Meet author Floyd Hughes, and learn about his new book, Hi My Name is Jonah, in his new author biography just posted to Feathered Quill Book Reviews at:
Meet author Floyd Hughes, and learn about his new book, Hi My Name is Jonah, in his new author biography just posted to Feathered Quill Book Reviews at:
By: Floyd Hughes
Published by: Purple Pages CreateSpace
Publication Date: December 2020
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 27, 2021
First, we must deal with the pandemic. People are shut inside their homes facing boredom, anxiety over lost jobs and having no cash to sustain a family, and the feeling of utter hopelessness and panic that they’re either going to contract COVID-19, or the world will get so bad that we’ll end up living in the scariest Stephen King novel ever written. Then, as we enter the “backend” of the pandemic (hopefully), now we have more shootings, more racism, – and suddenly the bad things done by a few, transform into hatred and confusion for the many. Who is going to stop it? Who is going to once and for all ‘deny hatred’?
Along comes this book that is kind, calming, yet shows you there were those in the past that fought against doing something that even the highest power asked them to do. A book that shows there is a purpose for everything, and punishments can be handed down…but so can understanding and love.
This author, who is also a pastor, clears your mind, using what many refer to as the “Fish Story” (AKA: Jonah and the Whale). He shows you through Jonah’s struggles, choices, and conversations with God that it is an absolute impossibility to believe and have faith in Christ while having prejudice and bias in your heart. Through the chapters (verses) of the famous Bible story, the pastor shows you what was originally stated, translates that into how it pertains to the present issues we are all facing, and then offers a ‘prayer and action guide’ at the end of each chapter where he asks you point-blank questions – some humorous, some difficult – and then speaks to you about how God could or would help if you sought His teachings.
You have to understand that, historically, Jonah was a very real person who was a prophet mentioned in the Bible. He was living in a divided world when God called upon him to minister and bring God’s message to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Now, yes, people think about the whale, but the main points of the story are how, where, and why Jonah stepped across lines that ranged from racial to political in order to do what God asked.
Having gone through the pandemic, feeling all the fear and anxiety and then having those emotions transferred to constantly worrying about where the next life will be taken by gunshot or otherwise, this book truly helped me. Whether you already see the walls and the division of our glorious ‘kingdom’ or not, this book will show you how to deny hatred, and serve as one of those special guides of Christ to bring people together, instead of splitting them further apart.
This world has right and wrong; it always has. Beliefs have always been different, but after all this time, the base beliefs should be the same in one and all. Strength as a people is good, partnership is good, friendship is good, and NOT teaching the next generation (and the generation after that) hatred, would help to ensure that our teenagers and children don’t become jaded.
As the author states, there are times in the Book where you like Jonah, and times in the Book where he seems like a real jerk, but the end result is the same. Preaching the Word of God was a good thing that helped to save lives. In 2021, we need to remember that. And this is one author who has offered in a clear, concise, sometimes witty way, the opportunity to make this world do just that.
Quill says: Whether you are ‘faith-based’ or not, this book will help you get through the darkness and not talk down to you in the process.
For more information on Hi My Name is Jonah, please visit crossroadsofjeffersonhills.com.
By: May Cobb
Publication Date: May 2021
Reviewed by: Kimberly Trix Lee
Review Date: May 3, 2021
How far would you go to fit in? A new resident of small-town Texas, Sophie O’Neill, would find her answer to this question in The Hunting Wives by May Cobb.
The story all unfolds from the perspective of Sophie O’Neill, a former high-powered lifestyle editor from Chicago who has moved back with her family to a small town in Texas. She wanted to escape the bustling metropolis, have a change of pace, and settle into a more relaxing lifestyle. She thought that Mapleton, Texas could be the right place to raise her 3-year-old son and get on a fresh slowed-down start. Coincidentally, this was also the town where she grew up so she expected to settle in fairly easily.
While Sophie’s architect husband, Graham, was busy with his job, she occupied herself doing a lot of various things. Sophie spent her days curating her Instagram account, writing her blog, and jogging in the woods. There really weren’t a lot of things that she could do in such a small town after all. However, it seemed as if the slowed-down, relaxed lifestyle that Sophie originally wanted was starting to get old pretty fast. She was getting bored and she was starting to miss the big city life and all the excitement and grandeur that comes with it. As a result of that, she also spent an inordinate amount of time stalking people on social media, namely, the mysterious and alluring resident socialite, Margot Banks.
After one dinner party, Sophie got pulled into Margot’s little inner circle called The Hunting Wives, a group of four wealthy and entitled married ladies (now five, courtesy of new joiner, Sophie) who meet up on Friday nights for some good old ladies’ night out that typically involved skeet-shooting, a lot of alcohol, and some salacious seduction of both men and teenaged boys alike. Sophie knew that these women’s actions were morally reprehensible but she stayed in the group and started lying to her husband about it. When Sophie crossed the line that could potentially put an end to her marriage, she thought it was best to stay away from the group. However, her inexplicable obsession with Margot Banks kept her coming back, over and over. Sophie’s life started falling apart when she found herself in the middle of a murder investigation of a teenager, shot to death on the very land where The Hunting Wives shoot skeets.
The Hunting Wives by May Cobb is a scandalous and racy whodunnit domestic thriller that starts slow, picks up halfway through the book, and then rushes the ending. The scandalous and racy scenes start early on but you don’t get to see the actual conflict until halfway through. The interesting thing here is that we see the story unfold through the eyes of the main character, Sophie, who was as unlikeable as they come. She was frivolous, indecisive, and totally gullible. The entire mess that she was in, she got into due to her series of bad decisions after bad decisions. So if you’re the kind of reader who starts a book with the expectation of liking, empathizing, or even just relating to the characters, then this is not for you. While I would have enjoyed the story more had there been a greater emphasis on the “whodunnit thriller” aspect instead of the scandalous and racy scenes, the author did a good job in creating characters you "love to hate." I enjoyed hating Sophie and her "friends."
Quill says: This is a Real Housewives-esque story with a dash of murder and characters that you would love to hate.
By: Aimee Bissonette
Illustrated by: David Hohn
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: February 2021
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: April 27, 2021
Get ready to meet one amazing, headstrong young woman who doesn't let the word "no" stop her from reaching for her dreams.
Meet Hallie Morse Daggett, a young girl who lived with her family among the trees and forest animals of California's Siskiyou Mountains. Born in 1878, Hallie's favorite thing to do was to hike through the woods, go hunting, fish along the shores of the Salmon River, and explore the various trails near her home. Nothing scared Hallie except...forest fires.
As a child, Hallie and her sister Leslie would help the fire crews by stamping out forest fires as well as bringing food and supplies to the men who fought the fires. Hallie decided that she wanted to join the US Forest Service when she grew up. There was only one problem - in the early 1900's when Hallie was ready to apply for a job, the US Forest Service wouldn't even consider hiring a woman.
In 1910, Hallie wrote a letter to apply to the US Forest Service. She was not hired. But she didn't stop. She wrote more letters and never gave up. Finally, in 1913, the ranger who was in charge of hiring decided to take a chance on Hallie - he knew that there was no one more familiar with the mountains and no one more determined to protect the land.
Headstrong Hallie is a great look at an amazing, and very determined, young woman. In a time when woman were expected to stay home and learn how to be a housewife and mother, Hallie had other ideas. Her story is an inspiration to all young girls. The book covers both Hallie's early life and what led to her determination to become the first "fire guard," as well as her life working at the remote Eddy Gulch station where she could see both Mount Shasta to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. At the back is a two-page Author's Note with a more detailed look at Hallie's life.
Quill says: A fantastic picture book biography of one amazing young woman.
By: Dana Brackob
Illustrated by: Evgeniya Kozhevnikova
Publisher: Histria Books
Publication Date: April 6, 2021
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: April 22, 2021
In the first few pages of Molly: A Love Story, we are introduced to Molly, a friendly and loving pit bull without a home. She has been living dangerously on the streets, but she soon finds herself rescued from this life and taken to a shelter. Once there, she begins a new phase of her life: waiting and hoping to be chosen by a family.
A family visits the shelter in search of a dog to fill their empty home, and instantly falls in love with Molly. Molly is welcomed into her new home with open arms and she brings abundant joy to her family’s lives. One day, Molly meets Logan, a Siberian Husky. They become the best of friends and Molly’s family adopts him as well. Molly and Logan spend their days snuggling in their favorite chair and chasing golf carts at the dog park.
Molly’s life drastically changes when she is diagnosed with cancer. With her family and Logan by her side, she undergoes surgery and chemotherapy treatments, ultimately beating the cancer. Sadly, shortly after the cancer treatments, Molly passes away quietly in her sleep. Her family and Logan miss her dearly but will forever cherish fond memories of Molly.
Molly: A Love Story is a touching narrative of a real-life family and their beloved dog. Author and Molly’s owner Dana Brackob shares her poignant story with children to help raise awareness for Molly’s breed, the pit bull, which is often erroneously regarded as vicious. Many young readers will be able to relate to their dog, regardless of the breed, being one of their best friends. Just like in the story, children will be able to remember the exciting adventures they experienced with their dog as their favorite companion.
In addition to eradicating public misconceptions about the pit bull breed, Molly: A Love Story also highlights an important topic for children: losing a pet. Many children will experience the loss of a pet in their childhood. Having access to healthy examples of how to cope with this loss is crucial for these children. While the child’s parents modeling these examples is ideal, books can also provide great demonstrations of this behavior for kids to see.
It is also worthy to note that the author shows her love of rescue pets by donating a portion of the sale of each copy of Molly: A Love Story to her local animal shelters. By supporting this book, the reader is also giving back to a rewarding cause.
Quill says: Molly: A Love Story is a heartwarming story of an abandoned dog finding love with her forever home and the joy that they bring to each other’s lives. This book also teaches young readers that the love of a lost pet will forever live on in their hearts through all their shared memories, while simultaneously supporting the worthy charity of animal shelters.
Hey authors (or anyone with online presence) - have website problems? Or need a website? Check out Unglitch! They built our beautiful Feathered Quill website when we made the difficult decision to totally update our old website. A huge undertaking that they handled beautifully.
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?
SKURKA: I am a criminal defense lawyer in Toronto and worked on Canadian television as a legal analyst. I wrote a book about the criminal trial of a media baron from Canada, Conrad Black. I’ve always wanted to write fiction and I dedicated myself to learn the craft. I studied history in university and began to write historical fiction. Pharo and the Clever Assassin is my debut novel. Aside from my writing, I’m a dedicated swimmer and Toronto Raptors fan and I have a collection of books about famous trials. I love to travel and to cook delicious Italian food.
FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.
SKURKA: President William McKinley is shot by an American anarchist at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, in 1901. He dies several days later and a local lawyer, Burford Simmons, is assigned to defend the anarchist killer. Burford, though, is mysteriously kidnapped on the first day of trial. The lead investigator is aided by Clarence Darrow and by Burford’s crafty and determined wife, Pharo. The group attempts to locate and rescue Burford before he meets his doomed fate.
The book covers two countries, Canada and the United States, and has elements of a legal thriller, political intrigue, and mystery. The ending is a complete surprise. I write with humor and the book contains a cast of eccentric characters, including the inimitable Sherlock Holmes.
FQ: What was the impetus for writing your book?
SKURKA: I was curious about the choice of the city of Buffalo for a World’s Fair and my detailed historical research led me to the central story in the novel.
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 ?
SKURKA: I am a jury lawyer and accustomed to working through the night. I wake up at 3:00 in the morning, brew a fresh cup of coffee, and write for four hours.
FQ: What was the hardest part of writing your book? That first chapter, the last paragraph, or ?
SKURKA: The hardest part was editing out an entire first section of the book dealing with a family’s escape from a southern plantation on the Underground Railroad. It was a fascinating story but didn’t fit with the novel I was writing.
FQ: The genre of your book is historical fiction. Why this genre?
SKURKA: I read a lot of historical fiction. Writing in this genre is an entertaining way to immerse myself in different periods of history with intriguing characters and riveting stories. I wake up every morning excited to write the next page of my novel. Historical fiction is perfectly suited for me.
FQ: Who are your favorite authors?
SKURKA: My favourite authors are the great writers of historical fiction, Robert Harris and Julie Orringer. I read any book that Erik Larson writes as he is the best writer of non-fiction in the world. I’m partial to the writings of the brilliant British author, Martin Amis, as he was my former writing teacher.
FQ: As an author/writer, what famous author (living or dead), would you like to have dinner with, and why?
SKURKA: Winston Churchill. He wrote a series of books on the Second World War in addition to his stellar achievements as a statesman. I would have had two questions to ask him at dinner: “Did you ever fear losing the war against the Nazi onslaught?” and “Did you practise your masterful speeches in the bathtub?”
FQ: Tell us about the protagonist in your story.
SKURKA: The central character is Pharo, a successful novelist. She is the kidnapped lawyer’s wife and she drives the investigation to rescue him. She has a fiery spirit, and is brave and compassionate. The reader is drawn to her resolute determination and cheers for her to succeed. I drew much of my inspiration for Pharo’s character from my two wonderful daughters, Montana and Jordana.
FQ: Tell us about your favorite character and why that person is your favorite.
SKURKA: My favourite character is the eccentric lead investigator, Eli Jacob, who is the most endearing character in the novel to me. Eli, a French Jew, fled Paris after witnessing the display of antisemitism during the trumped-up court martial of Alfred Dreyfus. Jacob is a colorful detective who speaks French expressively, bakes bread and quotes freely from Shakespeare. He teams up with a famous Chicago lawyer, Clarence Darrow, to try to solve a perplexing kidnapping investigation.
FQ: Do you identify with any particular person in the book – Charlie Harris would seem to be a logical choice, but is there someone else?
BROPHY: Charlie is 100% the character I identify most with as so much his personality and his life experiences were inspired by my own. As a young precocious kid, I grew up with several painful insecurities regarding what I looked like, where I came from, and how the rest of the world viewed me. Charlie (as an adult) is very much someone who never stopped feeling like an insecure and scared little boy, something that I still feel like at thirty-three years old. In terms of the other characters? I think the only other person who I could identify with, would be Donald the social worker who was assigned to handle Rachel’s case.
When I was younger, I was told I had a learning disability and spent most of my formative years dealing with school psychologists and special education instructors sequestered in basements and rooms on the other end of the school. The setting in which Donald and Rachel are interacting is very much a call back to when I was in elementary school and having these interviews with an adult who was trying to help me catch up with the other kids. Donald was an amalgamation of those instructors and the father of a best friend I had in high school. He was this very empathetic and compassionate adult, something that was very uncommon for me when I was a kid as most adults treated me like I was trouble or had no potential.
Most adults were very dismissive, and still adhered to antiquated idea of tough love so I wanted Donald to be the antithesis of say Charlie’s father. I think subconsciously when I was writing the interaction between Donald and Rachel, I was also using it as an opportunity to speak to myself at that age using Donald is a conduit between my future and my past. Being the father of two now, something I really put a great deal of emphasis on is treating my young boys as people first and foremost. Donald is also a bleeding heart with a save the world complex, something that I still find myself struggling with as a person who struggles with seeing the good in people while also feeling that everyone has the potential to surprise you with their frankness and integrity.
FQ: What single piece of advice would you give to a person preparing to read Nothing To Get Nostalgic About?
BROPHY: A few months after the book was released, someone I had known since I was a kid had reached out to me to congratulate me on the book and to confide in me about their own personal trauma they experienced as a kid. Immediately I wanted this person to be aware that the book deals with several potentially triggering subjects like PTSD, Molestation, Domestic Abuse, Homophobia, and Suicide. My advice would simply be to trust your intuition and comfort levels when you start reading, while I would love to think this book could offer some sort of solace or refuge for anyone who has suffered profound childhood traumas its also something I know (from personal experience) is difficult to navigate as it can force someone to re-live experiences and events, they have tried so hard (consciously or subconsciously) to get away from.
FQ: Have you ever experienced the kind or degree of visionary terrors that Harris goes through – or do you know someone who has?
BROPHY: I have. I started writing this book in the fall of 2017, three years removed from the death of my father. That spring, my wife and I welcomed our first son Dylan and upon finding out we were having a boy? I went through several emotions and emotional setbacks as the prospect of having a son kicked the proverbial wasp nest awakening several painful memories, I found myself reliving in therapy. The very genesis of the book dates to this afternoon where I had put my son in his highchair and brought him in the bathroom with me so I could shower. When I finished and pulled the shower curtain back, I saw this look on my son’s face that absolutely horrified me.
My son looked SO scared, and he was just sort of staring off into space. I have no idea why, but my immediate thought was, is my father scaring him? Is he taunting him? I don’t know why, but I couldn’t shake this idea that my contentious and horrific relationship with my father didn’t end when he passed from cancer in 2014, but it was now going to resurface through this manifestation that was equal parts my fear of my dad, and my fear of not wanting to be like my dad. I started having these horrific flashes or nightmares of my dad threatening to do horrible things to my son and to deal with that, I immersed myself in this book as a I way to push my self through all the painful memories that I never dealt with as I was self-medicating to make myself stoic after he died and dealing with the aftermath of our last verbal exchange the night before he died.
There was no resolution to be found in him dying, there were simply more scars to learn about and more anger to figure out what to do with. All the while, trying to figure out how to be an exceptional father and how to handle my own demons so they wouldn’t interfere with the life I had vowed to create for my son.
FQ: Your story features a brief ray of hope at the very end; do you envision a sequel, in which that hope falls to pieces?
BROPHY: This is a great question, and it is a question I was asked a lot when the book came out. I did a ZOOM reading/Q&A the night before Halloween and the most popular questions from that night were if I had entertained doing a sequel so they could learn what happened to those characters, or a prequel so that they could learn more about Tasha. The problem I have with is a sequel is that:
1.) As an independent writer, it feels presumptuous to think that there will be enough readers or that this book is good enough to merit one. I suffer from being a somber pragmatist in that, I fear coming across as pretentious or again presumptuous with my writing. I want so badly for this book to find its audience and because I am an independent author a lot of that is going to come from grassroots efforts as I don’t have the luxury of a larger platform or scores of people around me to influence people to read it.
2.) Because the book ended with that ray of hope, I feel like it would be so unfair to the readers to rob them of that. Absolutely, I could probably sit down and write a sequel in which I contradict all that hope and optimism…but to me? We are living in a world where we seldom get the opportunity to hear, see, or read a happy ending. Something that feels appropriate to mention is that I published a book about childhood trauma right in the middle of a global pandemic, and something that came up a lot with friends or people around me who knew I had a book were...what do you write next? A part of me feels like if you’re reading this book, you’re doing so to get taken away from life for a bit.
Sure, one could argue that my book is SO dark and SO heavy at times, but I feel like I did a surprisingly good job at rewarding people’s time by giving them something to smile about at the end. I would feel awful about rewarding the readers who stuck it out by writing something that would devastate them. I also feel that the ending was as autobiographical as the rest of the book in terms of it coming from my actual life, and right now I’m feeling like my two little boys are the only happy ending I needed and wished every day to have since I was five years old.
FQ: What is your personal connection, if any, to the realm of extrasensory perception and séancing depicted in the book?
BROPHY: The 90s were a VERY weird time. Growing up, my sisters and I were glorified latchkey kids. We had two working parents who...they could not afford after school programs, why would they? Their youngest was me, and they had two free babysitters living in their home in the form of my sisters. No offense to my sisters, but they did a HORRIBLE job of babysitting me. They would turn on MTV or Nickelodeon and sneak out with their friends. Who could blame them? They were teenagers. When you’re a kid and your babysitters decide they’d rather go be kids, you’re left to your own devices. I grew up in a neighborhood with A LOT of latchkey kids who were watching a lot of daytime television and a lot of movies they probably shouldn’t have been.
Keep in mind, this was before social media and the ability to be ubiquitous on the web creating the illusion of having company even if its not tactile. Loneliness in this decade, was actual loneliness. So, you have a scenario where there are no adults, inappropriate television, a wild imagination, and siblings who were obsessed with communicating with dead rock stars and celebrities through a Milton Bradley Ouija board...I often found myself at friend’s houses teaching them to rotate their shoulders in front of a mirror to see the fingertips of their guardian angel (I saw this on Sally Jessy, Geraldo, or my sisters taught me this?) we’d play light as a feather stiff as a board...
The content in the book happened, and I know that sounds crazy...but I know what I saw. Every weekend my sisters would have their strange Goth/Grunge friends over and they’d sit in either the basement or bedroom across from mine lighting candles and playing with Ouija boards or trying to perform seances. Every girl in the 90s wanted to belong to the coven from The Craft, and because I’m from Massachusetts? The influence of Salem and witches is still VERY real, and it did make its way to suburbia specifically after the death of Kurt Cobain. I’ve met mediums, I was either present during seances or heard about my sisters’ experiences...and a lot of that stuff made its way into the book.
Keep in mind, the Harris house does in fact exist and it was very much haunted. The blonde boy was a notorious figure in both my private home life and in my town. Everyone knew I was living in a haunted house, in fact one day I was digging up my backyard and one of my neighborhood friends addressed that I was digging up a dead kid’s toys. I’d like to think I’m a good writer, but I’m not THAT good.
FQ: With regard to this specific novel, what writer would you most closely compare yourself to?
BROPHY: This is another GREAT question and one I was asked a lot during my reading. Truthfully? I make a lazy comparison. Because I’m a lifelong Massachusetts resident and horror fan, the garden-variety knee-jerk answer is...Well, Stephen King. I say that’s a lazy answer because this story wasn’t directly inspired by Mr. King or any of his books, although I’m sure someone could point to IT, Carrie, or Pet Sematary and say...oh come on man, you’re totally a King fan. I am, but I don’t really have a novel or writer I could compare myself to. Comparisons scare me because I don’t think I could ever hold a candle to his legendary work, or brilliance, but if I’m pressed to answer this question...probably King, and V.C. Andrews Flowers in the Attic, I have never read the book or seen the movie.
When my publisher asked me for cover ideas, I immediately told them...Flowers in the Attic. When I was 10, my mother and sisters were watching the film in our living room while I slept with my door open down the hall. All I had to do was HEAR the film and it scared the absolute crap out of me. I was in our local library one day and I spotted the cover...and I don’t know, some strange correlation happened where I saw this spooky cover and remembered the audio from the film and just thought...this sounds and looks like what I am living. That is pretty screwed up to think about considering I was 10.
FQ: Although the book is riddled with fears and violence, what are the positives that can be gleaned from it?
BROPHY: The kids and the friendships in that book are and were VERY real. I wanted this book to be a love letter to those kids. Many of whom succumbed to addiction, or suicide because of how we grew up. As sad as that is to admit, the positives are the fact that those friendships stood the test of time and those friendships were still possible despite the ennui many of us felt, the alienation we wanted to get out of, and the fact that we related on the surface as...we’re all scared kids from messed up homes. I grew up in an era where everyone knew whose dad was beating the kids, the mom, whose parent walked out on them, or who was gay and trying so desperately to hide it because they did not want to get beat up or ostracized from the community or their own family. A LOT of incredibly sad stories, but the friendships were amazing, and we all took care of each other and none of us gave a damn about what society was trying to indoctrinate us to believe.
I am so proud to see so many of these kids (now adults) have finally embraced who I always knew they were when we met, and they are finally able to love themselves. I love that as a kid from the 90s where homophobia, racism, sexism, and bullying were so rampant, I see a culture refusing to continue the mistakes of their predecessors and instead focus on inclusion and fighting for everyone to have the right to exist and get the same opportunities at happiness and prosperity that were robbed from them decades ago.
FQ: Will your next book embrace or depart from the realm of fear fantasy?
BROPHY: I grew up a MASSIVE science-fiction nerd as a kid. I read more Starlog magazines than Fangoria. I had told a few people that after this book, I think I have to walk away from horror because now that I’m the father of two young kids, horror just fills me up with SO much anxiety. Ironically, I’m almost done with my next manuscript. I make a point to call it a manuscript because I have no idea if anyone is going to want to publish it. It is embracing an iota of fear fantasy but largely is a sequel in tone and connective tissue I suppose. The idea came from publishing this initial book and realizing I have two sons who are living in an alternate reality from my own.
I grew up with a mother who would sit at her typewriter depressed and drunk, giving me every excuse why she couldn’t write the great American novel or why no one would want it. I may no have written the great novel, but I refused to go quietly. I thought I had some interesting stories to tell and managed somehow to do it. I grew up raised by defeatism, whereas my kids are growing up seeing my book in a Barnes & Noble, being asked to sign it by a clerk, and answering these interview questions. This is all they know. Is me, with a book...they have no idea how depressed I get wondering if anyone is reading it, if it’ll open the door for future books or a career at either writing more, or teaching. All they know is what exists.
They have no idea what drunk and depressed and feeling sorry for me looks like, because it doesn’t exist. I get depressed, and I often wonder...can I do this again? But it doesn’t stymy the process, now I just let it motivate me to try even harder and who knows? Going back to your question about a sequel...this book is largely autobiographical with a few creative liberties taken, that I wouldn’t want my sons to think...dad is going to completely destroy this perfect ending for the sake of creating a more compelling or dramatic continuation. No, I just found a different narrative to indulge and that’s what this next book is turning into.
If it gets published? Awesome! That would be great. If not? I broke the cycle for my kids. That’s probably the happiest ending of all.
By: William E. Jefferson
Published by: Storybook Barn
Publication Date: May 2021
ISBN: 978-1-7364- 9670-1
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 13, 2021
There are those books out there that make you think. Not only are you entertained by the story and intrigued by the characters, but the author does an intriguing job of offering up both darkness and light throughout. This is one that does just that, taking the reader on a full-scale ride that feels more like a fantastically acted film than words on a page.
Upon opening William Jefferson’s book, you find yourself at the Theatre Portesque. This amazing locale with the old, red velvet seats that reminds you of a different age, is absolutely packed; it is opening night, and they have come to see Presence play out before them.
We first meet Brother Plot. He has helped Brother Script put together this play and he’s excited to see it on the grand stage. He saves a seat so that Script, the playwright, can sit beside him when he arrives. Upon speaking with another thrilled visitor in the theatre, whose boyfriend will be the first member of the cast the audience will see, Plot learns that Script is beloved by many and that one and all are excited about the night.
The reader will find him beloved, as well. Script is a playwright but also a monk who lives on the Isle of Estillyen. He lives in a world that Tolkien would have absolutely loved. This is one of the most picturesque villages ever, and the land has a unique connection to all the main characters. An order of monks live on the island, men who belong to Estillyen’s Order of Message Makers (AKA: Storytellers) that dates back to the 17th century. All have chosen names to go by, such as, Chronicle, Saga, Script, Epic, Plot, Narrative, and Writer.
Instead of a lovely opening night, however, tragedy occurs when Script has an accident—he takes a vicious tumble in the balcony and is rushed to the Good Shepherd Infirmary in an ambulance. Plot, who has stood by Script’s side for as long as he can remember, comes with him on this journey, as well, and is heartbroken when he and Brother Writer reach the ICU and find out their friend, who was so full of life just a short time ago, has now fallen into a prolonged coma.
Upon speaking to the doctors, their diagnosis is revealed: Script is in this state but, thankfully, his vital signs are doing well. In fact, the brain scans done show Script to be alive and well, but stuck inside his own mind. He is in that inner consciousness – that network where doctors do not quite understand what is happening. At this point, all they know is that Script’s brain is experiencing a high level of activity, such as one would see in a chess player. Everyone knows there is something going on in their brother’s head, but all they can do is wait and pray for him to open his eyes and come back to them.
As Plot and the others leave the infirmary, praying with everything they have, readers stare at Script as he stands on a path that will lead him through the emotional, entertaining, dramatic and imaginative journey he’s about to dive into.
Told from Script’s comatose state until the end, the story that is woven by author William Jefferson is a grand one. At times, it feels almost like C.S. Lewis has joined forces with him, taking us into a new Narnia and opening up some of the most amazing and memorable scenes you’ve read in a long time.
Quill says: Presence, The Play offers a cast of characters in a fantastical realm that takes readers’ imaginations on a thrilling adventure!
For more information on Presence, The Play, please visit the website: www.estillyen.com
By: Eddie Brophy
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: September 2020
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: April 11, 2021
In this multilayered horror fantasy by debut novelist Eddie Brophy, a man has earned an enviable chance at the limelight in his career, but remains so haunted by his childhood that he can barely cope.
Charlie Harris is tormented by memories and demons that have chased him for much of his life. Addiction has plagued him since growing up with parents who were addicted, alcoholic, and insane and who knowingly moved the family into a sinister, tragedy-soaked house. In the case of Charlie’s father, the insanity takes the form of sadistic displays and torturous punishments, with his young son and two older daughters as the often chosen victims, though the girls may be getting the worst of it, as bloodied wrists and a baby with no identified father eerily attest. Young Charlie, who fears darkness and has a weak stomach, possibly from the pills his mother forces on him, feels compelled to bury his one source of comfort, his “blankie.” Something has to change; but when change comes, it will not make Charlie’s life easier, as the specters that dogged his youth will not easily release their grasp.
The book opens on what should be a happy time, the night before grown-up Charlie, now an acclaimed author, is to receive a significant award from his former alma mater. But he wanders out after a spat with his wife, and does just what she accuses him of – drinks some booze, then talks openly with a spooky acquaintance about the very things he fears most – not being able to protect his toddler son from the monster that devastated his own boyhood and has never loosened its grip. In an ironic twist of Brophy’s elaborately constructed plot, one book for which Charlie is specially lauded carries a disturbing resemblance to his real life fears and foibles. The only thing, it seems, that can free Charlie Harris from his fraught past is a meeting with a woman appropriately named Destiny.
Brophy has paced this mysterious, at times mystical, drama with great care. There is a significant chronology, with the plot providing a lively cluster of incidents before and after the one chilling event at its heart. The inner thoughts, feelings, and conjectures of the characters – especially Harris, his sisters, and an investigator connected to some of the unsavory circumstances – smoothly stoke the action. Too, this is a notably intellectual epic, filled with well-drawn portraits of brainy men and women trying to examine and understand their bizarre situation through the symbols and metaphors of time-honored literature along with some more current media sources.
Quill says: Readers who like their fantasy laced with fear, and reality overlaid with the supernatural, will find satisfaction with Brophy’s imaginative concoction.
For more information on Nothing to Get Nostalgic About, please visit the author's website at: eddiebrophywriter.weebly.com
By: Kia Heise and Christopher D. Park
Illustrated by: Christopher D. Park
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: March 2021
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 11, 2021
Welcome to the world of Little Sock! Little Sock is an adorable sock who lives in the drawer with all the other socks. Today, however, he's about to go on a fun adventure.
Little Sock Makes A Friend, is a follow-up to the 2019 book Little Sock, that introduced the unique protagonist to readers. In this sequel, we learn that Little Sock lives in the sock drawer with all the other socks...but he has a secret. At night, when the other socks have gone to sleep, Little Sock sometimes sneaks out of the drawer and heads to the dryer. Behind the dryer is a tunnel that goes to Sock City! (And now the adults reading know where all those missing socks go!)
Little Sock loves going to Sock City because there is so much to do. He can play with a hula hoop, ride the Merry-Go-Round and check out the fine dining. Unfortunately, there are also lots of things that require a friend - volleyball, anyone? When Little Sock spots another sock who is by herself, he thinks that she could possibly be his friend. But how do you ask someone, or some sock, to be your friend?
Little Sock Makes A Friend is a creative story to help youngsters get over the fear of making friends. It's not every day a reader gets to follow a sock down a dark tunnel behind the family's dryer to a magical land full of happy socks. The text is very simple and is accompanied by lighthearted illustrations of Little Sock and all the other socks who live in Sock City. This would be the perfect book for a shy child or one who is going off to daycare, or preschool for the first time.
Quill says: Little Sock Makes A Friend is a super-cute story that shows little ones that making friends isn't a scary process, and that the fun you can have with a new friend is awesome.
By: Jacqueline T. Johnson
Publication Date: April 2013
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: April 5, 2021
Author Jacqueline T. Johnson presents readers with the first book in the Sons of Meir series, Test of Time, a strong start to her fantasy series.
This engaging fantasy story is set in the majestic, but brutal times when kings ruled nations and regularly battled for control of not only their own lands, but the takeover of other kingdoms as well. Our story begins with Erich, who, through a few strategic moves, has managed to develop a trusted relationship with King Onio that quickly transformed his lowly status in life into not only becoming an imperial soldier in the kingdom of Meir, but a husband to princess Kalya, the future queen. Together with his longtime comrade, Nash, from the kingdom of Noyi, they both come to a mutual decision to forget about, and move on from their roguish former lives, and work toward protecting and strengthening the kingdom of Meir.
Time progresses and as Meir’s army becomes more formidable, it further solidifies Erich’s position as a great leader. But like many nations during this time, peace and power comes at the price of attracting the attention of other nations, ones with their own relentless thirst for absolute power. You see, the King of Noyi, Lugar, has been plotting and building his army to overthrow King Onio and his land. This all appears to be a simple age old premise, kingdoms fighting for power with each other, right? Yes, except for the fact that one of the men is suddenly thrust into a new reality where he comes to realize he was a pawn in a larger, much more sinister conspiracy to not only overthrow kingdoms, but a plot that will ultimately challenge friendships and even blood relationships. But will the men overcome the challenge thrown at them and do what is right, or will they succumb to powers greater than themselves?
Test of Time is an intriguing story filled with adventurous suspense that will undoubtedly keep your attention until the cliffhanger ending. It should be briefly noted however, that some readers may find a few abrupt scene changes while reading that may disrupt the natural flow of the story, so it is advised to read carefully in order to fully enjoy the story as it unfolds. However, the author has developed solid, realistic and likable characters that easily allows readers to become fully engrossed in the storyline, and look forward to what happens next in the sequel.
Quill says: Author Jacqueline T. Johnson pens a good fantasy read that keeps the pages turning.
To learn more about Test of Time, please visit the author's website at: jt-johnson.com
FQ: Your book touched me deeply. When you describe the bond that forms between Little Bear and ‘Mommy,’ I get a sense you drew your writing of this beautiful story from personal experience. Could you elaborate?
AMATO: I am so happy that you felt that bond! Little Bear was my companion. The story is his story as communicated to me after his passing. As an animal communicator, I can communicate with animals both live and those that passed. Finding Joy is a true story, HIS story. It was wonderful to hear about his life and how he perceived things. It was also very emotional for me to learn about the unpleasant things he experienced. Writing his story helped me heal after his passing and remains a great comfort to me.
FQ: In line with my previous question, both our daughters are equestrians. During their time at one of the barns where they rode, our youngest was training a fairly green horse. His owner loved him in her way, but our daughter understood him and went beyond just tacking him up for a ride each and every time she was at the barn. When it was time to give up the reins to the girl who would show him, our daughter took a back seat and eventually we moved to another barn. Months later, we heard the horse seemed off—as though he was depressed. They had a spiritual guide come out to the barn and do an assessment and she told the owner that he ‘misses his person.’ They didn’t understand what that meant until the guide said he told her he missed drinking Gatorade with his person and her hugs. When I heard this story, it brought tears to my eyes because I instantly knew our daughter was his ‘person.’ Have you ever had someone discount the credibility to such powerful connections with animals?
AMATO: Your daughter is so blessed to have that connection. Horses are wonderful beings. Many people are not aware or are afraid to admit that these special connections are true. It isn’t until you experience it, that you truly understand the connectivity of all beings. I have had many encounters with people who doubt these powerful connections. They consider animals as “less than” humans or beings placed on earth for human use. These individuals are skeptical and in my opinion are missing out on one of the purest relationships, second only to a mother and her baby. The bond between an animal companion and a human is pure love and trust.
FQ: There are wonderful life’s lessons throughout this read and such a strong message of living in the moment. I was intrigued in reading in your bio when you had the realization that you were, in fact, communicating with animals through picture messages and energy. Describe one of your most memorable moments and elaborate further on what the ‘picture messages’ were.
AMATO: Great question! It is hard to pick just one. Each encounter with an animal is unique and special. One of the most powerful and also sad encounters happened last summer. I was lounging on my deck enjoying the sunshine and dozing off in that summer slumber. I suddenly saw a herd of horses, some fallen and some struggling to get up. As some of the horses got up, they shook their bodies to remove debris. Others remained on the ground. A black horse stood and looked directly at me. I asked who they were. The black horse described a metal container that the horses were in. This container crashed and fell over. I saw flames and felt a lot of heat. I asked the black horse what happened. He said there was an accident while they were being transported. He said the humans did not care for them; the horses were only a commodity to the humans. A glowing white horse appeared and all the horses, even those on the ground, began to follow her. As they followed, galloping and neighing, I felt a heaviness leave them. The black horse said, “we ran for you, but now we run for ourselves.” I was left feeling a great sadness but also a sense of relief. The horses were finally free.
Later that day, my friend called me and asked if I heard about the horrible accident. I had not listened to the news that day. She told me that racehorses were being transported up north. The transport truck had an accident, turning over and catching on fire. All the horses perished. Not one of the humans involved even had a scratch. I believe the black horse chose me to relay the message and show me their transition. The white horse was their Spirit Guide, I believe. I know they are happy now. I will never forget that encounter.
FQ: You have a beautiful voice and without too much of a spoiler, when it was time for Little Bear and Mommy to continue with their separate journeys, I was openly crying. How difficult was it for you to write that scene?
AMATO: That was one of the most difficult moments to capture with pen, and understandably one of my most difficult moments in life. I too was crying openly. During the editing process, each time I came to that section, I cried. I can say that it did get easier with each edit. The sadness and loss is always there but knowing that life continues, and Little Bear is still with me in Spirit, does help ease the pain. As difficult as it was, I felt it was important to include. So many people struggle with this moment. My hope was to give courage to people so they stay with their companions till the very end.
FQ: In line with my previous question, leading up to the event, the important lesson you impart, ‘...Life’s Purpose does not have to be a huge spectacle or event. It is the little things that help others feel whole and loved that are the most important...’ At what point in your life did you have this reckoning?
AMATO: Another great question! I think I have always believed that the small things are most important in life. However, it was not until I had my children and Little Bear that I fully realized this to be true. Humans tend to look at the larger events, rush from one thing to the next in search of love, accomplishments, prestige, or monetary awards. In doing so, we miss out on all the smaller more subtle things that truly make life rich. My children and Little Bear taught me “the pause”. They showed me life through different, more innocent, and purer eyes. I saw the world with a newly awakened sense of awe, but also a deep desire to make it a better place. Little Bear made me more aware of nature and all the inhabitants...creatures I would not have noticed before even though they are always there. Bringing my focus in towards nature has kept me grounded. I credit a lot of my important learning to my children and Little Bear.
FQ: Your poem at book’s end ‘A Place Called Joy’ is lovely. Do you have a book of poems or have you thought of publishing a book of poems?
AMATO: Thank you! I wrote that poem when Little Bear first passed. It was my entryway into writing Finding Joy. I do not have a book of poems yet, but it has crossed my mind as a possible next project.
FQ: The past year has been a year of uncertainly and turmoil at best. We need more inspiring people like you to share your message to the masses. Do you do speaking engagements or have you thought about doing speaking engagements given your strong messages of hope and love?
AMATO: Thank you, again! I have not done speaking engagements to date. However, I do speak to my clients (I am a massage therapist) and have emailed them during Covid, with messages of hope and tools they can use to change their daily thoughts from negative to positive. It is especially important to look to yourself for healing and positivity. When you take control of your thoughts and actions, everything else around you falls in line. It is not the events in your life that define your character, but how you handle them that makes all the difference. I would love to have speaking engagements, although on a small scale. I get nervous in front of large crowds!
FQ: To expand on my previous question, ‘...Daniela believes if humans learned to hear with their hearts and not their minds, we would be able to resolve many of the issues society faces...’ What has been your greatest challenge to overcome over the past year and how did you diffuse the situation?
AMATO: Wow! This question is intense. There are so many challenges that I have faced in my life. As I read your question, they flooded into memory. The past year has been trying, the Covid “quarantine” and having to close my business - like many people it was an adjustment and scary time. There was so much uncertainty financially and emotionally. I handled it by focusing on what I could control and not on those things outside my control. When I had to close my business (103 days, but who was counting!), I decided to take the time to learn new things online, publish Finding Joy, create new habits (daily meditation, daily reiki), and read more. I also created an oasis on my deck by planting wildflowers, sunflowers, and putting up hummingbird feeders. I embraced nature in my small area. I was able to witness the cycle of life by seeing larvae grow into caterpillars and then butterflies. It was the most beautiful thing to see them grow and change! How often do we SEE this transformation that happens all the time undetected? It was also a great lesson in patience.
The quoted text above came in handy for many reasons. The past few years the amount of angry people has grown tremendously. People do not listen and only react. To listen with your heart means to leave your ego and thoughts to the side. Hear what people are feeling, instead of their words and your opinions. If someone is angry, they are most likely afraid of something. If someone is depressed, they are feeling hopeless and cannot get past their own circular thinking. Instead of reacting to the what is in front of us, take a moment to pause and listen to the heart- what are the underlying emotions? It helps to communicate from the heart vs the brain.
FQ: Your bio also mentions your choice of a plant-based lifestyle. What’s one of your favorite ‘go to’ recipes?
AMATO: This is probably the hardest question to answer! Lol I am a “foodie,” so I have a different favorite meal at any point in time, even within the same day! I will say that I like to recreate “comfort” foods from my youth and make them vegan and healthy. There are so many vegan options and exotic ingredients are much more accessible, it has become quite easy to “veganize” most meals. I do love a lot of flavor and sometimes even different flavors sharing the same plate. I have been known to prep a variety of foods and then on busy days take a little from each pre-made dish and eat it all together. My mom used to call that a “mish-mosh” dinner. Lol A little of everything left over to make a delicious meal.
FQ: Thank you for such a wonderful read Ms. Amato. I’m a voracious reader and an exceptional read lingers with me well beyond the proverbial ‘the end.’ Finding Joy: A Dog’s Tale will live on in my heart and memory for a long time and I thank you. There are times when I get a sense the book ‘chose’ me, and such was the case with your book. I’m hoping you’re working on your next project and if so, would you care to share?
AMATO: Thank you so much for saying that! It was my hope that Finding Joy would leave a lasting impression. I believe there is a take-away for everyone, even non-animal lovers may find a few gems in the story that may help them in their own journey. I am currently not working on a specific writing project, but I do have some ideas floating around my head. One is, as mentioned earlier, a book of poems and the other is a book about my animal communication sessions. I am not committed to a particular idea or outcome; this helps me adjust more easily and change course if necessary when I reach bumps in the road. When the timing is right, the idea will flow onto paper. It happened this way for both my books and I feel that it will be that way again. Whatever the new project ends up being, I know I will love every minute of it. =)