Sunday, November 18, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Jodi Auborn

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

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Feathered Quill #BookAwards Nominate Now!

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


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

Learn more at

Monday, November 12, 2018

#BookReview - My Ten-Acre Wilderness

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

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

#BookReview - Perfectly Imperfect @eshewords

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

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

#AuthorInterview with JP O'Donnell

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

#AuthorInterview with Michael Pronko @pronkomichael

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

#BookReview - Jack

Jack

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

#BookReview - Pules of My Heart

Pulse of My Heart: A Gallagher Novel

By: JP O’Donnell
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Publication Date: September 2018
ISBN: 978-1-9772-0177-5
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: November 6, 2018 
Don Kraemer is a man with issues; mostly normal, everyday issues, such as lack of money, trying to help a beloved daughter, and attempting to figure out if expanding his landscaping business is the way to go in order to make more money. He is thinking about these things as he jogs along the dirt path that leads through the woods and across an old, iron bridge spanning the Wabash River. This is most assuredly a calm scene, until a pit bull comes out of nowhere and literally attacks the poor man. Along with the dog comes an owner who, upon hearing the anger in Don’s voice, offers to give him a necklace of value if he will just forget the whole thing. Not only is this a strange conversation to have, but Don also gets an even stranger feeling when the man takes off down a hill with his dog, climbs into a truck, and is followed from the area by an unmarked police car.
Daniel Gallagher is a private investigator who is currently dealing with a loss. Working hard, Gallagher has brought about justice for many. But while doing so, he has put his life on the line and endangered the people he loved the most. One person who had to deal with the danger was his now ex-wife, Kate. Although she had a hand in the break-up, the majority of the fault came from Daniel when taking on “just one more” case became his mantra. 
Daniel is trying to let his work help him get over Kate, but it’s not doing that whatsoever. His mind is stuck on her and their life together. Known by the lawyers in Boston, Gallagher receives cases he likes because he feels he does them well, such as, finding missing teens who decided to scamper away with the boy or girlfriend their parents couldn’t stand. But what brings in the money are cases where he must investigate a claim of disability for an insurance company, trying to unearth if the person’s words are phony or not, which leaves a sick feeling in his stomach.
46 years old, a man who is disheartened, and a two-time loser at marriage, Gallagher’s life is about to get even more bleak when the phone rings in his office. Turns out a new case is on the horizon, one that will have Gallagher coming face-to-face with secrets, lies and villains that, up until now, he has never had to witness. When his ex-father-in-law, Bob McSurdy, calls him out of the blue, Daniel learns that Kate has gone missing, and his shock soon turns into absolute fear.
As a search commences, various layers of crime are uncovered and “fit” together like pieces of an extraordinary puzzle. Weapons sold illegally, police corruption, human trafficking, drugs – you name it, this one’s got it. And how, exactly, does a jogger attacked by a pit bull “fit” in with all this? …You shall see.
This story becomes an intricate web with surprises that readers will not see coming. Although being the third installment of the Gallagher Mysteries, it can also be debated that it is the “best of the best” that shows more emotion than ever before, along with the fast, action-packed, thrilling plot that this author is so good at delivering. 
Quill says: Perfectly crafted with an ending that will have readers watching the internet in order to find out when the next Gallagher novel will be released!
For more information on Pulse of My Heart, please visit the author's website at: jpodonnell.com

#BookReview - The Moving Blade @pronkomichael

The Moving Blade

By: Michael Pronko
Publisher: Raked Gravel Press
Publication Date: August 2018
ISBN: 978-1942410164
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: November 4, 2018
Award-winning author Michael Pronko expertly thrills us once again in his latest mystery installment of the Detective Hiroshi series, The Moving Blade.
Readers hit the ground running, right from the very first chapter, when we are whisked through the streets of Tokyo by a man who has stolen critically important files and is on the run, adeptly moving towards his ultimate destination. Meanwhile, readers are taken inside a Japanese funeral hall where we are witness to the memorial service and cremation of Bernard Mattson, a highly influential and respected American diplomat in Japan, who was murdered in his home. His beautiful daughter from New York, Jamie Mattson, who was recently attempting to rekindle a long lost relationship with her father, is his only living relative and returns to Japan, after decades apart, for his funeral. Unfortunately, instead of the mutually dreamed of happy reunion, Jamie is not only forced to mourn the loss of her father, but she is suddenly thrust into an exceedingly complicated political world left by her father’s lifetime of work and research, involving Japanese and American relations. Jamie is unable to simply and cleanly put her father’s estate in order and quickly return home, because she too becomes the target and prey of the unknown predator who will do anything within their power to get their hands on what is inside Bernard Mattson’s home.
Originally called upon as a translator, detective Hiroshi Shmizu, who is working happily in the safety of his office, and is once again a bit banged up, this time physically from his previous work-related horrifying encounter, is tasked with a new complicated job. Not only must he discover Bernard’s killer, recover missing files, and piece together other recent, possibly related murders, but most importantly, he must protect Jamie, who continues to put herself into harm’s way despite being encouraged to seek immediate safety back in the US. So, together with his coworker, Sakaguchi the ex-sumo wrestler, Hiroshi searches for the answers. They scour the gritty streets and government offices of Tokyo, meeting some interesting characters along the way, while also attempting to overcome the resistance being set up by the officers at a US military base. But will detective Hiroshi be able to navigate the increasingly tangled, political web in time to uncover the answers, and recover the missing files, or will he be too late, and Jamie suffer a similar fate as her father?
The Moving Blade, the author’s sophomore novel, is as strong, engaging and vividly described as was his debut novel, The Last Train. Where the last novel exposed its readers to Tokyo’s nightlife and hostess clubs, this time Pronko skillfully takes readers in a different, but equally compelling direction, towards Tokyo’s political world and its continued involvement with the United States and their agreement to keep a military base stationed on Japanese soil. This subject matter gives readers an abundant amount of food for thought, all while an intense murder mystery is unfolding, and is sure to please from beginning until end. It should be noted though that sometimes this reader became a bit lost in the storyline and was confused with the identity of some of the characters, perhaps because of an unfamiliarity with Japanese surnames, and not necessarily as a consequence of the author having too many characters. However, with that said, readers are enthusiastically encouraged to read The Moving Blade, so get prepared to be immersed in suspense, culture, and political intrigue - you will not be disappointed!
Quill says: Both thriller readers, and fans of the Detective Hiroshi series, will be delighted to read The Moving Blade, as it quickly and adeptly captures readers’ attention right from the beginning and takes them along for a thrilling ride until the very end.
For more information on The Moving Blade, please visit the author's website at: www.michaelpronko.com

#BookReview - A Dime is a Sign @sherrillcannon

A Dime is a Sign: Poems of Love and Loss

By: Sherrill S. Cannon
Publisher: Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Agency, LLC
Publication Date: September 2018
ISBN: 978-1949483208
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Review Date: November 2018
Award-winning author Sherrill Cannon provides plenty to ponder in her next installment of poems of love and loss, A Dime is a Sign.
Before Cannon’s poetry turned into book form, they were first used for other purposes. While some poems focused on personal reflection, the majority were designed to offer counsel to teens and comfort to friends who were going through difficult times in their lives.
As with her first book, A Penny for Your Thoughts, Cannon’s newest keeps to the same “Love & Loss: Coin Toss?” framework with three sections earmarked as “Heads—Of Love and Friendship,” “Spinning—Of Related Emotions,” and “Tails—Of Heartache and Anguish.”
Cannon’s love-and-loss theme is a wonderful balance between human’s mercurial emotions and God’s mind-boggling, unconditional love. A true wordsmith, Cannon first- and second- person writings capture the sentiment of wherever love (or the lack thereof) leads in particular situations. Her creativity expressed into one-hundred-plus poems are made up of sonnets, haikus, blank verse, free-form verse, quatrains, and couplets, to name a few.
Cannon’s human-interest poems delve into areas of the heart. Her words are clear as she candidly and deftly conveys the highs and lows of love. Examples include closeness to loved ones; joy (across the board); the beauty of nature; the tenacity of God’s love; encouragement; and the freedom that comes with various “love” breakthroughs.
Opening with the bulk of her work, Cannon immediately draws readers in through her uplifting words, sending an inferenced reminder that we are not alone in our experiences of happiness and sorrow as we travel on this love journey. Parts two and three keep to words of encouragement while weaving in related emotions, such as hurt, anger, false love, and fear of rejection.
Much of her poetry is designed in sonnets that lean heavily between Shakespearean sonnets and Petrarchans. Of course, Cannon does not confine her talents to these forms of expression. As mentioned earlier, she explores other methods. One such example is an hourglass poem titled “Self-Condemnation,” which begins and ends the same and can be read from top to bottom or vice versa. Here is an excerpt:
“Hypocrite! Damn you to the ends of your false world!
Strip away the blind self-righteousness from your mind;
Tear down the wall of martyrdom around your heart;
Wake up and see yourself for what you truly are:
A selfish, immature, thoughtless mediocrity.”
Another is “Before,” a syllabic poem that decreases with each stanza. Here it is in its entirety:
“Before I met you,
My life was full –
I was happy
And content …
But now
I know
What I
Missed.”
While Cannon’s work contains powerful messages pertaining to love for readers to ruminate on, she hopes that A Dime is a Sign will also open the doors to healing.
Quill says: A Dime is a Sign is thought provoking from beginning to end.
For more information on A Dime is a Sign, please visit the publisher's website at: sbprabooks.com/sherrillscannon

#BookReview - Honolulu Heat

Honolulu Heat: Between the Mountains and the Great Sea

By: Rosemary & Larry Mild
Publisher: Magic Island Literary Works
Publication Date: August 2018
ISBN: 978-0-9905472-3-5
Reviewed by: Gina Montanha
Review Date: November 6, 2018
Noah Wong is a troubled teen who gets caught up with violence, theft, murder, a mobster’s daughter and the leader of a Chinese “Protection Payment” scheme in the new thriller Honolulu Heat. His loyalty forces him into hiding, but it’s only a matter of time before he must come out to prevent another murder.
Noah is orphaned at two years old, when his parents are killed by a wild hurricane in Hawaii. Kind neighbors and friends, Alex and Leilani Wong, take the poor boy in and adopt him one year later. Fast forward 12 years, Noah Wong is attracting the wrong kind of attention in school until he is mesmerized by Nina Portfia. Noah gets a job at his Uncle Kekoa’s bakery and tries to clean up his act, but an ill-fated group date with Nina, who is forbidden to date boys by her strict crime boss dad, ends in the fatal shooting of one of their classmates.
Noah confides in his uncle, but ultimately decides he has no choice but to run, fearing the truth about the murder and Nina’s involvement in it will be uncovered. He ends up hiding in the apartment of a crooked Chinaman, who puts him to work as an errand boy. When Nina’s dad learns the truth about the shooting, he orders his henchman to find Noah and bring him to the Portfia family compound. Noah quickly flees from his job as errand boy as well and ends up running straight into the hands of danger once again.
While there is a good story line in Honolulu Heat and I was anxious to know how it all ended, it had a slow start and took a while to get to the action. It could also be a bit confusing at times with a multitude of characters and side stories. For example, in a single nine page chapter, fifteen characters are introduced, and a few different mini-stories emerge. In addition, at times the dialogue was somewhat awkward. As a plus, however, an epilogue wraps up each set of characters nicely, so you aren’t left wondering about the fate of anyone. The authors also did a nice job developing the main character and I did enjoy the cute teen couple’s relationship, a mixture of innocence and deceit.
Quill says: Honolulu Heat will keep you guessing until the end. It is a wild tale of first love, bloody battles and family loyalty under the Hawaiian sun.

Friday, November 2, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Simon Plaster

Today, reviewer Amy Lignor is speaking with Simon Plaster, author of Boo: A Chilling Tale of Too-Too #MeToo.


FQ: Talk journalism. One of the book's underlying themes is the subjectivity of truth. Henrietta wants that Pulitzer prize, but nowadays there is more about journalists being wrong or simply telling lies in the news, than any other news. How do you feel about the current state of journalism in the U.S?

PLASTER: Current journalism in the U.S. makes me dyspeptic. Physically, I get indigestion and gas. Mentally, it makes me Irritable, snappish, tetchy, crabby, cranky, crotchety, grouchy, cantankerous, peevish, ornery and bad-tempered. I never actually read or watch the shrill  partisan commentary now called news, but it's like a huge cloud of flatulence in the air that you can't escape.

FQ: Plot twists inevitably abound. Do you pre-plan these game-changing moments or do they develop more organically? And, in your opinion, what is the key(s) to achieving an ending that is both satisfying and surprising? 

PLASTER: Plot twists in my own tales always come as surprises to me. As for endings that are also satisfying, I agree with with Oscar Wilde that all tragedies end in death and all comedies end in marriage. With regard to the latter genre, I also agree with that movie producer who said there's only one plot: Boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl back. Or girl gets boy back in the case of Jane Austen tales.  Unfortunately, my heroine -- Henrietta -- just won't get met by the right boy, but the series is not yet done. The tales may yet reach a satisfactory ending.

FQ: Oklahoma City is the familiar backdrop in your books. How do you view setting as enhancing a story; and in what ways do you attempt to capture the essence of the city on the page and bring it to life for readers? 

PLASTER: I am more of a watcher of The Simpsons on TV than a book reader, partly because of impatience with written settings, such as two-page descriptions of sunsets. I have a pretty good feel for the town of Springfield from two-dimensional pictures. As for my own written cartoons, I am allowed to stay here in OKC on condition that I not attempt to capture too much essence of the place on a page. 

FQ: Can you give readers a sneak peek at the book; perhaps "gift" them with something they won't be able to find in any synopsis? 

PLASTER: Hmmm. For some reason reviewers and plain readers don't seem to pay much attention to the misadventures and observations of my recurrent character, Shatner Lapp -- maybe because he's a journalist, now that I think of it -- or maybe because he's old, ugly and obnoxious. Still, it's dear old Shat who pretty much sums up BOO! when he says that the radical feminista too-too Me Too movement threatens to replace the dear old Animal House of John Belushi a/k/a Bluto Blutarsky with the Animal Farm of Joseph Stalin a/k/a Napoleon Pig. Or was he quoting someone else, as he is apt to do? 

FQ: Each new book brings with it the potential for new readers. How do you endeavor to balance introducing the backstory to new readers with maintaining the present story? And, in what ways does each story work as both a standalone and a continuation of the ongoing series arc? 

PLASTER: Keeping your story straight and sticking to it is tricky, and probably beyond my abilities, but all of my previous dozen tales are short and available to any potential new readers. Probably reading the first one put into print -- Sumbitch, A Tale of Bigtime College Football and a Girl -- would be enough for someone to get the drift of all that follow. 

FQ: Was there something specific that made you take on such a hot topic for your book's plot? 

PLASTER: Yes, my politically incorrect stupidity, along with chronic dyspepsia. 

FQ: Which of the characters do you feel closest to, and why would that be? 

PLASTER: Well, as I said, Shatner Lapp is old and ugly; and feels literally bewitched, as well as bothered and bewildered by virtually all he sees, hears and smells in the changed world he now lives in. 

FQ: Leave us with a teaser: What comes next? 

PLASTER: I noodled for awhile with ideas for a tale that would reprise the Scopes so-called Monkey Trial of 1924 about teaching evolution in public schools, which -- to the extent it's remembered at all -- is misremembered, thanks to libelous screeds put out at the time by H.L. Mencken that were  later made the basis of a movie titled Inherit the Wind. But the noodling petered out. Now I am taking on the more inherently comedic subject of a Russian deep think tank thinker's prediction that disintegration of the United States in the near future is inevitable. Henrietta has already hooked up with an old boyfriend, so although our country may fall apart, there is hope my series of tales may come to a satisfactory ending. 

FQ: Again, thank you for your time. I thoroughly enjoy every "meeting" I get to have with Henrietta. 

PLASTER: Me too, Amy. Thanks for reading.