Friday, March 27, 2020

#AuthorInterview with David Herstle Jones @thinkinthemorn

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with David Herstle Jones, author of Behind the Locked Door.
FQ: How difficult was this book to write, since it was based on your own family’s situation? Did you find this to be a ‘peaceful’ or therapeutic process?
JONES: As I wrote in the Acknowledgements, writing the story was a long process. It took years although I knew almost immediately after my brother’s death in 1972 that I wanted to find some way to give him more life. I had my own life to live-career, family-and I had no writing skills at the time although I’ve always been a prolific reader. I was educated in math and economics. In retirement I found the time and worked on developing the skills. Writing was and is both an escape and thought-organizing activity for me. In answer to your question, writing this book was both peaceful and therapeutic though probably not for those around me, more likely frustrating and annoying for them. Writing, for me, requires complete concentration, silence and solitude. I suspect I was a real bitch to those around me although I didn’t know it because they were understanding and gave me the space I needed.
FQ: Your background is certainly strong in the economics/financial arena. How difficult did you find it to “change hats,” so to speak, in order to pen a book?
JONES: Actually, not difficult at all, but I did work with a couple of accomplished authors who pointed out my failures and pressed me to do the hard work that needed to be done. Over the years I’ve done a lot of writing-newsletters, newspaper articles, and I hosted a weekly radio show. That helped to hone my writing skills and to teach me how best to communicate my thoughts to others. I didn’t do fiction writing. I didn’t write a novel. Those were new for me. I began paying a lot more attention to how authors did their work, how good stories are created. I experimented for a few years with short stories and poems. My “juvenilia” started pouring out a little late at around age 60. I wrote a few terrible poems and stories in my youth and later when I was in college. I fancied becoming a writer but I didn’t know what that meant or required. I charged off in a different direction (like Professor Snipe in the book) and didn’t circle back until years later.

The author and his older brother

FQ: This, in a way, is a memoir. Can you tell readers a bit about your brother’s situation and how this book became an “idea” in your mind as a path to take?
JONES: My half brother and I grew up together. We had the same mother but different fathers. We lived with our mother in a small agricultural town in Northern California. My brother was 8 years older. We were extremely close. He became an attorney working at his father’s firm in Sacramento. I was in graduate school pursuing an academic career when he died. This was all worked into the book.
My father died 3 years before my brother and my half sister 1 year before my brother. My sister and brother were not related. I shared a father with my sister and a mother with my brother. A lot of terrible things happened to me more or less all at once including the stress of pursuing a PhD. I was heartbroken by the loss of my family. I left the academic world, moved to Mendocino, and went into the restaurant business. Years went by-marriage, children, grandchildren. The novel started brewing years ago. I wrote a few poems and stories setting down my thoughts. By the time I got around to writing the novel, I had a lifetime of experience that informed and enriched what I was able to write. So, in some ways the wait was worth it.
FQ: When it comes to your cast, were these characters in Mexico based on real people? If so, can you speak about the ‘spiritualism’ process that they personally have. Or, if these characters were fictional from your creative process alone, can you explain to readers about the shaman and the belief process they follow for healing?
JONES: I’m a Mexicophile, always have been. In the book Eric learns Spanish from a friend’s mother while in grade school. That was actually me in real life. I’ve traveled through and read extensively about Mexico. I have lots of friends there. The book has a long list of characters all meaningful to me. They’re drawn in part from actual experiences but mostly entirely fictional. I used real names but not real lives. Itandehui, my curandera, is the name of a young girl and her aunt. When I told them I used their name for my curandera they laughed: “We’re as far away from that as you can imagine.” I know very little about shamans and curanderas but witnessed a few such activities in my travels. I also read quite a lot about traditional healing methods. You may not be old enough to remember the Dragnet TV show. That show always started with “Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” In my case many of the names are the real names of friends but the stories and characters are complete fictions. I did do a fair amount of research on the Kumeyaay Indians of Southern California and I used some of what I learned in an altered form. Oddly, while I’ve been all over Mexico, I’ve never been to Tijuana where much of the story takes place. I carefully studied everything I could find about Laetrile. Some of the characters were based on that. Nothing was based on my brother’s legal cases. I’m not spiritual or religious at all. I was raised Catholic. That comes out in the book but I gave up organized religion long ago. One important character, Hector, was influenced by a William Castle movie, Mr. Sardonicus. The book was inspired by many other writers. The most important are mentioned in the Acknowledgements. The Stanford Medical Center Riot was a real historical event as was the Senate hearing on laetrile but all the characters were fictional.
FQ: Was the hard-boiled crime plot pulled from any of your brother’s cases, or did this come from your own personal passion to write this type of genre?
JONES: The hard-boiled crime plot was fictional. I based it in part on the research I did on laetrile. If you read the literature on laetrile, it’s populated with many nefarious characters. I created Krump, Napier, Zacco and Congressman Shipley out of that research. The Catholic priest was based on a real priest whom I read about. Louie Frieze, the curmudgeonly chemist, was a pure fiction I dreamed up one night when I wrote in a frenzy almost word for word as he appears in the book. Marcos was also fiction and also appeared unedited nearly intact. Likewise Penalt. I really love my characters. I still think of them all the time.

The author and his older brother

FQ: What are your views in regards to the ‘scientific’ part of medicine versus the ‘spiritual’? Do you believe healing could go further if people would expand their own minds to accept things they may not understand?
JONES: I’m more or less with my character Napier on that (i.e scientific) but not as heartless or plotting. I don’t believe in Naguals but I wish I did. What I know about them I learned in Oaxaca from the Zapotec artists that make the painted wooden animals, wool rugs, and the ancient stone temples; also the Huichol artists that live in Jalisco and Nayarit. Whether or not healing could go further if people would expand their own minds to accept things they may not understand I don’t know. But they should expand them anyway. That’s what makes life worthwhile.
FQ: Could you speak a bit to our readers about your Think in the Morning blogsite?
JONES: I set up Think in the Morning five years ago when I retired from financial advising. It was first a place to write about and document my days at the Sea Gull Restaurant in Mendocino, a popular gathering place in the 70s and 80s. One part of the blog is a virtual gallery of napkin art (art on cocktail napkins produced by bar patrons mostly local artists when they visited the bar). Later the blog evolved into a place to gather my thoughts on various subjects. More recently it’s been a place where I introduced my novel. On occasion I put up guest posts from friends, even a few from my grandkids. I now have 5 years and nearly 400 posts.
FQ: What would you say was the most fun part of the writing process, and the most difficult aspect of it when you look back on the book’s creation?
JONES: Creating the characters and allowing them to live was by far the most fun. They still live in my mind where they were created. One author/philosopher I’ve read and enjoyed is Miguel de Unamuno. In his novel Mist (Niebla or Fog) one character carries on a discussion with the author. It was the first time this technique was used I think. I have had many such discussions, very enjoyable. The hardest part was to follow through each scene to the end. I lack patience and usually cut things short only to realize or be told that I need to do more. Dialogue was hard, I’d never done it before and my first attempts were embarrassing. A sense of accomplishment was my reward, witnessing thought made real.
FQ: Do you have a specific genre that you’re interested in reading? Along those same lines, is there a genre you would like to write a book for in the future?
JONES: I have pretty wide interests. Good fiction of course but also biography, history, science and even economics. I have a number of short stories in various states of completion that I’d like to tighten up and maybe share in another book. I also have an idea for a short novel about a young girl (about 4 or 5) I saw on a bus in northern Scotland when I was in my late twenties. I only saw her once but her face stayed with me. I’ve imagined over the years what her life might have been like and how it might have changed under certain circumstances. I think about it a lot. I will leave details to the book if I ever write it. I enjoy writing immensely and hope to continue as long as I’m mentally and physically able.
FQ: What would you like readers and future writers to know about your journey through writing/publishing Behind the Locked Door? And what comes next?
JONES: I answered some of that in the question above. As for future writers I’d say if you really want to write, then do it. Don’t be afraid to ask other competent writers for help. I did and could not have finished without that help. It’s expensive to publish a book, and for me it took a long time, not a great source of income in most cases. But, it’s good to help you “go further” and to “expand your own mind” and to “accept things” you “may not understand.” That was the case for me anyway and I’m very happy I stuck with it.

#BookReview - Say Goodbye and Goodnight @DavidRuggerio

Say Goodbye and Goodnight

By: David Ruggerio
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Publication Date: June 2020
ISBN: 978-1-68433-493-3
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: March 2020
Although not on shelves until June, Say Goodbye and Goodnight should most definitely get your motor running when it comes to a memorable, brash, romantic, intelligent, and very “cool” book that will easily garner rave reviews from anyone who takes the time to sit, read, and enjoy!
As if taking West Side Story and combining it with Rocky, then adding in a romance of young lovers that rival that of Shakespeare’s famous tragic couple, this story covers all emotions. When we first meet up with Anthony Marino (AKA: “Ant”) we find ourselves roaming the streets of Brooklyn, NY, in 1977. Yes, there are discos, electric music, and the Italian neighborhood of Bensonhurst that sticks together and fights for one another no matter what. There’s even a club that sits atop a car dealership aptly named, Romeo & Juliet’s. 
At 16 years of age, Ant is an integral part of this area which is, as the author states, filled with Italians whose ancestors came from the boot of Italy, as well as the “prideful people” who emigrated from Sicily—meaning you were either a housewife or a stonemason. Anthony, however, is a fighter. He is working to become that one star who deserves to beat the champ. His older brother, Sal, actually has a secret he only told Ant in order to keep it away from their father. Apparently, Sal has joined the police force instead of continuing the family line of stonemasons; this is wrong because the eldest son is expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. 
That’s not the only curveball thrown at Anthony. He also lives a life that includes men high up in the Mob who he shows respect to, yet is a bit nervous that one day he will have to work for because of the close-knit family tree and the sense of duty that’s prominent in his culture. He speaks about the monthly casino run out of a warehouse, and the wiseguys who are in charge. Even though Ant likes the idea of an easy life, he is determined to be like his hardworking father who did back-breaking work in order to raise and protect the family.
When not at school, Ant practices under the tutelage of Izzy Moischel, a Jewish fighter who made his name during the Great Depression. Izzy turns boys into true pugilists at his Youth Center, which brings pride to the community. It is here where Ant first sees Gia. She walks in, takes a seat with her friends, and he immediately becomes electrified by her presence. (The author uses stunning language for this first meeting by describing Gia’s beauty as being so great that “the pallet God used to create her made Michelangelo shed a tear.”) While Gia and Ant fit together in their minds and hearts, for others they are as opposite as night and day. Jealousy and anger are thrown at them that would make normal humans walk away from the relationship. But for these two, they own that epic love that will supposedly protect them from prejudices and people who refuse to open their minds to a different culture.
On top of all this is the hunt for the .44 Caliber Killer who is harming young women in other neighborhoods. A man Ant and his friends wish to stop before he can bring tragedy down upon their heads. 
You will find a smile on your face as the author uses 70’s terminology. From talking about ‘wicked storm troopers and adorable droids who took us on a whimsical journey to galaxies far, far away,’ to speaking about Elvis and how the ‘King was laid to rest but his music still reigned supreme,’ the writer draws the reader in, sets up the surroundings to exactly match that era, and tells his tale perfectly. 
The addition of hand drawings in this book are incredible, as well. In the end, the lessons learned in regards to what a “good” life really is, and the romance of Ant and Gia, make this book a riveting read that causes you to stay up late in order to see what happens next. 
Quill says: A book that is truly appealing no matter what genre you prefer. Ant and his world are something this reader will never forget. 
For more information on Say Goodbye and Goodnight, please visit the author's website at: www.ruggeriobooks.com

#BookReview - Behind the Locked Door @ThinkInTheMorn

Behind the Locked Door
By: David Herstle Jones
Publisher: Think in the Morning
Publication Date: December 2019
ISBN: 978-0-578-58955-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: March 24, 2020
This is one of those rare books that covers many genres and interests. A literary drama that involves a young lawyer diagnosed with terminal cancer; a book that delves into the unconventional medical approaches to healing; and, also a tale that is filled with intrigue, suspense, politics, as well as “hard-boiled” criminal characters and activities.
To begin, readers are taken back to the 1970s to meet up with Eric Martin, the young man who has been afflicted with this horrendous disease. It does not take long for him to figure out that the hospitals and more “accepted” avenues of fighting the disease, such as chemotherapy, are simply not enough. Not only are they ineffective in his situation, but those providing the care also don’t seem to have the passion or will to fight something that has no prescribed cure. 
But Eric still has the fight within and his path to treatment is altered when he opens the door to a clinic in Mexico that offers Laetrile (i.e., a compound used as a treatment for cancer, there’s an argument about its validity and the fact that, because it makes hydrogen cyanide which changes into cyanide when taken into the body, can be deadly). No choice is showing any support or promise, so he opts for this one. At the clinic in Mexico, he meets a Catholic priest who has his own “other paths” to healing as well. This man of the cloth is a believer in the mysterious, for lack of a better term, and opens Eric to the world of shamanic healing which involves the shaman working with ‘helper spirits’ in order to heal a soul.
While on this journey, not only does Eric find a way to love and embrace life, the reader does as well. Many question, while others believe, that dreams and reality can be a “team” in some ways and that the extraordinary things no one can understand should be explored and learned in order to give a life a greater sense of fulfillment. 
This is not entirely a work of fiction. The book is made all the more substantial when knowing that the author is recounting the disease that afflicted his own brother, but goes one step further. Almost as an homage, the author shows both the good and the bad that life has to offer each one of us. He also does a heart-wrenching job of proving that living defined as ‘breathing in and out each day’ is not fine; if you’re just breathing and not living each day to its absolute fullest, then...basically, you become a robot amongst many. 
The characters invited into this story are fun, interesting, and memorable. Reality also comes in the form of a crime drama with political overtones that keep thriller readers involved—with everyone from gangsters to drug dealers, corrupt politicians to a man of science—while enchanted at the same time. You will find yourself rooting for Eric, standing behind him, and never getting overrun or depressed. Why? Because even at the worst of times, the lead has a determination and will that is powerful, to say the least. And even more intrigue comes in the final ‘Act’ of this outstanding tale because it’s an ending you did not see coming and is something you will not expect! 
Quill says: Not only is this a good read, but it’s one all of us should take the time to read, understand, and realize how to live life like there’s no tomorrow.
For more information on Behind the Locked Door, please visit the website: www.thinkinthemorning.com


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

#AuthorInterview with Mark M. Bello @JusticeFellow

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Mark M. Bello, author of Betrayal in Black (A Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Book 4).
FQ: Another stunner. My thanks, first off. Most readers wonder with a series what the author’s favorite book was? Do you have a specific favorite that you’ve written? And if so, why does that particular one stand out in your mind?
BELLO: Interesting question. The first novel was a bucket list item for me. I had no idea whether I could write one novel, let alone six. It was very satisfying to complete that first novel and get some things about the experience off my chest. That doesn't mean, though, it is my "favorite" Blake novel. Taking the headlines and crafting novels out of them has also been satisfying, especially Betrayal of Justice, which examines presidential bigotry and corruption.  Betrayal in Blue is satisfying because it is the only Blake novel that did not specifically rely on a "headline" topic. And the others, Black, High and Supreme also explore serious issues of the day, cop on black shootings, school shootings, and sexual assaults of woman by powerful men. Hard to pick a favorite—not a cop out, just hard to do.
FQ: Coming from a legal background and not a writing one, what was one of the most surprising things you learned during the publishing process? 
BELLO: "Surprising" was that I could do this and do it well. The publishing and marketing process has been disappointing, not surprising. Agents and publishers, for whatever reason, seem to be unwilling to consider new talent, and that has been somewhat surprising and very disappointing.
FQ: In your past litigation, were you ever part of a trial where this type of race relations was the focus? If so, how difficult is it for the attorney to keep a hold of emotions when trying to help the family left behind, like Zachary did for Sarah and the kids?
BELLO: I have handled police misconduct/brutality cases in my career. I have also handled race discrimination cases. However, I have never handled a case that was as tragic or racially charged as Betrayal in Black. As to the emotional issue, attorneys are people too! It is hard not to invest yourself emotionally into a case like the Hayes case. I don't see detachment as a strength—I think an attorney should be somewhat invested in his or her client's case. This is a delicate balance, however. The level of emotional investment should not cloud judgment when it comes to given out important, sometimes painful advice. What if you are convinced of guilt, but there is not enough evidence? What if the current offer is better than you think a jury might award? An attorney must provide sound legal and practical advice, without allowing emotions to cloud judgment.
FQ: When you look at the present day world, do you see a chance to alter the future and somehow get people to get along one day? 
BELLO: I used to be very optimistic. I was proud of our country when our citizens voted overwhelmingly for our first African-American president. Since that time, however, we have seen a sharp divide, not only in our politics, but in our rhetoric and interactions. As I indicated in a previous interview about Betrayal of Justice, I have been accused by some of doing (in that novel) a hatchet job on our current president. But I wrote the novel in 2016—my fictional president is a bad guy and does some rather evil things. First and foremost, Ronald John was an Islamophobic bigot who embraced white supremacy. Did our current president mimic my fictional president's behavior in office? I will leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions. If they conclude he did, is this on him or on me? Is he responsible or am I?
FQ: How long does it usually take you to write a book?
BELLO: This has varied. The best answer I can give you is several months. Betrayal of Faith took years to write. I started Betrayal of Justice during the summer of 2016 and finished it before election day. The rest of my novels took "several months." It depends on what spare time I Have and what is inspiring me at any given time. 
FQ: If you had to choose, what is the one thing a story must have above all else to make it a great story? (Does the hero/heroine need to be beloved by the readers; is the plot, itself, more important to be unique, etc.?) 
BELLO: Interesting characters and a compelling story. Obviously, I like David v. Goliath stories and I like to extract these stories from current events. I also believe in character development to keep readers interested. Zachary Blake has come a long way and the client protagonists in each of my novels finish their cases (and interactions with Zack Blake) as vastly different people than when they were first introduced. For me, there also has to be a compelling Goliath—a classic confrontation between good and evil.
FQ: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
BELLO: I think I just answered that in the last question. I am a pro-justice, advance the interests of the "little guy" kind of author. If I can nail a powerful evil doer with my slingshot (or at least call attention to the issue in an entertaining way), and the readers respond, that is very satisfying.
FQ: Describe one of those perfect, one-in-a-million “Mark Bello Writing Days.” Do you have a certain system you go through, a special location where you write, music playing in the background? And, is it difficult to have those “perfect” days; one where twenty or thirty pages pour out and you just can’t stop?
BELLO: I have certainly had good days and bad days. However, I can't really pinpoint this for you. It is more about whether an issue or story inspires me and whether there is solid research information about a particular topic.
FQ: What’s next? And how long of a wait? 
BELLO: Betrayal High had been completed and was due to be released at the end of this month. The Corona Virus got in the way and we have delayed the launch. Any suggestions? I have also completed Supreme Betrayal, which should be released between 3-6 months after High (it was originally scheduled for a Thanksgiving release date). I am currently working on my seventh Zachary Blake novel, with no end in sight. Is this what "writers' block" feels like?
FQ: We’ve interviewed you a lot lately, so I want to give you this space: What is something that YOU want readers to know about you, your books, career, future, etc.? 
BELLO: These last four years have been a rollercoaster. The issues I write about are extremely important. How we treat one another, the compassion and understanding we have for one another, our willingness to listen to and respect various points of view are important. We are a very divided country right now. Is the government acting in the best interests of all of our citizens or just a chosen few? If not, what can we do about it? What can the legal system due to help? 
The justice system is supposed to be the great equalizer—we are all equal in the eyes of the law, right? Does that maxim still hold true in America today? I would suggest that the answer depends on the issue. As to criminal justice, the system seems stacked against minorities and/or people without significant resources to defend themselves. As to civil justice (my expertise), the system favors the Goliaths of the world, but David can emerge victorious. The justice system produces compelling, 'ripped from the headlines' stories, and I got a real kick out of them in my law practice. 
I hope the readers of my Zachary Blake legal thriller series get a sense of how these cases and experiences feel for real lawyers and clients. I also hope that these novels will help people understand the justice system better, experience, in a fictional setting, what real lawyers might go through on a day-to day basis. I would like to think that these novels educate people. If they do, that is extremely gratifying. My thanks to Feathered Quill for the opportunity to introduce myself and my books to its audience. For more information about me and my work, please visit www.markmbello.com.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

#BookReview - Who's First?: Chicken and Egg Book 1 @BooksFrog

Who's First?: Chicken and Egg Book 1

By: Deborah Stevenson
Illustrated by: David Stedmond
Publisher: Frog Prince Books
Publication Date: April 2020
ISBN: 978-1732541030
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: March 2020
Children's book author Deborah Stevenson offers readers a "laugh-out-loud" funny book with her latest offering, Who's First?: Chicken and Egg Book 1.
Chicken and Egg are the very best of friends. They love to hang out together and do all sorts of interesting things. When we first meet them, they are sitting on a couple of bales of hay, drinking something cool, with a fan blowing a breeze their way. But it's not helping - the weather is quite toasty and they are HOT!
"I'm frying in this heat!" Chicken exclaimed.
"It's sweltering!" Egg replied. "A little longer out here and I'll be hard-boiled!"
What are two best friends to do on such a hot day? The best thing, decides Chicken, is to go to Big Scoops, the ice cream store, and eat banana splits. But trouble awaits them at the store...
When Chicken and Egg arrive at Big Scoops, Chicken holds the door open. "After you," he tells Egg. But Egg insists that Chicken go first. Back and forth they go:
"I couldn't" said Chicken. "By all means, you first!"
"No, no," protested Egg. "You first!"
This went on for a ridiculously long time.
While the two argue, Sam the Ice Cream Man insists they shut the door. Why? Because they were letting all the cool air out of the store. Slightly embarrassed, Egg and Chicken close the door. How would they ever decide who would enter the store first?
Who's First? Chicken and Egg Book 1 is a very clever story that children will absolutely love. We've all wondered whether it was the chicken or the egg that came first, and via a funny tale, Stevenson takes a new look at this question. The friends try several different things to resolve their dilemma, from flipping a coin to having a race. But each time they run into some sort of issue, and they argue, or talk, or try to figure out how to proceed. And each time it goes on "for a ridiculously long time." I believe this is the first time that the author has teamed up with illustrator David Stedmond, and I have to say that the pairing is definitely a good match. Egg and Chicken are adorable, and Stedmond manages to convey their emotions perfectly. Combine that with a unique storyline, and you have a great combination for a fun story that kids will love. And since this is book 1 in a planned series, I can't wait to see what Egg and Chicken will be up to next!
Quill says: Who's First?: Chicken and Egg Book 1 is a very funny book that answers that age-old question, "What came first, the chicken or the egg?"
For more information on Who's First?: Chicken and Egg Book 1, please visit the publisher's website at: www.FrogPrinceBooks.net.

#BookReview - Where'd My Jo Go?

Where'd My Jo Go?
By: Jill Esbaum
Illustrated by: Scott Brundage
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: April 2020
ISBN: 978-1534110441
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: March 17, 2020
A trucker and her beloved dog make a great team and love traveling the roads together. But when the dog gets mistakenly left behind at a rest stop, the clock is ticking to see if the two will be reunited.
Big Al is a cute little dog (big in spirit, but tiny in size) who is loved and adored by Jo, his very devoted owner. Jo is a trucker and the pair spend their days in their truck, heading down the road. It's a great life, until one day...
"Let's go, Big Al. No time to play.
Hop in - we're running late today.
Get settled while I check that jack.
Don't worry, pal; I'll be right back."
While Jo checks the jack, Big Al decides his "potty break" wasn't long enough and he wanders away to explore his surroundings. He meets a few hound dogs, finds a french fry, sneaks a lick of someone's lollipop, and finds so much more to do. Meanwhile, Jo thinks Big Al is in the truck (probably behind the seat, taking a nap) so she hops in and drives away. 
When Big Al decides he's finished exploring he heads back to the truck...but it's gone! What will he do? Big Al is worried, and a bit frightened, as he thinks about all the great things he and Jo would do every day. Unfortunately, Jo doesn't realize her dog is gone until several hours later. Will she be able to find her best friend?
Where'd My Jo Go? is a story that will pull at the heartstrings of every reader, young and old. The expressions on Big Al's face, particularly as it grows dark, are enough to make anyone weepy. Big Al comes to life through the talent of illustrator Scott Brundage as does Jo and every other human and canine in the book. And while the topic of a missing dog is certainly a sad one, the story is truly a happy, feel-good read and will leave you and your children with a smile. At the back of the book is an author's note - The Rest of the Story - where author Jill Esbaum explains that she got the idea for Where'd My Jo Go? from a true story that a newspaper covered about a long-distance trucker who lost his dog at a rest stop. A wonderful story, with a happy ending - you should definitely add this one to your child's reading list!
Quill says: Delightful! I loved it!

#AuthorInterview with Gary D. McGugan @GaryDMcGugan

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Gary D. McGugan, author of Three Weeks Less A Day (Book 1 in The Multima Trilogy of Corporate Intrigue).
FQ: Thank you for your time. It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to visit with you today. I must say, you waste no time in shooting your audience out of a canon from page one forward in Three Weeks Less a Day! The opening line is compelling. Did it come to you immediately or were there edits to pack the punch it packs?
McGUGAN: Thank you, it’s great to spend some time with you and your readers. The initial idea came to me immediately, but I must confess wordsmithing took longer. I accept the adage that writers need to engage readers as quickly and powerfully as possible, and my opening chapters are always reworked several times before I’m satisfied. As with every other skill, I hope you’ll find my openings become progressively more engaging with each novel!
FQ: In line with my previous question, you’ve done an amazing job with anchoring tone and voice immediately. Is this something you’ve always had a knack toward, or has it evolved over time and when did you recognize a distinct maturity in your writing ability?
McGUGAN: I appreciate your kind words, but my editors still always remind me about both voice and tone. If we’re effectively capturing both in Three Weeks Less a Day, I give all the credit to them for keeping me focused.
FQ: Let’s talk about editing. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing books on behalf of Feathered Quill for many years now. As a writer, what struck me instantly with your book is the precision polish of layout, word placement, scene set-up, grammar, dialogue and the list goes on. Were there any moments in the editing process when you were adamantly going to ‘stick with your guns’ with what you had written versus the insistence from your editor to ‘rewrite, remove, etc.”? What was the outcome?
McGUGAN: I think my many years working in senior leadership roles with large corporations, prepared me well for the editing process. A good leader seeks out people with varying viewpoints and different backgrounds for advice. Then that leader asks for their opinions and listens carefully. He or she thinks about their ideas from every perspective possible. Finally, a good leader makes a decision based on all the variables.
I approach editing the same way. I want to create the very best story possible and welcome differing views. I think carefully about every suggestion, then decide whether to accept it, accept part of the recommendation, or appreciate—but disregard—the idea. I didn’t keep score on how many were accepted or declined, but I valued every input.

FQ: The pace of Three Weeks Less a Day never lets up! What I mean by this is there seem to be countless moments of turns, upsets, gotcha moments, etc. When you were in the throes of writing, were there times when circumstances and situations would write for you versus you writing for them? Essentially, were there times when you were on such a roll, when you finally came up for air, would you sit back and ask yourself: ‘what the heck did I just write’? If so, can you elaborate?
McGUGAN: No, my working style isn’t quite that flamboyant! Typically, I write a chapter each day. My goal is to hold a reader’s attention on every page of the story, so I follow a regular habit, both writing and editing. Almost every day, I walk outdoors for one or two hours. No headset. No phone. No music. For the entire walk, I think about the story and the chapter I’m working on with a straightforward objective: How can I make that individual chapter, and the story, more engaging? I create twists and turns as I walk, often long after the initial ideas formed. I think such attention to detail makes the reading experience more fun!
FQ: You reference in your acknowledgements how writing your first novel was a ‘daunting mission.’ How long did it take you to complete it?
McGUGAN: Four years. From the initial concept to the final touch-up, four years elapsed because I had two fundamental goals. First, I wanted my first novel to be the very highest quality possible. And I wanted Three Weeks Less a Day to appeal to an extensive demographic readership. I chose four different editors—women and men, younger and more mature. Each editor offered very different perspectives that I was able to usefully incorporate, often tweaking only a phrase or choice of words. As a result, I now receive emails from 18-year old women and 70-year old men—and from all age groups in between—telling me how much they enjoyed the story.
FQ: In line with my previous question, when you began Three Weeks Less A Day, what was your experience writing it? Did your pen flow freely? Did you experience any dry spells? How did you overcome the latter if you did experience block?

McGUGAN: I never experience dry spells. My wife attributes that to an overactive imagination! My daily outdoor walks—when all I do is think—provide the time, energy, and creative space to both develop a story and polish the twists and turns.
FQ: One of the most exciting moments I’ve personally had in writing was to have dreamt about my characters. Not necessarily in a sense that the next scene was written and ready for me to type when I woke the next day, but more akin to a bonding with them. Your characters are very credible, and each have unique personalities. I suspect you have dreamt about one or some of them. If so, could you share your take on the experience?
McGUGAN: I’m one of those people who rarely remembers dreams, so I may have dreamed about one or more characters and not realized it! Nevertheless, I feel I bond with my characters. Before I start writing, I develop a very clear image of each. I think I know his or her strengths and weaknesses and how they would react in various scenarios. I treat my characters as people with qualities, foibles, and imperfections, then try to capture all of those characteristics as I tell the story.
FQ: How difficult was it to move from ‘the end’ of Three Weeks Less A Day and onto the opening chapter of the next book in the series, The Multima Scheme?
McGUGAN: Surprisingly easy. When I wrote the last sentence of Three Weeks Less a Day, I was already mapping out the plot for The Multima Scheme. I think readers enjoy the ending of Three Weeks Less a Day and think they know how the story might continue at Multima Corporation. In The Multima Scheme, they probably learn they were right about a few circumstances but are surprised about other attributes of some characters.
FQ: Did you take a break between your first book in the series, Three Weeks Less A Day, and the next, The Multima Scheme?
McGUGAN: No. I started writing The Multima Scheme while the publisher was making final cover designs, layouts, and font selection for Three Weeks Less a Day. I realized that selling and promoting a single novel—particularly at author signing events—would be a challenge as many readers like to know there’s more available if they enjoy the first story. Besides, I had the outline already formulated in my head, just waiting to tell it!
FQ: Do character names come to you naturally? Do you keep a running list of ‘future character names’ to source? Do you “people watch” and imagine: ‘he/she would make a great character in a future book and this is what I would call him/her’?
McGUGAN: I give considerable thought to the names. My method is to completely visualize characters first. Then, I try to think of a name that best fits the character. John George Mortimer in Three Weeks Less a Day seems an appropriate name for a dynamic, self-made billionaire married only to his company and its success. Janet Weissel, on the other hand, might fit the behavior of a promiscuous, opportunistic young woman who puts survival ahead of prevailing morals whenever necessary.
FQ: Thank you again for your time today. I thoroughly enjoyed Three Weeks Less A Day and look forward to the continuing saga of the Multima Corporation in The Multima Scheme. Any future projects beyond this series in the works? If so, are you able to give us a quick peek?
McGUGAN: Three Weeks Less a Day and The Multima Scheme are the first two books in a trilogy of corporate intrigue. Unrelenting Perilhas now also been released and is the third exciting story in that series. In the spring of 2020, we’ll release Pernicious Pursuit—a story unconnected to Multima Corporation. However, I’ll launch four of the naughtiest characters from the Multima trilogy on an entirely new trajectory. I think readers of the first series will really enjoy it. My thanks to you. It’s been a pleasure spending some time with you and your readers, and I hope to have the opportunity again soon!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

#BookReview - Three Weeks Less A Day @GaryDMcGugan

Three Weeks Less A Day (Book 1 in The Multima Trilogy of Corporate Intrigue)

By: Gary D. McGugan
Publisher: Friesen Press
Publication: September 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4602-9326-3
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 19, 2020


Gary D. McGugan delivers an epic adventure/thriller in the first novel in his Multima Trilogy of Corporate Intrigue, Three Weeks Less a Day.
Wendal Randall has come a long way since his nerdy status in school. He’s borderline genius when it comes to navigating the intricacies of all aspects of technology and configuration. Not only is he viewed as an asset to Multima Corporation, but it seems Howard Knight, a powerful director with Venture Capital Investments (VCI) has taken more than a passing interest in Wendal. And speaking of talent, Suzanne Simpson has done an admirable job of climbing to the ranks of corporate fiefdom with the coveted title of President in her division of Multima Corporation. The trifecta of top talent is financier extraordinaire, James Fitzgerald. Of course, none of these names and their respective titles would mean anything had it not been for their employment with Multima Corporation and the guidance from founder and chief executive officer, John George Mortimer. They are about to be tasked with a life changing opportunity that, if they succeed, will implement game changing future successes for Multima Corporation. Now all they need to do is figure out how to deliver while navigating insurmountably turbulent tides that lie ahead for each of them.
Meanwhile, John George Mortimer has company demons to keep at bay. It would seem Multima’s legendary CEO, one of the richest men in the country with billions in personal wealth, has opted to test the reactionary waters. Curious as to what the fallout would be if he elects to leave the company at fiscal year-end, it’s time to make the announcement and see how long it takes before the sharks begin to circle. Of course, there are other motivating factors for Mortimer’s announcement. He's simply opted not to share that information quite yet. Sadly, in a world full of leaks to the press, while Mortimer’s intentions were to keep certain information quiet, someone from within saw great personal gain in releasing the news. He simply couldn’t help himself and opts to strategically share the news in hopes the hit to Mortimer would be one to knock him down once and for all.
In this first of his three-book series, author Gary McGugan is off to a great start. This book is the equivalent of Secretariat at the starting gate of the race that would secure his triple crown win! McGugan clearly has a fantastic eye for detail and is quite the gardener when it comes to planting seeds only to watch them turn into full blown gardens as the story progresses. The characters are diabolical, heroic, villainous and likeable all at the same time. Each one has a distinct spotlight shining upon him or her when its time for their respective ‘center stage’ in this read. The format/flow of this book is polished in that McGugan plays a heated game of tennis among the characters from chapter to chapter. He showcases their whereabouts and happenings and whatever their current plight may be. There is no point throughout this read where McGugan’s audience has the remote chance of getting lost or confused. Rather, he spends just as much time tying lose ends together immediately after each crescendo in the plot before moving on with yet another whammy of a situation. I look forward to jumping into the next book in this series. This was a truly entertaining read.
Quill says: A lot can happen in Three Weeks Less a Day. This is a must-read!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

#AuthorInterview with Christopher Keating @CKeatingAuthor

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Christopher Keating, author of Dog Run,Texas.
FQ: I want to thank you for the opportunity to interview you. Let me start by saying Dog Run, Texas is an extremely entertaining read. You make a point in your afterward to clarify that ‘Dog Run’ isn’t a real town in Texas, yet it’s so very believable. Is there a real town in Texas from which you drew your inspiration?
Author Christopher Keating
KEATING: Thank you. It was a lot of fun writing Dog Run. And, yes, a lot of it is based on my hometown of Mason, Texas. This book actually started out as a biography of Mason several years ago because it is so quirky here. Along the way, I decided that wasn’t the best idea I ever had. So, I created the fictional town of Dog Run. Several of the stories are inspired by real events, but I’ve fictionalize them to fit the story.
FQ: In line with my previous question, it’s abundantly clear you love the great state of Texas. Tell me a bit about one of your favorite ‘go to’ places and why is this it?
KEATING: I grew up in the country and still have a fondness for open places over the cities. Big Bend National Park is a spectacular area and the beaches are really nice. The Hill Country, where I live, is certainly one of my favorite areas. It is pretty much the way I described it in the book – rough and rocky and not good for all that much except good living, which we do a lot of out here.
FQ: Without creating too much of a spoiler, character Stormy Weather is quite the diabolical piece of work. How did you come up with so many ways to ‘end one’s life’ and invariably miss the mark in doing so? Which of the many scenarios was your favorite to write about?
KEATING: I hope I’m never suspected of a crime and have my browser history looked at. I spent a lot of time researching ways to kill someone. I think my favorite was when she tried to use the snake. That conjures up all sorts of creepy images. Kind of makes your skin crawl.
FQ: I love the character name ‘Stormy Weather’ because she certainly was ‘stormy.’ However, it’s also kind of cheeky. When you’re developing your story, do character names simply come to you or do you build the plot around the character’s name?
KEATING: That was the real name of a woman I met, as are the names of her sisters. True story. I have various ways of coming up with names. I keep a list of names that I come across and think are interesting and then I’ll see if any of them fit my characters. (I admit I was a little flattered when I learned Charles Dickens did the same thing). Sometimes I use an online name generator and will look at lists of names until something catches my interest. Other times, I’ll just use a symbol for the character’s name until something seems to fit. I’ve had characters who went unnamed for most of a book before their name evolves out of the story. That usually requires going back and doing some rewrites. An example of that is Xochitl. I was well along with the book without being able to name this character when I came across this name. I thought it sounded interesting and did some research on it. When I learned it was Mayan she suddenly became alive and had physical characteristics and a personality all of her own. Names really aren’t as random as we might think. They influence someone’s life, including fictional people.
FQ: I have had the pleasure of traveling to a few places in Texas and must confess one of my favorite areas is Austin. However, it has gotten quite populated. Do you prefer the city life or the ‘hills’ of Texas? And why your choice?
KEATING: I think I answered this one above. I grew up in the country and prefer it over the city. However, I’ve spent lots of time in cities and enjoy what they have to offer. I’ve gotten to know Austin pretty well and you’re right about it becoming crowded, but there are still some real gems of places to go to that many people don’t know about. There are several cities I enjoy visiting. New York City is a great example of a city that is so much fun to visit.
FQ: Dog Run has a terrific flow throughout. Was there ever a time during the creative process where you felt a drag? What would you do to kickstart the flow again?
KEATING: I wrote most of the book and felt as though it was a dead end. It was a ‘boy meets girl, they fall in love and break up’ story. That’s been done so many times I wasn’t pleased with it. I let it sit for a while and then the idea came to me of having her come back and try and kill him. Other times, when I had writer’s block, I’d just go to our local wine bar and listen to my friends tell some story. Problem solved!
FQ: You reference in your bio you spend time on ‘long-distance hikes.’ What is one of your most memorable ‘walkabouts’? Where did you go? What did you see? Did you camp along the way? 
KEATING: I did 539 miles on the Appalachian Trail in the summer and fall of 2019. I started at the northern terminus on Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine, and made it about two-thirds of the way through Vermont before winter made the ground too cold to be comfortable. It was a tremendous experience and it’s hard to express how beautiful it is up there. I’m planning on returning to it this summer to start from the beginning and try to finish the entire 2193 miles to Springer, GA.
FQ: Texas has so many different faces to it. It’s as though one could spend the rest of their life moving from one part to another for a change of scenery and lifestyle. What was your draw to the Hill Country?
KEATING: I wanted to move to the country, but I didn’t want to be too remote. Austin and San Antonio are both only two hours away. So, I get to enjoy the quiet lifestyle of the country while I have the resources of major cities only a short distance away.
FQ: The age-old adage of: ‘a writer writes what a writer knows’ always comes to mind when I read an exceptionally captivating read. Such was the case with Dog Run. Tell me, are there any characters in your story who are fashioned after real acquaintances and was he/she flattered or offended?
KEATING: Many of the characters were inspired by real people, but none of them are really representative of them. When people I know read it, they recognize certain things. But, no one who isn’t familiar with these people would be able to say such and such a person is a certain character in the book because the characters really are fictional. If any of my ex-girl friends read the book, they haven’t provided any feedback. Who knows? Maybe they’d get an inspiration from the story and come back to finish me off.
FQ: It’s been an absolute treat to read and review Dog Run, Texas. I’m hoping you are working on your next book. If so, are you able to give a sneak peak into it?
KEATING: Yes. I’m well along on a book that involves a serial-killer who is executed and then, as part of his punishment in Hell, has to come back and help police solve murders. He experiences the murders as the victims when he sleeps and feels all the pain of being murdered every night when he goes to sleep. By the way, Satan is a good guy and is merely a servant of God doing what he’s told to do. Sometimes Satan is a man, and sometimes a woman. This is all giving me an opportunity to have a suspense-murder mystery while mixing in some philosophical discussions and some dark humor.

#AuthorInterview with Mark M. Bello @justicefellow

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Mark M. Bello, author of Betrayal in Blue (A Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Book 3).
FQ: As violent or as dark as stories get, you manage to somehow keep it light and add friendship in your books. How do you add levity to these plots? Does it just flow easily, or do you already know the characters so well that they’re easy to write when it comes to dialogue?
BELLO: Interesting question. I think it’s a reflection of my personality. I like to have a good time, joke around, etc. I think I have a good sense of humor. Even with some dark subject matter, a character can have a good time once in awhile, right? Without a sense of humor, in this day and age, we’d all go nuts!
FQ: How difficult was it to build up the audience for Zachary Blake? With so much competition out there in regards to criminal/legal thrillers, how did you make him stand out from the rest? 
BELLO: I don’t think about competition. I think about Zachary, who he is, where he came from, and what a kick-ass lawyer like him would do in this situation or that one. I try to stay true to my vision for him without concern for what some other author’s protagonist might do. Hopefully, I’ve made him someone my readers enjoy. He will continue to grow and develop; so will other characters. Jack Dylan’s development as a character and as a human being from Betrayal of Justice to Betrayal in Blue is a good example. So is Kenny Tracey’s development from Betrayal of Faith to Betrayal High (coming at the end of this month). Returning characters will continue to grow. I want readers to keep coming back for more. 
FQ: Do you find it more difficult or easier nowadays in this world of digital technology for an author? Is there a certain positive that digital publishing offers; what is a negative that you believe comes from the Internet? 
BELLO: For me, it’s easier. It is easier to write and correct using a computer. Technology finds many of my mistakes. Research is easier Most of my novels are “ripped from the headlines” and the headlines are a mouse click away. Online resources are vital to my work and sincerely appreciated. Auto-correct and various editing software products are invaluable. 
FQ: Editing is a difficult process. There are authors who are obsessive in this respect and do it themselves; others want that other set of eyes on their material. Do you have a go-to editor that you’ve worked with over the years? If so, how difficult was it to create that give-and-take relationship when it came to your material?
BELLO: I am obsessive; that’s for sure. I hate finding mistakes in my books. But, of course, we are all human. I’ve used a couple of services and was not impressed. I prefer to self-edit with the expert assistance of my in-house staff people. I don’t have a problem taking criticism or advice on plot or structure. I do not like finding simple editing mistakes when using so-called professional editing services. 
FQ: Reviewing is also another huge facet of the book market. Do you review books for other authors or publications? And do you read a great deal of ones written about your own, or tend to shy away from them? 
BELLO: I have not been asked to review anyone else’s work. If I love a book, I will often write a positive review on Amazon or elsewhere. If I don’t like a book...my mother always said: “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.” As to reviews of my own work, yes, I read every one of them. Thankfully, most reviews of my work have been very positive. 
FQ: Can you tell us about one high-profile case that you weren’t a part of that you would love (even if this is a historical case, like The Ripper) to take the lead on and serve justice? 
BELLO: I’m not a criminal lawyer, so it would not have been someone like Bundy or Manson or the Ripoer. I would certainly have liked to make a difference on behalf of justice. Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s contribution to women’s rights comes to mind. Many of Blake’s clients are strong women. I like to represent David when he takes on Goliath, however that dynamic might present itself. Zachary Blake is that kind of lawyer, but he is far more successful and talented than I was. 
FQ: Instead of the age-old question of what you would tell new authors to do to get better at their craft, what loopholes would you advise a new author to avoid?
BELLO: I would love to have my books discovered and read by large numbers of readers. I have had great difficulty growing my readership, despite an overwhelming positive response to my novels. I find this very frustrating. So, I would tell an author to write for him or herself and do not expect to connect with a broad audience. If your purpose for writing is to become rich and famous, you may be in for a huge let down. Then again...
FQ: When you’re stuck, or wish to bounce something off someone (Dean Koontz actually used his canine friends to do this with), who do you go to if needing to mull over ideas or get some advice when, or if, you don’t quite know the next turn?
BELLO: My assistant, Christine, has been extremely helpful and family members are great for bouncing ideas off of. Candidly, I have not experienced writers’ block or getting “stuck.” So far, I’ve been lucky that way. Once I have an idea and start to write, the juices flow, and a novel miraculously appears. It sometimes feels like an out-of-body experience. I had no idea I could do this, which is why I wrote my first novel in my 60’s.