By: Deborah Stevenson Illustrated by: Stella Mongodi Publisher: Frog Prince Books Publication Date: April 2021 ISBN: 978-1734824230 Reviewed by: Holly Connors Review Date: February 2021
Special friendships and cherished memories are the focal point of author Deborah Stevenson's newest children's book, The Green Woolen Fedora.
Nora is getting ready to go meet her good friend Lenny so they can go see the newest movie playing in town. Because it's a bit cold and windy out, Nora puts on her coat and to top off her outfit, a lovely green fedora.
When the friends meet up, Lenny is curious about Nora's hat. "It's called a fedora!" she explains. Lenny thinks the hat is neat and asks if he can try it on. Nora happily agrees and Lenny puts it on his head. A few smiles and giggles and then Lenny holds out the hat to hand it back. But unfortunately, at that exact moment, a burst of wind charges through and grabs the hat. It flies away and in a moment it's gone.
"The hat whirled and twirled through the air like a top... out over the river, the wind let it drop."
A river rat watches the hat fly about and plop into the river. She races to the hat, now upside down, floating on the river and immediately decides it's the perfect new home for her. Poor Nora is desperate as the hat is very special to her. Lenny wants to help his friend get the hat back and comes up with a plan. Will it be enough to get the hat back to Nora?
Author Deborah Stevenson has a plethora of fantastic children's books (I've reviewed several), all centered around animals. Her newest book, however, is a bit of a departure. While many of her other books are written in verse, as is this one, and there are animals in The Green Woolen Fedora, animals are not the main focus. Rather, this book focuses on a close friendship (Nora and Lenny) and what friends will do for each other, simply to help. And the reason that fedora is so special? When you learn the reason, it will leave a warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart. The Green Woolen Fedora is definitely a departure for Stevenson, but like her other books, it's one you should add to your child's bookshelf.
Quill says: The Green Woolen Fedora is a heartfelt tribute to friendship and special memories shared with grandparents. Sweet and fun, it's sure to delight young readers.
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Susan Fleet, author of Foulshot: A Frank Renzi Crime Thriller, Book 10.
FQ: I know we have spoken many times in the past, and I would love for our readers, this time around, to learn more about Music & Mayhem Press, and how that got started.
FLEET: Music and mayhem have always been part of my life. I began playing trumpet when I was eight and joined the musicians union when I was fifteen to play in the city concert band. My father was a print journalist so he'd write up my performances in the local newspaper. But long before that, he used to take me to the police station and I'd hear him talking to the cops. That's probably how I discovered my dark side and began killing people. Fictionally, of course! So what better name for a publishing company than Music & Mayhem Press?
And I do seem to run into mayhem. Several years ago, the man who lived right above my fourth floor condo was shot dead by the police. It seems he had robbed a restaurant after it closed for the night. When police knocked on his door to serve a warrant to arrest him, he wouldn't open the door. Then his girlfriend screams, He's got a gun! So the cops called for reinforcements. It was pretty crazy, ten police cruisers in the condo parking lot and the whole building was locked down. After a while, he came out the door with a gun in his hand and the police officers shot him. True story.
FQ: I know you made the move back after the Katrina tragedy, but what made you initially move from Boston to New Orleans?
FLEET: In 2000, I came to New Orleans to attend the Words and Music writers' conference and fell in love with the city. New Orleans has great jazz clubs, and the architecture and ambiance in the French Quarter are unique. By then I was already writing thrillers, but I hadn't published one yet. So I decided to set my novels in New Orleans and moved there in 2001. Most readers like to travel vicariously and they love reading about New Orleans, especially the French Quarter. Frank's office is in the District-8 station on Royal Street, which has many antique stores, including an antique gun shop with rifles and muskets from the Civil War.
In fact, I met one of my NOPD sources at the District-8 station, a homicide detective, who once helped solve a serial killer case. He gave me terrific information and I got to see the conference room on the second floor. As it happens, when I moved to New Orleans in 2001, a serial killer was murdering young women in Baton Rouge. So I thought, what if a serial killer was murdering young women in New Orleans? That became the premise of my first published book, Absolution. But my killer is very different from the Baton Rouge serial killer. He's a priest.
FQ: Unfortunately, I have yet to set eyes on New Orleans, but everyone says it’s a truly amazing and diverse city. Is it fair to say that New Orleans played a large part in creating Frank Renzi?
FLEET: New Orleans has a tremendously rich heritage. Even before the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the population was very diverse. The architecture in the French Quarter reflects Spanish and French influences, interior courtyards and lacy iron balconies. When I taught at Berklee College of Music in Boston, I had many Japanese students, because jazz is huge in Japan. I also had students from Latin America and Europe, and due to my interest in jazz, I've always had black musician friends. All of them have different viewpoints and backgrounds, which helps me create diverse characters. Frank's partner, Kenyon Miller, is black; Morgan Vobitch, Frank's boss, is Jewish. Natalie, one of my bad girl characters, is half Vietnamese. I got so attached to her, as did my readers, that I wound up writing three novels about her. And the villain in Foulshot is Russian.
Frank is half Italian and half Irish. He grew up near Boston and later became a homicide detective with Boston PD. Jackpot,my fourth book, is a prequel that explains why he moved to New Orleans. In Jackpot, Frank is hunting a serial killer who targets lottery winners. How scary is that? Frank's experiences in Boston, his love of jazz and the Celtics, shaped who he is, but Boston has a diverse population too, so Frank feels very comfortable in New Orleans. But he still roots for the Celtics.
FQ: Could you tell our readers about your blog, Dark Deeds, and how it came about?
FLEET: My Dark Deeds blog posts are about serial killers, stalkers and domestic homicides. I do so much research for my books, I decided to write about actual crimes. The current post is a tragic case. A beautiful young woman became a call girl in Boston, met a Tufts University professor who became obsessed with her, and wound up dead. Eventually, the professor went to jail, but her body was never found. Her parents were devastated. After reading my blog, her brother posted a comment. So did the MA State Police detective who investigated the case and I later talked with him by phone about it.
FQ: You have a diverse resume, to say the least. When it comes to your various careers – from trumpeter to professor to writer, etc. – is there one you can say you enjoy the most?
FLEET: All of them! My musical training and years of performances influence how I structure my novels, the pace and the timing and the dialogue. The students I met while teaching gave me insight into various backgrounds, racial, ethnic and economic. Including gender. At Berklee I created and taught a Women in Music course because many talented female musicians are neglected. Now I write about them on my website. susanfleet.com/morewomenmusicians.htm
As for my novels, I love writing them. I get totally lost when I'm writing. The outside world doesn't exist. It gives me a chance to create an escape for people who need a diversion from their jobs or their lives, or from the pandemic these days. I love talking about my books at writers conferences and libraries. I meet a lot of interesting people and their questions and comments often give me new insights into how my novels affect them.
FQ: Along those same lines, what made you decide to don the “fiction author” hat, so to speak?
FLEET: Many years ago, I produced a slide show about Growing Up in America around 1900. To learn how to write better narration I took a script writing course at Emerson College in Boston. As it turned out, the course focused on writing movie scripts. The professor was terrific and she encouraged me to write a movie script. I wasn't interested in doing that, but I loved writing dialogue. So I decided to write a novel and asked myself, what sort of novel should I write? At the time, my favorite novel was Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsythe. I analyzed each chapter of the book to see how he did it, and wrote my first thriller. That one is hidden in a drawer where no one will ever see it! But I kept writing and now there are ten crime thrillers featuring Frank Renzi.
FQ: As a HUGE fan (as you can probably tell by now), can you let me in on whether or not I get to see Frank Renzi again; and, if so, what I might expect from him next?
FLEET: The Frank Renzi adventures will definitely continue. Strange as it may seem, along about the third or fourth revision of each novel, I get an idea for the next one. Sometimes a character speaks to me. Twilight Zone, right? But I swim laps in a pool to stay in shape, and this often happens while I'm swimming. I already know the next book will be about a serial killer. Here's the first line in the book. He loved stalking them. Not going to tell you any more than that. Stay tuned!
FQ: Social media is such a big slice of the pie for writers nowadays, could you give me your opinion on social media and how you feel it has helped over the years? In addition, could you provide your social media sites as to where readers can gather more information about you and your titles?
FLEET: To be honest, I don't spend much time on social media. I don't have time. I still play my trumpet for an hour in the morning. Then I write, sometimes for five or six hours. This involves many tasks. First, I create my villain, a worthy opponent for Frank, and write his or her backstory. This involves creating other new characters. I do extensive research to create the characters, the locations and so forth. Finally, I plan the plot, all the way to the end. I have to know how the story ends before I start writing. This may take weeks. Then I write the first draft. And rewrite it! Get feedback from my Beta readers and rewrite some more. Months later, I send it to my proofreader. Then I fix the little diddly mistakes. Who's got time time for social media? But I have a website, which features my crime thrillers, biographies of fabulous female musicians, even my trumpet CD! I love to have folks visit me there, so come on down! susanfleet.com/index.htm
FQ: Thank you so much (again) for your time. As always, I am honored and extremely happy to have another Renzi title on my shelf.
FLEET: My thanks to you, Amy, for doing the interview!
By: Susan Fleet Published by: Music & Mayhem Press Publication Date: March 2021 ISBN: 978-1732130128 Reviewed By: Amy Lignor Review Date: March 23, 2021
I’ve had the pleasure of reading many thrillers featuring Frank Renzi and, quite frankly, I have loved each and every one of them. As I stated in the past, there is no place better to set a suspense masterpiece than on the streets of New Orleans. It also is a huge plus when you’re standing beside Renzi, as he is one heck of a Homicide Detective—a fact that has certainly never changed throughout this now, 10-book series.
Renzi is not only as diehard and gritty as the streets he protects, he is also extremely witty (yes, sarcasm still rules; just ask Dean Koontz about that), and makes you feel as if you’re his partner in solving the mystery that lies before him. For fear of divulging too much information and risk ruining the read for those out there who simply have to read this, I will be careful from here on out.
This particular tale focuses on not only one victim—we’re talking a trio. Oddly, they are all murdered in a New Orleans club and have backgrounds that don’t exactly add up. In other words, their chosen careers have certain “links” but they are not necessarily people you would normally expect to see together. We have a bookie who readers can certainly see delving into some illegal activities. Thus, he certainly could have some connections to the second victim who is actually a mobster. The third and final person to meet up with death inside the club is an NBA referee. Could he have something to do with a bookie, helping him to “fix” games? Sure. Which may then lead to how a mobster could also be involved. However, it is Renzi’s job to not only figure out these connections, but also try to answer the question as to who the actual target was, or were they all in the “sites” of the killer.
Another monkey wrench comes from the fact that the killer is actually in jail. So, what’s the big deal, you ask? Well…things are never simple in Renzi’s world. He wholeheartedly believes that the killer, who remains silent inside a cell, is a hired gun, and that the real “bad guy” who paid for these people to die has to be found in order to uncover the real reasons behind it all.
Author Susan Fleet continues to throw out a web of lies, secrets, and red herrings that make the reader so unbelievably interested and invested in her book that they literally can’t put it down until the very end. We are talking about a major mastermind with an ego the size of Russia going against a detective who has seen it all, done it all, and has the brains to solve it all – making for an unforgettable story, yet again.
Quill says: From Renzi’s introduction inAbsolutionto this incredibleFoulshot,Fleet has created a set of ten books (so far) that should be heralded as being among the “best of the best” thriller series EVER to be written!
For more information onFoulshot: A Frank Renzi Crime Thriller, Book 10,please visit the author's website at:www.susanfleet.com.
By: Daniela Amato Publisher: Illumify Media Global Publication Date: November 2020 ISBN: 978-1-947360-72-3 Reviewed by Diane Lunsford Date: March 22, 2021
Daniela Amato pens a beautiful story of 'Finding Joy' through the eyes and perspective of a dog named Little Bear in her latest title, Finding Joy: A Dog’s Tale.
In the opening chapter, Little Bear is gliding along in a weightless free fall ‘...around the atmosphere in a ball of light. The slide was dark with purple ribbons flowing through it. I could not feel it, but I had the sense that it was silky and smooth, like a beautiful silk ribbon...’ Little Bear is a dog and while he’s yet to enter the world, his soul is already on its way to his life form. When his ‘fall’ into the womb of his mother places him in the cramped space with several other unborn pups, life outside is about to get real and his journey ahead will be a road of challenges, lessons, love, separation, and the ultimate reckoning with what his purpose is during his lifetime with his ‘person.’
On the day of his birth, Little Bear knew something was changing. There was a great force that was pushing him with ‘...rhythmic, pulsing squeezes. The heartbeat moved faster and louder. The others moved on top of each other, and I was squashed and kicked. There was something familiar about this. I had done this before...’ The days grew in number and at barely four weeks, Little Bear along with his siblings was placed into a box, and into a truck and driven to an unknown location away from his mother. It was then that he was left on the side of the road. The trauma of not only being whisked away from his mother, but the fear in the tone of her barks to her babies left an impression and a sense that Little Bear would never see her again. Uncertain as to the length of time Little Bear and his siblings were in this strange new place, one thing was clear, they were all cold, hungry and wet from the rain.
I love animals and if someone were to ask me to pick my favorite, I would have to say I have two: horses and dogs. There is something incredibly spiritual about both animals. They exude spirituality and unconditional love. When I was asked to review Finding Joy: A Dog’s Tale and learned it was a story told through the eyes of a dog, I didn’t hesitate to say: ‘yes, please.’ Ms. Amato immediately immerses herself into the main character ‘Little Bear’ and takes the reader on a journey from his transcendence from ‘Joy’ to his mother’s womb, through the birth of Little Bear and the life he will lead during his current chosen path. The dialogue is beautiful and there are so many wonderful passages throughout this read, it’s difficult to pick one that resonates over another. However, I do have one of my personal picks. Ms. Amato introduces the concept of ‘Animal-Speak’ in chapter six and enlightens the reader as to what this means. Essentially, Little Bear has a guide ‘Bear’ who is his mentor/guide/teacher who he telepathically communicates with throughout his life. Little Bear has had many lives and dreams often of the time he was a wolf. His favorite (and recurring dream) is when he was a big, grey wolf. He was wild and free but was also close to a woman. ‘...She was my human. I had imprinted on her and she did on me too. I asked Bear to explain imprinting to me. He said it was when one being attached themselves to another being through their energy. It was an unbreakable bond. Nothing could separate their bond, not time, space, or even death. I did not really understand this very well, but Bear said I would in time...’ I sat down mid-morning today to begin reading this book and didn’t stop until I reached ‘the end’ mid-afternoon. This was one of the most emotionally satisfying reads I’ve had the pleasure of reading in quite some time. Well done Ms. Amato.
Quill says: The bond between a human and a dog is one of the greatest lessons of love one can experience in life and in Finding Joy: A Dog's Tale, author Daniela Amato does a wonderful job of bringing this bond to the forefront of her story.
For more information on Finding Joy: A Dog's Tale, please visit the author's website at: www.danielaamato.com
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Gary D. McGugan, author of A Web of Deceit.
FQ: It’s such a treat to have the pleasure of chatting with you once again. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your Multima series, and A Web of Deceit was, yet another thrilling read. I have to ask, when you were in the throes of writing the current body of work in this series, were you thinking ahead to how the current work will transition to the next installment?
MCGUGAN: Thank you for your warm welcome! It’s great to spend some time with you again.
The most accurate answer to your question about thinking of a transition to the next installment is, “Somewhat.” I planted some seeds in the final chapters of A Web of Deceit that signal who some of the major characters might be in subsequent stories and some of the challenges they might face, but I haven’t created a plot or storyline. My wife likes to say I have an “overactive imagination.” She’s probably right. I have every confidence my imagination will create those details quite quickly once I’ve decided to focus on writing the next story.
FQ: It’s abundantly clear you love to tell stories and there’s an element that resonates in each title that tracks with current events. I was intrigued with how you incorporated Covid 19 as an imminent threat to global commerce and its dark cloud threat to Multima Corporation, yet you didn’t make it the underlying theme to the storyline. Was that difficult to do considering what the world has endured over the past 15 months?
MCGUGAN: When I started writing A Web of Deceit in April 2020, I sensed the pandemic would be long, devastating, and disruptive. History tells us pandemics usually last a couple years. I realized readers would be fed-up with COVID-19 well before they started reading my story and would have little interest in reading more about it. However, I thought a novel would lack credibility if I wrote a story set in 2020 that ignored the coronavirus. So my challenge was to weave the virus into the story, but not let it dominate either the plot or the characters. So far, most reviewers think I achieved that balance and used the pandemic to enrich my tale.
FQ: You state in your bio, ‘...After a forty-year career at senior levels of global corporates, Gary started writing with a goal of using artful suspense to entertain and inform...’ Do you miss the intensity of the day-to-day corporate environment or do you think your experiences provide the endless fuel that breathes such life into the epic tales you spin now?
MCGUGAN: During my long career, I had the good fortune to work with some of the finest companies on earth. And I was lucky to win some of the most interesting assignments possible. My professional life took me to more than fifty countries and more than 650 cities towns and villages on every continent except Antarctica—where I met interesting people, learned about habits and cultures, and became fascinated with the ways society functions around the globe. I incorporate those experiences and knowledge into everything I write, hoping readers will share my fascination with our world as they enjoy plots with mystery, action, and suspense.
Do I miss the corporate world? I miss the comraderies of colleagues and customers, but I devoted massive amounts of personal time to my various roles. At the age of sixty, I realized it was time for me to shift gears, start another career, and begin an entirely new adventure.
FQ: In line with my previous question, when writing what was your ‘aha moment’ to hunker down and pen Three Weeks Less a Day and the subsequent titles in this series?
MCGUGAN: As an avid reader, I’d long toyed with the idea of writing a book or two, but never had enough time available. It also seemed a daunting task. I wasn’t confident I had the muster to create and complete an entire novel. After leaving the corporate world, I first co-authored a work of non-fiction called Needs Selling Solutions with Jeff Allen—a friend and former colleague. When we completed that book, I realized it would take a lot of work, but the goal of writing an entertaining story seemed achievable. Three Weeks Less a Day took me four years from start to publication. I’ve written a subsequent novel every year since then, and I’m confident there are still lots of good stories to tell!
FQ: You’ve stayed incredibly true to a deep-seated plotline with incredible flow from one book to the next. I envision the walls in your writing space wall-papered from floor to ceiling with post-it notes to keep matters straight. Aside from the organization chart in the forward of A Web of Deceit, what are some of the methods you use to keep matters organized and deconflicted?
MCGUGAN: The ”Post-it” note décor you describe in your question is very common with many writers. When we exchange our experiences in writing groups, other authors are usually quite surprised to learn I make very few notes and usually destroy my scraps of research once I’ve used them in my stories. My desk typically has no clutter with no more than a few documents or reference books on an adjoining credenza.
So far, I’ve been able to rely on my memory to call up details as needed and keep track of the various mischiefs my characters pursue.
FQ: You bounce from the Orient, to Europe, to Canada, to the US and islands in between. The scenery depicted in each location is credible and quite detailed. I’m assuming you’ve been to many of the places where scenes have been set. If you had to pick one place to be a ‘must see’ where would that be and why?
MCGUGAN: Yes, I’ve been to virtually every spot I describe in my stories and I think that familiarity gives my stories a boost of reality with fictional plots. Many people ask me to pick one “must-see” location, but I find that an impossible task! Without exception, every place I have visited has some remarkable positive qualities. And every locale comes with some negatives. To me, the joy of travel is seeking out both—learning as much as possible about how a location came to life, what factors shaped its development, and how it evolved to its current state.
Whether I’m admiring a picturesque landscape, magnificent architecture, or one of the wonders of the world, I like to think about the “backstory” as much as the current appeal.
FQ: Howard Knight is the equivalent of a cat with nine lives. I love how you keep resurrecting his character to hold a key role in each story. How is it this man has escaped the brink of death on more than a few occasions, and will he meet his ‘maker’ if you plan to write another book in this series? Without too much of a spoiler, if it’s time for him to go, will The Organization mob boss Fidelia Morales play a role in his ultimate demise?
MCGUGAN: Howard Knight is a perfect example of how easy it is to fall in with a wrong crowd and how difficult it is to escape their clutches. He demonstrates superior intelligence, questionable judgment, and human adaptability with almost every challenge he faces. I’ve been tempted to write Howard out of a story, and almost every reader would agree he’d deserve it, but I suspect he’ll be a useful character in future stories. His role may become more or less important by turn, but his human failings are easy for us all to relate with and usually create a strong emotional bond. We either like him or hate him, so he’s useful to an author either way!
FQ: There is a consistent rat in each of your stories that is eyebrow raising when he/she is exposed. Do you know from the onset who that will be (or does the story take on its own life and it naturally tells you who it will be when the time is right)? Please explain.
MCGUGAN: I know who the ultimate villain will be when I start because I think it imperative to develop that character so readers will be surprised, or shocked, or disappointed at the appropriate time. I guess it’s possible to change midstream if necessary, but it seems to me that creates a lot more work than necessary.
FQ: You get quite technical with the art of hacking and moving money without getting caught. What is your technology background?
MCGUGAN: I have no technical training whatsoever. My first experience with a computer was the day I started a new management role with a new company and found one parked on the corner of my desk. I’ve been learning about all aspects of technology since, reading articles, talking to experts, asking questions, and experimenting. I must quickly add that I haven’t actually experimented with any of the technology shenanigans I describe in A Web of Deceit!
FQ: Once again, I want to thank you for your time and the treat of reading yet another fantastic and adventurous thriller. Please tell me you are working on the next and if so, are you able to share some insights of what your fans can expect?
MCGUGAN: There will be another suspense novel coming, but probably only in 2023. For release in 2022, I’ve started a work of non-fiction. During book signings and promotional events, many people have suggested that many folks might enjoy reading about some of the things I’ve learned from my extensive travel and life experiences.
So, I’m developing a “memoirish” book about some of the interesting stuff I’ve learned on my voyage through life and hope to make it as entertaining as a suspense story. I’m shooting for a Spring 2022 release, so I hope you and your readers will stay tuned!
I also want to thank you for this opportunity to chat again. I value your interest and appreciate you helping your readers become more familiar with me and my work. Thank you!
Meet author Terry Lee Caruthers in her new "Meet the Authors" bio page. Terry's debut novel, Vivie's Secret, was a finalist in the 2021 Feathered Quill Book Awards. Learn how you can get your own page too!
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Peter Friedrichs, author of And the Stars Kept Watch.
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?
FRIEDRICHS: I’m a New Englander at heart. I attended college in Massachusetts and moved to Maine after graduating from law school. My wife and I lived in southern Maine for nearly 25 years and raised our girls there, so there’s a reason And the Stars Kept Watch is set in that part of the world. There’s only one scene in Stars that is semi-autobiographical. It’s when Nathan is hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire like he did when he was a boy attending summer camp nearby. I did the same, and it was in those pre-teen years that I developed my love of the outdoors. I still love to hike, even if it’s just around a local State park here in southeast Pennsylvania where I live now.
My career path has been pretty circuitous. I worked for about 15 years as a lawyer, both in private practice and as in-house counsel for a Maine-based company. I did a stint in Boston as the Human Resources Director of a small start-up but, shortly before I turned 50, I decided to take a hard turn out of the for-profit world. I spent the next 4 years in seminary, training to become a Unitarian Universalist pastor and in 2006 I was called to serve a congregation outside Philadelphia. I’ve been there ever since, and I love the work because it provides me the privilege to build deep, meaningful relationships with people. Plus, they pay me to write!
Like my career path, my path to writing Stars was anything but direct. Capturing thoughts and putting them down on paper has always come easy to me, but up until recently my writing was always work-related: I went from writing college papers to legal briefs to sermons. Then, about a decade ago, I began to write poetry and that unlocked the creative side of my brain. The leap from the short-form of poetry to long-form fiction was a big one, but I’m glad to have made it.
FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.
FRIEDRICHS: Stars takes a family and rips it apart. We have this idyllic family living an idyllic life until tragedy strikes, and the two young children are killed in an accident. The twist is that the accident was caused by their father. You could call it a momentary lapse of judgment or simply bad luck, but it was his decision that led to their deaths. How can the parents recover from such a horrific loss? Can they recover together and remain a couple? And the Stars Kept Watchtraces Nathan and Catherine’s journey and takes the reader on a deep dive into grief, guilt, recovery and forgiveness. I think what makes my book unique is that it doesn’t shy away from the hard questions. With characters that many of us can relate to, it compels us to confront the razor’s edge we all live on, where everything can change in an instant, and what happens to two people when it does.
FQ: What was the impetus for writing your book?
FRIEDRICHS: The impetus came unbidden. It all started with a nightmare I had that I couldn’t shake, and that nightmare became the tragedy that happens in the opening pages of Stars. At first, I just wanted to write the nightmare out of my head. But once I did that, I became engrossed with the characters and began to wonder what happened to them after the accident. As a church pastor I’ve walked with many people on their journey from loss to whatever “recovery” might look like, and it’s never as clean-cut as the so-called “stages of grief” we’re told we’ll follow. I realized that I could use Nathan and Catherine’s loss to help people understand just what a tangled ball of string grief really is, and how uncertain the outcome can be.
FQ: What was the hardest part of writing your book? That first chapter, the last paragraph, or ...?
FRIEDRICHS: The first “hardest part” was narrating the accident, describing the terror the children felt and the desperation of their father. In my nightmare, this accident happened to my grandsons and my son-in-law, so it felt very real and raw. It probably wasn’t until the third or fourth draft of the book that I was able to get any emotional distance from those early scenes. The other hardest part was getting to the crossroad that Nathan and Catherine get to in the book and deciding whether or not they’ll ultimately stay together as a couple. I stood at that crossroad for about 6 weeks before committing to the path I took with that question.
FQ: As an author/writer, what famous author (living or dead), would you like to have dinner with, and why?
FRIEDRICHS: I’m a big fan of magical realism, so I’d have to say Gabriel Garcia Marquez. One Hundred Years of Solitude blew me away when I first read it as a teenager, and it’s one of only a handful of books I’ve read more than once. I can’t conceive of what it takes to imagine worlds within worlds and then to write them into being with such lyrical prose. If I was able to have a dinner party, I’d invite Mark Helprin, Isabel Allende and Sofia Segovia to join us. (I’ve recently read Segovia’s The Murmur of Bees and was thoroughly entranced.)
FQ: If you were to teach a class on the art of writing, what is the one item you would be sure to share with your students and how would you inspire them to get started?
FRIEDRICHS: For me, writing is something of an intuitive endeavor, so I guess I would want my students to learn to trust their gut and let a story go where it wants to go. Don’t try to force your characters down a certain path. Let them find their way and then walk it with them, enjoying the discoveries that are revealed.
FQ: Did your family & friends encourage you to write your book?
FRIEDRICHS: I’m blessed to have an incredibly supportive wife who has always believed I could write a novel. She’s urged me to try it pretty much from the day we met. My adult daughters, my parents and my siblings have all been encouraging along the way, and I’ve got a few friends who have been very patient with me throughout this process. It’s cliché, but true, that it takes a village.
FQ: Was the plot worked out completely before you started or did it evolve as your wrote?
FRIEDRICHS: What I enjoy most about writing are the surprises you encounter along the way. I think I’d hate to write a book where I knew everything that was going to happen to the characters. It’s the unfolding, the characters and events that just happen to show up, and how they drive the plot that I love. When I first entered the ministry, I used to write sermons with the end in mind. I knew what I wanted to say and the message I wanted to leave folks with. And that was so hard and unsatisfying. Within a year or two of trying to force a sermon to go where I wanted it to go, I learned to let go and allow it to go where it wanted to go. It takes a great deal of trust to do that, but I’ve never done it any other way since. That’s the way Stars was written, and the way my next book is unfolding.
FQ: Are any of the characters based on real people you know? If so, how closely does your character mimic the real person?
FRIEDRICHS: The only characters based on real people are Nate and Catherine’s two boys, Joe and Jacob, who are modeled after two of my grandsons, and Nathan’s therapist, Robert Heasley. I have a friend who generously lent me both his name and his professional advice for the book, for which I’m grateful. While there are quite a few “Easter Eggs” sprinkled throughout the novel that those close to me have enjoyed, all the other characters are purely fictional.
FQ: What was the most difficult scene to write and why?
FRIEDRICHS: Writing the scene in which the children die was excruciating. We’ve all heard the writing tip that as authors we must be willing to “murder our darlings,” but in this case that felt all too literal. That said, writing that scene was also cathartic. Getting it down on paper had the desired effect: it enabled me to get un-stuck from my nightmare and to move forward. And look where I ended up!
For more information on And the Stars Kept Watch, please visit the author's website at: peterfriedrichs.net
By: Gary D. McGugan Publication Date: March 2021 ISBN: 978-1-9995656-7-1 Reviewed by Diane Lunsford Date: March 17, 2021
Gary D. McGugan delivers the next exceptional read in his latest Multima thriller series,A Web of Deceit.
It’s January 2020 in Fort Myers, Florida and Multima Corporation’s CEO, Suzanne Simpson, is the epitome of ‘no rest for the weary.’ As she wraps up her review of the previous day’s sales results for Multima Supermarkets, she’s interrupted by a light knock at her door. Executive Assistant Eileen tenuously announces there are two FBI agents in the lobby asking to meet with Ms. Simpson. Not sure what the FBI could possibly want with her, she nods her consent to Eileen to show the visitors in. Just like a scene fromDragnet,the senior officer flashes a badge, and introduces himself as Agent Burke. Before Suzanne has a chance to inquire as to the nature of their business, Burke wastes no time in informing her they’re acting on a warrant for her immediate arrest by the Department of Justice on five separate charges under Section 1956 of The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986. Fortunate for Suzanne, her assistant is capable of more than serving coffee and typing memos and had the foresight to contact Alberto Ferrer, corporate counsel as he burst through the door not a moment too soon.
Meanwhile The Organization is holding some of the cards in this latest charade that Multima Corporation is being sucked into. At the same time Suzanne is about to be arrested, Fidelia Morales is dancing in the heady euphoria of her newly (and self-appointed) role as boss of the most powerful organized crime unit in the world. About to jet off from Aime Cesaire International Airport, Martinique, she reflects momentarily on her judgment. With crime boss Giancarlo Mareno out of the way for good, she knew he would have never let Howard Knight live. Who cares? Giancarlo is dead and there’s a new Sherriff in town. Besides, Howard won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. After he wounded Giancarlo with a first shot from a hidden weapon, Fidelia wasted no time in finishing off the boss with three shots from her Smith & Wesson 460XVR. She offered Howard a place in her new Organization, but he declined. For now, she’d walk away and give him that false sense of security that he was ‘free’ at last. She has another job for him...soon. For now, let him think he is done with The Organization.
I’ve had the pleasure of reading the first three titles in this series (Three Weeks Less a Day, The Multima Scheme,andUnrelenting Peril).A Web of Deceitis the fifth book in the series, and I commend Gary McGugan on his outstanding ability to craft each novel so that it can stand on its own merits if one were to read a title in this series out of sequence. However, I highly recommend reading them all. The thrill, adventure and energy that jumps off each page is exhilarating. In the preface to this current work, there is a very useful organizational chart that maps out the roles that Multima Corporate plays, Law Enforcement, key Organization players and the ‘Freelancers.’ The latter group are former employees of Multima Corporation. This is a complex read in terms of the depth of detail, but the pace is at warp speed and McGugan does a phenomenal job of keeping his audience engaged from the onset to the bitter end in this ongoing saga of justice versus injustice. I was thrilled when asked to read and review this title as I’ve been a fan of this series since the first book. Well done Mr. McGugan. I cannot wait to read what happens in the next installment. Surely, there will be another.
Quill says: It’s wheels up once again! Multima Corporation has taken flight into another epic battle you don’t want to miss.
By: Katie Specht Illustrated by: Creative illustrations Studio Publication Date: February 2021 ISBN: 979-8598339541 Reviewed by: Holly Connors Review Date: March 2021
Joseph is a young boy who is very, very, very excited about starting kindergarten in a few days. Did I mention he's excited? The problem is that Joseph is so excited, and distracted, that he's having problems paying attention. Will his new teacher be able to help him learn to listen?
Before starting kindergarten, Joseph and his mother head off to the local mall to go shopping for school supplies. While they select all the necessary items, a water bottle, lunch box, backpack and such, his mom explains what school will be like. She tells her son what to expect, how long the school day will last, and how he'll get home after school ends each day.
Before school officially starts, Joseph and his mom go to the kindergarten open house. There the young man meets his teacher, Miss Carla, and gets to look around his classroom. Then it's back home to countdown the days until school starts.
Finally, the big day arrives and Joseph finds himself in Miss Carla's class. The first thing everyone gets to do is color a "Welcome to Kindergarten" picture. What fun! But when Miss Carla tells the class to put away their drawings so they can begin circle time, Joseph keeps coloring. He's so engrossed with coloring, that he doesn't hear his teacher. The only way the teacher can get the young boy's attention is to walk over to his desk and speak to him directly. Oops.
When the same thing happens the next day, Joseph is worried. He tells his mom that he doesn't mean to be bad, and she assures him that he hasn't been bad, but that he needs to "...choose to do the right thing next time." What will happen the next day at school? Will Joseph, his teacher, and/or his mother be able to figure out how to get Joseph to listen?
Starting school can be overwhelming with so many new, and sometimes, scary new situations. And with so much going on, it's not uncommon for children to have trouble listening. Author Katie Specht tackles this subject perfectly in her newest book, Joseph Learns About Listening. She very clearly lets the reader know that having problems listening is not the child's fault and then offers a solution that children will likely appreciate. This is the second book by Katie Specht that I've reviewed (see also Henry's New Glasses), and in both books, the author offers sound advice to help children overcome common fears and issues. The tone throughout the story is very positive and upbeat, and will hold the attention of little ones who will likely be eager to learn what Joseph does to solve his listening problem. If you have a child getting ready to enter kindergarten, this would be a good book to add to your story time.
Quill says: Joseph Learns About Listening is a wonderful book to share with children who are about to enter kindergarten, as well as those who are already in school but might be having a bit of trouble paying attention to the teacher.
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Terry Lee Caruthers, author ofVivie's Secret.
FQ: Having completed this remarkable history-based novel, do you have plans for writing another work of a similar nature?
CARUTHERS: Yes. In fact I’ve just finished writing one. The book is titledThe Faithful Dogand is set during the Civil War. It required a great deal more research as evidenced by its ten-page bibliography. I have just begun shopping it around to publishers.
FQ: How much of Vivie is really you?
CARUTHERS: Vivie is Vivie, but if you mean my part withinVivie’s Secret,then it’s about 3%. I am the character Lea Ruthers and the exchange between Vivie and Lea at the vet clinic in the book was the exact exchange that occurred between the real Vivie and me that night. The same is true of Lea’s (my) pursuit of the black kitten.
FQ: What writer influenced you most in the creation ofVivie’s Secret?
CARUTHERS: None. It was Vivie Babb herself that inspired me to write this book. I was so in awe of her secret when it was finally revealed to me upon her death that I felt her story needed to be told, had to be told, must be told.
FQ: What is your favorite episode in this fact-based but also highly imaginative tale?
CARUTHERS: For whatever reason, it is Vivie’s encounter and interaction with Sister Agnes and her cat Tobias at the church in Sopron.
FQ: Did you ever, or do you plan to, visit the locale of the book?
CARUTHERS: While I have no plans to visit Hungary, I do live in South Knoxville where the latter portion of the book occurs. And where I often pass Vivie’s house on Moody Avenue.
FQ: How long did it take to write this work, considering all the fact gathering that must have been involved?
CARUTHERS: Unbelievably sixteen years from start to finish, but that’s because it began its existence and spent ten years as a picture book manuscript. When I finally gave into the encouragement from my writing peers to explore Vivie’s story in a YA format, it took the additional six years to research and enhance her story.
FQ: What advice would you offer to other women who might wish to undertake works in the historical novel genre?
CARUTHERS: Research, research, research. Make sure you’re using reliable and verifiable sources. Double-check and cross-reference them. As a librarian, I’ve come across many works where an author did not put in the research. A source I discovered while working onThe Faithful Dogcomes to mind, and I address it in my author’s note.
The other thing I highly recommend is having an in-person critique group. I’ve been participating in one for eleven years and am a stronger writer because of it. Additional eyes and opinions are beneficial in not only making sure you’re communicating the point you’re trying to get across but for spotting that error you’ve overlooked twenty times.
FQ: Whom do you envision as the ideal reader for this book, the kind of person you hope most to reach and influence with Vivie’s story?
CARUTHERS: As a former cat rescuer, I initially envisioned all the cat lovers out there but over time I have realized that Vivie’s story is the mirror of all those refugees out there struggling to survive and find a new place—a safe place—to belong.
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Wanda Maureen Miller, author of Madeleine: Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans.
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?
MILLER: I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s on an Arkansas farm in a sharecropper shack with an outdoor toilet. Because I read and wrote for escape, I got an education, eventually moved to California, and taught college English. I published five books—a historical romance, The French (1983); three textbooks, Reading Faster and Understanding More, Books 1, 2, and 3 (5 editions, 1976 to 2001); and my slightly fictionalized memoir, Last Trip Home (May, 2018). My new book, Madeleine: Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans is a partial rewrite of The French, and keeps my 80-year-old brain alive. Retired from teaching now, I live in Manhattan Beach, CA, with a retired doctor and play pickle-ball three times a week, replacing tennis five times a week. I have a daughter and granddaughter living in North Carolina and try to visit there more than they would like. After my daddy died, I burned down the sharecropper shack but still own the land and grow loblolly pine trees on it.
FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.
MILLER: In 1728, beautiful, resourceful Madeleine Boucher is one of sixty poor young girls paid by the French government with a “casquette” (a dowry in a small trunk) to move to New Orleans and marry a French settler. By accident, she is given the last name, “de Mandeville,” of her aristocratic employer and is determined to keep it and be a lady. The struggle with an unfaithful husband, widowhood, respectability, and survival is greater than she imagined. What makes Madeleine unique is what made me unique—a willingness to work and a fierce desire to stay independent. We both fake being in a higher class. The book combines history, romance, character conflict, and occasional sensuality.
FQ: Please give our readers a little insight into your writing process. Do you set aside a certain time each day to write, only write when the desire to write surfaces, or ...?
MILLER: Or I am prompted by deadlines and a female writing group we call Fem Ring, named after my estrogen ring (story on request). For over 20 years, I belonged to another weekly writing group (led by Nancy Bacal) that started with a meditation, encouraged writing gut-wrenching personal stories, and ended with non-judgmental feedback. I wrote thousands of pages, 335 of which became my mem-novel, Last Trip Home. For the earlier books, I was paid upfront and had deadlines.
FQ: The genre of your book is historical romance. Why this genre?
MILLER: When I was in graduate school, I was so intimidated by the literature I studied that I read romance novels as an easy escape. I confess I did not choose to write my first historical romance. A writer friend put me in contact with Banbury Publishers, which was looking for authors to write a series of historical novels about immigrant women who came to America. I sent Banbury some sample pages, was assigned French immigrant women, and given a contract and $20,000 (half before and half after submitting 1000 pages). When I recovered the rights to this 518-page book, I dug up the original 1000 pages and decided to write a series from those pages.
FQ: As an author/writer, what famous author (living or dead), would you like to have dinner with, and why?
MILLER: Forty years ago, I would have liked an elegant dinner with Jane Austen because of her focus on heroines. Now I would like to share some fried oysters, hush puppies, and Malibu Rum with Coconut Liqueur with Karin Slaughter or James Lee Burke because I like to be carried away by thrillers and serial killers.
FQ: What is your all-time favorite book? Why? And did this book/author have any influence over your decision to become an author?
MILLER: I hate to be a redneck cliché, but I have to say that Gone with the Wind is my favorite in this genre and inspired me to create my strong, sexy female characters. I recently read Scarlett: the Sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.
FQ: Is this the first book, the second, etc. in the series and how many books do you anticipate writing in this series?
MILLER: Madeleine is book one in the series. There will definitely be two. Maybe three. Book 2, which is almost finished, will be Solange: Daughter of Last Casquette Bride in New Orleans. Book 3, which is doubtful, would be about the descendants of Madeleine.
FQ: Tell us a bit about the series. Do you know where the series will take the characters or are you working that out as you go along with each book? What has been the reader response to your series?
MILLER: The series covers almost a century, from 1728 through 1803. It takes three generations of characters and New Orleans through three flags—French, Spanish, and American. As I expected, most readers like the strong female characters, but I was surprised to find that many also like the history.
FQ: Many authors say that it’s hard to say good-bye to the characters in a series? Do you think it will be difficult for you? Have they become part of your life?
MILLER: Since I researched the history and first wrote about the characters in the early 1980s, I think I will be relieved to let them rest in peace.
FQ: Tell us about the protagonist in your story.
MILLER: Madeleine starts out as a 17-year-old French peasant girl who takes advantage of being mistaken for aristocracy when she boards the ship for New Orleans. She is beautiful, virtuous, and hard working but eventually has moments of sensuality that change her life. She marries an aristocratic but poor soldier who gambles away the little money he has and is unfaithful to Madeleine. With her peasant background, she is able to develop his land grant that he is about to lose, make a profit selling produce in New Orleans, and build a house she calls “Magnolia Grove.” In the background, throughout the book, is the kind, handsome Captain Beauchamp that she was attracted to when she sailed on his ship from France to New Orleans. Though she secretly marries him, she remains independent till the end.