Friday, May 17, 2019

#BookReview - The Boy Who Grew A Forest

The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng

By: Sophia Gholz
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-1534110243
Reviewed by: Gina Montanha
Review Date: May 8, 2019

This wonderful little story briefly outlines the life of a young Indian boy named Jadav Payneg and his home near Majuli Island in northeastern India. As a young teenager in 1979, he became quite distraught when the annual floodwaters would steal away the land, little by little. He knew how important trees were for so many reasons and as the trees washed away, animals went with them. When he saw hundreds of dead snakes he knew he had to do something to help.
The elders of his village were able to provide him with bamboo saplings, which he painstakingly planted, watered and nurtured, all on his own for many years. Even after the bamboo was a great success, he continued to do everything in his power to assure there would be plenty of food and shelter for the wild animals of the land. From his 20 original saplings, he eventually fostered a 40-acre forest that has since been named after him!
The beautiful illustrations of Jadav growing from a boy to a man accompany the development and maturity of the forest, as it goes from barren browns to lush greens. All of the animals depicted are simple, yet realistic, from bunnies and birds to rhinos and tigers. The author even includes instructions at the end of the book on how to “Plant a Forest of Your Own.”
Quill says: The Boy Who Grew A Forestis an incredible true story of how one small boy’s big dream literally grew into a thriving reality. It is possible for a single person to make a big difference in the world!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

#BookReview - BROKLA: A Tale of Things Falling Apart

BROKLA: A Tale of Things Falling Apart

By: Simon Plaster
Publisher: Mossik Press
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-0-9994-1852-9
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: May 13, 2019 
We begin with the ever-vigilant—and slightly angered by the establishment when it comes to granting her a story that will win her the Pulitzer—reporter by the name of Henrietta. For those who have been reading this series, leap for joy that this amazing female protagonist is back and better than ever. For those not following Henrietta, the heck with you. No, just kidding, jump on board so you don’t miss this one!
From a small town, she is pure Oklahoman when it comes to her spirit and desire to “be all that she can be” in the journalistic world. This time around, she is filled with glee, considering that her boss, Nigel Fleetwood, at the local newspaper she works at – SCENE – has offered her what she feels is a juicy assignment, one that will perhaps bring her the fame she has longed for all this time. Readers sit beside Henrietta at a Town Hall Lecture Series (one that will bring back memories for all small-towners, like myself). Her assignment? She is to cover the Lecture Series and soon finds herself delving into the life of a “top secret” colonel who has a resume of monumental proportions. We’re talking about a “think tank” expert from a foreign government who’s using his time in the ‘spotlight’ to speak about a variety of subjects that include prophesies about how the United States will fare in the future. But he is not the only one Henrietta meets up with. Sitting at the table with Colonel Top Secret is Agent X; his job is to interpret the horrendous and dastardly predictions that this foreign military leader is voicing. 
We proceed on a trip of monumental (and extremely humorous) proportions, as the author—through his memorable cast of characters—takes on a great deal of issues and makes them not only more interesting, but also sheds new light on points of view that need to be heard more often. To name a few: the U.S. headlines that have brought about controversy since Trump has taken office; a possible secession of one pretty large state that would make the U.S. map look more than a bit ridiculous if it were to happen; and even sports subjects, such as the intense rivalry between the Lone Star State and Oklahoma when it comes to their shared passion of football.
From Henrietta’s never-ending fight to be the best at what she does, to the never-ending Sooner fight song which is prevalent in this tale, every “battle” Simon Plaster takes on makes you want to stand up and salute. Webster’s defines satire as a “trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm to expose and discredit vice or folly.” Some reviewers, readers, and others call Simon’s work satirical. I believe that doesn’t fully fit the bill. For me, there are authors who are so good at what they do they have become kings or queens in their specific niche (i.e., the ultimate King in the realm of horror). When it comes to Simon Plaster, to me, he has become the King of satire, and no one should miss a word of it.
Quill says: Sarcasm (done well) equals a happy life. By reading the unforgettable Henrietta’s stories, you are on the right path to absolute happiness. 
For more information on BROKLA: A Tale of Things Falling Apart, please visit the author's Goodreads page at: Goodreads.SimonPlaster.com

#BookReview - Royal Blood

Royal Blood: A Paulette Monot History

By: Bruce Woods
Publisher: Penmore Press LLC
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-1946409843
Reviewed By: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: May 2019
A strangely gifted, eerily elegant young female joins forces with a well-known literary character and some historical figures to play her part in Africa, and war, in this well-honed fantasy by author Bruce Woods. 
Paulette Monot is an American, a lady of sorts, a world traveler, and...a vampire, one of the “kin” whose numbers are unknown, but who, she will learn, are as populous in Africa as in Europe and America. She will make this discovery at the behest of none other than colonialist Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes is in London plotting with the legendary if fictional investigator Sherlock Holmes, and, importantly, with Ellen Terry, the celebrated actress who, it seems, is also one of the kin. Terry has shared a friendly quaff of hot blood with Monot as a way of welcoming her to London, and all involved are aware that the two females are indeed among the undead. Monot is asked to trek to southern Africa, locate more of her vampire kin, and organize them to aid Rhodes in quelling a rebellion being fomented by Lobengula, Chief of the Matebele. Lobengula has no firepower, but can command vast numbers of warriors to subdue a small garrison of British soldiers. Monot accepts the challenge and travels to Africa partly by newly devised airship, taking along her beloved spring-powered Coilcycle and a new Gibbs-Farquaharson-Metford rifle, the latter to promote the illusion that she is on safari. 
Once on the ground in the British colonial lands, Monot meets famed hunter Frederick Selous (like Rhodes and Terry, a real person) whom she gradually takes as a lover. The two, aided by many loyal native tribespeople, do indeed locate her vampire kin, particularly prevalent among the Bush people, whose leader Xam is convinced of Monot’s good will. All will play a significant role in a violent historical fray known as The First Matabele War. But as the dust settles, Monot is slowly developing opinions of the African indigenous peoples that differ greatly from those of Rhodes or even her cherished Selous. 
For those not familiar with the “steampunk” genre, Woods, editor and nature lover, offers a hearty immersion, mixing fantasy and history with vampiric deeds and desires in a setting laden with the latest quirky inventions of that era. Woods, who has published nonfiction in the past, has composed this well-plotted, imaginative work as part of a series. He has penned Monot’s saga with verve, seeing everything from warfare to wardrobe through her eyes - the eyes of a bloodthirsty, erotically attuned yet strangely idealistic young female vampire. It’s clear that the author has done his research carefully, demonstrating an intelligent understanding of the many dynamics at play.
Quill says: Royal Blood is an eerily enjoyable mix of romance, danger, vampire love and lore, 19th century colonialism, and a thoughtful look at Africa – its multi-faceted cultures and the greater aspirations of its people. 
For more information on Royal Blood: A Paulette Monot History, please visit the publisher's website: www.penmorepress.com

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Geanna Culbertson @gculbert14

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Geanna Culbertson, the author of Crisanta Knight: To Death & Back.
FQ: As a long-time fan of your series, I was wondering if you can tell our readers what it’s like to write a series; what it’s like to be with these characters for so long and find a way to continue to create such amazing paths for them to follow? Was the original concept and all of the books laid out in your mind beforehand; or, with time, have they just “appeared” in the story without being pre-planned?
CULBERTSON: It really is amazing and strange to spend so many years with the same characters. They feel so real to me, like they’re actual humans I created. It reminds me of that quote from the last Harry Potter where Harry asks Dumbledore if this is all real or it’s just happening inside his head, and Dumbledore responds, “Well of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry. Why should that mean it’s not real?”
It has been incredible to watch these characters grow and help them do that, Crisa in particular. As I write her journey I am continuously surprised by her and proud of how much she has changed. I don’t always know everything that’s going to happen to her or my other characters when I’m writing, and letting those internal arcs and external arcs develop—flow from my mind onto the page into existence—is wonderful and kind of surreal.
I always knew this was going to be a series and had many of the main plot points, character growth trajectories, and twists worked out from the beginning. However, filling in the areas between those events happens organically as I go on writing the story.
FQ: Throughout, is there one character in the series that found a larger part or took on a larger role than you first assumed they would? If so, who would that be?
CULBERTSON: There are some characters that may have started with smaller roles (like Chance and Girtha) that I always intended to make more important parts of the series. In terms of involvement most of my character arcs and roles have been in my head since the start. If I had to pick one example though . . . I suppose I would say Merlin. I always knew he would matter, but once I created him and saw his interactions with Crisa, I knew this was a relationship I wanted to continue to highlight and push because he brings out both bad and good in her and they have an interesting dynamic.
FQ: Have you thought of the day when the series comes to a close; how do you think it will be to let go of the characters you’ve been with for such a great length of time?
Author Geanna Culbertson
CULBERTSON: Honestly, I don’t know how I’ll react. It’ll definitely be weird. And sad. By the time the eighth book comes out in 2021, I’ll have basically spent 10 years with this world and these characters. I’m only in my twenties, so that’s a huge portion of my life so far LOL. But I have so many other stories I’m itching to write (ideas come to me constantly and I have to put them aside for later). So I’ll probably dive into another series immediately and devote my heart, mind, and soul to the creation of new fantastic worlds and fascinating characters.
FQ: Are you interested in one day creating standalone novels, or do you feel that another series is already stirring in the back of your mind?
CULBERTSON: Oh, I have a lot stirring back there. I currently have three other book series and a couple of standalones I intend to write. Who knows what else I’ll think of in the coming years in addition. So the real question is, which will I focus on next?!
FQ: Is there a genre that you’ve never written in before that you truly wish to tackle one day?
CULBERTSON: As mentioned in the previous answer, there are plenty of books I am eager to write and characters I can’t wait to give life to. These span across multiple genres and they’re going to be epic!
FQ: Can you speak a little about social media and how you believe it negatively or positively affects your marketing, promotion, etc.?
CULBERTSON: Social media is a finicky thing. I actively employ many platforms to publicize events and promote my series as best I can. A negative, I guess, would be the time that takes. But a positive is the ability to connect with people all over the world through more outlets. I’ve definitely had some great engagement with fans via social media in the past.
FQ: Can you give readers a sneak peek into what, perhaps, other famous locations will be seen before the series comes to an end?
CULBERTSON: Hmm. Well, I don’t like spoilers. But we’re definitely going back to Earth. We’ll return to some other places we’ve been before too, like Camelot. And (Sneak Peek Alert) – in Book Seven we’re going to spend some time in Chance Darling’s kingdom. But that’s all I’m saying.
FQ: Lastly, what do you hope readers will take away from this series?
I always intended for my series to connect with readers on a fundamental level—both relating to and inspiring them.
I want my readers to learn about things like the profound value of change, friendship, taking fate into your own hands, self-acceptance, and the power of choices. I hope this series will encourage people to think about the deeper questions, like in regards to the morality of taking life, what it means to be strong, tough choices about identity, and so forth. Additionally, at the core, I truly hope that as my readers grow with Crisanta, they are inspired by her hero-princess archetype to be the strongest, boldest, most honorable versions of themselves as they fight for the change they want to see in the world and in themselves.
And (of course) I want people to close the last book in my series with a smile—feeling good and feeling fulfilled with all that has come to pass.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

#BookReview - Badger's Perfect Garden

Badger's Perfect Garden

By: Marsha Diane Arnold
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-1534110007
Reviewed by: Gina Montanha
Review Date: May 1, 2019 
Badger's Perfect Garden is a great accompaniment to planting your spring garden! While teaching your child about the work that goes into an actual garden – the planning, weeding, seeding and waiting, you can also make some teachable moments about patience, expectations and when planning just doesn’t go as planned! There are an adorable array of animals, including Red Squirrel, Weasel and Dormouse, who help a very diligent Badger plant his huge variety of vegetable and flower seeds, excited for the most perfect garden.
When Mother Nature decides to dump a deluge of rain down on poor Badger’s garden for days, he is very discouraged that all of his seeds have washed away and his perfect garden will never come to fruition. But his friends are hopeful and encouraging, trying to convince him that there will be many new seeds to collect again and start over. But Badger is sad and disappointed. Weeks later, his friends discover the most wonderful surprise and can’t wait to show Badger.
Illustrator Ramona Kaulitzki does a lovely job combining beautifully colored landscapes with the furry little creatures scattered throughout the pages. Even the inside of Badger’s tree-house is cute and colorful, with just enough detail to not overwhelm small senses. I particularly loved the whirling mix of wildflowers and vegetables near the end. You could almost smell them in the air!
Quill says: Badger’s Perfect Garden is a charming little story with a great lesson to be learned. Sometimes you just have to let go of your idea of “perfect” and let nature take its course...you never know what wonders may await!

#BookReview - The Forgiving Jar

The Forgiving Jar (The Prayer Jars)

By: Wanda Brunstetter
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Publication Date: February 2019
ISBN: 978-1-62416-748-5
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 1, 2019
With the release of her latest book in her Prayer Jar Series, The Forgiving Jar, Wanda Brunstetter delivers yet another heart-warming and insightful story.
Sara Murray never knew who her mother’s parents were. It was only after her mother passed that Sara learned she had grandparents and to compound such a surprise, they were Amish and living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. After sorting out the loss of her mother and the fact she was raised Amish, Sara realizes it’s time to venture to Pennsylvania to meet her relations. Little did she know there was a greater surprise awaiting her arrival. How was it possible an imposter had beat Sara to the punch of meeting her extended family and was living under their roof? Not only was she an imposter, but she was also someone who thought it was okay to pose as Sara’s grandparents’ flesh and blood.
Willis and Ruth Lapp were kind and simple people. They embraced life in their humble Amish community of Strasburg and were devout in the practice of their Amish ways. Although their daughter chose to step away from her Amish upbringing and venture out into the English community, they never lost hope that one day they would meet the unborn grandchild their daughter carried when she left. Even though their daughter was gone, the prospect of the day they hoped and prayed for to meet their granddaughter had been fulfilled. It was an affirmation that yet another prayer had been answered for Willis and Ruth Lapp. When the truth rises to the top, as it often does, imagine the Lapps’ surprise when they learn the young woman who was living with them wasn’t Sara at all. Rather she was Michelle Taylor and it would seem Michelle had also been in search of a family connection, even if they weren’t blood relations.
The joy of reading one of Wanda Brunstetter’s novels occurs within the first handful of pages. She takes her time to develop the lay of the story and as it gains momentum, it is the rich characters that complement the storyline. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Brunstetter’s work for quite some time and The Forgiving Jar doesn’t disappoint. Rather, it accentuates the talent further of this woman’s ability to carefully craft a beautiful story with fantastic nuances and subtleties throughout when it comes to the importance of faith. As I’ve said before, never have I had a sense when reading one of Ms. Brunstetter’s books that it is rife with Amish pulpit pounding. Rather, the story pulls you in because of Ms. Brunstetter’s fantastic ability to plant a seed of the importance of faith and family and allows her audience to watch it grow as the tender tale unfolds. Ms. Brunstetter has created characters capable of standing in their own light as much as they complement and contribute to the uniqueness of their fellow characters. I applaud Ms. Brunstetter for delivering another terrific read. I am a fan for the long run with this author and look forward to the next installation in her Prayer Jar Series.
Quill says: The Forgiving Jar is a wonderful depiction of how life consistently delivers the real story that swoops in to replace the fictitious film that played in the imagination.

#BookReview - Death at Whitewater Church

Death at Whitewater Church (An Inishowen Mystery)

By: Andrea Carter
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: September 2018
ISBN: 978-1608093021
Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau
Review Date: April 24, 2019
Benedicta ‘Ben’ O’Keeffe is a solicitor acting for the owners of a de-consecrated church in disrepair when she comes across a mysterious skeleton wrapped in a blanket hidden in the church’s crypt. The locals are convinced the skeleton must belong to Conor Devitt, a well-known neighbor who vanished six years before on his wedding day. Ben becomes embroiled in a mystery that has eaten away at her adopted community for over half a decade while simultaneously coming face to face with a past tragedy of her own. One that she would rather not dig up.
From the beginning of the novel, author Angela Carter draws the readers into the tight-knit town of Inishowen, rife with its secrets and dark history. She brilliantly captures the atmosphere of a small town where everybody knows everybody else’s business. Her writing style imbues the story with a chilliness that permeates far more than just setting, which is in itself both charming and spooky.
As the reader discovers the deep, sometimes surprising connections between the people of Inishowen alongside Ben, they can’t help but speculate as to the conclusion of the mystery themselves. Despite that, no amount of speculation will bring Carter’s audience to the true answers to the questions that are sure to arise for them throughout the story.
Twists and turns are an obligatory part to any mystery novel and Carter definitely delivers. While unexpected developments are numerous throughout Death at Whitewater Church, they are never overwhelming or difficult to follow. Whenever her audience begins to relax, she throws something new at them and readers are once again on the edge of their seats.
One aspect of the story that is particularly interesting is the drama of Conor Devitt’s disappearance. Though it’s quickly revealed that Devitt is not the skeleton found in the crypt, the personal drama of his disappearance before the story takes places connects many members of the community in ways that both Ben and the reader do not expect. As the mystery of the skeleton is investigated, Ben learns more of the secrets that Inishowen has been hiding from her, as she is still a relatively new resident. Ben herself is an engaging character with a secret of her own. She is an excellent narrator who brings the story to life with her sharp observations and curiosity. Both intriguing and relatable to the reader, she is a stand-out among the many other colorful inhabitants of Inishowen.
Andrea Carter delivers a strong start to a new murder mystery series. Death at Whitewater Church is a clever story with a large cast of interesting characters. If the subsequent novels are anything like the opening one, she and her protagonist Ben are certain to attract a devoted following. 
Quill says: The town of Inishowen definitely has a few more mysteries that need to be solved!

#BookReview - The Inn at Hidden Run

The Inn at Hidden Run (Tree of Life Series) 

By: Olivia Newport
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Publication Date: May 2019
ISBN: 978-1-64352-137-4
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 22, 2019
Olivia Newport delivers an intriguing story in the first of her Tree of Life series, The Inn at Hidden Run.
Jillian Parisi-Duffy is a genealogist and loves what she does. Her home doubles as her office and is nestled at the base of Pikes Peak in picturesque Canyon Mines, Colorado. She shares the quaint and beautifully restored Victorian on the outskirts of town with her lawyer dad, Nolan. Her best friend Nia Dunston is a walk down the street. She runs a bed and breakfast at the end of Main Street and the Inn is quite the tourist destination during the summer months in colorful Colorado. It’s not hard to spot a newcomer to town since its year-round population is miniscule. When Meri shows up on Nia’s doorstop and practically begs for a job, Nia is all too willing to accept the help. It was the excess baggage Meri had in tow that Nia would soon learn was quite a heavy load.
The more Jillian learns about her friend's mysterious new-hire, the more she is compelled to do what she does best: search Meri’s family heritage. With more than enough work on Jillian’s plate already, the last thing she wants to do is take on a pro-bono task. After discussing the details (or the lack thereof) when it comes to Meri and her family history, Nolan steps up to the plate to offer up his attorney skills in an attempt to gain Meri’s trust and determine what this young woman is running from. Why did Meri flee her roots of Tennessee and end up in Colorado of all places? Is she running from the law? Is she running from harm’s way? Or is she simply running from her past with no desire to look in her rear-view mirror ever again?
Olivia Newport has penned a novel worthy of turning its pages to see what lurks ahead. The depths and traits of all her characters are beautifully developed and are easy to connect with. The flow of this story has no drag whatsoever and it is easy to find voice from its inception. Having lived in the Colorado Rockies for many years, I enjoyed the scenery Ms. Newport painted with her words. There were often times when I found myself in the moment and place she described. I tip my hat to Ms. Newport’s ability to stay true to her pen and allow the writing to flow effortlessly as she layers the story with her adept creativity. I look forward to the next book in her Tree of Life series. Well done Ms. Newport.
Quill says: The Inn at Hidden Run is a terrific story that blends history with the present and is full of mystery and intrigue throughout.

Monday, April 15, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Brit Lunden @BritLunden

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Brit Lunden, the author of The Knowing: A Bulwark Anthology (Book 1).
FQ: As I mentioned in my review, I was a bit surprised (in a good way!) that you didn’t center this first book in the “Bulwark Anthology” on the main character from Bulwark, Clay Finnes, but rather someone who played a minor role in that book.  What made you decide to go in that direction?
LUNDEN: I didn't know who was going to be the main character when the other authors approached me and asked if we could turn Bulwark into an anthology. I simply opened the book, and it happened to be the chapter with JB. I wrote the first sentence, and JB took over the story. Originally it was going to be a haunting, but JB had other plans. While I loved Clay and his wife, I felt Bulwark has many tales to tell, and even minor characters have interesting backstories.
FQ: Every chapter in The Knowing uses a football term as its name – I assume in honor of JB and his love of football. Plus, each term perfectly described something in that chapter (in “Blitz” there’s a big fight, etc.).  Was this something you planned to do from the onset, or did the idea come to you as you were writing?  
LUNDEN: I have to share that I've never watched a football game. I've never played football, but JB had to be football crazy. I knew most small towns love their team and felt it would play an important part in his life. My brother told me about the famous football coach, Bear Bryant and I had a lot of fun looking him up and trying to imagine what he might say. That scene between JB's father and the coach was so vivid in my mind. In fact, a friend of mine from Georgia couldn't believe how natural that chapter sounded. When I finished the book, I googled football terms and then matched them to each chapter.
I never plan anything when I write. I let the plot evolve naturally and I like not knowing where it is going to go.
FQ: JB can’t shake the feeling that he somehow knew Ellie, that there was some connection. His grandmother had said “It’s the Knowing. It’s that feeling when you gonna meet your someone special…” I suspect many of us have experienced this, but I’ve never heard the term “Knowing.” Is it something your family called the sensation or was the term made up by you? And do you think this feeling is spiritual, mystical, or?
LUNDEN:  I made the term up. I don't remember if I named the story or it was born from that scene with JB's grandmother. I think I was calling it JB's Story for a while and switched to The Knowing somewhere in the middle of writing it.
I truly believe we come here to live our lives with the people we need to be with. I also think we come back many times. How often have you felt as if you have been to a place before, or had that instinct that the person you met is not a stranger? It has happened to me all my life. I am a believer, and it brings me comfort to know it doesn't just end here. There's more to everything.
I've also had past life regressions and I knew the minute I met my husband 48 years ago, that not only did I know he was meant for me, deep in my gut, I knew we had been together before. I have been to mediums and many have confirmed those feelings.
FQ: JB has a rather depressing home life but at least he can share football with his father.  The game certainly plays an important role in many families, and indeed, would do so for JB. Without football, what do you think would have happened to a young man like JB with few options in a small Southern town? 
LUNDEN: He would have been a peanut farmer, like every other male in his family. College was out of the question. His parents allowed him to play in high school as long as his chores were being done. When Bear Bryant recruits JB and promises a full scholarship, his parents are dead-set against him furthering his education. As far as they are concerned, he has no future in that direction. Remember in the sixties, very few players were getting those big paydays. The Straton's absolutely had nothing extra to support his dreams.
FQ: Scent plays a big role in The Knowing, Lilies of the Valley being a significant aroma. Indeed, scent brings back so many specific memories to many people.  Do you think it’s hard-wired into the human brain? 
LUNDEN: I do. Scents trigger all kinds of memories for me. When I write, I try to include all the senses because it's it how we perceive our world, even when we are not aware of it. Smell french toast and what memories does it bring back? How about that odor of blacktop after rain? Even the smell of a book brings back my tween years and junior high for me- hanging out in the library. Scents take us back to comforting times or incidents that brought us stress- the astringent smell of alcohol before a needle, or the stifling, heavy fragrance of flowers at a wake. Scents trigger something primeval in us. It's built into our DNA.
FQ: Without giving too much away, the events after JB’s fight with Ellie’s brother, that take the reader to the Civil War, had me at first perplexed, and then, mesmerized. How did you come up with that?
LUNDEN: When I realized it was going to be a book about past lives, I knew with Georgia as a background it would have to be the Civil War. I've made the drive from New York to Florida many times in my life and I always travel back in my imagination to that time period. I think about the soldiers slogging away in muddy terrain, the awful hand-to hand combat. The close proximity of fighting to homesteads, the horrors of invading armies, deserters and just the casualties of families caught in the 'cross-fire' of fighting,  whether young sons were leaving home or the war was brought to the front door. War is a terrible thing, and the wounded are not just on the battlefield. How many lives are interrupted, family matters left unsettled?
FQ: The idea of soul-mates plays a central part in your story. Do you believe that everybody has a soul-mate? 
LUNDEN: Yes. I believe we have many soul-mates. I have had many soul-mates in my life, and they don't have to be romantic ones. There are people that I have felt connected to, rooted in such a way they are as much a part of my make-up as my skin, or my hands.
FQ: In your author’s note, you thank numerous people for helping build “…the Bulwark Universe.” What is the process you go through, with your friends, to build the world in and around Bulwark? 
LUNDEN: Writing is a very insular activity for me. While I do write in the office I share with my brother, he is basically the only person I talk to when I work. He knows what I am thinking and where my brain needs to go. We are very close. His imagination is very different from mine, but I do bounce certain things off him. He does not believe mediums, past lives, or many of the things I do, so it's good to have someone so very opposite listening when I relate an idea. He is legally blind, so when I finish a book, I usually read it to him and he will offer up suggestions.
I thanked the people who enable me to do this. My kids who encourage, and push me to fulfill my dreams. My fellow indies, whose unwavering support and encouragement find ways to help promote and market. I don't know if I would have written an anthology for Bulwark, if not for RL Jackson who asked if we could do it. Then all those wonderful authors agreed to take my world and expand it. It was a great moment of pride for me. The town I created, the characters I lovingly nurtured were considered important enough that others were willing to invest their time and efforts to make it bigger. I am both humbled and honored. Lastly, I am forever indebted to my husband, who encouraged me to reach for the stars and never be afraid to jump.
FQ: Have you started the next novella in the Bulwark Anthology series? If so, would you give our readers a peek into what to expect next? 
LUNDEN: Dayna Dalton has something to say, and I think I have no choice but to accommodate her.
Here is a very rough draft-
The crisp, clear sunlight was not her friend. Dayna Dalton winced at the bright light that squeezed in through the slats on the venetian blind. She reached over giving the cord a hard tug, sending the tiny bathroom into near darkness. Behind her, the shower head dripped with a steady plop that reminded her of the expose she did on water torture in Guantanamo Bay, that never got published. It was deemed too harsh to print. The Bulwark Advance preferred her to write… fluffy pieces. She sneered thinking of the crap on her computer, the half-written article about the elusive Easter Bunny that was waiting for a final edit. She hung her head in shame, thinking what her sorority sisters from Georgetown would feel if they knew where Dangerous Dayna Dalton ended up. There'd be hell to pay in the form of eternal humiliation.
She twisted the faucet, her freckled knuckle turning bone white from the effort. It was no use, the leak continued relentlessly driving a hole in her throbbing head. Oh, that last round of shots was totally not necessary.
No matter how hard she wrenched the faucet, the dribble continued. She should ask her guest to fix it before he left, he was a plumber after all.
Skip Benson’s bear-like yawn turned into a growl from the bedroom. “Dayna,” he whined.
Dayna rolled her kohl-smeared eyes in the mirror.
“Dayna, come on back to bed.”
Dayna took a steadying breath, both hands gripping the sink. What was she thinking last night?
Skip Benson? How low could she go? A shudder ran through her thin frame. That left only Trout Parker and she could now report she had officially and irrevocably scraped the bottom of the barrel of Bulwark, Georgia.
Look for The Devil and Dayna Dalton coming this June 2019.

#BookReview - The Knowing @BritLunden

The Knowing: A Bulwark Anthology (Book 1)

By: Brit Lunden
Publisher: Chelshire
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-1947188990
Reviewed By: Holly Connors
Review Date: April 11, 2019
Author Brit Lunden starts out her new "Bulwark Anthology" series in the same way she started (with her initial offering, Bulwark), with a fast-paced, satisfying story that will have readers glued to the pages, trying to figure out what is going to happen next.
In The Knowing, the first book in the "Bulwark Anthology," the reader is re-introduced to JB Stratton, an elderly man who we first met in Bulwark. JB played a small role in that story, briefly taking care of an out-of-town couple hurt in a car accident. When the injured woman saw a picture of JB's late, beloved wife and made a nasty accusation, JB didn't take it lightly. After all, his late wife Ellie was, and would always be, his soul mate. If you didn't read Bulwark, it's not necessary to read it before reading this novella, but I'd recommend it as it's a great read. But for those without a copy of that first book, fear not, as the author covers those events in the first chapter of The Knowing.
Once the refresher chapter is complete, it's on to the new story. The reader is transported back 52 years, to a slower time in Bulwark, GA, where JB is a high school student, a star football player, and dirt poor. Between working on his parents' farm, school work, and football practice, the young man has no time for anything else. That is until Ellie Bronson, a blonde, blue-eyed, beautiful young woman, one year younger than JB, arrives from Connecticut. JB is smitten, but he's also shy and too ill-at-ease to ask Ellie for a date.
Soon, JB could think of nothing but Ellie. It was as if he knew her, but that was impossible because she'd just moved to Georgia. Something out of his past perhaps? Still, he couldn't stop thinking of her, nor could he shake the feeling of knowing her from...where? And then he started dreaming about Ellie. But the dreams...they were unusual and left him uneasy which was particularly odd because he couldn't remember what they were about. 
At last, JB and Ellie connect and their romance begins. Things are going great until Ellie's brother finds out about the couple and decides to put an end to JB's desires. JB gets knocked out and that's when things get really odd, or fantastic, depending on your point of view. JB is transported to a Civil War battlefield, or is it just a dream? Readers will be pulled into the story to find out, and eager to learn how Ellie fits into the story.
The Knowing, a novella of just 80 pages is a quick read, made all the quicker because you won't want to stop reading until the very end. I was eager to dive into this story because Bulwark, the short story that started this series, was such an enjoyable read. I wanted to re-visit the town of Bulwark, GA and learn what other oddities were awaiting the reader. I was initially surprised to learn that this story didn't revolve around Sheriff Clay Finnes, the main character in Bulwark, but instead a minor player from that book. While I look forward to meeting Clay in another story in this series, I thoroughly enjoyed learning JB and Ellie's backstory. There's just enough supernatural "something" going on to keep the reader wondering, as well as asking themselves, "do I have a soul mate?" Here's hoping that there will be a lot more books in this anthology series! 
Quill says: A very satisfying start to the "Bulwark Anthology" series. I can't wait to read the next book in the series!
For more information on The Knowing: A Bulwark Anthology, please visit the author's website: www.britlunden.com

Saturday, April 6, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Linda Gould @lgould171784

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Linda Gould, the author of Sycophants.
FQ: Thanks very much for such an enjoyable read. I’m always curious what triggers the author’s imagination to spin his/her tale. Your credentials portray you as a political science major. Were any of your experiences used to develop Sara’s and/or Imogene’s characters? If so, which one (or a little of both)?
GOULD: I studied for a masters degree in political science at American University in Washington, DC from 1977-1981. That was a turbulent time in American politics, not that I can actually remember a tranquil period! All of my novels seem to have political elements, and a couple of them include the President as a real, although distant character.
In Sycophants, Sara is moved by the political climate in the early 1990s to make an anti-war film. During the film-making process, she and Imogene get caught up in a conflict between two prominent ministers on opposite sides of the political spectrum.
FQ: It says you are retired from the bureaucracy of D.C. Do you miss the day-to-day rush of working in the Nation’s capital? If so, what do you miss most?
GOULD: What I miss most are the early days of my career at the Department of Labor, when I was considered “young and promising” and was involved in things that excited me, such as preparing budgets, attending Congressional hearings, and giving presentations. Unfortunately, in the Federal government age discrimination is a real, although unacknowledged phenomenon. I’ve compared notes with other employees who also found their stock going down as their hair went gray, so I know it wasn’t just my imagination.
Do I miss it now? Not at all! I wake up every morning to Federal News Radio, a program that discusses problems and issues at the various agencies. The problems are only getting worse in the current toxic political climate. As I roll over for an extra snooze, I thank goodness I don’t have to deal with any of that anymore.
FQ: Is there an experience that resonates with you and if so, are you able to share?
GOULD: Toward the end of my government career, I had a supervisor who seemed nice on the surface, but who systematically excluded me from many projects I had been involved in previously. He had hired (with higher management’s approval) two much younger budget analysts at higher grades, and tried to befriend them by showering them with all kinds of perks. Although I was often angry and humiliated, especially when I found myself covering for their junkets and various “retreats,” I was too close to retirement to do much about it. I took the easy way out by mostly ignoring the situation rather than fighting it, and retiring as soon as I felt comfortable with my pension. I knew they would miss me more than they realized, once they were stuck with all the grunt work I’d been doing!
I got my “revenge” by using that supervisor as inspiration for one of Imogene’s superiors at the production company. Like me, Imogene feels ignored and excluded by “Gus” and his harem. She’s the one who has to endure their closed-door meetings and cover for their endless, dubious trips. Eventually, she gains enough of a foothold in the company so that their attitude toward her no longer matters.
FQ: I enjoyed the pace of your story. It seemed there were many layers and dimensions to each of your characters. Were there times when you lost track of who was doing what?
GOULD: Oh, my, yes! It took many years to write Sycophants, and I lost the thread of the narrative several  times. I set out to write a sequel to The Rock Star’s Homecoming (2007), which dealt with roommates Imogene and Sara, and their rather superior third roommate Emily, as seniors at college. The new story got more and more complex, and I had to start over a few times just to get the thing untangled. It was particularly difficult to figure out what to do with Emily. It wasn’t enough for her to represent “snootiness” as she did at college. In the adult story, she had to get involved in the film-making process, and suffer marital issues like Sara and Imogene.
FQ: As a writer myself, I’m always curious to learn from a fellow author what his or her methodology is during the writing process. Do you outline your story first? Do you simply dive in and let the story write itself? Does it differ with each story?
GOULD: I usually start out trying to make an outline, but it turns out so vague and general that it’s practically useless. Instead of outlining, I end up merely jotting down some notes about what I hope to accomplish and points I want to make. It seems the details of the story never come to me in any meaningful way until I’m actually writing it.
FQ: I enjoyed your development of both Sara and Imogene. They were opposites in many respects, yet they worked well together. How much of Sara’s and/or Imogene’s character reflects a little bit of you?
GOULD: Imogene is much like me, conscientious and well-meaning but sometimes bumbling when it comes to new situations and challenges. Her marital issues also reflect much of what I went through myself. Sara, on the other hand, evolved from an imaginary friend I’ve had most of my life, who possesses all the qualities I’d like to have. She’s a composite of strong women whom I have known and admired.
FQ: Are there any real-life experiences you had during your college days that mirror either Sara’s or Imogene’s character?
GOULD: As an extreme introvert, I was always looking for stronger personalities to lead the way. One of my best friends was the editor of the college newspaper. Her reporting created a ruckus or two on campus. Most of my other friends were training to be English teachers, which also required a more outgoing personality than I had. After college, I started my career as a secretary in quasi-government, so I didn’t exactly come out of college with a bang.
FQ: Imogene is the personification of the ‘struggling artist’ on a quest to get discovered by penning an award-winning film script. I’ve never dabbled in the adventure of screenplay writing. Have you ever? If so, did it ever go anywhere? If not, do you aspire to write a screen play?
GOULD: There’s just something about seeing real-live people act out your stories! That’s why all of my novels have book trailers. In addition to that, I utilized a screenwriting service for all four of my iUniverse-published novels. The screenwriters who worked on my stories were advertised as professionals in the business, and I think they all did a creditable job of converting them to  cinematic products. The scripts are posted on sites like InkTip and SimplyScripts, and get a lot of reads, although no producers yet.
Since short scripts are often easier to get produced, I took a scene or two from each screenplay and came up with a script of around 10 pages or less. I’ve been shopping these around to local film-making groups. The one based on Secretarial Wars was picked up by a group originally called Bethesda Amateur Filmmakers A to Z (now Bethesda Filmmakers and Media-makers). They used it as the basis for a fifteen-minute film called “The Investigation” in 2016, which was a lot of fun. Although my script was changed quite a bit in the process, I tell myself that would have happened in Hollywood too!
FQ: I too live in the D.C. area and have spent a fair amount of time over the years in horse country both in Northern Virginia as well as rural Maryland. Did you grow up in Maryland on a farm as Imogene’s character had?
GOULD: No, I’m about the farthest thing there is from a country girl. I’ve lived my entire life in the suburbs, and spent my work life in DC. However, my four years at Western Maryland (now McDaniel) College in Westminster, Maryland from 1970 to 1974 gave me a brief taste of rural living. It’s a beautiful spot, with all the fresh air, the Blue Ridge Mountains shimmering in the distance, and the smell of manure penetrating everything in the springtime. It serves as the inspiration for Glendary College in the novel. In fact, there is an actual town called Glendarry nearby.
I knew a handful of students who were from Westminster or nearby, and could be considered farm kids, but the majority of us came from the Baltimore and Washington areas. I made Imogene one of the country girls to emphasize her longing to escape one day to New York City, which happened to be Sara’s home town.
FQ: It was a pleasure to read Sycophants and I thank you for your time. I look forward to your next title. Are you currently working on something new and if so, are you able to share?

From the original Imogene-Sara story, The Rock Star's Homecoming

GOULD: Since Sycophants was a sequel to my 2007 novel, The Rock Star’s Homecoming, I thought I’d try another sequel. This time I’m revisiting the mixture of baseball, politics, and chick-lit I attempted in Let’s Play Ball (2010). This one is tentatively entitled Let’s Play Two, and involves another kidnapping from a ballpark. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those firebrand writers who can churn out sequel after sequel within a matter of weeks, and make a ton of money that way. Although this new book seems to be coming much faster than Sycophants did, I still expect it will take years, not months.
READ the review

#BookReview - Sycophants @lgould171784

Sycophants

By: Linda Gould
Publisher: Independently Published
Publication Date: December 2018
ISBN: 978-1790874170
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 2, 2019
Linda Gould delivers a story of twists and turns among friends and the challenges life after college present in her latest novel, Sycophants.
Imogen Wittier is a small-town country girl who dreamed of nothing more than the bright lights and big city once she graduated from her equally small-town college. Upon graduation, she moves to the Big Apple to begin her new life.
Imogen settles into her new life but after living in New York City for just six years, the reality is beyond real — a marriage that’s on the rocks along with a fledgling career in her writing endeavors. She wants that big break and is convinced she has the Academy Award winning screenplay to land her the coveted notoriety she so desperately wants and believes is hers for the taking.
Former college roomie Sara Guthrie has it all. Her pro-football player hubby is all that and more. He continues to make his way up the NFL ladder and life is good. They’re the perfect family complete with the perfect daughter. Sara’s latest pet project is a production company formerly run by her brother Jake, a semi-retired rock star. If Sara plays her cards right, she will walk the carpet for her film-making debut. When Imogen arrives back in Sara’s life, perhaps both ladies will achieve fame and fortune in the world of film-making. However, not before both experience more than a few doses of growing pains complemented by greater challenges.
Linda Gould has spun a fast-paced tale that keeps her audience actively engaged. Her character description and development are rich with supporting dialogue and ample road blocks to keep her audience turning the pages. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, Gould strategically folds another layer into the plot and has her readers sitting up to take notice. A writer develops a winning fiction formula when a writer writes what a writer knows. Ms. Gould lives in DC as do I and when she moves her characters to DC to open another production office, I enjoyed recognizing the city icons Gould adeptly describes. The grand finale of this story is by no means predictable and I applaud Ms. Gould for knowing how to capture and engage her audience throughout the read. Well done. I look forward to your next adventure.
Quill says: Sycophants delivers a lot more than lights, cameras, and action.
For further information on Sycophants, please visit the author's website at: www.letsplayballbook.wordpress.com

#BookReview - Crisanta Knight: To Death & Back @gculbert14

Crisanta Knight: To Death & Back

By: Geanna Culbertson
Publisher: BQB Publishing
Publication Date: April 2019
ISBN: 978-1-945448-26-3
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 6, 2019
For every reader who has somehow missed this fantastic series, with this review you will note that every book that arrives from this author deserves a huge welcome, and all lovers of books need to jump on board for this magical ride! 
Crisanta Knight is the daughter of Cinderella. Her homeland is a wonderful location called "Book," and it is in that magical realm where citizens are separated into main characters (as well as some common characters that make up the ensembles of famous fairytales). She is a protagonist and she has her own “protagonist book” which details her fate in life. Crisanta has one of those ominous prophecies that she learned a while ago; she is supposed to decide the fate of the evil and devious antagonists who are working together, plotting to overthrow the realm of Book and eliminate all the main characters who dwell there. 
Through four tales written by this author, Crisanta and her very cool friends have worked to make sure that these antagonists have been halted every time they try to take Crisanta out, which they’ve been attempting to do ever since they learned of her prophecy. Their need to stop her makes sense, because being a princess and a protagonist, the only way they can stop her prophecy from succeeding is by taking her (the “subject”) out of the game.
In this, Book Five, Crisanta and her friends begin in Neverland, that magical place where Peter Pan and the Lost Boys and Girls dwell. She is on a quest to find the infamous sword Excalibur. But she is not the only one who is after it. Alex, her older brother, has his own prophecy that has become entangled with hers; he is also searching for the beloved weapon, which makes this an even more precarious position to be in. Alex had once been her hero, friend and brother, but lost her loyalty when he teamed up with the vicious antagonists and launched an attack on their home. 
On the villain’s side there is not only Alex, but also Adrian (who has been in charge of taking Crisanta out for good), and Mauvrey (the daughter of Sleeping Beauty and Crisanta’s long-time nemesis). On the good side of things, however, are SJ (Snow White’s daughter); Blue (Little Red Riding Hood’s younger sister); Jason (who comes from the “Jack who climbed the Beanstalk” clan); and Daniel, who just happens to be a hero with absolutely no connection to any past fairytales. 
They also have made new allies by aligning themselves with Peter Pan and the Lost Ones in Neverland. But that is not all. One ally they found in Neverland was one who has been presumed dead by many for a long time. It is the famous King Arthur, who is still very much alive and joins Crisanta and her mates in their quest. Considering how many realms these protagonists have to save, it’s amazing they can get any sleep.
With Alex and his “bad guys” racing to find Excalibur before Crisanta and the “good guys” can, the reader is taken on a fantastic ride, yet again, that introduces new characters and locations, such as the amazing Camelot and all the legends that come with it. With each page Crisanta’s “Pure Magic” powers of life, which she has been honing since the beginning of this road trip, become grander in every respect. And when she goes into battle, she carries her Fairy Godmother-issue wand, which has the ability to turn into any weapon she wants. 
This is most assuredly a race against the clock and each page keeps the reader on their toes. In addition, there are true lessons to be learned here; the greatest, perhaps, being the fact that true friends are not a dime a dozen, and when you have them by your side, looking out for you, it makes you one of the luckiest people in the world. As we all know, a beloved series is hard to find, but this author has most definitely written one that should be granted a prominent place on every bookshelf around the globe. 
Quill says: Book Five Rocks...Bring on Book Six!
For more information on Crisanta Knight: To Death & Back, please visit the series' website at: www.crisantaknight.com

#BookReview - The Book of Spells

The Book of Spells

By: John J. Miller
Illustrated By: GKS Creative
Publisher: KOKR Publishing
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-1-7326380-0-6
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: April 2019
In the kingdom of Vilgar a beloved king named Steffen was held in high regard for being a kind and generous ruler who was always willing to help his subjects in any way he could. In his castle Steffen was surrounded by trusted advisors, soldiers, and his family. However, things are about to change when a wizard named Malecar arrives at the castle stating he could be of help to the king. Steffen agrees that having a wizard in the castle would be an advantage and so invites Malecar to stay. It does not take long for Malecar to show his worth when he warns the king of a tremendous storm coming toward the kingdom, which gives everyone time to prepare for the oncoming storm. Immediately grateful for Malecar’s skills, Steffen offers a permanent position to him in the king’s service, which Malecar readily accepts. Unbeknownst to Steffen, Malecar himself created the storm in order to gain the king’s favor, for he had an evil plan in mind that he had just set into motion.
Some time later another wizard by the name of Martir arrives at the castle, but he is a gentle and kind wizard who has an amazing ability to befriend everyone, human and animal alike. He is one that has a kind word to say to everyone he meets, and truly wants to serve King Steffen in any way he can. 
Meanwhile, Steffen’s son Audric is now a young boy and instantly takes a liking to Martir. The new wizard is told by King Steffen that there is already a wizard serving in the castle. However, suggests the king, if he wants, Martir can apprentice under Malecar to expand his own skills. Delighted with this idea, Martir quickly agrees to the arrangement and comes to love the royal family as his own. However, his relationship with Malecar is soon strained because Malecar seems much more interested in his own business than wanting to waste his time teaching Martir. There is also something strange and menacing about Malecar that Martir does not like...Martir, above all, is profoundly loyal to the royal family and if necessary, he would give his life to protect them.
This book reminded me of how classic fairy tales made me feel as a child. I love reading a story that brings back those old-fashioned memories. The characters in this book came to life with every page with an exceptionally evil villain, a valiant hero, and also some never-ending love stories. Mix them all together and you have a tale that made me take a sigh of enjoyment when I finished it. I also loved that this book was not too terribly long, making it a fun, quick read while still having all of the elements of an exceptional tale.
Quill says: An amazing fantasy story, which gave me all the wonderful feelings of an old-time fairy tale.