I got to see them live once! Very sad that Walter Becker is gone, and happy that Donald Fagen continues to create! More often than not, they’re playing in the background while I write. One of the coffee houses I wrote at quite a bit would even switch to Steely Dan while I was there.

FQ: A cartoonist is also a part of your background. Where and when did you become interested in animation? Are you still involved in that area?
A hobby of Steve's - building "odd things" from computers

ZELL: I’ve actually been interested in animating ever since I first saw Felix the Cat on a black and white TV as a kid. I’ve always drawn and sung. Writing came later. I used to try to copy John Romita’s style of Spiderman, and drew my own comics as a kid. I became interested in computers through what began as a temp job that became permanent at Digital Equipment Corporation, and when computers hit the animation world it was as if the heavens had opened for me! I got my first animation job (actually as a digital animation tools instructor for traditional cell and stop-motion animators), literally because one of the heroes of the industry, Ray Feeney, found me passed-out (I had pneumonia) at one of his workstations. He knew I was sick, but gambled that I was dedicated and not insane – and offered to teach me for free if I would then teach other artists.

I own a seat of Maya (an Alias, now Autodesk, 3D modeling and animation software package), and still work with it from time to time – but I’m very rusty. The griffon silhouette on the cover of Running Cold is a 3D model I built in Maya and then rendered flat.

As a side note, the eyes on the cover actually belong to my still creeps her out whenever she looks at it…

FQ: What is next for Steve Zell? Can you tell us what projects are on the horizon for 2018?

ZELL: I’ve got three novels that I’m working on right now in degrees, with one that has most of my attention. Without giving too much away, it does have parallels to Running Cold. I’ve already begun working on the cover. On the music side, I’ve been producing (if you can call it keyboard skills are limited at best) an album – hope to have that out in early spring with the next novel to hit in December 2018 or early in 2019. I’m also resting up to narrate WiZrD – lots of characters...aaiiieeeEEEE!

FQ: Last, but not least, readers like to know...If you could sit down with one writer or musician for a chat, who would it be and what is the one question you would love to ask?

ZELL: Man – there are quite a few. I’d love to sit down with Flannery O’Connor before she became gravely ill, and just let her talk. She had to be a hoot!

To learn more about Running Cold please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Monday, October 9, 2017

#BookReview - The 18th Rune @JamesGGoldin

The 18th Rune: (The Aesir Kids, Volume 2)

By: James Grant Goldin & Charlotte Goldin
Illustrated by: Treehouse
Publisher: Basiliak Books
Publication Date: June 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9854553-3-0
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: October 7, 2017

The children of the Norse gods have done well in all of their training in their home city of Asgard, but now they face an even greater challenge. They will travel to Vanaheim and attend a camp where they can work on strengthening their skills. There is one catch to this adventure, the gods of Vanaheim and the gods of Asgard have had disagreements in the past and do not get along well. Many times those disagreements have turned into destruction and war, so it is not surprising that the Aesir children are feeling a bit apprehensive about their trip.

Among the children going on this trip are Thrud, daughter of Thor, her brothers Magni and Modi, Fire, who has amazing abilities with flame, Ull, who is an expert with skis, and Forseti, an expert archer. There are also two mortals that serve Thor who are allowed to go as well, Tjalfi, who has the ability to run at amazing speeds, and his sister Roskva, who has the ability to hear even the faintest sound. Even though this is usually a camp strictly for children of gods, both Tjalfi and Roskva are thrilled with being allowed to go. However, it does not take long for trouble to start...

When the children reach camp in Vanaheim they are greeted by the head camp counselor, Skogurvegg, and his assistant Tryggvin. From the beginning, all of the Aesir children could tell that something was wrong about the way Skogurvegg treated them while getting settled into camp. The first thing he has them do is play a game with the Vanir campers and it did not take long for the game to become violent. For starters, it seemed as if the entire forest, including the grass, trees, and roots, were working against the Aesir team as they used all of their skills to try and win. However, what started out as a simple game became terrifying when Roskva got pulled into a lake by a vicious looking vine and nearly drowned before being saved in the nick of time by Thrud. Utterly surprised that the camp counselors were not more concerned with this attack against their teammate, all the Aesir children agree that everyone should be on guard while they are at the camp.

Unbeknownst to all of them, the playing of a game will be the least of their worries, as a dark evil resides under the land of Vanaheim and it is waiting for its chance to escape. With all of their strengths working together, will the Aesir children be courageous enough to defeat this evil or will it be too much for them to handle this time?

This is a book that will thrill any adventure or fantasy enthusiast, as I could not put it down after I started. Every chapter had suspense and action in it that had me turning pages as quickly as I could. The authors do a great job of developing each of the characters as well, and that creates a bond between those characters and the reader. I will definitely be looking for the next book to come out and will snatch it up when it does!

Quill says: Loved this book from the beginning, and could not ask for a better adventure story!

For more information on The 18th Rune: (The Aesir Kids, Volume 2) , please visit the book's Facebook page at: