Friday, January 20, 2017

Interview with Author Joseph Scott Amis @scottamis

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kristi Benedict is talking with Joseph Scott Amis, author of To Shine With Honor - Book One: Coming of Age

FQ: There is obviously a lot of research that went into the writing of this book. With your background as a fan of medieval history as well as a writer/managing editor at "Real Crusades History," how extensive was your research (vs. what you knew from your own previous studies) and what did you find to be the most useful when doing research for this book?

AMIS: I began writing To Shine with Honor as sufficiently conversant with the times, places, events and chronologies of the Holy Land Crusades to construct a serviceable first manuscript. However, further development of a work of historical fiction that would form an entertaining and engaging story, convincingly advance certain themes, and evidence a degree of academic quality made more than rote knowledge a compelling necessity.

In consequence, my research was extensive, including numerous works written by a wide variety of authors of similar historical fiction, as well as equally numerous scholarly works. In this respect, I was most fortunate to have the benefit of bona fide medieval and Crusades historians as advisors and critics over the oft-tedious path from first to final manuscripts.

FQ: What area of research was most useful?

AMIS: All of it, but the devil is in the details, and this is the area in which the kind attention of literary and scholarly friends and well-wishers proved invaluable.

Author Joseph Scott Amis

FQ: Do you have a method to keep the lineage of all of the families straight, as this was such an important detail?

AMIS: The leading Coudre and Evreaux families are entirely fictional, and no particular method was needed to create them and maintain their lineages throughout the story. More difficult was ensuring that they conformed to the feudal norms of late 11th century France.

FQ: How do you decide what to include in the battle scenes to make an impact on the reader but not be overly graphic?

AMIS: Early in the process, I realized that the battle scenes had to be based on a fundamental understanding of medieval warfare, as what is commonly seen in movies, TV, and novels is, more often than not, woefully fanciful and inaccurate. To gain the needed knowledge, I relied upon proven historical sources as well as some first-hand instruction in traditional European martial arts.
With this resolved, creation of a clear image of the physical locations was the first priority, followed by a single-character point of view and concentration on the action as seen and experienced by him. Graphic violence was of course a necessity; equally necessary was keeping the 'blood and guts' aspects to a minimum, only using at points where maximum impact demanded them.

FQ: Was there any special meaning to the names chosen in this book?

AMIS: First names were chosen based on research which found those in common use at the times and locations. Surnames were most often a province of the nobility, and were usually derived from the location of ancestral landholdings. Surnames became attached to commoner families by way of occupation or by adoption of the liege lord's surname.

The only fictional name with a special meaning is that of Joseph of Reims - Joseph is my first name, and I studied and worked in the architectural profession.

FQ: Where did the inspiration for the character of Joseph come from?

AMIS: Architecture was truly a profession in High Medieval France, and the skills and knowledge that created the great historical precedents of Rome and Greece had been, like those of literature, art, and philosophy, preserved in the monasteries established throughout Europe in the late Western Roman period and into the High Middle Ages, all of which made an architect character who practices within a monastery entirely plausible.

A direct historical precedent for both Joseph and Galien as his nobleman assistant is found in William of Volpiano, a son of Italian upper nobility and a highly-educated monk. In the early 11th century, William was engaged by Duke Richard II of Normandy to design and oversee building of the base structures and Romanesque church still extant at Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy.

Urban II Clermont

FQ: Do you have an interest in architecture that created inspiration for the architecture in this book?

AMIS: Indeed! I received a degree in architecture in 1977 and practiced as a professional architect before 'hanging it up' in 2006. Had architectural history been an option for a MA at the time, I certainly would have pursued it.

FQ: The locations are intriguing in this book, what was the inspiration for those locations?

AMIS: The first volume in the To Shine with Honor trilogy essentially sets the stage for the events of the First Crusade and the characters' participation. For this reason, I chose to place the fictional Barony of Mirefleurs and County of Saint-Lille in an area of France closely proximate to the present city of Clermont-Ferrand. At the time of the story, Clermont was within the Duchy of Aquitaine, the seat of a bishopric and cathedral, and where, on 27 November, 1095, Pope Urban II gave his famous address, which marked the beginning of the Holy Land Crusades.

In To Shine with Honor, Troyes is the location of a fictional 'Gothic' cathedral designed and begun by Joseph of Reims. This location was chosen because the cathedral there at the time of the story, completed ca. 950, burned to the ground in 1188, and construction of the present Cathedral of Troyes, designed in what was then called the 'New Style' or 'French Style', began ca. 1200. Though the activities of Joseph and Galien in Troyes take place a century earlier, I considered using the history of the present Cathedral of Troyes for background acceptable literary license.

FQ: To Shine with Honor is book one. How many books are you planning on writing in this series and can you give our readers a little tease on book two?

AMIS: Three books will complete the series. Book Two is nearing substantial completion, with release anticipated for late spring or early summer of this year.

Regarding Book Two, after finishing Book One, a friend commented that the ending was 'almost too happy' for a novel set in an extremely violent era. In reply, I told him to hang on to his seat with Book Two, as life gets very rough in a hurry for Galien de Coudre and everyone around him. Suffice to say that Book Two lives up and more to its subtitle, A Trail of Blood.

To learn more about To Shine With Honor - Book One: Coming of Age please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

#BookReview - Pepe Builds a Nest

Pepe Builds a Nest

By: Theodore Jerome Cohen
Publisher: TJC Press, Wood Bridge Division
Publication Date: January 2017
ISBN: 978-1541194564
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: January 2017

Pepe the Penguin is so happy! Winter is over and spring has finally arrived. He stretches his wings, waddles around and then decides that he better get down to business and start building his first nest.

As Pepe walks around the "rookery" (a breeding area for animals such as birds), his friends tell him that they all need to collect stones for their nests. "Stones?" Pepe asks. "Yes," his friends tell him. They explain that stones are needed to build nests and they all must have wonderful nests.

It doesn't take long for Pepe to find a wonderful rock, a rock so lovely that it will make the perfect first stone for his nest. Then he's off to collect more stones. As Pepe searches for stones, he realizes that it is a lot of work to build a nest, but he knows that it has to be done so he doesn't stop. He searches and searches for stones, and carefully places each one that he finds on his nest. Soon Pepe has the most wonderful nest - a nest that will be perfect for his "Queen."

As Pepe's nest grows in size and beauty, it catches the attention of Otto, the bully of the colony. The bully waits until Pepe leaves his nest in search of another stone and then Otto creeps in, and steals first one stone, then another and another. Pepe soon discovers what Otto is doing, but how will the young penguin deal with the bully?

Author Theodore Jerome Cohen is principally known for his many adult novels, but with this newest writing endeavor, he has dipped his talented quill into the realm of children's books. As a scientist with three degrees in the physical sciences, Cohen spent some time in the early 60s studying in Antarctica. It was there that he met the stars of Pepe Builds a Nest, and these adorable and fascinating birds piqued his interest and the story of Pepe was born. But Pepe isn't just a story about penguins - it's a fun story that also deals with a very important topic for children. Tackling the sensitive subject of bullying, the author shows young readers how to handle a bully with the use of an easy rhyming verse and photos of real penguins. Kids will love following Pepe build his nest and at the same time learn how to handle a bully.

Quill says: A delightful story that tackles an important topic - bullying - in a gentle way that children will understand, while also educating readers on the life of penguins in Antarctica.

For more information on Pepe Builds a Nest, please visit:

Monday, January 16, 2017

#BookReview - To Shine With Honor @scottamis

To Shine With Honor - Book One: Coming of Age

By: Joseph Scott Amis
Illustrated By: Joseph Scott Amis
Publisher: Real Crusades History
Publication Date: July 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9976668-2-3
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: January 14, 2017

As young Galien de Coudre, the third son of well-known knight Henri de Coudre, comes of age he is faced with the impending thoughts of his future and where it will take him. Even though he has always been trained to go into the Priesthood as his father wanted for him, Galien cannot help but see that he increasingly favors the life of a knight. With two brothers to practice with, Galien is no stranger to the skills of swordplay and horseback riding and with each passing day he is finding that his heart is edging toward the career of a knight and not a priest. His chance comes when the family is threatened by a neighboring enemy and Galien is thrown into the battle next to his brothers and proves himself worthy to fight as a knight. After seeing this skill Galien indeed has, his father must admit that he would make a great knight and play a crucial part in protecting his family’s home and lands.

Galien's father’s opinion soon changes, however, when it is revealed that Galien has fallen in love with a servant girl named Lisette, who began serving in the house after her husband was killed in a previous raid. Not willing to let his son marry below his station Henri de Coudre decides that Galien should be sent off to a monastery for six months and then decide what his path in life shall be. Wanting to respect his father’s wishes Galien sets off for the monastery but not before he tells Lisette of his love for her. In his heart he still feels that he will return to his family’s land and become a knight but knows that to go against his father’s wishes at this time would be foolish.

Not wanting to waste his time Galien quickly finds that he has a talent for architecture and is assigned to help a famous architect named Joseph within the monastery. It takes little time for Joseph to see the great potential in Galien and after weeks of working together Joseph offers a permanent job to Galien with impressive pay that is more than he ever hoped for. Now, thinking of the future, Galien is now questioning whether the life of a knight is really what he should be doing, as he is now making much more than he ever hoped to make as a knight, and the work is not quite as dangerous. However, he also has constant thoughts of Lisette and what would be best for each of them, so now Galien if faced with a choice to follow his heart or his head and then vigorously follow it.

This was a well-written and eye opening story that truly brought to life the daily struggles and decisions of the people in this age. I enjoyed that author Joseph Scott Amis wrote in a way that conveys the characters real lives and did not try to diminish the struggles that these people faced at the time. It was easy for me to understand the decisions each character was making as Amis clearly presents how the customs and beliefs shaped the way these characters conducted their lives, careers, and marriages. I found myself wanting to hurry into the next book to find out what obstacles Galien will come to next.

Quill says: For any reader who has an interest in medieval history, this book is a perfect fit.

#BookReview - A Lady's Code of Misconduct

A Lady’s Code of Misconduct (Rules for the Reckless)

By: Meredith Duran
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: February 2017
ISBN: 978-1501139024
Reviewed by: Diana Buss
Review Date: January 16, 2017

February 1860. We are taken into a scene of relief after tragedy. Crispin Burke awakes in his parent’s London townhouse after being beaten half to death and left to die. He narrowly escaped death, but not without a price – his memory. Upon awakening, Crispin comes to realize he remembers nothing of the past few years and that only his long-term memory remains. This is not his only surprise, however. He wakes to find he is also newly married, and can remember nothing of his bride, Jane Mason. This is not only caused by his lack of memory, but, unknowingly to him, the fact that the marriage certificate was forged and fake. Flashback to three months earlier. Jane, in an effort to flee her corrupt uncle, did the only thing she could to secure her freedom and her fortune. Jane’s parents had previously died and left her with a sizeable fortune. Funds were available at present and embezzled by her Uncle, whose care she was left in. Money was running out quickly and the only amount left was secure in a trust that no one could touch until she was married, with an amount that would be available to her and her husband and an amount available only to her. In a desperate plan to access her money, her uncle planned her to be married to his son, Archibald. She fled and ran into Crispin Burke, who convinces her to stay and spy on her uncle for him, and in return, he would have an Archbishop sign marriage papers that would free her from her uncle and give her the fortune at last.

Soon after this takes place, Crispin is found with an injury to the head and is said to be dying. Believing this is her ticket out, Jane finds the Archbishop, has him sign marriage papers and goes to be with her dying “husband.” Miraculously, he wakes, leaving Jane trapped in her role as his wife and fearing for the day his memory returns. An ambitious and corrupt politician, Crispin was known for bribery and dirty deeds and can now remember none of that. He was feared widely and was out to get as much money and power as he could, and it had finally caught up with him. Jane stays, as she has no choice, but she leaves a bag packed in order to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice. As time goes on, Jane comes to find that the old Crispin is nothing like this new Crispin. Caring, respectful and giving, she finds herself falling in love with him. She tries to help him put the pieces of his life back together and helps to guide him to do what is right in his political career, with the hope he never remembers the past five years of his life. Meanwhile, he is falling in love with her, although he knows someone like her never would have married someone like him and vice-versa. However, he does not care what occurred in the past to make them meet, he just wants to be sure he keeps her by his side.

A Lady’s Code of Misconduct is a book that is not only extremely relevant to our current political state, but it is also extremely addicting. It is filled with the mystery of finding who may have attacked Crispin and why, suspense when it comes to Crispin regaining his memory and the romance of two people falling in love. I could have easily sat and devoured this in one evening as each of the chapters seemed to end on a cliffhanger that just won't let you put the book down.

Quill says: A Lady’s Code of Misconduct is the perfect book to sit in your favorite chair with and let the world pass by for a little while you get lost in the past.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Interview with Author Stef Smulders

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Stef Smulders, author of Living in Italy: The Real Deal – How to Survive the Good Life

FQ: What made you decide to put your experiences down on paper to share with others?

SMULDERS: The fact that so many unexpected, mostly laughable things happened while we trying to settle here. Fortunately we were very active blogging so after a year I had all the material handy. Then it turned out to require quite some effort to turn these blog posts into stories that would be of interest of a general public though.

FQ: The Italian people seem oh-so-colorful the way you describe them in this book. Is there one who truly touched your heart and sums up Italy? If so, who would that be and why?

SMULDERS: That must be Giorgio, our tenant. He is politeness in person, very serious in doing the good thing, sarcastic about the Italian institutions but with a good sense of humor as well. And a romantic.

FQ: After all is said and done, knowing what you know now, would you still have moved to Italy and set this adventure in motion?

SMULDERS: Definitely, yes! We might have chosen to go and live somewhere away from the actual building site while the renovation was going on though...

FQ: I have to ask: is there another place/country you want to visit? Or have you had enough when it comes to travel?

SMULDERS: We love to discover other regions of Italy now that we are here, so we visited the Amalfi Coast, Puglia, Chianti, Le Marche and ... Sardinia which has become a new love.

FQ: For the dog lovers out there (I being a big one), how is Saar? Still enjoying the Italian world and everything it has to offer?

SMULDERS: Sadly no, she died of old age in 2009. We then had another dog, given to us by the vet who later turned out to abuse his personnel and animals! This I wrote about in part two, that is still only available in Dutch.

FQ: Can you tell readers a bit more about your B&B and how/where they could learn more in order to take a vacation there? Does it supply the guests the “Good Life?”

SMULDERS: We certainly try to present our guests with the dolce vita and fortunately almost all of them do experience it. Many arrive all stressed out after a year of hard work but within a week they are completely relaxed and do not want to leave anymore! We organise small scale cooking workshops, a truly Italian too-many-courses dinner and wine tastings. Many go walking or cycling straight from our house and are impressed by the silence and friendliness of the people here. Curious? Have a look at our website

FQ: If you had to pick the top three things Italy has to offer that literally makes it the best place to live; what would those be?

SMULDERS: Climate: it is truly summer here from June to October, without becoming too hot.
People: in our region, the Oltrepò Pavese, tourists are rare and met with surprise and enthousiasm.
Gastronomy: the Oltrepò Pavese is the wine region of Milan and there are hundreds of small producers of excellent wines. And the food! It does not get more authentic than here.

FQ: I realize this is a truly personal book, but you have that rare gift of hilarity (and goodness knows we all need that). So, have you thought of writing another book along these lines? Should fans expect more tales from Italy?

SMULDERS: In fact I already did. My second book with hilarious tales was published last year, in Dutch, and a third is about to in March. Weird things keep on happening here almost every day ?. Only yesterday, for example, we discovered that a neighbour, whom we never met, has listed a room of his house on Airbnb with horrifying, nonsense pictures and also a few better ones that he copied from our site! We are even on them. I think that’s typical of some things that occur here. And it is hilarious. First story of part four!

To learn more about Living in Italy: The Real Deal – How to Survive the Good Life please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

#BookReview - Living in Italy

Living in Italy: The Real Deal – How to Survive the Good Life

By: Stef Smulders
Publisher: Babelcube, Inc.
Publication Date: November 2016
ISBN: 978-1507162965
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: January 2017

How hard, annoying, and at times utterly ridiculous was it for you and your family to relocate? Ah…just thinking about it makes all those lovely stories float back through your mind. Learning the language(s) (or attempting to understand new accents); cost of living changes; education changes; trying to set up a house; going to a brand new DMV to get licenses changed – and the list of ‘fun stuff’ goes on. Add on the extra problems that can come with relocating from America to a whole new country, and you have this extremely entertaining book. Witty, charming, fun – this author tells all about the interesting issues that crop up when setting up shop in Italy.

From word one, this tale/memoir is filled with short stories of all the “new” things Mr. Smulders, his husband, and their dog, Saar, met up with when they decided to leave friends and family behind in order to move to Italy and set up a Bed & Breakfast.

Italy is known for amazing food, kind people, beautiful sites to see and enjoy – AKA: “The Good Life.” But very rarely (if ever) do you hear about the fact that “The Good Life” is an extremely difficult thing to achieve: The house can be a nightmare to set-up— ending up dark, even in sunny weather, because all the windows face north. You may have to deal with one main public TV channel that airs a plethora of daytime talk shows, and nothing else. Not to mention, having to learn the language in order to not panic when attempting to narrow down where, exactly, those toilettes are located.

The characters in this book, as well, are absolutely hysterical. From the slightly devious to the fun-loving Italian folk who always seem to have a story for everything, this author and liver/lover of the Italian dream introduces readers to these "Signore e Signori" one right after the other. You literally become so engrossed with them that you start believing you’re in a fiction novel. (You will love Torti, the builder, by the way. In fact, once you come across him in this book, you will not want to put this down!)

There are many tales written about those who have emigrated to the U.S.A. from their own beloved birthplaces; they have written about America’s “good, bad and ugly” when it came to their experiences setting up a new life in this new place. With this book, however, it is not only interesting and fun, but also refreshing to embark on an adventure going the other way across the ocean.
Even with all the trials that landed in Mr. Smulders ‘extremely difficult to achieve’ column when it came to this move to Italy, he has done a remarkable job laying all his cards on the table and still making Italy feel like one of the most enchanting and charming countries you could possibly call home.

Quill says: For those who wish to laugh and see a more up-close-and-personal Italy, this is most definitely the book for you!

For more information on Living in Italy: The Real Deal – How to Survive the Good Life, please visit the website:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

#BookReview - An Invitation to the Sanctuary @Anasbooks

An Invitation to the Sanctuary

By: Diana Rowe
Publisher: Xlibris
Publication Date: November 2015
ISBN: 978-1514415498
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: January 11, 2017

A teen who has sinned and is not sorry for his actions until he learns about the Heavenly Sanctuary where Jesus will forgive all his sins, is the topic of author Diana Rowe's newest book.

To help set the topic for the book, An Invitation to the Sanctuary opens with a brief discussion about receiving a wedding invitation. The author asks the reader how they feel upon opening the envelope, what they were thinking about the event, and how it gave them a feeling of inclusiveness. It's a good analogy to receiving an invitation to the Heavenly Sanctuary and to guide the reader to a deep understanding of the sanctuary, author Rowe tells the story of Mark, a teen who has sinned.

One day while walking home from school Mark is given an invitation from an old man he doesn't know. Mark has no idea what is in the envelope and so he doesn't open it right away. The young man has much more important things on his mind. That day at school, Mark stole a classmate's phone, and then hit another classmate for telling on him. He was angry for the school's punishment of him and at dinner that night, when he told his mother what had happened, he showed no remorse. Mark's mother was very concerned by her son's lack of remorse, and so that night, after worrying about where she "went wrong" with her son, prays to our Heavenly Father for guidance. She knows in her heart that God will answer her.

The following morning after his mother goes to work, Mark cleans his room and finds that invitation he was given the day before by the elderly man. He opens the envelope and finds that it is an invitation from Jesus to "The Most Holy Place in the Heavenly Sanctuary." Mark decides to accept the invitation and thus begins his journey of discovery about the Heavenly Sanctuary and how it will change his life forever.

This is the third of author Diana Rowe's books that I have read and reviewed and like the other two, I found this one both enjoyable and educational. An Invitation to the Sanctuary tackles a more complicated subject than her other two books, Born to Die in My Place: A Timeless Story and Born to Die in My Place: A Story of Unconditional Love. In this book, the author explores the mercy and forgiveness of our Lord, and how "...He forgives your sins and covers you with His righteous life..." Through the story of Mark (as well as with examples from the Bible), and how he comes to learn of Jesus' love and forgiveness, young adults will be able to explore just what it means to be loved by Jesus and that He will love them in spite of their sins. At the back of the book is "A Special Invitation for You!" as well as "Thoughts to Ponder" (with two pages of questions for further self-discovery), a glossary and index. For those looking to grow their faith as well as the Christian home or classroom, this is a good book to add to the collection.

Quill says: An insightful journey for teens and adults to help them explore and understand the "mercy seat" where they can meet with Jesus and receive forgiveness.

To learn more about An Invitation to the Sanctuary, please visit the website: