Sunday, June 17, 2018

#BookReview - Sniper: A Frank Renzi Crime Thriller

Sniper: A Frank Renzi Crime Thriller

By: Susan Fleet
Publisher: Music and Mayhem Press
Publication Date: May 2018
ISBN: 978-1-7321-3010-4
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: June 15, 2018
For those who have enjoyed these books since the word “go,” it is a pleasure to state that even though this is the 8th tale in the Frank Renzi series, this is among the “best of the best” in the crime fiction realm that’s appeared in 2018, thus far.
We head back to the great city of New Orleans and find it to be as provocative and colorful and…dangerous as it was before. The true evil that citizens are putting up with at the moment is a deadly sniper who seems to be picking his victims at random. This is the type of villain who causes the streets to go dead as residents hide behind closed curtains, terrified of the day this person might set his sights on them. Police, unfortunately, are as confused as they possibly could be. The clues are not showing up and the leads are few and far between.
On top of all this, a female has been walking through the doors of the unique shops located in the French Quarter and walking out with highly expensive items. You’d think this thief could be taken in easily, but that’s not happening either. In fact, not only does she have the owners of these shops up in arms, but she’s also garnering headlines that “call out” to the sniper who now wants to set up a meeting with the young woman.
Enter, Frank Renzi. It’s no surprise that this gritty NOPD cop takes the reins of this tale, considering he has shown himself to be the best. His intuition leads him to discover and uncover important information that others just can’t find. Which is good, considering that this sniper’s targets might not be random at all, and with a VIP coming to visit, Frank Renzi may be the only hope there is to stop this crazy killer before the tag “sniper” transforms into “assassin.”
Renzi’s words and thoughts are compelling, and watching him come up with solutions while the plot twists and turns faster than the sniper’s bullet once it leaves the gun, is action at its finest. There is so much intrigue and “sidebars,” so to speak, in this book that the mind constantly races. Various characters’ viewpoints are given by Susan Fleet who has most definitely proved to be a master at the art of writing crime fiction. And with this latest challenge, it is easy to say that if a “Hall of Fame” for beloved detectives existed, Frank Renzi has certainly earned his place.
Quill says: There is not a moment in this book where you will not be completely hooked!
For more information on Sniper, please visit the author's website at: www.susanfleet.com

Thursday, June 14, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Mario Dhingsa @MarioDhingsa

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Mario Dhingsa, author of High Office Whispers: Pleasure. Power. Pain.
FQ: High Office Whispers is definitely a unique book.  How did you come up with the idea for writing it?
Rory Bremner as Tony Blair
DHINGSA: Growing up in England, some of the funniest programmes were political satire. My favourites were Spitting Image,and the impressionist Rory Bremner. Just before I began writing High Office Whispers, I remember following a lot of news at the time, and just began to imagine the events in between the news headlines.
Ronald Regan on Spitting Image
FQ: There are a lot of political figures you could have written stories about.  How did you decide on those in your three stories?
DHINGSA: It all started with Berlusconi! His headlines were becoming more sensational and increasingly startling. The corruption allegations were mounting, and the debauchery details were soaring. Pope Benedict was also making headlines (though not quitefor the same reasons), and given how close the two of them live in Rome/Vatican City, it seemed natural to assume that the two of them would have to interact at some point on a personal level.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard (left) and the Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott
Silvio Berlusconi and Pope Benedict XVI
Living in New Zealand gave me greater exposure to the acerbic scuffles between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, during her leadership of Australia. The headlines of Putin’s machismo seemed like a natural conclusion to the story’s arc.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
FQ: On your website, you mention that the book was originally written as a radio play.  Was it ever performed?
DHINGSA: I received a really nice letter from Radio New Zealand politely declining it, but they suggested I write something similar on NZ politics. I have always been more excited by the implications of international politics, but I appreciated Radio New Zealand’s consideration.
FQ: All three stories take place in 2011.  Why 2011? Was there something, or some events, that drew you to that year?
DHINGSA: 2011 had so many dramatic and controversial politicians/leaders, six of which are described in High Office Whispers.But it was a fascinating year in its own right: The Arab Spring was unfolding, and the stock markets were unravelling. Osama bin Laden was shot in Pakistan; Prince William married Catherine Middleton; and The Artistwon five Oscars. All in all, an eventful year.
The Occupy Wall Street movement began in September 2011
FQ: This book is quite a departure from your previous works.  Was it more difficult to write?  Or perhaps more enjoyable?
DHINGSA: It was more difficult and more enjoyable! Writing comedy is difficult enough, but political satire requires a certain level of credibility and fact-checking for it to function. However the finished project always brought a smile to my face, and seeing someone genuinely laugh from something you’ve written is one of the warmest feelings in the world.
FQ: Do you have any plans to write another series of short stories dealing with political figures or events?
DHINGSA: My next book, Maps of Bliss and Rage,will be published next year. One of the chapters has a similar High Office Whispers exchange between Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. The more you research such characters, the more you grow to understand them in many unexpected ways.  
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger
A few friends of mine have asked if I would write something on President Trump. But he doesn’t need me to write his satire; he crafts his own material.
FQ: I understand that you are currently working on a children’s book.  Would you give our readers a sneak peek?
DHINGSA: It’s Blade Runner for children! My son has read some of it and as long as I keep making him laugh, then I have enough of a reason to continue.
FQ: I have to say that my favorite of the three stories was the last, with Putin and Medvedev. I could easily picture Putin acting/reacting the way you imagined. And the ending, without giving it away, was quite funny.  Was it fun to write?
DHINGSA: Everyone seems to love the Putin/Medvedev conversation the most!
Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin
I’m glad that readers finish the book on such a high, even if the characters themselves don’t. It was certainly enjoyable to write. If you can make yourself laugh when you write, then you’re already halfway there. But it was also a little melancholic too; you do wish the characters could break the cycles that they are stuck in.
Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin
FQ: If you wrote another short story about the current Pope, Pope Francis, who do you think he would be meeting with?  
DHINGSA: Cristina Fern├índez de Kirchner. She was President of Argentina from 2007 – 2015. There were several corruptions scandals during her presidency, some of which are ongoing. Pope Francis is also Argentine, and had campaigned so effectively against corruption in his home country that Kirchner considered him a political rival. If the two of them did meet to talk about the old days and old wounds, it would be a conversation worth listening to.
Pope Francis and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
FQ:  I see that you’re a member of The New Zealand Society of Authors.  We have a lot of authors reading our pages – would you tell them a bit about this organization?  Has it helped you promote your book?  Would you recommend that authors seek out author/writer groups to help promote their works?
DHINGSA: I am a member of the New Zealand Society of Authors, and – when I lived in England – had joined the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. Both organisations were invaluable towards my development as a writer, and I would strongly recommend any aspiring writers – of any age or ability – to join a similar organisation or author/writer group for at least one year. Anyone who wishes to develop, like so many things in life, are never able to develop on their own.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Jo Ann Bender

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Hamburger Scott is talking with Jo Ann Bender, author of Casanova Cowboy: Where the Old West Lives on in the Rusty Springs Valley.
FQ: If you live in Montana, how much comes from the nearby region.
BENDER: I have lived and worked in Montana.  Now, I make my home in Eastern Washington in a very remote area near the Canadian border.
FQ: Do you have a sequel in mind?
BENDER: Yes, the third in the Wild West series is Ladies of the Ti-Pi.  There are five chapters already written.  It takes place right where the Casanova Cowboy leaves the valley to go find Alexis in California. He’ll return for his saddle he left high up in the Oliver Barn in the next book.  Readers will meet Leigh from the first book, Rusty Springs.  She came from Florida, rented the Sheriff’s cabin and returned to live in the area, but in the town of Rusty Springs, not out in the country.  She raises and trains search and rescue dogs now and will be needed to find a person who is missing from the Stitch N’Bitchers.  The underlying theme: best use of time.
FQ: Why did you make Lance such a lover?
BENDER: The cowboy leads the same style of life as the original Casanova of the l7th century.  Both are creative individuals who have many unique qualities and skills, lead adventurous lives and are remembered for their daring feats.
FQ: Do you have knowledge of Viet Nam Vets and PTSD? 
BENDER: In my career with two American Red Cross Chapters (Iowa and Montana), there were many situations in which, as pr director, I had a need to know.
FQ: Why did you decide to make Alexis unresponsive to sex?  Why did you decide to make Lance such a lover, and yet, almost envision him as a monk?
BENDER: The first on a list of a man’s need is for sex.  Next is his need for a woman who shares his recreational passions (football, hiking, other sports, shooting, traveling, etc) and in this case it was a woman unlike any he’s ever known.  She has things to teach him and he is eager to learn.
Lance has the ability to make any woman (or man, too) find him irresistible.  His eyes focus upon the person like a warm shot of Jack Daniels.  He is a hero to many throughout a lifetime, perhaps because he was the only child of a single mom who he felt he had to help in so many ways. He learned about taking care of himself, and others, until his mother had to reluctantly part with him at the early age of 12 and send him off to work at a ranch in Texas.  She was dying and wanted to save him the heartache and not to feel so helpless watching her deterioration.
Woman chased him no matter that he usually found himself working at remote ranches.  But his for love for dancing brought him into contact with so many females.  In this story, when he sees Alexis, in a place in the forest. wise, tiny, standing in the circle of people who want her wisdom and counseling, the sunlight aglow behind her, cupid and his arrow is ready to strike his heart.
Alexis, though she never says so, needs him, whereas others never do in the same way.  He must be with her to protect her as she is dying.  Other women, such as Stormy, pursue him.  His feelings for Alexis are righteous, strong, steady and gentle.  His men friends try to steer him away from Alexis, but, cupid’s arrow has done its job, has penetrated and gone deep.
My novel looks at the powers of seduction, from the unlikely standpoint that this time they are those of a male.  Even the novel’s title, Casanova Cowboy, is flirtatious.
But, so is the prequel: Rusty Springs, a fact that was brought to my attention by a man. “Really?” I asked.  “I guess it could be thought of as sexy.”
Many men want to let me know they’ve read one of my books.  Even my memoir, Snowbirds, non-fiction about an RV trip with problems, has been touted by several guys as my best prose.
Meanwhile, the first two books are now audio books, and so Lebensborn.
Writing audiobooks must be my legacy.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

#BookReview - Casanova Cowboy

Casanova Cowboy: Where the Old West Lives on in the Rusty Springs Valley

By: Jo Ann Bender
Publisher: Bender & Associates
Publication Date: April 2018
ISBN: 978-1882384051
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: June 10, 2018
There’s a new man in town, and he’s a cowboy. This is the underlying theme of the latest novel by author Jo Ann Bender (Rusty Springs, Lebensborn Secrets).
Joy Ann Oliver can hardly wait to tell the Stitch’n’Bitcher club the news: her husband Larry has engaged the services of a cowboy to help out on their Montana ranch for a few months. Lance Turbyfill, it turns out, is a rugged, blue-eyed 50-something cowgirl’s dream, and he is soon ensconced in his self-built tipi (he calls it a lodge) on the Olivers’ property. As he reunites with an old love, and considers a new one, Joy Ann is observing the new ranch hand, and wishing Larry was just a little bit more like Lance.
During his time on the Oliver homestead, likeable, hardworking Lance will join the local scene. He attends a nearby gathering for folks who think the US is headed for a fall and are saving up provisions for that fateful time, and later goes to a meet-up for former Viet Nam vets where he hopes to get some relief from the PTSD that riles up inside him periodically. There he meets a strong-minded, soft-voiced woman named Alexis who has the power to take his bad dreams away.
Lance finds himself needed most when wildfires start up and the winds are carrying the blaze to Rusty Springs. He volunteers to go with a young man named Cole to do some emergency work near an abandoned mine. Neither man realizes that old enemies of Cole are stalking the area, waiting for a chance to exact some long-festering revenge.
These dynamics and more make Bender’s book a fast paced adventurous read with some intellectual and spiritual overtones. Lance is not “just a cowboy” – he helps Joy Ann save Larry’s life and keeps Cole from breaking down when the two of them are in grave danger. Bender seems to have an eye and ear for Americans who break with tradition, whether it be those getting ready for the end times, or vets haunted by the horrors of war, or a cowboy who chooses to live like a Native American. She also displays a pleasant way with language; early on Lance realizes he is losing his enjoyment of the simple pleasures of life: “There is no music in the soul of a man who cannot see the freshness of an early morning after a rain, or a night sky beginning the day.”
There is plenty of action here, and romance, and some sexy interludes. There is also the thread running through the narrative of Joy Ann’s mute longings for a more fulfilling relationship; yet she will not let these feelings destroy the bond she and her husband have been building for so long.
Quill says: This is the modern West at its complex best. Lance is a well-drawn hero with an eye for the ladies and the guts to take on Mother Nature and some nasty bad guys. In the end, he’s off again to chase a new kind of dream. Does this alluring story beg a sequel? Bender’s readers may well hope so.
For more information on Casanova Cowboy, please visit the author's Facebook page at Facebook.com/BenderAssoc

#BookReview - High Office Whispers @MarioDhingsa

High Office Whispers: Pleasure. Power. Pain.

By: Mario Dhingsa
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Publication Date: December 2017
ASIN: B078H48FN1
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: June 9, 2018
Author Mario Dhingsa delivers an interesting, and entertaining, read in his newest work, High Office Whispers.
Available only as an ebook, High Office Whispers is a collection of three short stories that were originally written as a radio play.  As such, it reads like a play with notations such as "Choral orchestra heard as scene introduction," or "Door closes. Mobile phone rings," to help set each scene as well as better explain various actions.  For all three stories, the year is 2011, and the place is...well, each place is somewhere very important to world events.  Now on to those stories...
The first story takes place at the Vatican and as in all three stories, revolves around just two people.  For this one, we're taken to a private meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy.  The real Berlusconi served as Prime Minister for nine years and had a controversial career with many "highlights" including a prison sentence for corruption.  In this story, Berlusconi meets with the Pope at the Pope's request. The Pope, it seems, is bothered by Berlusconi's lifestyle and his apparent ability to spread "...the seeds of sin."  The Pope wants Berlusconi to confess his sins, but will he?
In the second tale, we meet Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister of Australia and Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition (he became Prime Minister in 2013).  On opposing sides, Gillard is hopeful that the two can find middle ground from which to agree.  But Abbott is far more interested in having Gillard call him "Tony A."  Apparently, it's very important to Abbott...When Abbott starts talking about what he does to "...perform in this damn theatre of politics," things really get going.  It sounds a lot like what is happening currently in the U.S.
The final story takes place at the Kremlin between - who else - Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev (President of Russia).  Putin has called the meeting between the two, at 6 a.m., as a "catch-up" meeting to learn of recent events that he, as Prime Minister, needs to address.  Medvedev does his best to update Putin, but Putin is far more interested in manly things like taking his shirt off.  This meeting is not going to end well...
High Office Whispers is a quick read, one that you could easily do over a leisurely lunch.  The stories are quirky - definitely a bit offbeat and unusual.  They also all made me laugh, roll my eyes numerous times (in a good, "oh my" sort of way), and picture those famous people in the circumstances the author created.  It is definitely interesting to imagine what the Pope or Putin might do behind closed doors and author Mario Dhingsa has given us a humorous look that may also get you thinking about what might really go on when the cameras are gone.  As a very reasonably priced ebook, High Office Whispers is a good investment for a fun afternoon read.
Quill says: If you've ever wondered what happens with powerful people behind closed doors, check out High Office Whispers - you're sure to get a laugh.
To learn more about High Office Whispers, please visit the author's website at: authors/org.nz/author/mariodhingsa/

#AuthorInterview with Ann Crawford @ann_crawford1

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Ann Crawford, author of Life in the Hollywood Lane.
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?
CRAWFORD: My background is allllllll over the place -- literally! I've lived in all four continental time zones...from sea to shining sea to the prairie to the mountain (and, yes, I totally know I'm mixing my patriotic songs here). I've traveled to 65+ counties (and counting) as well as all 50 states. I try to bring the fascinating people I've meet and places I've been into all of my books, and they especially show up in this one.
I feel like just about everything I've done in my life prepared me to write this book. I lived in California for many years and worked for a while as a documentary filmmaker and as a talent manager. The devotion my group of actors showed to their craft and how hard they worked -- and how hard "the industry" is -- left a profound impression on me.
As I was reading through the book to finalize it, I realized that not much in my life could've been different in order to make this book the way it is. Lots of the travels I've done, people I've met, filmmaking and screenwriting classes I've taken, myriad jobs and plays and movies I've been involved with, fellas I've dated (not quite as many as Trish, though), plus a lifetime of books and articles I've read and movies I've watched, not to mention the tragedies I've faced and mistakes I've made all make an appearance in this book. It's quite a conglomeration!
FQ: Have you always enjoyed writing or is it something you’ve discovered recently?

Author Ann Crawford

CRAWFORD: I've enjoyed writing since I could hold a pen. Books were a revered item in my household as I was growing up, and I knew I'd be a writer someday.
FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.
CRAWFORD: In Life in the Hollywood Lane, Trish, a 40-year-old actor, travels the journey of grief with dedication if not always grace, learns the ins and outs of how "the industry" works, follows her dreams, and finds that this crazy life might not be as bad as she'd convinced herself it was. While this is a book about a woman whose best friend commits suicide, it's funny, quirky, wise, and inspirational--not a downer.
Taking a true tragedy and giving the path of grief its full due, while still being considered a humorous book, makes my book unique. I also provide a lot of insights into the movie industry from an insider's view.

Author Ann Crawford recording an audiobook

FQ: What was the impetus for writing your book?
CRAWFORD: I worked in talent management for a bit, and one of my actors committed suicide. A dear friend also committed suicide a number of years ago, so it's certainly something that's been on my mind. The other inspiration was falling in love with (I love very easily, LOL) and admiring all of the actors I worked with...they work so hard, are so dedicated to their craft, and are amazing being. Hollywood -- both the place and the industry -- can be so tough on people.
FQ: Please give our readers a little insight into your writing process. Do you set aside a certain time each day to write, only write when the desire to write surfaces, or …?
CRAWFORD: I find having a routine helps the writing process more than anything. I also have a special playlist that I develop for each book. So as soon as I sit down at the appointed time and turn on the appointed music, I'm like Pavlov's dog and the writing flows (well, usually...some days it's just not there and I'll go do something else).
Ideas come to me at all times of the day or night, so I keep a notepad handy. That can be a little challenging in the shower, a place where ideas really tend to come for some crazy reason. But I just summarize the idea to one word, and I can usually remember that word to write down the whole idea. If I don't do that, the idea often dissipates like a dream.
FQ: Are any of the characters based on real people you know? If so, how closely does your character mimic the real person?
CRAWFORD: As I mentioned, I worked in talent management for a bit, and one of my actors committed suicide--an utter shock to everyone who knew her. About a year later, I started writing the book based on that event and from the point of view of her best friend, but the characters are completely from my imagination and aren't based on the real people involved.
FQ: Tell us about your favorite character and why that person is your favorite.
CRAWFORD: I love Trish, the shero of this story...although Cyndi, her BFF who died, is a shero of her own journey and I definitely love her, too.
Trish is quirky, funny, playful, passionate, and dedicated to seeing her dreams come true. She's been compared to Bridget Jones more than once...so she's weepy, loopy, silly, and bit all over the place, as well. She's real, and that can be messy sometimes. But she also has a phenomenal power inside that she discovers and allows to make an appearance in her life.
I have family in Wisconsin and have spent a considerable amount of time there. When I told a family member that my book's star is from Wisconsin, she said, "And of course you made her virtuous and perfect!" (Actually, she didn't say "perfect," but something close.) I said, "Of course not! Who would want to read about someone who's totally perfect?" Trish has her faults and foibles, but she takes on her challenges and carves out a remarkable life for herself in one of the toughest industries and places to succeed. I adore this person!

Ann Crawford, also an award-winning filmmaker, on location for a movie

FQ: What was the most difficult scene to write and why?
CRAWFORD: Well, after writing about a crucifixion and a burning at the stake in other books, this was a breeze! Well, maybe not quite a breeze, but this book was far easier than those two others were.
I lost my mom at a young age. I went through a divorce. A dear friend committed suicide, as I mentioned. My brother has a terminal neurological illness and is very slowly winding down his life. Drawing on the memories of grief and adding the current grief about my brother helped me write about Trish's pain in a very real way. There are a couple of scenes where Trish is overwhelmed with her pain and screaming at the world and at her friend, and those were the hardest to write in this book...but, still, this was nothing compared to some scenes from previous books!
FQ: Was it important to you to have a plot that would keep readers guessing about the outcome?
CRAWFORD: If I'm writing a book, it's bound to be a love story! So anyone who's read a previous book knows falling in love will probably be an outcome. Many of the other elements of the outcome happen gradually throughout the book, so it wasn't too important to keep folks from guessing what would happen.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Meet Author Jo Ann Bender!


Meet the author of "Casanova Cowboy" in our new
"Meet the Authors" section!