Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Interview with Author Richard Robbins @rrobbinsbooks.com

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Richard Robbins, author of Love, Loss, and Lagniappe.
FQ: Both New Orleans and New York City are featured in your novel. What motivated you to choose these two distinct cities as the settings in your story?
ROBBINS: The novel is inspired by actual events in my life, particularly my years spent in New Orleans.  This is fortunate for the story (as well as for me!), since New Orleans is such a unique and fascinating place.  And even though the events which take place in New York are more fictional, my love and feel for that city is also evident. There are a limited number of critical characters in this novel, so it was important that each city become critical characters themselves.  Come down and visit New Orleans someday, and get off Bourbon Street and roam the rest of The Quarter and Uptown. And come hungry!
FQ: Can you explain what the word “lagniappe” means for our readers?
ROBBINS: Lagniappe is an old New Orleans term, loosely meaning “a little something extra”.  Sort of the amuse bouche of life.  I believe it’s fair to say that Mark Twain expresses it better than I can;
We picked up one excellent word—a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word—‘lagniappe.’ They pronounce it lanny-yap. It is Spanish—so they said. We discovered it at the head of a column of odds and ends in the Picayune, the first day; heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it meant the third; adopted it and got facility in swinging it the fourth. It has a restricted meaning, but I think the people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a ‘baker’s dozen.’ It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. ... If the waiter in the restaurant stumbles and spills a gill of coffee down the back of your neck, he says ‘For lagniappe, sah,’ and gets you another cup without extra charge. - Mark Twain - 1883 - Life on the Mississippi
FQ: The main character, Drew, embarks upon a long walking journey to escape and find answers, among other things. Was there ever a time when you did something similar, and if you have, what path did you take?
Author Richard Robbins
ROBBINS: I have taken a much shorter version of this walk at very emotional times in my life, such as after the death of my parents, or after receiving other bad news.  The brain takes time to sort through things, and in our increasingly hyper-connected world, I find that it’s not easy to “unplug” and let your brain work through its thoughts.  But whether it’s a long drive, time spent alone in a dark room listening to music, or a long walk, the down time helps me to sort through my thoughts.
FQ: How does your wife feel about being the inspiration for writing this story?
ROBBINS: She’s used to it.  She is the source of all that is true and beautiful in my world.  She’s the mother of my children, creator of our home, and an endless source of encouragement, forgiveness, love, and understanding. Reading the story was understandably emotional for her, but in the end, she found it life affirming and uplifting. But once is fine.  She’s happy that there are no characters based on her in the next novel.
FQ: What challenges you the most when you are writing?
ROBBINS: The main challenge for me was feeling comfortable expressing my deepest thoughts and emotions on the page where others would read them.  There were three barriers to this.  The first is that this being my first novel, I was not certain that it would be published. To open myself up and have friends and families (and my children!) exposed to my raw emotions in a work that never saw the light of day seemed questionable.  The second is that many of these characters are based on people in my life, all of which I altered with some creative license, but are still identifiable. Therefore, I was cautious with how I made their characters behave.
These two barriers also limited my ability to describe the physical relationship between Drew and Kate.  My editor asked, “Why are there no sex scenes between these two young lovers?”  In response, I reluctantly added a couple of nods in that direction, but honestly, I don’t feel that the story suffers from the lack of explicit intimate scenes.
The final challenge was allowing myself to mine the darkest moments in my life and re-live the feelings of those times.  I spent many an hour weeping in the corner of a Starbucks, drying my eyes before people started staring.
Overall, I give myself mixed grades in these areas.  I feel that I have conveyed the feelings in an emotionally honest and powerful manner. However, there may still be times when I was too cautious.  I’ve just finished the first draft of my next novel, Panicles.  Since this story is not based as directly on my life, and the characters are more loosely inspired by actual people, I have been able to loosen the reigns a good deal more.  It’s a fun, interesting, rip-roaring story, coming out next Spring or Summer.
FQ: In the story, Drew often daydreams and imagines that his younger self is looking into the future at his current self. What do you think your younger self (around age 18) would say about your current life?
ROBBINS: In the mind game Drew plays, which I often do, his younger version reacts to what he sees, which may not be what really exists. That’s a serious thought, and I want to spend some time on it.
Drew draws conclusions about his life from studying his current surroundings, which includes his home and his photos.  But those photos are literally a snapshot in time.  Have you ever watched television and had the screen freeze unexpectedly? If paused at the wrong moment, even the most beautiful actress can appear awkward, unattractive, or troubled. And a split second later, exactly the opposite way.  Which is the reality?  For photos, we curate the ones that express our chosen moments, but is that the reality, or a sanitized, idealized version of reality? This phenomenon is more present than ever with the rise of social media.  As the saying goes, “Everybody’s life looks great on Facebook.”
And the beautiful home, how real is that?  Financial overreach and foreclosures have torn families from their American Dream far too many times this decade, clouding the apparent reality.
So, what would my younger self think?  When it happens to me, and I see photos of my wife and children, on vacations under sunny skies, I smile and feel blessed.  But those skies weren’t always so sunny.  It’s just that we put our cameras away during the storms.
FQ: One of the important themes in your story is “love at first sight.” Do you believe in that concept?
ROBBINS: Oh, most definitely, yes. I believe in it from an evolutionary, scientific, and romantic way.  It may not be as simple or as strong as I portrayed here, but I am confident that it most definitely exists.
I believe the effect is multi-factorial, and exists on a spectrum.  It may be stronger for some people than others.  It very clearly depends upon environmental factors, meaning that you are more open to it at certain times of your life and in certain circumstances.  A young person at a picnic may be more open to it than a middle-aged person running late for their train.  And it can be suppressed when socially necessary.  But I have no doubt that you’ve felt it.  Otherwise you wouldn’t have read (or finished) my book.
FQ: In your biography it states that you have always had a love for telling good stories. Who are your favorite storytellers?
ROBBINS: My father and uncle were my model story tellers.  My father was a judge, and possessed an open smile and booming voice, and could light up a room with his stories.  His brother, my Uncle Buddy, was an advertising creative, and was part of the team that created many memorable commercial characters, including the Frito Bandito (would that one fly now?)
I’ve loved telling good stories, and often when something bad happens (missed flights, breakdowns by the side of the road), I’ll often say “At least we got a story out of it.”  Add a little creative license, tighten it up a bit, and we’re good to go.
The scene in California in the mud baths is based on a real story.  So is Kate’s fall into the mud on their first date.  I’ll be quiet about the others…
FQ: I read that you will be releasing a novel entitled Panicles in late 2019, of which a sneak preview is included in your current book. Are you working on anything else right now?
ROBBINS: I’ve just finished the first draft of Panicles.  The story follows the intermingling fates of two families, one wealthy and powerful, the other blue collar, through two generations of war, love, natural disasters, and family drama, leading to a fateful choice, a sacrifice which could change the course of history.
I have put it aside for a month or so to allow time for a few of my trusted readers to review and give me feedback before starting on the second draft.  In the meantime, I may work on a short story to provide for free to subscribers to the mailing list on my website, www.Robbinsbooks.com
Each of my projects is a work of love, and I want to be certain that they bring joy and happiness to their readers.  I am grateful for the time spent with my work, and am always happy to hear questions, comments, critiques, and suggestions from my readers.

Monday, September 17, 2018

#BookReview - Gift of the Shaper @iamdavejennings

Gift of the Shaper: Book One of the Highglade Series

By: D.L. Jennings
Publisher: Indigo River Publishing
Publication Date: February 2018
ISBN: 978-1948080071
Reviewed By: Kristi Eldridge
Review Date: September 17, 2018
In a small village nestled in the forest, Thornton Woods and his father Olson lived an uneventful life working as blacksmiths. Over the years his father had taught Thornton everything he knew about working with steel and fire. Even though he was still not yet at the level of skill of his father, Thornton was still given a very special hammer that previously belonged to his father, and he treasured it highly. Besides his father, Thornton’s closest friend was Miera, who harvested and sold flowers. At a young age Miera had lost both her parents, and Thornton had never known his mother, so these two shared a special bond. Along with Olson, they became their own close-knit family to fill in the gaps. 
So when Thornton’s father asked him to deliver some chains to the nearby village of Lusk, it was no surprise that he asked Miera if she wanted to travel with him. When they arrived at Lusk, Miera went off to set up her flower stand, while Thornton went to deliver the chains he and his father built. However, the place he had been told to find looks desolate and abandoned, but when he pushes open the door he finds a hooded figure there. Startled by this strange being, Thornton quickly unloads the chains, wanting to put distance between him and this disturbing place. After being paid for the chains he quickly goes to find Miera, but cannot shake the feeling that something is wrong, and they are not safe staying there.
Thornton’s fears are confirmed when after spotting Miera in the distance he notices a group of rough looking men surrounding her. As one of the men lunges to attack her, Thornton throws himself forward to protect her, and then remembers he has his hammer. With all his might he swings and connects with one of the attackers, throwing him back several feet. A surge of energy is suddenly running through Thornton’s arm, as he tries to wield the sudden power his hammer seems to have, but before he gets another chance to swing the hammer, the attackers leave. Knowing for certain they are now not safe in Lusk, Miera and Thornton pack everything up to begin their journey home.
Unfortunately, they do not make it far when they are confronted by a hooded figure, with skin that looks as if it has been badly burned. With a sinking feeling in his stomach, Thornton realizes this is not a human, but a Kyth. The Kyth have powers that allow them to control certain elements. They are also known to be ruthlessly power hungry, and this one for whatever reason wanted something from Thornton and Miera and would go to any lengths to attain it. Preparing himself for a fight, Thornton tightened his grip on the hammer, but the Kyth’s eyes suddenly flowed red with recognition as he lunged for the hammer. Instantly, a flash of black fur intercepts the Kyth and dispatches him, and Thornton comes face to face with a creature he only thought existed in his dreams...
This is an exceptional story, which grabbed my attention from the beginning and held it until the very end. The characters and creatures created by author D.L. Jennings are wonderfully thought-out, and unforgettable. The stage is set early for an exciting adventure, as within the first few chapters I could tell that this was writing I would stay up into the late hours of the night reading. In addition, the evil characters in this story are ones who made me shrink back as I read about them, and in order to have an intriguing fantasy adventure story an unnerving villain is key, and D. L. Jennings definitely delivers on that.
Quill says: There was not a point in this book where I wanted to stop reading, as every page was full of heart-pounding adventure, danger, and intrigue! 
For more information on Gift of the Shaper: Book One of the Highglade Series, please visit the author's website at: www.dl-jennings.com

Meet Author Richard Robbins @rrobbinsbooks.com

Meet author Richard Robbins at our new author biography section of Feathered Quill!  Read his bio, book review quotes and where you can purchase his new book, Love, Loss, and Lagniappe.


#BookReview - Love, Loss. and Lagniappe @rrobbinsbooks.com

Love, Loss, and Lagniappe

By: Richard Robbins
Publisher: Evolved Publishing
Publication Date: November 2018
ISBN: 978-1-62253-043-4
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: September 15, 2018
When Drew Coleman was a student at Tulane University, he spent time as a tour guide leading prospective students around the university campus. He enjoyed this time meeting new people and talking with them about university life, but never suspected that he would one day meet a girl, Kate, who would later become the love of his life. Perhaps a bit of kismet was at play, because despite the fact that Kate decided against choosing Tulane for her undergraduate studies, and several years had passed, Drew and Kate met each other again while attending Tulane medical school. Thus began a sweet courtship that the couple managed to squeeze in between classes and studying, which eventually led to them both attending parties and going on an extended vacation together.
Nearly a decade and a half later, Drew and Kate’s relationship blossomed into a wonderful, loving marriage, complete with two children of their own. Drew, an ophthalmologist and Kate, a rheumatologist, led a wonderful life together raising their children until, unfortunately, tragedy struck their perfect world, and turned it upside down completely. This came as such a powerful shock to Drew that it caused him to initially run away from the situation and eventually morph into embarking on a decade’s walking journey of self-discovery. During this time Drew not only covers a vast physical distance, meeting and interacting with some interesting characters, but he also navigates an immense philosophical distance, and is able to come out of both successfully.
Richard Robbins’ debut novel, Love, Loss and Lagniappe, is not merely a simple romance novel, as the title states, of love and loss. It is a far more complex tale that goes beyond entertainment and encourages readers to think and consider a few concepts in life and relationships such as love at first sight, and sacrifice for the good of loved ones. Detailed descriptions of the cities in which Drew lived in or traveled through paint a vivid picture throughout the novel. Those descriptions, coupled with a memorable cast of characters, will hook readers from the sweet beginning, carefully guide them through the tragic and shocking middle, and will gently take them to the bittersweet ending. Love, Loss and Lagniappe will leave readers (especially book groups) thinking about the events in this fast-paced story and how it unfolds, and asking themselves, “What would I do in this situation?” long after completion of this book.
Quill says: If you are looking for a great read with a little something extra, search no further, Love, Loss and Lagniappe is the novel for you.
For further information on Love, Loss, and Lagniappe, please visit the author's website at: www.robbinsbooks.com

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Steven E. Wilson

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Steven E. Wilson, author of The Benghazi Affair (Stone Waverly Trilogy).
FQ: Stone Waverly has certainly become a character that jumps to the forefront of readers’ minds when they think of high-action as well as patriotism. Basically…he’s a superhero with heart. Can you give us a bit of background in regards to how and when you created Stone, and if he is perhaps based on someone?
WILSON: Stone Waverly is purely fictional! I created him when I wrote the first novel in the Stone Waverly Trilogy, Winter in Kandahar. Actually, in that novel he was a secondary protagonist to the Tajik fighter Ahmed Jan, but the response was so good to him in that novel, that I decided to bring him back as the protagonist in my second novel Ascent from Darkness. He didn’t fit as a character in my third novel The Ghosts of Anatolia. Then, I got so many emails and letters asking me, “What happened to Stone Waverly?” I decided to write The Benghazi Affair with him again as protagonist. I’m so pleased I did that now!
FQ: Everyone certainly has their own outlooks on politics, the government, etc. How do you feel in regards to current situations, such as: kneeling at a football game during the National Anthem; the political world such as it is today; secrecy of government? Is there one subject going on in the world today that you wish people would focus more of their attention upon?
Dr. Wilson on the double-decker
tour bus in NY City
WILSON: I agree with great athletes like Jim Brown and Dak Prescott who say the time during the playing of the US National Anthem is not the time to kneel or protest. I’m one of those who is turned off to the NFL because of it. Thankfully, I can get my football fix from college football. Go Buckeyes!
I wish we would focus more of our attention on what is going on right now in places like Libya, where there is a fight to the death still occurring between normal Libyans, who want to live in peace and raise their families, and jihadists, most of whom are not even Libyans, who want to take over the country and use it as a base for their nefarious purposes. Does that ring a bell? It is very similar to what happened in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. This same scenario is being played out in many other countries around the world. Nigeria, Iraq and, of course, Syria come to mind. These are all difficult situations, and I’m not saying we should base large numbers of American soldiers in these places, but I hope we do all we can to make sure the jihadists don’t have these bases to use to attack the US in the future. I think we are covertly doing just that with Special Forces groups and I hope those efforts continue and are boosted.
FQ: Your academic career has allowed you the ability to travel to many of the places you write about. Is there one location that particularly affected you? If so, how did it perhaps help your stories get from the mind to paper?
WILSON: I would say my three trips to Saudi Arabia had the most impact on me. I visited there three times to give medical lectures at King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital in Riyadh between 1994 and 2007. I have a lot of admiration for the Saudi people and new hope with the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, but seeing first-hand the women fully-covered in black with only a slit for their eyes, the ever-present religious police ruthlessly enforcing the numerous rules about garments and behavior, all the restaurants having individual rooms for each family so women could uncover their faces to eat, etc. really reinforced how lucky my family was to live in America. My last trip there was during February of 2007, during the week three French tourists were murdered by terrorists in the Saudi desert. The following day, I was sitting in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in Riyadh talking and drinking coffee with several other speakers when Saudi troops armed-to-the-teeth rushed through the door and ordered us to our rooms. Through my room curtains, I saw armored vehicles parked outside the hotel with dozens of soldiers rushing about and helicopters hovering overhead. This chaos lasted for two hours and during this time I heard soldiers running down the hall outside my room door several times. Finally, the soldiers abruptly left, and we were allowed out of our rooms. Nobody ever told us what was happening, and this incident left me feeling unsettled and unsafe for the remainder of my trip (that was my last trip to Saudi Arabia!). During an earlier trip, I went to dinner with Saudi and foreign doctors who worked at King Khaled Eye Hospital and several other invited speakers. My escort for the evening was a German doctor named Franz who did corneal surgery at the hospital. After dinner, I walked with Franz across the street from the restaurant to where his car was parked and suddenly Franz dove beneath it. I said, “Franz, what are you doing?” He replied with urgency, “I’m checking for bombs.” These experiences, and many others in Saudi Arabia and other countries in that part of the world, really impacted me and motivated me to learn more about, and ultimately write about, countries of the Middle East and Central Asia.
FQ: You speak a bit in your book about the heroism of Pat Tillman. Do you have your own particular muse or hero that you look up to that helps when it comes to taking on these tougher subjects?
WILSON: There are many historical and current Americans, including Pat Tillman, that I admire. There are also many citizens of other countries for whom I have the highest regard. One who has inspired me is Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Commander Massoud earned his moniker The Lion of Panjshir by repeatedly leading his fighters to victory over the Soviet Army in the Panjshir Valley in northern Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. He also had a major role in preventing the Taliban from taking over all of Afghanistan during the 1990s. He was assassinated on 9/9/2001, two days before 9/11, by two fake reporters with a bomb in their TV camera who were al-Qaeda agents. Many believe his assassination was part of the overall 9/11 plan and the Taliban and al-Qaeda hoped his killing would allow them to overrun all of Afghanistan before US reprisals that were sure to follow. I encourage everyone to read one of the fascinating books written about this truly remarkable man. He’s enthralling in the same way T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) was enthralling. You might guess that one of my dreams is for the novels of The Stone Waverly Trilogy to become motion pictures. Sony Pictures had an interest in Winter in Kandahar when it first came out, but nothing came of it. I still have that pipedream!
FQ: If there was one writer you could sit and have dinner with, who would that be and why? Is there one particular question you would love for them to answer?
Dr Wilson with his beloved German Shepard
Stella when she was a puppy
WILSON: That’s a tough one! There are many I admire. But if I had to pick one, it would be Frederick Forsyth the author of The Day of the JackalThe Odessa File, and many other novels. Actually, there are parallels between Forsyth’s character Peter Miller in The Odessa File and my character Spaceman in The Benghazi Affair that readers of both novels may appreciate. I would love to ask Frederick about his first efforts to begin writing novels and getting them published. I’m sure that would be fascinating.
FQ: Social media certainly runs most every industry in the world today, writing being one of them. Would you consider yourself “good” at keeping up with social media? If you could tell up-and-coming writers something they should do and something they should avoid in this area in order to make their career, what would that advice be?
WILSON: No, I’m terrible with social media. I have a Facebook page for my novels, but I rarely go to it. I don’t communicate with friends through social media. I prefer talking, email or text messages. I don’t do Twitter, Snap Chat, etc., and I didn’t allow my children to have Facebook or any other accounts on social media until they were eighteen. Social media does some good, I guess, but I see so many abuses and I hate hearing stories about young people being abducted and abused by fiends who find them on social media, people who commit suicide after being bullied on social media, etc. I think for many people it comes to dominate their lives in ways that are not healthy.
I guess I would tell an up-and-coming writer to use social media wisely to promote their books but to be careful about how much of their day they spend on it. Read, read, read, write, write, write and travel, travel, travel, instead.
FQ: What are the difficulties when it comes to making a series character? Do you have a preference over writing series versus standalone fiction?
Author Steven E. Wilson and his family
WILSON: I didn’t start out intending to write The Stone Waverly Trilogy. Each of my novels in that series can stand alone. Yes, if you read all three, there are references to people or events in Winter in Kandahar or Ascent From Darkness that you will find in The Benghazi Affair, and perhaps give you a few aha moments. Also, in reading all three, I believe Stone Waverly’s motivations and character come into better focus, but I think each can also be a standalone fiction. Having said that, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Lewis’s The Chronicals of Narnia are among my favorites of all time. It’s hard enough to write a single book. I can’t begin to imagine how one plans and executes a series like those. Perhaps when Tolkien or Lewis started out they didn’t imagine what they would eventually ended up with, but then again, for Tolkien, there was The Hobbit to get him started.
FQ: Stone’s trilogy has come to an end and I would be in trouble with readers if I did not ask…what’s next? Are you working on a new project currently? In addition, is there a chance Stone will reappear again in the future?
WILSON: Well, it’s possible that Stone Waverly will return, but not in sequence to the other three, I don’t think. At spots in the three novels of the trilogy there are references to Stone Waverly’s earliest days as a CIA operative in Afghanistan…to a time he worked and got himself in trouble with Commander Ahmad Massoud in the Panjshir Valley during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Currently, I am reading everything I can get my hands on about that war and about Commander Ahmad Massoud. But before I could begin to write such a novel and do it justice, I would need an extended visit to the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan. That’s a place where I’ve never traveled but always wanted to visit. I’m plotting that adventure…but don’t tell my wife!

#AuthorInterview with Dan Morales @dm_312

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Dan Morales, author of Operation Archangel: The Scouts of St. Michael.
FQ: Thanks very much for your time today Mr. Morales. As cliché as this question may sound, I’m curious to know what inspired you in selecting the subject matter for this book?
MORALES: Thank you so much for having me. I was inspired by a true story I read, about a young British Boy Scout during WWII whose job it was to deliver secret messages between Local Defence Volunteers (later the Home Guard) bases on his roller skates. He was such an integral part of the team that the MOD actually requisitioned him new wheels when his wore thin.
My idea came to me in its simplest form: The Boy Scouts vs. the Hitler Youth. How could I pit these two very alike yet very different groups against each other? I just let my imagination run wild and asked a lot of “what if” and followed where the questions led. The result was Operation Archangel. Dreaming up the idea was the easy part. Turning it into a believable story that fit into actual history? That was a bit harder.
FQ: In line with Question 1, what were your ‘go to’ resources to capture accuracy for the premise of the story?
MORALES: All my research. I read lots of books. I watched dozens of hours of YouTube videos and movies. Scouting for Boys by Lord Robert Baden-Powell, like the handbook which my character Reggie carries in his back pocket, was always close by for reference. I went through two outliners just marking the bits which sparked something cool. Wikipedia is another invaluable source. My bookmarks are filled with links to pages about both the BS and the HY. I had to learn as much about one group as the other. As Sun Tzu in The Art of War said, “Know thy enemy, know thy self, and in a thousand battles, a thousand victories.” He also said “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” But that’s a line for another book. (Hint hint)
FQ: Why select six orphaned boys as the mainstay for your characters? Were there real young men who were your template in creating the fictitious characters?
Author Dan Morales
MORALES: That’s a great question. When I first started working on the story, I was a bit conflicted by the number of boys and the ages of each. I just figured on six, four teenagers and two almost teenagers. Having read some of the Harry Potter series, I knew that having more than three protagonists would take a lot of figuring out. I didn’t want one character to outshine or steal the spotlight away from any of the others, but I wanted each to be as fully developed as I could write them. Keeping track of character arcs, characteristics, where each fit in the story or into a specific scene became a kind of a giant balancing act.
Also, it’s historically correct. Orphans are parentless, so it was thought that their training officers would imprint on them as father figures whom they would strive to please, so they were specifically considered for covert agent training. Plus, as orphans, as cold as it sounds, they’re wards of the king, so to speak, and he could do with them as he pleased. Like sending them deep into Nazi Germany. Not that he would have. This is fiction after all.
FQ: Were you a boy scout and if so, is there a specific memory of your experience that stands out that you can share?
MORALES: This book is the adventure I was looking for and thought I would find when I joined Cub Scouts. I advance from Cub Scouts to Webelo but I didn’t advance beyond that. I never made it to the actual Boy Scouts and it’s one my biggest regrets. I would love to be counted among the exclusive ranks of Eagle Scouts everywhere. My experience was a far cry from the action and adventure faced by the scouts in my story, I certainly never had the chance to shoot down a German dive bomber. I spent more time making crafts and helping with community projects. Hats off to my den mother Mrs. Lis, St. Albert the Great Troop 3481. She did a great job.
I guess my biggest memory from that time was telling my troopmate Tim where babies come from. I had just learned myself. Mrs. Lis was none too happy with me that day. That woman was a saint for putting up with me.
FQ: It would seem you have a fair amount of knowledge of paratroopers. Did you serve in the military and more specifically, did you have occasion to jump from aircraft during your service?
MORALES: I have no military experience, another regret. I think military service would have done me good and helped me mature much sooner than I did, if I even have. I think the brotherhood is also an important aspect that I missed. I don’t know if I would have qualified for the jump boots, but I would have tried. I got a ton of material from resources I found online. The British government did a fantastic job of training their military, paratroopers included. They created hours of training films, footage that I watched during my research phase. If you fall down the rabbit hole and start digging, YouTube has some rich content to mine.
FQ: The story is set in a small town in Kent, England. Have you been to the area? If so, what resonated with you most while there? If not, what was your process in developing such depth?
MORALES: No, I’m sorry to say I’ve haven’t been to England yet, aside from an airport layover when I was 10. To be quite honest, I just looked at a map and the name Hawkhurst jumped out at me. A quick search on the internet informed me of the rich, infamous history behind this little village in Kent. I visited Hawkhurst ‘virtually’ and instantly fell in love with St. Laurence Church in the Moor. It’s the inspiration for the fictional St. Michael’s of my story.
There’s also a wonderful film from 1946 called A Matter of Life and Death,starring David Niven and Kim Hunter, a kind of romantic-fantasy WWII story set in a small English village. It’s an amazing movie. In it, the village doctor has this device in his office that allows him observe the entire village from overhead, a bit like Google Streetview. Those images helped inspire and inform my version of Hawkhurst.
FQ: I’m fascinated with this period of history. We are decades beyond the evil of Hitler, yet it is a deep well to draw endless fodder for penning a terrific read. Were there ever moments where you lost steam and if so, how did you overcome the block to continue forward?
MORALES: J.K. has said, as a writer, you have to steel yourself to the fact that you are going to write a lot of rubbish. There is nothing that can be done but write it out of your system. At moments when I got stuck I would walk away from it and go back to digging in my research, learning more about the time, place, people, politics, etc. I believe in the power of my subconscious to do some of the work for me, as long as I give it enough to work with. Once I fill my head, it all gets jumbled around and hopefully comes out as something I can put to paper. But that’s not something I can control, so I have to practice patience with myself and keep writing the rubbish out so the good stuff can rise to the surface.
FQ: Off topic for a moment. Your credentials are impressive and given the relevance, I wonder what your views are toward today’s climate concerning the accuracy (or inaccuracies) of reporting in general.
MORALES: The first of the Scout Laws is “A scout is trustworthy.” There’s a reason it’s first because all else flows from it. If you aren’t honest and truthful, you aren’t worthy of trust. People who live by the truth have nothing to hide or fear. Liars lie for a reason. When they do it repeatedly and habitually, they have a mental disorder or something to hide. It’s fairly simple. In today’s over-saturated media environment, one must constantly consider the source of information, and if that source is worthy of trust or has something to gain by perpetuating a lie or propaganda.
FQ: In your acknowledgments, you list a handful of people who were key in assisting in the creation of this story. Were any of your fictitious characters fashioned after any of these real people?
MORALES: There is one and I gave him his own name in the novel. My nephew was the inspiration for the Warrant Officer character of the same name. He was my first nephew and I’m very proud of the fine young man he’s grown into. It was he who I was picturing the whole time I was writing that character. He’s the model on the cover of my book who’s wearing the blue RAF tunic as part of his uniform.
FQ: Without establishing a spoiler, you leave an open end to this story. Does this mean there is a sequel in the future?
MORALES: See answer to question 2.  Short answer: Yes. Long answer: After a lot more work and some good luck. Book two On Unholy Ground (working) is underway.
FQ: Again, I want to thank you for delivering such an engaging read. What’s next? Are you able to give us a glimpse?
MORALES:  You’re quite welcome. Thank you again for giving me the opportunity. I really wish I knew what was next. I plan on writing more novels and trying to engage as many readers as I can with my Scouts of St. Michael series. I think it has real franchise potential (of course every writer feels that way about their book) but if people keep using the word cinematic to describe it, who knows. Maybe someday the right person will pick it up and it’ll be Netflix series -- here we come. Stranger things have happened.

#BookReview - Claire's Last Secret

Claire's Last Secret

By: Marty Ambrose
Publisher: Severn House
Publication Date: September 2018
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8797-9
Reviewed by: Janice Ladendorf
Review Date: September 11, 2018
Claire's Last Secret is an historical mystery that features English writers. In the summer of 1816, a literary circle gathered in Geneva, Switzerland. It included Percy Pysshe Shelley and George Gordon, Lord Byron, as well as Mary Shelly and John Polidori. This is the summer that Mary Shelley had written Frankenstein and John Polidori had written The Vampire. The story is told by Mary's stepsister, Claire Clairmont, who was another member of their circle.
Each chapter in this story moves back and forth between the same two time periods and locations. The first one begins in 1873 in Florence, Italy, where Claire is living in genteel poverty with her niece and her niece's daughter. The other time period in this novel is 1816, a time when Claire had already been one of Byron's lovers in England and was now carrying his child. Claire named their daughter Allegra and had been told this child had died when she was five years old, but Claire had never been sure if Allegra had really died at that time.
In 1873, Claire receives a letter from her old friend, Edward Trelawny, who advised her to expect a visit from William Michael Rossetti. He was interested in purchasing some of her most cherished possessions, such as letters from Shelly, Mary, and Byron. By the time Claire discovers that Rossetti was one of Polidori's nephews (Polidori was Byron's personal doctor and a man Claire regarded as her enemy), she had already begun searching her memories for what had actually happened back in 1816. When she began dickering with Rossetti, her personal priest and confessor was suddenly murdered.
Claire is a fascinating character and lived in an age when her independence was not accepted or valued. The one love of her life had been Bryon, but the one who now supported her in Italy was Shelley. The author has obviously researched not only Claire's life, but all that happened in that one eventful summer in 1816. The narrative is supported by a short note at the end of each chapter written by a contemporary observer. 
Quill says: A well-written book which will be enjoyed by Shelley and Bryon fans, as well as those who like historical mysteries.