Monday, February 18, 2019

#AuthorInterview with John Henry Hardy @JohnHenryAuthor

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kristi Eldridge is talking with John Henry Hardy, the author of The Legend of the Phantom Effect.
FQ:  Did you spend time in the Lubbock or Amarillo area to gain inspiration for the scenery in this book?
HARDY: No, Kristi, but I have been through the area and realized it is rather isolated and sparsely populated north of Lubbock. The park mentioned in the book, Cap Rock Canyon State Park, is an actual park and was an ideal location for the landing site of the spaceships. It also has a buffalo herd, eagles, hares, and cacti. It also marks the beginning of the Llano Estacado-the high plains.
FQ: What was the inspiration for the main character and did you always plan to have him be a reporter?
HARDY: The inspiration for the main character came from a movie I saw many years ago about a reporter, who encountered mystical monsters that were haunting the Earth. But that story  is totally different than the tale depicted in The Legend of the Phantom Effect.
FQ: Did any information or stories from the famous Roswell UFO sightings provide inspiration for this book?
HARDY: No. The inspiration for this book was the knowledge that there are 200 billion stars in the Galaxy of the Milky Way, and by the Law of Probability forty billion of those stars are Earth-like suns. But I am not into monster stories, but dwell on the possible reality of creatures that may have evolved like humans beings, since those forty billion suns are so much like our sun-with some differences of course.
FQ: What was your first step in creating the world of Rau?
HARDY: I studied the constellations from excerpts from NASA and discovered there is a star called Proxima Centauri in the Constellation Centaurus. It is a Red Dwarf Star and a planet known to science as Proxima b revolves around it. I call it Rau in the story, but all its attributes are true facts about Proxima b as taken from my research.
FQ: What was the inspiration for the name Rau?
HARDY: I wanted to keep it simple, and as I was typing a sentence that name just popped into my stream of thought.
FQ: How did you go about creating a world that was different enough from Earth to be intriguing, but similar enough to be relatable?
HARDY: What I kept thinking was; what are the next steps for mankind? I thought about advancements in medicines, and medical procedures; space travel; foods and farming; social relationships; correctional institutions and capital punishment; finance etc. etc. etc. But I also kept in mind the greed, paranoia, sexual mores, and the lust for power that is so prevalent amongst humanity today, and contrasted this to the lessons learned by the advanced civilization that had evolved on Rau.
FQ: What research in astronomy did you do in writing this book?
HARDY: I relied a lot on what was on the internet as presented by NASA and other astronomers. I discovered there is an Earth-like planet that orbits an Earth-like sun in the Constellation Centaurus that mankind has never seen, not even in photographs taken by satellites. We know it as Proxima b and that it exists by it’s gravitational pull on other suns and planets. It’s sun is a Red Dwarf Star-Proxima Centauri, and it is many times cooler than Earth’s sun, but it is much closer to the planet than our sun is to Earth. The same side of that planet I call Rau always faces the sun just as the same side of our moon always faces Earth. These are all true facts and many more than we don’t have the time or room to discuss here, but it is all told in The Legend of the Phantom Effect.
FQ: When writing this book did you picture the ending and then write to that ending, or start from the beginning?
HARDY: Neither, Kristi. I always knew what the middle of the story was going to be about (the discovery of a spaceship by a persistent reporter), and then wrote the beginning, filled lots of material in the middle of the tale after my research, and then thought of the ending that power hungry dictators might pursue.
FQ: You seem comfortable in a wide range of genres (judging by your past books and very positive reviews for those books).  Do you have a favorite genre?  Or find one easier, or more difficult, to write?
HARDY: You know, Kristi, I honestly don’t know! I find it easy to write about war, since I spent more than thirty three years in the US Marine Corps; but the horror of war is not the only thing that can teach us about life. In my book The Place Where the Giant Fell it is about prejudice in pre-statehood Arizona; When Brothers Meet is an account based on the fact that China wants to control the world by controlling the supply of oil; The Day God Played Baseball is a humorous tale that conveys the human urge to lie and cheat in order to win at any cost-and what may happen if you do.
FQ: You’re quite prolific.  What’s next - would you give our readers a peak into your next book?
HARDY: My next book will be quite controversial. It concerns the horrific characteristics of the present day political climate that is plaguing the United States. Some people will love it and some will hate it, but this does not concern me. What does alarm me is the trend toward Socialism, Progressivism, and far left liberalism, which are preludes to communism.

#AuthorInterview with Keith Thye

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Keith Thye, the author of The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke.
FQ: What was the inspiration behind your decision to write a story about someone’s misadventures?
THYE: I had been thinking for many years about some of the incidents that had happened to me over the course of my life, and I wanted to get them on paper before life slipped away any further. It occurred to me that it might make a good story if I could develop a sequence. As a pseudo-comedy, I felt cramming all of them into one disastrous year would set the stage for further books to recapture a reasonable life.
FQ:  Why did you choose the late 1970s as the time period to set The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke?
THYE: I was born in 1942 and wanted Rusty to follow my life’s sequence because I was familiar with that time frame. Rusty needed to be old enough to have many of his life experiences behind him (adolescence, school, college, army, career) and yet young enough to have time to get his life turned around. I thought thirty-seven years of age would meet that criteria; hence, it would take place in 1979.
FQ: In the book, Rusty is suffering from writer's block and embarks upon an adventure in the hopes of alleviating this issue. Has there ever been a time in your writing endeavors where you felt stuck, and if so, what did you do to help yourself through the rough period?
THYE: I have no pressure—no time frame—to complete a manuscript. When I get stuck, I get away from writing for a while (days, weeks, perhaps a month). My wife and I talk about options for the next chapter or the direction of the book. Ideas begin to form a pattern, and when I’m comfortable with the next story line, I get back to writing.
FQ: Readers find out early on in the story that Rusty is living in a cramped apartment, which he feels is hindering his ability to write. Where do you find is the best place to write that will get your creative juices flowing?
THYE: I have two offices, or dens, that I use. In Sunriver, Oregon, I have two windows with lots of sunlight. In Ruston, Washington, no windows at all. Neither is preferable to me. My “creative juices” come from all over: reading a story in the newspapers, seeing an incident walking down the street, talking to my wife in the car about things we see, encountering an interesting person, etc. I get excited about the next chapter and get fully absorbed in the storyline.
FQ: As the story progresses, Rusty believes he has a dark cloud hanging over him, which is causing bad things to happen around him. Do you believe that people can have good and bad karma?
THYE: I do, and it is normally self-imposed. In Rusty’s case, he anticipates the next misadventure, and so it happens. Towards the end of the book, he finds work he enjoys and the love of his life, and things begin to turn around. He realizes that positive thoughts—and actions—can lead to positive outcomes.
FQ: I noticed on your website that you wrote two books about your own travel adventures. Do you enjoy writing fiction or nonfiction better?
THYE: The two adventure, travel books were about two motorcycle trips I made to South America, fifty years apart. These books almost wrote themselves, and I merely penned the narrative. The book(s) follow the sequences as they were encountered, and there is no embellishment to the story. Fiction is more fun in that I can use my imagination and go anywhere with the story. There is more creative freedom to be had. I do, however, enjoy writing both.
FQ: Are any of Rusty’s misadventures based on your personal experiences?
THYE: All of the misadventures actually happened; the two exceptions are Boomer and Chester. I did take some liberties, however, with the scope of the incidents.
FQ: Have you ever faced any challenges as a writer?
THYE: Being an author is a third career for me (twenty years in the wholesale grocery business and twenty-five years in the retail motorcycle business), so I was late to the party as an author. The transition in careers always provides new learning experiences, and it certainly has this time. Lots of challenges, such as: What makes an interesting book to the reader? How do you get it published? Once published, how do you market it? Etc. This is all new territory and takes a while to explore.
FQ: At the end of this novel, you include an author’s note in which you state, “...an interesting life makes a good book.” What other qualities do you think an author should possess in order for them to be able to write a good book?
THYE: Certainly patience as well as imagination. Write about what you know. And write about observations of life: characters, crime, love, incidents, as you encounter and experience them. Don’t let anything pass by. Soak in all that’s around you and become enthralled by it all. The world has ample opportunity for inspiration, as long as you keep your eyes and ears open.
FQ: Without giving away any spoilers, can you give readers a glimpse at what they can expect from the next installment of the Rusty Kenneficke trilogy?
THYE: Rusty gets his life together—he finds a job he enjoys and reconnects with the love of his life. His new positive outlook stabilizes his future. But he encounters new challenges that are much more serious than anything he has experienced before. He has more to tackle, and life doesn’t let up, which makes his misadventures fun to be a part of, stepping alongside him—a bit wobbly, of course.

#BookReview - The Cuckoo Colloquium @Mike12854850

The Cuckoo Colloquium: Getting Lost to Find Yourself

By: Michael A. Greco
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: February 2018
ISBN: 978-1-9856-9949-6
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: February 15, 2019
As a reader who loves adventure, humor, thrills, and a life lesson all tied up into one, there is no better (nor more memorable) place to visit than the rainforest of Borneo. And if that sounds like an odd way to open a review, you’re wrong. Because there is a writer out there who took fingers to keyboard (most likely, because ‘pen and paper’ is out now) and wrote a fantastic book that includes some of the most oddly familiar characters imaginable.
Introducing the cast: We have a liar; a princess; a thief; a bully; and...a wuss. Sounds like a modern version of The Breakfast Club, yet they are just as familiar. Of course, these teens are not locked in a library on a Saturday; they have come from around the world in order to attend a leadership seminar titled: “Cuckoo Camp Personal Growthing Adventure to the End.” (No, ‘growthing’ is not a misspelling, and when they say “the End” they mean it literally.) The seminar’s focus is to teach these teens certain things while having fun in the jungle. Or, at least, that’s the original belief. They can witness the awesome landscape and design as well as admire the exotic wildlife that can’t be found in their own backyards. But instead of this being a cool memory they’ll take with them on their way home, it ends up being a moment in time where Tarzan is suddenly needed to appear and save lives.
It is December 23rd, even Canadian Nini Read is upset that she has another gift-less ten days in Borneo just because some moron in her high school called this a mentorship program. The only mentors, however, are an elderly chaperone who can’t drive, and the proprietor of the Cuckoo Camp that goes by the name of Fat Hus. Getting separated in the rain forest, this group sees the beauty transform into a horribly scary place filled with snakes that go airborne, primates that live up to their history of anger, and so much more. What may be the most strange is the fact that a wee bird—a cuckoo-shrike, to be exact—is somehow behind these strange attacks and shots of horror coming their way. Could something so small in stature be in charge of this mess? You will be amazed.
Every teen in the Cuckoo Colloquium must find a way to win the challenges set before them in order to escape the jungle and go back into the real world (which, let’s face it, is a jungle all its own). To escape death, each races through the pages with their own fears, strengths, skills, and determination. They each have their own annoying teenage behaviors, but they need these in order to get through this jungle labyrinth and get out on the other side alive.
Each reader will have a different outlook on this; each reader will have their own favorite character because they somehow identify with them. Personally, I root for the 14-year-old fat boy from Connecticut named Windy. Although YA’s will love this, adults will as well. The teenager inside each one of us does come alive while reading, bringing out the adventurous kid that lies dormant inside us all. Perhaps you’re Pinky Bell…the reformed thief? Hmmm. Maybe. This is about survival, friendship, oddities, and…my advice? Don’t miss out.
Quill says: The word “adventure” is used haphazardly too often, but this is an actual adventure that even Indiana Jones would enjoy.
To learn more about The Cuckoo Colloquium: Getting Lost to Find Yourself, please visit the author's website at: michaelandrewgreco.com

#BookReview - Fool's Moon

Fool’s Moon (A Tarot Cats Mystery)

By: Diane A. S. Stuckart
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Publication Date: November 2018
ISBN: 978-0-7387-5708-7
Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau
Review Date: February 18, 2019
Fool’s Moon is a mystery novel that follows Ruby Sparks, self-proclaimed “Tarot Card Reader, Barely Competent” and her numerous pets. After rescuing a stray cat named Ophelia off the streets and later adopting her from a local Florida animal shelter, Ruby is drawn into a dangerous mystery when a new customer asks for a tarot card reading regarding a potential murder.
Readers get to follow the story through several different narrators beyond Ruby, specifically her cat Ophelia and pit bull Zuki. Through the different lenses of the respective narrators, readers are able to see all sides of the mystery, from Ophelia’s relationship with her deceased former owner to Ruby’s sleuth work as she tries to narrow down a list of suspects and piece together what actually happened. Each narrator adds something extra to the novel, as they should in a story with a well-balanced set of different point-of-view characters.
Ophelia herself is a perfect picture of what I imagine a personified cat would be like in real life; proud, affectionate on her own terms, and just a little arrogant. It’s entertaining to watch her grow as you might see a human character grow, such as watching her develop unexpected friendships throughout the course of the novel. Her interactions with Ruby’s other pets and the animals she meets while wandering the streets of Florida are some of my favorite parts of the story.
Another stand-out part of Fool’s Moon is its portrayal of pit bulls. Rather than the aggressive, dangerous animals one might see in other novels or on television, Zuki is much closer to a more realistic example of the breed. Sweet, loving, and loyal to her friends and Ruby, it’s refreshing to see such a positive role written for an often misunderstood dog.
Author Diane Stuckart also did a fantastic job of adding the interesting element of tarot card reading into her novel. The creative, quirky, and sometimes spooky ways it plays into the main mystery are fun to read about and add an extra piece of intrigue to an already enjoyable plot. Tarot is definitely a practice I want to learn more about now! Ruby’s readings for different clients and the multiple meanings behind different cards and their various spreads is fascinating.
Quill says: Fool’s Moon is a charming read that would be perfect for middle grade or new young adult readers. It’s very much the kind of light, entertaining novel someone could curl up reading on a cold day with a mug of tea.

#BookReview - The Legend of the Phantom Effect @JohnHardyAuthor

The Legend of the Phantom Effect

By: John Henry Hardy
Publisher: Archway Publishing
Publication Date: November 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4808-7061-1
Reviewed By: Kristi Eldridge
Review Date: February 10, 2019
Harpie Colcek’s career as an investigative reporter had brought him to the scene of many intriguing stories including murders, disappearances, fraud and things of that nature. However, when Harpie gets a call on Christmas Eve to investigate a mysterious aircraft sighting, he is mostly perturbed that he has to drive to a government base instead of spending time with his family. After going through a security check, Harpie is informed that this unusual sighting has been named the Phantom Effect and only happens at 11:55 every Christmas Eve. It simply appears as a small blimp on the radar but when investigated further no one can determine exactly where this craft is landing, or how it comes and goes without being detected. Nothing more than the blimp has been seen for the past few years.
Suddenly the story takes a dramatic turn when Harpie is told that some in this government facility believe that these sightings could be proof of extraterrestrials coming to Earth. With the way the craft secretly lands and takes off from Earth the government officials begin to speculate that perhaps they were implanting weapons to overthrow the human civilization. For what other reason would they have for being so secretive? Curiosity has now taken a hold of Harpie and he wonders at the possibilities of what could be lurking in outer space. However, he has little time to contemplate that question as two FBI agents interrupt his interview and inform him he has been shown classified information he was not allowed to see and now must be monitored by the U.S. government. Confused, Harpie tries to explain that he was invited to the facility to do a story, but soon learns that the information about the facility was leaked without the president’s approval.
Harpie’s world is soon turned upside down as everything he and his family do is now being monitored. For a full year Harpie lives with the constant surveillance but finally after keeping his word not to tell anyone about what he saw in the government facility, the FBI agents relax their protocol and stop bugging the phones at Harpie’s house. Even though Harpie had kept quiet about what he witnessed at the government facility, there was still a nagging feeling he absolutely could not shake about this Phantom Effect, as his investigative reporter side would not let him squelch the curiosity about extraterrestrial life. In a bold move he decides to inform his wife about what he saw and then take a trip to a place outside of Lubbock, TX which he believes could be the place the craft was landing every Christmas Eve. He knows this is a huge risk for if the government finds out what he was doing he would go to prison, but for a chance to actually see extraterrestrial life he decided it was worth it.
After reading the synopsis of this book I first thought the story would follow a similar line to other alien stories with the theme of aliens coming to invade Earth and wipe out humans. However, what I found with this book is a completely different view on extraterrestrials coming to Earth. Author John Henry Hardy writes from the perspectives of many characters, both humans and extraterrestrial, which allows the reader to experience a story from a side not usually seen in this type of storyline. It was refreshing to read a story about space that differed from the typical alien invasion theme, and I found it quite intriguing.
Quill says: An intriguing story that takes the thought of extraterrestrials to a "whole new level."
For more information on The Legend of the Phantom Effect, please visit the author's website at: jhhardy.com

Friday, February 8, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Deborah Stevenson

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Deborah Stevenson, the author of The Last Rhino.
FQ: You’ve written several children’s books, all fun, but each with a good message. What made you want to take on the plight of rhinos?
STEVENSON: I have always been an animal lover. As a child, TV shows and movies, about African wildlife were very prevalent, and to me, there was nothing more fascinating. I have had a long-standing love affair with elephants, as you might have guessed from my previous book, Oy, Elephants! When I was researching charities that help elephants for that book, I noticed that many of them also work with rhinos. I became painfully aware of how dire the situation was for the world's rhinos. The more I read about rhinos, the more enamored I became with them and the more appalled I became at how precarious their future is. Sadly there is no shortage of real-life stories of baby rhinos orphaned due to poaching. They are heartbreaking, and I knew I wanted to do something to try to help. It is such a difficult subject, but I tried hard to address it gently but honestly, in way that would be meaningful for young readers.
The biggest difference between Ayubu's story and the real-life orphans, is that Ayubu survives. Baby rhinos are highly dependent on their mothers for the first several years, and many real-life orphans do not survive the loss of their mothers. The year we finished the manuscript for The Last Rhino, I read a story about an orphaned rhino named Solio. She was rescued by a marvelous group called David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Though she was a female, her story mirrored Ayubu's so closely, that by the time I finished reading, tears were streaming down my face. It was right before the holidays, and I suddenly knew the perfect gift for my illustrator and editor on the The Last Rhino project ... I symbolically adopted little Solio twice, once for each of them, as their Christmas gifts.
In a few weeks, I'll be doing a school visit with the local third grade, and as part of our classroom program I will be sponsoring another baby rhino that they will select. I don't think there is any better way to make the situation "real" for children than to let them connect with an actual young rhino that needs their help. In addition to raising awareness about the plight of rhinos, I also hope the book can raise some funds for groups working to protect them, and so a portion of the proceeds goes to rhino conservation.
FQ: How much research did you do before beginning to write your story?
STEVENSON: The Last Rhino evolved over several years. It began as a picture book manuscript, but the story did not quite fit that format, and so it eventually grew into a chapter book. I did quite a bit of research throughout that long process to learn about rhinos, their lifestyle and habits, their habitats and about poaching and its impact on rhinos and other wildlife. My goal was to make the story as authentic as possible, but I also wanted to include an informational section in the end matter, where children could learn more about rhinos, about poaching and about how they can help. Because the story explores the relationship between the rhinos and Imari, their friend the cattle egret, I also wanted teach children a bit about symbiotic relationships in nature and about the special interaction of birds and mammals. Luckily there is a great deal of excellent information online through groups that protect wildlife, and many of those groups were very supportive and willing to answer my questions.
FQ: I love the African names of the animals – Ayubu, Imari, Nthanda. Were you ever worried that children would have trouble with these names (great idea with the glossary at the back!), or do you think that it helps draw them into the story?
STEVENSON: I did think the names might be a little challenging for children, which is why I included the glossary at the back. But I also think the names are fun and draw them into the story and the feeling of Africa. The glossary helps with how to pronounce the names, but I also wanted to share the meanings of those names, because they were chosen very deliberately. Ayubu, which was partly chosen because my son informed me it is fun to say :), means one who continues to fight, despite obstacles. That epitomizes his character for me. Faced with tragic losses and extreme challenges, he never gives up and never loses his "humanity" ... the irony of assigning humanity to a rhino is not lost on me, but animals are very capable of compassion and they do feel loss and fear and determination. Nthanda, the name of the mother rhino in the story, means star, and I won't give away the story, but that is a pivotal association. The cattle egret, a most faithful friend to the rhinos, is named Imari, which means faithful friend.
I love to incorporate details like these in my stories, that add another layer of meaning. In fact, the font we chose for the title on the cover and for the chapter headings has special meaning as well. It is called "Immortal," and expresses our wish for the future of the magnificent rhino.
FQ: The lovely pattern you used to dress up blank pages – I assume it’s an African pattern? Where is it from and what gave you the idea to include it in the book?
STEVENSON: Credit for incorporating that African pattern throughout the book goes to Jeanne Balsam, the book's designer. We were looking for a pattern to use on the back of the book that would tie in the colors and African feel. The tribal pattern was one of many we found on Shutterstock.com, and we fell in love with it. The artist is Liza Ievleva. It seemed perfect for the back cover, and as we started laying out the interior of the book, Jeanne had the clever idea to use the pattern for chapter breaks. It carries the look and feel through the entire book. She even found an interesting way to tie it in to the pages in the end matter. Those little details make such a big difference in the end product, and I'm thrilled that Feathered Quill noticed and appreciated that extra effort. I also appreciated that the judges' comments acknowledged the skillful editing of Krista Hill of L. Talbott Editorial, who always pushes my work to a higher level and adds so much depth and polish to each project we do together.
FQ: The Last Rhino is a fun story with a serious message. What do you hope your young readers will come away with after reading the book?
STEVENSON: I hope young readers fall in love with Ayubu, as I did...appreciate his struggles and identify with his perseverance. If they do, they come away with two important things: a connection with rhinos and the belief that they can make a difference in their future. If we are to rewrite the rhino's history, we need to believe it is possible to create change and we need to care enough to make the effort. It's easy to ignore a vague issue in a place far away, but when we come to "know" a rhino up close and personal, that literal and figurative distance is bridged and we start to grasp the magnitude of a tragic situation. There is so much in the world we can't control, but I always try to impress on children that they can make a positive difference in the areas that are important to them. I hope this generation of children will care about protecting wildlife, and I hope The Last Rhino encourages them to do so.
FQ: Your illustrator, Morgan Spicer, is fantastic! Where did you find her? And please tell our readers a little about your collaborative process.
STEVENSON: I adore Morgan Spicer! She is such a kind-hearted person, and her genuine passion for animals shines through in everything she does. She is an incredibly talented artist, but many people are that. I think what elevates her work to another level is that she is such a gifted storyteller. Her ability to find just the right way to visually tell a story is remarkable and she bestows such genuine emotion on her characters that you can't help but be drawn in and connect with them. I think that is her superpower. She also is adept at recognizing how children will relate to her art.
I love to write, but my collaboration with Morgan is right up there with my favorite parts of creating stories for children. We share a love for animals, and we connect on many other levels. We also have differences, but they mesh well. Rather than leading to conflict, I think we each use the other's varying perspective as a springboard to take our work to a higher level. One of us will throw an idea out there, the other takes it a little further, and next thing you know, we're off and running in some new, fun, creative direction. I sometimes joke that Morgan is my external imagination and I always love seeing how she visualizes my words, often in pleasantly surprising ways. I bounce ideas off her early in my writing process as I develop a new story, and her input always adds an extra something special to the project. It's a treat to work with Morgan and I hope we have many more projects together in our future.
As for where I found Morgan, it was quite by accident, though I suspect it might be a little closer to fate. A friend had Morgan do a portrait of her dog, and I loved it. So I contacted Morgan to see if she would do a portrait of my dog, Soren. She did, and it turned out to be some serious foreshadowing. A few years later, when I was beginning to work on my first children's book, Soaring Soren: When French Bulldogs Fly, about that very same dog, I happened to notice on Facebook that Morgan was illustrating a children's book. I asked her if she would consider illustrating my book. She read the manuscript and fell in love with Soren, and the rest, as they say, is history. I'm forever grateful our paths crossed and led us on this treasured journey together.
FQ: I see that you worked with the International Rhino Foundation while researching the book. Would you tell us a little about them?
STEVENSON: International Rhino Foundation is one of many wonderful organizations that works to protect the world's rhino populations. I used a lot of their materials in my research, and I also asked them to review the manuscript to ensure my facts were accurate, which they kindly did. Conservation Education Coordinator, Carol McCallum, was also extremely helpful to me in my research and reviewed the manuscript for accuracy. If you enjoy the scene with the figs in the books, thank Carol. Originally the vervet monkeys in the trees were throwing macadamia nuts, but Carol said that while they do grow macadamia nuts in Africa, they aren't indigenous, and she suggested figs instead. I think figs are much funnier. 🙂
Several other groups were very helpful and provided a great deal of information I used in my research: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, who I mentioned earlier, African Wildlife Foundation, Baby Rhino Rescue, Animal Avengers, Helping Rhinos, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy...these groups do amazing work. From programs that use canine teams to guard rhinos and sniff out contraband at airports, to rehabilitating orphaned rhinos, and even to community outreach programs in Africa to educate and provide economic alternatives to poaching, they work tirelessly to try to stop the poaching and habitat pressures that threaten wildlife.
FQ: For the adults reading this interview, how can they get involved to help save rhinos?
STEVENSON: They can support wildlife conservation groups that protect endangered rhinos and work to fight poaching and habitat loss. Donations, fundraising, educating—there is a level of involvement for every interest. They can support legislation to protect wildlife and vote for candidates who care about wildlife, and avoid purchasing contraband or other products imported from countries that abuse wildlife. For parents and educators, teach children about the gentle balance of nature and how the choices we make impact the wildlife that shares our planet. Read them books like The Last Rhino so they can connect with rhinos and other endangered species, and grow up caring enough to promote positive change.
FQ: I know you’re always working on a project. Would you tell our readers what’s next for Deb Stevenson?
STEVENSON: Haha...it's true I have no shortage of projects. Next up is something completely different...a rhyming picture book. I have not done this before, but I love trying new things and have been working with a terrific poetry coach to be sure I do it well. It's a lot more challenging than it seems, but I've had so much fun with it. 🙂 The story is fun and whimsical...a celebration of imagination and animals all rolled into one. I think Morgan is going to have a great time with the illustrations for this one and they are sure to be incredible. The Last Rhino was a very emotional story for me, and so perhaps this silly, fun manuscript has been just the lighthearted diversion I needed.
After that, I have a few stories I'd love to do: a sequel to Soaring Soren that I've been working on for a while in the background, an idea floating around in my head for a sequel to the The Last Rhino that would highlight conservation efforts, another silly rhyming story about a couple of misfit pugs that I just love ... let's say the closet is jam-packed with ideas and I will not have an easy time deciding what I want to wear next. 😉

#BookReview - The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke

The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke

By: Keith Thye
Publisher: Classic Day Publishing
Publication Date: January 2019
ISBN: 978-1598492538
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: February 6, 2019
Thirty-seven-year-old Rusty Kenneficke has a multilayered problem. He’s divorced, living in an apartment in his uncle’s rundown backyard, and is essentially a starving author. Sure, he has had some minor accomplishments in the past by successfully publishing two of his novels, but neither produced enough sales to continually support his lifestyle. Rusty needs to pen another novel, but this time he has to make the theme so stellar to not only catch the eye of his frazzled and overworked publisher, but to be able to create enough sales that he can comfortably live off the royalties. However, his current cramped living quarters is putting a serious hindrance on his ability to feel inspired enough to write anything, let alone something worthy enough to become a bestseller. So Rusty does what any sane individual would do in these circumstances; he decides to move out of his apartment, sell his possessions, and with the proceeds he purchases a motor home. 
Rusty's plan is to travel the open road in hopes that his adventures will spark the much-needed inspiration for him to write the novel that will not only impress his skeptical publisher but will also finally become the sensational novel he so desperately needs to be able to continually support himself as an author. Packed up and eager to begin his new journey into travel writing, Rusty plans on driving the California and Oregon coast, and then heading inland to visit his parents in Portland. It’s a strategy that appears to be reasonably accomplished given his determination and traveling setup. However, things quickly start to go downhill for Rusty in the first of several quagmires he finds himself entangled in, when he accidentally fuels his motor home’s tank with the incorrect type of fuel, setting him back not only monetarily, but also delaying him three days to get the vehicle fixed. 
From seriously messing up a potential love interest, to hurting his ankle in a diving board accident, Rusty Kenneficke is continually enmeshed in some type of negative incident that is preventing him from positively moving forward on his travels and writing career. Will he be able to cast off the dark cloud that is looming over his head since the beginning of his travel-writing adventure, or will all his determination to write a great story be permanently thwarted by his constant run of bad luck?
The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke, the first book in a trilogy by Author Keith Thye, is a light read and a good introduction to Rusty’s character and his calamitous adventures, and serves as a possible cautionary tale for any reader who dreams of a life on the open road. Truly, the word “misadventures” is putting it mildly. While some of the experiences can be seen as humorous, something akin to the character Mr. Bean and his silly antics, in the end, some of them are quite serious accidents. Also, the fact that these incidents keep happening, one right after the other, does border on the ridiculous side too. However, readers will want to quickly follow along in this story not only because they’re curious as to what incident will happen next, but to see how Rusty will pull himself out of the predicament, and steadfastly persevere despite all the horrors that befall him. The cast of characters that Rusty encounters throughout the story are numerous but memorable because of their wide range of strong personalities. For example, Rusty’s mother is particularly unforgettable when she asks her son to leave his family home because she’s afraid that the dark cloud hanging over Rusty’s head may bring bad luck upon the house and his parents. If you’re looking for an easy read with a straightforward plot, sprinkled with some humor and colorful, likable characters, then The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke is the novel for you.
Quill says: The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke is a fun, often ridiculously misadventurous read that will keep you entertained and wondering what will Rusty get himself into next, all the way until the final chapter.
To learn more about The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke, please visit the author's website at: www.keithsrides.com

#BookReview - The White City

The White City: True Colors – Historical Stories of American Crime

By: Grace Hitchcock
Publisher: Barbour Books
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN #: 978-1-68322-869-1
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: February 3, 2019
Grace Hitchcock launches a thrilling debut novel of mystery, romance and intrigue in the first of a new fiction series (True Colors), titled The White City.
It is the Chicago World’s Fair, and the year is 1893. Winnifred Wylde is certain she witnessed a woman being kidnapped while attending the fair. This apple didn’t fall far from her father’s tree given she is the daughter of a renowned inspector with the Chicago police. While he is commissioned to investigate the reports of questionable disappearances around the White City (Chicago), little did he know his daughter was not going to sit by idly without getting her own sleuthing skills into the game to solve the mystery. 
At the same time, Winnifred was rapidly losing patience with the current suitor of the day. Why was her Auntie insistent on finding a suitable man to marry off her only niece? Could she not see Winnie had greater designs in life beyond needlepoint and meal preparation? As her current suitor, Mr. Saunders, droned on with the abysmally boring chatter, Winnie couldn’t help but wonder what happened to that women who she is certain was abducted before her very eyes. It was time for Winnie to take matters into her own hands—with or without the blessings of her dear father. Inspector Wylde knew his daughter all too well. Having lost her mother at a very young age, he couldn’t help but overprotect his only offspring. When the reality sets in that Winnie will pursue at all costs to solve the mystery at hand, Inspector Wylde acquiesces with certain conditions. In walks the debonair Inspector Jude Thorpe. It seems his latest assignment will be to keep Winnifred Wylde out of harm’s way...or else.
I was pleasantly entertained by Ms. Hitchcock’s ability with her debut novel. She adeptly extracted factual accounts from the first serial murderer in the White City and applied them to a story with great flow. She developed main character Winnifred Wylde with a terrific balance of both a gentile demeanor that is complemented by independence and substance for a woman during the period. She carefully assigned proprietary behavior with a great accent of adventure and spirit. Winnifred’s counterpart, Inspector Jude Thorpe, had just enough of a man’s man quality about him, but Ms. Hitchcock selected opportune moments throughout this read to paint a picture of this manly man with a soft side as well. The ebb and flow of the story was consistent in moving the story along at a nice clip without lending way to obvious predictability. Her timing was spot on when the spotlight was finally cast on the villain. Well done Ms. Hitchcock! I look forward to the next installment in this series.
Quill says: The White City offers up a terrific adventure of murder and intrigue that transcends far beyond exotic exhibits and cotton candy at the Chicago World’s Fair.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Kenneth Salzmann

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Kenneth Salzmann, the author of The Last Jazz Fan.
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?
SALZMANN: I have been a writer—of one thing or another—for virtually my entire life, which at this point means for quite a few years. My first “published works” appeared when I was in the sixth and seventh grades in some trade magazines my father published, essentially rewritten press releases, as I recall. In the years since, more than 50 of them, I’ve never not written, for both professional and personal reasons. That includes everything from seemingly countless newspaper and magazine articles and columns to freelance assignments ranging from speeches, web and blog content, scriptwriting, press releases, ghostwriting, marketing materials, ads, and more. 
During much of this time I have also been active in small press literary publishing and programming, both as a presenter of emerging and acclaimed writers and as a practicing poet myself. In that regard, The Last Jazz Fan and Other Poems is really a continuation of something I have always done and always valued.
FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.
SALZMANN: I suppose that every book of poetry is unique, simply by virtue of the nature of the genre. Poetry is the distillation of experience (perhaps real, perhaps imagined) and an effort to burrow beneath its surface, and no two writers will live in the world or report their findings in quite the same way. The Last Jazz Fan and Other Poems is my most recent attempt at that, including primarily recent poems while also resurrecting some older ones that still resonate for me—and, I hope, for the reader. 
It pleases me that the reviews of the book have been quite positive and that such notable writers as Marge Piercy—whose juried intensive poetry workshop I was fortunate to be a part of a few years ago—have praised it. She’s a famously tough critic, so it’s more than gratifying when she writes that “Salzmann is a rare poet who can draft excellent and moving poems” about a range of topics.
FQ: Please give our readers a little insight into your writing process. Do you set aside a certain time each day to write, only write when the desire to write surfaces, or ...?
SALZMANN: I’ve seen the quote attributed to a number of different people (maybe it was the composer John Cage or maybe it was Pablo Picasso or maybe someone else), but someone said something like, “I only work when I am inspired, but fortunately I am inspired every day at 9:00 a.m.” Anyone who has written for a paycheck will appreciate the sentiment, I think.
Most of my work over the years has been for paying clients, but I find that even writing a poem requires the same sort of discipline. I may not write poetry as frequently as other pieces, but when I do I approach it as I would, say, a deadline article and turn myself over to the hard work of writing a poem good enough (I hope) to send out into the world.
FQ: Which do you find easier, starting a story, or writing the conclusion?
SALZMANN: This is another way in which, at least for me, writing a poem mirrors writing a conventional piece of prose. That is, I spend maybe an inordinate amount of time on the beginning, whether that means a line or image of a poem or the first sentence(s) of a newspaper article, what journalists refer to as the lead, generally written as “lede” to avoid confusion with the lead type that newspapers once used.
When I was a reporter, I always felt that when I had nailed the lede the rest of the story would fall into place. In poetry, most of my work begins with that single line or image that leads me into the sort of exploration that writing a poem is. The main difference is that sometimes it turns out that what seemed to be the first line of a poem turns out to work better elsewhere in the piece, maybe even as the last line. 
My poem Tango Lessons is an example of that. Instead of beginning with the image of “Death” as a beautiful dancing woman (an image borrowed from a dream a dying friend told me about), the poem ends on that note. The book’s title poem, The Last Jazz Fan, is an example of the more straightforward approach, where the organizing conceit gives me the first line.
FQ: As an author/writer, what famous author (living or dead), would you like to have dinner with, and why?
SALZMANN: One of the great pleasures and privileges I’ve had both in working for literary organizations and as a reporter interviewing “newsworthy” people is the chance to meet, and often “have dinner with,” any number of writers I admire. 
I did hold myself to a rule for those sessions, however. Prominent writers often earn a considerable portion of their livelihood doing readings and other public appearances, and they are regularly subjected to social events with hosts jockeying for attention and trying to impress them with their own literary achievements or knowledge. I wanted to give the authors and break from that, and keep the conversation mostly away from books and writing and take the occasion to get to know them a bit as people, not Great Writers.
FQ: How much research went into writing your book?
SALZMANN: I suppose most readers don’t think of poetry as writing built on research, but the reality is that poetry requires specificity and, quite often, that need for specificity requires some research to achieve the precision that makes for a good poem. The Last Jazz Fan and Other Poems is full of poems I couldn’t have written without educating myself further about one topic of another. 
My poem From the Copper Canyon Train is certainly one of those. In it I write about an encounter with an indigenous people living in Mexico’s immense Copper Canyon much as they have lived for centuries, in some cases in caves in the canyon walls. To write about them, I had to learn more about their history and culture than I could glean from the few days I spent near them. Similarly, in The Poem I Have Yet to Write I wanted to incorporate a “burning bush” metaphor, but to do so somewhat obliquely. That required me to sift through the many botanical and popular names for the shrub that’s often called Burning Bush and find an alternate name that had both the metaphorical value and musical facets of the more common name.
FQ: Have you done any presentations in your field at conferences, etc.?
SALZMANN: Like most poets, I imagine, I do readings when I have the opportunity. That, after all, is where poets and readers can really connect, and where the poet can begin to build an audience for his or her books, one reader at a time. Changing hats from solitary writer to public performer can sometimes be challenging but there’s no better way to get one’s poetry out into the world.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Feathered Quill Book Award Winners


It's official! The winners of the 2019 Feathered Quill Book Awards have been announced! Check out all the winners here:  featheredquill.com/2019-winners/