Monday, February 17, 2020

#AuthorInterview with B.T. Keaton @mylittledemon

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with B.T. Keaton, author of Transference.
FQ: How much of Barrabas/Kilraven is really B.T. Keaton?
KEATON: Parts of him are very much my Dad, and parts of him are my brother—the two most important men in my life, of course. On the other hand, some of Barrabas is very much “me” and some of him isn’t. At the same time, I didn’t envision him so much as the protagonist of the story, but as someone having crossed paths with some unsavoury characters. So, in a way Barrabas simply ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s funny talking about him as if he were a real person! (laughs).
FQ: Has your own world travel and transplantation given you insight into the footloose life of your characters?
KEATON: Wow, that’s an interesting question. I am not sure how to answer it and not sound like a jerk. I suppose if the characters in Transference are footloose, that’s probably because the world’s economic system as we now know it has crashed, which means perceived responsibilities have also changed drastically. Gone are the days of the American Dream, so to speak. As far as insight goes I wouldn’t ever say that I have any leverage over one person or another, however, I would admit that traveling does change you. It’s so good for your soul. On the flipside, I think if you are a traveller it’s partly because you’re constantly looking for something more, whether that’s to fill an internal void, or to find something greater than yourself. And frankly there are things about the world that you simply cannot fully grasp if all you ever do is stay in your hometown. I’m not judging anybody in saying that, it’s more of a remark on my own life. I wish everyone could travel more. Someone needs to invent those transporters in Star Trek so it’s easier for everyone to see the world!
FQ: Are you a student of reincarnation as described in many Eastern religions, since it represents a more etheric kind of “transference”?
KEATON: I’m a student of baloney. (laughs) In truth I don’t know enough about the subject to really talk about it intelligently, but, in my heart, I subscribe to the notion that we all get one life. I certainly don’t want to come back and do it all over again. I mean, could you imagine living forever in this plane of existence? What a nightmare. It’d be like being a vampire...all the people you once loved are gone, and you can only watch as life goes on and times change, while you yourself are fundamentally incapable of making the world better. I think that would be an awful, awful thing. Then again, I can see how another person might find reincarnation enlightening… and I think it could be, if you were able to carry all your knowledge from one life to the next.
FQ: Do you see in our current world the possible development of such elements as the cold domination of Church and the stratification of society as described in Transference?
KEATON: Absolutely. We’re already there in some ways. Look at the innumerable allegations against, let’s call it, “Exhibit A,” and what it’s been accused of with in regards to gross sexual misconduct. That kind of abuse literally damages the soul, and it derails lives forever. On the surface, it seems to me that there’s been no real accountability there, and I’m baffled as to how it continues to thrive. At the other end of the spectrum look at the dangers of militant extremism from “Exhibit B.” It seems painfully clear and quite logical to me that a religion which encourages martyrdom through violence and allows for the destruction of other human beings is in fact not a religion, but rather an archaic sect that does not cherish life, and as such ought to be relegated to a far distant past. All of these things are so shameful and have no place in modern-day society, nor a future one. Fortunately, we still live in an era where there are wonderful people, saints of all faiths, who wish to coexist to achieve what I think we’re all really here for—to help one another. 
FQ: Is writing now your primary profession or will you explore other avenues of creativity?
KEATON: No, but I wish it were so! When you’re writing, there’s a zone you get in, and once you’re in it, you don’t want to get out. It’s such a wonderful place to thrive in that even having to stop and do necessary tasks like eating dinner seems irritating (laughs)! So yeah, I find that having a regular “9 to 5” is a detriment to that process. In fact it’s so distracting for me to the point that, more often than not, I’m unable to write. It probably doesn’t help either that the visual representation of my brain, where you to see it, is probably akin to watching a ping pong match.
FQ: Your book, while focusing on a world in which science and religion have both gone awry, is still a hopeful story. Does this beg a sequel in which things veer off again?
KEATON: There was a villain from The Matrix who said hope was “mankind’s greatest strength and simultaneously its greatest weakness.” I love that juxtaposition! When I wrote Transference in 2012-2013, it was intended to be a one-off story and it was far less hopeful than the final product ended up being. So, I’m glad that you said that about hope, because it means that changes made to the book afterward were for the better. Lately I have been toying with the idea of a sequel, and I already know how it would begin… but I don’t have the ending. I think for it to work, yes, it would need to veer off, and to be scarier than the first book. Think T2: Judgement Day. Personally, I would have to feel that whatever I come up with will top the first book, in order to not disappoint myself or the reader...and I’m not quite there yet.
FQ: Who - besides Tolkien - influenced you most in the creation of Transference?
KEATON: I love Tolkien so much, don’t you? Especially The Silmarillion. I could never even come close to pulling off what he did. I mean, he crafted an entire world, with a full backstory, even to the beginning of Time. Amazing! But to answer your question it was mostly a hodgepodge of movies that influenced the book coming to life—Ghostbusters, Return of the Jedi, Dune, Tombstone, to name a few. Ultimately, I wrote the book for my late father, who loved sci-fi books and films. I loved him dearly, and I love him still. I really just wanted to make him proud.
FQ: Do you have plans for the next creative endeavour? 
KEATON: Transference was entirely self-published, and it’s been a long and bumpy road. Kinda like life is at times! (laughs). Financially speaking I don’t think I could do this again, at least not for a couple of years, so I have to navigate a way to keep my writing career viable. That said, I’ve got three children’s picture books fully written, and I’m also roughly halfway through a novel about time-travel. (Back To The Future, anyone?) I’m overwhelmed and quite baffled by the response to Transference thus far, so I am hopeful that I can get some of these other projects off the ground in the near future. If all else fails, I can always fall back on my cooking skills. I’ve heard from more than a few people that I make a mean French toast!


Saturday, February 15, 2020

#BookReview - Transference @mylittledemon

Transference
By: B.T. Keaton
Publisher: Ingleside Avenue Press
Publication Date: January 2020
ISBN: 978-1645701507
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: February 14, 2020
A rough-cut thief holds the key to saving society from its worst ills in B.T. Keaton’s deep exploration of an eerie future world.
About 100 years from now, Earth has become a mechanistic, highly controlled monoculture controlled by the Church, as much a despotic machine as a religious entity, with a never-ending set of illusions to keep humanity under its fist. The greatest of its secrets is transference, the process of moving souls from one body to another, giving the promise of everlasting life. The lowest strata in this bizarre set-up are men like Barrabas Madzimure, who for his crimes of thievery has been relegated to prison on a far-off planet where he and his scurrilous cohort are forced to mine a precious ore used by the Church for its continued domination. 
The book opens when Barrabas has been confined for killing a warden. He has six days to live. Under interrogation he asserts that he is actually Thaniel Kilraven, a person of genteel upbringing who witnessed the first transference and was punished by the Church for his technological revelations, which it then co-opted. Since Kilraven, if it is he, would be of utmost danger to the Church, a mysterious, and not entirely unsympathetic interrogator, Corvus, is put on his case. Kilraven will learn who Corvus really is – or was - while in the act of escaping with a band of rough, tough miners. His goal – to return to Earth and find his family – gradually morphs into a determination to change, and save, the world.
Keaton’s book is remarkable for the wide range of ideas it presents and the thoroughly enjoyable way he mixes and matches those ideas. He contrasts the grit and recklessness of the criminal element with the arrogance and occasional graces of the elites, at home with the language of both as he constructs lively dialog. He postulates the pros and cons of life eternal in the theory of transference: if one’s soul can inhabit many bodies, not by the divine method of reincarnation but by the control of science, how will it react to the changes? Will it bring happiness or weariness to know one can never die? An admirer of Tolkien, whose fantasy worlds have elements of comparison with Transference, Keaton boldly takes on big themes and has created in Kilraven a hero big enough to deal with them. And, importantly, though Kilraven must tackle universal problems, what matters most in the end, it seems, is family love and loyalty. 
Quill says: B.T. Keaton has created an imaginative tale that will have appeal for fans of dystopian fiction by engaging the emotions, as well as to those who enjoy the more technological and intellectual aspects of the sci-fi genre.
For more information on Transference please visit the author's website at: www.brandonkeaton.com

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

#AuthorInterview with J.R. Klein

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with J.R. Klein, author of To Find: The Search for Meaning in Life on the Gringo Trail.
FQ: What made you decide to write this memoir?
KLEIN: When I returned from my journey on the Gringo Trail in 1980, I had a diary in the form of three spiral notebooks filled with my thoughts of the trip. I turned this into a manuscript initially just to better flesh out the experiences. I still have the original three notebooks, tied together with string, sitting on a shelf in my office.
FQ: You had quite the experience during the 101 days you were traveling in search of meaning in your life. Would you do it again?
Author J.R. Klein
KLEIN: Not in the same way, I suppose. It was the right approach back when I was more impulsive, and it did largely accomplish what I was after. However, it has always been my nature to explore my feelings and to seek answers to them. Today, I am able to do that in a number of ways, an important one of which is through writing. There is another reason I probably wouldn’t attempt a similar trip now, however. In 1980, life had not yet evolved into the digital era it is today. Instant communication did not exist. For the most part, I was totally out of touch with my family and everyone else in the US; they had no idea where I was at any given time. That made the journey more dangerous and more scary at times, yet oddly more exciting and meaningful.
FQ: After you completed your quest and returned home, was there anything you regretted? 
Author J.R. KleinKLEIN: Despite the ups and downs that came out in the book, the experience was a heart-warming one overall. I’d be hard-pressed to find anything I regretted.
FQ: Why did you choose to change your name while writing your memoir?
KLEIN: That’s a good question. When I originally wrote the book, I did so as a book of fiction, which of course was based heavily on my experiences. I kept the names of the people in the book as they were in my travels, apart from myself and the person who became Stefan in the book. When I realized that the book was truly a memoir in every way, it made sense to go in that direction. There are a number of examples in literature of how memoirs and biographies were converted totally over into fiction. Perhaps one of the most notable is On The Road by Jack Kerouac. In my case, after To Find was written, I felt more comfortable using a memoir format for a number of reasons. One was that—as they say—life is stranger than fiction. Were it a book of fiction, some might find various events preposterous and absurdly far-fetched: for example, the notion that it was possible to travel on less than five dollars a day even back in 1980, or my experiences at the Mayan temples.
FQ: Looking back over the years, how has your life changed since you took this trip in an attempt to find yourself?
KLEIN: The trip was transformative in many ways, both mentally and spiritually. It brought a sense of inner searching that I still continue to nourish.
FQ: There are numerous, wonderful characters you write about in your memoir. What happened to them? Do you still have contact with Stefan, Yvette or any other amigos you met on your travels through Mexico and Central America?
KLEIN: Stef and I eventually drifted apart, largely due to the different paths we have chosen in life, and to a certain extent because I have moved about quite a bit since 1980—after MIT, I took a position at the University of California in San Diego, then in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and now in Houston, Texas. Things between Yvette and myself didn’t work out. I attribute that to the fact that life on the Gringo Trail was a whole lot different from life in the ‘real world’—on a day to day basis, at least. I occasionally wonder what happened to Nash, who was a source of constant entertainment for us while we traveled. He was heading down to South America when Yvette and I got to Guatemala.
FQ: Do you have any tips or suggestions for aspiring writers who are considering writing a memoir?
KLEIN: Memoirs are very tricky. The big question for me was: Okay, this stuff is important to me, but who really gives a hoot about me or my life? It was a question that really troubled me for a long time—forty years, in fact, from the time the original manuscript was written until now when I published it. My wife read the manuscript almost twenty year ago and has been after me to publish it ever since. I’m glad I finally followed her advice.
FQ: As a seasoned author who has written in several different genres, do you feel that writing a memoir is effortless or more challenging than writing fiction? 
KLEIN: In writing fiction, it can be easier to keep the pace going. If I find that things are slowing down, there are lots of ways to rev up the momentum again. The challenge with a memoir is how much to put in, how much to leave out, and how to ensure that it is nothing more than a tally of life’s events.
FQ: Are you planning on writing a sequel? Perhaps a story of life after the Gringo trail?
KLEIN: Not yet. I haven’t mastered the art of sequel writing the way some writers have. Every time I try, the book ends up being a butchered version of the original.

#BookReview - Westering Women

Westering Women
By: Sandra Dallas
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 2020
ISBN: 978-1-250-23966-2
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: February 11, 2020
Once again, Sandra Dallas knocks it out of the park with her latest book, Westering Women.
It is 1852 Chicago and Maggie is a young seamstress with a young daughter. She happens upon a flyer seeking ‘eligible women’ to venture west to the gold mines of Goosetown, California. Maggie has many secrets she struggles to keep at bay. This is a perfect opportunity to leave them all behind and begin a new life for her and her daughter. Not giving it a second thought, Maggie opts to join 43 other women along with two reverends and embark upon a treacherous and dangerous journey west to enjoy (hopefully) a life of joy and peace. Sadly, what Maggie can’t possibly know is all who begin the journey will not make it to the end.
As the migration west begins, Maggie learns she is not the only woman looking for a new start. Secrets and hardships that were meant to be left behind in Chicago have a way of rearing their ugly heads. One thing that is certain is the bonds these women form along the way are a force to reckon with. Together, they are determined to do whatever it takes to protect each other.
Sandra Dallas is the real deal when one looks up the definition of writer in the dictionary. From the opening lines of her stories, the reader is immediately swept into the moment and certainly can relate to the characters, situations and the overall story. In Westering Women, Ms. Dallas paints from a pallet of vivid color and brilliant sceneries through her natural ability of superb word placement and plot development. It is clear she does her research on the period within which the story is set and because of this, reading her work is like being a part of the story she tells. Never once have I experienced drag when turning the pages of one of Ms. Dallas’ books and the only regret I often have is when the end is near. It is truly a natural-born gift a writer has when he or she can command the attention of his/her audience simply by weaving an epic tale. Hands down, Ms. Dallas was born with this gift. I’ve had the pleasure of reading a few of Ms. Dallas’ titles and must admit, when asked to read another, never do I waiver when considering the opportunity. It is always a yes! Thank you once again for a most enjoyable read.
Quill says: Westering Women is a fantastic trip back in time rife with women of substance and the hardships they endured.


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

#AuthorInterview with Stuart Rawlings

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Stuart Rawlings, author of The God Child.
FQ: Do you have a favorite historical character among the ones you depict in The God Child?
RAWLINGS: I would have to say that Jesus, Thomas Jefferson and Eleanor Roosevelt would be my favorites. There are all on the cover for a reason. 
FQ: Did writing about oppressive leaders and the ways they might be reformed give you a sense of satisfaction, or a sense of much work to be done by us moderns?
RAWLINGS: Yes, writing about Trump’s metamorphosis pleased me, although I know it's not going to change the basic problem the country and our world is facing.
FQ: Much of your book focuses on Donald Trump – do you want your readers to think of him, as you seem to suggest, as open to positive changes in style and policy?
RAWLINGS: No, I think readers already understand that Trump is a lost soul, or as Maxine Waters would put it, “a miserable excuse for human being.”
FQ: You have created a scenario of behind-the-scenes scheming by Trump’s cabinet; is this something you believe might be going on now?
RAWLINGS: No, I think that everyone around Trump is too scared and too morally bankrupt to give him the slightest criticism.
FQ: You have a strong grasp of current events; is this based on your personal perspective alone or on research beyond the usual news sources?
RAWLINGS: My “strong grasp of current events” is based on an intense following of the news from many sources, as well as from 77 years of an active life—including working in 80 countries, speaking seven languages, earning four advanced degrees, and having a very curious, critical-thinking mind. 
FQ: You have paired Hitler with Joan of Arc – does that suggest the possibility of redemption for Der Fuhrer?
RAWLINGS: No, Der Fuehrer is a comical figure in this book. In real life, he was pure evil, responsible for tens of millions of unnecessary deaths, which was no laughing matter. I tried to lighten him up here, like Charlie Chaplin’s character in The Great Dictator. Joan of Arc seemed like a good match for him, since she was a young, white, militant, naive, passionate girl. 
FQ: What do you think the reader should take away from the encounters among Jesus, Moses and Mohammed, both in light of religious tradition and of worldly events?
RAWLINGS: My storylines with Jesus, Moses, Mohammed and Buddha reflected my own thinking about what is right and wrong with these religions. For example, I liked Mohammed, but i think he would be furious to find the Sunnis and Shiites in an endless war, the terrible mistreatment of women in many Islamic countries, and the refusal to allow the 80% of non-Arabic Muslims to have the Qu’rantranslated into their first language.
FQ: The ending of this volume could be seen as preparation for a sequel, or a way of letting go of the characters and the fantasy for good. What’s your plan for this motley crew?
RAWLINGS: I haven’t decided on whether or how to write a sequel. Much will depend on the success or lack thereof of this book.


Sunday, February 9, 2020

#BookReview - To Find

To Find: The Search for Meaning in Life on the Gringo Trail
By: J.R. Klein
Publisher: Del Gata
Publication Date: October 2019
ISBN: 978-1733906951
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: February 9, 2020
In the early summer months of 1980 in Baltimore, Maryland, author J.R. Klein (known as Alex Moreau in this memoir) had just recently completed a doctoral degree from Johns Hopkins University; the world was his oyster. Instead of feeling energetic and motivated to begin a new life free of the shackles that come with studying, and open to a new world full of possibilities, he felt stagnant and burnt out. Yes, he had everything, a job, a girlfriend, a good life, everything that he worked so hard for, but something was missing; he realized it wasn’t what he really wanted out of life. A life of science was not what he truly desired anymore, what he really dreamed about was to be free, perhaps be like his friend, Stefan (the only person who truly understood him), a wanderer and avid photographer. So after a night out with friends, an impulsive decision was made together with Stefan; they were going to embark on a trip to Central America, leaving everything behind to escape the stark reality of life in search of a new meaning.
The explorers’ adventures began with only a few hundred dollars in their pockets and a Ford Pinto they had to deliver to Texas. After that they used a combination of lengthy sweltering, bumpy rides on dilapidated buses, (including riding on the roof of a bus, witnessing a woman giving birth inside), old worn-out trains, and good ol’ hitchhiking to wander their way into Mexico and down throughout the Gringo trail. Although the travelers had no specific plans, pressing on and experiencing every sort of small, poor town, wild jungle or big city was an overall goal. Despite being quite dazzled by the town of San Miguel, nearly getting swept away in a deadly hurricane, and even being shot at by machine guns while huddled in a tent, Alex continues his travels experiencing as much as possible in search of answers his soul seeks. Along the way the duo meet quite a few fellow adventurers, as well as several locals who all play an integral role in shaping their experiences, both positive and negative, on the trail. Of particular note is fiery and spirited Yvette, an Australian who catches Alex’s eye and quickly becomes his lover. They eventually embarked upon their own journey that took them deeper south into Central America, including an eye-opening and mystical stop at a Mayan temple, and back north 101 days later. Upon his arrival back home the author finds himself with a renewed sense of purpose, ready to return to his previous life. 
To Find is indeed a memoir, a telling of a person’s life experiences. However, what sets it apart from the deluge of other memoirs that are vying for attention on bookshelves everywhere is J.R. Klein’s masterful ability to not merely tell readers what happened to him in the summer of 1980, but to thoroughly engage them with such vivid descriptions of his travels in Mexico and Central America that it hooks readers from the beginning, and takes them on an enjoyable odyssey throughout the book to a simple, yet satisfying end. Readers easily feel as if they’re one of Alex Moreau’s fellow amigos riding alongside him in sweltering hot buses through deserts and jungles with the ultimate goal of experiencing everything life has to offer, and finding oneself. 
Quill says: Tired of the daily humdrum in your life and seek to just get away from it all? Be an armchair adventurer as you follow author J.R. Klein on his whirlwind journey to find himself in 1980’s Central America - you won’t regret it!
For more information on To Find: The Search for Meaning in Life on the Gringo Trail,please visit the author's website at: www.johnrklein.com

#BookReview - An Armadillo on My Pillow @BooksFrog

An Armadillo On My Pillow
By: Deborah Stevenson
Illustrated by: Morgan Spicer
Publisher: Pigs Fly Books
Publication Date: February 2020
ISBN: 978-1732541061
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: February 2020
Young readers are about to go on a delightful, and very funny, adventure as they join a young girl who discovers an armadillo on her pillow.
It's time for Miranda to wake up for school but as soon as she opens her eyes, the young girl knows it is going to be a very unusual day. A quick peek and she sees:
"Asleep by my head is a snug armadillo! His shadowy form softly snores on my pillow."
What is going on? Miranda stays under the blankets as she peers cautiously around the room and sees more unusual animals including a capybara. As the room fills up with still more animals, Miranda pops out from under her blankets to watch the commotion.
"Now a mongoose in sneakers goes barreling past.
Though one sneaker falls off, she is still lightning fast!
She's hot on the trail of a copperhead snake.
The reptile seems worried -
he's started to shake."
But the action isn't over yet. More and more animals come to Miranda's room, and these are not your typical soft, furry pets but rather critters such as a spectacled owl, a hippo and even a sloth. Could this all be real? Is it a dream? Whatever is going on, I think Miranda is going to be late for school. 
An Armadillo On My Pillow is a very funny book that will keep readers wondering what is happening. I've read/reviewed a few other of Deborah Stevenson's book and have enjoyed all of them. This one, however, takes it a step further with the silliness of the story, the giggles that it will elicit, and I suspect children will want to read it again and again. Of particular note, the story, told in rhyme, does not use easy animal names to rhyme, but instead names such as chinchillas, a platypus, and my favorite, a wallaroo wearing a tutu. Morgan Spicer, the illustrator, has worked with the author on her other books and the two definitely have beautifully merged their skills to tell a perfect story. Well done!
Quill says: I loved An Armadillo On My Pillow and I'm sure your youngster will too.
For more information on An Armadillo on My Pillow, please visit the publisher's website at: www.FrogPrinceBooks.net