Wednesday, August 31, 2016

#BookReview - Perfect in Memory @RickNiece

Perfect in Memory: A Son's Tribute to His Mother (Fanfare for a Hometown)

By: Rick D. Niece
Publisher: Five Star Publications
Publication Date: September 2016
ISBN: 978-1589852389
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: August 31, 2016

Author Rick Niece capitalizes on his Ohio childhood stories in the third and final book in the nostalgic Fanfare for a Hometown Series.

"The plan was to read them [the stories] to Mom as she rested in Queen Anne's comfort [her special chair] while receiving supplemental oxygen through a cannula in her nose. Through my stories, I secretly hoped she might breathe in streams of rejuvenating oxygen from the lungs of life's good memories relived." Yet Rick Niece's stated idea never unfolds quite as he hopes. The unexpected happens when he gets word that his mother (who has an incurable lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) is in the hospital and that her condition is worsening. The reality is that Mom is dying and the chance of her being his fact checker providing accuracy to the retelling of past stories is very slim.

Flying to Arizona from Arkansas has its hiccups. With delays in Chicago, Rick and his wife Sherée arrive in Tucson, getting to his mom's 4th floor hospital room moments before visiting hours are over. Relieving his dad and brother Kurt, Rick decides to keep watch over mom by spending the night in the waiting room. The following morning, Rick is surprised to see his dad at Mom's beside. While stories over the course of three days pore out from his parents including how they met and their intense love for one another, they also send up red flags of his father's denial and his mother's fear of death.

Niece, a retired university president turned author, identifies his three-book memoir series as automythography. Defined as "a work of nonfiction that looks reflectively at what we think we remember, and how we think we remember it," the term not only describes how Niece recalls his familial memories, but also offers a realistic picture of how most people recall stories from their past. Niece divides his narrative into five sections, constantly alternating between the present and the past. While capturing his mother's dying moments, Niece seamlessly weaves in memories from his childhood hometown of DeGraff, Ohio.

A mixture of comedy and poignancy, Niece covers a multitude of interesting themes in his tribute to his mother—from Avon soap pistols, the Easter Bunny, and Jesus bookmarkers to cement mixers, converted clubhouses, an unlikely Arthur Murray dance partner, African violets, and gin, just to name a few. In addition to his engaging storytelling, Niece aptly sprinkles in a variety of poetry that includes free form, metrical verse, acrostic, haiku, and shaped formats.

Quill says: A wistful yet uplifting read, Perfect in Memory will seriously get you crying and laughing simultaneously.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hurry! Early Bird Reduced Nomination Expires August 31

Hurry! 'Early Bird' reduced nomination fee ends tomorrow night - don't wait! Having an award seal on your book is a great way to increase sales. Visit
to learn more.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Interview with Author Helena P. Schrader @HelenaPSchrader

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Helena P. Schrader, author of Envoy of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin.

FQ: After such a huge project as this trilogy must have been, considering the tremendous amount of research done, how does it feel for it to be over? Did you create that emotional link with your characters that’s hard to let go?

SCHRADER: Well, of course, it isn't really "over" because I now have to market the trilogy, spread the word about it, enter it in literary contests, etc. Also, you might have noticed that Balian isn't dead. He disappears from the historical record after the Treaty of Ramla (1192) and he last witnessed a royal charter in 1193, leading people to assume that he died shortly afterwards. But there could be other explanations -- like the records were lost, he had falling out with the king, he was traveling abroad on a diplomatic mission, he was on Cyprus, or he had taken Holy Vows and retreated to a monastery. We don't know, so I can't risk writing a "biography" about this period, but -- as you rightly surmise -- I am still emotionally attached to my characters (and not just Balian and Maria) and there is a wonderful piece of history still waiting to be explored: namely, the establishment of Frankish rule on the Island of Cyprus. Aimery de Lusignan was the first King of Cyprus, but not until after he rescued his wife Eschiva from pirates. Also Aimery later marries Maria's daughter Isabella, becoming her 4th husband and King of Jerusalem, while Balian's sons were both regents -- one in Cyprus and the other in Jerusalem. In short, I haven't let these characters go yet! I'm working on a book tentatively titled The Last Crusader Kingdom that will deal with what we in the State Department call "post-conflict reconstruction" and the founding of the Kingdom of Cyprus by the Lusignans and Iberians.

Author Helena P. Schrader

FQ: You write so amazingly well I, as a reader, would love to know what is being worked on next. Is there a fiction or non-fiction project in the works we can look forward to?

SCHRADER: It means the world to me, Amy, that you think I write well and want to read more. In today's world with 4,000 books being released each day in the English language, the competition is fierce and it's hard to attract attention, much less fans. It's very easy to get discouraged and ask oneself "why bother?" But when readers react like this, it is all worthwhile. So thank you, Amy!
As for what's next, it is the book on The Last Crusader Kingdom mentioned above, which will focus more on Aimery, Eschiva, and John d'Ibelin, but with Balian and Maria in strong supporting roles. Then, unless something unexpected comes up, I'd like to write about the baronial revolt against the Emperor Friedrich II in the early 13th century. It was basically a war in defense of the rule of law and the constitution of Jerusalem/Cyprus against imperial tyranny. The revolt was led by John d'Ibelin, Balian's eldest son as a mature man, and his sons, supported by other barons.

Balian d'Ibelin

FQ: Along those same lines, do you have a preference? Does fiction perhaps offer up a freedom that non-fiction cannot, because the latter is already solidified in stone?

SCHRADER: Actually, I find it much easier to write non-fiction because for non-ficton, all you have to do is get the facts right and then write them up in an engaging and fluent style. Fiction requires you to understand much more -- the society, religion, laws, customs, medicine, music, economy, geography, climate, and then to use your imagination to get inside various people's skins -- to walk around in their shoes and see the world through their eyes. You can't have just one "rational" perspective, you must be able to create emotional worlds that don't violate the historical record but go far beyond it by speculating about motives, feelings, fears, hopes, dreams etc. etc. I much prefer writing fiction because I love exploring human nature -- besides I do a lot of dry, factual writing for work. I use writing fiction as a means of balancing that rational work as I focus on the emotional world of my characters and try to imagine why people did what they did and what their relationships with one another were.

FQ: How do you feel about libraries in the U.S.A.? I ask this because of the research element and the love of writing you most certainly have, and the news that American libraries are growing smaller in number.

SCHRADER: Well, as it happens I'm living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the moment and don't have access to U.S. libraries. I have to order my sources on line. I have quite a library of my own as a result, and I'm always buying new books. For sources, I need real paper copies of the books. I can read a novel electronically, but if I'm going to use a book as reference material I need to be able to find things quickly, to flip back and forth, and trathrough the notes and the bibliography for more sources and the like. Those are all things I can't do with e-books, or not efficiently.

The coast of Israel by Ascalon -- a venue in "Envoy"

FQ: As a U.S. diplomat in Africa, can you speak a little about problems or issues of that particular country that people should be aware of? In addition, do you have any plans to perhaps write something set in that country?

SCHRADER: Ethiopia is a complex country with a rich history stretching back to the age of Solomon. It is mentioned both in the Old Testament (Moses' wife was Ethiopian) and in the Iliad (Ethiopia sided with Troy and Achilles killed the Ethiopian king). Andromenda was an Ethiopian princess. The Ethiopians believe that Balthazar, one of the three Kings or Magi, was Ethiopian. Certainly, Ethiopia was the second country in the world after Armenia to make Christianity the state religion -- before Rome. Ethiopia traded with both the Mediterranean world and India in the first centuries AD. In the period of my Balian trilogy, there was an Ethiopian prince in exile in Jerusalem. The Ethiopians received permission to build a chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher from Saladin after the fall of Jerusalem, but the King also built a "New Jerusalem" at Lalibela in the highlands of Ethiopia -- a magical place so utterly different from the historical Jerusalem. I could go on and on, but I think you can already see what a fascinating history this country has. Yet for that very reason, I would never presume to write about it. Ethiopia is simply too complex, too multi-layered and different. Not only does it have this complex history, it has its own language, alphabet, music, Christian Orthodoxy, multiple ethnic groups, a large Muslim population, a more recent history of two varieties of Socialism, famines, floods, coups and military dictatorship. The most I could ever imagine is writing about a foreigner who visits Ethiopia and looks at it from the outside, but I would not dare to try to imagine the interior world of the Ethiopian psyche.

The seal of John d'Ibelin

FQ: Is there one location that is at the top of your ‘to do’ or ‘bucket list’ (whatever you choose to call it) that is an ancient or historical locale you would love to see in person? If so, can you tell readers where that would be and why you have an interest in that site?

SCHRADER: I have been extremely lucky to have visited Jerusalem, Cairo, Luxor/Nile, Istanbul (Constantinople), Athens, Sparta, Olympia, Delphi, and Rome. I've also been to Cyprus multiple times so I have a good vision (and many photos) of Cyprus to feed-off while writing my next novels. After that, I'm tentatively planning a biographical novel of Edward of Woodstock, more commonly known as the Black Prince, and his wife Joan of Kent. I've visited many of the sites associated with them, but would want to go back again to his tomb in Canterbury, for example, or his castles at Restmorel and Hampsted. In fact, I'd like to follow in the Black Prince's footsteps, traveling the route of his two campaigns in France and the one to Navarre as well. Otherwise, I can't really think of anything. The ancient cities of the Far East must be wonderful, but they are culturally too strange to really attract me. I find I enjoy places best when I already know and can relate to the stories of people who lived there and walked their streets.

FQ: If you had to choose to award a medal to the greatest/most dangerous ‘villain’ history has ever produced, who would that be, and why?

SCHRADER: It's hard to compete with Stalin for that award. He was responsible for the deaths -- through cold-blood murder, slave labor, and starvation -- of tens of millions of people.

FQ: Same question as above, but this time the medal goes to who you feel was the ultimate hero in history.

SCHRADER: That's too difficult. I stand in awe of the heroes of the German Resistance to Hitler, but also of Leonidas of Sparta, who gave us an example of self-sacrifice for the greater good. St. Louis of France for his example of leadership and compassion in defeat and humiliation, and -- of course -- I admire the Leper King for doing his duty despite being slowly decaying, or Balian d'Ibelin for being willing to sacrifice his freedom for the poor. There are many heros and I wish people took a greater interest in them -- the real heroes -- rather than losing themselves in fantasy worlds with supermen, spidermen, witches and warlocks. I truly can't comprehend this interest in total fantasy when there have been such fantastic real human heroes over time.

FQ: (This was asked once before, but it remains a favorite with readers, and perhaps new readers would love to know): If you could have lunch with one historical figure, who would that be, and why?

The tomb of Richard I, a major character in "Envoy"
SCHRADER: I think I said General Friedrich Olbricht last time with the reasoning that I would be able to communicate with him. Our worlds (early 20th century and now) are not so very different and we have a common language (modern German). I would not be able to speak with Leonidas (I'm learning modern not ancient Greek), or St. Louis, the Leper King or Balian -- they spoke Medieval French. I doubt a Plantagenet prince such as Edward of Woodstock would be particularly polite to an common woman like me. Also society has changed so much, starting with diet and table manners. I'm not sure lunch could be a success with anyone who lived long ago in the circumstances.

FQ: I want to personally thank you, again, for creating this series. I’ve been in love with it since the beginning and will go back and do it all over again.

SCHRADER: Amy, that is a lovely thing to say! It makes me feel very good and inspires me to keep writing. Thank you!

To learn more about Envoy of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#BookReview - Envoy of Jerusalem @HelenaPSchrader

Envoy of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin

By: Helena P. Schrader
Publisher: Wheatmark
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1-62787-194-5
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 23, 2016

A historical trilogy needs a great deal of substance. When it comes to this writer and her work, this particular reviewer once stated that for a trilogy comprised of very large books, a writer needs to pick a subject that will entrance, excite and lure readers so deeply, so emotionally, that they never want to stop reading. Helena P. Schrader has done just that throughout this entire ride. And now...the grand finale. Beginning in Knight of Jerusalem and continuing in Defender of Jerusalem, this is one of the best historical series ever written.

Readers of these books have walked through the confusing, romantic and amazing time of the Crusades, meeting both valiant characters and others whose souls were as dark as night. Everybody had a plan back then, and would do anything to achieve it. In the last book, readers watched Jerusalem under siege by the Kurdish leader, the sultan of Egypt and Damascus, Salah ad-Din Yusuf. He wormed his way through life and combined two forces, Shiite Egypt and Sunnite Syria, into one major force that went against the Christians. King Baldwin IV was fighting leprosy all his life, yet had to find his strength and prepare for battle. And main character, Balian d’Ibelin, was still the lone source of loyalty to the king.

Now, in Envoy of Jerusalem, the Christian city of Jerusalem is solidly in the hands of Salah ad-Din. With his takeover, the people who are poor and cannot pay a ransom for their freedom are being sold into slavery. In Tyre, in October of 1187, Balian and his wife, Maria, are among the sufferers. It does seem as if the Holy Land is gone, but Balian’s heroic belief and strength has him taking it upon himself to try and negotiate the freedom of the Christians still left in the city.

There is hope. Of course, with hope comes more battles. Beloved man and warrior of many, Richard the Lionheart, now graces the scene with his army and takes his leap into legendary status. He takes center stage, leading the fight to reclaim the Holy Land. All through the battles Balian becomes the ultimate mediator, seeing the hope yet also dealing with the horrors that come as the French and English people, as well as the Christian and Muslim ideas clash.

A very detailed drama full of historical truths intertwined with a fantastically written tale, Balian solidifies himself as a marvelous character; one that was able to challenge all the supposed heroes and villains of his time as he married a dowager queen and brought about an astounding dynasty.
Begin at the beginning, however. Not because this is ‘too’ confusing to be a standalone, but because every page of this series will inspire a reader to move through the battles, lay eyes on these crusader kingdoms, and cheer for a man whose name could not compete with those in high places, yet one who owned the strongest will you can possibly imagine.

Quill says: The zest this author has for her subject is dramatic, intense and something that will never be forgotten!

For more information on Envoy of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin, please visit the series' website at:

#BookReview - Close Encounters of the Furred Kind

Close Encounters of the Furred Kind: New Adventures with My Sad Cat & Other Feline Friends

By: Tom Cox
Illustrated By: Ceara Elliot
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1-250-07732-5
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: August 24, 2016

There is an endless amount of stories, adventures, and laughs that come from living a life with cats and no one brings to life that fact better than author Tom Cox. His four amazingly funny cats Shipley, Roscoe, Ralph, and The Bear are a constant source of hilarious antics, interesting conversations, and lovable moments. In this sequel to his first book, The Good, The Bad, and The Furry, Cox continues writing about his life with these four unique and charming cats.

For several years Tom and his four cats have lived in a wonderful house that he had nicknamed the upside down house. With its modern unique charm, an outside area the cats immensely enjoyed, and room for everyone to have their own space, it had become a perfect place for all of them to live comfortably. However, now the time has come for Tom and his cats to move to an old country cottage, outside of a town called Devon. After discussing the move with his girlfriend Gemma for quite some time they both decided that it was the ideal time to bring their lives together.

Of course this move would be much simpler if it was just Tom uplifting his roots, but relocating four cats including The Bear who was now eighteen years old would be a difficult task. One of the biggest concerns was if The Bear would even be able to make it through the move with his age, but amazingly he seemed to have found his second wind and is now enjoying life. Each of the other cats also seem to be following The Bear’s lead and are exploring the area around their new home, relishing in new adventures, and meeting new friends, all the while showing their fun and unique personalities.

Within the first couple of pages of Close Encounters of the Furred Kind, I was laughing out loud at these hilarious stories that Tom Cox puts together about his life with cats. Anyone who shares their life with animals knows that each has their own antics and personalities and it’s so much fun to see how Cox brings those personalities to life though his words on the page. I found myself thinking about the cats and dogs I have known over my life and how each one left a unique imprint on my heart as each of these cats in this book are doing as well. The stories are so full of vivid details that the reader cannot help but fall in love with these cats as you’re able to share in their world.

Quill says: Another charming and irresistible book from a master cat lover.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Books In For Review

Here they are - the newest books for review.  Check them out and then stop by in a few weeks to read the reviews!

Knight of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin by Helena P. Schrader Hollywood made him a blacksmith; Arab chronicles said he was "like a king." He served a leper, but defied Richard the Lionheart. He fought Saladin to a stand-still, yet retained his respect. Rather than dally with a princess, he married a dowager queen -- and founded a dynasty. He was a warrior and a diplomat both. This is Book I of a three-part biographical novel. In this book Balian, the landless son of a local baron, goes to Jerusalem to seek his fortune, but finds himself serving a leper boy instead. Only that boy is soon King of Jerusalem and facing the combined forces of Syria and Egypt as Saladin declares jihad against the Christian kingdom.

Perfect in Memory: A Son's Tribute to His Mother (Fanfare for a Hometown) by Rick D. Niece Perfect in Memory: A Son’s Tribute to His Mother is the third and final volume in Rick D. Niece’s award-winning Fanfare for a Hometown series. Shared from the perspective of an adult son looking back with loving nostalgia on how his spirited, nurturing mother shaped his life, Niece’s heartfelt stories are celebrations of family and the timeless endurance of a mother’s love. As Dodie Niece’s life comes to a bittersweet end, Niece and his family gather at her bedside and share tender memories of their experiences in idyllic DeGraff, Ohio. Written as a tribute to a remarkable woman, Perfect in Memory focuses with tender reflection on the richness of simple gestures that make life so beautiful.

Elizabeth Daleiden on Trial by Ron Frisch In this LGBTQ courtroom thriller set in the late 1970s, a politically ambitious state’s attorney charges Elizabeth Daleiden with the murders of her father and two neighbors in the 1950s. Her trial threatens to blow the lid off her Illinois farming community’s darkest secrets.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.

Karolina's Twins by Ronald Balson Lena Woodward, elegant and poised, has lived a comfortable life among Chicago Society since she immigrated to the US and began a new life at the end of World War II. But now something has resurfaced that Lena cannot ignore: an unfulfilled promise she made long ago that can no longer stay buried. Driven to renew the quest that still keeps her awake at night, Lena enlists the help of lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart. Behind Lena’s stoic facade are memories that will no longer be contained. She begins to recount a tale, harkening back to her harrowing past in Nazi-occupied Poland, of the bond she shared with her childhood friend Karolina. Karolina was vivacious and beautiful, athletic and charismatic, and Lena has cherished the memory of their friendship her whole life. But there is something about the story that is unfinished, questions that must be answered about what is true and what is not, and what Lena is willing to risk to uncover the past. Has the real story been hidden these many years? And if so, why? Two girls, coming of age in a dangerous time, bearers of secrets that only they could share.

The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis Katerina inherits a scented, wooden spice box after her grandmother Mariam dies. It contains letters and a diary, written in Armenian. As she pieces together her family story, Katerina learns that Mariam's childhood was shattered by the Armenian tragedy of 1915. Mariam was exiled from her home in Turkey and separated from her beloved brother, Gabriel, her life marred by grief and the loss of her first love. Dissatisfied and restless, Katerina tries to find resolution in her own life as she completes Mariam's story – on a journey that takes her across Cyprus and then half a world away to New York. Miracles, it seems, can happen―for those trapped by the past, and for Katerina herself.