Monday, March 30, 2015

Last Chance to Enter This Month's Book Giveaway

Hurry!  Time is running out to enter March's book giveaway contest!  It takes less than a minute to enter and you could win TWO neat children's books: Sadie's Big Steal and Mom's Big Catch by Marla McKenna.  Just follow this link to the entry page:

How My Mother Writes My Novels

By: Holly Robinson

Twitter @hollyrob1

            Every novelist hopes the Muse will sit on her shoulder. We devise clever rituals and talismans to bring her to us, from the special flannel pants we wear on every writing retreat to the music we listen to, from that special pot of mint tea we make to the chocolate-covered almonds we allow ourselves to nibble (or devour) as a reward for finishing each new chapter.

            We hope to lure the Muse to us through writing workshops and by reading other people's novels. We scan newspaper headlines hoping for story ideas and make frantic scribblings in our journals if we happen to eavesdrop on a great conversation in a cafe.

            I do all of these things. But I'm luckier than most: my mother often serves as my Muse, and I see her nearly every day.

            Mom isn't a writer, but she is an avid reader. Throughout my childhood, she read stacks of books, so I would flop down on the couch or floor near her and read, too. (People wonder how to teach their kids to love reading? This is what parents should do: Make reading seem like the most interesting thing in the world by doing it yourself in front of your children.)

            My mother read all sorts of books, from science fiction to mystery novels, from romances to “how to” books on ESP or sheep farming or aliens. Often, Mom would discuss whatever she was reading with me, and what she liked or didn't like about the authors and the way they structured their narratives.

            Mom is also a terrific storyteller. Not in the usual sense—she doesn't spin long-winded yarns around the fireplace, because she's an emotionally reserved Yankee—but in the sense that she is always, always observing the people around her. She even had a police scanner in the kitchen so she could follow what was happening in the small town we moved to when I was a teenager.

Author Holly Robinson
             (Most embarrassing moment of my childhood? That time I came home late one night, after being caught by the police while my boyfriend and I were making out in his parked car, and finding out that Mom had heard the whole thing on the police scanner, including the cops chortling.)

            Nearly all of my novels have been sparked by this Mother-Muse of mine. I wrote my last novel, Beach Plum Island, because of a hair-raising story Mom told me about her own childhood. She had gone to babysit for a family in her town in Maine, and was told by the parents that the children were asleep in their bedroom. “Whatever you do, don't go down to the last bedroom down the hall and open the door,” they cautioned as they left.

            Naturally, my mother was curious, so down the hall she went. In that last bedroom, she discovered a blind, nearly feral child who came shooting out to climb up her legs when she opened the door. In Beach Plum Island, I wrote about three sisters searching for a brother they never knew they had until their father died, and that scene plays a pivotal role in the novel.

            My newest novel, Haven Lake, centers around a mother and daughter, Hannah and Sydney, who have lost touch since two tragic deaths occurred on the farm that Sydney grew up on—a farm that was a commune run by Hannah and her husband when he returned from Vietnam. One of the deaths was the mysterious nighttime drowning of a teenaged boy; that event shattered Sydney's family. As the novel opens, Sydney is forced to return to Haven Lake for the first time in twenty years, and she begins to unravel the truth behind what happened that night.

            This novel, too, was inspired by one of my mother's stories. During her own childhood, my mother's parents ran a fresh air camp for inner-city kids from Boston. They lived near a pond, and one day, as my grandmother and her camp counselor assistant took the children down to the pond for a swim, one of the boys ran into the water ahead of them and drowned. Nobody really knows how it happened, even though my mom and grandmother were both there.

            That event left an indelible mark on everyone involved. I was moved by the story, imagining how that boy's parents must have felt when they were told the news; how the other children had been affected; and what the impact of that tragedy would have been on my grandmother, who was in charge of the boy—and who, like my mom, wasn't prone to discussing emotions. I wrote about a drowning in Haven Lake to explore those emotions. The event also served as a plot device, a supporting bridge for a tense, emotional narrative about complex family dynamics.

            For writers, the Muse lives in many places. I'm lucky. I only have to invite Mom to dinner, and I'm bound to hear a new story, one that inspires me to examine its colors, untangle the threads, and embroider something new from it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review - Death of a Diva

Death of a Diva: From Berlin to Broadway

By: Brigitte Goldstein
Publisher: Pierredor Books
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 978-0-692-24666-5
Reviewed by: Charline Ratcliff
Date: March 26, 2015

When I was asked to review Death of a Diva: From Berlin to Broadway by Brigitte Goldstein, I was only too happy to accept. I love thrillers and mysteries (I was an avid Nancy Drew lover as a child) as well as Historical Fiction, and here was a book that looked like it combined both genres.

Finding some time (and the nearest quiet corner), I sat down to read. And let me tell you – Death of a Diva: From Berlin to Broadway starts out with one heck of a bang. The much loved, admired, and idolized star of both stage and screen, actress Stella Berger, has been discovered brutally murdered.

Stella Berger, the heart stoppingly beautiful not to mention amazingly talented German-Jewish immigrant, the actress who, at the end of every performance would publicly pray that her homeland and the rest of the world be delivered from the “Nazi Scourge” now lies dead – strangled to death with a violin string. The entire world is shocked by this news and the list of suspects seeking Miss Berger’s demise is growing longer by the moment.

But let me shift your attention to Misia Safran – another German-Jewish immigrant, and one who worked at the theater where Stella Berger’s lifeless body was discovered. She is the prime suspect for this grisly murder – and if she isn’t the actual perpetrator then the police are certain that she's at least an accomplice who knows much, but is telling little.

Who was the homeless derelict that she allowed into the theater without making him buy a ticket? How does Misia really expect the police to believe that her grave ‘mistake,’ the one that claimed the life of an internationally adored public figure, had been done out of kindness only; with no ulterior motive?

Not getting what they want from Misia, she is 'released' – although she has now acquired two tails. And, she has also just espied the derelict that the police are still seeking...

I don’t want to provide any further details about Death of a Diva: From Berlin to Broadway, but I certainly appreciated the European history tour that author Brigitte Goldstein took me on. This tale was a unique blend of geography, cultures and nationalities – spun back and forth inside a time when being a Jew, or being sympathetic to their plight, carried heavy penalties; including death.
While I know that Death of a Diva: From Berlin to Broadway is not Goldstein's debut novel – it is only the second of her books that I've read. I'm certainly looking forward to reading her others because she's a great writer. Death of a Diva: From Berlin to Broadway features appropriately descriptive scenes and the character dialogue/interactions make sense. In whole, the story flowed well with only a couple places where the 'telling' of the tale felt sluggish – but not enough to dampen my enjoyment.

Quill says: Death of a Diva: From Berlin to Broadway was an interesting and intriguing read. Difficult to put down once started; and featuring a nice merry-go-round of 'who done it' character possibilities.

For more information on Death of a Diva: From Berlin to Broadway, please visit the publisher's website at:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Review - Night Is The Hunter

Night Is the Hunter: A Harlan Donnally Novel

By: Steven Gore
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: February 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-202509-8
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 21, 2015

Steven Gore treats his audience to the latest installment of his Harlan Donnally detective series: Night is the Hunter.

In the pristine beauty of winter making way for imminent spring, Harlan Donnally and his long-time friend, Judge Ray McMullin, stand immersed in their thoughts as they unconsciously cast their lines. In the quiet waters at the base of Mount Shasta, Donnelly assesses the troubled expression on McMullin’s face. This was supposed to be a day of fishing. Unfortunately it ended with Donnally’s realization he had yet another case to investigate—a case Donnally didn’t know would be the foundation for vindicating his friend’s death penalty decision. Twenty years before McMullin decided a case that would deposit a man on death row. Now it was Donnally’s turn to expose a corruption that ran far too deep and lay beneath an unstable surface for way too long.

Israel Dominquez was on death row for a gangland murder. He professed his innocence throughout the trial and never changed his story the closer he got to making his final journey to his execution. Sadly, nobody believed him. This is to say until Judge Ray McMullin decided to question his own processes leading to the decision of death (and the twenty year gap between the decision and the imminent day of reckoning is upon him). Was McMullin too young and entrenched in making his own legacy back then? Did his personal mission of notoriety cloud his judgments and has his conscience come back and tapped the Judge on his should before it’s too late? Or perhaps, Dominquez really is guilty and the fact he was a member of the notorious Norteno gang of Northern California solidified his inevitable fate. These along with many other questions were the foundation for Donnally to don his investigative cap once more and hone his skills to get to the truth no matter the damages that would be deposited in its wake.

In the three years I’ve been a book reviewer, I find myself often uttering the phrase: “...while I’ve yet to read any of XXX’s work, after reading XXX, I plan to go back and read...” Once again, my promise to do just that will hold true in the case of Steven Gore’s work. It is a sheer pleasure to pick up a book written by an author who clearly demonstrates he had the vision of how he would tell his story from the first paragraph on. In Night is the Hunter, Gore not only demonstrates a confident command of his pen, but displays the obvious: he had a thought and knew how he would play it out across the pages to not only engage his audience, but the end result would be a terrific detective thriller that manages to keep the reader on the edge of his seat throughout the read. If I had my druthers of what it is I like to read in a book, hands down it would be to see an intentional balance between prose and dialogue—dialogue taking the forefront more than prose. Gore portrays the ability to do so in Night is the Hunter. What makes this book even more interesting is his obvious knowledge of knowing his way around a homicide investigation. Why wouldn’t he given his credentials of “...renowned private investigator turned 'masterful' writer...”? Night is the Hunter takes real situations, current events that plague our society today and mixed together, what plays out is one, fine novel. Thanks Mr. Gore! This is a great read and I look forward to future adventures of Harlan Donnally.

Quill says: Night is the Hunter is a detective thriller that will have the reader engaged from the opening paragraph to the proverbial ‘the end.’

Book Review - Reluctantly Charmed

Reluctantly Charmed

By: Ellie O’Neill
Illustrated By: Eileen Carey
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication Date: March 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4767-5755-1
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: March 25, 2015

One of the countries I have always wanted to visit is Ireland so anytime I find a book related to Irish folklore I definitely grab it up. With the book Reluctantly Charmed by Ellio O’Neill I was instantly swept up in the whimsical legends of fairies with a modern twist that made for a great and intriguing story.

When Kate McDaid comes upon her twenty-sixth birthday she has a few things she is focusing on to make better in the near future. One of those is her job where she has been hoping for a promotion, and then the other is her social life that has not been going so great up to now. However, she has a positive outlook on what is coming up next but never in a million years did she expect such an unusual invitation from a long gone relative. The invitation comes from a local attorney who requests Kate’s presence at the reading of a will of her great-great-great-grand aunt who was also named Kate McDaid. In this will Kate is told that she will inherit her ancestor’s estate if and only if she publishes a series of seven poems called “The Seven Steps.” Thinking that she could easily publish these steps on a forgotten blog page that no one will ever be interested in, Kate sees this as an opportunity to inherit something great, for an estate must include something extravagant. So, deciding to go through with publishing these steps she puts up the first poem not expecting anyone to see it or even care what it says, however she could not be more wrong.

In a matter of days Kate has a huge group of followers who are obsessed with these steps thinking that if they continue to read them they will be able to communicate with fairies. Suddenly Kate finds herself an instant but reluctant celebrity as she finds that being famous means nothing in her life is private. Now her every move is followed, her every word is listened to, and everyone is holding their breath as each of these seven steps are revealed. As she nears the final step, however, Kate may have to decide if publishing the seventh step will cause more harm than good.

From the very first page I enjoyed every bit of this story as I thought it expertly combined whimsical legends of the past with a modern setting. Using the blog on the internet as the way to publish the steps brought the story into the present as of course the internet is a huge part of everyone’s life. The changes that Kate McDaid had to make as she went through this journey made her easily relatable and each time I sat down with this book I could place myself in her shoes perfectly. This was a great book that I would recommend to anyone.

Quill says: This is a fantastic combination of a modern character and setting with an intriguing fantasy legend that will have you quickly turning pages.

Books In For Review

Check out the books that have just arrived for review!  Then stop by in a few weeks to read the reviews!

Death of a Diva: From Berlin to Broadway by Brigitte Goldstein A veteran actress’s brutal murder at a Broadway theater in 1941 sets off a police investigation that reaches back to pre-WWI Vienna and 1920s Berlin in Brigitte Goldstein’s densely plotted noir mystery novel, Death of a Diva. In 1941 New York, the murder on Broadway of Stella Berger, famed star of screen and stage of Weimar Germany and outspoken critic of the Nazi regime which had forced her into exile, sends shock waves through the American public. The police act quickly, and the prime suspect, an emigrant street musician, is tried and put on death row. But Misia Safran, a young Jewish refugee from Germany and part-time employee at the theater who becomes inadvertently involved in the investigation, is haunted by the possibility of his innocence and a suspicion that there's more to the case than meets the eye. Determined to uncover the truth, Misia delves into Stella's background. She patches together the life of the revered actress from testimony by those who had been closest to her throughout her rise to stardom. From accounts of her humble origins in a Viennese ghetto to her rise to the pinnacle in the acting world of 1920's Berlin, to her battle with Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels, emerges the portrait of a woman of great strength of character and resolve, albeit one that conceals a vulnerable side which ultimately may have been the cause of her undoing. As Misia cuts through a bewildering thicket of lies, hidden agendas, and deceptions, she is met with intimations of a deep secret in Stella's past, evidence of which may be stored in the vault of a Swiss bank. If made public, this secret could provide the clue to the mystery, but could also destroy the star's carefully guarded public persona.  

Mom on the Road by Allyson Ochs Primack Shortly after she turned forty, Maggie Stevens took an unexpected journey that changed the course of her life. She didn't decide to visit all of the Earth's rain forests or spend months roaming through the African desert. It was not for scientific research nor was it for purposes of investigative journalism. Maggie’s journey took place in the most unlikely of places: on a bus with a bunch of actors. Think "Almost Famous," except instead of a teenage boy, it was a pre-pre-menopausal mom of three. Forced to face all of her fears on the road, Maggie must figure out how to get back the one thing she lost many years ago: herself. Inspired by the author’s own journey on the road while accompanying her son as his guardian on a Broadway tour and documented in the popular blog,  

Physical Literacy 12 Steps Pledge Ambassadorship by Steven C. McCartney Physical Literacy 12 Steps Pledge Ambassadorship is the passport that connects a path (the yellow brick road to health and fitness) for readers young and old: Or fit and unfit with 12 proven strategies according to scientific based research and national health and fitness objectives to learn how to workout smarter, stay healthier, reduce health disparities and build a healthier community globally. The rhythmic and metaphor of dance provides the vehicle in which the reader becomes engaged in the environment in which we live. Reading this educational and instructional tool can provide new understanding for young teen readers and adults by introducing 12 various topics on total health and fitness for personal best. In addition this book includes an Ambassador Certificate, Glossary, Total Fitness Chart, and Assessment Quiz. Rather than a get-fit-quick scheme, the Physical Literacy 12-Step Pledge Ambassadorship focuses on a lifetime of healthy behaviors and activities and is geared toward both the fit and the unfit. Whether children encounter the program in school physical education programs, at home, or during an extracurricular activity, they will discover something much larger than themselves. They will discover their ability to hone different aspects of their everyday lives in order to become healthy and stay healthy in both body and mind. The plan described within the Book is practical and completely attainable despite anyone’s current lifestyle. It was designed to be concrete, positive and completely inclusive with a number of goals that can be reached and celebrated over time. Individuals who take the time to implement these strategies will develop a core foundation that revolves around their overall well-being.

Road to Siran: Erin's Story by Behcet Kaya Erin Ozcomert, a beautiful, graduate student at UCLA, has always felt compelled to learn more about the little known stories of her father; stories that have been hidden from her since his death several years before. Leaving modern day Los Angeles, Erin is swept into the ancient customs and traditions of her father’s village in northeastern Turkey. What she learns there is not at all what she had expected to find. As she is enfolded into the loving arms of her Aunt Fatma Ozkoy, Erin discovers a place where tradition prevails in social ceremonies and family feuds are still kindling hatred and murder, torn by some never forgotten malice performed by past generations. Trying to integrate these discoveries, Erin is given the gift of her grandmother’s journal. Reading the handwritten treasure, her emotions are stripped raw as she uncovers her heritage and the answers to her questions. Forced to leave the village before she is ready, Erin returns to Istanbul only to discover more secrets from her father's past.  

Harmonology: An Insider's Guide to Healthy Relationships Through Music by Mr. Stephen John O'Connor A groundbreaking, practical and unique insight for transforming troubled relationships into positive ones. Whether you're single and searching for your "soul-mate," or want to heal the relationships you already have, the groundbreaking ideas in this book--and the inspiring stories of real people expressing the various interval relationships--will open you to a whole new world of possibilities. Because Harmonology is more than just a book. It's a great way of viewing your life.

Kittens Can Kill: A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir by Clea Simon The dead don’t keep pets. So when animal behaviorist expert Pru Marlowe gets a call about a kitten, she doesn’t expect to find the cuddly creature playing beside the cooling body of prominent Beauville lawyer David Canaday. Heart attack? His three adult daughters angrily blame drug interactions, feline allergies—and each other. And begin to feud over their father, his considerable estate, and that cute ball of fluff. While the cause of death is pending, each sister has an axe to grind—with arguments that escalate when David’s partner reads out the will. Pru’s special sensitivity to animals, which caused her to flee the cacophony of Manhattan for the quiet Berkshires, adds further problems. The local vet is overwhelmed as the animal hospital's money runs out. There’s a needy Sheltie and some invasive squirrels, too. But the dead man’s kitten, his former partner, and his troublesome family keep drawing “wild-girl” animal psychic Pru back in. Despite the wry observations of her trusty tabby Wallis, now the wrongfully accused kitten’s guardian, and the grudging compliance of her cop lover, this may be one time when Pru can’t solve the mystery or save the kitten she wants to believe is innocent. A single witness knows the truth about that bright spring morning. How far can Pru investigate without risking her own hidden tale?

War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation by Cindy Hval America’s World War II is most often told through the stories of its great battles, when an entire generation of our young men was suddenly thrust across the oceans to represent the New World in deadly combat against the great powers of the Old. On sea, in the air, and on land our boys fought against totalitarian powers that threatened to overturn the American ideal of liberty for every individual, even civilization itself. But while often forgotten, America’s women participated too. On the home front they were more than willing to share in the hardships of wartime, and in countless cases they fairly lived and breathed with support for our troops overseas. Whether working in factories or taking care of families, rationing or volunteering, their unflagging support contributed more to our victories than has ever been told. From blind dates to whirlwind romances to long separations, War Bonds highlights stories of couples who met or married during WWII. Each of the 30 stories begins with a World War II-era song title and concludes with a look at wartime couples in their twilight, as well as when they were so hopeful and young and determined to save the world. Illustrated with photographs from the 1940's as well as current ones of each couple, War Bonds offers readers a glimpse of bygone days, as well as a poignant glimpse of our own.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The March issue of StoryMonsters Ink

The March issue of StoryMonsters Ink is now available! Visit to download the issue, subscribe & share! It's free!

March is National Reading Month! Each year at the beginning of the month, schoolchildren and their teachers hold special events to celebrate the birthday of the beloved Dr. Seuss. As far as I’m concerned, every month should be National Reading Month, and this issue of StoryMonsters Ink is chock-full of wonderful reads! Jennifer Bisignano has written a special book that children and adults will find very appetizing, Amber Nieves tells us a story about a very special bond between two unlikely friends, and Mark Watson explains how a chance encounter resulted in some very lovable characters. Check out our newest Story Monster Approved books and a great St. Patrick’s Day recipe and kids coloring page. Also, springtime has something rattling in the desert. Our super science and nature editor Conrad J. Storad tells us how the warm weather wakes up a certain slithering creature. Read all about it inside! Because as Dr. Seuss said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know, and the more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Click here to download this month's issue!

SMI cover March

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Book Review - The Great Zoo of China

The Great Zoo of China

By: Matthew Reilly
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: January 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4767-4955-6
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 14, 2015

Matthew Reilly resurrects medieval creatures and gives them the spotlight in his latest thriller, The Great Zoo of China.

The Chinese government has carefully guarded their secret for forty years, afterall, it takes time to perfect the re-evolution of dragons. Soon they will release the proof of their existence to the world. In the final stages of doing just that, the final step has arrived. With the arrival of New York Times reporters along with expert on reptiles, Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron (currently a writer for National Geographic), China is finally standing in the wings of recognition as the creator of the most incredible zoo in the world.

Gathered in the theatre for a brief presentation before the tour, CJ and the rest of the esteemed visitors are about to witness the protected forty year secret of the Chinese government. Assured by their Chinese hosts the shock and awe of the American visitors will barely be contained once they have the opportunity to witness the beasts, dragons, which they are assured are perfectly safe and nothing can possibly go wrong. Perhaps arrogance clouded the Chinese naiveté or maybe they hadn’t calculated precisely enough the power of the beasts they were about to unleash for the world to see...

Matthew Reilly is every kid’s dream come true when it comes to taking the impossible and putting it to reality in a book. Not since the emergence of Jurassic Park has there been a story that could top such a premise. This is to say until Reilly decides to replace those dinosaurs with the real “Knights of the Roundtable”: dragons! At no time does this story drag with too much scientific explanation or ad nauseum dialogue. Rather, Reilly grabs his audience, spends the first couple of chapters outlining the scientific credibility and the balance of the book rips through page upon page of high action adventure. Reilly portrays epic battle beast upon beast and the blood, gut and gore that is worthy of survival of the fittest only to draw the reader back to a “…meanwhile, on the other side of the park…” moment. There are no twenty minute long, scientific words which is brilliant! Rather, Reilly cuts to the chase with crisp sentences linked together one upon the next to blast a power shot of a paragraph into the reader’s face. Mr. Reilly has earned the title of “International Bestselling Author” and with books like The Great Zoo of China, there is no question his throne and title shall remain intact. Well done, Mr. Reilly! This was a roller coaster of a read and I look forward to the next ride.

Quill says: The next time you visit a zoo, take a moment to consider: “Are we observing the animal...or is the animal observing us?”

Book Review - Nonna Tell Me a Story: Lydia’s Egg-citing Farm Adventure

Nonna Tell Me a Story: Lidia’s Egg-citing Farm Adventure

By: Lidia Bastianich
Illustrated by: Renée Graef
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Publication Date: February 2015
ISBN: 978-0762451265
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: March 14, 2015

What fun! It’s a sleepover party at Nonni Lidia’s house! All the grandchildren have come and the night gets off to a great start as they tell stories in the living room. One story scares Julia and Lorenzo teases her, saying, "Don’t be such a chicken!" Well, gosh, that sure gets Nonni going – telling the kids all about chickens and eggs and all the amazing things they provide.

Nonni begins by talking about her childhood, how she grew up on a farm, and helped take care of the family’s chickens. She tells her grandchildren about the chickens’ personalities and how they provided food for the whole family. Story time soon comes to an end and it’s off to bed for the children.

The next morning Nonni makes an egg-celent frittata for everybody and gets Miles to help prepare the meal. Realizing the children don’t know much about chickens (no, they really don’t start life at the grocery store), it’s time for a trip to a real farm. Soon the gang is headed off to “Hobbs Family Organic Poultry Farm” to learn all about chickens and eggs.

Author Lidia Bastianich is an accomplished author, with numerous cookbooks to her credit. She also enjoys sharing her love of cooking with children through her ‘Noona Tell Me a Story’ series. In this third book in the series, children will learn where some of their food comes from, enjoy a nice story, and get to try their hand at cooking. The author has included several savory recipes in the back of the book, with notations on what children can do to help prepare each meal. The soft, lovely illustrations by Renée Graef add that perfect ‘cozy feel’ that reminds readers of enjoying mealtime with their favorite grandmother. While the text may be a bit long for younger readers (ages 4 and lower), older children who love to cook will find the book delightful.

Quill says: A fun story that teaches children where their food comes from and will encourage them to give cooking a try.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Book Review - The Liar

The Liar

By: Nora Roberts
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 978-0399170867
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 12, 2015

With over 200 delicious novels to her credit, Ms. Roberts offers up her latest delicacy: The Liar.

Rendezvous Ridge is nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. There is no fanfare and big city lights. Rather, it’s Shelby Foxworth’s humble beginnings. After a handful of years away and a tragic end to her troubled marriage, Shelby comes to her senses and realizes big cities aren’t the healing power she and her toddler, Callie, need. It’s time to reconnect with the only family that ever gave a darn about her. It wasn’t easy to accept defeat and failure—now faced with the exorbitant debt in the wake of her husband’s death. To add to her troubles, the truth about Richard (or whatever his real name was), rears its ugly head increasingly the further Shelby is faced with making matters right. It isn’t long before she learns the stranger she shared a bed with and created a beautiful child with wasn’t much more than a crafty con-man and she was the pawn who was left behind to clean up his messes.

With resolve to head back to Rendezvous Ridge, Shelby tables grief and hunkers down to turning her life around. There is no judgment or ‘I told you so’s’ when she goes back to her roots. Rather, her parents welcome her with open arms and set to doing what loving parents do: provide shelter from their child’s storm and space to afford her the time to heal. How fortunate for Shelby handsome Griffin Lott would be a major factor in her journey forward. He doesn’t stand much on a person’s past and he makes no bones about how instantaneously smitten he is with the redheaded beauty. Indeed, life as Shelby knew it was pointing in a positive direction once home. This is, however, until some unfinished business from her past manages to catch up with her.

I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review Ms. Roberts’ advance copy of The Liar. Regardless of whether it is a first-time author or a seasoned veteran, the bottom line comes down to this: ‘was this an engaging and well-written book?’ Simply put, yes it was! I was immediately immersed into this story because of the natural and signature style Nora Roberts owns. This writer knows how to set her anchor and immediately establish plot. Ms. Roberts’ distinctly crafted voice continues to age more gracefully with each novel she delivers. Her writing is like sipping a fine wine and her character development exudes credibility. There is no over-the-top ‘glam’ that has been peppered with ridiculous impossibilities. Rather, in the case of The Liar, a single mom is faced with a real dilemma: ‘how could I have been so wrong about the man I thought I knew and loved?’ This is a possibility for anyone and Ms. Roberts takes the premise and runs with it. There is a familiar and comfortable flow throughout this story—the breaks between prose and dialogue are spot on and complement each other beautifully. It is no wonder Nora Roberts’ novels consistently find themselves on the NYT Bestsellers List. It’s an inevitability when a novelist sees her end in sight at the very beginning and focuses on the essence of great writing: treat the audience to the coveted escape they desire. Thank you for the pleasure of reviewing The Liar Ms. Roberts. I’ve been a fan of your work for many years and once again you have delivered!

Quill says: The Liar has come along just in time. It’s a must have, great read for that summer vacation this year!

Book Review - By Trolley Past Thimbledon Bridge

By Trolley Past Thimbledon Bridge

By: Ashley Bryan
Illustrated by: Marvin Bileck
Publisher: Alazar Press
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9793000-4-2
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: March 12, 2015

Ashley Bryan and Marvin Bileck team up and deliver a fanciful rendition of the experience of riding By Trolley Past Thimbledon Bridge; a story originally born from the Virginia Woolfe Estate.

Thimbledon Bridge is not a place, it is a fantastical destination. It is where seeds can be cultivated by parents of all walks of life and if properly planted, the glory is to watch the magic unfold through the expression of the enraptured and curious child. There is a story behind this story that is quite interesting. Before diving into the adventure, the book opens with just that: “The Story Behind the Story.” It would seem this has been in the making for many decades. Since the 1970’s, M. Bryan has made a multitude of efforts to present By Trolley Past Thimbledon Bridge to a vast audience.

The journey begins with a suggestion to consider what is real and what is not through several stanzas of whimsical poetry. The story’s adventure is supported by taking the reader through a series of events and terrain to ultimately arrive at Thimbledon Bridge. The premise is perfect and can appeal to the willing wee one anxious to consume a story before drifting away to his or her slumber land for another night’s rest.

Here is where this book falls short for me...

While it is truly one of the most beautifully illustrated books I have seen in many years, the layout/format is cluttered. Speaking from my own experience, my husband and I spent countless months and years with both of our daughters night after night exposing them to some of the iconic and classic children’s stories—the likes of the team of Van Allsberg and Helprin as well as the beloved Hans Christian Andersen, to name a few. In all aspects, their books were superbly laid out and beautifully written in that the illustrations were supported and complemented with the assistance of the footnote on each page of the words. They are easy to ready, but it is clear the focus was on the art to capture and engage the young reader to listen to the clearly written words at the bottom of each page in order to learn the magic of escape. Reading is a learned behavior and if we are to continue to transcend the importance of a love for reading with our children, it all begins with beautifully illustrated stories that have a balance of words that support the artwork in a format that is age old and works. This book has both facets of captivating artwork and engaging story, but has missed the mark in how it is laid out. The entire story is displayed in poetic stanza format in the first couple of pages. The illustrations are not too many or too few to complement the story; but thereafter, there are a series of pages that follow with an overabundance of artistry that is compromised but the wispy words floating above the overly-illustrated pages. I do agree with the accolades this story has received in that both artistry and words were destined to come together. Sadly, the way the book is currently laid out takes away from its beauty because of the clutter. I dare say the format this book is currently in will be quite frustrating for a parent to read to his or her child in a manner that will maintain attention throughout. I would encourage the team to consider this before releasing final copy to the public.

Quill says: Minus the cluttered design, By Trolley Past Thimbledon Bridge is a contender for a ‘Children’s Classic Bedtime Story.’

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How To Price An Ebook

Amazon Vs. Kobo: Which Is Better For Price And Value?
By Kim Staflund
Last year, a major milestone was reached in the ebook industry: self-published authors began taking home the bulk of all author earnings generated on, eclipsing those represented by major traditional publishers. 

There has never been more opportunity in human history to publish a book. However, many questions linger for how to maximize a book project. What’s an appropriate price point for an ebook? 

Many authors incorrectly assume that consumers make ebook buying decisions according to different criteria than their paperback buying decisions—that it’s based solely on price ahead of value because of the format of the book. They mistakenly suppose that the ebook version of a book should be priced cheaper than the paperback version because of its reduced production costs (i.e., no printing involved). This is a flawed premise because buyers have various motives and reasons for buying ebooks.

Some customers buy ebooks based on price:
•  They prefer downloading ebooks to their laptop, desktop computer, or ebook reader that they received as a gift, because ebooks are cheaper to buy than paperbacks or hardcover books.
Some customers buy ebooks based on value:
•  They bought an ebook reader for all their ebooks for the convenience of having them all in one place (i.e., so they don’t have to cart around lots of heavy books with them).
•  They see significant value in the content of the book (i.e., it contains priceless information and instructions that can help them to earn more money or to better themselves and their lives in some measurable way).
•  Going paperless to help save trees is more important to them than saving money.
•  They want to have the latest technology in their hands before anyone else has it. (These people will almost always pay more to stay one step ahead of other people.)
Additional factors for judging an ebook’s optimal price are content and consistency. Readers buy books for content, not paper. An ebook’s content could change a reader’s life, but if no one knows about the content, then it won’t do anyone any good. That’s why authors need to be proactive with a marketing campaign. A key to a successful campaign is consistency of messaging, which is just another reason why authors should consider pricing their ebook the same as a paperback copy.   

Kindle is Best for Price-Based Ebook Marketing

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform allows publishers and “indie” or self-published authors to upload interior book files specially formatted for their e-readers; and it has a generic, front-cover-generator option available in cases where the client hasn’t already had one designed. This is a prime example of the vanity book publishing model in that vanity publishers promote themselves as the fast, cheap and easy self-serve way to “publish” (or, more accurately … format) a book without any mandatory professional editing, design, proofreading, et cetera, involved whatsoever.

Like many other vanity publishers, Amazon’s Kindle does its best to maintain control and ownership over the files uploaded to its site by enticing authors into an exclusivity contract via its KDP Select program. In addition, Amazon strongly encourages authors to price their Kindle ebooks at $9.99 or lower by providing greater incentives (higher royalties) on the lower-priced books; and they will only allow authors to connect their POD paperback books with their Kindle ebooks online via their “Kindle MatchBook” option so long as that ebook is reduced to as low as $2.99 per copy.

Recently, French publisher Hachette was victorious in negotiating a deal. Now, Amazon cannot force authors to price their books on their ecommerce site at $9.99 or less. Amazon, however, continues to strongly advocate for such pricing, arguing that low costs are good for all parties and citing the pre-World War II invention of the paperback, which made books accessible to more people. Opponents to the price ceiling say Amazon’s stance is arbitrary.

It will likely take an author forever to make back the money it cost to properly publish a book if the retail price is set at $2.99 per copy. Additionally, such a low price truly devalues content.
Kindle’s KDP platform not only prices ebooks very low, but it also allows authors the choice of offering their books free of charge for two to five days out of every 90-day period to try to bolster new readership. In other words, interested readers can simply wait it out and get a book for free. For many, a rhetorical adage may come to mind: Why bother buying the cow when you can have the milk for free? A much more effective way to entice new readers into buying a book is with a “Sneak a Peak” option that allows them to look inside a book to read only a small portion of the content for free, instead.

Kobo is Best for Value-Based Ebook Marketing

Luckily, many other ebook retailers out there will happily sell various ebook formats for their clients worldwide without exclusivity contracts, while also letting those publishers (self-publishers) determine their own recommended retail prices. Kobo is one of these retailers. When authors upload files to Kobo Books, they can set their own prices from the start. However, Kobo can put the book on sale if they choose to as it is with all retailers across the board. 

This is the traditional relationship of all manufacturers and their retailers. The manufacturer (self-publisher) knows its own production costs and, therefore, sets its own recommended retail price based on those costs. The retailer, in turn, lists the item at that suggested price and may or may not provide discounts based on their own projected profit margins. Obviously, a book that is professionally published by including professional editing, graphic design, and proofreading into the process has a higher production cost (and higher quality) which commands a higher price.

Many Kindle authors mistakenly believe that their books need to be priced low or given away for free in order to become a bestseller, but that’s inaccurate.

The digital POD paperback version of my book, How to Publish a Book in Canada . . . and Sell Enough Copies to Make a Profit!, became an bestseller only a short month and a half after it was first published, as did my next book titled How to Publish a Bestselling Book ... and Sell It Worldwide Based on Value, Not Price!. The recommended retail price for both of these books is $19.99 USD. They reached bestseller status because of their quality content combined with using various online and traditional marketing techniques—not because of low pricing. 

Amazon or Kobo?

Authors need to determine whether they offer the best value or the best price. They need to decide who they are early on—what the core intention of their book truly is—and then be true to that vision through and through. Authors should understand their target market—their customers’ preference—before designing a sales and marketing strategy, and then make sure that the strategy is consistent with their preference in every single way, including the retail price they’ve set for every format of their book. By taking these steps, authors will sell far more books over the long run.
About Kim Staflund

As the founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG),, Kim Staflund works with businesses and individuals around the world to produce professional quality audiobooks, ebooks, paperbacks and hardcovers using a supported self-publishing business model. As a bestselling author and sales coach, she shows authors how to sell their books using all the effective traditional and online tricks of the trade. Staflund has a substantial sales and sales management history combined with over 20 years of book publishing experience within the traditional and new publishing markets.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Book Review - Clawed: A Gin & Tonic Mystery

Clawed: A Gin & Tonic Mystery

By: L. A. Kornestsky
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4767-5008-8
Reviewed By: Kristi Benedict
Review Date: March 10, 2015

After reading my first Gin & Tonic mystery called Doghouse, I became a quick fan and immediately was excited to read the next book in this fun series from author L.A. Kornetsky titled Clawed. One of the best attributes of these books is the amazing way Kornetsky brings to life the thoughts of the two main animal characters, Penny and Georgie, which absolutely makes me laugh out loud every time.

In this story, with word spreading about Ginny’s event planning skills, she is excited when she receives a call from her first out of town client who is requesting her services. Since this client is from Portland, Ginny decides it will be easiest to just drive down and spend some time there. In addition, the trip will allow her to bring Georgie, her lovable Shar-Pei. Wanting to make a great first impression Ginny dresses in her most professional clothes and arrives at the designated address of the client a little early. Ginny knocks on the door but there is no answer. After a few minutes of complete silence from the house Ginny’s curiosity gets the better of her and she tries to open the door which to her surprise easily swings in. After a quick look around Ginny comes to the conclusion that her client must not be home and decides that it would be best to leave the premises before she gets accused of breaking and entering. Unfortunately, as she turns to leave she discovers a body shoved under the dining room table and it appears that this was no accident; the man under that table has been murdered.

Meanwhile, back in Seattle Tonica and Penny are stuck at Mary’s tending the bar and worrying each day about what Ginny and Georgie are getting themselves into. After hearing about Ginny’s discovery of a murdered man, Tonica cannot help but think that he needs to be there to help her investigate this. However, his duty is to stay at Mary’s and see that everything runs smoothly even though his mind is not really on his job. As soon as he realizes that Ginny could potentially be in danger, his responsibilities are pushed to the back of his mind and he travels to Portland as quickly as possible.

This next installment in the Gin & Tonic mystery series did not disappoint at all and I absolutely loved it. The fun and intriguing dialogue between Georgie and Penny is quite amazing and I find myself smiling and laughing out loud at some of their humorous conversations as they are trying to help solve a mystery. The relationship between Penny and Georgie is a great addition to the equally intriguing relationship between Tonica and Ginny who constantly push each other to their limits. To be honest this series helped me to become quite a fan of mysteries and I’ve never looked back. Whenever the next book comes out I will be sure to look for it with great anticipation.

Quill says: An unbelievably fun and intriguing mystery with a great set of characters!

Books In For Review

Check out the books that have just arrived for review!

Living Through the Pain: The Lonely Me by Cathy Kurtz Imagine waking up to your worst nightmare. In 1976, Cathy Kurtz, at the tender age of sixteen, lost her father, mother, oldest brother, and sister-in-law in a private plane crash. In 1989 she lost her surviving brother to AIDS. As a single mother, Cathy struggled to take care of her son while still being haunted by the tragedies of losing her family. Suffering gave Cathy a unique awareness of the pain an individual can live through and still be able to propel their life forward in a productive manner. A Christian upbringing was her only outlet to find peace, and the ability to live through the pain. Cathy considers her deep understanding of surviving tragedies, and using her pain to enrich her life, as a calling from God to serve others and assist them in finding the courage to move forward. Any young woman who has experienced a tragedy or who has ever been abused and tossed aside as trash will relate to Cathy's journey. Cathy reveals that if she can live through the pain, anyone can be a survivor and have a successful, rich, and blessed life.  

Oh! You Pretty Things by Shanna Mahin Jess Dunne is third-generation Hollywood, but her star on the boulevard has yet to materialize. Sure, she’s got a Santa Monica address and a working actress roommate, but with her nowhere barista job in a town that acknowledges zeroes only as a dress size, she’s a dead girl walking. Enter Jess’s mother—a failed actress who puts the strange in estrangement. She dives headlong into her daughter’s downward spiral, forcing Jess to muster all her spite and self-preservation to snag a career upgrade. As a personal assistant for a famous (and secretly agoraphobic) film composer, Jess’s workdays are now filled with shopping for luxury goods and cooking in his perfectly designed kitchen. Jess kills at cooking, a talent that only serves her intensifying urge to dig in to Los Angeles’s celebrity buffet. When her food garners the attention of an actress on the rise, well, she’s all too willing to throw it in with the composer and upgrade again, a decision that will have far-reaching ramifications that could explode all her relationships. All the while, her mother looms ever closer, forcing Jess to confront the traumatic secrets she’s been running from all her life.  

Dragon Guardian: Fire (Volume 1) by Aida Jacob Primordya was once a world of peace where man, dwarf and elf lived in harmony while aligning themselves against their common enemy--the dark elves. But such a balance could not last forever. Having enslaved the dwarves, the dark elves--led by their queen, Nahga--have now turned their ambitious gaze to the surface world. The realm of man was the first to fall, and the realm of the elves hangs on by a mere thread. Unwillingly thrust into a war that was centuries in the making, Princess Marin Draconya must brave her way through the wilds after her parents and sister are viciously murdered by Nahga. Taken under the wing of the powerful mage, Nicodemus, Marin learns not only to master the raw magic coursing through her veins, but also of her true destiny as a Dragon Guardian--a rare and powerful mage with the ability to command all dragons. In order to achieve this destiny, Marin must journey to the shrines of the four Elemental Dragons and prove to them that she is indeed worthy of her birthright. Only then will she be able to unite the people of Primordya under a unified banner and defeat Nahga and her massive army.  

The Good, the Bad and the Furry by Tom Cox  

TIME-LIFE Mysteries of the Criminal Mind: The Secrets Behind the World's Most Notorious Crimes Is it nature or nurture that shapes a serial killer? What drives a person to become a kidnapper or a terrorist? And can such behaviors be predicted--or even stopped before they occur? As advances in science unlock the secrets of our DNA and reveal the inner workings of the human brain, Time-Life Books explores the fascinating findings that are shedding new light on the criminal mind. What role does birth order, divorce, media influence, and other societal pressures play in how criminals are formed? By examining some of the most notorious criminals from history and our modern era--from Al Capone and Charles Manson to Scott Peterson and Dzohkhar Tsarnaev--and their characteristics, the nature of their deeds and the possible formation of their pathologies. Readers will explore the roots of crime, going on the streets to meet the authorities who deal with criminals on a daily basis and have developed unique insights into the criminal mentality.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Interview with Author Henry Mosquera

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Henry Mosquera, author of Status Quo.

FQ: I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions with the plot of this story. Without presenting too much of a spoiler, could you share some of your personal writing experiences before your work clearly began to gain traction (i.e., what, if any deals did you make with the “writing devil” in your journey before publishing what you wanted to publish)?

MOSQUERA: I’m glad to hear that. Humor is a big part of life and I like using it in my writing. And no, no spoilers. I hate ruining the journey for my readers. I’m an indie author, so I’m the only devil with whom I make deals. I don’t think my writing would appeal to traditional publishers because it doesn’t fit neatly into a pre-determined box. So I don’t waste my time going after the “great book deal” anymore. I write because I love creating and enjoy telling stories. If the industry—for whatever reason—ever sees dollar signs attached to me they’ll come running. So, I write what I feel like. I guess it’s a way for me to try to make sense of life, humanity, the world, and everything else.

With that said, a lot of my experiences as a writer and designer ended-up in Status Quo. From conversations with clients, to people I worked with; even to getting a paranormal comic book turned down by a publisher of supernatural stories because it didn’t fit the publisher’s profile.

FQ: I have to say (as I did in my review), you have a very similar style to the great, departed Gabriel Marquez. Has anyone ever eluded this to you and what is your response to such a comparison?

MOSQUERA: No, never. And my response was to turn all shades of red. That’s an incredibly flattering comparison. The kind that fills you with pride and happiness, but at the same time, makes you very uncomfortable. People have compared my writing to other established authors, but never to a Nobel laureate. I guess the use of humor, not getting fixed in a particular style with every book, and coercing my readers to become co-storytellers is something that we have in common. But that’s as a far as I feel comfortable drawing any comparisons between us.

FQ: I spent a portion of my life living in South Florida. It has become such a multi-faceted, international playground. What are some of your favorite ‘haunts’ in Miami and did any of your experiences provide inspiration for the writing of Status Quo? If so, could you site a few and why them?

MOSQUERA: I used to frequent this sushi restaurant in Coral Gables, Sushi Chef that was the kind of place Japanese patrons would go to (not the hipster sushi enthusiast crowd). I once even bumped into my old Karate sensei from Venezuela after so many years, which was a great treat for me. He still remembered me. I used to go there a lot and got to know Chef Aenomoto, the owner. Whenever my father was in town we would go to Casa Juancho in Little Havana for Spanish food (we still go there if we find ourselves in Miami), or Hereford Grill in LeJeune Blvd. for some great Venezuelan steak cuts. There’s also an amazing Venezuelan-style bakery in North Miami Beach, Moises Bakery of Miami. Thank God it was too far away for me to be a regular. Otherwise I’d be 300 pounds of blissful happiness. I frequented this Venezuelan arepas place with my brother after hours in Miami Beach, but I think it is no longer there. And of course, Versailles in Calle Ocho for Cuban food. I also used to love roller-skating to Coconut Grove and pass by the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens and Kennedy Park. This is beginning to sound like a Yelp review.

Some of those places (and others I didn’t mention) made their way into my first novel, Sleeper’s Run. Part of the story takes place in Miami. Status Quo takes place mainly in a non-descript American city, so there was no Miami influence in it that I can think of.

FQ: What a coincidence Lemat’s character is a Graphic Designer. Did you also work as a Graphic Designer at some point and was it a positive experience?

MOSQUERA: I’m a graphic designer by trade. That has been my day job since I graduated college. I sort of have this love/hate relationship with the profession. I fell in love with it when I was a teenager. I used to cut class and make my way to a shopping mall where they had this amazing bookstore that sold books in English. I’d go there and browse all of these cool, hardcover books dealing with graphic design. I was particularly taken by the use of the airbrush. Then, when I finally made my way to college, I got caught in the transitional period between the old school graphic design with brushes, water colors, oils, etc. and the introduction of the computer as the main designing tool. I felt cheated. I wanted to be an artist like the ones that had inspired me. Instead, I ended up in a yet-to-be-defined art program that was leaving the old, but not too sure on how to embrace the new, surrounded by a bunch of people that would struggle in a basic drawing class. As time went by, it was more computers and less everything else. I wanted to be a print designer, but the web became more prevalent. Now we’re talking coding and things with which I have no clue or interest for that matter. It’s like signing on to be an astronaut and ending up becoming a miner. You stand there looking around thinking, “How the hell did I get here?”

My experiences in the profession have varied. My best gig was working as a digital painter for Disney. That came closer to what I always wanted to do. The rest is essentially a service occupation. You work to bring your client’s vision to fruition. The problem is most clients have no clue about what they want, or they want the wrong thing for the image of their business, or they believe because they can copy and paste that they are designers themselves. People think you get to do all of this crazy, creative stuff all day long but that cannot be farther from the truth. I guess, in the end, it’s no different than any other job.

FQ: Knowing what you know now about the journey toward publication, what words of wisdom would you share with a first-time author with a burning passion to publish?

MOSQUERA: I’m not a fan of giving out advice. Each one of us should find our own individual path. No two people will have the same exact experience. But I can offer a few reality checks.
Being turned down by an agent means absolutely nothing. Rejection has nothing to do with your talent. People get published (or represented) for all kinds of reasons: whatever is hot at the time, fitting a publisher’s profile, how commercial your work is, and so on. I know this woman who used to be an editor for one of the big houses and she quit after they refused to publish an author for being too good at his craft; beautiful writing, but not commercial enough. We tend to forget that publishing is a business.

If you’re looking to make money, go somewhere else. Making a living in the arts is as certain as winning the lottery.

Getting attention for your work is tough. That’s the hardest thing you’ll face as an author, independent or otherwise. Marketing is 90% of the work. Writing is easy. Selling is a whole different beast.

Getting bad reviews from readers and critics is part of the job. It doesn’t matter how many people rave about your work, or how many awards you receive, sooner or latter someone is going to take your novel to the wood chipper. It sucks and it will always sting, but don’t get hung up on them. Art is subjective; where someone sees genius, another sees garbage. It’s just human nature. Move on.
Write because you love to do so. Do it for yourself. Be professional and take it seriously (no one else will). There’s no such thing as a wannabe writer. You either write or you don’t. Drive and discipline are your greatest weapons.

Work on your craft. The myth some people like to believe that you can produce a perfect novel—whatever that means—on the first draft, is right up there with dragons and unicorns. Writing is a lot of work. If you truly love it, you won’t mind.

Find an editor and listen to him/her. That doesn’t mean to follow them blindly. But you’ll have to learn the delicate balance between checking your ego at the door and being true to your vision. You’re too close to your work and you’ll lose perspective. You should always do what’s right for the story, not what makes you be in the right.

I know none of these are sexy, but I have found them incredibly useful so far.

FQ: Do you visit your native country often? What is one of your fondest memories of growing up in Caracas?

MOSQUERA: No, I haven’t visited Venezuela in almost twenty years. Things have changed too much for the worse. It’s a very different country from the one I grew up in. So much so, I feel completely alienated from it. Virtually everyone I know has moved away and my family went back to Spain. Maybe one day things will get better so I can take my wife and show here where I’m from. That aside, there’s no other reason for me to visit.

My fondest memory? Wow, there are so many. I used to cruise around the city at night with a friend of mine. We called it “patrolling.” As dangerous as it was (the fearlessness of youth), it was so calm and beautiful at night driving through the hills, the streets, and freeways with no traffic. We would just drive aimlessly, shooting the breeze, listening to music, and making random house calls to whatever friend lived close by at the time. Inevitably we would end up on a street where food trucks would gather to have a late night snack. It’s such an asinine, trivial thing, but the memory always brings a smile to my face. The kind of slacker’s delight you only get to experience when you’re a kid.

FQ: What made you select the premise of the plot you chose to write about in Status Quo?

MOSQUERA: I always wanted to write an offbeat story, filled with quirky, symbolic characters. I first conceived Status Quo as a comic book I tried to get published many years ago, along with other stories. It didn’t generate any interest from the industry, but I knew I had a very special concept there. Later on, when I decided to become a novelist, I used it as the framework to channel my own experiences in the creative world into a sort of cathartic story. I was tinkering with it in my head when I went to see Roger Water’s perform The Wall. I was blown away! I think the concept of telling a personal story in such a creative way fuelled my need to put pen to paper, so to speak. I shelved the novel I was working on and jumped right into writing Status Quo.

FQ: I was captivated by your character Ink. She’s free-spirited, independent; yet there is a sublime vulnerability to her. Any insights into how you developed her? Someone you know/knew? Purely fictitious?

MOSQUERA: Oh, I love her! In everything I’ve ever written there’s always a character that comes to me fully formed. In Status Quo it was Ink. She’s purely fictitious. Ink was just there inside my mind waiting to jump out. What she represents in the story and what her relationship to Lemat means formed her (just like the rest of the characters). I’m leaving it to the reader to make up their mind about her. She’s one of those characters that speaks volumes in between the lines.

FQ: Lemat seems a tortured soul at times and others, an affable and likable guy. How much of Lemat was born out of Henry Mosquera?

MOSQUERA: A lot. Status Quo is not autobiographical, but it’s heavily nurtured by my life. That made it hard to write sometimes, because it made me feel very exposed. Some people want specifics, but I’d rather leave that unsaid. Separating the truth blended with the fiction would only bring the attention to me, not the story.

FQ: When you are in the throes of your writing project, when do you sense you’ve hit ‘pay dirt’ and does this notion become the fuel for your fire? Do you outline your project? Stream of consciousness writing? Do you dream about your characters?

MOSQUERA: It starts out with a concept. It’s always something I want to talk about or explore, like geopolitical relations with Latin America, or an examination of being creative. Then I need to find who’s going to be the protagonist, who’s going to guide us through the story? Pretty soon that core idea spawns numerous themes that I’ll touch on in the story. Some are obvious, others more implicit. That dictates the kind of book I’ll write. Then it’s all about giving a physical form to those concepts, characters become archetypes, relationships complement or contrast those ideas, and symbols begin to appear. This is all done in my head, so I spend a lot of time living with my stories and characters before I write the first word.

Status Quo was hard because I was trying to give form to very abstract concepts. How do you represent frustration, creativity, purity, etc. in a cohesive, linear narrative? How do you breathe three-dimensional life to those notions? It was a challenge, but once I worked it out, it was fantastic.
I hit pay dirt when I manage to marry the concept with a genre and a protagonist. That’s when I get excited. The mechanics change depending on the book. Something like Sleeper’s Run or the novel I’m currently working on requires a lot of research prior to writing. I’d do a loose chapter breakdown or a character timeline (notable events from birth to present time), but my preparation is largely in my head. Once I feel the story is mature enough, I start working. The only thing I worry about in my first drafts is to finish the story; get to the end. Then I can relax and focus on polishing it. There are many things that worked great in my head, but not so much on paper. Having the story out of my mind and on the page gives me perspective. A lot of writers dislike re-writes; I’m not one of them. To me the process is akin to being a sculptor, the more I chip away and polish my work, the better the results.
I’ve never dreamt of my characters. That’s an interesting question. I do use my sleep as a tool though. When I’m writing and I hit a problem, I’d go to bed thinking about it knowing full well that the solution will be there as soon as I wake up. Don’t know why, but it rarely fails.

FQ: What’s next on your radar? Is it possible for you to share? If you are working on your next project, when can we expect to see it on the stands?

MOSQUERA: I’m in the process of editing my next book; the one I shelved for Status Quo. It’s a sci-fi story based in the near future in the same vein as authors like Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, George Orwell, and Robert A. Heinlein. It’s the longest project I’ve ever worked on. I started out in 2011 after publishing Sleeper’s Run, and I hope to publish it by the end of the year (fingers crossed).

FQ: Thank you for such an exceptional read Mr. Mosquera. I am a fan and look forward to your next book.

MOSQUERA: My pleasure. I’m glad you enjoyed your journey through Status Quo, and I hope to keep submerging readers in my stories in the future.

To learn more about Status Quo please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.