Thursday, December 12, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Kaylin McFarren @4kaylin

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Kaylin McFarren, author of High Flying.
FQ: The main character in your novel High Flying is a young, female stunt pilot. What was your motivation behind creating a character with such a unique job?
MCFARREN: I virtually grew up with United Airlines, since my father was the lead maintenance foreman in L.A. in the late 50s, and later in Seattle. I remember sitting on his shoulders, watching planes take off on the tarmac and dreamed of becoming a pilot one day. It wasn’t in my cards, unfortunately, but I always enjoyed going to airshows, watching stunt pilots accomplish amazing feats. I wanted to create a daring female pilot willing to do anything to overcome her fears and troubled past.
FQ: At the beginning of each chapter in your book, you open with a quotation by an anonymous author. Is there any personal significance in your choice of quotes?
MCFARREN: I wanted each quote to reflect the actions taking place in each chapter and to pick anonymous lines that anyone could relate to —female and male alike. In other words, they’re kind of an introduction of what’s to come.
FQ: Back to your main character, Skylar Haines, who is described as a person who self-harms. What led you to create a character with this particular issue, and what type of information did you come across when doing research on this topic?
MCFARREN: I wanted to created a story about a badly damaged soul, pushed her to her limits, and ultimately leave her believing that she had value, redeeming qualities and skills that she wasn’t even aware of until the final pages of the story. This tends to be my MO with stories — allowing my characters to grow and surpass their mental and physical limitations. We all need a hero, but also a believable role model that gives us hope.
FQ: Are any of the characters from High Flying based on real people?
Author Kaylin McFarrenAuthor Kaylin McFarren

MCFARREN: Every character in High Flying was based on people I’ve met in my life. Some are daring, others are afraid to take risks. But they all are interesting, three-dimensional beings with a passion for making their marks in this world.
FQ: Time travel and having the chance to possibly influence one's past is one of the themes in your story. If you were given an opportunity to go back in time and possibly make an impact on events in the past, would you? 
MCFARREN: Knowing what I do now, I definitely would. One example: my father died from colon cancer because he never considered having himself checked. He’d still be alive if he had. My oldest brother rushed to enlist in the military to fight in the Vietnam War because he wanted to be a hero, never knowing that exposure to Agent Orange would ultimately kill him. There are so many "what-ifs" that I’m sure we’ve all faced at one time or another in our lives.
FQ: What do you hope readers will take away from reading your novel?
MCFARREN: To not be afraid to take risks or consider all the options when faced with the worse possible situations. We need to strive to rise above the cruelty and hardships in our lives and not let them deter us from our hopes and dreams.
FQ: I see that you are a seasoned writer, including having written a four-book series. What advice do you have for new authors just beginning their writing journey?
MCFARREN: Stay true to your passion and don’t let anyone’s opinions or hurtful comments keep your from realizing the goals you set forth for yourself.
FQ: Are you currently working on any new writing projects?
MCFARREN: Yes. A new Sci-fi thriller that keeps me up late at night, typing away. I love delving into all kinds of genres and creating an interesting cast of characters that readers will relate to and hopefully root for as well.
FQ: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you? 
MCFARREN: I guess that I’m like most writers, longing for an expanding band of cheerleaders that enjoy every story and far-fetched tale that cultivates in my mind and finds it’s way onto a shelf. In one way or another, we all want a slice of immortality even if it comes on a written page. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

#BookReview - Self-Styled

Self-Styled: Chasing Dr. Robert Vernon Spears

By: Alan C. Logan
Publisher: Glass Spider Publishing
Publication Date: November 2019
ISBN: 978-0-578-55834-9
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: December 9, 2019
In his latest book, Self-Styled: Chasing Dr. Robert Vernon Spears, Alan C. Logan chronicles the life and times of one of the most notorious confidence men, Dr. Robert Vernon Spears.
Who would have thought that the crash of Flight 967 on November 16, 1959 would be the beginning of the end of the road for Dr. Robert Vernon Spears? In breaking news of the crash, Spears was reportedly on this flight. When his newly widowed wife, Frances, learns of the crash, to compound her grief, she will have to break the news to their two young children. Not so fast. It seems there is a woman, Alice Steele, in Tampa, Florida who has a few things to say about this latest course of events. She is the ex-wife of Spears’ life-long friend and confident, William Allen ‘Al’ Taylor, and at the same time the plane has gone down, so has the disappearance of her former husband risen to the surface. Is it possible the two are connected?
Never overly fond of Frances and certainly Dr. Spears, Alice Steele makes it her mission to get to the bottom of this mystery. She’s certain the two are connected and by cracky, she’s going to persist with the assistance of the press to get what she believes to be the real story out there. It’s important to note that Alice, Frances and an entire assortment of con artists ranging from law enforcement, judges, attorneys and patients will have their side of the story before the real story has a beacon of light shone on it once and for all.
Alan Logan has spun an outstanding body of work in Self-Styled. There are countless twists and turns that are fine-tuned and precisely placed throughout this read. He is a master at planting seeds to germinate before he moves on to the next turn of events. Only when those previous seeds have blossomed, does he cultivate them into the growing plot of the complexities of the multi-faceted dynamics of the quintessential conman of the century, Dr. Robert Vernon Spears. This was a fascinating read because Mr. Logan has done a superb job of spoon-feeding his audience with just the right amount of information that took little effort for the reader to turn the page and consider the next diabolical set of twists and turns con artist Spears was capable of delivering. In my opinion, this story would bode well as a mini-series in today’s culture because there are far too many plot twists for a two-hour movie to do the story justice. Fascinating read and admirable delivery Mr. Logan! 
Quill says: Self-Styled is a page-turning, fire-breathing, fascinating account of undoubtedly one of the most infamous conmen in our history.
For more information on Self-Styled: Chasing Dr. Robert Vernon Spears, please visit the author's website at www.chasingspears.com

#BookReview - Chicago Rink Rats

Chicago Rink Rats: The Roller Capital in Its Heyday

By: Tom Russo
Publisher: History Press
Publication Date: November 2017
ISBN: 978-1-6258-968-6
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: December 2019
Tom Russo delivers Chicago Rink Rats and takes his audience down a bittersweet memory lane of roller skating in its heyday.
The book opens with a forward written by Darius ‘D-Breeze’ Stroud, one of Chicago’s JB Elite Skate Team and Chicago’s Independence Roll members. Stroud reminisces growing up on roller skates in the 70s and how he continued to do so as an adult who specialized in ”Chicago-style JB skating.” To add color to his reflection, he notes that not only did the Savoy jazz band play at Al Capone’s Rainbow Room, but also entertained skaters at the Savoy Roller Rink. It was all about the music that created the nostalgia he and his companions related to skating whether it was ‘...organ music, the jazz bands of the 1940s or the rhythm-and-blues we skate to today...’
Moving on from the Forward, Russo reflects on his mother’s great-grandchildren and their wonder of just exactly what she did for fun growing up. Of course, there was no internet, computers, cellphones, etc. to occupy the mind from sunup to sundown. She’d smile her melancholy smile and wander back to the time when she and her ‘gang of girls’ would venture out to the roller rink. 
Getting into the meat of the book, Russo opens his first chapter, ‘The Golden Age of Roller Skating,’ and sites some statistics such as ‘...there were an estimated four thousand rinks and more than 17 million skaters. The wheels were wooden, roller skating was hip, everyone went to a rink and Chicago was the epicenter. The year was 1943, the world was at war and roller skating promoted itself as a wholesome, social form of recreation that provided relaxation for soldiers, sailors and war workers...’ Russo continues to span the decades from the 40s to the 70s and how the art, nuance and overall draw of the sport transcended not only in skate design, but rink design and the attraction and music as well.
This was an interesting read in that the only form of ‘roller skating’ I had ever done was when rollerblading became popular in the 1970s. To this day, I’ve never donned a pair of roller skates and it was fascinating to read Russo’s in-depth research on the entire sport, be it for recreation, competition and even the birth of the roller derby. There is a distinct tone of nostalgia complemented with history throughout this read. The flow is great as Russo strategically parses his knowledge out decade by decade to his audience to keep them engaged from beginning to end. This is a great read that can appeal to many genres because of its historical content and subject matter. Of special note is that Chicago Rink Rats won the first place/gold award in the historical category in the 2019 Feathered Quill Book Awards.
Quill says: Chicago Rink Rats is a wonderful opportunity to take a step back in time and embrace the innocence of such a time in our history.
For more information on Chicago Rink Rats: The Roller Capital in Its Heyday, please visit the author's website at www.hunt4cleanair.net

#BookReview - High Flying @4kaylin

High Flying

By: Kaylin McFarren
Publisher: Creative Edge Publishing LLC
Publication Date: May 2019
ASIN: B07QYH3CD4
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: December 8, 2019
By all accounts, Skylar Haines has lived a hard life in the few years she’s been alive. Having lost both of her parents at a very young age, she was forced to bounce around in foster care until her cold, abusive grandfather took her into his home. Life unfortunately did not improve despite the new living arrangements; Skylar continued to feel alienated and was bullied at school. Anxiety, fear and depression managed to slither its way into every aspect of her life, causing her to feel as if nothing could ease the insurmountable emotional pain she lived with on a daily basis. The only relief she seemed able to find was when she cut herself. This was the only way Skylar felt she could cope with the unbearably dark emotions that plagued every aspect of her life. To make matters worse, she lost her best friend, Roxy, in a horrible accident. In a totally desperate move, she ran away, and dreamt of a future flying away from her terrible life.
As the years pass by, Skylar takes her destiny into her own hands, and learns to become a stunt pilot and is quite successful. At the tender age of twenty-one, she participates in the Reno National Championship Air Show and is scheduled to perform a challenging duo act with her boyfriend in her own World War II biplane. Despite some reservations from her mentor, Skylar takes off and successfully completes several maneuvers, but is soon confronted by an unusually intense weather system, full of dark clouds, and loses radio contact with her flying partner. The next thing she knows, she’s heading straight for another plane, which she ends up clipping a part of, sending her into a panicked nosedive. Luckily, a mysterious voice radios her from the headset, calms her down, and guides her to a safe landing back at the airport she took off from, or so she thinks. 
Immediately after Skylar exits her plane, she notices a few odd things. Familiar employee faces, even those in the crowds, seem to have disappeared, and the buildings, which were recently remodeled, look old. The most confusing and shocking part is when she notices a banner with the words “Welcome to the ‘97 Reno National Championship Races & Air Show,” which is twenty-one years in the past. A young man walks up to Skylar and introduces himself as not only the man who was flying the plane and successfully guided her to a safe landing, but as Dylan Haines, her father, who sadly died eight months before she was born. After a bit of a new reality adjustment, and being confronted face-to-face with the men who would later cause her father’s untimely death, Skylar discovers that she has landed in an unusual, yet critical situation, and has been handed the ultimate power. A chance to change her father’s destiny, and ultimately change her entire family’s future, for better or for worse. But will Skylar be able to navigate her way through numerous treacherous situations to help her father, or will Skylar also be swept up into a dangerous life, and succumb to the tangled, evil forces that led to his death?
Author Kaylin McFarren has produced not only a genre-bending novel with the mix of science fiction, mystery and suspense, but has also successfully penned a thought-provoking read in her use of the time-travel theme. Questions such as “Would you go back in time to alter the past in order to benefit from it in the future?” and “What would you want to change about a past event, if given the opportunity to travel back in time to do so?” will have readers thinking about their answers long after finishing the book.
It should be pointed out that the author makes note, in the beginning of this novel, that a bit of creative license was used in the creation of High Flying. What the author means is that not all of the story should be scrutinized as factual, or even based in reality. This reader had to on occasion remind herself that while some aspects of the story seemed to be a bit implausible and farfetched, the author did this on purpose to accurately convey raw emotions and the real meaning behind the story. However, with the introduction of numerous characters midway through the read, it left this reader a bit confused and at times disinterested in the storyline. Thankfully the writing picked up towards the end and loose ends seemed to resolve themselves enough to deem High Flying a novel worth reading. 
Quill says: High Flying is a fast-paced, fantastical thriller that will have readers riveted to every word and breathlessly zooming around with Skylar Haines as she navigates a treacherous past world in hopes of ultimately changing her future.
For more information on High Flying, please visit the author's website at: www.kaylinmcfarren.com/high-flying

#BookReview - Social Work @auctionguy28

Social Work

By: Thomas Duffy
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Publication Date: October 2019
ISBN: 978-1694404688
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: December 6, 2019
Seasoned novelist Thomas Duffy explores the lives of a social worker, a patient, and the people around them who affect their lives in varied, complex ways in his newest book, Social Work.
Lauren is the social worker, a woman with a solid niche in her profession and an extra talent, an air of positivity that surrounds her and infuses her clients with a wish to follow her example. The latest addition to the hospital group she conducts is a tough customer: Marc tried to kill himself, and wishes he had succeeded. He joins in group and private sessions with Lauren while secretly hoping to get free of the legal restrictions so he can have another try. But there’s something about her approach that begins to affect a turnaround in Marc as it has in others. It isn’t long before he is receiving monthly benefits based on his diagnosis, and has secured a low paying, decent job. And he’s met a woman, Holly, a reality show producer who sees in Marc the kind of unusual personality traits that she’s attracted to. Meanwhile Lauren is also dating; she has connected with Ahmad, who shares her profession and takes a calm, steady careful view of it. 
As Marc and Lauren talk one-on-one over the course of several months, they both privately nurse feelings of curiosity and attraction for one another. Lauren sees in Marc a challenging sparkle that is missing in her quietly evolving liaison with Ahmad. Marc clings to Lauren as the only person in his life who tells it like it is and keeps urging him to work, earn, and ultimately prosper. Eventually, they will need to make decisions – about what is best for each, and how to go on growing and progressing.
Duffy’s book is, remarkably, told mostly through conversation. This fits with the nature of his characters’ needs - one a dedicated counselor, the other a conflicted, inventive but lonely soul. As the talks continue, the helper and helping roles are often interchanged, as Marc, despite his needs and hang-ups, has much genuine wisdom to impart, and Lauren, despite her professional demeanor, is seeking the offbeat intuition that he has to share. By means of their mutually therapeutic talks together and with their chosen friends and lovers, the author reveals nuance and depth in a broad range of human relationships. Duffy himself is a social media reviewer who has had contact with notable actors and directors; he adds this dimension to the pursuits of, and discussions among, his protagonists. Their inner circumspection and outer circumstances keep changing in unexpected ways, at a fast clip, making this a compelling read. 
Quill says: Thomas Duffy is a practiced novelist whose work has tackled many diverse human connections. Social Work, with its cinematic feel, and vibrant, believable characters seems poised for wide acclaim.

#BookReview - Someplace to Call Home

Someplace to Call Home
By: : Sandra Dallas
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: August 2019
ISBN: 978-1-58536-414-5
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: December 2019
Sandra Dallas delivers yet another solid read in her latest novel, Someplace to Call Home.
The year is 1933 and the Turner family, what’s left of it, has fallen on hard times. Hallie and her two brothers are orphaned. As they navigate their dearly, departed daddy’s rickety truck down the remote roads of the heartbeat of America in search of a new life, it’s hard to see a beacon of hope on their horizon. Their hardships are compounded by having to endure not only the Great Depression, but also the Dust Bowl of the 30s. Moving from town to town, all the young Turner siblings want is to find a place they can call home.
Sadly, the old Model T Ford stalled out...again. Tom Turner coasts to the side of the road. Barely sixteen, Tom Turner has a strong mechanical sense and his heart skips a beat when he discovers the transmission has given out on the old Ford. These were hard times indeed. The Turner’s aren’t the only ones experiencing little hope, but when they see the lush grove of trees just off the road, a trickle of hope is renewed. The youngest Turner, Bennie, was a handful. He was challenged and it took a lot of patience and a watchful eye from both Hattie and Tom to be sure Bennie didn’t find himself in harm’s way. Food was scarce and shelter was a necessity. As they set up camp and start a fire, Hattie focuses on making the last of the tomatoes (and food for that matter), into a weak soup. Not knowing how long this recent set back will have the Turner’s stranded, Tom needs to find work. When the strange man shows up toting a gun, Tom defends his family’s situation. Insisting they aren’t squatters may not be enough to get them out of the situation at hand.
Sandra Dallas consistently delivers an engaging tale. I’ve had the pleasure of reading some of Ms. Dallas’ previous works and I praise her for sticking to her roots of solid writing. She knows her subject matter and it resonates from beginning to end in each of her novels. She has an innate ability to add color to all her characters and the dialogue further complements their credibility. Ms. Dallas is a master at showing her storyline versus telling it. This story has great flow and solid voice and I can say with certainty, I look forward to her next novel. Well done Ms. Dallas!
Quill says: Someplace to Call Home is a delightful read of heartfelt hope and new beginnings.

Monday, December 2, 2019

#BookReview - RetireSMART!

RetireSMART!: How to Plan for a Tax-Free Retirement

By: Mark Anthony Grimaldi
Publisher: Page Publishing
Publication Date: July 2019
ISBN: 978-1644628911
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: November 29, 2019
A highly regarded expert in the field of money management, Mark Anthony Grimaldi, shares his insider knowledge of markets, investments, and retirement in this practical guide.
Grimaldi begins by debunking the notion that a 401K is the ultimate retirement blessing; in fact, he asserts here, it was “designed for Uncle Sam’s ‘financial’ gain.” He asks readers to open and clear their minds and follow his advice on investing for retirement. Examining the hidden costs of standard 401K plans, he clearly demonstrates that taxation regulations embedded in the system comprise one of the largest factors preventing a secure, comfortable retirement. 
Grimaldi’s book is dramatic, with all the relevant data leading to an “act three” climax in which he simply and boldly states his three-part Action Plan: 1) Stop contributing to 401K plans, and instead, utilize an after tax account, explained in his narrative; 2) Get out of debt – most of us owe for cars, houses, vacations and credit card buying, and paying these down – to zero - is one of the best “investments” we can make; 3) Save by using the formula, “your age divided by three.” The author offers an easily understandable model for this third requirement: divide your age by 3, and take that percentage as a rate of savings on your total income. For someone aged 25 earning $50,000 per year, the savings amount using this formula comes to what seems a reasonable amount, $347.00 per month. He also offers basic rules that delineate the means to take advantage of tax deduction regulations, which can play a critical role in what one’s heirs will inherit.
In this well-organized how-to, Grimaldi - chief economist for the NO-LOAD Sector Rotation Fund (NAVFX) - combines both down-to-earth examples - such as the contrast in investing strategies between a “Mrs. Smart” and a “Mr. Uninformed” – with rigidly accurate fiscal data that may require a bit of study among some of his less financially adept readers. But the basic logic is there for all to see. In laying out his guidelines, he considers the needs of three generations of Americans: Boomers, Millennials and Gen X. Each group has different perspectives and different long-term prospects for investment and each has lived through different financial eras in America. 
Quill says: Grimaldi’s colorful, fact-dense manual can be a handy carry-along for financial planning encounters. Reading his wise words would benefit all forward-looking Americans, assuring them that they have a right to anticipate a smooth transition from the stress of working life to the rewards of retirement years.