Thursday, December 8, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Jerry Lovelady, author of Grief and Her Three Sisters

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Jerry Lovelady, author of Grief and Her Three Sisters.
FQ: How much of your poetic observer is really you?
LOVELADY: The observer in Grief and Her Three Sisters is me. The entire first section of the book, “The River Gods,” was written at a semi-secluded retreat: a camp house which my wife and I own and maintain, built near the banks of the Sabine River in rural East Texas. “Our Cabin in the Woods” has spawned many poems in this book, though the ones which are pertinent to this section are some of my favorites.
FQ: While much of this work focuses on sadness and frustration, the ending piece, “Move Your Mountain,” seems to suggest hope and renewed determination – will that be the theme of your next collection?
LOVELADY: It is too early to tell which direction the new book will turn. I am leaning toward a whimsical collection, and also toward a collection which concerns itself exclusively with observations about human interactions, since that is more in the realm of what I am doing now, teaching high school English. There will be more sorrows and fateful predetermination discussed in this new book. I am also inclined to write about a tendency that we have developed as a society to ignore the fundamental values of human beings who are often overlooked because of their physical impairments and predicaments, or their social status. These topics will certainly be an important focus of the next book, judging from what I have compiled so far.
Of course, once one commits to a course of action in writing he is doomed to mold his thoughts toward that end. I prefer to let the creative process provide its own direction, much like the transcendentalist poets of the mid- to late-19th century did. They believed that knowledge could be obtained outside of the school house and the church house through keen observations of nature. They considered their most important ideas and encounters to be gifted to them by way of spiritual experiences.
I specifically cite Mary Oliver as one of the most important examples of a modern-day transcendentalist poet. I feel that poets of her generation and mine are still drawing inspiration from the early transcendentalist pioneers like Walt Whitman and Emily Dickenson.
I consider the transcendentalist movement to be a traditional, ongoing poetic movement which I intend to follow, and support to some extent, in all of my further creative works.
FQ: Did the isolation of “Covid times” spur you to write more, share more, about sorrow and loss?
LOVELADY: I had not really thought about “Covid times” having caused me to frame the mood of this book in such a downcast way. Covid may have “subliminally” set the mood of Grief and Her Three Sisters, I don’t really know. My first book, Other Worlds, in Other Words, came out during Covid times, but most of the poetry in it was written prior to the beginning of the pandemic. I intentionally left out any poetic references to the pandemic in Other Worlds, hoping that it might avoid being lumped into the category of “Pandemic poetry.” So much poetry had already been written about this sad and very unfortunate period in world history. Instead, when I wrote Grief and Her Three Sisters, I wanted to get out ahead of this trend, using the collective melancholic mood generated by Covid to focus the reader’s attention on healing our collective grief, and surviving the emotional aftermath of the pandemic.
FQ: What writer/poet has influenced you most in your creations?
LOVELADY: Walt Whitman’s writings have provided me with the most fertile ground for planting poetic seeds. I find his views on spiritualism and his transcendental philosophy to be both fascinating and alluring. The way in which he turned his phrases has always appealed to me. His ideas about people living beyond their suffering and death, becoming changed in one way or another, or transfigured into other forms, has plainly influenced my writings.
Robert Frost has had a tremendous influence on me, as well. His rhyming prowess and his use of simple characters whom he celebrates in his poetry always glows with such passion and fascination that I continue to be impressed. I have read practically every poem he ever wrote and still enjoy reading them again, and again. The way he detailed the changing times that he and the people of his generation experienced is still valid today, in my opinion.
Read “Out, Out–” which recounts the tragic death of a young man at a Vermont sawmill, and Frost’s perception of the callousness of society toward child labor during the later-day Industrial Revolution. The descriptive style Frost uses in this poem is conveyed in such a matter-of-fact way, relating what one might consider a particularly horrific incident, that the reader gets the feeling it probably happened all the time back in his day. Such sorrowful events certainly are still occurring in other developing industrial societies around the world where child labor laws have not yet been instituted.
Then read “The Line Gang,” which seems to deride the onslaught of Progress, which reaches deep into Frost’s isolated, mountain community to bring the gift of communication to rural America, at the cost of throwing down the forests to achieve its ultimate, paradoxical end. These kinds of themes fascinate me. Frost's style of poetry is frank and honest, and filled with repeating moral conflicts; classic poetry laced through with “man vs. nature” themes. These are some of the reasons why I think that he has probably influenced me the most.
FQ: What is your favorite poem in this collection? Does it evoke certain memories?
LOVELADY: It is so hard to choose which poem is my favorite. I think that it’s a toss-up between “Headstones Set in Rows” and “Relic.” Both are impressive to me for different reasons.
The former is extremely nostalgic and is written about my father, Huey Lovelady, and the great vacuum he left in my life after his passing. He attempted to leave a legacy for his children in the form of the land he homesteaded and maintained for six decades while his progeny eventually wandered away, leaving him and his dreams behind as they went about forming their own lives. He wound up instilling in me a different legacy: an attitude of perseverance, for which I am eternally grateful.
“Relic,” on the other hand, is a celebration of the perpetuity of life and its ever-changing nature. I was walking along the beach bordering the river near my cabin one morning when I came upon a fossilized seashell in the sand and began to wonder about the changes it had endured. All of the events which had transpired over millions of years came racing into my mind. I began to imagine all these changes had taken place just so that this fossil would be left there, specifically for me to find.
I then imagined myself as being that living creature and I described what it was like enduring the processes of decay, degradation, calcification, and finally redemption. I imagined that these processes brought me full circle, to the present, with the passing of time, till I wound up a trinket in the hands of a small child playing on a beach.
The opening stanza reads:
“Ocean employ your roaring, gurgling voice.
Tell me the number of my days
You patiently count
Grain by precious grain
Falling, ever falling.”
I used the tried-and-true symbols of the “ocean” for eternity and the falling sand for “measured days of time” to set a mystic mood for the poem. The rest was imagination.
FQ: Do you journal your thoughts and ideas, as suggested by some of the opening lines of the four sections of this volume?
LOVELADY: Yes, I do some journaling, but mostly I jot down strong impressions which evolve into more concrete ideas about poems, which I later develop, often leading to some interesting poetry. Most of my journaled ideas have never been published. They are in prose form and may lead to a book of short stories or memoirs some time in the future. I would have to write them as fiction because no one would ever believe some of the things that have happened to me in real life. I have nothing planned along that line right now.
FQ: Do you constantly “think in poetry” as you observe the world around you?
LOVELADY: I don’t walk around thinking about poetry all day. I often see or hear something happen that says, “Hey, that would be a great thing to write about.” Usually it is something that is sad which comes to mind about the human condition; there is so much of that surrounding us. I often think of this or that event as being “poetic” or representing poetry—the irony of life events, this or that occurrence playing out as if it were destined to happen. I don’t see life as being just a fortuitous, or an unfortunate set of circumstances which produces a specific outcome. Life is definitely more than that.
If poetry is beauty, I see beauty. If poetry is witnessing failure and ugliness, I see poetry in that. If poetry is enlightenment, I see it as enlightenment. When I sit still, enjoying the silence of the morning on my porch, watching the sunrise as the rest of the world wakes up, I feel nearer to something in a place where I think true poetry resides. I think that place has a vibrant life of its own and constantly seeks a way to intermingle with us. Perhaps I am obtaining small glimpses of the creation process spoonfed, a bite at a time, by some generous, creative intelligence, not wholly contained within myself. I still have to make an effort to get to that place each day that I write. I just have to open my eyes and my heart to see the messages waiting there for me.
FQ: What single piece of advice would you give to a person preparing to read your work with no previous knowledge of its content?
LOVELADY: The title of the book throws some people off. Grief and Her Three Sisters is not so much about surviving the grieving process as it is about celebrating the gains in happiness we may obtain by leaving behind what we have lost, and concentrating, instead, on what comes next.
There are probably millions of ways to do this. I believe in and practice appreciating others. I believe there is great reward in appreciating our own lives and the people who have helped us get to where we are now in the present. I see nothing to gain in dwelling on the sadness of our pasts. It is all right to see our pasts in a different way than how we first remember them. This is how the healing process begins for me each time I experience grief.
If you grew up and are still living in a dense-packed, urban environment, navigating the chocked full, tightly woven matrix of humans interacting with one another, try to view this book holistically.
By that I mean if you can visualize the entire world being a whole, then we, as individuals, must exist as one, whether we think of ourselves as existing in or outside of Nature.
Think of it all as just being different parts of that same whole.
By attempting to adopt such a view of ourselves within the world, reading what someone else says about Nature interacting with us in our own environment doesn’t seem so frightening or confusing.
Somehow we all find a way to relate to the feelings that are expressed in almost any poem, no matter what venues poets choose to showcase their feelings.

#BookReview - Dragon's Eye: Who's Watching You?

Dragon's Eye: Who's Watching You? (The Jack and Maddy Gamble Series, Book 2)

By: Gregor Pratt
Publisher: St. Armands Press
Publication Date: October 26, 2022
ISBN: 979-8986919300
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: December 5, 2022
Dragon’s Eye is Gregor Pratt’s second book in his Jack and Maddy Gamble Series. Intrigue and mystery are abundant across the pages of this captivating thriller.
Maddy Gamble is married to Jack Gamble. According to Jack, this was more than coincidence. "...My trial lawyer swagger is gone, as are my skirt-chasing days. When I found Maddy, I found myself, the good parts of me, and I overcame my distrust of women. Maddy came to Ebola Island to help with my rescue and had helped me wind up what was probably the most significant lawsuit ever..." Maddy and Jack aren’t your typical homebodies. Rather, after solving a major case tied to the Ebola Island matter, they married in Malagasy and having done a fair amount of research, they decided to settle in Nelson, New Zealand. The joy of Maddy being pregnant with JJ (Jack Junior) and less than a year later, the birth of their daughter Allison, meant they were well on their way to their happily-ever-after fairytale. JJ and Allison are both enrolled in Auckland Point School, and in the same class since Allison turned five shortly before JJ was six. So how does Julia Adamson fit into this scenario?
Julia Adamson is having an affair. While relaxing on the balcony of her second-floor room at the Palazzo Motor Lodge, her mind wanders as she justifies her clandestine trysts with a married man. Now that he’s discretely left to return to his real life, Julia sips her wine and thinks about how the affair has complicated her life. It’s not that she had great disdain for her husband. Rather, she had nothing for him—they didn’t fight; they simply ignored each other. Something snaps Julia out of her reverie. She sees a woman crossing the courtyard by the pool below and what captures Julia’s attention is the pair of Manolo Blahnik pumps the woman is sporting. What’s a gal like that doing in a place like this? Time for Julia to leave until she notices the six figures all dressed in black from head-to-toe en route to the same room where the woman with the fabulous shoes had gone moments before. Is Julia in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnessing something she probably shouldn’t be witnessing? This is just the beginning of a tangled web of murder and mystery, and how does China plays into the entire nightmare about to unfold?
Not having read Ebola Island, the first book in Mr. Pratt’s Jack and Maddy Gamble Series, the action and adventure that plays out across the pages of Dragon’s Eye is inspiration enough to go back and do just that. The breadcrumbs Mr. Pratt places along the path in the opening pages of this read are excellent. On Page 1, he is enticing his audience with character Julia Adamson and plants the seed of how she will be relevant...later on...keep reading, he’s just getting started. Even though this is a work of fiction, even the title, "Dragon’s Eye," connects to relevance in our modern society in terms of - are we being watched? Mr. Pratt builds layer upon layer of intensity as the façade of normal, every-day life for characters Maddy and Jack Gamble is just that, a façade. He cites sublime nuances toward what was once and is no more: "...There were still internal combustion vehicles around, but they seemed fewer and fewer except for the collector vehicles..." He also does a superb job of showing the surveillance concept around China being at the center of its existence: "...The Chinese surveillance camera had been widely used against the Uighurs in China, a subculture that had been all but wiped out after first being monitored virtually everywhere..." There is a lot to unpack in this fast-paced, compelling read and it’s worth every page to do so. Well done Mr. Pratt.
Quill says: Dragon’s Eye takes the concept of ‘Who’s Watching You’ to the next level and then some!
For more information on Dragon's Eye: Who's Watching You? (The Jack and Maddy Gamble Series, Book 2), please visit the author's website at:

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

#BookReview of Patients in Peril: The Demise of Primary Care in America

Patients in Peril: The Demise of Primary Care in America

By: Gregg Coodley
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: November 2022
ISBN: 978-1639886265
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: December 5, 2022

Gregg Coodley, author and physician, has arrayed statistics and suggestions in this wide-ranging look at a disturbing change that has taken place in American medical care in recent years.

Coodley’s book begins with the general history of becoming a doctor in the US. Once considered a rather lowly and often maligned profession, medical practitioners have risen to a level of high respect as education expanded to tighten requirements and allow for established certifications. The major basis for doctors was traditionally the personal care physician (PCP) model: someone who would take care of most or all a patient’s medical needs, even visiting them in the hospital, communicating directly with the patients and family and recommending any outside care needed. This model has gradually altered, as insurance, government, and private industry have intervened in the realm of American medical practice.

The current model for patient care has changed so that now a patient in the hospital may see a “hospitalist” – sometimes a different one every day – and far more of his/her care will be siphoned off to a wide variety of specialists. Change of insurance can result in mandatory change of PCP, the poor will see only the often-changing group of caregivers in public facilities, and only the very wealthy can afford to engage one doctor for all care. One result of this is that far fewer medical students opt to become PCPs, and that patients are no longer treated directly by someone who knows them, will have observed them for a long period of time, and can offer greater comfort and healing because of the relationship. America is unique in this model, with proportionately far fewer PCPs than elsewhere in the world. Coodley, who boldly established a PCP clinic to benefit his local community, sets forth various possible changes that would offer a better template for medical care, with a reversion to the traditional “family care” doctor being the goal.

Coodley, who has authored/co-authored other factual materials, presents his case here in an intelligent, well-organized forum, so that almost any sensible reader will, from the first page of this extensive exploration, feel a kinship with the author’s clear treatise, his ideals and cogent suggestions for change. He supports his thesis with a vast number of references, factual data and telling statistics, casting light on financial dealings and governmental interventions that have made simple medical care almost too complex for ordinary citizens to comprehend.

Quill says: Gregg Coodley’s book, Patients in Peril: The Demise of Primary Care in America, should be given serious attention and his ideas widely propagated so that Americans needing medical care can feel that they are being offered the best possible options.

For more information on Patients in Peril: The Demise of Primary Care in America, please visit the book's website at:

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

#AuthorInterview with a.w. karen, author of SPVCE

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Dianne Woodman is talking with a.w. karen, author of SPVCE.

FQ: From mechanical engineer to author - that’s a great story in itself! Did your desire to write stem from your career and do you think writing a futuristic world story is the natural choice for someone working in the sciences?

KAREN: I actually started writing SPVCE before I decided to be an engineer. It wasn’t until my junior year in high school – in the midst of my college search – that I impulsively switched from wanting to be a math teacher to wanting to be an engineer. I believe I started SPVCE during my sophomore year of high school. I’ve always loved books and writing, and the ideas behind SPVCE really grabbed me. It was the first book that I was able to get past the first few chapters and actually keep writing.

I think working in the sciences can make you really passionate to write sci-fi, futuristic worlds because that’s the mindset and subject you’re comfortable with. On the other hand, some people might want their writing hobby to be as separate from their work as possible. I see the draw in both sides. I think – for me – I’m interested in writing a variety of genres to see how my voice and my values shine through each genre’s lens.

FQ: The story is geared toward young adult readers. What made you decide to focus on a group of teenagers rather than adults?

KAREN: A lot of what inspired SPVCE comes from the pressures I faced in school and my personal mental health journey. School, obviously, is mainly relevant to teenagers and young adults. Plus, my anxiety started when I was 13-years-old (around eighth grade). So, I really wanted to capture a lot of the raw emotions and personal growth I went through in my young adult years.

FQ: Why did you create a society in which children are treated as objects rather than being treated with respect and value as human beings?

Author a.w. karen

KAREN: In a way, SPVCE is my commentary on our current education system. I think students are often reduced to their grades or the statistics they provide for schools and states. Even worse, they’re often reduced to some kind of cookie-cutter “renaissance man” that society expects them to be. We expect every kid to be good at the same subjects regardless of whether they need them in the careers they want. We look down on students who might not want to go to college and discourage those who might want to take a chance on an artistic field. There’s so much stifling of creativity and confidence; it breaks my heart.

FQ: You created a diverse and relatable set of characters who played essential roles in the story. They’re a great mix of STEM disciplines (plus a few others). Did they come, at least partially, from your experiences in different science courses that you took through the years? Do you think your real-life experiences helped make them believable?

KAREN: I don’t think I necessarily drew from classes I’ve taken. I wanted to include a variety of academic specialties because I think any team benefits from a variety of perspectives. Plus, I’ve always found it fascinating how your interests are often reflected in your personality, so having a diverse group of specialties allowed me to create a diverse team of cadets.

I do think I based the characters’ personalities, instinctively, on people I’ve met throughout my school years. I mean, you meet such a myriad of different personalities at college. When I started writing the story, I laid the foundations for a character and then I just...let them talk? It’s hard to explain, but I guess I imagined what a “real” person might say or do – like imagining how a friend might act in a given situation – to guide the characters’ behaviors in the story.

FQ: Maci specializes in psychology. Why did you pick that field of expertise for her? How did you decide on the specialties you chose for each teenager?

KAREN: I wanted Maci to be grounded in something purely human. And I think that’s reflective of myself. I was inspired to become a mechanical engineer out of my desire to help people. For me, it’s cool to see where the machines and the humans collide – to see what we can create when we design to help people and improve other’s qualities of living.

I think, as I mentioned in the previous question, I wanted to include a variety of specialties to ensure the crew had a variety of perspectives and personalities. Also, there’s something to be learned from every academic field. I have mad respect for people who study stuff outside of engineering – like business and chemistry and art – because I’m not sure I could do it. As important as technology and STEM are, they’re not the only fields of value, you know? The world would be so boring without artistic careers… and completely dysfunctional without logistic and trade school careers.

FQ: Within the story you share your personal perspective on anxiety - was this difficult to do and/or was it perhaps cathartic?

KAREN: Writing everything down was extremely cathartic. It gave me a chance to take a step back, for once in my life, and put my anxiety into words. I never got to talk to anyone about it growing up. It wasn’t until, honestly, two years ago or so that I got professional help for the first time since being diagnosed at 13. SPVCE was my chance to finally talk about my struggles with anxiety.

It’s definitely nerve-wracking, though, to think about people reading the novel because very few people in my life know about my anxiety… or how severe it is. But I wanted to share my experience because I know there are people out there suffering through the same stuff. My embarrassment or nervousness is a minor price to pay to help others know they’re not alone.

FQ: While the story shows characters dealing with anxiety attacks, it makes it clear that such issues do not define the individual nor take hold of every aspect of a person’s life. How important was it for you to educate readers about this?

KAREN: So, so important. As I mentioned in the previous question, very few people know about my anxiety because I forced myself to hide it for years. People thought I had everything 100% together because I was an overachiever – straight A’s, extracurriculars, working a job, acting in community theater, always smiling, always helping people. But I was extremely fractured on the inside. I kept myself busy so I didn’t have time to listen to my brain. Mental health wasn’t something people talked about, and – while I was growing up – it was often viewed as a weakness. And I didn’t want people to see that I was barely holding myself together… especially my family and my friends. They thought the world of me, and I was terrified to lose their respect.

Fortunately, mental health is finally becoming more normalized, part of the everyday conversation. Even in just the span of my lifetime, I’ve been amazed how much society has shifted, how much people are willing to fight for mental health awareness. It brings me to tears sometimes because I don’t want anyone to go through what I did. I want people to know their mental health does not lessen their worth or define their limits. It’s another part of being human, another factor that makes us different from each other. And the more open we are about the topic, the less people have to suffer in silence.

FQ: Are any of the character’s bouts of anxiety attacks based on firsthand experience?

KAREN: As hard as it is for me to admit...yes, they are. I’m not ashamed of sharing my experiences – it’s just hard for me to tell my family and friends who read SPVCE that I really did go through much of what Maci does. I’ve already had some people reach out to apologize and say they had no idea and that they wish they had done more. But, you know, it’s in the past, really. I don’t blame anyone for not reaching out to help me because I thought I didn’t need help. I was trying to figure it out myself, and I thought I had it under control.

And I think a lot of these thoughts are reflected in the novel. Maci’s brief journey captures a whole decade of my living with anxiety. I really got to flesh out her thoughts and the different symptoms she experiences because I had time to digest how I felt and was dealing with them.

I touch upon it in the novel, but – for me, at least – my anxiety is very much a series of different waves. I’ve had various periods in my life where my anxiety switches between different triggers, different symptoms, and it’s definitely not been easy to deal with, but it’s been very eye-opening. Anxiety is a very intricate disorder that manifests in so many different ways. I’m hoping the novel can spread some awareness on what those around you could be experiencing when it comes to their anxiety.

FQ: Your website is very cool. I love the main page/background visual as well as the book trailer. The rest of the site is clean and easy to navigate. So many authors skimp on their websites but it’s obvious you put a lot of thought into your site. How important do you think your website is to your marketing and what would you tell other authors about working on their sites?

KAREN: Aw, thank you! Honestly, I’m a very visual person – I’m one of those people who is obsessed with making PowerPoints and was always in charge of them for group projects. I think presentation is very important, especially nowadays with how much information is conveyed online and through social media. I’m still learning how to handle all of the marketing that comes along with being an author, but I think having an author website is pretty essential. It serves as like a hub for all your information, and it gives you an opportunity to offer a deeper look into your brain and your creativity.

I think it’s worth it to invest some time into a clean, user-friendly site. I use Wix for my website, and it is amazing… really straightforward with a lot of options for customization. As I said, I think presentation is very important, mostly because it conveys a message to your audience before you say a single word. I’ve always made my PowerPoint presentations – back in school and in my current job – very clean and as visually appealing as possible because these aspects tell my audience that I’m professional, put-together, confident in what information I’m sharing with them. I think the same applies to an author website, for sure.

Also, as a fun fact, the book trailer was something I had an absolute blast making. It gave me an opportunity to dust off my community theater chops, haha.

FQ: The ending leaves the door open for a sequel revolving around the teenagers in the story. Are you planning on writing one?

KAREN: You know, I went into SPVCE confident there would not be a sequel. But I’m on the fence now. Maybe one day there might be… it depends on if the characters have more to say. I am, however, working on a companion piece for SPVCE. More of a short-story thing that offers some background into one of the characters that we – in my opinion – don’t get to learn enough about in the novel. I’m hoping to release more information about this in 2023!

Monday, December 5, 2022

Meet Author a.w. karen

Meet author a.w. karen in her new author biography page and learn about her debut novel SPVCE: 

#Bookreview of SPVCE by a.w. karen


By: a. w. karen
Publisher: a.w. karen
Publication Date: December 1, 2022
ISBN: 979-8987038116
Reviewed by: Dianne Woodman
Review Date: December 3, 2022
SPVCE by a. w. karen is an eye-opening science-fiction story filled with dilemmas that bring to light the physical and emotional effects of stress-induced anxiety attacks. It is geared toward young adult readers and takes place in a futuristic world where children spend their younger years training to become space cadets. At the age of fifteen, teenagers who pass a test qualify to become space travelers.
SPVCE is told through the eyes of fifteen-year-old Maci Layton, who travels with a group of teenagers into space. The ten teenagers believe they are on a mission to benefit the world. The first stop in their journey is Space Station One, where the teenagers elect Maci, who specializes in psychology, as the group leader. Maci finds it quite challenging to fulfill the leadership role, especially as she struggles with crippling anxiety attacks. When things do not go exactly how the teenagers expect, it takes a toll on everyone in the group. The teenagers are mystified and unsettled about the decisions being made by the people in charge of the expedition. Are they trying to hide something?
The author's use of sensory imagery and figurative language immerses readers into the story and allows them to connect with the teenagers. A mix of personality types brings its own set of problems, especially with the teenagers finding themselves in confusing and uneasy circumstances. Each one reacts in ways that match their characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The author does an excellent job of showing the extreme emotional strain experienced by the teenagers who are navigating uncharted territory, and readers feel like they are on an emotional roller coaster ride with them as they work at traversing through daily challenges and obstacles.
Readers are engaged in this soul-stirring story from the beginning, and the author keeps them riveted to the pages until the end. a. w. karen has a personal investment in the story which creates a sense of trust with readers and makes the descriptions of the debilitating anxiety attacks convincing. The author does an outstanding job of ramping up the tension throughout the story. The horrifying and surprising discoveries made by people involved in the journey into space culminate in an adrenaline-charged climax. The solid ending of this debut novel brings the story to a satisfying close. However, the author leaves the door open for a sequel that revolves around the teenagers in a new situation.
Quill says: A riveting and enlightening story of a futuristic society with hidden secrets that sheds light on the intensity and severity of anxiety attacks and also gives an in-depth look into the coping mechanisms of teenagers thrown into unanticipated predicaments.
For more information on SPVCE, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview of The Wisdom of Winter by Annie Seller

The Wisdom of Winter

By: Annie Seyler
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: December 13, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-63988-648-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: December 1, 2022

Annie Seyler treats her audience to a superb novel, The Wisdom of Winter, that portrays a bittersweet journey of life and its full circle experiences.

Beatrice has a good life. Her mother is lovely, "...Mom wears a sleeveless dress with a tight bodice and a skirt that fans wide. She’s like the marigolds in our garden, bright and bold in color that can’t be ignored..." Dad is a good provider. He’s a professor at the University, "...Most mornings he’s here, hovered over his students’ homework, wearing a grownup shirt with sleeves and a collar, khaki pants, and a belt..." As for Beatrice, she’s six and fashion isn’t too important. She wears overalls, has a head of unruly curls, prefers to wear goggles when she collects the eggs from the hen house and a visit with the occasional ladybug is fine by her. Ginny is mom’s best friend. She’s more of a city girl and Beatrice loves it when she comes to visit each year. Ginny has a way of bringing out the true lovely and fun in her mom. But there’s something more percolating just below this happy façade. Things changed that summer when Beatrice was eleven and her brother Oliver, five. The years marched forward and fleeting memories of happier times had a way of fading away the further Beatrice navigated along her road to adulthood.

It's easy to recognize the plight of privilege and at the same time embrace the opportunities it presents. Beatrice tries to understand the benefits of being shipped off to the private school in Vermont, but it’s still lonely. The girls are mean and social skills aren’t her strong suit. She resents her grandfather because his money is what put her here. It is a painful day-to-day existence to navigate when you don’t feel like you belong. It’s lunchtime again and nobody offers Beatrice a seat to join them. There is a teacher, Mr. Whitaker, who is Beatrice’s American history teacher, and his random act of kindness gives her hope. “…He slides his tray and empty dishes out of the way and leans forward with his elbows on the table. Up close like this, I marvel at the smoothness of his skin and the absence of a freckle or a blemish. Although his gaze is a bit intimidating, it’s his smile lines that I am most aware of. Even now, with his neutral expression, wispy threads at the corners of his mouth and eyes expose his nature; on him a smile is ever ready, ever eager to show itself..." There are many moments in Beatrice’s journey ahead that will challenge what is real and what was kept from her… reckonings that will take her far away from the people she thought she loved most in order to heal and eventually return to what matters in her life.

Annie Seyler writes beautiful prose with tender and artistic emotion. Her writing skills are akin to an accomplished painter who has perfected pristine beauty for the beholder to relish. Seyler breathes life into the perils of a young girl coming of age and the baggage she collects and carries into adulthood. She then redirects her audience in the next passage with a sublime nuance that time will heal all wounds. She has exceptional skill with word placement that enables the reader to embrace and behold the magic. There are wonderful layers that enhance the complexities and contrasts of each of the characters in her story, yet together, they work as a superb unit. This is a beautifully written story and a memory the reader will carry well beyond the proverbial ‘the end’. Well done Ms. Seyler!

Quill says: The Wisdom of Winter is a gift box filled with the essence of forgiveness and healing.

For more information on The Wisdom of Winter, please visit the author's website at:

Saturday, December 3, 2022

#BookReview of A Colossal Injustice: A Griffin Knight Corporate Murder Mystery

A Colossal Injustice: A Griffin Knight Corporate Murder Mystery

By: Miguel Angel Hernandez Jr.
Publisher: Soaring High Publishing
Publication Date: November 8, 2022
ISBN: 978-1959354031
Reviewed by: Lily Andrews
Review Date: December 1, 2022

An immensely satisfying brew of drama, treachery, and violence evoking classic crime tropes from an author with total command of this genre await readers in A Colossal Injustice.

A Colossal Injustice is the second volume in the Griffin Knight Murder Mystery Series by Miguel Angel Hernandez Jr. The plot begins with Detective Griffin Knight making his way into Seattle where he plans to help Kalyx, the mysterious hacker who assisted him in resolving the Alix Kroft case in Book One of the Griffin Knight series. He hasn't visited Seattle since the demise of his first partner, Trenton Barnes. However, a major challenge faces him- Jurisdiction. He simply has no official authority to make legal decisions or judgments beyond the borders of his hometown, New York. This is not settling well with him.

The death of Kalyx's fiancée, Dylan Walker, the COO and CFO of Colossus, a technological and weaponry development company, came as a shock to both Kalyx and Felix (one of Dylan's close friends). Dylan had involved them in investigating a massive money cover-up at Colossus, a plot so deeply and professionally hidden from the normal eye. His tech expertise caught a series of highly encrypted transactions and entries through servers that were not known to him despite being a senior member of the company. Dylan couldn't help but wonder whether there existed another more skilled individual who had access to the system other than him and his boss Sapphire. With the help of the experienced Detective Griffin, Felix, and his sister from the Seattle Police Department, Kalyx hopes to find out the truth and get much-needed closure on the case.

Once again Miguel Hernandez sends readers on an action-packed ride that is richly embedded with suspense and drama. The denouement has the perfect thriller-mystery quality where clues stare you in the face throughout the read, but then slap your head at the end leaving you wondering how you missed them. Readers can identify with the lead character Detective Griffin, owing to his outstanding performance as a solid, enthusiastic, and courageous investigator from Do Nothing, Griffin Knight's First Murder Mystery.

Hernandez has created well-hewn secondary characters whose demeanor, dialogue, and skills add depth to the script. The adrenaline-rushing, fast-paced action and twists keep readers turning the pages in anticipation and amusement. Every chapter feels so real, as if one has been dropped down in the middle of the action, and can hear, taste, touch, and smell everything happening around them. Lovers of the mystery/thriller genre will love the creepy atmosphere at Colossus, and the genius investigation to capture the antagonist. Miguel Angel Hernandez Jr., a seasoned author whose record in mystery/thriller work shows his creativity, passion, and talent, has created a story so magical that one would want to go back and experience the thrill all over again.

Quill says: The best mysteries and thrillers aren’t books that you can simply put aside when you’re done. They should linger in your heart, and A Colossal Injustice by Miguel Angel Hernandez Jr. undoubtedly fits meets that criterion!

For more information on A Colossal Injustice: A Griffin Knight Corporate Murder Mystery, please visit the website:

Friday, December 2, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Karin Ciholas, author of The Lighthouse (The Cyrenian. Book 1)

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kathy Stickles is talking with Karin Ciholas, author of The Lighthouse (The Cyrenian, Book 1).
FQ: I really love The Lighthouse so much and was so impressed by the research that must have gone into it. Can you tell us about that? There are so many different things that you would need to know so much about (religion, Roman rule, medicine, etc.). Was it difficult to research or was it a joy?
CIHOLAS: For me research is a joy. I discover new things about old things and am so excited I want to tell the world about it. As I was writing the novel, I invented a nephew for the great Jewish philosopher Philo, and later discovered that he actually existed! I had a different name for him. That was easy to change. His Jewish father named him Tiberius Alexander, no doubt to curry favor with the Romans and with the emperor himself. In fact, it was a real surprise to discover that many Jews held high office in the Roman empire. As for the medicine, I bought and borrowed books on Egyptian medicine, learned more about embalming than I cared to know, and read most of Hippocrates and modern books on ancient medicine. You can even access some of the old medical documents online like the works of the Roman Celsus: De Medicina, a contemporary with Simon.
FQ: I know that many of the characters in the story are people who really lived during those times and there are also some that are, from what I can tell, purely fictional characters. How difficult was it to combine all these characters into one story?
CIHOLAS: Ancient historians rarely include stories of women. But there were several who changed history like Antonia who is historical. Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of Valerius’s sister, so I invented Aurelia. Valerius is the historical Publius Petronius Valerius who figures prominently in Book II. I also invented the villain. There were many historical ones to choose from, but none that would have been as clever as the one I imagined. I didn’t find it difficult to invent the additional characters. What is more difficult is to be as true as possible to the historical ones. I never knowingly distorted or changed a date or an event. For example, Flaccus’s downfall was so unexpected and abrupt that even the Romans were stunned. It came so suddenly that I had to prepare the reader by having Flaccus ask Aurelia to petition Antonia.
FQ: The cover of the book is wonderful. Where did the idea for the cover and the title come from?
CIHOLAS: Atmosphere Press. The cover is the work of two amazing artists: Ronaldo Alves and Matthew Fielder. I am in awe of their skills and artistry. All I did was give them some sample depictions of the latest archeological finds about what the lighthouse looked like, and they went from there. From my brief description of the plot, they added the medical symbol of Asklepios. They and Atmosphere Press deserve all the credit. As for the title: The Lighthouse, I wanted that title from the beginning. A lighthouse is both a real building and symbolic. The lighthouse in my novel—as a building—was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, an architectural and scientific marvel. It was the tallest building in the world for almost two millennia before an earthquake toppled it. At night, a bright fire lit up cone segments way out to sea as the top turned. By daylight, polished mirrors rotated. The mechanism for turning was probably powered by the tides below. How the lighthouse is symbolic is up to the reader to discern. Each reader may see it differently. Alexandria was also the ancient city of light where the sciences flourished, the intellectual center of the Roman empire. Most of the scientists who worked at the Museion—the famous library that was like a university complex—were Greek.
FQ: The characters in the book are each so well-developed and intriguing. Do you have a particular favorite?
CIHOLAS: That’s like choosing a favorite child. I feel for Rachel, Simon’s sister. She experiences the force of pure evil and yet carries herself with dignity. Inspired by her plight, Simon fights against slavery. Then there is Sosias, the young orphan engineer whom Simon saves and adopts. Through Sosias, I am able to describe a few of the amazing advances in science and technology. Of course, I am deeply fond of Simon. But sometimes I want to shake him.
FQ: I see that the book is #1 in a series. Can you tell us what is next for Simon and the others in his story?
CIHOLAS: It doesn’t get any easier, I’m afraid. Caligula is on the imperial throne. He wants vengeance against Simon and his family. He also wants to be worshipped as Supreme God. Where? Not just in Rome where he knocks the heads off the statues of Jupiter so he can replace them with his own likeness. But in Jerusalem. In the temple! How will the Jews react? How will Simon react? How will Publius Petronius Valerius react who is Simon’s brother-in-law and now the governor of Syria tasked with the diabolical mission to erect Caligula’s statue in the temple? Need we say more?
FQ: After Simon’s story has been told to the end, do you have any ideas about another part of history and another set of characters coming to life on your pages?
CIHOLAS: I might revisit little-known incidents from WWII. I once wrote a play about Franz Jägerstätter, a young Austrian who refused to serve in Hitler’s army. It is a true story and deserves to be told in a novel. The play is called One Candle in the Night and was performed on the Centre College campus.
FQ: Your biography shows that you have a background in classical languages and teaching courses on the ancient world. What is your favorite time in history to study and teach about?
CIHOLAS: I grew up in Switzerland where school children destined for university start Latin at age 12 and Greek at age 14. I immersed myself in ancient history and imagined meeting an old Roman or a Greek philosopher on my way to school. Zürich was called Turicum by the Romans. After completing my Ph.D. in comparative literature at UNC-Chapel Hill, I was hired to teach French and German at Centre College. As much as I love French and German literature, my favorite course to teach is a freshman interdisciplinary course on the ancient world that includes literature, art, architecture, philosophy, and history.
FQ: It sounds like you have visited and in some cases lived in so many different countries. Is there anywhere left that you would really like to visit and learn about?
CIHOLAS: There are so many! Australia sounds intriguing, homeland of one of my favorite authors—Geraldine Brooks. But if actual traveling is not in the foreseeable future, I will always enjoy traveling back in time and meeting new characters.
Thank you for your interest in The Lighthouse. You are a very discerning and careful reader, and these were fun questions. --Karin
FYI: I am starting a blog called QQQ: Quirky Quixotic Quips about AntiQuity. It consists of one-paragraph notations about interesting ancient historical facts. Right now, I just put it on my Facebook page. It’s a lot of fun. Examples forthcoming: the first pipe organ, Caligula’s mosaic table, the Antikythera mechanism called the first computer...etc.

December's FREE Book


This month's "Book Giveaway" book is Pirates Don't Dance by Shawna J.C. Tenney.  Entering is easy (and we don't collect names/emails).  Just go to our main page and scroll to the bottom for the entry form:

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Time Running Out to Nominate


Time is running out to nominate your book for the Feathered Quill Book Awards. Nominations close December 15th. Learn more and nominate here:

#AuthorInterview with Alan Gartenhaus, author of Balsamic Moon

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Dianne Woodman is talking with Alan Gartenhaus, author of Balsamic Moon.

FQ: Why did you choose Hurricane Katrina making landfall in New Orleans, Louisiana, as the disastrous event in your story?

GARTENHAUS: New Orleans is a city of great texture and richness––cultural and racial diversity, renowned cuisines, unparalleled music, strategic history, and engaging residential architecture. As a former resident, an alumnus of Tulane University, and having been a staff member of the New Orleans Museum of Art, the devastation Katrina inflicted on the city and its people was neither remote nor merely a compelling curiosity. It was consequential and profoundly affecting. Writing was a way for me to process it.

FQ: Did you personally witness the damage incurred by Hurricane Katrina? If not, how did you come up with the true-to-life descriptions?

GARTENHAUS: I did see the damage and spoke with friends and former neighbors who experienced it. I returned to New Orleans several times, once shortly after the city was declared “dry,” while troops were still stationed there, downed trees and debris filled the streets, and much of the city’s electricity had not been restored. I got to see the devastation, and how very extensive it was, first-hand.

FQ: The two main characters, Doreen and Richard, come from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. Are they based on people you know, or did you create Doreen and Richard from your imagination?

GARTENHAUS: Doreen and Richard are imaginary; however, I drew inspiration from people I’d known. Both characters took on lives of their own as soon as the writing process began.

FQ: Do you have first-hand knowledge of the physical and emotional impact endured by people who elected to stay behind instead of following evacuation orders? If not, how did you come up with the characters’ backstories and personality traits?

Author Alan Gartenhaus

GARTENHAUS: Days, and even hours, before Katrina made landfall, I was on the phone urging friends to leave. A very close friend who remained did not survive the storm and the flooding.

Although the characters and their backstories are fictitious, I interviewed a variety of folks who remained in the city when the storm and flooding hit and learned of their experiences, both physical and emotional. I also read the local newspaper’s excellent coverage of the storm’s approach and its aftermath.

FQ: How much of the story is a blending of the reality of events with your imagination?

GARTENHAUS: Nearly all of it. The events surrounding the storm and flooding are real and known. My imagination helped me understand and empathize with how these two characters might have experienced and felt about it.

FQ: Your use of sensory language brings the story to life for readers. Where did you get your inspiration for your creative use of sensory details?

GARTENHAUS: Thank you. I’m flattered that you thought so. Much of my professional career before writing fiction was spent working in museum education departments, where I developed programs challenging visitors to discover and learn using their five senses and, often, their intuition and imaginations. I wrote two non-fiction books, Minds in Motion and Questioning Art, which demonstrate ways to gather sensory information and bring inanimate objects “to life.”

FQ: Did you conduct research in the writing of this story, and if so, what methods did you use?

GARTENHAUS: I conducted personal interviews, dove into the archives of The Times-Picayune (the New Orleans local newspaper), and watched Spike Lee’s documentary, When the Levees Broke, innumerable times.

FQ: Who is the target audience for this heart-stopping story that shows the devastating effects a massive hurricane can have on the environment, personal property, and the physical and mental health of people?

GARTENHAUS: Hopefully, everyone is the target audience. Reaching across divides and caring about others should engage us all. Certainly, it is a lesson that disasters force us to learn repeatedly. Whether we’re taught by hurricanes, wars, fires, or earthquakes, surviving the unfathomable is compelling, and requires courage, determination, and compassion, behaviors worthy of reading about and exploring.

FQ: The title, Balsamic Moon, definitely catches a person’s attention. Would you explain to our readers where this title came from?

GARTENHAUS: My characters spent nights trapped in an attic by floodwaters. I was trying to determine how light or dark the night would be in a city that had completely lost power and read in an astrological reference that it corresponded to the appearance of a balsamic moon. When I read of a balsamic moon’s ominous portend, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

FQ: Do you plan on writing more books about any catastrophic events and the subsequent repercussions or might your next project be something completely different? 

GARTENHAUS: My next novel is different. I have written and had published a variety of short stories with various plots, a few of which can be found on my webpage ( Although most of my writing focuses on human interaction and emotional connections, I’m not a genre writer, such as authors who pen mysteries or spy novels.