Thursday, October 6, 2022

Meet Author M. Ch. Landa

Meet author M. Ch. Landa and learn about his new book (and series!) Vandella in his new Meet the Author page:

https://featheredquill.com/author-bios-m-ch-landa/




Wednesday, October 5, 2022

#BookReview - Guilty: A Frank Renzi Crime Thriller


Guilty: A Frank Renzi Crime Thriller

By: Susan Fleet
Publisher: Music & Mayhem Press
Publication Date: October 15, 2022
ISBN: 978-1732130135
Reviewed by: Dianne Woodman
Review Date: October 4, 2022
Guilty by Susan Fleet is the eleventh book in the Frank Renzi Crime Thriller series. In this mystery, homicide detective Frank Renzi is the lead investigator of a team of top-notch detectives pursuing a cold-blooded killer operating in New Orleans. However, success at catching the killer is proving challenging as there are no bodies or crime scenes to investigate. The only evidence of the murders are photographs of the victims, which leaves the police stumped with the lack of clues as to who might be guilty or the motives behind the murders. Frank is under pressure from the New Orleans Police Superintendent to find the culprit as soon as possible, especially with the media hounding the police department for results. Will the police get a break and track down the elusive killer before more individuals are murdered, or will the killer slip through the hands of the police and escape justice?
Fleet has written a nail-biting page-turner full of suspense and tension. Readers get an inside scoop into the inner workings of homicide police investigations. Well-written believable and realistic characters with differing personalities and motives populate the story. This excellently crafted and captivating thriller is told in the third person with multiple perspectives, one of whom is the unidentified killer. The social interactions between characters and memories of a past familial relationship give readers more insight into the characters’ behavioral dynamics. Law enforcement officials, people related to the victims, and the killer are bound together with different outlooks.
Guilty is well-worth reading. It fascinates, horrifies, and thrills in equal measure. Fleet’s use of descriptive language creates crystal-clear images that form in readers’ minds of everything transpiring in the thriller. Readers will connect with the characters imprisoned by an evil killer and experience their fear and terror. The author keeps readers on the edge of their seats as they wait in nervous anticipation of the outcome of a high-stakes police investigation, in which the killer appears to have the upper hand. The tension continues to mount until the hair-raising climax.
Fleet does an excellent job of showing the inner workings of the mind of a psychotic killer, and the frustration and dogged determination of law enforcement officials when it comes to tracking down the most heinous wanted criminals. Anyone who enjoys gritty crime thrillers that put detectives in a nerve-racking race against time to capture criminals who have no regard for human life will find Guilty a fascinating read.
Quill says: Guilty is an unputdownable and pulse-pounding thriller that will get your heart racing.
For more information on Guilty: A Frank Renzi Crime Thriller, please visit the author's website at: http://www.susanfleet.com/

#BookReview - Vandella (Vandella Series Book 1)


Vandella (Vandella Series Book 1)

By: M. Ch. Landa
Published by: Landa Publishing LLC
Publication Date: October 15, 2021
ISBN: 978-1955601016
Reviewed By: Kathy Stickles
Review Date: October 4, 2022
Maia Foster is a seventeen-year-old girl trying to deal with the normal things in life that affect a teenage girl. Does the boy I like return that feeling? How do I deal with school and work? What do I do this weekend? In addition, Maia has to deal with many things that no teenager should have to deal with. I had cancer when I was a young child and now it is back. My father left and my mother died and now I am a burden on my grandmother, who is raising me. How can I deal with this? Is my life over?
Maia ends up in the hospital because of an accident and her cancer. Normal for this poor tragic young woman but it quickly turns into a very not normal experience. After overhearing her grandmother having an odd conversation, Maia is visited by a strange young man who claims to be death (Vandella). He explains to her that he is there to claim her grandmother’s soul. To Maia this is not acceptable. This is the woman who raised her, who lived through her first cancer experience and took care of her and promised it would get better. The woman Maia loves more than anything and owes everything to. After speaking with this man, Maia is immediately led to the question that we all, if you admit it to yourself, have to answer at some point in our lives...What would you give up for the people that you love? And the answer, if we truly think about it, is...My life.
That answer leads to the crux of the story when Maia offers her soul in exchange for her grandmother’s and follows Sidney (Vandella/Death) into the afterlife in an incredible journey that will keep readers on the edge of their seats from beginning to end. Maia’s amazing sacrifice leads her on a journey where she meets a large number of people, some from her past and some she has never heard of and they all become a huge part of her new life and sacrifice. Unfortunately, it is not an easy trip as these people can never be taken at face value and Maia spends a majority of her time being betrayed and having her heart broken over and over.
Vandella is an extremely well-written and intriguing book with very interesting characters that the reader quickly becomes attached to. It is also a new and creative way of looking at death and what happens to us in the afterlife. I was very impressed at Mr. Landa’s way of writing and how well he described the characters and locations and made the reader truly care about them and what was happening to them. Maia is a wonderful protagonist and you really want to see what she does and how she handles every tragic thing that is handed to her in this life and beyond. Sidney is one of the best characters this reader has ever had the pleasure of meeting, full of just the right about of serious and scary as well as wit and charm. In fact, every character in the story is just perfectly written for their place in this adventure.
The tale is so full of emotion and description that the reader cannot help but love it and truly feel for each character. The end is superb and able to answer all of the reader’s questions while also leaving them on the edge of their seat to find out what happens next. It is not your average YA story but a very unique look at young adults trying to do what is right.
Quill says: Any book that truly makes you ask questions and holds your interest until you find the answers is a great book, and this one goes way beyond that. It should be added to everyone’s list of must-reads, not just those who enjoy the Fantasy genre.
For more information on Vandella (Vandella Series Book 1), please visit the author's website at: mchlanda.com.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Rita Bozi, author of When I Was Better


Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Rita Bozi, author of When I Was Better.

FQ: How fortunate I was to have been selected to read When I Was Better! Thank you for writing such a memorable (and informative) body of work. 

BOZI: Thank you for the depth of spirit with which you met this book. I’ve been waiting for people like you to engage with it.

FQ: I was intrigued with your biography and would like to understand what a Somatic Relational trauma and psychedelic-informed therapist entails. Would you please elaborate?

BOZI: The approach I have studied and practiced over a 27-year career in the healing arts and in private practice is a biopsychosocial, body-centred and humane approach to healing that takes into account the lived experience and direct knowledge contained in the therapeutic alliance. The alliance is cultivated in a culture of reciprocal relationship supported by earth-based ancient wisdom, neuroscience and neurobiology and somatic practices to restore natural human development and growth. With the addition of empathogens or psychedelic plant medicines, healing is amplified through deeper access to the unconscious body and ancestral field. We get to lift the veil for a while to connect and integrate more deeply with our unconscious wounds.

FQ: It sounds like your life partner, Ken Cameron, was your champion to encourage you on this journey. If you had to single out one of the areas in this book that was difficult to write, what would that be and how did Ken support you through in perfecting the passage? I ask this because of the acknowledgement you gave him: "...Ken sorting me out when I got overwhelmed. He blazed the trail to organize my thoughts and catalyze the conversations and strategies that would help me get underneath what felt at times like impossible tasks..."

Author Rita Bozi

BOZI: Thank you for singling out that acknowledgement. There are a number of things that Ken helped me accomplish. First off, for context, Ken is a lifelong writer, playwright and an exceptional dramaturge with a great penchant for humour. I on the other hand am a self-taught playwright and writer and know very little about structure and the craft of writing. I had literally taken only a few writing workshops at the time I started to write this novel. I was good at feeling into my body to source sensation, emotion, feeling, image and thought. I was good at dialogue; it just came easily. What I was not good at was starting “on action.” I tended to overwrite and give more backstory than was necessary. I quickly learned from Ken to start a scene “in the middle of the action,” which brought a beautiful tension to the scenes. I also tended to think I had to say and tell everything in some loyal truth and learned to show what was happening and let the reader fill in the blanks. Ken had a great way of telling me point blank what needed to be cut. At first a would resist a bit and then I knew he was right. During the very final edits before the book went to print, Ken was the one that helped me trust that cutting an entire chapter would not ruin but rather benefit the impact. There were only a few times that I insisted something stay in and in those moments he supported the trust in my intuition.

My overwhelm came when I got notes from my mentors and editors: at first the wonderful author and human, Dennis Bock, and then later the inimitable Adrienne Kerr who gave me copious and detailed notes. Some of the notes seemed straightforward and easy to understand and execute. Others left me feeling a slow freeze coming on and dissociated confusion. I seriously learned to be a writer while writing this book. So my writing kept improving. But when I could not understand what was being asked of me to consider, Ken would be my second brain and explain the proposed change in a way I could hear it.

One of the challenges I faced was having too many characters. Even as it is, I have more characters in this than Tolstoy has in Anna Karenina. So Ken and I had to do some surgery. He pushed me to amalgamate several characters into something more complex. That really screwed with the other characters and details that nearly drove me mad. But he persisted with me and saw me through the insane renovations. In the end it made more of the secondary characters even more compelling.

FQ: The dynamics and relationship between Istvan and Tereza are very layered. On one hand, they are inseparable in their love and on the other, they were opposite ends of the spectrum, specifically when religious views came into play. I thoroughly enjoyed this passage: "...Why is teaching the Bible unacceptable to the Communists? ‘I don’t know.’ Istvan rolled away from her, positioned himself on his side. ‘Because the Bible shows us that first there was chaos and through the help of God’s plan, order prevailed. But Communism shows us that first there is a plan and afterwards comes the chaos..." This is quite profound and if you had to assign which side of the fence you are on, which character do you identify with most? Istvan? Tereza? Why?

BOZI: Well, I have to be honest and say that I identify with both characters very strongly and neither of them. That is likely because I was triangulated between my parents. But seriously, the joke here is that Communism was just another response to the chaos already existing in the origins of God’s world. As for the characters, I think I was very empathetic to each of them at different times, and likely angry with each of them at different times. When you grow up with such uncertainty, volatility and poverty it can wreak havoc on your survival systems. And I am no stranger to PTSD so I could feel the internal coping mechanisms of each character and hurt with them. I also cherished their attempts to try and reset themselves. However unlike Tereza, who is a devout churchgoer, church was something forced on me, and I never connected with a God or a religious way of being.

FQ: I’m drawn to the reunion between sisters Tereza and Klara and the fact they each know the other was raped by the Russians. It’s compelling the way you place the ‘elephant in the room’ between them, yet they refuse to succumb to acknowledging it adversely affected them (Page 245), i.e., with Klara’s perspective she opted to face it off and Tereza cowered. In your opinion, are these coping mechanisms we women utilize in real life? Why do we do this?

BOZI: Each and every one of us humans responds to trauma differently. While there may be patterns of adaptation and defensive accommodation that are similar amongst some people, every person will adapt to their trauma in a unique and individual way. If we sense that there is going to be little to no support for our situation many of us go underground. For women it is common to think that we won’t be believed, that we are to blame, that we deserved it and that the system is in no way going to support our dignity and offer trauma-informed care in a brutal court system. For others, they don’t want to be a burden, they are steeped in shame and humiliation, they are stuck in a freeze state, and they expect not to get the kind of care they need to process rape. And if we were to confront too soon how much the violation affected us, some of us would not be able to keep functioning. So survival trumps bringing to light too soon that which we cannot process until conditions prove right. For some, conditions may never be right. And this is 1948 in the novel, when talk about even sex was off the table. Masters and Johnson didn’t even begin their research into the nature of human sexual response until 1957. Culture was still living the effects of the Victorian era. So for these women in the novel to even utter anything out loud would have been shattering. And this is why I wanted Klara to start setting an example. I wanted to make her ahead of her time, finding inner resilience to reclaim her territory if not body.

FQ: There are accounts that are bone-chillingly familiar (and relatable) to what we experience in today’s climate. I’m speaking of technologies and how (essentially) everything can be tracked in one’s day-to-day life. On Page 338, you talk about Istvan and the orders he places for his mechanical repair work: "...Someone somewhere knew what he did, every single day, what parts he ordered, where he installed them, what truck he drove, where and when..." Share your views on the wonders of technology today and how they relate to this passage. Is this a ‘good’ thing?

BOZI: Ah, the wonders of technology today – the necessary evil that allows me to never have to leave my home, to shop for all of my needs. The productive or addictive instant communication that can either make us safer or suffocate our lives. The advances to healthcare and the scope of how we create and entertain can be spellbinding and awe-inspiring. In some ways, you can say it has created more access and opportunities for more people while at the same time made the vulnerable bigger targets, the crooks more cunning. It has given power to more people and robbed us of our privacy. The raw experiences of our lives are used to manipulate us into becoming consumerist zombies and without our conscious awareness we are each day changed by technology to which we have now become captive. It seems you can’t get anywhere or even be successful at anything unless you are known on social media. And we are convinced that the only way to meet people now is by swiping our thumbs left and right. I know my thumb is wise but I would also like to still believe in divine destiny and magic. And at the same time, it is the wonders of technology that helps people fight authoritarian regimes and bring global consciousness to corruption.

In the passage you cite, you are referring to surveillance culture which was first brought to blaring light in George Orwell’s 1984. The authoritarian regimes were ahead of their time in sinister ways – you could almost say that these regimes laid the template for the surveillance culture we are experiencing today, in the name of security. The Soviets also did the same thing: used surveillance in the name of security to root out the enemies to progress. It is certainly a way to perpetuate more unconscious fear of each other. Would I remove technology and turn back the clock? I wouldn’t. But I think we have sustained so much toxic trauma and damage through the internet that we are all responsible for finding a more moral and ethical way to use technology that doesn’t over time reduce our humanity but rather evolve it.

FQ: (Page 382): "...One in every four houses in Hungary is damaged. Half of the country’s livestock is gone. And a half of our industrial plants are demolished. Our currency is worthless..." The beauty in writing such a powerful (and devastating) account as this is triggering awareness. Our world is on the precipice. My question is what will the endgame be? If you had to author a story of our global situation, how would you approach it, and would there be a ‘happily ever after’ to it?

BOZI: This is a wow kind of a question you ask, particularly this week when a third of Pakistan is under water; hurricane Ian has just swept its destructive forces through Cuba and Florida; Fiona through Eastern Canada; a young woman is dead in Tehran at the hands of the morality police while protests spread throughout Iran; and Putin has just annexed a region of the Ukraine under a sham referendum. Note the disturbing similarity in my novel on page 317, when Rákosi addresses the people during the May Day celebration, suggesting a vote to see if the people approve of the direction his government has been heading. Everyone knows that his position was not democratically won, but rather installed by covert means by the Russian government. It is kind of astounding that in the world today governments can declare their opposition, or even condemn the actions of countries that break international law but their sociopathic leaders simply proceed without obstruction. That media even reports, in the face of finding mass graves, with evidence of torture on the bodies of the dead, that there are “alleged” war crimes against Putin and Russian forces, is absurd to me. How long did it take to bring to trial the Nazis that went on to live their lives in peace in countries like Uruguay?

Truth be told, some days I don’t feel optimistic about the future of the planet. From where I sit in my friendly and pleasant inner-city neighbourhood in Calgary, Alberta, life is good. But there is not a day that does not go by that I don’t think of our brothers and sisters in the rest of the world, and how they are already living in an apocalyptic world. For those that don’t believe in the apocalypse, they have never been in a war zone or an area devasted by a natural disaster.

I stray far from your question. I do see evidence of things going in the right direction: organizations that bring consciousness to human trafficking, organizations creating affordable housing for the unhoused and struggling families; we are finally looking at the multigenerational effects of racialized trauma and the genocide of indigenous peoples and the destruction of their traditional cultures. And some countries are trying to make change in their climate policies.

But honestly I don’t think this is happening fast enough. I see this often in my practice, people coming to healing after many decades of ignoring the underlying drivers and issues, with an almost insurmountable mountain of healing ahead of them. Their symptoms and issues have compounded to such an extent that it’s overwhelming to think of the thousand steps it will take to even restore some measure of equilibrium. I think Elon Musk is heading in a terrible direction. When the earth and the people of the planet are suffering so terribly, he should be focusing his resources on creating infrastructures to support countries to rebuild in ways that are sustainable and to support the development of alternate sources of energy.

So to finally answer your question, if my mother who is now 92 was born into war, poverty and oppression could experience a better life, then who is to say that I, who was born into a better life, may not live devastation at the end of mine. I was overcome with profound grief at the scenes of the elderly in Ukraine, fleeing in wheelchairs. They had started their lives in oppression, experienced freedom and here they were again fleeing for their lives. I guess perhaps I might write the journey of a woman, growing up an occupied state, having a life and career in a freed state, only to be fleeing a once again invaded state, to die in a foreign country where she can’t speak the language. Maybe that is the book I would write. I don’t know where the world is heading but I never take my life for granted.

FQ: Without creating a spoiler, I was shocked when something that affected Istvan, Tereza, and Istvan’s lifelong friend (Pista) was exposed toward the end of the book and how Zolti tied into it all. As a writer, there are times when I experience the story not only writing for me, but ‘telling’ me how to write the passage. Was this one of those moments for you?

BOZI: That is another great question. There were for sure times when the story was writing itself and telling me how to write it, particularly the Lecsó scene - that is the one in which Teréza and Klára are cooking the peppery stew and the senile lady is waiting - in her senile mind - for her German officers to arrive. The humour drove the story, the lines literally laughing themselves out of my body onto the keys. That scene definitely wrote itself. In the scene you cite, half of it wrote itself and the other half was a very strong suggestion on the part of my beloved editor Adrienne Kerr. Adrienne suggested the plot twist that involved Zolti. It was at first a revolting thought, and then I knew Adrienne was right. Afterwards when I came to write it, I was down in that cell with Pista, and I saw every single moment, movement, and torturous occurrence. My fingers couldn’t keep up recounting the details that already knew themselves. The description of this scene was also influenced by a visit to the House of Terror, a museum in Budapest, when I saw the kind of closet they shoved humans into, made to stand for days in cold water. So this horrid closet was in my mind and the story unfolded around it.

FQ: I cannot imagine there was ever a time when you were writing this book where you experienced a block. The cadence is superb, and the flow is wonderful. Was there a time when you had to set your pen down? If so, how did you reconnect and continue writing?

BOZI: Thank you for your kind praise. There were many times I had to set my pen down. This book took nine years to write. Life intruded many times, and sometimes I had to pause for months. I have a full-time therapeutic practice, my father was dying of dementia, there were times when I needed a holiday, times that I hit exhaustion. I even came out of performing retirement and wrote two other theatre shows in the midst of writing this novel. But I must say that I taught myself to write at ANY time. I did not wait for the right time. I am not a writer that thinks, “I can only write in the morning. Two hours max or a thousand words.” Because of the demands of the other parts of my life, I had to find my own relationship to writing and discount all the things they tell you about what real writers do. I wrote when the spirit moved me and that could be at 10:00 at night after a long day, that could be ten minutes at lunchtime or after a night out at the theatre. That could be on Christmas day for four hours in a café in Istanbul. There were times when I wrote consistently all-day Saturday or Sunday and then switch to Monday-Wednesday evenings after dinner. I wrote in cafes and libraries around the world with no fixed plan. I would scribble notes in the dark in the middle of a movie or a theatre and dance performance. I would read and research and consider it all a part of the writing process. When I felt exhausted by the writing process, I would read for a few months to fill myself with inspiration. Or I would watch Hungarian films. A kind of healthy guilt would creep in when I had spent too much time away from actual writing and then I would set a schedule and hold myself to it. My husband again was amazing at that time, assuring that dinner was made before I headed downstairs to write. There were a number of things that would reignite my desire to write again: perhaps I had read a completely unrelated book, an author whose writing had inspired me; I had received promising notes that refreshed my ways of seeing a character or a story arc; or Ken had helped me to cut back the bulk and I was inspired to do housecleaning on the book. The loveliest motivators were the times my mother told me a new story, seemingly out of nowhere and perfectly timed, as if some part of her knew that this little gem would light me on fire; I would have to find a way to insert her jewel into the story.

FQ: In line with my previous question, given the intricacies and historical weave throughout, did you have to develop an outline and timeline as a guide and assemble all the pieces thereafter? What was your process?

BOZI: My process was pure madness, I’m afraid to say. I wish I could tell you that I had been smart enough to plan an outline ahead of time, but in some ways I am a very reckless writer. It’s kind of like developmental trauma when I write, or ADD, because really I am all over the place. Or I am telling a hundred stories simultaneously. My first mentor, Dennis Bock, told me I was writing three books at once. I had to make a choice and that was where Ken and my editor Adrienne Kerr helped reign me in. I would definitely work with an outline on any subsequent projects, but this novel was like a wild beast dragging me everywhere. But with some really great feedback from Dennis, Ken’s expert dramaturgy and some rather intriguing plot propositions made by Adrienne, I was able to discern the heart of the story I was trying to tell. Historically it was riveting for me to write, because I had always known in general terms the major events that shaped Hungary in the 20th century. However, doing the research really helped fill in the intricacies of the history and I hungered to dig in and convey it on the page. Where I did have a plan was to make sure the Revolution was conveyed in accurate detail. I also had the plan to contrast life under both fascism and communism. And I also had my parents’ story to anchor this epic tale. I always returned to the bones of that story. My parents’ story was the starting place.

FQ: How often did you dream of your characters? Do you miss them?

BOZI: Funny you should ask. Every time I went through a laborious and painstaking rewrite or edit, it was the characters that sustained me throughout. I didn’t so much as dream of the characters, but rather I embodied them when I was writing. I could feel what was happening inside their bodies and minds. But I still do see them in scenes in my mind, and what I do dream of is seeing these characters in an episodic 8-part mini-series.

FQ: Thank you again for your time and the pleasure of reading such an exceptional and well-written book. I am in awe of your delivery. What’s next? Are you able to share a teaser of your next project?

BOZI: Thank you for engaging with it in such a thorough and thoughtful way. I cannot tell you what it means to me when someone actually cares enough to recognize the work involved and the levels of care it took to write such an epic.

I would be happy to give you a teaser of what I am currently working on. It is a creative non-fiction book called PUNK Therapy: Psychedelic Underground Neural Kindness. This book is part storytelling, research, application, memoir and raw truth chronicling the healing journey of three female clients in my care over the longer term. They are dealing with Complex trauma, Complex PTSD, with relational and developmental trauma as well as so-called eating disorders. They are incredible women that I grow to love and admire. I companion them and facilitate their psychedelic-assisted healing sessions and learn much about myself in the process. I give a very intimate look into the reality of healing and the depth of commitment involved in healing soul wounds. In PUNK Therapy, I reveal my own struggles and ways of healing while drawing parallels between their lives, my life and that of some of our most renowned singers and songwriters like Marianne Faithful, Patti Smith and Debbie Harry, all of whom were punk goddesses. I am happy to say that both Adrienne and Ken are going to be on the development team. This book will be a tribute to three women willing to take on the task of healing intergenerational trauma in the bravest and most honest way.


#AuthorInterview with Anne Harding Woodworth, author of Gender: Two Novellas in Verse


Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Anne Harding Woodworth, author of Gender: Two Novellas in Verse.
FQ: You use points regarding sainthood as seen within the Catholic Church as integral to the story of “Martin/Martina;” in addition, you have created a leader with 12 followers in “Aftermath,” not unlike Jesus and his disciples. Does this reflect a personal interest in or adherence to Christianity?
WOODWORTH: How very interesting that you should pick up on Christianity in these novellas, especially the point about Jesus and his Disciples. I had no conscious design to insert a religious message into Gender, but having seen St. Giulio in a chapel on the Island of Silence in Lake Orta (Italy), I got the idea of putting Mother Martina in a glass coffin. As for the young Martin/Martina—when I lived in Athens, Greece, I learned about St. Marina, who dressed as a man in order to follow her father into a monastery. Like Martin/Martina, s/he was accused of fathering a child.
Personally, I feel that religion is one of the biggest reasons for division among people, but I don’t explore that issue in these stories. I am not a religious person myself, though I have strong beliefs on morality and ethics. And I pay attention to and respect religions around the world.
FQ: What single piece of advice would you give to a person preparing to read your work with no previous knowledge of your unique formats and storylines?
WOODWORTH: Be ready for some surprises and some gender confusion, and enjoy the rhymes, meters, and free verse. A novella in verse can be read as a narrative with the added focus on language and prosody that isn’t necessarily found in prose.
FQ: Who is your favorite character among the ones you depict here?
WOODWORTH: My favorite character in “Martin/Martina” is, of course, Martin, although Ralou interests me. She is one and the same person in the 11th century and the 21st, always ready to do what needs to be done. I also have a real liking for Father Ralph and his rhymes.
In “Aftermath,” my favorite character is the Weaver, Wroc. She is steadfast, serious, insightful, and always seems to know what to do in a crisis.
FQ: What factors have drawn you to so closely embrace the theme of the two novellas’ combined title?
WOODWORTH: Each novella has an underlying theme of gender. Martin/Martina, for instance, is a female who lives as a male and raises lovingly and willingly the child s/he is accused of fathering. In “Aftermath,” I saw the tripartite community as a sort of beehive with asexual drones, who are the Builders. Builder Tris becomes pregnant, which the Builders find impossible, not to mention criminal.
FQ: Your two novellas have echoes in current significant socio-political issues, especially in the US; are such issues part of what has influenced your creations?
WOODWORTH: Yes, I would say that anyone who reads the media in print and online these days would be very much aware of LGBTQIA issues. Neither of my novellas in Gender, however, specifically focuses on any one of these issues. Martina was born female, but for all practical purposes is a male for most of her life. However, she never objected to her status as a female in the glass coffin. I want to make the point that sexual orientation in my mind does not define a human being. I see people as people. Period.
FQ: “Aftermath,” your second novella in this pairing, while based around a world nearly destroyed, is still a hopeful story. Could you envision a sequel in which events veer off again, forcing the new humanity to cope in new ways to prevent disaster?
WOODWORTH: Yes, I think “Aftermath” needs a sequel. Thanks for the encouragement. Tadz has an emerging vision of the future, and perhaps I will develop it for him. I worry that the future is leading right back to materialism, narcissism, and accumulation of wealth.
FQ: “Martin/Martina” presents a strong statement about the cloudiness of physical gender, while positing miracles from the seemingly non-gendered hero/ine. Is it your hope to convey to readers a sense of positive qualities inherent in gender mixing?
WOODWORTH: As I mentioned previously, I see people as people, irrespective of their sexual orientation. I hope I have conveyed this in “Martin/Martina.” As a male, Martin raised a son. I consider this Martin/Martina’s greatest miracle. Martina’s face appears on a wall, and that too is a miracle, albeit a more conventional miracle than raising a son. (Again in Orta, Italy, Padre Pio’s face appeared on a building, which gave me the idea for this miracle.) When Martina cries real tears in her glass coffin—cries as a woman might—she has sealed her sainthood. Still there is the personal miracle she’s been waiting for when Dino and Bronwyn appear, and he calls her “Papa.”
FQ: Are you planning new creative works based around similar, or perhaps even more intellectually daring, themes?
WOODWORTH: At the present time, I am thinking of a New and Selected Poems, which would be my ninth collection containing some of my poetry from 1978 to 2022.
I don’t know that I would say I have an “intellectually daring” theme to pursue, though I like the idea of a sequel to “Aftermath.”
I am very sympathetic with members of the LGBTQIA community, especially as we hear about same-sex marriage perhaps being struck down. And, of course, there’s all the controversy about trans kids and how much parents can do for them and what bathrooms they can use and all sorts of unfortunate biases stemming from fear and ignorance. I have thought of writing something in the voice of one of these kids, but I don’t know if I could pull it off. To be continued...

#BookReview - Gender: Two Novellas in Verse


Gender: Two Novellas in Verse

By: Anne Harding Woodworth
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: October 2, 2022
ISBN: 978-1639882977
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: July 10, 2022
In two very different scenarios, author and poet Anne Harding Woodworth offers inter-related themes regarding gender as perceived inwardly from an individual viewpoint, and outwardly, as gradually understood by thoughtful onlookers.
In Martin/Martina, we meet the novella’s eponymous hero-ine, person born female yet who does not develop physically as a typical girl/woman. She lost her mother at an early age, and her father proposes to leave her and become a monk. She convinces him that she can act and appear as a boy, and she joins him at the monastery, where sensitive Father Ralph assigns her to work in the garden. Meanwhile a young woman named Bronwyn, shamefully treated by her egotistical mother, becomes pregnant by a soldier who soon moves, and somehow, Martin/Martina is allowed to parent Bronwyn’s son Dino. Her mother/father dualism serves the child well, and only at the end of her life is her true gender discovered, and miracles begin to be attributed to her.
In Aftermath, the world has been laid waste by war and terror, and only three groups of humans remain: Builders, who can construct homes for themselves and others but, seemingly asexual, have no wish to mix with other groups; Weavers, who are females without partners; and the Fennel Men, rough-cut males who have little of use to occupy their time, until a Weaver gives birth, and the social structure begins to change. A boy named Tadz emerges as a strong, spiritually minded leader, eventually garnering twelve followers who incorporate the trades and traits of each group, so that
Together they built. Together they wove.
Life was a treasure that went beyond trove.
Woodworth is an award-winning poet with membership in the Poetry Board of the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Board of Governors of the Emily Dickinson Museum. She has constructed both intriguing stories using leaps in time, dynamic changes of scene, inner thought among her diverse characters – all in a poetic framework employing both free verse and rhyme to best effect. The fantasy that envelops both novellas also provides food for realistic thought about the eponymous issues raised: what, really, is gender, and how does it affect us and those around us? Does it really matter if a person like Martin/Martina is a father or a mother, a female or a male, if the child s/he raises feels love, strength and caring? If males and females, as in Aftermath, choose to live separately, will the alienation of that choice inevitably become less attractive than the communal gathering of knowledge and the mutual development of understanding?
Quill says: Woodworth has created two worthy worldviews in which gender roles are mixed as much as matched, offering not only charming tales but also focus for serious contemplation, particularly for young readers coping with current gender-based trends.
For more information on Gender: Two Novellas in Verse, please visit the website: http://www.annehardingwoodworth.com/

Monday, October 3, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Julie Jakeman


Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Julie Jakeman, author of The Adventures of Tandi the Toucan.
FQ: I understand you have two young children, and that you homeschool them. I’m quite impressed - how do you have time to write books on top of everything else?
JAKEMAN: Mostly when the kids are asleep! Yeh, it can be a bit much sometimes but having a creative outlet is important too so I always make sure to make time to write stories whenever I can.
FQ: Do the ideas for your stories come from discussions with your children? Do they ever ask you about specific animals or events that evolve into a published story?
JAKEMAN: Yes, always. We concentrate on a given subject for a week or more at a time and the ones that seem to resinate the most with my kids often get fleshed out into stories. The ones that we enjoy reading the most, I will illustrate and turn into a book.
FQ: You like to tackle important subjects in your children’s books (deforestation, ocean pollution). These are serious topics - thanks for helping educate children about them. How hard is it to work those topics into a positive, upbeat message for young readers?
JAKEMAN: I think it’s important to show that there’s a silver lining to even the darkest clouds by highlighting the optimistic side of even the most serious situations. These subject may be very serious but there are things we can do to improve them. Maybe one day they will be solved.
FQ: As an author/illustrator, do you envision your characters, and start doing sketches of them before you begin to write the story? Or do you work up a rough draft of the story first, and then bring the characters to life?
JAKEMAN: I always start with the story first. Once that's in place, then I can start sketching the characters and depicting the world they inhabit.
FQ: Tandi is quite beautiful. What made you decide on a toucan for the star of the story rather than, say, a jaguar or monkey?
JAKEMAN: Thank you! I have written a story about a monkey before but this time I wanted go with a more unusual animal. Also, toucans are one of my youngest’s favorite animals.
FQ: I’m always fascinated by authors who can pull off a story in rhyme. It’s hard and so many try and fail. Would you describe the process for our readers? Do you first sketch out the story in prose?
Author Julie Jakeman

JAKEMAN: I find it difficult too. My previous book, Myrtle the Turtle, was only partly in rhyme but I know how much kids enjoy a rhyming story so I’ve been working on that aspect. I do normally start with a story in prose and then work on translating it into rhyme. It can be a long process but it’s also rewarding to see the reaction from my kids when it’s complete.
FQ: Do you think the message of deforestation is getting through to people? Do you think the rainforests have a chance of surviving man’s destructive ways?
JAKEMAN: It’s difficult - there are so many climate and ecological issues that we all need to be aware of and it’s easy for some of them to take a backseat to the others. But they are all important and we all need to do whatever we can. I do think the rainforests have a chance. As long as they are still there, we have a chance to influence policymakers into regulating for their protection.
FQ: What is your next project? Will you please give our readers a little peek into what they will see next?
JAKEMAN: I’m not sure at the moment. I have been thinking of doing something a bit different. Still a children’s picture story book but maybe a biography of a historical figure instead of tackling another climate issue. We have been studying some interesting historical figures recently and some of them aren’t very well known.

#BookReview - Expraedium by Armen Melikian


Expraedium

By: Armen Melikian
Publisher: Erzenka Publishing House
Publication Date: October 10, 2022
ISBN: 978-0971807051
Reviewed by: Rebecca Jane Johnson
Review Date: September 28, 2022
Expraedium is a book that compels the reader to slow down. Proceed intently. This book exists in a universe of its own conjuring. It’s crafty, challenges the inner sanctum of words and inspires poetic rumination that zaps the reader with cognitive dissonance. It’s about a martyr, Brathki, who goes through transubstantiation. He confronts fathers, brothers, mothers, lovers, institutions. Brathki endures the epic war between the Ubaratutu and the Urriantitii regimes.
Storyline is impossible to follow and this feels equal parts irritating and refreshing. This book is not for those who are comfortable with traditional narrative; instead, it’s for those who are longing for literary anarchy. It’s reminiscent of Finnegan’s Wake, of some things by Tom Robbins, and it laughs with the spirit of Haruki Murakami. It’s experimental and fueled by poetic dynamism. It’s hard-to-read literary geniuses speaking in whispers at a demolished jazz club. It’s language spews upside-down wavelengths.
Brathki is a petty bureaucrat, a philanderer, a martyr, a lover, and a brother who transmigrates to paradise. Brathki struggles under totalitarianism everywhere: Ubatatutu, the Holy HoshHosh trained Brathki to find criminals Johnnie Dog and Jerry Dog. How that storyline turns out? “Destiny: by the Ubaratutuc spit-roasted to be. Legs eight, sizzled.”
The original language and made-up words celebrate all things inaccessible; or else, it’s a trip into neurodivergence. Pure. Word. Wizzardry. Here readers find a frightening world built by distorted language. The Treasury Department of Ubaratutu and the Holy HoshHosh rule this world where Brathki grumbles, has lots of sex, and transubstantiates. He is a low-life good for nothing who goes through the ultimate spiritual conversion, and this drives leaders insane. Or not; who can tell? If a reader wonders what words mean, then maybe they overlooked the sound of these words? This book is a sound bath, a sonorous delight and frustration. The story line while invisible also feels deliberate. What I could gather is that Brathki is a complicated character trapped in a world of constraints. Orc Orc...is one setting, an urban center with a steamy red-lantern district. Women in high heels conduct scientific experiments.
Here is an example of how the prose poetry reads; this paragraph is describing a love interest: “A blouse pink. Arms sculpted from shoulders to fingers. A face bronze. A sibyl sleep-lidded. Over shoulders bare, hair chestnut-gold pour, accentuating chin. Jeans hug waist naked, the sodalite blue on ass devouring.” One woman, Sasha, is a nuclear scientist and Olya is a biologist. These two brilliant, beautiful sisters are goddesses equated to Athena and Aphrodite.
Expraedium doesn’t obey grammar or spelling rules. It doesn’t follow conventions of narrative. Nor does it adhere to formal poetic techniques. It’s a book to read to accompany angst. Page after page of this kind of warped reading experience might give the mind the necessary jolt to help one think outside the box and be creative.
Under the main narrative about Brahkti, there are three other storylines to attempt to follow. One subplot is a divorce court hearing involving a husband and wife who were unfaithful to each other. It reveals sexual promiscuity is ubiquitous.
The best way to read this book, perhaps, is just to relish the language. There are numerous outrageous lines: “The Xristos legend of antiquity, rewoven onto a lunatic’s dick.” One takeaway is “Piss heartely in the cup of your repentance.”
Quill says: Expraedium is the world’s epic battles and characters throwing a wild party at the Tower of Babel. A reader can quietly delight in this rebellious reading experience.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

#BookReview of the Adventures of Tandi the Toucan


The Adventures of Tandi the Toucan

By: Julie Jakeman
Publication Date: September 5, 2022
ISBN: 979-8847423960
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: September 24, 2022
Meet Tandi, a beautiful toucan who is about to take children on a fascinating journey through her home in the Brazilian rainforest as she, and readers, learn about deforestation and what can be done to halt its destructive forces.
Tandi, a brightly colored toucan, is enjoying her day along the river where she lives. Her home, the rainforest, is full of life of all sorts – both animal and plant. We meet snakes, monkeys, and even jaguars and learn how the Amazon is “…a tangled web of trees and plants and vines,” and how all those living there depend on this intricate balance to sustain them.
But there’s a problem in the rainforest that has Tandi worried. She’s noticed that people have been coming into the forest and cutting trees down and taking away the wood. The forest is shrinking, and it appears that if it continues, her home may disappear. Tandi sees some heavy-duty trucks move in and then workers with chainsaws appear and cut down all the trees. It’s even worse, says Tandi’s friend the frog who tells Tandi:
“It happens all around the world,”
The frog said with a croak.
“They chop and burn away all day.
It’s gone beyond a joke.”
And then Tandi gets some more bad news:
A tamarin came on the scene,
her baby on her back,
“Without the sturdy trees,” she said,
“The earth just seems to crack.”
Tandi, and indeed all the animals, are worried. What can they do? Will the destruction stop before it’s too late?
Author Julie Jakeman has written a sweet and instructive story about the deforestation of the Amazon that children can easily understand. It clearly lays out the problem, showing readers what exactly is happening and how those things lead to the destruction of rainforests around the world. While the story tackles a serious topic, it manages to stay upbeat and positive throughout. Tandi learns about the destruction of her home, but also discovers how some people are working to restore the forests by planting new trees. The story is written in rhyme and in this tale, the rhyme works perfectly – no strained lines where the text doesn't quite fit. Finally, the illustrations are lovely – bright, bursting with detail, and just plain fun. What a great book to share with someone special who may want to learn about forest life or simply loves stories about animals.
Quill says: The Adventures of Tandi the Toucan is a delightful story, beautifully illustrated, that clearly shows children the dangers of deforestation and what can be done to stop and reverse the damage before it is too late.

Friday, September 23, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Jill George, author of The Light Among Us: The Story of Elizabeth Carne, Cornwall


Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Trix Lee-Rainwater is talking with Jill George, author of The Light Among Us: The Story of Elizabeth Carne, Cornwall.
FQ: This was an extremely well-researched historical fiction novel about a non-fictional woman. I am curious - what were your thoughts that day when you first chose to write about Elizabeth Carne?
GEORGE: Anger. It was a day during the lockdown so I wasn’t my best anyway. I was angry that what I found on the web about her said that she had inherited a box of rocks. I thought, “How dismissive and even lazy, what is written about her on the web! She was brilliant in so many ways.” I also feel like back in the early 1800s, she must have seemed like someone from another planet to those around her; she was so smart and capable. I tend to think of brilliant people of the past as people from another time or planet placed there to advance us significantly. I feel like Charles Darwin was one of these people, as another example. Yes, I was so mad that I said to myself, “I am going to correct this wrong by writing a book about her to demonstrate just how amazing she was.”
FQ: Henry Pearce is a fictitious character in the life of non-fictitious Elizabeth Carne. Aside from what he represents, could you tell us more about Henry as a character?
GEORGE: Henry is the adoring and needing public that Elizabeth serves as her mission, as you know. He was an impatient young man in the beginning, eager to prove that he was a capable, committed man, which is why he married. He thought a wife would add to his credibility and therefore help him advance, which he did, but not because of her. Henry liked to read, mostly about sailing ships and navigation, when he had time. He truly regretted never having any children but since he only truly loved Bess, he only wanted children with her. He thought her children would be mild-tempered, intelligent, and dutiful like her. He was so distraught at the end of the book, he gave up his lucrative occupation and bought a boat, where he could live and fish in seclusion, unbothered by the corruption and disappointments of the land-based world.
FQ: I was torn about Joseph Carne. I respect his unerring conviction to set Elizabeth as his heir apparent but, at the same time, I felt saddened by the fact that Elizabeth did not have a choice on the matter. Could you share with us your insights about this?
GEORGE:Elizabeth was not someone who was easily influenced but her father was one who could convince her when needed. While she did have many choices, more than any typical woman of the time, she actually chose the mission and inheritance a few times, based on her father’s discussions with her and based on her own feelings of the importance of meaning. When you read her book Three Months’ Rest at Pau, she reveals to you that duty to friends, neighbors, family, and work are where she believes the true happiness in life are found. Not in pleasurable vacations or other beautiful things. In fact, she says in a poem, “The road to beauty is curved and the road to duty is straight.” I think you can feel okay that she really had duty in her DNA and any other choice would have made her feel poorly later on.
FQ: Aside from Elizabeth, which character did you find most interesting to write?
GEORGE: Henry. I tried to pour lots of passion and emotion into him because Elizabeth and women of her time were not supposed to be loud or emotional as a rule. I attempted to make Henry a bit complicated in that he was a good man who married questionably. He was a kind man but could also get angry and physical. He was handsome but also no ladies’ man—he had integrity and ethics. When temptation came close, he was conflicted about what to do and felt bad about it. Tough choices that people in real life had to make back then to survive. It is truly amazing how many people made it to old age! In summary, Henry was challenging and interesting to write as I tried to add depth to him.
FQ: Could you tell us more about your writing process for this book? Did you brainstorm the overall concept first before partnering with Dr. Dirring?
GEORGE: I had my full, detailed book outline prior to having met John. I was working on historical and family tree details with my dear friend Melissa Hardie. She got so tired of me emailing her with questions (keep in mind she was in Penzance and I was in Pittsburgh and we had not met), that she told me to ask John Dirring, a co-presenter and Ph.D. in Victorian Banking, some of my questions. So I did. I emailed him. I dropped on him, out of the blue, like...a big hot mess. When he said he could answer some of my strategic questions as a subject matter expert and oh, did I know about the ship wreck, I was hooked! After many weeks of his work, I was finally able to convince him, given all his contributions with historical facts and editing, to be listed as a “contributing author.”
Fine, he said. It will be fun, I said. I had not met him in person, either. I had ninety percent of the book done but could not get over to Cornwall because of Covid travel restrictions. I finally dodged two variants and met John on the Paddington Station platform. We went to Penzance and walked to and from every single site mentioned in the book. And do you know, he went there a few days early to make sure he knew where everything was? I mean to tell you, he is a gent. A true gent. I stumbled on such a wonderful Swiss Army Knife when I met him on email. We trudged through four inches of mud and rain, over a mile, to get to the Boscawen-Un standing stones. We tramped through graveyards. We walked from Chapel House to St. Michael’s Mount. All of the photos I have of him show him leading the way and me walking behind, much more slowly. I lost three toenails on that trip, walking to every site. It was one of the best trips of my life! I am so glad we did it. And I added about another 10,000 words of color to the book, so the trip was extremely worthwhile.
FQ: Elizabeth Carne is a remarkable woman. Which of her multitudes of contributions to society would you say is most salient to you?
Author Jill George

GEORGE: When someone logically determines the best course of action is exactly opposite of what the majority thinks and oh, by the way, you have no opinion. You aren’t allowed to have an opinion. And to write books about it? Incredible. So my vote is for Elizabeth’s work on reducing the class system and improving inclusion of the lower classes. Imagine how resistant men were to that idea, how laughable they thought it was! Yes, J.S. Mill fought for inclusion of women, but even he was rejected time and again. The confidence of will to put herself forward in that fashion and to have the foresight to think through and write about factors driving the need for social inclusion is just remarkable to me. She developed a road map for society that most of society did not follow. Think about where we would be as a world if society had followed her roadmap, her logic, her recommendations. We would be richer in every way.
FQ: Do you ever plan to write nonfiction such as a biography?
GEORGE: I would love to. In fact, my third book just might be a biography of how J.S. Mill came to believe in women so strongly and his love affair with Henrietta, his eventual wife. That intrigues me so much because I believe women stand on his shoulders today. He paved the way, as a man, for integration of women in rights to vote, etc. And the love story between those two is incredible. He actually suggested to her husband that he loved Henrietta more and so her current husband should allow him (Mill) and Henrietta to spend time together. Then, when she died, he died soon after. What do you think? Should we do it? John is somewhat interested too.
FQ: The love that struck me the most in this book wasn’t the love between Henry and Elizabeth but Elizabeth’s love for purpose and learning. Was that something you were hoping readers would pick up on?
GEORGE: Absolutely. I was hoping readers would come away with the fact that not only did Elizabeth write books, but her mission went beyond that to trying to solve the root cause of the poverty problem: lack of education and options. I think readers should think similarly in that we need to look beyond. Looking outward and forward is what helped Steve Jobs innovate at Apple. One of the sayings in his biography is, “Think bigger. Connect the dots to something larger.” This is Elizabeth’s premise, too. Women then and now can not only have multidisciplinary learning but can work shoulder-to-shoulder with those making decisions and solving problems. And, wow, do we have problems. Elizabeth would be so proud of our accomplishments but staggered by our problems, I believe. It takes all of us.
Thank you for this opportunity. I enjoyed answering these questions.
Best regards,
Jill