By: Jennifer Ashley Publisher: Berkley Publication: August 2020 ISBN: 978-0593099377 Reviewed by: Risah Salazar Review Date: August 26, 2020
In this fourth installment of the Kat Holloway series, Mrs. H. is called by her beau, Daniel McAdam, on a rainy night to meet his vicar brother, Errol Fielding. Aside from managing a parish, the dubious Mr. Fielding also holds a governor’s seat in the Foundling Hospital’s board. He asks to meet Mrs. H. about something that definitely smells foul with regards to the adoption of some children.
Mr. Fielding insists, though he is not sure, that the children are missing, contrary to the belief that they have been brought under the care of new families. This cacophony involves two young boys and one girl. Mrs. H. is appalled but it becomes more complicated when a certain Nurse Betts goes missing too.
With Mrs. H’s hectic schedule as the cook for the Bywaters and with her growing love and doubts towards Daniel, this news further rocks her world and takes more of her free time, which she would rather spend by her daughter’s side. But given the big heart that she has, Mrs. H. does not turn down the brothers’ request. How could she when the lives of innocent children are at stake? With more help coming from a few wealthy and wise friends, they unfold the mystery enveloping the Foundling Hospital’s eerie disappearances.
Jennifer Ashley’s Murder in the East End starts with great imagery, pushes through an unexpected darkness, but ends happily. The readers are welcomed to a world with vibrant scenes and curious characters. The story holds promise and it kicks off with a fast pace but it generally slows down in the middle. Interestingly complex while written with a light tone, the book is easy to digest and has a nice flow. Although Ashley is careful with her language, there are certain words that appear quite repetitively.
Even when it is set way back in the Victorian era, it’s wonderful to see the book taking a progressive stand, showing examples of feminism and diversity. Mrs. H. and Daniel’s sweet relationship may be subtle but it has an allure that makes readers cry for more.
Quill says: Murder in the East End has a beautiful mix of suspense and romance that leaves a mark long after the story ends.
Today, Feathered Quill is talking with Thomas Duffy, author of Stockboy Nation.
FQ: Phillip Doherty is a middle-aged man attempting to restart his career, something many similar, real-life people dream of doing every day. What would you advise them NOT to do while working toward this goal?
DUFFY: Don't sell yourself short. Too many people settle for things they don't want in life because it's all that is easily accessible to them. Stop and think and don't take the first thing (job) that comes your way.
FQ: Phillip is a “challenging" character. He lies, refuses to face his problems for much of Stockboy Nation, and spends a lot of his time wallowing in self-pity. He keeps readers at a distance throughout the entire novel. Did you plan for him to be so unlikeable from the beginning, or did he become that way as you wrote his story?
DUFFY: I have heard he is relatable from many people despite his flaws. While I certainly appreciate you thinking he's unlikable, unfortunately, in the real world, many people struggle to make ends meet and have to use an "any means necessary" approach to survive. I don't think every character in literature has to be likable. Did anyone like the narrator in Fight Club? I didn't like him but I loved the book and the film. The character in the Pulitzer-Prize-winning, The Goldfinch was certainly on the borderline of being not totally relatable and the boy in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was a little annoying. I think a reader who depends on their lead character to be likable dooms their self to a closed-minded reading experience. As for Phillip, I hear he's relatable so I'm only first hearing of his being unlikable recently.
FQ: Why did you choose to include the current COVID-19 pandemic in your novel?
DUFFY: Well any other storyline at this juncture would feel a little dated. Don't you think? I couldn't do the original plotline that I intended to because of COVID-19. Fighting for higher wages was the original thread of the book at first but when there's no wages to be fought for because of layoffs, how can one fight for higher wages? I believe in giving my reader an authentic experience. Not a likable one all the time, unfortunately.
FQ: COVID-19 is affecting people around the world in extreme and emotional ways. As a species, humanity is going through something incredibly traumatic right now. Was portraying that trauma challenging in any way?
DUFFY: I wrote about my experiences in seclusion during COVID-19 and mixed them with certain characteristics of Phillip, a character I've worked with for 7 years. Were they challenging to write about? They were real and I put myself out there by sharing feelings either I had or believe Phillip would have had in quarantine. The world is in a difficult place right now. People have lost loved ones or become frightened. But, we must keep on living and trying to push ourselves wearing masks and always washing our hands as we try to return to our jobs and our lives. Keeping safe these days is scary. Speaking the truth, however, is not scary for me.
FQ: Phillip is an author who’s writing career fizzled out after a poorly received second book. Is there anything you want to say to authors in real life who are facing this same problem?
DUFFY: I know authors who moved on and got regular jobs after successful books. It's a hard market in the publishing world and it may be even harder right now. If you put one or two successful books out, then I guess it's safe to say you've done a lot. To think you can keep on writing masterpieces when there's so much competition out there isn't really plausible. Or is it? Stephen King, aside. You know? I would say keep writing and keep trying but be prepared for the worst case scenario.
FQ: Like most of us, Phillip is anxious for the world to go back to normal. What’s the first thing you think he would do once COVID-19 is under control?
DUFFY: Help Melissa fulfill her dream to become an actress and, for himself, he'd go to school to be a teacher.
FQ: During the course of this novel, Phillip spends some time pondering his place in the world. That’s a big question a lot of people have during these times. How do you suggest your audience keep from being overwhelmed by current events, as Phillip was?
DUFFY: That may be impossible. I think I am overwhelmed with current events and can't escape the news and all the scary scenarios that come up on a daily basis. But, reading can help or writing. Maybe even watching movies or television. Also focusing in on human relationships can help. These activities or bonds can at least soothe things over for a little while, you know?
FQ: If you could give Phillip one piece of advice, what would it be?
DUFFY: Stay with Melissa because you love her and don't sell yourself short in your job search.
FQ: What parts of writing are the most difficult for you?
DUFFY: I had people tell me I kept putting tags on my dialogue in The Separation so I took the tags out (he said, she said, etc) for this current book and now a critic is criticizing me for it. I can't put the tag and not put the tags. I personally think you can tell who is speaking in all the dialogue with or without the tags. That is the most challenging thing for me write now. To "tag" or "not to tag." That is the question.
FQ: Has the current pandemic affected you as writer? How?
DUFFY: Yes. It's a very hard journey to normalcy and I don't know if we're going to get to "normal" soon enough. I am certainly optimistic but optimism can only go so far to triumph over reality. I hope reality is kinder to us in the next few months.
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Dan Hendrickson, author ofThe Commander: Last Enemy Series Prequel.
FQ: Why did you decide to get into writing fiction?
HENDRICKSON: I love good stories that have meaningful endings. Fiction is a way to communicate a plethora of different things and make it entertaining. I love stories that teach us something about ourselves and the world we live in. Making that fun and entertaining is one of the main reasons I like to write fiction.
FQ: Your bio says you’ve done quite a bit of Christian ministry work in your life, which I assume involves a lot of meeting and speaking to people. In general, do you find it easier or more enjoyable to talk with people or to write, when expressing yourself.
HENDRICKSON: Speaking to an audience seems easier to me then writing. But the effort I put into writing a story makes me dig a lot deeper and the end results has its own level of satisfaction to it. I really cannot choose between the two because I enjoy both. The one plus side in writing though is that once it’s done and in book form you have it permanently.
FQ: What type of research do you do when writing?
HENDRICKSON: It varies from book to book. I heavily use the internet, talk to people, and sometimes buy books on the subject. I buy them because when I do research I want to highlight and mark them up, so obviously I cannot return something like that to the library. I do like to find people who have expertise in areas that are portrayed in my books. For instance my son Lieutenant Carl Hendrickson knowledge and experience in the Coast Guard was a fantastic resource forThe Commander.
FQ: You’ve written a few novels in The Last Enemy series. What was the motivation behind your decision to writeThe Commanderas a prequel?
HENDRICKSON: There are so many unique individuals that I brought up in the original three books that I felt that I needed to give more of the back story on some of them. When I began the series, it was originally going to be two books,The Good Fight,andThe Last Enemy.Those were written one after the other. But as I finished them, I quickly saw that Marnia Gonzalez’s character deserved a lot more attention then I could give her in those books so that is howThe Cartel Crusheremerged. I decided to include her story in the original series because the timeline fit perfectly. But as I thought more about it, I saw that Jim and Jacob Edwards characters also needed more, and that’s when their back stories became prequels. I do have one more book coming out in about a year that will deal with Captain Tommy Williams aka The Living Legend. In it I will reveal how he earned that title and why he does not like it when people use it.
FQ: Do you view your writing as a spiritual practice?
HENDRICKSON: I believe God is so wonderful that He is willing to help and inspire me in my writing. I love writing and it is a very satisfying thing for me to do, but I don’t propound that it some kind of spiritual mission. I do try to add certain morally biblical principles to the stories that I hope will inspire and help people but being preachy is not my goal at all.
FQ: Was most of this story in your mind before writing the other books in the series, or did the story evolve from writing those books?
HENDRICKSON: It definitely evolved as I wrote.
FQ: Your son, Lieutenant Carl Hendrickson, is mentioned in the dedication of this book, and you write that you see him as the main character, Jacob Edwards. Are any of your other characters based on real people?
HENDRICKSON: Some of my characters in The Last Enemy series are loosely based on members of my immediate family. Danielle is based on my younger Daughter Donna, and Marnia is based on my older daughter Rebeccah.
FQ: I read that some famous authors have writing rituals like author Dan Brown, who supposedly hangs upside down using anti-gravity boots to help him relax. Do you have any specific rituals when you are writing?
HENDRICKSON: I like to pick music for each book that feels like the story I am writing and listen to it often throughout the writing of it.
FQ: I like the atmospheric look on the cover of your book with the sea mist in the foreground, and what looks like a Coast Guard helicopter zooming in for a rescue. How do you decide what will be on the cover, and is this an actual photo of an oil rig?
HENDRICKSON: That I get professional help with. My book cover designer is excellent. I used to hire a artist to paint a picture of something that I thought would represent the story. That had mixed results. Since getting professional help my books have got a lot more favorable response to the covers.
FQ: Can readers look forward to more books in The Last Enemy series, or is your writing future filled with other stories?
HENDRICKSON: Yes, I do have a few more in the works. But I am also expanding out into different directions.
By: Dan Hendrickson Publication Date: May 2020 ISBN: 978-1734518726 Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko Review Date: August 21, 2020
Author Dan Hendrickson is back with another electrifying action-adventure novel in The Last Enemy series, a prequel entitled The Commander.
Our story begins with the recent promotion of Lieutenant Commander Jacob Edwards to the position of commander of the newly refurbished Hamilton-Class cutter, First Responder. His previous military posts with the United States Coast Guard had been very successful, primarily with a naval task force in the Caribbean. The promotion is a somewhat controversial and unexpected position since he had only been in his previous position a few years. However, due to his unique qualifications in combat and law enforcement, and the fact that he’s the only one who has been compared to other noteworthy military men of the past, including Captain Tommy Williams, his superiors believe that he is the most qualified person for the job.
Edwards is barely in his new position when he gets orders that he must travel to the Gulf of Mexico to investigate and take care of a possible terrorist-related threat in the area. It’s a potentially deadly mission that not only must be accomplished with swift but precise maneuvering, but it also has to be done in secret, as per direct orders from the President of the United States. As the story unfolds and Edwards gets nearer to his destination, he discovers that the threat is far worse than originally expected; it’s a shocking and complex plot that involves industrial terrorism and mass murder. The stakes couldn’t be any higher for Jacob Edwards and the crew of the First Responder. But will this emergency mission prove to be too much for the Lieutenant Commander, and will he be able to get to the destination in time to put a stop to the heinous plot that has the potential to wreak havoc and send ripples of destruction globally, or will it be too late?
The Commander is a well-written and fast-paced story brimming with intense action scenes, and heart-pounding suspense. The author is adept at creating a compelling story with a bit of historical realism, that is woven into the classic theme of good guys versus bad guys. The characters are solidly fleshed out, dynamic and likable, even the villains, which you’ll love-to-hate despite their insanely twisted plots and horrific behaviors. This is because the author gives a look into the minds and actions of the bad guys, and not just of the hero. Though technically a prequel in the series, this novel can stand on its own and be an enjoyable read, even for those who are unfamiliar with the previous books or characters (it may even compel newbies to continue on reading the rest of the stories in the series). Veteran readers of The Last Enemy series will not only be able to delve into a segment in the life of Lieutenant Commander Jacob Edwards and his crew, but will be entertained and riveted by each page, from beginning until end. Note that parts of this novel may be a bit confusing at first for readers who aren’t familiar with military rankings or jargon in some aspects of the story, but that shouldn’t deter readers from picking up a copy and diving into this thrilling novel.
Quill says: Author Dan Hendrickson is back again with another gripping adventure in The Last Enemy series that you don’t want to miss!
For more information on The Commander: Last Enemy Series Prequel, please visit the author's website at: danehendrickson.com
By: Doug Reid Publisher: Atmosphere Press Publication Date: August, 2020 ISBN: 978-1648261787 Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott Review Date: August 2020
A man and a woman find each other, love each other, and learn to reach beyond the binding of the physical to stay together in this richly conceived fantasy by author Doug Reid.
In the early chapters of this engaging creation, there is a simple thread of reality. Patrick, a dedicated neurologist, meets Emily, a lovely young woman wearing a diamond hair clip and drinking hot chocolate in a coffee shop at the hospital where he works. Not long afterwards, Emily becomes Patrick’s patient, suffering from a rare disease that affects her memory. But worse is a brain cancer that in all probability will, Patrick knows, soon take her life. She is admitted to the hospital, partly because Patrick wants to be able to see her every day, and the two begin to share their life stories. Patrick may be an orphan, although he has an African “brother,” both of them mothered by the psychic Alessandra. Emily often speaks of a dark river, symbolic to her of a tragedy that scarred her childhood. Alessandra somehow knows that river, knows Emily, and in some mystical way, will become the loving, understanding mother that Emily needs. Together, in love, Patrick and Emily share snippets of conversation as she lies in her hospital bed.
Emily often says, “You should always tell someone if you love them.” This becomes the central theme interwoven through this imaginative tapestry, guiding the lovers as they confront the reality of illness and death while experiencing the mysteries of a place above and beyond.
Reid, who has a wide range of knowledge including a Masters degree in Applied Physics, has been writing much of his life. His novel is an emotive welding of fact and fancy, with much inner truth to be shared with the reader. He seems to have a grasp on the memory glitches experienced by Emily; her pattern of forgetfulness has a realistic feel, and Patrick, who understands the syndrome, handles it with sensitivity and good humor. Their love is apparent through Reid’s well-articulated vision, and the character of Alessandra hovers over the narrative like an angelic presence throughout. At a certain point, the reader, like Emily and Patrick, will care less what is real and what is not, knowing that no matter what may transpire, love endures.
Quill says:The Glorious Betweenis a cinematically staged, magical exploration based in reality, while guiding the reader to parallel realms where love conquers and lovers can find unsullied contentment.
By: Ken Dortzbach Publisher: Cloister Inn Publishing Publication Date: July 2020 ISBN: 978-1733624701 Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott Review Date: August 2020
A young woman follows an elusive, almost mythical icon and finds more than she ever imagined, in this passionate, intelligent, international saga by Ken Dortzbach.
Callie McGraw is a Yale-educated lawyer between jobs. She’s watching the old film production of The Sun Also Rises, one of her favorite books from her teen years, when Ernest Hemingway calls. How can this be? He’s urging her to go to Spain now. She has a job offer that gives her six months leeway, and some money in the bank. So – why not? She arrives in Barcelona and is immediately befriended by Trevor, an American backpacker at loose ends. The two can travel together companionably. In a wild bar in Madrid, they meet Claudio, something of a playboy, and like them, something of a lost soul.
The twosome becomes a threesome, hitting the Hemingway high spots. In the Picasso Museum, Callie will experience absorption in the grey desolation of his Guernica and a disturbing insight about herself in The Embrace in the Street. She has a brief fling with a Frenchman, but only Claudio, who seems to be possessed by the duende (spirit) of Spanish culture, truly holds her attention. Hemingway, in his subsequent phone calls, seems to be giving her advice about her love life while directing her further travels, including a trip to Pamplona to run with the bulls. Then the time comes for her to leave, and head to California and her new job. Will she go? Will Claudio stay? Decisions will be made, down to the last possible minute.
Author Dortzbach, like his heroine, has had a law career, and like her, has traveled abroad and developed an attachment to the vibrant landscape and culture of Spain. Kudos to Dortzbach for making his protagonist a female, fully revealing her intellect as well as her intuition. Callie finds herself capable of reliving the very macho Hemingway’s disillusionment, ennui and rebirth as depicted in The Sun Also Rises.Dortzbach offers his heroine several opportunities for romance, but the deeper love is that which she must give to herself. A chance meeting with a woman who knew Hemingway reminds her that she has a “strong” and she must use it. Dortzbach is clearly an admiring student of Hemingway, and shows his own “strong” in this panoramic drama harking back to a rich era in American literature.
Quill says: Combining magical realism, the magic of Spain, and real magic in a voice from beyond the grave, Dortzbach has created a strong female lead and an enchanting “coming of actual adulthood” saga in Finding Hemingway.
For more information on Finding Hemingway, please visit the author's website at: kendortzbach.com
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with D.L. Jennings, author of Awaken The Three (Book 2 of the Highglade Series).
FQ: Do you already envision a grand and final conclusion to this many-tentacled saga – or will it “write itself”?
JENNINGS: I am very much a discovery writer, and I always describe my particular style of writing as laying the tracks while the train screams along. It is simultaneously gratifying and frustrating: I enjoy the twists as they come along because, about 90% of the time, I don’t even know they’re coming. I usually find myself working my way up to a crossroads and, as I’m standing there, I say “huh, what if this were to happen instead?”
That being said, I am currently working on book three, which I intend to be the conclusion of the series. I feel a lot like someone watching the beginnings of a sunset: I know where it’s going to end up, but I’m not exactly sure what it’s going to look like when it does.
That, to me, is truly the beauty of writing.
FQ: In the military, did you encounter strong female leadership that informed your creation of such characters as Duna in Awaken the Three?
JENNINGS: I take every opportunity to brag about my mom when I can, because she was actually the reason I joined the Air Force in the first place. She started out enlisted (I still carry her basic training Air Force portrait in my wallet) and later got a commission to 2nd Lieutenant, only getting out when she had me. She has always been the most powerful example of ferocity and strength in my life, and I like to think that there is a little bit of her in every strong female character that I write.
After her is my younger sister Sara (readers will recognize her fictional counterpart, Seralith Edos), who embodies exactly the kind of toughness and intelligence that Duna exudes in Awaken the Three: she is independent enough to strike out on her own, but competent enough to know when she needs a team in order to accomplish something.
Between the two of them, I have practically limitless inspiration for writing strong, fleshed-out female leads.
FQ: Is Thornton Woods really D. L Jennings – or is there another character with whom you identify more closely?
JENNINGS: It was that obvious, huh? I actually lifted both Thornton and his father, Olson, from an earlier story that I started in my early 20’s but never finished. Thornton was unabashedly D.L. Jennings, and vice versa.
When I write characters, I love to base them on real people in order to give them the depth that makes a good character — their mannerisms, speech patterns, etc. — and Thornton was my first real foray into doing that. I always figured that they say “Write what you know,” and who else do I know better than myself? There is a lot of me that was poured into him when I wrote him: he means well, but can sometimes see his good intentions blowing up in his face.
Besides channeling a lot of my own frustrations and shortcomings into him — because who likes a protagonist who’s perfect? — I also wrote in some qualities that I wish I had: he’s a lot more patient than I am, and he’s painfully optimistic. In fact, he’s rebuked by one of his companions, Kethras, who explains to him that “some things in this world cannot be solved by good intentions.”
There are definitely some days where I wish I had Thornton’s optimism.
FQ: Have your own travels and transplantations given you insight into the experiences of Thornton as he sees new, undreamed of cities and inventions?
JENNINGS: Definitely. My mom has always loved to travel, and she passed that love on to me and my brother and sister. By the time I was 14, I had already been to Europe twice, and would go again several more times when I could travel on my own.
One of my earliest memories of traveling with her was when we went to France. I remember staring at the Palace of Versailles thinking “someone actually lived there once,” and being amazed that someone had built something so impressive. In fact, Versailles was one of the inspirations behind the palace of Djozen Yelto in Awaken the Three, where one character remarks that its sole purpose was a blatant show of wealth. I try to channel that awe whenever I write a character experiencing a new city for the first time. This world never ceases to amaze me — now imagine how much more incredible a world of fantasy might be!
FQ: Did your feelings about your military experience, happening as you began this series, seep into the book and influence your depictions of maneuvers, warfare, and destruction, et al?
JENNINGS: I used every opportunity to draw upon my military experience when writing both books, because war and fantasy have always been nigh inseparable. Two of my literary heroes, J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert Jordan, both served in the military, and I think it’s obvious in their works. I drew from that same well and channeled my own experience of being deployed and going off to war when I wrote each and every battle scene.
There is an instance in Awaken the Three where one of the characters is being sent off to battle for the first time, and his thoughts mirrored my own when I was getting ready to go on my first deployment. There is a degree of uncertainty associated with it — a fear of the unknown, to be sure — and a whole lot of questioning of the life choices that led up to that moment. But in the end, you realize that life is all about conflict: whether it be on a large scale like war between two nations, or a small scale like whether to pour either creamer or bourbon into your coffee at 2pm. Decisions, decisions.
FQ: Do you see in our current crazy world any parallels to some of the chaos - and the potential for idealism - depicted in Awaken the Three?
JENNINGS: Unfortunately, all too much. One of the reasons that fantasy books remain relevant is one thing I touched on earlier: conflict. As long as humans have recorded history — and doubtlessly before — we have been at war, and war is no exception these days. The world of Awaken the Three and of Gift of the Shaper is one that holds many parallels to our own in the fact that there are a number of factions vying for control through conflict, and the seismic shifts in the political climate tend to send shockwaves throughout it. There are also very real issues that arise as well that the characters deal with such as sexism, discrimination, identity issues, and the loss of a loved one. Sure, the work is fantasy, but the ideas that it’s rooted in are very real and I think people can identify with characters like Duna and Elyasha — even the half-eye Dailus, to a degree — when it comes to dealing with everyday problems that rear their head.
FQ: Is writing now your primary profession or are you exploring other avenues of creativity?
JENNINGS: I always tell people that “I work to support my writing habit;” I hope one day that writing will pay the bills, but for now it’s still a dream that I’m in active pursuit of. In the meantime I’ve taken a job as a deployment-based government contractor that gives me the time and the freedom to write while also allowing me to do crazy things like pay rent and buy food, and I think it’s a great arrangement. The nice thing about my job right now is the time off: I deploy for 6 months out of the year, but the other 6 months is my own to do with as I will, which I try to use as much as I can to write. Besides working on book three of the HIGHGLADE series, I’m also working with a producer in Hollywood on adapting Gift of the Shaper into a screenplay, so I’m definitely keeping my options open. If there is one thing my time in the military taught me, it’s that if you keep in dogged pursuit of something, chances are it will eventually come to you.
FQ: Which writers influenced you most in the creation of the Highglade world and its occupants?
JENNINGS: I mentioned J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert Jordan earlier, and there is no question that the two of them were the heaviest influences on the creation of my fantasy world, but a third writer that I’ve always admired in terms of sheer ability is Ray Bradbury. In fact, I always say that if I had Dr. Frankenstein’s secret for reanimation, I would take the prose of Bradbury and the storytelling ability of Jordan and stitch them together to make the perfect writer. I’ll never forget the first time I read the opening line to Fahrenheit 451: “it was a pleasure to burn.” I was reading the book on a flight from Dallas to LA and I had to stop and put the book down more than a few times to just marvel at the way he turned a phrase. I actually see his writing style somewhat perpendicular to Jordan’s in fact: Bradbury is a master of description, and Jordan is a master of story.
I think the best way to explain it is to think of it like driving. The way that Bradbury tells a story is a lot like a slow, straight drive down a beautifully decorated part of town: there aren’t a lot of twists and turns, and it’s a mostly uneventful ride, but the scenery on the route is breathtaking. You make sure to take the time to stop along the way to appreciate it. Years later you can even recall it and are hard pressed to think of other examples that surpass it.
Jordan, on the other hand, takes you on a ride like a rally car driver. When you start out, you have no idea where the finish line is or how you’re even going to get there...and then he flashes you a wild grin and floors it. Speeding along, you barely have time to watch the scenery fly by, but Jordan, your confident driver, navigates it like a master. Suddenly you find yourself hurtling toward the finish line and you realize that you were so caught up in the mad ride that you didn’t take the time to look around and appreciate your surroundings; you can barely recall what the trees looked like on your way there, or how the birds sounded — but each and every turn surprised you, and the finish line was the embodiment of perfection.
When I write, I try to channel both Jordan and Bradbury. I want my stories to be exciting and well-paced but beautiful enough to merit a pit stop or three to just get out and enjoy the scenery. Until then I’m just enjoying the ride.
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Michael Kasenow, author of The Rape Trial of Medusa.
FQ: I have to know: This plot-line is so ‘out there,’ yet reads like a very real crime/suspense drama. How and/or where did you come up with this fascinating idea?
KASENOW: I was browsing the web, looking at the Greek gods. I came across Medusa and read that she was raped, blamed for the rape and punished for the rape. I said to myself, that can’t be right. But I kept researching and that’s what the consensus agreed upon. There may be other versions, but that’s what you’ll find today if you Google this. Anyway, I thought her trial would make a good story; however, I had to bring her into the 21st Century, subdue the snakes, and give the Olympians a life of their own. So, I would write for a while, stop and think, write for a while and so on. This did not come together after about five years. Not 24/7, but when I was stuck somewhere. I just put the pen down; a couple of months would pass, and I’d go back to the story. I thought it was worth pursuing. The last six months paved the way. I began this when the MeToo movement was voicing concerns. So here we are in the 21st Century, and Medusa was around during the Greek and Rome Empires, two-three thousand years ago. how much has changed? I tweaked reality a bit, by using a natural voice and conversations, and considering it a real crime, it appeared to work. Medusa has been around for millennia, in many forms, many women know her well.
FQ: Are you a fan of Greek history/mythology? If so, do you have a personal favorite god or goddess and why are they your favorite?
KASENOW: I’m a history buff. Mythology in its many forms, in many cultures, has always intrigued me; however, the Greek gods are awful (Rome just gave these gods different names, Zeus is Jupiter in Rome). I can’t believe any empire worshiped these cruel perverts. They killed, tortured, and cursed anyone they so desired. Human or god, it did not matter, rape and incest were habits. So—I do not have a favorite Olympian, except for Medusa, of course.
FQ: You have quite the trio on your present resume – a novelist, a poet and a scientist. Were you always interested in writing while studying to become a scientist? Or did this creative process come about later on?
KASENOW: I wrote poetry as a young man, kicked around the country for a while. Then went back to college in my early thirties. I took a geology course and discovered that science isn’t hard, it’s just tedious. I like being outside, so geology came naturally for me. When I went back to college and changed my life-course, I put the creative-writing pen down for a few decades. I wrote science books about the environment and fresh water. Then I had a serious illness, when I came out of it, the creative poles of my brain changed sides. I began to write poetry again and then novels. The creative process was always there, but in different forms. I’m one of those who believes that ‘things’ happen for a reason. The road is laid down, I just follow it. The comedian Red Skeleton said: “Talent is God’s gift to you; using that talent is your gift to God.” Regardless of the concept of God, that’s a neat way of thinking about the creative process.
FQ: As a Roswell resident myself, I had heard you worked in NM for a time. Do you take things from these various places you’ve lived and use the data in your books/poetry?
KASENOW: Yes, always. Before I went back to college, I had worked as a bartender, janitor, cab driver, among others. Those experiences and the people I met are a part of what I write about. I was a kid when I settled in Santa Fe, because that’s where my car broke down and where I ran out of money. I eventually did some adobe brick work and some ranch-hand stuff. So I take those experiences with me. Roswell is to the southeast, I believe. Carlsbad is near there. White Sands to the west. Great places to see. I learned a lot about myself in New Mexico. I was not a geologist when I lived there, so I didn’t know what I was looking at. Later in life, I did some geologic work in Colorado. Two of the best places to enjoy are New Mexico and Colorado.
FQ: Is there a genre you have not yet written in that you would like to pursue one day?
KASENOW: I don’t think about genre when I plot out a story. For me, it’s the story that matters. I’ve written a historical novel, natural fiction, a ghost story, and now one that is somewhat mythical, but it was always the story that mattered. Can I relate to the characters? Will readers relate? Does the story draw empathy? Does the story occur in an interesting place? What do I want to say? Is there an underlying philosophy? I dream about the story for a while, then, if it keeps nipping at my ear, I’ll do my best.
FQ: Certainly, there’s so many mystical and amazing events throughout history. Is there an era or, perhaps, an event that you would like to use for the background/plot-line of a future story?
KASENOW: U.S. history from about 1920 to about 1940 keeps my interest. That’s when the country tried to grow in good directions. Women were able to vote, flappers danced onto the scene, great art painted the landscape, some of America’s great writers emerged to tell their stories. Motion pictures and radio gave America a voice and visions. Prohibition and gangsters made noise. We were still knee deep into Jim Crow, and then came the great depression, and the build-up to WWII. So I can see a plot line or two coming out of that era. It fascinates me. After the bombs were dropped on Japan, America seemed to lose its innocence. It’s the innocence in our history that I’m attracted to.
FQ: What would you say brings you the most benefit from being a professor; and, in turn, what is the biggest benefit that writing brings to you?
KASENOW: Well, I’m now a retired professor. But I enjoyed sharing what I learned and researched about the natural world. Watching good, smart, young people grow and want to grow. That’s a joy and a legacy. Writing, well, you have to enjoy being by yourself, and you have to be your best and worst critic. I simply enjoy the creative process. I and other writers have cried when some of our characters have died. That’s the emotional part of what writing does. When I get wrapped up in the process, my cats come in to bring me back to the real world. Writing gives me peace-of-mind, I enjoy the jingle-jangle of words, and the rhythm of sentence structuring.
FQ: Do you have any particular favorites when it comes to authors; is there any you see as mentors when it comes to your own writing?
KASENOW: John Steinbeck, Stephen Crane, Carl Sandberg, Jack London, Fitzgerald—especially his short stories. Joyce Carol Oats is exceptional. E.A. Robinson. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and her poetry. The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier is one of the best naturalistic novels I have ever read. Her novel and The Bell Jar remain on my shelves.
FQ: What comes next in the literary world for you?
KASENOW: I have a few things bubbling in my mind. Some days they make sense; then some days not so much. In today’s world there’s a lot to think about. Like most people, I’m trying to stay alive.
By: D.L. Jennings Publisher: Indigo River Publishing Publication Date: August 2020 ISBN: 978-1950906529 Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott Review Date: August 14, 2020
In this twisting tale, a sequel to his earlier, award-winning work,Gift of the Shaper,author and military vet D. L. Jennings has carried his mythic characters to another level of understanding invoking a further, even more perilous quest.
There are both humans and human-like creatures in Jennings’ fantasy world, and many are gifted with supernatural powers. The Athrani, with their strangely colored eyes, can change things in a gift called Shaping, and worship the Shaper of Ages; the Khyth worship the Breaker of the Dawn, can “break,” or manipulate, matter and have eyes like smoke; Farsteppers move mysteriously through the Otherworld, an etheric realm from where Khyth and Athrani beings derive their distinctive abilities. And there are those who are apparently, simply, humans, like Thornton Woods. Thornton, perhaps echoing the Nordic myth of Thor, is guardian of the Hammer, a weapon shrouded in mystic lore.
As the saga opens, Thornton is trying to resuscitate his sister Yasha after her “breaking” – her skin is blistered and her hair, a flaming red. The siblings will travel with an Athrani army, allowing them to see marvels they could never have imagined. And Dailus - an Athrani half-breed known as a “half-eye” – is being imprisoned for treason. Thornton will be forced to meet with Dailus who was an enemy of his father and who will tell him of his missing father’s true fate. As Jennings’ multi-layered intrigue develops, war is underway, affecting all their lives, and Thornton is drawn into a world-shaping mission: to awaken three sleeping beings - the Traveler who rules the day, the Holder of the Dead, controller of night, and the mystic female Ghost of the Morning. This danger-fraught task brings Thornton into a unique alliance with characters of different social strata and some very different motivations, and includes his nemesis, the devious Dailus. Their determination to challenge enormous, enigmatic forces may just offer Thornton a chance to free his father and Miera, his childhood-companion-turned-goddess, from their Otherworld prison.
Jennings, who began writing in earnest while deployed overseas in the Air Force, has an imagination as vast as any of the greats of fantasy creation, and the perspicacity to engage and direct his readers. His Highglade universe is complex yet orderly. He provides a lengthy glossary that enables readers to get to know not only the territory and its history better, and offers brief, helpful portraits of his plethora of central characters. This second volume of the series, at over 500 pages, rewards readers’ efforts with interlocking tales of heroic males and females contributing on an equal footing, in conflict with havoc-wreaking tyrants and tricky evildoers bent on wrecking the proposed plans for unity and peace.
Quill says:Awaken the Threeis a stand-alone, action-filled mytho-fantasy epic, and those who sense and savor its deftly woven story strands will doubtless rush to read the earlier book in the Highglade series and excitedly await the next installment.
For more information onAwaken The Three (Book 2 of the Highglade Series)please visit the author's website at:www.dl-jennings.com.com
By: Michael Kasenow Publisher: Michael Kasenow Publication Date: June 19, 2020 ISBN-13: 978-1-7349-5530-9 Reviewed by: Amy Lignor Review Date: August 14, 2020
History is one of the few things in life I absolutely love. From amazing facts, to interesting people from our past, to myths and legends that either cause the pulse to race or the heart to stop—I love it all. So when you get a title to review with the word “Medusa” in big, bold letters on the cover, that excitement is amped up ten-fold. But, I have to say, this was even more heart-pounding because it wasn’t the well-told legend of the woman with snakes in her hair; this author took a modern take on the myth making it even cooler!
We begin on the steps of the New York Courthouse in Manhattan; home of the New York Supreme Court. This bustling city has a protest going on outside as reporters shove their faces in front of cameras in order to get the best shot of the day. The protesters, however, hold up some odd signs and lob words and accusations out that range from things like “Victim” to “Seductress,” as they await the arrival of the infamous defendant. Yes, that defendant is Medusa, herself...live and in person in NYC.
Readers are swept into the plot immediately. An “Egyptology Expert” is on hand to denounce the fable that this woman’s gaze is deadly and can turn men to stone. He also speaks with one of the reporter’s about the trial coming up and that almost the entire Olympian family has agreed to be called to the stand. By the way, this Olympian family – all throughout history – is still the richest, most powerful corporate family on the planet as of today. They also have their little closet-full of perversions that people like to gossip about, so many are interested to see what, exactly, will come out during the trial. One Olympian not coming to the trial is Ambassador Poseidon, who has invoked “diplomatic immunity.” (I know, right? It’s cool.)
So, anyway, Poseidon is the one being accused of rape, which one former Senator just can’t understand because he served in Congress with Poseidon and he can’t believe that the Ambassador would ever do something like that. Before the trial began, the Olympians stated they would only agree to move the trial venue to NYC from Greece if they got all the rights to the documentaries, TV shows, etc., that would come from this. (A way to make even more money.) Now, if Medusa loses, she will be banished for all time. If she wins, however, she will get back her youth, beauty and freedom.
Medusa arrives, dressed in garb that will keep her snakes under control so that they don’t hurt anyone. Her attorney, Maggie Harper, is the woman who wants to help this defendant win; she also has a huge role in the story. There are a lot of people who will be showing up, including Perseus, who is the son of Zeus and the future CEO of the family corporation. Zeus has already sent mean texts out condemning Medusa, and he now watches her arrival at court from the War Room in his house, sitting beside his wife, Hera. He basically has the prosecutor in his back pocket – telling him if he wins, he’ll become the next governor but if he loses, he’ll be cleaning toilets.
The “story” comes out that Medusa was alone in Athena’s Temple and was raped. Athena blamed her and actually cursed Medusa, transforming her into the snake-headed evil woman known by all, and exiling her to an island. After all this time, Medusa will now get her day in court so that justice can be done.
Okay...we are talking the trial of the century here. The historical characters, the present-day characters, the plotlines that show both past and present – all of this is wrapped up into a crime drama, a thriller, a soap opera, and more. You actually, at times, feel like J.R. Ewing should walk into the courtroom in his Stetson at some point – it’s that cool! So was Medusa raped? If so, who really was behind the crime? You have GOT to read this one to find that out, and a whole lot more.
Quill says: Taking history and giving it a spin is one thing; this book takes it and turns it into a merry-go-round that never stops!
For more information on The Rape Trial of Medusa, please visit the author's website at: www.michaelkasenow.com
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Helena P. Schrader, author ofBalian d'Ibelin: Knight of Jerusalem (Jerusalem Trilogy).
FQ: Helena, I’ve certainly read a number of your books and interviewed you in the past, but I must ask: If you had to choose one battle or one noble figure that you’ve written about during all of these incredible books, which location or person would you have loved to see and/or meet, and why?
SCHRADER: Frankly, I'd be terrified of meeting any of the historical figures I've written about. I'd worry that I'd misinterpreted something, or that they were angry with me for the way I portrayed them. I doubt any of them would be terribly interested in me or my books either. They had more important issues to worry about. The greatest compliment I ever received was from a Battle of Britain RAF pilot, who read my Battle of Britain novel "Where Eagles Never Flew" and wrote to tell me I'd got it "smack on" the way it was "for us pilots." I still glow when I think of his words. That was the highest possible compliment, and I'm so proud. Because of his assessment, I consider that book the best of all my novels to this day. Yet while Bob Doe and I corresponded a few times after his first letter, I would still have been shy about meeting him face to face -- and I hadn't written about him specifically! No, I think I'll keep away from any possibly embarrassing confrontations with the characters in my books.
FQ: What was your life like being an American diplomat in Europe and Africa? Did this time give you a calling to write about history?
SCHRADER: I became interested in writing about history long before I got to college much less into the diplomatic corps. It was more the other way around, I think. My fascination with international history made me long for the opportunity to 1) live abroad in places with rich history (e.g. Ethiopia, Germany, Greece) and 2) witness ( and maybe in a tiny way influence) history directly and personally as a diplomat.
FQ: What intrigues you most about all you’ve learned while researching the Crusader states? Is there one thing that came as a huge surprise to you that you can share with readers?
SCHRADER: That the crusader states were inhabited predominantly by Christians at this time, but extremely tolerant of Muslims and Jews, enabling a very successful multi-cultural and multi-lingual society to thrive for nearly two hundred years. The inhabitants of the crusader states were anything but religious fanatics and bigots; they were savvy, flexible, adaptable and tolerant for the most part -- and astonishingly effective in retaining their position in a hostile world. The popular image of fanatics fighting constantly and brutally against the more civilized and enlightened Muslim world around them is based on ignorance and propaganda.
FQ: You must truly love the research facet that goes into creating these books. Were you always a researcher at heart? Is there ever a time when you get bored, or need a shot of energy when writer’s block sets in? If so, what do you do to reinvigorate yourself?
SCHRADER: I do love the research. When working on a particular project, I tend to immerse myself in an era as comprehensively as possible, including trying to find music, food, clothes from the era etc. What that means is that I rarely have time for reading for pleasure, especially books about different periods or places. I feared getting distracted from my topic and losing, not interest, but purity.
Most of my life, I worked full-time in a demanding job that filled more than 40 hours of every week. I also had a family. In short, my time for writing was very limited. Rather than being bored or experiencing writer's block, I usually had a backlog of things I needed to read and write. I never had enough time to get bored or suffer from writer's block. Even now, in retirement, I find I've over-committed myself with respect to two contracts for non-fiction books, overseeing (but not doing!) the translation into Greek of the last book of my Leonidas Trilogy, articles for history journals, re-issuing some of my older books (Hitler's Demons, Where Eagles Never Flew)and the re-write ofKnight of Jerusalem.The result is I have not moved forward on the next book in the Rebels of Outremer series as I had planned/expected.
FQ: Is there some belief or attitude in today’s world – that existed in the past – you wish we’d gotten rid of by now?
SCHRADER: I suspect most historians would agree that nearly every form of evil we encounter in today's world has been with us for millennia. I remember reading a quote about corruption at and the disastrous environmental impact of the Olympics -- written about 500 BC. Political intrigue, bigotry, misogyny, racism, exploitation, egotism, greed -- you can find it all in the Iliad and ever since.
FQ: Will there always be, in your opinion, war? (Whether that be race wars, country vs. country, etc.)
SCHRADER: Yes -- thank God. Aggressors, exploiters, bullies, the most vicious tyrants and all forms of abusers of mankind would much rather just have whatever they want from whimpering and terrified slaves. War happens -- as Clausewitz wrote -- when the injured party, when the victim, says "NO!" It is self-defense not aggression that causes war, and I hope that some people will always be prepared to stand up for themselves and for the weak and the oppressed and abused around them.
FQ: What doors will be opened to readers in the next book of this trilogy?
SCHRADER: Well, it is important for readers to understand that the next book in this trilogy has already been published. It is "Defender of Jerusalem." I do need to makes some changes to that book in order to ensure complete consistency with the new edition of "Knight of Jerusalem." I hope to have those changes in print later this year -- certainly before Christmas. But there are no fundamental changes to the plot or characterization of the current version. As I noted in the introduction toBalian d'Ibelin,it is because we know so little about Balian's youth that I had to invent a past for him -- and felt I wanted to revise that. The period of his life covered inDefender of Jerusalemand inEnvoy of Jerusalemis too well documented for me to take many liberties. As a result, the second and third books in the Trilogy stand as they are -- except for very minor changes I'll be making later this year.
For those who are coming to the trilogy for the first time, the next book in the series covers the period between the Christian victory over Saladin at Montgisard in 1177 and the surrender of Jerusalem to Saladin following defeat at the battle of Hattin in 1187. It was a period in which King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem was dying of leprosy and his sister and heir married a completely unsuitable man who rapidly alienated the barons of the kingdom. The barons were right: less than a year after this man usurped the throne, he led the entire army to an avoidable defeat that nearly destroyed the kingdom. These dramatic historical events form the plot around which the novelDefender of Jerusalemis built.
FQ: AfterBalian,is there already an idea brewing?
SCHRADER: I interrupted work on theRebels of Outremerseries to make revisions toKnight of Jerusalem. The Rebels of Outremerseries covers the revolt by a significant portion of the lords and commons of the Holy Land against the illegal and tyrannical reign of the Hohenstaufens in Outremer in the thirteenth century. The rebels were led by Balian's eldest son, John, and after John's death by John's son -- another Balian d'Ibelin. I hope to return to that series by early next year. Meanwhile, however, I have the adjustments toDefenderto complete and I'm re-issuing two older books, both set in WWII. These projects will keep me very busy in the short term -- not to mention my non-fiction history of the crusader states for Pen & Sword.
FQ: It was a great pleasure, as always, to read your book!
SCHRADER: Thank you, Amy! It is wonderful to hear from enthusiastic readers. Thank you, too, for the opportunity to answer some questions about my writing. It's always good to reflect on what one has done or plans to do.