Tuesday, October 16, 2018

#BookReview - Love is the Answer, God is the Cure @godisthecure1

Love is the Answer, God is the Cure

By: Aimee Cabo Nikolov
Publisher: Inspirational Books Publishing
Publication Date: August 2018
ISBN: 978-0-692-15958-3
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: October 15, 2018
Aimee Cabo Nikolov’s memoir, Love is the Answer, God is the Cure, is a story of true grit, courage and impenetrable faith.
Aimee Cabo Nikolov chronicles her life experiences of tragedy, horror and despicable accounts; yet, throughout her memoir, she consistently weaves a sublime and solid insistence of faith and perseverance. Her story begins with memories of happy times as a young child who was born in Miami. A Cuban American, when she was just three years old, she and her three siblings moved to the Dominican Republic with their mother. Perhaps the reason wasn’t a happy one, but it’s what her mother chose to do because she left her husband and their father. While in medical school, the author's mother met three Cuban men. Their names were David, Antonio and Andres. Ms. Nikolov’s recollection of David: “…always nice to all of us, and we liked him… but my mother was not sure about David…” Nikolov didn’t have much to say about Antonio, but then there was Andres. While sitting around the table one evening, her mother presented the question to her children: “…Who should I marry? Andres or David? ...” Nikolov recounts how her siblings immediately pick David because he was ‘the fun one.’ Yet Nikolov felt sorry for Andres and was the only one to vote for him. 
As Nikolov’s memoir gains momentum, it is difficult to imagine there weren’t many times throughout the story that she reflected on that moment of championing her vote for Andres. There are countless instances of blatant and savage abuse—too many to address in a one-page review. Tantamount to Nikolov’s unwavering faith during years of sexual, mental and physical abuse is her analogy: "…a monstrous bull, sent by the devil, came charging at me. Behind me was a small, fragile wooden dog house. I knew the dog house could not stand up against this bull and instead, I decided to kneel in front of it because I knew that if I sought shelter within the house, it would just fall to pieces once the bull charged. I had a lot of faith and I remembered my mother saying, 'If you seek God, He will help you.' So, in my dream, I got down on my knees and asked God to save me. The bull, his nostrils fuming and his large, scary horns, was now coming at me with all his power. I knew my hideout would shatter but I did not give up hope and I prayed fervently. That’s when the bull stopped in front of me and lay down to go to sleep…”
Aimee Cabo Nikolov’s memoir is one of the most disturbing accounts I’ve read in many years. I am in absolute awe of this woman’s tenacious style in capturing the essence through words of how she faced her demons and recounts the horrors of a childhood that was unquestionably ripped from her by her parents. Through graphic and succinct prose, she plants her pen solidly from page to page and shares intimate details of wrongs with unfathomable depth and detail. In my opinion, we are a society drawn to memoirs of iconic Hollywood types or war criminals or psychopathic dregs of society. The fame tied to the subject draws the audience in. Rarely do we hear the story of one of, in my opinion, many innocent unknowns who have been robbed of their youth and left with the burden of physical and emotional scars they must carry the remainder of their lives. I thank Ms. Nikolov for her profound writing in telling her horrific truths. I also commend her for the bravery in doing so. She certainly exposed the monsters who surrounded (and continue to surround) her life through the power of her pen. Exceptional writing!
Quill says: Love is the Answer, God is the Cure is not only an apropos title, but it’s also a beacon of light to shine on how to overcome and cope with egregious tragedies bestowed upon a human life.
For more information on Love is the Answer, God is the Cure, please visit the author's website at: www.godisthecure.com

Thursday, October 11, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Sandra Worsham @seworsham1

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Sandra Worsham, author of Patterns: Stories.

FQ: How place-specific (Southern) did you envision these stories to be?
WORSHAM: I intended for these stories to take place in the Southern town of Milledgeville, Georgia, home of Flannery O’Connor and my hometown. It is a real town, of course, but in my mind it is also a fictional town which overlays the real one. Milledgeville was the antebellum capital of Georgia, and the history here is palpable. I grew up in a segregated society, and the first words I learned to read were “white” and “colored.” My life in Milledgeville is a story; no, many stories which I will write and write as long as I live.
FQ: Are there situations depicted that could only happen in the South?
WORSHAM: I believe that, while the characters and settings take place in the South and have a southern flavor, the situations and themes could happen anywhere. Death, loss, jealousy, envy, prejudice—these are not exclusive to the South.
FQ: Was there an intention to weave the same or similar characters into the different stories (example, Lauren)?
WORSHAM: Yes. I hope that these are connected stories, joined by the characters and the place. At the same time, writing one story doesn’t prepare you to write the next, for each story is a different journey, a different way of looking at the same character, the same place.
FQ: You write a lot about death; is this something that has touched you, as it seems, deeply and more than once?
WORSHAM: I believe that loss is the most difficult part of life. I have had many losses in my life, beginning with a favorite aunt when I was in the eighth grade. I remember wondering how one was supposed to act when “going over to the house.” Was I supposed to “look sad”? Children don’t know how to process death. Then the other losses followed, my father when I was a Freshman in college, my mother, my closest friend Teeny, other aunts, and finally, friends my own age. I’ve learned that no one death teaches you to handle the next, for they are all different. You may know that the death is coming, but the loss is always a surprise. Death is something I stare at with wonder and a sense of awe.
FQ: The shoe in the first story injects whimsy into an otherwise sad situation. Where did you get that idea?
WORSHAM: My friends and I actually did pass around the shoe at the time that our friend Carmen was dying with pancreatic cancer. That story is very autobiographical, what you might call a “found” story. I just strengthened the connection between the two.
FQ: You posit a group of female couples bonded like a family in Milledgeville. Is this a kind of camaraderie you have experienced?
WORSHAM: Yes, and we consider ourselves very lucky to have one another. We don’t believe that what we have exists everywhere. When I first “came out” at age sixty-three, I was welcomed into the group. Now my wife Letha and I are part of this group. We meet at a local restaurant every Tuesday, and there are usually 15-20 women there. When someone gets sick, everyone rallies round, giving support. I remember early in my time of being with this group, I thought, “This is like a Baptist Sunday School class!”
My memoir, Going to Wings, published in 2017, is the story of this group, as well as the real losses I have experienced in my life.
FQ: The illustrations are quite striking though non-representational; how did you choose the ”right” one for each story?
WORSHAM: When the publisher saw Letha’s drawings, he immediately wanted them included. I left it up to Letha to match the drawings with the stories, and I think she did fit them together well. Look closer.
FQ: Do you have plans to keep Milledgeville as a setting for future works, as other writers have done successfully (example, William Faulkner with Yoknapatawpha County)?
WORSHAM: Yes, I do, like Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. Milledgeville is the home of Flannery O’Connor, and I recognize her characters in mine. My head is filled with the fictional Milledgeville and its characters, some of them based on the real Milledgeville and its “characters.” Since I live here, I will never run out of stories.

#BookReview - Patterns: Stories @seworsham1

Patterns: Stories

By: Sandra Worsham
Publisher: Third Lung Press
Publication Date: June 2018
ISBN: 978-0692121481
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: October 10, 2018
Women are the focus of most of the stories in Sandra Worsham’s collection of quiet, astute observations of emotion in action, life resurgent as friends and family pass, ambitions crashed, hopes dashed and hopes rehashed.
The book gets immediate traction with the tale of “The Traveling Shoe,” in which a group of female couples try to evoke smiles as one of their number slowly fades from incurable disease. Her courage and her friends’ ability to make each other laugh give the tragedy a sweet side. In “The Washer’s Husband,” a nice guy named Henry is forced to endure his wife’s obsession with cleanliness that finally leads to her dumping out his small drawer full of cherished objects. When he asks her if she’s going to be washing every day of their life together, he reports, “Her face became a veil.” 
“The Second Mrs. Willis” is a young woman trapped in a loveless, moneyless, boring marriage to her out-of-work former English teacher, whose ennui is contrasted with the religious zeal of the heroine’s stepfather, a self-styled, annoyingly fanatical Preacher. A hairstylist argues with her sister over possession of a mother’s favorite, and only, boy doll, while privately mulling her recent, rather exciting discovery that she likes making love to girls. 
Worsham resides in the town of Milledgeville, Georgia, and has used this as the literal setting for about half of these offerings. Though some of the stories could take place in Anywhere, USA, others are redolent of the southern ambience. In “The Vacuum Cleaner,” the satisfying last long story of the aggregation, Worsham takes an up-close look at Southern culture in the multigenerational relationships among a mother, daughter, and maid, all of whom share admiration for a fancy Hoover. “Esther’s Real People” is a smile-evoking stream-of-consciousness rant written in delightfully southern cadence, from a woman who was sucked into a Mary Kay-type cosmetic sales career, until disillusionment seeped in and she’s back at her supermarket job. Some of the stories are wrapped around an impending death; others revisit the conflicts of a problematic childhood as they are revived in a confused or problem-laden adulthood. There is a sense of purposeful mystery in Worsham’s composition, as some characters seem to inhabit more than one scenario; and there are repeated phrases - notably the plaintive, relationship-baggage-laden query, “Is everything alright? Between us?”
All of Worsham’s stories open and close with complex pen and ink drawings created by her partner, illustrator Letha Hawkins. Worsham has garnered success with her short pieces, published in Chattahoochee Review and Carolina Quarterly among others, and an award-winning memoir, Going to Wings. She has a strong prose sense and the enviable ability to convert a mundane object like a vacuum cleaner, a doll or a shoe into a potent symbol. 
Quill says: This is intelligent, introspective storytelling with some wry and even hilarious moments, centered on real people and their real dreams and fantasies. 
For more information Patterns: Stories, please visit the author's website at: www.sworsham.com.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Feathered Quill #BookAwards

Feathered Quill Book Awards - Have you nominated your book yet? Awards sell books and having an award sticker on your book from a well-respected award program will help your book get noticed. 

"I consider your site to be one of the few where it is a challenge to gain an award. Many sites offer, sometimes, a hundred categories, which is a bit crowded in my opinion." - Michael Kasenow, Author of Something's Bound to Happen, 2017 Gold Winner in the Best Poetry Category

Don't wait! Get your book nominated today. Learn more and nominate at: 

Monday, October 8, 2018

#BookReview - Riding Standing Up @sparrowauthor

Riding Standing Up: A Memoir

By: Sparrow Spaulding
Publisher: Cage Free Publishing
Publication Date: July 2018
ISBN: 978-1732451209
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: October 7, 2018
By all accounts, Sparrow Spaulding had a wonderful early life filled with a loving and caring family. Unfortunately, it all came to a screeching halt at the tender age of three when she was kidnapped and taken from her mother for over a year. The after effects of this traumatic event followed her throughout her life. 
Author Sparrow Spaulding skillfully pens a raw, no-holds-barred account of her life after her return to her mother, who, despite being a beautiful woman, suffered from a mental illness that left her unable to truly meet the physical and emotional needs of any of her children, including Sparrow. A mother who was more concerned with her numerous husbands, cigarettes and prescription medications than with providing a clean, loving home. Meanwhile, her father, who suffered from his own quirky issues, divorced her mother, and moved onto a new life that included several moves over the years, and a new stepmother for Sparrow and her siblings. Visiting them every summer was also a mix of both negative and positive experiences, that eventually grew to being mostly positive, as Sparrow matured.
What this reader particularly found refreshing while reading Riding Standing Up, is that the author, despite being raised in an obviously dysfunctional family by less than stellar parents (she once compared her family to the Munsters, where she felt like Marilyn, the only normal one), still managed to pull herself up by her bootstraps and persevered. There is no wallowing in self-pity, and the author is not looking for sympathy when she recounts the often horrifying, yet sometimes a bit funny, events in her childhood.
Sparrow Spaulding’s writing is excellent and she is wonderfully adept at recounting the events in her life so vividly that you will feel like you’re experiencing all of her highs, lows, and even the “melty moments” as you follow along. A few readers may get lost somewhere in the middle of this memoir when the author describes the antics of her teenage years, riddled with boys and sex, but this should not dissuade anyone from diving into this memoir and experiencing every chapter. In fact, this book is for everyone, regardless of their own childhood. Even if you had a fairytale experience, you may learn something about someone else’s experiences that you will find inspiring in your current life. Those readers with their own imperfect upbringings will be comforted knowing that, despite living in chaos and drama, you’re not alone and you can successfully move past the hard times and come out, perhaps a bit banged up, but still stronger in the end. 
Quill says: Riding Standing Up is a gritty, coming-of-age memoir filled with bits of love and heartache, but most importantly perseverance.
For more information on Riding Standing Up, please visit the author's website at: www.sparrowspaulding.com

#BookReview - The Last Rhino

The Last Rhino

By: Deborah Stevenson
Illustrated by: Morgan Spicer
Publisher: Frog Prince Books
Publication Date: September 2018
ISBN: 978-1732541047
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: October 2018
Ayubu (pronounced ah-YOO-boo) is a baby rhino living on the African savanna. Under his mother's careful watch, he romps along the open grasslands and plays with friends at the local watering hole. Life is good for Ayubu, but that is all about to change...
While Ayubu plays in the water, it's not just his mother that keeps an eye on him, but also Imari, a cattle egret who removes the insects and ticks from the rhinos' backs. In exchange, the egret alerts the rhinos to danger that he can spot while flying high above the savannah. Ayubu notices that his mother and Imari are always on the lookout for danger, and he quickly learns that they fear not just lions and other carnivores, but also human poachers. 
One evening, while listening to a story about his father and sister (who had been lost to poachers), Ayubu is startled when a herd of springboks come flying by them. "Poachers," screams Imari and they are all instantly on their feet and running for the safety of the brush. A narrow escape from the humans teaches Ayubu to always be on guard but unfortunately, it isn't long before his mother falls victim to the humans' appetite for rhino horns.
The bulk of The Last Rhino follows Ayubu as he grows up without his mother by his side, and shares exploits with his new best friend Raziya, a baby elephant. They go on fun adventures, meet a pair of very goofy monkeys, and even stumble upon a pride of lions. Of course, the presence of poachers is always of concern, and as Ayubu matures, and his horn grows, the danger becomes more pressing. A final showdown, where Ayubu will risk everything to help his dear friend Raziya, brings the story to a final, satisfying ending, and will have children clutching the pages to see what happens...
The Last Rhino is an early-reader chapter book that quickly engages the reader with a fun story. The writing is crisp, the dialogue believable (as long as you are willing to believe that animals talk and play "I Spy"), and the important message about conservation isn't thrust upon the reader but gently becomes a part of the story. The death of Ayubu's mother is handled perfectly, with her falling into a poacher's pit and that is the last we see of her. There are lovely drawings throughout, and on the pages between chapters where there is no text, the publisher has covered the page with a pretty African pattern. Finally, at the back of the book are several informational pages, including a page with proper pronunciation of the African names in the story, fun facts about rhinos, about symbiosis with birds, and what the reader can do to help rhinos. This book is the "total package" for young readers to learn about, and learn to care about, rhinos. 
Quill says: The Last Rhino is an excellent book for young readers who will discover a fun story that also teaches a very important lesson about conservation. After reading this book, they will be inspired to help and armed with the information at the back of the book, they'll know how to get started on their quest to save the rhinos. 
For more information on The Last Rhino, please visit the publisher's website at: www.FrogPrinceBooks.net

#BookReview - Norman @NormantheButton


By: Michelle Olson
Illustrated by: Brian Kester
Publisher: Bellie Button Books
Publication Date: October 2018
ISBN: 978-1732370708
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: October 6, 2018
Norman is a little red button who loved his job of keeping a coat closed, and keeping the person wearing said coat warm and comfortable. But that was all about to change...
The perfect job, and perfect life, that Norman had enjoyed all changed when the thread that held him in place started to come loose. He dangled and hung on, but soon, the thread broke and Norman tumbled to the ground. Without his job of keeping a coat closed and the person wearing the coat warm, he felt lost. He wandered about, not knowing what to do. Eventually he decided it was time to find a new job. But what?
Norman decided the best job would be one that would benefit the world the most. What could that be? The first job that came to mind was being a superhero. Now that sounded like fun! Norman rushed off to his parents' house to make his costume but when it was done, well, he just didn't look like a brave, fearless, fighter-of-crime superhero. It would never work. So what could he do? Next up, Norman thought of being a photographer. Wouldn't people love seeing photos taken from a button's perspective? Well, actually, it turns out that no, people wouldn't like those pictures. Would Norman ever find the right job?
When I first came upon Norman, I wondered how interesting a book about a button could be...surely, not very interesting. Boy was I wrong! What a great book. The story, while using the popular theme of "finding yourself," goes about it in a truly unique way. The story has plenty of "goofy" thrown in that kids will love, with silly comments and photographs. For example, Norman decides to become a dog walker because, "They're just dogs...how hard can it be?" But when the reader turns the page, there's a photo of Norman, head down in the mud, clutching a dog's leash for dear life, with the accompanying text, "Apparently, it was very hard, especially for someone only two inches tall." And speaking of the photographs, they are the stars of this book! Fantastic photos of a simple red button (with eyes and eyebrows added through the magic of Photoshop), doing all sorts of things, truly make this book unique. If you want the perfect bedtime story that both children AND parents will enjoy, check out Norman - you won't be disappointed.
Quill says: An absolutely unique, fun, and delightful story of a little button who lost his way. 
For more information on Norman, please visit the author's website at: www.michelle-olson.com

#BookReview - The Patchwork Bride

The Patchwork Bride

By: Sandra Dallas
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: June 2018
ISBN: 978-1250174031
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: October 4, 2018
Just like the art of fine quilting, Sandra Dallas stitches together fine writing in her latest novel, The Patchwork Bride.
Ellen is working on the wedding quilt she is making for her granddaughter’s wedding. She’s nearly finished and cannot wait to gift the quilt to her. Unfortunately, bride-to-be June has cold feet and her uncertain heart leads her to her grandma Ellen and grandpa Ben’s ranch. It’s not that June doesn’t love her fiancĂ©. She’s just not sure he’s the one for the rest of her life. What if there’s someone else she is destined to spend the rest of her life with? After all, she thought her mother and father would be together forever and that didn’t happen.
When June wakes up the next morning, she wanders to the kitchen for a long visit with her grandmother. She loves the quilt she made but wonders if she’ll ever be the bride to receive it. Ellen decides it’s time to share the story of ‘Nellie Blue Eyes’ with her granddaughter. It turns out Nellie was a lot like her granddaughter in that she left her Kansas home and ventured to the high plains of New Mexico Territory in 1897 in search of a husband. The thing is, once Nellie arrives and thinks she meets the future husband of her dreams, she ends up running away from marriage twice before finding the one true love of her life. Through a series of mishaps, broken hearts and a lot of lessons in between, Ellen manages to impart a fair amount of sage wisdom on her granddaughter in hopes she will make the right decision when it comes to her wedding day, whenever that may be.
Sandra Dallas has served up a sweet story of true love. She uses main character, Ellen, as her storyteller and guides the reader through a series of stories about one, biscuit shooting cowgirl known as Nell. Ms. Dallas demonstrates a natural flair for storytelling and her audience will effortlessly turn the pages of this engaging story. Her characters are full of life and the dialogue is credible with the late 1800’s period. Tales of shenanigans and tomfoolery are bountiful, and the light shines bright on many ‘runaway bride’ moments. ‘Nellie Blue Eyes’ experiences will have the reader chuckling in one moment and questioning her motivations in the next. This heartfelt story is not predictable, and the ending is superbly done in ‘I gotcha’ fashion. I will have to make a point to go back and read more of Ms. Dallas’ work. Well done. I am a fan!
Quill Says: The Patchwork Bride is a fun and whimsical read.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Helena P. Schrader @helenapschrader

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Helena P. Schrader, author of
Rebels Against Tyranny: Civil War in the Crusader States.
FQ: Your works of fiction and non-fiction over the last 15+ years have been incredible. Can you speak to readers about what first led you down the path to focusing on the crusader states?
SCHRADER: Thank you! I work very hard on my writing, devoting the bulk of my “free” time to researching, writing and now marketing my books. So it is very rewarding to hear you think my works are “incredible.” Thank you again.
As to what led me to the crusader states was literally my first trip to Cyprus. I came expecting ancient Greek ruins and modern tourism and stumbled (almost literally) over this piece of history about which I’d known nothing. I had lived in the U.K. Like so many Americans had learned a lot about British history. I knew my Plantagenets forwards and backwards, so-to-speak, and then suddenly I’m on a sun-soaked, Mediterranean island with enchanting vistas and weather and discovered that Richard the Lionheart had not only been there and married there but conquered the entire island. Furthermore, the island had remained in “Western” hands for the next four hundred years. That truly fascinated me – the mixture of cultures and influences, the dramatic castles, the exotic landscapes, everything.
FQ: Is there one historical icon you have yet to place on paper that you wish to bring to life in the future?
SCHRADER: Oh, yes. I plan to write a biographical novel about Edward, Prince of Wales and Aquitaine, more commonly known as the Black Prince and his wife, Joan of Kent. There is a lot of misinformation about them both out there, and I think it is time for some “revisionist” interpretations of them and their relationship.
FQ: Your resume is so long and vivid, there was a time when you served as an American diplomat in Africa and Europe. Can you share a unique memory from this time, and/or person you met who served to inspire you in your writing?
SCHRADER: I just spent five years in Ethiopia and the tumultuous events leading to the rise of a dynamic, young, reforming Prime Minister are the inspiration for my novel The Last Crusader Kingdom. Yes, the book is set in 12thcentury Cyprus, and, yes, it follows the known historical facts, but human nature is such that an understanding of current affairs will provide us with insights into the factors at play in the past – and vice versa.
To be more specific, Ethiopian youth viewed the government of the ruling EPRDF party as oppressive and corrupt. They became rebellious but rather than attacking the police and military which could shoot back and arrest them, they started attacking and burning down factories and farms owned by people they believed supported the government. The argument was that by attacking the economic base of the country, they would weaken the government. Well and good, but it also destroyed jobs and often the charitable institutions supported by these factories and farms, too. I took an instance I had witness and included it in The Last Crusader Kingdomto show how the angry Greek population might have attempted to bring down the unpopular Lusignan regime. Balian’s frustrating attempt at negotiating with one of the rebel leaders is also based on my experience in talking to some opposition figures. I could give you many other examples as well.
FQ: Has the study of history always been a passion of yours? And when did you write your first book?
SCHRADER: I had the good fortune to travel to Europe when I was just four years old. I remember visiting the Colosseum in Rome and my father told me “this is where they fed the Christians to the lions.” Now that sparked a four-year-old’s imagination! I have been interested in history every since – particularly the history of places I have been, seen, touched….
My first book was written in second grade. It was not great.
Author Helena P. Schrader
FQ: With so much knowledge, you must be a fantastic mentor to others who seek to bring history back to life. What would be a piece of advice on what to do and what to avoid that you would give to new authors trying to make it in the industry?
SCHRADER: I would like to be a mentor to aspiring historical novelists. That is something I want to explore in my retirement (Dec. 2018!). Since each individual writer has different strengths and weaknesses, it’s hard to choose one thing that applies to all.
Maybe, don’t research just the facts of history. You can write non-fiction with the facts. Fiction, however, requires much more research. You also need to know about the architecture, the fashion, the cuisine, the climate and vegetation, the flora and fauna, the means of transportation and rates of travel, the legal structures, educational norms etc. etc. etc.
Another very important point which every academic understands but far too few novelists seem to grasp is that it isn’t enough to read one book on any subject. You need to read three or four to start understanding the different perspectives of historians and what aspects of a specific age or event are controversial.
FQ: Because branding is such a large part of publishing today, can you speak about your position on social media? Is this a large part of your own agenda when it comes to bringing your works to the public?
SCHRADER: Let’s put it this way, I have four blogs, four websites, a google + account, a Facebook page, and I try to contribute to about a dozen other google + and Facebook groups every week. I’m not sure if that’s enough – or too much. There is a very real risk of becoming so fragmented and so busy on social media that we can’t do serious research. I haven’t found the perfect balance yet.
FQ: Give us a bird’s eye view into your work area, if you could. Such as, is there a certain schedule you keep when writing? Do you set aside a certain number of hours per week or on a daily basis where writing is done, or do you write when the passion hits? Is there one thing you need to have while writing that perhaps relaxes you or takes you to these locations when you’re at the keyboard?
SCHRADER: During my working life I did research in the evenings after work, and wrote on the weekends, usually 6 to 8 hours each weekend day. In retirement my plan is to research and work on my non-fiction book in the week, and work on my novel on the weekends, essentially the same pattern, just with the non-fiction book replacing my paying job.
I like to write in a peaceful, well-lit setting from a desk looking out a window. In retirement, I will have a study with views to the Aegean from one window and my garden and orchard from the other. I also have a door onto an external stair that opens from the study, so I can go in and out, catching fresh air and breathing in the scents of the Mediterranean whenever I need a little break.
Getting exercise and a full night’s sleep is also important to working well.
FQ: Please give readers a head’s up on what to expect when it comes to upcoming Helena P. Schrader’s titles that are currently in the works.
SCHRADER: Rebels against TyrannyCivil War in the Crusader States is the first book in a series.  I’m currently working on the second book, The Emperor Strikes Back. I hope to release it next September. After that comes With Pen and Sword, which would tentatively be published in 2020. Meanwhile, I’ll also be working on my non-fiction book Beyond the Seas: The Story of the Crusader States and hopefully release that in 2020 or 2021.
Other projects are ebooks of my early books on Sparta, and audio books of my Jerusalem Trilogy.
I am not going to be bored in retirement.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Meet Author Helena P. Schrader @helenapschrader

Helena was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the daughter of a professor, and travelled abroad for the first time at the age of two, when her father went to teach at the University of Wasada in Tokyo, Japan. Later the family lived in Brazil, England and Kentucky, but home was always the coast of Maine. There, her father’s family had roots, and an old, white clapboard house perched above the boatyard in East Blue Hill.
It was the frequent travel and exposure to different cultures...
Read the rest of Helena P. Schrader's bio at our new "Meet the Author" section:

#BookReview - Rebels Against Tyranny @HelenaPSchrader

Rebels Against Tyranny: Civil War in the Crusader States

By: Helena P. Schrader
Publisher: Wheatmark
Publication Date: September 2018
ISBN: 978-1-62787-624-7
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 30, 2018
Ah, the Sixth Crusade. What a time period! From the romantic entanglements to the seeking of the throne to the battles that brought about changes in the world…this was the ultimate era. And after reading this book (and for all readers who have had the chance to enjoy Helena P. Schrader’s amazing works combining incredible writing and astounding amounts of research), you will quite literally “see” the Crusades come alive inside your own head. In fact, Schrader is so good at doing this that part of you will not be shocked if you take a look outside and discover knights jousting on your own front lawn.
The first in a new series (Civil War in the Crusader States), this book begins during a celebration featuring jousting matches in Cyprus in 1224. One of the matches held featured Sir Amaury Barlais against Sir Toringuel, who is the family of Ibelin’s knight. Barlais fails and immediately accuses Toringuel of cheating. The anger burns inside of him so deeply that he vows to get revenge. One of the people attending this celebration is a young man by the name of Balian who was just knighted and just so happens to be the eldest son of the Lord of Beirut. He is the one who shall inherit his father’s position and become head of the Ibelin family one day, and is incredibly taken aback by Barlais’s accusations.
Sir Amaury and his friends, ChenechĂ© and Bethsan – who are highly supportive of Amaury and his will to bring pain to the people who embarrassed him – leave and come upon Frederick II Hohenstaufen in their travels. They decide to taint his vision of the Ibelin family by telling him lies about the horrible, cheating crew. This is highly important, because when Balian ages, he too, meets Frederick II and is absolutely stunned by the fact that the monarch acts as if he has no feeling for the Ibelin family whatsoever. This is one of many encounters that shows Frederick’s coldness and inhumane treatment.
Although Emperor Frederick II has been dubbed throughout history as being an “enlightened” soul ahead of his time, his contemporaries have shown a side of him that was tyrannical; a dictator who spawned an uprising of younger rebels battling to save themselves and the people they loved from his heavy-handedness. This is a true Civil War that ripped the Holy Land apart at the seams, and the characters (although numerous) are perfectly drawn. From popes to monarchs to a woman artist, the cast is appealing and keeps readers riveted to the story at all times.
The way of life in the crusader states includes a multitude of daily rituals and strong beliefs. The heir to the Ibelins is a great character for the reader to “walk beside” as dungeons and palaces are entered and the stark contrast between lives of privilege and pain intersect. The young, future Lord is the hero of this trilogy. Not only was he the grandson of the defender of Jerusalem, but he also defied the church and his own father in order to marry the woman he desperately loved. Eventually, Balian stood out from the crowd, so to speak, and became the man who succeeded in his goals and claimed victory over the Emperor. This thrilling hero is, as always when it comes to Schrader’s works of art, one of unforgettable strength.
Quill Says: A vivid, suspenseful tale that will entice readers to follow what will become another unforgettable series by this author.
For more information on Rebels Against Tyranny, please visit the author's website at: helenapschrader.com

#AuthorInterview with Patricia Hamilton Shook

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Patricia Hamilton Shook, author of Seeking Glory: A Novel about Relationships, Loss, and Finding Your Way Home.
FQ: I want to thank you for your time today Dr. Shook. I also want to commend you on your literary prowess and your attention to detail on one of my favorite places to have lived: Cape Cod. That said, I'm curious how this story began to percolate for you.
SHOOK: The answer to this really blends in with the following question about my connection to the Cape. I've wanted to write a story that took place on the Cape since I was a child. As a matter of fact I tried to write my first Cape Cod based novel when I was probably about eight or nine. Unfortunately I was unable to finish it! I went with my family to the Cape every summer and I loved the place.  It seemed the perfect setting for a novel and I had ready access to it for inspiration and ideas.
FQ: Having read your bio, it's not clear if you lived on the Cape (or vacationed there often). Why the Cape for the backdrop of your story?
SHOOK: My grandmother owned a cottage in Harwichport that she rented to her children and their families every summer for two weeks each. It was located with a multitude of other cottages that were a short walk to the beach in one direction and a short walk to downtown Harwichport in the other. It was perfect. So every year when I was a child my family and I spent the first two weeks in August in that cottage. I have many wonderful memories of the Cape and I looked forward to going there every year. I still go there every year for a week although I don't stay at the Harwichport cottage. Why not write a book that took place there?!
FQ: I enjoyed the opening line of your synopsis: 'Life is never static...' Is there a moment in your life where you can attest to such a sentiment and what was the outcome?
SHOOK: Yes although it's not something I can go into in any detail here. Suffice it to say I feel empathy for Kate's desire to shut herself off emotionally from the rest of the world. As she and I both discovered eventually something happens to force you to deal with what you were avoiding. It had a lot to do with my becoming a psychologist and obviously in creating Kate's character.
FQ: You described so many wonderful places on the Cape in your book. Having spent a summer living there, it brought great memories back to mind for me. If possible can pinpoint one stand-out, 'must do' when one goes to Cape Cod? Why?
SHOOK: Well, I think you must know what a difficult, almost impossible, question that is. Nevertheless, Provincetown the only answer I can come up with because it embodies so much of the Cape: beaches, sand dunes, the harbor, the wharf with its fishing and whale watching boats, the quaint cottages and houses, great places to eat. I could go on and on.
FQ: As a child, I have vivid recollections of taking family road trips to New England. My mother had an intense fear of driving over bridges and her anxieties would certainly resonate with me and my siblings--particularly crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge. You mention both it and the Sagamore in Seeking Glory. Do you have memories of the first time crossing either bridge and what was your reaction?
SHOOK: Thankfully I have no anxieties or phobias regarding crossing bridges (called gephyrophobia, they all have names). I've only been across the Tappan Zee Bridge a few times; it's a bridge with some nice vistas as I recall. Now, given that I was about nine months old the first time I crossed the Sagamore Bridge I can't say much about that. However, crossing the Sagamore Bridge did play a significant role when we went to the Cape later in my childhood. On the first Saturday in August as my family and I drove south down Route 6 I would be waiting and watching for the bridge to suddenly appear around some low hills. When it did appear it was very exciting because when we drove across the bridge and touched land on the other side we were well and truly on the Cape. You weren't on the Cape until you crossed one of the two identical bridges; the other is the Bourne Bridge.
FQ: Without too much of a spoiler, Kate's ex-husband David is overly aggressive. His character is very credible, and I wonder, was he tailored after someone in real life?

SHOOK: No, actually. David was a character who developed over the course of writing Seeking Glory in response to what the story needed him to be. I did try to soften him up some and give him a gentler side which I hope came out when he was with Glory. I might add I have no experience with guns and no one else in my family used or owned guns to my knowledge. As the story went along and David's use of guns came more to the forefront it occurred to me that I had developed a theme in the story that played into some of the current issues about gun control and gun ownership.
FQ: Again, I don't want to give away too much to the story, but I'm curious as to what, if any experience/exposure have you had to a cult?
SHOOK: I have had only one close encounter with a cult. In 1976 I was attending San Francisco State University when I began hearing about this preacher named Jim Jones who had a following/church called the People's Temple. The general buzz was that he was a truly great Christian who was engaged in charitable works and had a congregation representing the ideal in racial harmony and understanding. I remember driving by the People's Temple located in an old building on Geary Blvd. that did not look much like a church and had a fleet of buses out back. I thought about going in but I didn't. Sometime later I attended a rally where Jim Jones was one of the speakers. You have to realize Jones was a well known, respected and influential preacher/political figure in 1976 San Francisco. I can still see him sitting there, a reasonably nice looking man wearing sunglasses. However when it was his turn to speak I quickly lost all interest because he sounded like any other preacher I'd ever heard; to me he was nothing special. I really paid no further attention to him until two years later when the mass murder/suicide occurred in the jungles of Guyana. It was probably a good thing I never went in the building on Geary Blvd. I doubt I would have lasted long anyway.
FQ: I found this story to have a great ebb and flow to it. Was there ever a time when you felt the momentum dwindling (and what did you do to get back in your 'writing groove')?
SHOOK: It took me several years to write Seeking Glory.  Momentum certainly dwindled for long periods mostly because life kept getting in the way and there was no time for anything else. It's never static you know and just when you think you finally have everything under control that illusion is shattered. Hmmm I think that's from a book I read. Anyway, there was a great deal of ebb and flow to Seeking Glorybut I always came back to it eventually because I felt compelled to write it. I don't know why or how to explain it. The plot, the characters, and the placement had come to me easily but it needed many revisions, editing, and extensions. I didn't mind though; for the most part I enjoyed writing it.
FQ: I enjoyed the nuances you wove into the story that addressed the spirituality of mind, body and soul. Do you practice yoga on a regular basis?
SHOOK: I have never gone past a very basic level of hatha yoga. I have practiced meditation for some time however and find that very calming and restorative. As I have said I find religion/ spirituality fascinating and have spent many hours studying/learning/reading books covering a broad spectrum of spiritual beliefs and practices.
FQ: As a psychologist, and given the foundational premise of your story, if you had to offer one piece of sound advice to mother and daughter on how to work though conflict during the challenging teen years, what would it be?
SHOOK: Of course, there is no single piece of advice to be given because circumstances can be radically different from one family to the next. That said, let's take this from the perspective of Kate and her daughter Ally. In the wake of a contentious divorce, Kate's insecurities about her ability to be successful as a businesswoman and a mother led her to not trust herself and to be unable to trust Ally. As Ally grew older and more independent Kate became increasingly afraid and as a result increasingly demanding and controlling. It had the opposite effect to the one she wanted. I would certainly have advised Kate that she needed to be able to learn to trust and feel confident in herself as a mother as well as to trust Ally and give her some space.
FQ: I want to thank you for your time and commend for delivering an enjoyable read. Are you working on your next novel? If so, are you able to provide a sneak preview?
SHOOK: Yes I am working on another novel. As with Seeking Glory this is a book I have felt compelled to write. There is also a third book for which I have done some writing as well. This is not a trilogy by the way although there are some similar themes, religion/spirituality being one of them. The next book also involves family issues and an element of mystery.

Meet Author Patricia Hamilton Shook

Meet author Patricia Hamilton Shook at our new "Author Bios" section of our website.  Learn what inspires her, what she writes about, and how to learn more about her new book!


Friday, September 28, 2018

#BookReview - Seeking Glory

Seeking Glory: A Novel about Relationships, Loss, and Finding Your Way Home

By: Patricia Hamilton Shook
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Publication Date: 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4787-9204-8
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: September 25, 2018
Patricia Hamilton Shook’s debut novel, Seeking Glory, delivers intriguing twists and turns from beginning to end.
Kate LaRue ended her day just like many before at her beloved store, the Sea Witch Art and Gifts. After locking up and steering her trusted Toyota onto Route 6A, the ‘King’s Highway’ as it was known to the locals, she made her way along the Cape Cod highway to her Yarmouth home. She thought about the last twenty years of her life and how she had made the Sea Witch a success after so many losses. Her marriage had failed years before. Her daughter was gone — too many moments filled with arguments between mother and daughter.
Kate arrives home and kicks into her nightly ritual. She stares into the refrigerator and goes through the mental process of what to cook for one for dinner. Thankfully, the phone interrupts her thoughts; rescuing her from the plight of the immediate need to make the decision. When the stranger on the other end of the line, Shirley Randall, identifies herself as a social worker at San Francisco General Hospital, Kate is confused. Who was this woman and why was she calling? Kate didn’t know anyone in San Francisco. Shirley manages to capture Kate’s attention when she asks her if she has a daughter named Allison LaRue. It takes Kate a moment to process the question. It had been at least a decade since Kate had even heard her daughter’s name, let alone seen her. When the woman is insistent she has the right number, Kate believes her when she follows up with: “…Ms. LaRue, we have a young woman named Allison LaRue here. She gave us this number to call as next of kin…”
Dr. Shook has done a marvelous job in hooking her audience with an engaging tale. Having lived on Cape Cod for a summer, I was immediately drawn in by her fantastic ability to paint such an accurate picture of the many faces of the Cape. It’s been many years since I lived on the Cape and I thank Dr. Shook for resurrecting fond memories because of her adept way of painting the sceneries with her fine word placement. Shook also has a knack for developing characters full of personality and affirms their respective realities with credible dialogue. However, I must caution Dr. Shook on the amount of typographical error throughout. Editorially, the flow and context of the story is intact. It is the consistent incorrect tense of word and missing words that was a distraction for me. These are errors that often cannot be caught by a ‘spell check’ and easily remedied by a deep re-read. Aside from this, Seeking Glory is engaging and has a wonderful ebb and flow of mystery and intrigue throughout.
Quill says: Seeking Glory is a lovely read that touches on loss and redemption with the promise of new beginnings on the horizon.
For more information on Seeking Glory, please visit the publisher's website at: outskirtspress.com/seekingglory

#AuthorInterview with Sal Atlantis Phoenix

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Sal Atlantis Phoenix, author of Alzheimer My Love.
FQ: Your plays are varied and take on some truly tough subjects. Is there a particular reason or event that made you focus on the subject of Alzheimer’s?
PHOENIX: My wife had Alzheimer's disease.
FQ: You make the character of Joseph both loving and somewhat mean at the same time. One of the things some readers will love about him is that he voices his opinions in full-force to the doctor. Are any of these particular scenes based on real-life experiences? Or, perhaps, are they personal emotions and beliefs you would like others to think more about?
PHOENIX: Fiction is image of reality.
FQ: If you could only pick one, what would be the main lesson/subject you would like readers to take away from this play?
PHOENIX: Life's challenging journey.
FQ: What originally made you delve into playwriting? Can you tell readers the pros and cons of writing plays versus writing full-length fiction?
PHOENIX: A play is direct communication. Full-length fiction is detailed communication. The novel I wrote, Destiny of a War Veteran, is published.
FQ: What do you find most difficult when it comes to writing plays? Because of the length, is editing a bit tough, picking and choosing the exact scenes you wish to keep when all is said and done?
PHOENIX: Communicating with the audience.
FQ: Writer, composer, inventor, architect…your “resume” goes on. Is there one particular creative pursuit that stands above the rest for you?
PHOENIX: To be happy and enjoy life.
FQ: You state in your biography that despite all the bad, this is still a beautiful world. But if you could pick something to change – something you believe would bring more joy to the masses, what would that be?
PHOENIX: Social and economic equality.
FQ: What are you working on now? Is there a particular subject you would love to write about that you wish to tackle in the near future?
PHOENIX: I hope I will be motivated to write again.

#BookReview - Alzheimer My Love

Alzheimer My Love

By: Sal Atlantis Phoenix
Publisher: LuLu Publishing
Publication Date: March 18, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4834-4725-4
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 24, 2018
Mary and Joseph are a loving couple...for the most part. They have gone through strife, made mistakes, experienced joys, yet now they are living in their own separate worlds while dealing with the same tragedy.
Mary has Alzheimer’s, and with each new day she loses just a bit more of herself. In her own mind she sees the world from a different place. Her emotions are biting; the anger that comes from people telling her what she’s “forgetting” and handling her as if she’s a child as the disease takes over, is mounting. Joseph, although trying to understand and attempting to stand by her side in the midst of the turmoil, sees things from a very different perspective. He has a difficult job, because he must find a way to keep the love alive between them while shelving the frustration and annoyance he feels with each passing day.
The playwright sets the scene in the park. In the background there is a view of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge. Mary and Joseph sit down on a bench, holding hands and admiring the spring flowers all around. Joseph begins in a lilting tone, happy for the day and wanting to share all of the beauty with his wife. Mary, however, has a darker edge to the horizon. She fights with her own inner turmoil as she listens to Joseph remind her of the fact that this was the bench where they met. He speaks about his rebellious days, dealing with “the establishment,” talks about the recession, conservatives versus liberals, and more.
Mary listens, adding her own short, curt thoughts to the conversation, but mostly just getting angry when Joseph tries to correct her on things, or tell her she is confused. This is a woman who was once strong. She knew who she was and stood firm. Now, in the mindset she is in, the word “confused” is synonymous with “stupid.” She does not want to be taken care of, even though recently she wandered off and got lost. Secrets come to the surface during this conversation; secrets that not only anger Joseph but also break his heart.
With the scene changes come the stages of Alzheimer’s and the emotional exhaustion that grows heavier. What also comes is a man by the name of Doctor Allen. This is a man who Joseph despises, even though Allen is Mary’s doctor and tries to help her in ways Joseph simply cannot. Joseph and Allen have plenty of face-offs; they go head to head on various subjects, like the mighty egos of doctors and the medical industry that, in Joseph’s mind, cares about money and nothing else. He throws barbs and accusations at Allen about doctors giving out medications that not only hurt a patient like Mary but make her situation even worse. A nurse/caregiver for Mary is also in this story. Her name is Judy, and she will play a pivotal role when the epic ending comes along and the lights go dim. The final act will leave you breathless, but the journey leading up to it will be even greater.
Millions out there know, unfortunately, the patience-testing disease of Alzheimer’s and how it can cause a family to crumble. The person who suffers from it is in pain. Memories, which are important, fade. Sometimes the past is vivid and the present makes no sense. Some days, it is the other way around. For the person watching this occur, the stress is monumental. One of the most difficult things in the world is to watch one of the strongest people you have ever known disappear before your very eyes. And the day that you are asked: “What is your name?” or “Who are you?” by a person who has known you for decades is a moment in time that literally breaks your heart. The playwright has done a stellar job taking on this subject. Although Joseph and Allen can at times grate on the nerves, standing upon their exalted pulpits and screaming their beliefs, that’s the point. The brain is a frightening thing, and the emotions felt can overwhelm a person enough where disaster is the only way for things to end.
Quill says: Bringing to light the dangerous, the gritty, and the kind, this play surprises and teaches at the same time.