Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back When

by Amy Lignor of The Write Companion

As a book reviewer for many years, I’ve been inundated with YA after YA of vampire vs. werewolf.  But, recently, I was sent a truly beautiful book about the Civil War.  No, of course, this is not a “beautiful” subject, but the writer and photographer focused on the many houses, buildings, and plantations that have gone to ruin - and it made me think of how ‘cold’ things have become.

This country is young.  Unlike the ruins of Rome, Athens, etc., the United States has a very short history when you think about it, and losing ANY of our past is a frightening thought.  In the Gilded Age, New York City and the East Coast had their Astor’s and Carnegie’s, with their huge homes and gallant parties.  The South had their endless fields, mint juleps, and manors that could stop your heart if you looked at them long enough.  The construction, the work, the soul that went into creating our architecture was extraordinary - and letting them rot away into nothingness is a heartbreaking reality.

Think about it! Not from a political standpoint, mind you, but a purely artistic one.  I’m not here to fight about ‘us vs. them,’ or ‘us vs. us,’ I’m here to discuss back when.  This is yet another song by that talented “Tim McGraw,” who sings about a time when, a coke was a coke; when the wind was all that ‘blew;’ and, my favorite, when you said I’m down with that, it meant you had the flu.  He sings of an easier time…when we were nice.  Or, at least, some of us were.  He sings about a time when my mother sat in a booth at a pharmacy in her hometown surrounded by her high school friends, while they talked, laughed, and ate grilled bologna sandwiches (ick) and washed them down with REAL cherry coke.  It was a time when my mom drove a 1955 pink and gray Chevy (I could kill her for losing that!). 

There was a time even further back when Houdini made an elephant disappear before an audience’s eyes; and, a time when the cornerstone was laid for what would become the grandest library in this country, where Patience and Fortitude still sit and stare at you as you walk by. 

Artists flourished.  Immigrants came to our shores following in the path of the Mayflower, which was one of the first to reach this land from across the sea.  There was a time of education, where writing the statement, I love you has now been replaced by a beeping phone that says:  I luv u.  Grammar has almost become obsolete, and penmanship isn’t required because of the keyboard sitting in front of you.  Each and every decade brought new and brilliant innovations to this country, as well as some that could one day be used to end us all.

The 1910’s was when the film industry in Hollywood began to rise.  The ‘Roaring 20’s’ had their flappers, and a stock market crash that blew everyone’s mind.  The 30’s saw the Empire State Building rise into the sky, and The Great Depression almost destroy society.  In the 40’s, America banded together with others to destroy a Fuhrer who was determined to create a deathly Reich; and, the 50’s appeared with rock-and-roll, poodle-skirts, and teenagers screaming for Elvis.  The 50’s began with our men dying in Korea, and ended with the survivors heading to Vietnam to lay down their lives once again. 

Social change and political upheaval introduced the 60’s.  This decade saw the fear of missiles, “Camelot” destroyed, and watched man achieve the impossible and walk on the moon.  From the building of the World Trade Center to disco and feminism, the 70’s had its own triumphs and losses.  And the 80’s brought heavy-metal hair, the Cold War, a “Boss” who was Born in the USA, and the death of John Lennon.  When the 90’s flashed by in what seemed like an instant, sideburns came back into style and, for women, “The Rachel” haircut from Friends was all the rage.

When the clock wound down and our next century began, brilliance and pain came in waves as we watched the huge realm of social networking rise…and those two grand towers fall…

Comedy has gone from the hysterical team of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin to “South Park” accepting  Tony for best play of the year!  Each and every decade has seen new artists, scientific geniuses, literary kings and queens, and death.  Now we have singers who intrigue the world on stage with odd names like “Ga Ga.”  We even have our own new Houdini by the name of Jason Escape (Jason Gardner, to his friends).  We have books that will become legend as Edward and Bella fade into the “Twilight,” and we have more and more stories to tell in every subject from fashion to technology.

But…when we begin to destroy our history we become a truly ‘cold’ society.  When we begin to let our buildings, monuments, and history crumble, we let go of what made this country beautiful and innovative in the first place.  Each and every one of us needs to make sure that - even though our technology has become greater - the discoveries of the past don’t disappear.  We need to hold on to the time where manors AND manners were important.  There is no way to know who we are if we don’t remember where we’ve been.  …And that’s the truth!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Author Interview with John Evans

Today we're talking with John Evans, author of The Home School Advantage: A Public Schoolteacher’s Case for Homeschooling

FQ: After reading your book, I would love to know how Clint is doing now. What has he been up to after graduation?

Clint continues to do well, and right now he's working two jobs at the San Antonio International Airport. I think he may have found the perfect career for himself because he loves to work on machinery and be around the planes, but he also loves to interact with people. Mostly he helps to keep the conveyor belt systems running smoothly. Clint enjoys the hustle and bustle of a major airport and always seems to be excited about his work. At a time when many are struggling to find a job, I can't help but believe that Clint's homeschooling background and good work ethic have enabled him to stay employed.

FQ: What style of homeschooling best describes your personal educational philosophy?

Well, since I came from a career in the public school system, I think I tried to take the best of what I saw in the traditional education model and adapt it to Clint's special needs. If I had to give my style a name, I think I would just call it "practical teaching" or "going with what works." The home school choices we made were specifically geared to help our son in a way that traditional public schools could never match. My wife and I aimed for truly individualized learning. Clint responded well, and we were very happy with the results.

FQ: What led you to arrive at this style of homeschooling?

I was led to my style of homeschooling by observation and experience. If a teacher is conscientious and self-aware, he or she figures out what works and what doesn't. Also, you have to study the child. A parent or a good teacher can tell if the lesson is effective. You can see it in the sparkle of a child's eye or the enthusiasm of his response. Again, it gets back to trying many approaches and seeing what's effective. What works for one family may not work for another. It's not rocket science, but it does require attention, patience, and discipline. I would add that both parent and child need to keep a positive attitude.

FQ: What sort of interactions did you have with your public school colleagues after you pulled your son out of school? Were they angry with you for rejecting the system?

Well, I stopped teaching in the public schools before Clint started his home school experience, so there wasn't much direct interaction with former colleagues. Of course, many of them remained my friends, but our relationship was more casual. I think I would term their attitude toward our decision as "guardedly supportive" or "politely questioning." Also, you have to remember that many public schoolteachers leave the classroom after a few years, often from their own frustrations, so their own emotions can be somewhat mixed. I now know of several other former public schoolteachers who teach their own children at home.

FQ: At the very end of the book, you talk just a little about how homeschooling has brought your family closer together. Can you talk about that some more?

Candidly, my biggest regret is that we did not go to homeschooling sooner. Frankly, the more I think about it, and the more I observe what is happening in our public school systems, the more supportive I become of home education--provided that it's done in a thoughtful way. When I look back on my homeschooling years with Clint, I can't help but smile. We were never closer than when we were in homeschooling...and the entire family feels that way. If I could go back and change the past, I'd start homeschooling sooner and do an even better job.

FQ: Are you still working with the homeschool community?

As a full-time minister, I interact with homeschooling parents and children all of the time. I love to share experiences with them, and they remain among my warmest friends.

To learn more about The Home School Advantage: A Public Schoolteacher’s Case for Homeschooling please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Friday Finds on Monday

Friday Finds is hosted

Here's what happens when traveling for several days demands going to a place with no wi-fi.  Friday Finds comes out on Monday.  Maybe a bit late, but the books still look great.  Enjoy and stop by our site soon for the reviews.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Spell Bound Savannah Levine is in terrible danger, and for once she's powerless to help herself. At the heartbreaking conclusion of Waking the Witch, Savannah swore that she would give up her powers if it would prevent further pain for a young orphan. Little did she know that someone would take her up on that promise. And now, witch-hunting assassins, necromancers, half-demons, and rogue witches all seem to be after her. The threat is not just for Savannah; every member of the Otherworld might be at risk. While most of her fellow supernaturals are circling the wagons at a gathering of the council in Miami, Savannah is caught on the road, isolated from those who can protect her and unable to use her vast spell-casting talent, the thing she counts on most. In a story that will change the shape of the Otherworld forever, Armstrong gathers Elena, Clay, Paige, Lucas, Jamie, Hope, and other beloved characters, who soon learn that the greatest threat to supernaturals just may come from within.

Ready Player One It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

Cure Your Democracy There's an epidemic sweeping across America but no one's taking it seriously. The infected look like normal Americans, at first, but then they open their mouths and foreign words leap out known only to inhabitants of their special nation: left coaster, mama grizzly, Obamacare, drill baby drill; or neocon, glass ceiling, teabagger, I didn't inhale. Drop the word "multiculturalism" and half of them will have an immediate allergy-like reaction. Their faces will turn red with fever as they glide away from you. Drop the phrase "lamestream media" and the other half will cringe and hold their brow with a splitting headache as they back away from you. These otherwise normal Americans are obviously suffering from something. The author in this pioneering book has discovered what that is: severe, extremely contagious viral illnesses that are plaguing the entire country. He reveals here in layman's terms the infection, spread and treatment of these viruses. They make us insanely ill and susceptible to conspiracy theories, and are so easily passed between individuals by speeches, handshakes and karaoke. He discovers Viral Media is not just a figurative expression. One morning an infamous radio personality spouts off a misinformed, belligerent opinion. By that afternoon the author's research subjects are repeating it with the same fever and refudiation. The viral words of the opinion had infected them and seemed to have taken possession of their minds like some voodoo zombie incantation. No one is safe and many are contaminated. Treatments are provided so that they may become virus free and regain the ability to associate with those "other" Americans-those infected with the opposing virus. If you are tired of the partisan arguing in our great country, this book is guaranteed to lift you to higher ground and make you LOL.

Virion You think you know what evil is? You have no idea what you're dealing with...what mankind is up against! These were the words spoken to Richard Alexander by a terrifying vision. Richard Alexander is no ordinary artist. He has acquired the psychic power to identify, through the use of his artistic skills, the perpetrators of violent crimes. There's a problem, however-using his psychic ability not only makes Alexander the target of criminals, it also threatens to cost him his marriage, his career as a university professor, and the lives of everyone close to him. But it is a powerful spiritual calling and he can't stop using it. And now, he is about to get a lesson on the origin and essence of Evil and the price of being its enemy. Alexander becomes the target of a deranged scientist and pathological killer who calls himself Virion. Alexander's family and his friends find themselves in the jaws of evil as Virion seeks to eliminate him. To complicate matters, a hurricane bears down on the Texas Gulf Coast Island of Galveston and promises to aid Virion with his plot to release deadly air-borne pathogens that would eventually spread death and illness throughout the country.

Joining Up Two teenage boys, backs still raw from a whipping, make their escape from a Brooklyn Orphanage to join Brooklyn's famous Red Legged Devils of the Fourteenth Regiment.. En-route to the Civil War battlefields Bobby and Will become mule train drivers with a scalawag muleskinner who runs supply wagons for a Massachusetts Regiment. The search for the Fourteenth New York leads the runaways to the farmlands of Pennsylvania where Robert E Lee is about to launch his armies of Northern Virginia against George Meade's Union Army of the Potomac. It's the eve of the biggest battle of the Civil War when the runaways finally don Union Blue.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Ducks of Boston

Nope - didn't have to zoom - these guys are friendly!

Regular readers of our review site, Feathered Quill Book Reviews, may recall a review I wrote back in October of 2010 of Robert McCloskey's classic Make Way for DucklingsNot exactly a recent book (originally published in 1941), but heck, I just love the book and wanted to share it with others.

I bought myself a lovely, embossed edition while on a trip to Boston last Fall.  It's kept on my shelf of favorite books (how many people have such a shelf???)  Anyway, last week I had to go into Boston on business and decided to extend the trip to spend some "girl time" with my teenage daughter.  She'd just finished her first year at Boston University and her favorite thing about Boston was feeding the ducks on the Commons.  Hmmmm......can you tell we're related?!

We actually planned ahead and brought a whole loaf of bread with us.  As soon as the ducks heard the rustling of the bag, they came swarming over to us.  These guys (and gals) are not afraid of humans - except for the sugar-crazed little kids who thought it fun to chase the poor ducks.  One duck actually crashed into me (on purpose I think - for protection) as one wild child - with a nanny who was busy on her cell phone and ignoring her charge - ran after a particularly friendly duck.

The super friendly duck who crashed into me to escape the wild child.

Some of the males were quite friendly, others a bit aggressive toward the other ducks.  One must have been 'Boss Duck' as he squawked at the other ducks the entire time.  The females were quite friendly and much sweeter to their neighbor ducks.
How can you resist that face????

We had a wonderful time feeding the ducks and plan to visit them again on our next trip to Boston. What about all those ducklings that Robert McCloskey wrote about?  We only saw one duckling and one teenage (still had some down but on his own) duck.  The rest must have been hiding on the little island in the middle of the pond.  There was a fenced off area where we saw a pair of swans and a bunch of ducks so perhaps that's where they were.

Oh, yes, and we just happened to be in Boston when the Bruins played their final, Stanley Cup winning game.  The statues were dressed for the occasion:

 And we joined in the festivities on/around the Commons.  Fans were hyper/happy but all that we saw behaved and there were no problems.  Also a TON of police but they just stood around and smiled.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fathers and Grandfathers…The Best of the Best!

by Amy Lignor of The Write Companion

"Larger than life" is a phrase I never understood when I was a kid, but there are no better words to describe my beloved grandfather.  Joseph Carrier was the ultimate Grandpa; he was also the ultimate husband and father, according to other members of my family J

Every Sunday we would go to Grandpa and Grandma’s house for lunch (even though they all referred to it as dinner).  When we walked in, Grandpa always had a huge smile on his face, and blue eyes that twinkled.  He would always tell funny stories about his life and growing up, and we would all laugh.  Mom still tells the one where it was so cold one day that Grandpa had his hands in his pockets and his lunch pail and books under his arm.   When a dog came from nowhere and began nipping at his heels, Grandpa tried to kick him away, but his hands got caught in his pockets, and he fell down on the ice.  He sounded a lot like Bill Cosby, actually.  Grandpa would talk about how he walked up the hill to school…both ways. 

Grandpa and I had personal time, which was so cool.  He would go outside after lunch (dinner) and he would start working on the car, or raking the leaves.  He always talked to me about stuff - explained the task that he was doing - like what tool went where and what needed to be done.  He would talk about the football game coming up, and he would always hold my hand.  Even though I loved my father to death, Grandpa could hold my hand in a way that made me feel like, even if the biggest monster in the world was coming up behind me, it wouldn’t matter - Grandpa would simply save the day.  He’d protect me no matter what.  When he passed, my nightmares began, and I always wished and prayed that “my warrior” was still on Earth so he could make them all go away.

I loved it when Grandpa sat at the head of the small table and smiled at Grandma across from him.  They didn’t need to talk, they would just stare at each other.  You could feel the connection.  THAT was true love.  Those were two people who proved that soulmates actually existed in more than just books and movies.  And I’m one of the lucky few whose parents proved the exact same thing.

Grandpa had a light green metal chair that, when you rocked, it made a sound like “da-dong, da-dong.”  He’d sit in that outside, and while he told me stories and talked to me that noise kept playing in the background - like music to his perfect lyrics.  Sometimes we just went and sat out there because there was an animal in his chair, and Grandpa would NEVER disturb the animals.  They were always allowed the furniture first.  Maybe he was making up for that dog-kicking incident :-)  

The only sound I didn’t like in that perfect house was the breathing machine.  Grandpa had asthma, and after dinner (lunch) he would have to sit in the chair in the corner of the small kitchen, flip these metal switches that sounded like a weird little engine had come to life, and breathe into a plastic tube.  I heard this sound again, years later, in my father’s hospital room; it came from the machine that was breathing for him and keeping him alive.  I so hate that sound.

Grandpa could also draw the most beautiful pictures.  I remember him making a squirrel with pencil and, to this day, it rivals anything I’ve ever seen in an art museum.  When he got older, Grandpa’s hands began to shake, so the drawing stopped.  But I’ll never forget that squirrel. 

Christmas was always great - of course it was, we were kids.  But on Christmas Eve when Grandpa walked in he’d smile and wink at me.  That big smile and those blue eyes made a fantastic gift.  And when he took my hand to wish me a Merry Christmas, that feeling of complete and utter protection came over me every single time.  Grandpa was always my guardian angel. 

Joseph Carrier had class, pride, heart, imagination, humor, and one of the kindest and most beautiful souls I’ve ever seen in my entire life.  He loved with such power and grace that I’m still in awe of him. 

Luckily enough, with my imagination, when I close my eyes and dream, I visit Grandpa at a beautiful house set in the midst of trees and flowerbeds, with a small river that flows through the property.  He’s surrounded by animals.  He takes my hand when I come up to say ‘Hi,’ and dazzles me every time with his smile.  He looks in the window at Grandma and offers his soulmate that wink, and then he tells me jokes, asks me how Mom is, and how things are going for all of us down here.  There’s no breathing machine and there’s no shaking…he feels good. 

When we’re finished talking, he gives me a great big hug and I turn around to take a walk through the field with my father.  Dad always asks me about his granddaughter - who loves him more than life itself.  He always smiled and winked at Shelby.  He always took her by the hand every time he saw her and protected her with everything he had. 

Like me, my daughter’s hero is her grandfather.  Like me, she had the chance to have the perfect man to look up to and love.

Grandfathers.  They just don’t get any better than the amazing men in my family.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Finds

Friday Finds is hosted

Wow! It's been a busy, busy week here at Feathered Quill. Check out these neat new books that just came in for review! Stop by our site soon to read the reviews.

Darkness My Old Friend After giving up his post at the Hollows Police Department, Jones Cooper is at loose ends. He is having trouble facing a horrible event from his past and finding a second act. He’s in therapy. Then, on a brisk October morning, he has a visitor. Eloise Montgomery, the psychic who plays a key role in Fragile, comes to him with predictions about his future, some of them dire. Michael Holt, a young man who grew up in The Hollows, has returned looking for answers about his mother, who went missing many years earlier. He has hired local PI Ray Muldune and psychic Eloise Montgomery to help him solve the mystery that has haunted him. What he finds might be his undoing. Fifteen-year-old Willow Graves is exiled to The Hollows from Manhattan when six months earlier she moved to the quiet town with her novelist mother after a bitter divorce. Willow is acting out, spending time with kids that bring out the worst in her. And when things get hard, she has a tendency to run away—a predilection that might lead her to dark places.

Hawks Mountain Rebecca Hawks has come home to remember who she was before the lure of life as a social worker in a big city nearly destroyed her-and might, still. She's moved back to her family's namesake mountain in West Virginia, where Granny Jo Hawks can help her forget the horrors she'd seen and been unable to prevent. Ex-Navy Corpsman, Nicholas Hart, has moved to Hawks Mountain in hope that its timeless Appalachian serenity will help him overcome his painful war memories. Now Rebecca and Nicholas must find each other-and their chances of a life together after putting the past to rest-on Hawks Mountain. Elizabeth Sinclair is the award-winning, bestselling author of numerous romance novels and two acclaimed instructional books for writers. Her novels have been translated into seven languages and are sold in seventeen countries. She lives in St. Augustine, Florida, with her husband and two dogs.

Her Best Catch Allison Doll's mother is rebelliously turning fifty, her two best friends have started dating and a gorgeous injured relief pitcher named Ashton Boyd has joined her Sunday school class, rocking her world into confusion, heartache and temptation, places she hasn't visited in a long time, much less all at once. But with the help of family, old friends she really hasn't lost, a new friend she really can count on, and God, she begins to find out whether she'll always be a girl waiting for life to happen or a woman who's ready to commit to her best catch. Lindi Peterson definitely believes happy endings are just the beginning. She lives out her real life romance with her husband in a small Georgia town. When she's not writing, she loves to read, bowl and spend time with her family.

The Branding Morwen Aleacim, an elfin teen in the village of Aren, has always heard rumors of evil lurking in the great forests of the kingdom, where children vanish. Her own father disappeared into those forests, and Morwen is determined to find him. So she is secretly training to be a warrior-against the strict rules of decorum for girls-with the help of Armando, an aging human swordsman. When Brynn, Morwen's own baby sister, vanishes, Morwen tracks her to the horrifying lair of Tobias, an inhuman Dark Wizard. There she strikes a deal with him-her service in return for Brynn's freedom. He accepts. She'll go free along with Brynn for now, but is bound to him as his apprentice. To her horror, Tobias brands her-not with a fiery mark, but with a spell that will slowly transform her human body into a grotesque creature and her spirit into an obedient slave. When the transformation is complete she'll have no choice but to return to him forever. Aided by Alan, a handsome elfin boy, who will soon have a dark challenge of his own, Morwen sets out to find a wizard who can lift the spell. It's a race against time as she struggles to free her mind, body, spirit and heart from a horrible fate.

How To Slay A Dragon Ruuan is a very large dragon. Twelve-year-old Greg Hart can't slay a dragon. He'd be lucky to win a fight against one of the smaller girls at school. Now the magicians of Myrth have mistaken him for a legendary warrior, so they've yanked Greg into their world of sorcery and danger. Nothing will stop the people of Myrth from believing Greg will rescue King Peter's daughter from Ruuan the dragon. After all, Greg has been named in a prophecy, and no prophecy has ever been wrong before. Until now.

Fang Me The vampires want it. The demons want it, too. And someone is willing to kill Val for it.

Val and Fang have to find the powerful Encyclopedia Magicka before either of San Antonio's warring underworld factions locate it or the consequences will be deadly for the entire city. As usual, Val's vampire enemies (they still call her The Slayer) want her dead. Even some of her fellow demons may be less than trustworthy, since they'd like to grab the legendary book of spells before she does. Val has a personal claim to the Encyclopedia--her demon father left it to her when he died--but someone stole it recently. And that can't be good. Battling vamps and dodging demons, Val struggles to unravel the mystery and find the thief. At the same time, she's fighting her attraction to sweet, sexy Shade--her favorite shadow demon. Rumor has it that Val will lose her part-demon, vampire-fighting powers if she gives herself to him. With a crowd of vamps and demons out to trick her or kill her, it's not a good time for her to risk her job as the city's best vampire hunter by falling in love. The stakes are high and aimed right at her heart. But Lola, Val's hungry little lust demon, doesn't like being denied. Will Lola finally get her way?

Bombs Away Bombs Away! covers strategic bombing in Europe during World War II, that is, all aerial bombardment of a strategic nature which took place between 1939 and 1945. In addition to American (U.S. Army Air Forces) and British (RAF Bomber Command) strategic aerial campaigns against Germany, this book covers German use of strategic bombing during the Nazi’s conquest of Europe: the Battle of Britain, Operation Barbarossa, and the V 1 and V 2, where the Luftwaffe targeted Warsaw and Rotterdam (known as the Rotterdam Blitz). In addition, the book covers the blitzes against London and the bombing of other British industrial and port cities, such as Birmingham, Liverpool, Southampton, Manchester, Bristol, Belfast, Cardiff, and Coventry bombed during the Battle of Britain.

Fury It’s winter break in Ascension, Maine. The snow is falling and everything looks pristine and peaceful. But not all is as it seems...Between cozy traditions and parties with her friends, Emily loves the holidays. And this year’s even better--the guy she’s been into for months is finally noticing her. But Em knows if she starts things with him, there’s no turning back. Because his girlfriend is Em’s best friend. On the other side of town, Chase is having problems of his own. The stress of his home life is starting to take its toll, and his social life is unraveling. But that’s nothing compared to what’s really haunting him. Chase has done something cruel...something the perfect guy he pretends to be would never do. And it’s only a matter of time before he’s exposed. In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And three girls—three beautiful, mysterious girls—are here to choose who will pay.

The Lantern Set in the lush countryside of Provence, Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern is an atmospheric modern gothic tale of love, suspicion, and murder, in the tradition of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. Drawn to a wealthy older man, Eve embarks on a whirlwind romance that soon offers a new life and a new home—Les GenÉvriers, a charming hamlet amid the fragrant lavender fields of Provence. But Eve finds it impossible to ignore the mysteries that haunt both her lover and the run-down old house. The more reluctant Dom is to tell her about his past, the more she is drawn to it—and to the mysterious disappearance of his beautiful ex-wife. An evocative tale of romantic and psychological suspense, The Lantern masterfully melds past and present, secrets and lies, appearances and disappearances—along with our age-old fear of the dark.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mark Twain Immortalized on Forever Stamp

Reprinted with Permission

What: First-Day-of-Issue dedication ceremony of the Mark Twain 44-cent 
Commemorative First-Class Stamp. The event is free.

When:10:00 a.m., Saturday, June 25, 2011

Where: Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, 200 Block of Hill Street, Hannibal MO 63401-3537

Who:James H. Bilbray, Member, Board of Governors, U.S. Postal Service
Henry Sweets, Curator, The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum
David F. Martin, District Manager, Gateway District, U.S. Postal Service
Jim Waddell, portrayer, Mark Twain

Art Director and Stamp Designer Phil Jordan collaborated with stamp 
artist Gregory Manchess to create the stamp design. Manchess based 
his portrait of Twain on a photograph taken around 1907. The stamp 
background evokes several of Twain’s works set along the Mississippi 
River of his youth.

Reviewer's Tip - Sometimes Self-Publishers DO Have An Edge

If you're a self-publisher (or even if you publish with a small press), no doubt you've heard over and over about the disadvantages you will face.  And if you've been around for a few years, you've had to take on these hurtles in order to get your book "out there" "seen" and most importantly, discovered and purchased.

Self-publishers have to front the money for publication themselves, they have to find a good editor, graphic designer, get the book to market and get it distributed so it can find its way into the hands of buyers.  It's not an easy task.  You're competing against the mainstream houses that have decades of experience/contacts/know-how/financial backing.  How many times have you had a reviewer say, "sorry, but we only review books from mainstream publishers," or heard a distributor instruct, "we'll only carry your book if it sells X number of copies a month."???  And so on and so on.

But we have discovered one place where the self-publisher and even small press publisher are at a distinct ADVANTAGE over the large houses. When you do manage to get a reviewer interested in your book, when a reviewer requests a copy of your book (and isn't that a wonderful feeling?), how many self-publishers, oops, forget to send the book?  Here at Feathered Quill, that number would be a big, fat ZERO.  We have found, without exception, that self-publishers are on the ball, ready and willing, to respond in an instant to such requests.  Alas, those books coming from, er, um,. XYZ Publishers in NYC, frequently lose their way.  Turnover at these houses seems quite high, they're busy promoting oodles of books at once, and responses vary quite a bit.  This is all very odd to us because these large publishers seem just as eager to have their books reviewed and send lots and lots of press releases telling us that book "Blah, Blah" will surely be the next big seller.  They're eager to send a review copy, respond to our request and then.... nada.  Well, guess what?  We're too busy with other books to do follow-ups so if the book doesn't come, it doesn't get reviewed.  If there's a new person doing publicity and the previous employee forgot to tell them which books need to be sent out, oops, sorry, we're not going to remind you - we don't have time.

In sharp contrast, the self-publisher is typically promoting just one book at a time, his/her "baby."  Any response from a reviewer is treated as top priority.  Books get mailed out within a day and arrive quickly.  That means they get put on that hefty review pile quicker and get through the whole review process that much sooner.  So remember, although it may seem like a big, scary jungle out there in the book world, and that all is against the self-publisher, you do have at least one advantage.  Actually, now that I think of it, there are other advantages too.  Hmmmmm.....I sense another blog post coming along soon.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Author Interview with Roland Allnach

Today we're talking with Roland Allnach, author of Remnant: An Anthology

FQ: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. I first want to say that the book is intriguing, to say the least. With the first story, I was wondering if “images” of certain movies or books were in the back of your mind when writing locations. Reading through certain scenes, I was taken back to that fantastic world that George Lucas created so long ago.

Author Roland Allnach
When I write, or I should say when I'm constructing scenes and environments
in my head, I think of that process more along the lines of cinematography, in that my initial impressions are visual and I then translate them to the words I put to paper. So even though my knowledge of cinematography is very limited, I do appreciate the ways in which shots are composed and put to film. And likewise, writing in the sci-fi genre, there are certain films that have contributed a great deal to the various aesthetic themes that are encountered within the written field of the genre. Indeed, the stark contrasts Lucas depicted so well between the sterile modernity of the 'Empire' versus the rugged and dated industrialism of the 'Rebellion' have impacted me in their own ways, and the way in which they display the dichotomy of Lucas' universe. I tend to dwell a little more in the 'industrial' aesthetic of films like Bladerunner and Alien, particularly when dealing with the military, or space ships and travel, for the simple reason that if you look at the military or space vehicles we have today, they embody a certain rugged, tech-heavy practicality that stems from their very nature. These pieces of equipment are not meant for comfort, but function, and a definite economy of material, resource and space, all of which leave little or no room for creature comforts.

FQ: Hermium, with the glittering blue oceans and beauty was a perfect backdrop. Are your theories, perhaps, based on the fact that Hermium would have been the perfect Earth? (Before, of course, many messed it up with war, etc.)

My initial concern when creating the setting for Hermium was more the way in which it played into the thematic arc of 'All the Fallen Angels' and the symbolism it contained rather than an actual commentary on what has happened to Earth. Specifically, Hermium is meant to be the too-perfect paradise, a fantastical contrast to the cold, industrial existence the characters know onboard Nexus 9 and their transport ship. That said, the idea of Hermium being 'too perfect' is symbolic for hopes and dreams that, like the planet, can be too perfect in their conception, and broken failures in their realization. The process of idealized thoughts turning to misguided failure is reflected in all the misery underlying Hermium's surface appeal- for all its blue water, white sand, and serene fauna, there is revolt, murder, child prostitution and abduction, and, of course, Stohko's own misguided dreams, displaced from a future with his wife to Ellen Fortas, the woman he meets during his time on Hermium. So, like the garden of Eden, Hermium is a perfection of sorts, but it too is defeated by its own proverbial apple. In the case of Hermium, the apple is what the residents bring with them to the planet, lurking in their hidden inclinations and desires.

FQ: The “feeling” through all was the fact that reality and imaginary - real vs. fake - was a deep “thought” of yours as an author. Can you give our readers a little more information on your theory behind fact vs. fiction?

This is something near and dear to me and something I play with in just about everything I write. On a momentary philosophical aside, I consider that there are a multitude of realities surrounding us. There is the absolute reality we share, which at its base we do not dispute, such as the sky being blue. But intertwined with that absolute reality are all the subjective realities which are formed by our individual impressions. Consider the old legal game of five people witnessing a crime. There is the absolute reality of what happened, which, if not witnessed, is interestingly enough lost from human record, and in essence not part of reality. This blends into what the five people witness of the crime: each will focus on certain aspects of what they witness based on the inclinations, subconscious judgment, and life experience they carry inside. So what you have is a fun-house mirror of composites, and somewhere inbetween or averaged between them, one image that is not distorted and therefore the absolute, but perhaps one hidden to subjective perception. So when I write my characters and stories, I try to base my characeters' inclinations and motivations not necessarily on the solid facts around them, but more so on the baggage they carry inside them. I think- if I pull it off effectively- that this creates characters that feel real, as they struggle to operate on a knowledge base of the world around them that is incomplete, and perhaps even corrupted. And that, to me, is part of what defines our life experience, and the
decisions we make, as full-formed, living individuals.

FQ: The details of war and soldiers are extremely interesting. Is there any military service in your background?

Two members in my family have seen military service, my grandfather and my father-in-law. My grandfather didn't speak very much about his experiences, so most of what I know there was relayed to me by my father. On the other hand, my father-in-law has shared many fascinating stories of his service. I'm also an avid reader of military history, and perhaps more importantly, historians who enrich their accounts with ground-view experiences from people who lived through certain moments in history. Off the top of my head, two books by Antony Beevor, Stalingrad, and the follow up, The Fall of Berlin, are incredible accounts of two titanic conflicts. What draws me to these types of historical accounts is that they somewhat forego the greater political implications and summations of history to depict all the odd ways humans adapt to that most extreme of human endeavors, warfare. It's one thing to understand that a certain force had to take a certain objective and used certain strategic and tactical plans, but its another to understand what it took in human terms to make those things a reality. Reflecting back to movies, I really appreciate the level of detail protrayed by films like Platoon or Saving Private Ryan, or the German film Das Boot (The Boat), which I think is the best submarine movie ever made.

FQ: On that same wavelength…with the “injuries” in the hospitals, etc. - your bio states you worked a long time on the night shift in a hospital - so was there inspiration pulled from that particular profession?

Certainly I've taken advantage of my work experience to blend some credibility into certain situations of my stories. The saying goes you should write what you know, and even though I have no interest in writing a 'hospital' story (that would feel like bringing work home) I'm not going to hesitate to tap that knowledge base when I need to. Having had the benefit of some education in physiology and anatomy, and the so-called privilege to see real-world stabbings, gunshots, and assorted traumas, I think that allows me to accurately describe the conditions of my characters over the physical rigors they might endure in the course of a particular story. But I think the more important consideration of working at night in a hospital is that I've had the chance to see behaviors in people you don't normally encounter, and certainly might not encounter during daylight hours. The human mind is a fascinating three pound lump of  neurons, and when it's not functioning quite properly, the illusions and delusions it can create seem to be without limit.

FQ: Peter in Remnant speaks volumes to readers. Can you tell us about the character? How he evolved?

With the story Remnant I did something I hadn't done before, which was to portray a character and setting quite close to the reality I live in. That started as a mental exercise to push me out of my comfort zone of writing in the far-away and not-now. I try to do something at least a little different with each story, novella, or book that I endeavor to create, not just to keep things fresh, but to help develop my narrative skills. To give my characters a valid emotional base I look at things I hold near and dear in my life and transpose them to certain degrees to a character. I then consider how altering such things might effect me, and then in turn transpose that to the character I am currently putting through the wringer. So in considering a story and character closer to home, so to speak, Peter had his initial roots in my own life. Parallel to that consideration ran a certain idea that I've long held, which is the utter fragility of our modern life in our dependance on a supply chain that is tenuous at best. This was imparted to me while growing up when my family would go to upstate New York for vacation, and I would look out over what seemed to be endless square miles of undeveloped woodland. The comfort and security of modern life is really just an illusion, and if the power goes out, well, it's not too long before all vestiges of what we consider our ubiquitous lifestyle simply don't exist anymore. These ideas coupled with my initial thoughts for Peter, and when they combined, the concept for Remnant was born. I would take a seemingly everyday person, pull the rug out from underneath him, and leave him stranded in a life devoid of all relation to the life he knew. Mix in a healthy dose of resentment for the mess of our current day world, baste with the emotional trauma of losing those who meant most in Peter's life, and let simmer for several months of isolation and deprivation. The extension and evolution of those concerns seemed a natural thing at that point: Peter would have to redefine his morality, and make sense of things he had to do by law of pragmatism against a law of morality that would be required to kindle any notion of social interaction. It's a train wreck of opposing forces, but I think one that is very natural. Don't we all, to some extent, have an impulse for anarchy? Nobody likes to pay taxes, but if taxes go away, that means many other things are going away, so you can't have your cake and eat it too, so to speak.

FQ: What, personally, would you like to see in the world? Such as, the changes that could be made to increase awareness and stop war?

I think, as a very broad and general statement, I'd like to see people more personally invested in the issues around us. In many cases I have the feeling that people may have a genuine concern for certain issues, as long as dealing with those issues don't create any incoveniences in day to day life. As I said in the last question, there is a natural and inherent inclination in the human mind to want to have your cake and eat it too, but like all things in human society, the challenge is to rise above our more selfish inclinations, as long as pragmatism remains a guiding element- blind idealism is just as destructive as apathy. Getting to the meat of this question, though, I think that as a species we need to take a very hard look at where we are going, in terms of the stress we are placing on our increasingly limited environment. Many civilizations have failed due to exhausting their local resources, and as a rule of history, when human populations reach their most dense, intense periods of warfare always follow. If we don't address global population and soon, I fear the repercussions may be both devastating and long lasting. Greater demand is being placed on dwindling resources, and that's not a formula for sustained stability. There is a Malthusian balance to humanity, and to neglect that is to become victim to the nightmares of famine and war. The easiest way to stop a war is to correct the forces leading toward hostility. That said, I think that perhaps the most effective way to end conflict is to provide people with a valid alternative to a violent, short-lived existence. I think that given the choice, the vast majority of people would chose a quiet home life rather than mayhem and carnage.

FQ: Could you tell readers a bit about the Pushcart Prize?

The Pushcart Prize is a literary prize celebrating the best fiction of small press literary journals. Journals who participate in the Pushcart Prize review their published fiction for the year, and an editorial decision is made as to which stories will be nominated to Pushcart. The editorial board at Pushcart then reviews the nominated submissions and from that pool selects the final stories to be published in the yearly Pushcart Prize anthology. As such, authors can't submit on their own. So to even get nominated to the Pushcart entails an extensive process of editorial review, as it means that not only did a given piece of fiction make it past initial editorial selection to appear in a given issue, but also had editorial approval above many other pieces of selected fiction for a journal's publication year. My story Creep was a Pushcart nominee, and I have to thank Regina Williams at Storyteller for that honor (excuse the plug, but the story can be read at my website, ( Although the stories of Remnant are geared toward the sci-fi/speculative realm, I try to write as many different kinds of stories as I can to keep my mind open. Most of my writing inspiration is derived from classical literature, particularly of the late nineteenth century, in great part due to the exquisite depths of character development in fiction from that period. As a result, having a Pushcart nomination is one of my most satisfying writing credentials.

FQ: Good luck with the book. We’ll look forward to much, much more.

To learn more about Remnant: An Anthology please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Finds is hosted

13 Million Dollar Pop In an Indianapolis underground parking structure, Frank Behr is on an executive protection detail for Bernard “Bernie Cool” Kolodnik, a hard-driving business mogul on the verge of making a move into big-time Indiana politics. Behr is working for an exclusive investigation company, and it’s an uncomfortable fit, both literally and philosophi cally. The uneasy stability is quickly rocked by a burst of automatic weapons fire as an attempt is made on the promi nent client, and Behr manages to protect him and repel the attackers. Though Behr is celebrated for his heroism, he can’t help but investigate what happened in that garage—and why the Indianapolis cops seem to be burying the incident.

Triangles In this emotionally powerful novel, three women face the age-old midlife question: If I’m halfway to death, is this all I’ve got to show for it? Holly, filled with regret for being a stay-at-home mom, sheds sixty pounds and loses herself in the world of extramarital sex. Andrea, a single mom and avowed celibate, watches her friend Holly’s meltdown with a mixture of concern and contempt. Holly is throwing away what Andrea has spent her whole life searching for—a committed relationship with a decent guy. So what if Andrea picks up Holly’s castaway husband? Then there’s Marissa. She has more than her fair share of challenges—a gay teenage son, a terminally ill daughter, and a husband who buries himself in his work rather than face the facts. As one woman’s marriage unravels, another one’s rekindles. As one woman’s family comes apart at the seams, another’s is reconfigured into something bigger and better. In this story of connections and disconnections, one woman’s up is another one’s down, and all three of them will learn the meaning of friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness before it is through.

Before Ever After hree years after her husband Max's death, Shelley feels no more adjusted to being a widow than she did that first terrible day. That is, until the doorbell rings. Standing on her front step is a young man who looks so much like Max–same smile, same eyes, same age, same adorable bump in his nose–he could be Max's long-lost relation. He introduces himself as Paolo, an Italian editor of American coffee table books, and shows Shelley some childhood photos. Paolo tells her that the man in the photos, the bearded man who Paolo says is his grandfather though he never seems to age, is Max. Her Max. And he is alive and well.

In the Chillest Land In the Chillest Land continues the journey of characters originally seen in The Storyteller. Garet begins employment with WorldGuard Warranty Insurance Company as a member of the newly-established Legion of the Feather. This is a story with many heroes, who make friends… find love… and discover truths regarding the creatures assumed to be the monsters of the Universe.