Sunday, November 18, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Jodi Auborn

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Jodi Auborn, author of My Ten-Acre Wilderness.
FQ: You wrote a lot as a child. Who or what was your original inspiration to develop that skill?
AUBORN: Basically, it was my overactive imagination that just naturally spilled out onto paper. My dreams, hopes, and wishes seemed like they could really come true, if I wrote stories about people who achieved those same dreams, and went off on the wild adventures that I imagined myself doing someday. Writing allowed me to create the perfect friends and life. As a horse-crazy child, writing about horses was almost as good as having one.
In high school, I had an English teacher who really helped and encouraged me with my writing. She had faith in me that I could really do it, and make something of myself.
FQ: When did you first realize you were, or could be, a “real writer”?
AUBORN: That was the winter that I was 10 years old, after I finished the original draft of my first novel, Stormwind of the North Country. I was so proud of that story and expected it would make me rich and famous! Thankfully, several years later I realized how childish and unrealistic it was, and decided to rewrite it. But the first time that I felt like a real writer was when I completed those two dog-eared notebooks that contained my handwritten first manuscript!
FQ: You are a religious person; do you find God and spirituality in nature? 
AUBORN: Yes. I feel closest to God in nature, such as when I'm gardening, taking a walk, or camping (especially late at night), whether I'm alone or with a special animal such as a dog or a horse. I'm more apt to feel God's presence alone in nature rather than in a formal church setting surrounded by other people.
FQ: Is the memory of childhood part of what keeps you close to the outdoor world you grew up in?
AUBORN: Yes, very much! As I mentioned in my book, I've worked for the past ten summers at the campground where my parents took me camping as a child. Although I don't have kids, I feel that, in a way, by working there I'm passing on a legacy of wonderful camping memories to a new generation. Whenever I take a canoe out on the lake, unexpectedly encounter a wild animal, or even hear the call of a loon or squawk of a seagull, I feel like a kid again. And those childhood memories also keep my dream alive of buying (or building) a country house in Maine, and recreating the good aspects of my pre-teen years living in my family's Adirondack cabin.
FQ: What comforts and sustains you these days in the indoor environment of your cottage? 
AUBORN: Throughout my house are photos and souvenirs from my travels and past. Each of the three rooms has a different decorating theme. I still have my childhood Breyer horses and dog figurines, etc. Even the silliest little knickknacks from past vacations still bring a smile and a memory. But it's not only the little things: I remind myself that my first house is a stepping-stone to my dream house that I mentioned in the question above.
FQ: Have you saved mementos of your grandparents and parents?
AUBORN: Yes, I have some of my grandpa's woods carvings, the step-stool he made me when I was a toddler, and his handcrafted dresser and bookcase. But the biggest “memento” (if you could call it that) of my grandparents is their whole house! My mom still lives there, and I visit often.
I have a guitar that my dad had given me, the bill of sale for my first horse, Sally, a hand-written vacation diary that Dad had kept, and several of his music binders. One of the most fascinating things of my parents is a case full of receipts and letters, real-estate ads, building-supply lists, and the blueprints of the log cabin featured in “My Ten-Acre Wilderness.” After decades of believing that it had all been destroyed in a flooded basement, I was thrilled when my mom found it not long ago. It was an interesting perspective of that time as seen from my parents' point of view, as opposed to my own child's-eye view.
FQ: Since you had social limitations as a young person, has the Internet been a help in communicating with your fans? 
AUBORN: Yes, a big help! It brought me in contact with so many interesting people and exciting events! For instance, the first year that Stormwind of the North Country was published, I spoke to a 4th-grade class about my book and the writing process, and to a middle school class at the middle school that I attended as a pre-teen. The Internet helped me find local book fairs , book stores, and craft sales to sell my books and photography. My most unforgettable Internet/fan story was that it brought me in contact with the current owner of the Hadley cabin, (the house that plays a major role in My Ten-Acre Wilderness). She had read the first edition of Wilderness, (originally titled The Forests I Called Home, which is now out of print.) She e-mailed me, and we exchanged photos of the house: during construction and in the present-day. I was pleased and happy to see that the neglected wreck of a house that I described in the book was finally cleaned up and loved again.
FQ: Do you think your career as a writer was in some way spurred on by the drive to overcome your childhood disabilities?
AUBORN: In a way...subconsciously, I think I tried to compensate for my lack of athletic ability and math skills/aptitude with art, writing, and music. Although I credit my daily horseback riding with curing my early childhood medical condition (which caused weak muscles in my lower body), it didn't help the fact that I was uncoordinated and terrible at team sports (and thus was always the kid chosen last for teams in gym class). I wanted to prove myself to my classmates that I was good for something. By high school, I believe that any energy and emotion that I might've put into a social/dating life was channeled into my stories.
FQ: Your book seems to offer encouragement to young people struggling with identity issues - would you recommend your book specifically for Young Adult readers?
AUBORN: Yes – especially the middle-school/junior high kids who are trying to discover and accept themselves: the loners and misfits who are struggling to fit in, only to be labeled “strange” and “different.” If there's anything I hope they can take away from the book, it's to be yourself, and have faith that everything will work out, even if it's in ways that you don't expect. Don't be afraid to be the “weird” kid, the one with out-of-the-ordinary hobbies and seemingly impossible dreams...because someday, you may find that your life turns out more fulfilling than the lives of those who simply followed the crowd and did what was expected of them.
In much of my early school years, I struggled to discover who I was and how to relate to my classmates. I talk about this in Chapter 4, “The Winter Cottage.” When I started 5th-grade in a new school, quiet and introverted me invented a loud and wacky persona in an attempt to impress people and make friends. However, the things that I believed to be fun-loving and outgoing were actually creepy and annoying. Quite understandably, my antics turned people away rather than drew them in, and earned me years of mockery and a visit to the school psychologist. Although things slowly improved the next school year (and were much better by high school), I learned a lesson about being myself and not trying to act like someone I was not.
I also think that animal lovers, especially young horse fans, would enjoy the book.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Feathered Quill #BookAwards Nominate Now!

Awards sell books! 
Time is running out to nominate your book for the Feathered Quill Book Awards.  

If you're looking for a great way to promote your book, consider the benefit of adding an award sticker to its cover to tell readers that your book is a winner.  Does your book have what it takes to win? As an added benefit, all books receive judges' comments - another great tool for authors to promote their books.

Learn more at

Monday, November 12, 2018

#BookReview - My Ten-Acre Wilderness

My Ten-Acre Wilderness: A Misfit Girl's Quest for Home

By: Jodi Auborn
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: September 2017
ISBN: 978-1723097515
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: November 9, 2018
A coming-of-age memoir by a sensitive, talented woman, My Ten-Acre Wildernesstakes us back to simpler, more natural values.
Jodi Auborn was the only child of parents who were, in their own ways, nonconformists. Early on she learned that she could not have certain small luxuries because the family values involved thrift and hard work. She learned to get along with wild animals – rabbits, a ferret, even frogs – for pets, and the outdoors as her private haven. The first time she truly recognized a sense of belonging was in the midst of a dark stormy night, at her grandparent’s house in Ticonderoga, New York where vintage Christmas ornaments gave a feeling of security while the snowstorm outside called to her adventurous inclinations. When she was ten, the family constructed and moved into a log cabin in the woods of the Adirondacks. After much wishing, she finally got a dog, and at age twelve, a horse, Sally. With Sally she explored the forest with its derelict houses, abandoned trailers, a favorite pond and farmers’ fields. Because physical and mental deficits made it hard for her to socialize well at school, her close friends were few. The outdoors became her refuge: “It was better than any playground; it was my own world.” As an adult she remained restless, living a nature-centered existence that kept her close to the north woods and waters. 
Auborn’s writing talents were and are her saving grace. From an early age, perhaps in response to her marked differentness from her peers, she began keeping a journal and writing short stories symbolic of happenings in her life. Over several iterations, she wrote a novel about her alter ego, a bold girl named Kat who could freely do what Auborn was forbidden or too shy to do. She also composed poetry. Her girlhood poems and diary entries form part of the memoir, remarkable for their maturity and insight. 
When Auborn grew up, her first novel about Kat was published, its title, Stormwind of the North Country, redolent of that early revelation at her grandparents’ home. That book and a sequel are designed for teen readers, while a third offering, Matthias: The Ghost of Salvation Point, written to honor her father, is targeted to middle-grade readers. Her writing is skillful and secure, putting the reader in the places she has explored. My Ten-Acre Wilderness is peppered with photographs of those places and the people and animals she loved. In an especially poignant scene she recalls her return to the abandoned cabin of her idyllic childhood; there in the ruins she struggled with bleeding fingers to extract the “time capsule” notes she and her father had composed and hidden there years before. 
Quill says: Today Auborn works guiding campers, and lives quietly content in a 1930s vintage cottage near her childhood home. She has garnered a devoted readership and will doubtless gather more fans with these moving recollections. 
For more information on My Ten-Acre Wilderness, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Perfectly Imperfect @eshewords

Perfectly Imperfect: A Collection of Words and Thoughts, Volume 3

By: Amber Whitted
Publisher: Day Blue Green Night Publishing
Publication Date: June 2018
ISBN: 978-0692107045
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: November 2018
Rising spoken-word artist Amber Whitted cuts to the chase in the third volume of her collection of words and thoughts, Perfectly Imperfect.
Originally a play on the author’s birthday, the title, Perfectly Imperfect, is aptly suited to Whitted’s newest collection of poems that reflects on “what it truly means to be human.”
Whitted divides her fifty-plus poems into six sections that are a balanced mix between her personal experiences and life in general. With “identity” being the overarching theme, related topics cover love, relationship, femininity, and spirituality, to name just a few.
Much of Whitted’s work is set—with the exception of section five, which are all haikus—in lilting free-form verse that is replete with accented rhymes and periodically sprinkled with alliteration and repetition. Her writing is sure, steadfast. While deftly expressing the Black female experience, what she pens is not limited, by any means, to the African American community. Coming from the depths of her heart, Whitted speaks to all of humanity.
Whitted does not mince words. She manipulates the written word into visceral prophecies, much like a potter does shaping clay into eye-catching sculptures. Her messages are crisp, clear, and filled with humility, honesty, and tenderness that have been woven tightly together with integrity.
Shifting between first and second points of view, Whitted can capture the essence of a topic in a matter of a few lines, or carry a reader through the highs and lows of a particular experience from one of her longer two-pages-or-more poems.
In her poem “Sankofa,” Whitted zeros in on this powerful Ghanaian image and message of not forgetting one’s roots while moving on in life.
“Echoes of your influence linger.
I take only what I need
to journey on.
Promise beckons me forward,
and closed time offers
nothing new.”
Whitted gives stability to all in Perfectly Imperfect, as seen in this self-titled clip…
“I am perfectly imperfect
and elegantly errored.
I am a being in development,
healing from her past
and moving toward her future...”
And words of encouragement, as in her haiku titled “Youth”:
“Life gets hard sometimes.
For now, laugh, play and enjoy.
Be the child you are.”
Rounding out her themes, Whitted includes an inspiration segment dedicated to her love and relationship with God.
“It is my hope,” Whitted states, “that you [the reader] will see your perfectly imperfect self in these pages and be blessed by each word.” Kudos to this rising spoken-word artist for attaining her goal.
Quill says: Perfectly Imperfect offers a collection of refreshing and inspiring words and thoughts that speak to all walks of adult life.
For more information on Perfectly Imperfect, please visit the author's website at:

#AuthorInterview with JP O'Donnell

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with JP O'Donnell, author of Pulse of My Heart: A Gallagher Novel
FQ: To begin, would you give readers a sneak peek so to speak inside the latest novel, Pulse of My Heart, and how the idea came into being?
O'DONNELL: At the end of my previous Gallagher novel, Deadly Codes, the relationship between Gallagher and Kate appears to have ended. Was it over, or merely "on hold?" Many of my readers wanted to know and sent emails and messages asking me to write a sequel. I also spoke to a book club where a woman asked me what type of books I thought I was writing. Of course, I answered, "Mystery Thrillers." She shook her head and said, "No...what you are writing in the Gallagher series is a love story. The relationship between Gallagher and Kate is what drives your novels." This response made me realize that a sequel emphasizing the rekindling of their relationship could really work.
FQ: Along those lines, with writing a series and the work that goes into always having the character develop with each new title, readers like to know if the author of a series knows ahead of time what they’re going to write. Can you tell readers if, when you first began the Gallagher series, you knew this was a character who would remain for more than one book? And, if you did, was there already an outline of sorts in your mind for what the character would do next?
O'DONNELL: Yes, when I first conceived the idea of writing a novel, I knew it was important to create a main character that readers would find compelling. From the beginning, Gallagher had to be the man that every guy wanted to be, and also the man that every woman wanted to be with. No doubt that Gallagher has his own set of faults---he drinks way too much coffee, and, yes, at times way too much scotch--- but he possesses a unique combination of compassion, skills and toughness that help him to not only solve cases, but to escape the danger that inevitably follows him. After I saw the positive response to Gallagher in Fatal Gamble, I knew I had a character that had "legs" and I spun him off again in Deadly Codes. In fact, Gallagher's persona in Deadly Codes and the characters/story of that novel served as the basis for the feature motion picture, Bent (2018) that was released in March and is now available on video on demand and DVD. The film stars Karl Urban, Sofia Vergara, Andy Garcia and Grace Byers. It was a thrill for me to be on the set and watch the characters I created come to life on the screen.
For each of my Gallagher novels, my outline was fairly simple: I wrote the first chapter and the last chapter. Then I "connected the dots" to get from Chapter One to the ending.
FQ: Are you currently crafting, or interested in crafting, in the future another series character?
O'DONNELL: At this time I have switched gears a bit and am finishing a series of children's bedtime stories. My background as a career pediatric dentist gave me the wonderful opportunity to interact with children on a daily basis and find ways to put them at ease during their dental visits. As my grandchildren came along (now 7, 4 and 2), I began making up stories to help them fall asleep at night when they visited us. They enjoyed these stories so much, our daughter asked me to record one of them so she could play it at home. This gave me the idea to consider publishing an illustrated children's story book. I hope to have the first one available within the next year.
But, don't worry...I do have an idea for a fourth book in the Gallagher series. Here's a hint: Does something happen to Norman?
FQ: On the opposite side of the fence, are you interested in creating a standalone that you wish to share information about?
O'DONNELL: See below about my children's books.
FQ: If you were asked who, perhaps, are/is your favorite detective(s) in the world of fiction, what would you say, and what about them appeals to you as a reader?
O'DONNELL: No doubt on this's Spenser from the Robert Parker series. Having lived in the Boston area for most of my career, I enjoyed the references to locations and places I knew so well. But, most of all, it was Spenser's cunning and cleverness, and his interactions with his sidekick, Hawk, that made the series so enjoyable.
FQ: What writer would you love to sit down and have dinner with, even if you could go back in time to sit with one who is no longer with us, and what question would you love for them to answer?
O'DONNELL: I have to give two answers on this one: Robert Parker, of course, and Harlan Coben. I include Harlan Coben for two main reasons: he is the master of "the great first line" that gets you hooked within a few seconds, as well as riveting stories (e.g. Tell No One, Gone for Good, etc.) that keep you turning the pages long into the night. I met him briefly at a book signing years ago and found him to be a very friendly, nice person who offered encouragement to me to keep writing.
FQ: Is there a specific genre you have always wanted to write in that you haven’t tackled as of yet?
O'DONNELL: See above: Children's Stories.
FQ: Beginning and building a writing career is a tough job, yet you have done it perfectly. Is there a piece of advice you could give to up-and-comers that you have learned during building your career? Perhaps advice on one thing they should do and one thing they need to avoid?
O'DONNELL: First of all, write because you enjoy it. You must be able to please yourself before you can expect to please other readers. Secondly, if you have aspirations to publish your work, don't rely on your close friends and family to give you an objective critique of your writing. They love you and will not want to hurt your feelings with harsh criticism. Instead, seek out a professional writer/editor who can offer an honest evaluation of your writing and suggestions on how it can be improved. There are a number of book review sites, including the Feathered Quill, that, for a reasonable fee, will provide a fair and accurate assessment of your work.
FQ: What are your feelings in regards to utilizing social media and whether or not it offers enough positive effects to help a writer achieve fans/followers?
O'DONNELL: I believe social media can be a valuable tool to help an author, particularly one who is self-published, achieve a wider audience of followers. This is a new venue for all of us, and I am still learning all of the nuances involved. In the coming months, I hope to expand my use of social media to make more readers aware of my Gallagher trilogy.

#AuthorInterview with Michael Pronko @pronkomichael

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Michael Pronko, author of The Moving Blade
FQ: What is the significance of the menacing statue on the cover of The Moving Blade
PRONKO: Menacing and protective, that’s Fudo Myo-o. The god has many meanings, but the name translates as something like “unmoving, shining king.” He is a guardian deity, with a sword of wisdom to cut through ignorance and a lariat to tie up demons. Encountering a huge statue of him in a dark temple can really jolt you out of the everyday and spellbind you. The deity has many variations stretching back to China and India, but in Japan, he is often thought of as one of the gods that protects Tokyo, and old Edo. There is a series of temples devoted to him in Tokyo. To me, he encapsulates the lurking violence, good and bad, in human experience.
FQ: How has your writing improved or changed since your last book, The Last Train?
PRONKO: I think it’s more the process of writing has improved. That’s what I focus on. For example, I upped the rewriting. With each rewrite, I focused on one particular point, character, connection, suspense. That’s not just fiddling with the words, it’s rewriting by rethinking, reworking, reconceiving, reconnecting. Because I wanted to tell a slightly different kind of story this time, I had to create not just one character’s background, but an entire range of back stories flowing through the history of American and Japanese relations. Spending time on that, I think, helped tell a stronger story.
FQ: Did you complete any research while writing this novel? And if so, what was the most critical thing you learned from this research?
PRONKO: I read a lot of history about the United States and Japan since World War II. While working at The Japan Times for years, I had seen most of the contemporary issues in recent years. It’s a relationship with a lot of subtle entanglements and unresolved issues. But those are hard to distill and squeeze into a novel. In this age of facile politicizing, it’s also easy to indulge in snap judgements and knee-jerk analysis. And I confess I sometimes, often, do that on my own time, but in a novel, that doesn’t get you too far. It feels go to let loose, but it’s not interesting to read. A novel is more about how people live with the conditions and situations that surround them. That is interesting. So, I guess I learned to cut out all the research and personal opinions by the final draft.
FQ: I read that some famous authors have writing rituals like fellow mystery/thriller writer, Dan Brown, who supposedly hangs upside down using anti-gravity boots to help him relax. Do you have any specific habits or rituals when you are writing?
PRONKO: Writing is already like hanging upside down—reversing, upsetting, pumping too much blood to the head. Nothing more like that for me, thanks. I do write, or usually rewrite, on the Tokyo train. When I can get an elbow free. Something about the motion lets me think freely. And Tokyo trains are filled with people reading, which I take as encouragement. If I get a seat, which is rare, I rewrite on printouts of the last chapter. If not, and there’s room, I write standing. If it’s too jammed for that, I’ll just think through a plot point, then scrawl it down or put it on a voice recorder once I get off the train. Other than that, the basic ritual is butt in chair in morning.
FQ: If the Detective Hiroshi mysteries were to become a movie, what actor do you envision playing the detective?
PRONKO: I like the actors from 1950s films, Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Ken Takakura, Tatsuya Nakadai, but that’s just a dream list now, sadly. Some current actors like Hidetoshi Nishijima, Yosuke Eguchi, and Hideaki Ito are compelling, and have done similar roles. Koji Yakusho is always great. Shinichi Tsutsumi would fit Detective Hiroshi perfectly. I’m not sure how well known those actors are outside Japan, but they should be.
FQ: I noticed that in both books of this series your victims are American men. Is this done purposefully, or is it a mere coincidence?
PRONKO: Is that me killing off my American side? Some latent self-pity, or secret suicidal impulse? Hmm, I wonder. But, maybe not. I sketched out several novels for this series, so these two just happened to be the first ones that came together concretely. There were Japanese killed in those novels, too. In the next novel, there are no Americans at all, and in the one after that, the killer is American and the victim Japanese. So, half-coincidence, maybe?
FQ: One of the subjects mentioned in The Moving Blade refers to the SOFA agreement between the US and Japan. Do you believe that the US will ever fully remove its military presence in Japan?
PRONKO: I doubt the US will ever fully remove its military presence from the world! For one thing, decommissioning 800 bases in 70 countries would take a lot of logistics and a lot of budget. It might happen that the US scales down or consolidates some of the bases, but the military presence in all these countries will continue for the near future. The arguments for and against the US presence in Japan are very complex. But, at least, it’s important that Americans and Japanese know and think about where their tax dollars are being spent. Whatever one’s opinion, it’s important that the American military presence not be downplayed, concealed or ignored.
FQ: Now that you have two great mystery novels under your belt, what advice would you give new authors who are considering writing in this genre?
PRONKO: Genre can be demanding, even tyrannical. People like to know what they’re getting ahead of time, and genre helps with that, but delivering too much of what people “like” is not always good. I think of genre as a recipe. Whenever I use a recipe, though, my kitchen never has all the right ingredients, and after a glass of wine, or two, I ease away from preparation techniques and start improvising. If the food comes out right, that’s all that matters. The nice thing about a novel, compared to dinner, is that if it’s not right, you can redo it or throw it out. I like the mystery genre because so much variation is possible. Almost anything could, conceivably, fit inside. That’s a lot of room to work, so new authors, and old ones too, should work with that room. So, the tightness of the genre should be respected and the looseness explored.
FQ: In our last interview you mentioned this current book, and another book in The Detective Hiroshi series. Will the series definitely end with the trilogy, or have your writing plans changed?
PRONKO: It won’t end at three. The next one, Tokyo Traffic, is now being rewritten. That will be followed by two more in this series, which are sketched in already. I want to do a standalone with Sakaguchi, the ex-sumo wrestler, and a prequel with Takamatsu. After that, I have a few other books in mind, though, too. And I’d like to get back to writing some essays about Tokyo again, too.
FQ: After finishing this second novel in the series, I have a few unanswered questions, and am curious to learn more about Detective Hiroshi Shimizu. Can readers look forward to learning more personal details about the detective in your next novel?
PRONKO: In the next one, Hiroshi has moved in with his long-lost girlfriend and much comes out about his inner world and about his past. I don’t want to let out everything about him too soon, but as he opens up to her, we learn more about him! So yes, more to come, a few more questions answered, a few more posed, about Hiroshi, Tokyo and the constant undertow of crime.

#BookReview - Jack


By: Norman Whaler
Illustrated by: Nina Mkhoiani
Publisher: Beneath Another Sky Books
Publication Date: February 2018
ISBN: 978-1948131155
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: November 2018
Jack is having a borinnnng day. He's sick and stuck at home, and actually stuck in bed. It's almost better to go to school!
Poor Jack! He has the measles and can't go to school. Well, honestly, he thinks the part about not going to school is pretty neat because there's always the TV or his video games to keep him busy at home. But drat! Mom says NO. As the story begins, Jack has forgotten that Mom was home and he started playing his gamepad, but when his mother called to him, he had to rush back to bed. Phew, that was close. But now what could he do?
Jack was now stuck in bed. His mother suggested he read a book to help pass the time. Really? thought Jack. Books are borinnnng! What could he do? 
The young boy climbed out of bed and wandered over to his window. With a big sigh, he looked up at the clouds. Borinnnng, he thought again. But then Jack took a closer look at the clouds. It seemed that one cloud in particular looked like King Arthur carrying a sword. Jack could see, in the same cloud, the Black Knight fighting King Arthur. And what's that? Is that Jack, fighting alongside King Arthur? Now things were getting interesting. 
As the cloud drifted away, Jack caught sight of another cloud. Was that a rabbit rushing down a hole? Jack's world was alive with adventures - adventures he knew about because of books! What fun!
Author Norman Whaler has crafted a creative story about a young boy who doesn't like to read. So many kids today want to sit in front of the TV, or play video games, and never experience the joy of getting lost within the pages of a great story. With a nicely flowing rhyme, Whaler shows children the adventures that await them in books. The illustrations, by Nina Mkhoiani, are bright and add a light-hearted feeling to the story. Add it all up, and Jack is a winner that you'll want to add to your child's bookshelf.
Quill says: Jack is a fun story that will entertain children and more importantly, show reluctant readers the joy they can get from reading.
For more information on Jack, please visit the author's website at: