Tuesday, October 31, 2017

BookReview - The Last Suttee @Madhu_Wangu

The Last Suttee

By: Madhu Bazaz Wangu
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: August 2017
ISBN: 978-1974362462
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: October 31, 2017

In the city of Ambayu, a progressive urban area in India, Kumud Kuthiyala is the educated and strong-willed director of the girls’ home, Save Girls Souls Orphanage. Despite her tumultuous past, Kumud is dedicated to not only caring for the orphans, but also to protect them from, and educate them about, the customs that persecute females and treat them as property of their husbands.

As a young girl, Kumud was left traumatized by her aunt’s death in a horrifying suttee, an ancient funeral ritual where a widow, supposedly willingly, sits on the funeral pyre of her recently deceased husband and burns herself alive. This outlawed practice still remains in poor, remote villages due to the elders’ and villagers’ strong beliefs that a woman dying with her husband will not only grant eternal life together for them in heaven, but the act will bring about a goddess-like status for the widow, and her family will be showered with blessings for seven generations. Kumud can’t rid herself of the harrowing image of her lovely aunt burning alive, an emotionally painful burden that she has carried since the event. As time passes, Kumud becomes a woman, marries, and is forced to flee her hometown, in hopes of restarting a new life away from its suffocating, atrocious, outdated customs and rituals.

Kumud Kuthiyala carefully reconstructed her life in her new town through years of education and dedication in her beliefs that females should be educated and treated well alongside their male counterparts. Together with the assistance of Shekhar Roy, the orphanage's doctor, Kumud diligently cares for her charges and dreams of a better world for them.

One day Kumud receives a distressed phone call from a local resident in her childhood town, imploring her to return to her hometown immediately because a young woman has declared her intentions of committing suttee upon the death of her gravely ill husband. Kumud is understandably shocked by the call, and is compelled to immediately leave Ambayu and travel back to the hometown she fled years ago in desperate hope that she can put a stop to the brutal custom. Once there, Kumud faces quite an uphill battle attempting to convince not only the townspeople and elders that this ritual must be stopped, but the soon to be widow who is pious and steadfast in her belief she must commit suttee.

Author Madhu Bazaz Wangu diligently researched, and expertly crafted, The Last Suttee, a story that is fictional but exposes readers to a real-life, antiquated Indian culture and the savage funeral ritual of suttee. Readers will first be thoroughly educated on the history of suttee, and then feel transported directly into the Indian towns as they visually feast on vivid descriptions of beautiful scenery following along with the main character’s journey from a traumatic childhood event to her present-day quest to change the treatment of all girls and women. At the core of this gripping read is the continued need for education and equality for females everywhere. Even in societies that appear modern and progressive, deep-seated beliefs and traditions continue to disempower women thus allowing rituals like suttee to still have a small place in some cultures. As the author wrote, “education is the flame that can enlighten a whole town if its inhabitants allow it,” and it is with this power that Kumud attempts to change the current beliefs of the townspeople, and that of the soon-to-be widow. The Last Suttee is a thought-provoking story that is both inspirational and thrilling for readers as they follow along the path of the strong characters in hopes of a positive outcome.

Quill says: The Last Suttee is a powerfully moving story and look into a mostly unknown culture and funeral ritual that sadly still periodically occurs in some cultures.

For more information on The Last Suttee, please visit the author's website at: www.madhubazazwangu.com

#BookReview - Cao Chong Weighs an Elephant

Cao Chong Weighs an Elephant

By: Songju Ma Daemicke
Illustrated by: Christina Wald
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: September 2017
ISBN: 978-1628559040
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 24, 2017

What do you get when you take a charming tale about a little boy and a cute elephant and add a little science into the mix? You get Cao Chong Weighs an Elephant, a delightful story that young readers will love.

Cao Chong was a young boy who lived in China almost two thousand years ago. His father, Cao Cao, was the Prime Minister of the Han dynasty. The story tells of the day that the ambassador of the Wu Kingdom brings an elephant to the prime minister as a birthday present. Cao Chong is very excited, as is everybody else, because he has never seen an elephant. In his glee, Cao Chong runs right up to the elephant and gives him a big hug. As the boy happily feeds the animal nuts, spectators begin to guess the weight of the huge mammal. When people start betting the weight of the elephant against various valuable items, the crowd gets very excited. But when somebody suggests cutting the elephant into smaller pieces to weigh him, Cao Chong knows he better think up a solution fast!

Author Songju Ma Daemicke has written a delightful story based on a tale her grandfather told her. That tale was based on the true story of Cao Chong (196-208), a child prodigy who used the principle of buoyancy to learn the weight of an elephant. Children will love reading about a young boy who "out thought" all the adults around him, and came up with a brilliant solution to weighing the elephant. Artist Christina Wald has added her own bright interpretation of the story to bring this tale to life. At the back of the book are several pages of additional learning, with information on buoyancy, using scales, facts about Cao Chong and a "Then and Now" look at the geography of China.

Quill says: A little history, a little science, and a wonderful story combine to make Cao Chong Weighs an Elephant a story that you will want to read to your youngsters.

#BookReview - Night Creepers

Night Creepers

By: Linda Stanek
Illustrated by: Shennen Bersani
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: September 2017
ISBN: 978-1607183235
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 2017

The sun has gone to bed and it's now time for little ones to sleep too. But many animals, rather than going to bed, wake up and start their "day." In Night Creepers, readers will learn about many of these animals.

Written in short, rhyming sentences, Night Creepers introduces youngsters to the world of nocturnal animals. With wolves, opossums, skunks, and fireflies among the creatures featured, readers will get a broad sampling of nightlife. Every two-page spread has just one type of animal with a short (two or three words) sentence that simply explains its behavior. For example, the first four page spreads feature, in this order, red foxes, gray wolves, bats, and flying squirrels, and here is the text that accompanies those pages:

Waking up.
Noisy pup.
Flutter high.
Gliding by.

For older readers, there is a sidebar on each two-page spread with further information (two to three short paragraphs) on that animal. Award-winning illustrator Shennen Bersani has created some truly beautiful illustrations to bring the night animals to life. At the back of the book are several pages "For Creative Minds" - activities and information for further study. This additional information makes Night Creepers an excellent book for school projects on animal behavior. As well, it is also a lovely bedtime story with its short, rhyming text.

Quill says: A nice book to introduce young readers to the world of nocturnal animals.

#BookReview - The Perfect Horse

The Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis

By: Elizabeth Letts
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: May 2017
ISSBN: 978-0345544827
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 2017

Beautiful horses, a devastating war, and a ragtag group of men, from opposing sides of the war, who band together to save those horses form the basis of this fascinating, well-researched book.

The history of the Lipizzaner, and how the beautiful white horses were almost completely destroyed during WWII is known to most horse lovers (and many history buffs too). That history, however, is based more on myth than fact for many whose knowledge of events is taken from such movies as the Disney produced Miracle of the White Stallions. To understand what really happened, author Elizabeth Letts, in her The Perfect Horse, has painstakingly researched the events leading up to the Nazi's seizure of the white stallions, what happened to the animals during the war, and just what really took place in the daring rescue of Vienna's prized Lipizzaners.

Letts begins her book with background on two of the major players in the Lipizzaner story, Alois Podhajsky, the director of the Spanish Riding School, and Gustav Rau, the man in charge of bringing Hitler's eugenics theories to the equine world. These two were meeting, not on the battlefield, but at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The author delves into the history of these two men, as well as other key players, prior to the war. She introduces the reader to the major equine players too, from the beautiful Arabian stallion Witez (not all those horses stolen/rescued were Lipizzaners) to Neapolitano Africa, Podhajsky's personal mount. We also, at a later point in the book, meet the Americans who would risk everything to save Vienna's most cherished possession. What, exactly, in their backgrounds promoted their willingness to save these famous horses?

Not just a book about the rescue of the beloved Lipizzaners, the author had given the reader a complete picture of those years leading up to war. The early chapters of The Perfect Horse follow the effort to move the valuable livestock out of the way of the advancing Nazi troops. This is followed by the failure of that attempt, and the fate of the horses during the war. The reader gets to know Podhajsky, and what he had to do to protect his horses throughout the long years of the war. The late night train rides amid bombing raids to save the horses come to life with Letts' pen. By the time the daring rescue is being planned, the reader knows well all the players that made it happen, from General Patton to Colonel Hank Reed, the commanding officer of the 2nd Cavalry, the unit that saved the horses.

Author Elizabeth Letts has done an amazing job of researching a well-known but not necessarily well-understood rescue that took place during WWII. The people, the horses, and the places all come to life within the pages of The Perfect Horse. Not weighted down with heavy use of dates and dry material as so many history books are, the author has made extensive use of unpublished first-hand accounts provided by descendants of those involved. Lett's recalls, in her "notes about sources," the son of a soldier killed during the war, "I hope you can bring him alive again." Indeed, she did. Kudos to Ms. Letts for writing a fabulous account of the brave rescue of thse beloved horses.

Quill says: The Perfect Horse is a fantastic book for both horse and history buffs - an in-depth look at the real story behind the rescue of Vienna's Lipizzaner stallions.

#BookReview - Animal Tails

Animal Tails

By: Mary Holland
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: September 2017
ISBN: 978-1628559774
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 2017

A fox, a beaver, a cute little bird and a tortoise beetle - what do they all have in common? They all have tails! Tails that help them survive and thrive in the world around them. In Animal Tails, author Mary Holland takes a fun look at all the different tails in the animal world.

The fourth book in author Holland's series on different animal body parts (see Animal Eyes, Animal Mouths and Animal Legs), this book takes a look at all the cool things that animal tails can do. The author begins by explaining the various things animals use their tails for - moving, to balance, swim, ... - and then goes on to give examples.

Did you know that some animals use their tails to signal to others? They might signal a warning like the white-tailed deer or slap it on the water like a beaver. Some animals use their tails to hold onto things, like the opossum, or use it to help steer in the water. And what about that tortoise beetle? It actually uses its tail to protect itself from predators.

With lots of great pictures, and easy-to-read facts throughout, young readers will be fascinated to read all about various animal tails. This book would also make an excellent resource for youngsters looking for references for school papers. At the back of the book are several pages of additional facts, and a tail matching game.

Quill says: Another excellent book in author Mary Holland's series that looks at various animal body parts.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

#AuthorInterview with Kaylin McFarren @4kaylin

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Kaylin McFarren, author of Severed Threads

FQ: This is the first of your ‘Thread Series’ I’ve read and suffice it to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is abundantly clear you enjoyed writing of the adventures of a diver. Do you dive as well?

McFARREN: Actually, I don’t scuba dive, which made writing this story a tremendous challenge. I did a great deal of research, asked divers questions, read scuba books, and just hoped that I got it right.

FQ: In line with question 1, if you are a diver, what is your most memorable moment when exploring the world beneath the surface of the sea. (And if you are not a diver, who and/or what inspired you to write such a detailed and engaging tale)?

McFARREN: I’ve always wanted to dive but have a fear of drowning and being trapped in confined spaces, making this dream virtually impossible for me. And I LOVE treasure hunting movies and action-adventure stories, so bringing my interests together seemed like a nice fit for a different kind of romance story.

FQ: As a writer, I am drawn to my own moments when the pen has taken over and I am merely the conduit to push it along. Did you have moments when this story simply wouldn’t assist you in its telling (and how did you overcome the obstacle(s))?

McFARREN: For the most part, I never had to deal with writer’s block while creating this story…only finding enough time to write with a very busy lifestyle.

FQ: What made you set your sights on selecting the Wanli II as your subject for this sunken treasure adventure? Did you have the luxury of connecting with any of the real persons involved in its discovery?

McFARREN: I wanted to find a real treasure ship in southeast Asia that was discovered but never elaborated on and came across the mention of this ship while doing research on the subject. From the description I read, it was the most complete and intact ancient ship unearthed.

FQ: I am a huge fan of the discovery of sunken treasure (and the complexities attached to their discovery). It reminds me of Mel Fisher’s discovery of the Antocha off the Florida Keys in the 1980’s. Did you research several discoveries to weave the Severed Threads tale (or focus primarily on the Wanli II history)?

McFARREN: I spent 3 months reading about trade routes and treasure hunting accounts at several libraries, and the more I read, the more I enjoyed the adventures that various expeditions have undertaken. This can be a very expensive career choice in regard to equipment, grants, fuel, and staffing. But as you might imagine, every diver longs for finding the ultimate treasure, which makes a discovery incredibly significant.

FQ: In line with question 5, how long did it take you to write and subsequently publish this story? What was the greatest challenge for you in getting it from manuscript to book for sale? Any lessons learned you’d care to share?

McFARREN: From story idea, to written summary, to research, to actual writing and publication, it took one year to complete Severed Threads. My greatest challenge was in creating an accurate fictional account and flawed, multi-dimensional characters readers would relate to and enjoy. What I learned from the experience is to write what you’re passionate about. Because if you’re aren’t, your story will be never be finished, and if you are, readers will recognize your enthusiasm.

FQ: Whenever I am asked the question: “Who is your favorite author and why”? I struggle to name one. However, I am drawn to both Ernest Hemmingway and Pat Conroy. While their catalogues are quite different, the phenomenal gift they both embodied was their innate and natural ability for storytelling. Who is (or are) your favorites and why?

McFARREN: I have a number of authors I follow and enjoy reading books from, including: Jodi Picoult - controversial subject matter, Lisa Jackson - twisted, murder mysteries with interesting heroes, Clive Custer - true to life adventures, Penelope Ward - sexy, page-turning drama.

FQ: When does a writer know he or she is a writer? When did your ‘aha moment’ surface and how do you nurture your craft?

McFARREN: I guess I realized I was a true writer when I became a published author, won awards, and actually sold a fair amount of books. When I started to receive letters from folks who liked to read what I’d written, I came to believe that my stories actually matter and that I never want to stop writing. In regard to your second question, the key to improving your craft is to write like there’s no tomorrow and to read with the same commitment.

FQ: Thank you for your time today. It was a treat and pleasure to read Severed Threads. I’m hoping you are working on your next and if so, are you able to share some nuggets?

McFARREN: I just finished my last installment in the Threads series - Twisted Threads, and truly believe readers will enjoy this sexy, fast-moving murder mystery that brings together two of my secondary characters from other books in the Threads lineup. I can’t share too much about this book other than to say you’ll never guess who the “watcher” is or the identity of the real murderer on the cruise ship...at least not until the final chapters. Now be sure to watch for the release on Amazon.com on November 20th and let me know what you think. :)

Thanks for the interview! - Kaylin


To learn more about Severed Threads please read the review.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

#BookReview - Severed Threads @4kaylin

Severed Threads

By: Kaylin McFarren
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: July 2012
ISBN: 978-1475186529
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: October 23, 2017

Kaylin McFarren spins a terrific tale of adventure and deceit in volume 1 of her ‘thread series,’ Severed Threads.

Chase Cohen and Sam Lyons plunge from the safety of their dive vessel, Stargazer, into the cold and dark waters of California’s Pacific Ocean. If Chase’s calculations are right, he and Sam are about to resurrect a fortune of a lifetime from the wreck of the Wanli II, the Ming Dynasty emperor’s lost dragon ship. Deflating his buoyancy compensator vest, Chase follows Sam further down the length of Stargazer’s anchor line. Once at the bottom, the men swim beyond their own anchor line on a mission toward the Wanli II where their fortune awaits. The occasional fish and an eel or two doesn’t deter the men from forging forward. The universal diving rule is to never lose sight of your dive buddy. When Chase takes his eye off Sam for what seems mere seconds, Sam is nowhere to be found when he looks forward once again. In a matter of moments, the two men’s destiny would change forever and more importantly, while two men dove into the bowels and depths of the Pacific, only one would return to its surface.

Four years later, Rachel Lyons, the daughter of Sam Lyons, rushes to the museum director’s office. She has a meeting with Dr. Ying to discuss a grant application. However, it’s not some random application. Rather, it’s the application to fund the team of divers who plan to resurrect the fortunes of the Wanli II. The magnitude of the discovery would bring international recognition to the museum, city and community—just what the economically distressed community of San Palo needs. To fortify his argument further, Dr. Ying reminds Rachel of her departed father's passion toward being the one to retrieve the treasure before his untimely death. The mere mention of her father is unsettling. Rachel is immediately distracted from her thoughts when the uninvited interruption of one Chase Cohen bursts into the office. Imagine her horror when she learns the lead diver on the team will be none other than Chase Cohen—the man she believes holds the sole responsibility for her father’s untimely death.

Kaylin McFarren launches a tangible nuance of a quest for treasures and the perils of piracy and of what lies in the depths of the deep, dark sea. Her savvy dive language and nautical knowledge infuses credibility into this wonderfully fast-paced story of mystery and adventure. The action is palpable with many layers ranging from innocents to drug-dealing gangsters who all play a significant role in the mission at hand: find the sunken vessel and its lofty treasure that was lost to the sea centuries ago. McFarren isn’t stingy with her words when it comes to setting the perfect scene that lends way to rich dialogue and edgy banter between characters Rachel Lyon and Chase Cohen. The storyline is captivating in that it doesn’t drag to the point of predictability. Rather, by the end of this delicious body of work, the reader will be left with one last thought: I hope she is working on the next installment of her ‘thread series’! Well done Ms. McFarren!

Quill says: Severed Threads is a great adventure of hidden treasure and the journey toward its discovery.

For more information on Severed Threads, please visit the author's website at: www.kaylinmcfarren.com

#BookReview - Park Street Angels

Park Street Angels: A Chronicle of Hope

By: Christina Nordstrom
Publisher: Xlibris
Publication Date: May 2017
ISBN: 978-1543422320
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: October 20, 2017

Author Christina Nordstrom shares an inspiring story of befriending a homeless man in her debut memoir, Park Street Angels.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for, by doing that, some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

It is Spring 2006. Christina (Chris) Nordstrom notices a homeless man on her way to a new job. Having experienced “half an inkling” of poverty over the course of several months of unemployment, Chris should feel a bit of commonality with him and find it easy to engage in small talk, but she doesn’t. Although his first sign, “SMILE: It’s the Law!” lights up her face, it’s not until she notices the sign next to him, “Homeless by Fire,” that she feels “invested.” She decides that it’s time to get to know the person who she earmarks to be her neighbor.

Visits later, Chris learns that the gentleman’s name is Bob Wright and that he was a copper and slate roofer. His livelihood was consumed by fire. That, together with a significant deficit of social skills – the result of years of abuse and neglect as a child living in and out of the foster care system – and (admittedly) making some bad choices in his life, leaves him to fend for himself for the next twelve years. It is in his thirteenth year that he and Chris meet. At this point in his life, Bob battles with diabetes.

Chris is determined to help Bob one way or another. Fortunately, she is not alone; a small contingent supply his various needs—clothing, food, gift cards, cell phones, and the list goes on. Amid the help, Bob is in need of housing since his landlord has notified the tenants that the building will be demolished. The small contingent work together to find a new dwelling that is safe and secure.
Ironically, Bob doesn’t feel either safe or secure in his new environs. Having lived a life riddled with abuse and bounced around from one foster home to another, Bob has difficulty feeling “at home.” It doesn’t help that his health continues to deteriorate. A recent checkup indicates that his kidneys are shot; the doctor recommends dialysis. A short time later, Chris learns that Bob—at the age of fifty-nine—died in his sleep. While a sobering close to this homeless man’s short existence, Chris has no idea that more of this man’s life will unfold in the years to come.

Nordstrom divides her memoir into two parts. Part one provides a brief history about her unemployment prior to a job that leads her to Bob. Tagging that period as a “patchwork time,” Chris vows that she will never forget the experience, “or about all the people who are still piecing their lives together.” She then delves into the meat of her story, set primarily but not exclusively near her new job and where she meets Bob: the historic Park Street section of Boston.

The bulk of Nordstrom’s narrative is designed as journal entries that chronicle her interactions with Bob. At the same time, Nordstrom weaves in an interesting parallel to homelessness by giving her audience a flavor of what she experienced on the train while en route to the Park Street sector. A daily routine of life on the trains makes for fascinating psychological research. Laced with greed and selfishness, the theatrics Nordstrom describes on one hand are hilarious. On the other hand and in light of the homelessness that surrounds the Park Street stop, the detailed depictions should send a wake-up call to every reader as to the importance and value of life.

That said, everything Nordstrom witnesses—both on the trains and with Bob—she internalizes. These times are times of deep introspection, which comes out in the form of song lyrics and poetry she creates. Obviously, her narrative isn’t all about Bob; it is also the deep effect Bob has on her life.
Part two focuses on the last year or so of Bob’s life, his funeral, memorial, legacy, and a section, including a website, dedicated to the crisis of elder homelessness. She closes with these moving words:

“For the unenlightened who passed him by each work day on the corner of Park and Tremont Streets in Boston, he was invisible; he was just another guy looking for a handout, living among society’s forgotten. But, to those lives he touched with his kindness and hard-earned wisdom, he left an unforgettable legacy, not the least of which included his admonition: ‘SMILE: It’s the Law!”

Quill says: Park Street Angels: A Chronicle of Hope is a must-read for those who desire to address elder homelessness, and are looking for a place to start.

For more information on Park Street Angels: A Chronicle of Hope, please visit the book's website at: www.theparkstreetangels.com

Sunday, October 22, 2017

#AuthorInterview with Louis Maurice Young

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Louis Maurice Young, author of Poetry´s, Lyrical Chronicle and Thoughts and A distancia nao vai conseguir separar voce de mim! (Portuguese Edition) (Portuguese)

FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book.

YOUNG: I was born in São Paulo, Brazil. I had a nice childhood, surrounded by toys and the affection that every child needs. As a teenager I had my fun, but I've always been a fan of the motto, "health and judgment." I've also always liked to write. My writing really began when, in search of something new, I saw the following ad, which was very common back in the 90s:

These are the addresses of your new friends.

If you want to receive one more letter with a new friend's addresses, send a letter to the club's address. All your information is kept in a computer until 31.12.1994, which is why you could receive the letters from other boys and girls. If you don't want to participate in this club, please send this letter back, so that another person can join in and nobody will be disappointed. So get at it and get those postcards moving...thanks...

FQ: Have you always enjoyed writing or is it something you’ve discovered recently?

YOUNG: As children we do play and discover many things. I adored and still adore drawing but writing has always been something that I have also always loved since I was fourteen years old. Friends from abroad joined the in a fun game which was one of the world's biggest eccentricities in the 90's when playing spy was a child's thing. I spied on my friends and they spied on me through the letters that we could write to each other.

FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.

YOUNG: This book speaks about family, love, youth, and all of the virtues and preoccupations that make it part of the vast human universe. The protagonist's feelings about our world and this is described in styles of prose, poetry, chronicle, and lyricism. I speak on the art of writing letters of love and friendship between people of distant and different countries and traditions. Today lost in the time - doesn't make sense in this context.

FQ: What was the impetus for writing your book?

YOUNG: The fact that letter writing was a very common eccentricity in the 90's when the Internet and computers were still little used to make friends or for dating. A time that deserves to be remembered where we eagerly awaited letters and postcards that today are replaced with a computer screen.

FQ: Please give our readers a little insight into your writing process. Do you set aside a certain time each day to write, only write when the desire to write surfaces, or ...?

YOUNG: I start writing when I realize that maybe I have an idea that is worth remembering, especially for the generation that's coming. When this happens I will remind myself of the facts to compose the story and reserve a few hours a day or week. I must also say that when I think of an idea, phrase or fact or I have an idea I write immediately so as not to forget. But I must say that it is not easy on the obligations and pressures of ones everyday family, interruptions among other factors. It's not easy and it takes months to years to complete the idea. From there on to have a book ready, edited, etc., it is another question mainly for beginners.

FQ: What was the hardest part of writing your book? That first chapter, the last paragraph, or ...?

YOUNG: Writing wasn't the worst part. The hardest part was when the lights were off because of rain and other factors. I lost all my work in Word and that time I programed auto recovery then this problem wasn't an issue. Then to include the pictures, but I came to the conclusion that they fit with the time in the document. I have had from the outset written in English language and in this first title in fact the verse is in English and in my language. Finding a publisher is difficult and many refused a complicated work. When dealing with poetry where there is a certain riddle, truths contained and fiction to the same, even if there is an error here and there, the final meaning is understood. In my prose style I have tried not to repeat, taking sentences here and adding others there but nothing is perfect although I have tried to give my best.

FQ: The genre of your book is poetry. Why this genre? Is it your favorite to read? Did you think it would be the most challenging?

YOUNG: The best category for me is poetry. But when you talk about poetry a lot of people associate it with something like this: Let' s get a handkerchief and drown the sorrow. There are many other subject matters to talk about besides love and related topics. I also speak a lot about love, friendship and related facts because there are situations that happen only once in life, are unforgettable and deserve to be remembered. I do also use prose to narrate in a fun way events, points of view among other subjects. So it is better to read and try to discover the truths contained, the author' s viewpoint and the characters involved.

When I write all the genres are my favorites and I write not to myself because this is laborious and without being presumptuous I think it deserves respect and not only and just for the author, otherwise he would put it in a diary and leave it in the drawer saved. Instead, it is for the world to listen and try to understand the meaning. So we want to dare, challenge, make people think and create new expectations and points of view.

FQ: Do you have any plans to try writing a book in a different genre? If so, which genre and why?

YOUNG: I have other poetry manuscripts including one that speaks of Tibetan monks and others that need to be recovered from the computer hard drive. Maybe I will still write in this genre but I think it is a pretty difficult genre.

The book that speaks of Tibetan monks was an e-book from a publisher so that branch that simply closed off its activities and never answered me about whether it is in its archives.
There is also another manuscript that is ready - a fiction story for adults, children, and teenagers. The only issue is that it is in my native language. A version in English is expensive and complicated to provide because it is a work that has to be done with great care to get good.

FQ: If you were to teach a class on the art of writing, what is the one item you would be sure to share with your students and how would you inspire them to get started?

YOUNG: When we deal with the arts and the human condition there is no formula. The art of writing as well as painting for example is where the student should let the imagination run loose.
To create, the student must be free from worry and even if he or she does not follow this area or another related to her creativity, it will help him or her in other sectors of life because without creativity the world becomes dull. It is very important that the teaching of the arts, subjects related to it, and the art of writing in schools continue worldwide at all levels because that creates intelligent citizens. The school has this duty, as do the teachers and within the schools that form the personalities. I would help develop creativity and encourage the use of a little personal experience. How to paint a painting but with pencil, paper and pen. I encourage students to take a look around and describe what he or she is seeing. Things begin this way.
The story is based on a very widespread custom in the 90s where in order to meet people, learn about them and see how it was abroad we needed to write, waiting weeks depending on where your friend lived. We made friends, learned different cultures, languages and even marriages were conceived this way. Today everything is very quick and people forget everything whereas before we always kept the memories.

FQ: Tell us about the protagonist in your story.

YOUNG: The characters were boys and girls filled with dreams, plans and ideas whose goal is to correspond with friends from other countries. Besides learning other languages, exchanging postcards, and getting acquainted personally, they hope to learn something new from each other. You were busy doing something when all of a sudden there was that waiting letter and everything else stops as you wonder: Is she going to visit me here? Or is it time for me to visit her in person? I'm going to get inside that envelope and board! The characters portrayed were typically in the 80s and 90s, very different when compared with today where people are very naive and at the same time very it's a tasty sight today in a world where everything circulates very fast but without the same charisma of that decade. Something worth reading, re-reading and remembering.

For more information on Louis Maurice Young, please visit his Facebook page.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book Review - Missile Toe: A Very Confused Christmas

Missile Toe: A Very Confused Christmas

By: Devin Scillian
Illustrated by: Marty Kelley
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: September 2017
ISBN: 978-1585363711
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 18, 2017

Feeling the stress of the season? Life just a bit too crazy? Kids running around and not listening to you? The perfect solution is to read a book to your little ones that will give everyone lots of laughs and lighten the mood.

Missile Toe turns the Christmas tradition on its...toes...by taking classic carols and reinventing them with new meanings and words. Every child has likely misunderstood various names or meanings to our favorite Christmas tunes and author Devin Scillian has cleverly thought up what these misinterpreted names might be and rewritten the songs to fit the new titles. Take for example, "Angels We Have Heard On High" - might it really be "Angels We Half Heard on High"? And if so, might the lyrics be:

Angels we half heard on high,
mumbling something in the sky.
"What's that?" we yelled,
but they flew on by,
Those angels we half heard on high.

Did you know that "Wild Shepherds Washed Their Flocks by Night"? and boy were those shepherds silly! Bing Crosby would likely get a good laugh out of hearing one of those classic songs he helped make famous - "I'll Be Home for Christmas" turned into "I'll be a Gnome for Christmas." The author has also included portions of a few Christmas tales, such as the Dickens' favorite about "The Ghost of Christmas Present" that becomes...well, I can't tell you as I don't want to ruin the surprise.

Author Devin Scillian is a master of bringing "funny" to children's books, particularly with his "Memoirs of..." books (Memoirs of a Goldfish and Memoirs of a Hamster being two of my favorite children's books. In Missile Toe, he again taps into that talent to bring us a very funny, and fun, book. He has done a wonderful job of re-imagining classic Christmas songs and stories into very fun misinterpretations that kids will love. The lyrics flow perfectly, without any clunky lines that don't quite fit. Add in the hysterical illustrations by Marty Kelley, that add even more laughs to the story, and you've got a definite winner. You'll want to make reading this book part of your annual holiday tradition - it's a blast!

Quill says: Downright silly, absolutely loaded with laughs, Missile Toe is the perfect book to get the whole family in the Christmas mood.

Book Review - The Engagement Plot

The Engagement Plot

By: Krista Phillips
Publisher: Pocket Books, Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: October 2017
ISBN: 978-1683223160
Reviewed by: Diana Buss
Review Date: October 17, 2017

Once a contestant on "The Price of Love," a reality show where women compete to win the heart of an eligible bachelor, Hanna is spending her life in quiet. After going against her father’s wishes, and her own common sense, Hanna realizes that going on a reality show to find love may not have exactly been the best thing for her. Although she did in fact find love, she also found herself in a world of trouble. While many of the contestants would portray themselves in compromising ways, Hanna vowed to stay just as she was, with all her Christian values intact. Dubbed Holy Hanna, she was happy with her new love, Will, until she wasn’t. During an interview with a reporter, Will answered a question in a very ambiguous way, leaving lots to the imagination. The media took it and ran with it, crushing the image Hanna had made for herself and her love for Will in the process. Now, living back at home with her father in Minnesota, her teaching career is put on hold as she tries to stay out of the limelight.

Trying to win her back, both for himself and for his career, Will makes his way to Minnesota, just as a blizzard hits. Forced to stay with Hanna and her father for a few days, he begs forgiveness and explains that he wants to right what has happened in the past. While Hanna may be able to reluctantly forgive, it’s just not possible right now. As the media catches on that Will is in Minnesota with Hanna, even more tabloids begin to print untrue stories. While Will may not be able to go back in time to right the wrongs, they may be able to fix it by pretending they are engaged, that she’s forgiven him for his error and coming clean about what actually happened. After the media calms down, they’ll break off the engagement and go back to living their completely normal lives, apart from each other. There’s no chance of them falling in love again, anyway, so what’s the harm, right?

The Engagement Plot was easy to get into right from the very beginning. While many books are slower to start and people may have a little trouble getting into them, this jumped right into Hanna and Will’s story without being confusing. Phillips was able to take this bachelor-like book and show what happens in the aftermath in a way that was both funny and understandable. Even the romance was expertly described without being overbearingly cliche. Although it’s easy to think you know how this book will end, sudden twists do come out to throw the ideas you had out the window. A relatable book and a perfectly light read, I can’t wait for more, and I only hope there is because I would love to keep following Hanna and Will’s love story.

Quill says: Charming, cute and just a little dramatic, The Engagement Plot is the perfect book to read when you just need to relax.

Book Review - S is for Stanley Cup

S is for the Stanley Cup: A Hockey Championship Alphabet

By: Mike Ulmer
Illustrated by: Chris Lyons
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: August 2017
ISBN: 978-1585369720
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 18, 2017

There are alphabet books for animal lovers, truck lovers, hide and seek fans, and even books that present the alphabet via fruit. Now there's finally an alphabet book for hockey fans and youngsters who love to hit the puck will definitely enjoy this book.

When I first heard about S is for the Stanley Cup, I wondered how the author managed to use all the letters in the alphabet with hockey "things." I'm happy to report that he did get all 26 letters in there, and he did it while keeping true to the history of the Stanley Cup.

Each letter has its own page, with the "X is for..." written in simple rhyme, and highlighting an event from the Cup's history. There are several letters dedicated to people who have been involved with the game, from players to famous supporters:

S is for Stanley
It seemed unimportant; he was just being nice
in creating a prize for these wild boys on ice.
He donated the trophy that carries his name
but he never did witness a Stanley Cup game.

The author also makes use of players, teams, events, and "things" such as, of course, the zamboni, for various letters. And that zamboni? You're not going to read about a generic machine, but a famous parade. Any guess what parade that might be?

Along with the brief poems for each letter, each page also has a sidebar with further information on that topic. From answering how many "Cups" there are to discussing favorite teams, these sidebars provide lots of useful information. There is more text here than some alphabet books meant for really young readers, so youngsters may need a bit of help, particularly with the sidebars. Regardless, even the biggest hockey fans just might learn a thing or two from all the information. The illustrations work very well, adding a touch of realism to each page. At the back of the book is a "Complete List of Stanley Cup Winning Teams" that young hockey fans will likely devour.

Quill says: A fun book for the diehard hockey fan, a great way to learn the alphabet.

Monday, October 16, 2017

#AuthorInterview with James and Charlotte Golden

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kristi Benedict is talking with James and Charlotte Goldin, authors of The 18th Rune: (The Aesir Kids, Volume 2)

FQ: What was most useful in your research for the Norse Gods?

JAMES: The primary research was my childhood copy ofNorse Gods and Giants by the D’Aulaires (reissued as D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths). Plus Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Thor stories from the 1960’s.

CHARLOTTE: I always read them growing up and we would sometimes make up stories about the different gods. Then one day I just randomly created Fire since I was also reading the Thor comics and thought there should be more super-heroish stuff; he has flame powers. And he has the three Norns for moms – because, why not?

JAMES: We made up games about the Aesir Kids before we started writing. As far as primary sources, I’ve read the Eddas of Snorri Sturlusson (in translation, of course). Parts of Tacitus’s Germania inspired our presentation of Vanaheim, the realm of the other or rival Norse gods. I’ve found some food for thought online in the videos of Maria Kvilhaug and Dr. Jackson Crawford. Oh, and going to Viking festivals was great! One time when she was 12, Charlotte hurled six spears in a row into a target. That helps make everything real for both of us.

CHARLOTTE: I threw axes, too. And a fish.

JAMES: But where we went off from mythology in a new direction, that was usually you.

CHARLOTTE: Right. In the myths, Fenris the giant wolf is a monster. I wanted him to be a lovable giant puppy since I always wanted a dog. And I made up the groblins (the beings who live underneath Vanaheim).

JAMES: And you didn’t name Skogurvegg and Tryggvin (the Vanaheim counselor and his teenage assistant) but you invented the characters and how they looked. And Ice (the frost-wielding jotun girl) was your idea, too. One of the main characters, Gersemi, isn’t much more than a name in the myths. You gave her a character, and that special vine in her hair. The key myth that inspired “The 18th Rune” was the war between Asgard and Vanaheim, a warrior culture versus a more Nature-oriented one. Neither side could beat the other, but Asgard, home of the Aesir, clearly got the better deal in the truce. The best gods from Vanaheim moved to Asgard and Odin’s brother Hoenir ended up ruling Vanaheim. The myths suggest there might be some lingering resentment in Vanaheim, so that’s what we based our book on – kids going to a place where they’re resented because of things that happened in the previous generation. Can you overcome that? If so, how?

FQ: All of the children characters are quite unique, especially when compared to their famous parents - what was the process for developing them to keep them so unique?

JAMES: Thank you! First, we tried to figure out who these kids were based on a very few clues in the myths. A kind of reverse-engineering. Take Thor’s daughter Thrud. Her name means “might,” so you figure she’d be super-strong. Her name is on a list of Valkyries, so we figured that would be her career goal. If you want to be a Valkyrie, you like horses (flying horses) and armor and you want to be decisive; but you’re not interested in romantic relationships.

CHARLOTTE: So she and Fire are just friends. Forseti is the son of Balder, the non-violent god of light, and according to the myths, when Forseti grows up, he’ll be a great judge among the Aesir. So he had to be “the smart one,” who tries to reason things out a bit more than the others.
JAMES: Everybody’s character is based on where they come from.

FQ: Where did the inspiration for the two mortal children Tjalfi and Roskva come from?

JAMES: They’re real! That is, they’re mythological. Their origin is told in the Prose Edda—long story short, Tjalfi accidentally hurt one of Thor’s goat’s legs, so he and his sister left their farm to become the thunder god’s sidekicks. It’s part of the story of the giant Utgardsloki. In that story Tjalfi is said to be an extremely fast runner, so super-speed was obviously his power in Asgard—and he’s clearly a little impulsive, but always well-meaning and totally loyal to Thor. In other Norse stories or poems, Tjalfi helps Thor fight a kind of stone robot and some werewolf-women – we may have to re-tell those sometime! There are no surviving stories of Roskva, though. So we had to give her a character and a power. I thought about super-hearing, which at first may not seem like much, but in “The 18th Rune” she can not only keep track of events miles away, but focus on a person’s breathing and heartbeat to tell whether or not they’re lying.

CHARLOTTE: I was kind of forcing him to find as many kids in the Norse myths as we could – it’s a lot harder than Greek because there you can just say “Oh, well, this god had a half-kid.” That really does not happen here so we got most of them from myths. I de-aged some of them by a few years.

FQ: With all the lineage of the characters in this book, did you have to keep your own log book to keep it all straight?

JAMES: For me, who was related to who wasn’t as tricky as remembering who was doing what where! I re-read The Hobbit again just to see how Tolkien handled 15 characters at once! Not to mention some close readings of The Avengers and The Legion of Super-Heroes.

CHARLOTTE: I can usually keep track of like 10 characters at a time and I come up with about 80-85% of what each character will be doing and where, and who might be related to who and then my dad does the rest.

JAMES: I didn’t use a log book, but there were a lot of post-its!

FQ: Did you plan for this to be a multi-series project when you wrote the first book?

JAMES: Nope! We did think we’d put out a few smaller stories in the “Aesir Kids” universe, but about a year after we published Book 1, Charlotte informed me that “everything has to be a trilogy.” And we got to work. And Vanaheim hadn’t really been used very much in other books, so that seemed like a good way to continue the adventures in a different world.

CHARLOTTE: Yeah it was definitely not in the plan.

JAMES: But then you changed the plan.

CHARLOTTE: Well, I read a bunch of novels that were all trilogies so I went “DAD OH MY ODIN WE HAVE TO WRITE 2 MORE BOOKS!!!!” and he basically went “Yeah, okay.”

FQ: Which character did you enjoy writing about most?

CHARLOTTE: Probably Thrud. It’s like a perfect girl who doesn’t have to be feminine and can still kick monster butt. I was a Viking (I always thought it was her) for two straight Halloweens.
JAMES: You’re a lot like Thrud. But you have a better temper.

FQ: The landscape in Vanaheim is very important in your story - was there any specific inspiration for that land?

JAMES: Nothing is directly copied from life, but I remembered the woods and fields when I was a kid going to summer camp in Maine. But the scene where everyone rolls down a hill actually comes from a much smaller spot where I used to do that behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Chieftain’s Hall was somewhat inspired by a huge wooden lodge Charlotte and I saw in Yellowstone.

CHARLOTTE: it is not really so much being inspired but being in what is quintessentially the perfect forest. There can be a connection be we have to remember that this is not Midgard. We can mash up stuff, but at the same time, it has to be completely new, it’s the world of the gods after all.

FQ: What is the easiest part of a story for you to write, the beginning or the end?

JAMES: I find that it always helps to have the ending in mind before you write. In the case of The 18th Rune, Charlotte had a version of the last line of the book in her head from the beginning – and Charlotte can be very insistent on some things. So from the time we started writing, everything had to build towards that last line. I think we rewrote the last two or three chapters more than any other section, to get to the end fairly. It’s the unraveling of a mystery, and so we had to have the clues laid out, and we had to have more than a dozen characters figure out the mystery together. AND – because it’s also a cliffhanger, we wanted to make sure that Book 2 was satisfying in itself while still making readers want to go on to Book 3...which will be out in 2018.

CHARLOTTE: In all the trilogies I’ve read the first book has to be what could be a standalone, the second has to end with a cliffhanger, and third has to have an epic battle. I really wanted that to be the ending before we had even written the plot, characters, anything. Sometimes there is that one line you know has to be in the book and you find a way to make it work.

To learn more about The 18th Rune: (The Aesir Kids, Volume 2) please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Interview with Author Simon Plaster

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Simon Plaster, author of SPOTS: A Tale of Star-Struck Misfame and Misfortune

FQ: Let us begin with this: You are either an AVID TV-watcher or you have done research to the nth degree on TV advertising. How on earth did you get all of those brands and slogans for these companies wrapped into your mystery? And for fun...if you had to pick a favorite, which brand/slogan would it be?

PLASTER: Thank you, Amy, thank you very much for reading my book. Most folks out here seem to prefer old Farmers Almanacs. Like most folks everywhere tend to click off TV commercials that interrupt the shows. I my own self will take a Geico spot over a Saturday Night Live skit any ol' night of the week. That contrary inclination, I suppose, goes back to my favorite TVC of all time: The one for Buster Brown Shoes that hooked me with its opening line, to-wit: "Plunk your magic twanger, Froggie!"

FQ: Finish this sentence: If I had not become a writer, I would be a __________ .

PLASTER: I would be a less big-bottomed ol' boy, less broke, with more time on my hands to court gals. Writing books makes the days go by way too fast and tires you out.

FQ: Commercials and ads have taken over our lives, especially with the internet "popping" up advertising campaigns all the time. Even authors get wrapped up into having to do internet campaigning with blogs, websites, tweets, etc. How do you personally feel about that area of the writing world? Would you prefer it if it went back to more book signing events where you meet people in person and move away from the digital realm?

PLASTER: Not liking those ads popping up makes you your own self sound like one of the "whack-a-mole" TIVO types I mentioned, Amy. I my own self would druther chat online with a purty gal like you than go to a book signing, where the few who come are big ol' boys wanting their money back.

FQ: I am a lover of humor/satire/sarcasm, although there are many who may not "get it." Upon saying that, do you ever worry about backlash that could come from some of your words?

PLASTER: Yes, I hardly ever leave the house due to backlash by a neighbor's dog, who took offense at me calling her ---- the neighbor ---- the b-word after she about chewed off my right foot.

FQ: It seems that everything is either a "platform" or a "debate" in these modern times. Which usually always leads to an argument. Do you have any ideas on how we can get the world to lighten up a bit?

PLASTER: Well, like you say, there are those who stubbornly argue for low carbs and those who debate lard versus vegetables. I my own self follow the "drinking man's diet," even though I have yet to lose any weight.

FQ: Are readers going to stay with Henrietta in OKC for awhile? What do we have to look forward to in 2018?

PLASTER: Henrietta her own self would like to be stayed with by a boyfriend who has a steady job and can afford to pay half the rent on an apartment. Readers can look forward to a next tale about a docudrama film getting made in OKC, which has high hopes of becoming the Hollywood of the Plains.

FQ: Do you have a personal mentor when it comes to writing?

PLASTER: Yes. Though he has repeatedly demanded that I not to tell anyone, Marty Lowry ---- a jack of all trades at Mossik Press ---- is largely to blame for my penmanship.

FQ: Is it possible the citizens of OKC will run you out of town? (LOL) Or do they have a sense of humor when it comes to your writing?

PLASTER: Like I say, OKC citizens who I know pretty much stick to the Farmers Almanac ---- or at least say that's all the reading they have time for --- and seem not much interested in my writing. For entirely other reasons, however, several locals ---- mainly gals ---- have told me to go away.

To learn more about SPOTS: A Tale of Star-Struck Misfame and Misfortune please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

#BookReview - Seducing the Defendant

Seducing the Defendant (The Conflict of Interest Series Book 2)

By: Chantal Fernando
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: November 2017
ISBN: 978-1501172366
Review by: Jennifer Rearick
Review Date: October 2017

Jaxon Bentley may seem like your typical high class lawyer, but in reality there is more than meets the eye. Jaxon works and partly owns one of the best law firms in the city. Although he seems tough on the outside, he does have demons of his own. Jaxon was taking a break after the death of his sister Olivia, when he receives a phone call about a case that will change his life forever.

Scarlett Reyes is charged with the murder of her husband, Officer Darren Melvin. Darren went missing two years prior, around the same time that Scarlett left the country to take care of her sick aunt. Since his body was never found, no one was ever charged with anything. Two years later, Darren’s body is found in the river with a gunshot wound to the head. With Darren being one of their own, the police will do anything to solve the case. Upon searching their home, the police find the same kind of gun that killed Darren in their house. After finding Darren, Scarlett is asked to return home from Paris. She is then charged with the murder of her husband. Scarlett, claiming her innocence, seeks Jaxon to take her case. While Tristan, Jaxon’s business partner, works on getting Scarlett out on bail, Jaxon begins looking over her case.

When Jaxon initially meets Scarlett, their meeting does not go very well. Scarlett is very standoffish and does not provide Jaxon with much information. Although Jaxon agrees to take her case, and promises to do everything he can to keep her out of prison, he feels that there is something that she is not telling him.

Jaxon and his team begin working on Scarlett’s case immediately. While they are looking into phone records and credit card statements to find anything that can help, they see a name that continues to turn up - Valentina Sullivan. Jaxon’s team continues digging and to find out as much information about Sullivan in order to see if Darren was living a double life. Ultimately they find that not only was Darren living a double life, but that he was doing so with the money and property that Scarlett’s father left her.

Jaxon and his team continue investigating and throughout this process Jaxon finds some unexpected information. With enough evidence, Jaxon goes to court with what he has. Although the case is solved, the outcome is a little unexpected.

After Darren’s case is solved, Scarlett and Jaxon start seeing each other more. Scarlett also becomes friends with Valentina, bonding over everything that they went through with Darren. Although Jaxon does not like that Scarlett is friends with Valentina and the motorcycle gang she hangs out with, Jaxon and Scarlett begin dating each other. Even though Jaxon and Scarlett’s relationship is going well, she feels that there is something that Jaxon is not telling her. Eventually Scarlett gets the courage to ask Jaxon about it, but first, she wants to talk about it to Valentina. When Scarlett never shows up for their meeting, Valentina knows that something must be wrong. Soon Jaxon finds that Scarlett was abducted and he joins forces with Valentina and her gang to find her. When they finally figure out who took Scarlett, everything with Darren comes full circle and they find that although the case was solved, it was never really over. Soon Jaxon and Valentina are in a race against the clock to find Scarlett before she has to pay for everything Darren did.

Seducing the Defendant is a really great book. It is a good mix between crime/mystery and romance. It begins immediately with the crime aspect and leaves you going back and forth between thinking that Scarlett did it/didn’t do it. Then once the case is solved, it leaves you thinking that everything is going to be fine and they are finally going to live a happy life. Although things are going well, you still get this feeling that Darren’s case really isn’t over yet. The book leaves you thinking that something completely unexpected is going to happen. Then more of the crime aspect comes back and really brings the story full circle and ties it all together. It truly was a great read.

Quill says: This is a great read if you love crime/mystery and romance.

#BookReview - Addicted to American

Addicted to Americana: Celebrating Classic & Kitschy American Life & Style

By: Charles Phoenix
Publisher: Prospect Park Books
Publication Date: October 2017
ISBN: 978-1945551192
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 15, 2017

Charles Phoenix, the "Ambassador of Americana," is at it again with a fantastic collection of all things "Americana" in his latest book, Addicted to Americana.
First, a little background. What exactly is "Americana"? Loosely defined, it's anything (buildings, advertisements, license plates, etc.,) that are vestiges of an earlier time in America, a time people associate with small towns and happier days. With seven books to his credit, all focusing on various aspects of Americana, Charles Phoenix is addicted to finding cool nostalgic things that trigger wonderful memories of those times from the 50's and 60's. In this, his newest book, Phoenix has amassed a great collection of "things" from that long ago era.

Addicted to Americana is divided into several sections - "Themeparkland!," "Let's Eat," and "5-4-3-2-1...Blast-Off!" (travel related things). Themeparkland! includes the early days of Disneyland right through to the Las Vegas strip. With numerous pages dedicated to Disneyland, it's easy to see that this is one of the author's favorite places to visit. Check out the all-plastic house of the future built in 1957 at Disneyland, and learn its history - how, when Disney tried to demolish it, the wrecking ball bounced right off the house! The author managed to track the house to a landfill and suggests we all get together and dig it up. Sounds like fun!

Let's Eat is full of all those vintage restaurants you might expect to see along an old highway. There's so many little eateries to check out here, some even designed to look like the food they serve, such as the "Tail of the Pup" that looks like a hot dog in a bun.

In the Blast Off! section, as expected, there's an homage to various monorails, with, of course, the Disneyland monorail leading the way. There are also some lesser-known monorails such as the Pink Pig featured here. In addition, this section includes trains, planes and automobiles. The author, a big classic car collector, has included a nice assortment of cool cars, from the 1958 Edsel to the 1956 Astra-Gnome.

Addicted to American is, simply put, a fun book. Primarily a photo book, with short factoids about each item, the book is a visual funfest for those who love nostalgia. For those who remember the 50s and/or 60s, the book will be particularly enjoyable. It's also the sort of book that you may want to read by flipping around to those items that catch your eye, rather than read from front to back. With retro colors and fonts that help set the mood, the book is definitely a tribute to all things Americana.

Quill says: Yes, Addicted to Americana is classic, it is kitschy, and it is definitely a lot of fun.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

#BookReview - Spots

Spots: A Tale of Star-Struck Misfame and Misfortune

By: Simon Plaster
Publisher: Mossik Press
Publication Date: September 2017
ISBN: 978-0-991448098
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 13, 2017

The satirical master who last brought you the mystery OPRY has done it once again. He has written a great mystery, while also reaching the apex of great satire...which is a tough mountain to climb. Henrietta is our lead; a fantastic character who has starred in Simon Plaster books before, and one that readers need to get to know because she’s one of the best in literature to-date.

We begin by sitting beside Henrietta, one of the reporters for the OKC SCENE News Group. She is a reporter who wants more than anything to “get that story” and win herself a Pulitzer. Unfortunately, even with all the great work she just did by unwinding a mystery involving a beer joint named Honky Tonk, Henrietta finds herself outside her boss’s office waiting to be fired. Instead, she’s given a job to cover the “Academy of Television Commercials Arts and Sciences” awards for the year’s best in TV commercials. It also seems that anonymous death threats have been made against (no one really knows who) people who end up attending these festivities.

Deano DeBoffo, famous Hollywood director/producer, arrives in the city on a mission to get his own career back on track. He wants to make friends with the right people and put together a TV docudrama called, “What’s in Your Wallet?” He runs into a pair that may just help him out. Flo, the famous star of those Progressive commercials has an estranged sister named Chloe or “Clo.” The sister does a lot of work, yet Flo has a better career. But Deano may just get Clo as the female lead for his docudrama. And if he generates some gossip at the event about Clo, he may just bring in a few more money men to help with his project. As you know, bad publicity is still publicity!

There’s an actor named Jimmy who attends; he ends up falling to his death from the hotel where the event is being held. A moment that Henrietta just happens to see. However, Jimmy also appears in new ads after he has supposedly died. There’s also a woman named Shirley who loves her Harley, but is having a mid-life crisis that makes it look like she could be the person who has delivered those anonymous threats.

We meet up with those famous boys who appear in all the SONIC commercials; the Mayor of OKC is worried about the fate of one of these guys...but not the other. We even meet the woman who has fallen down and hasn’t been able to get up for years when she’s apparently poisoned by Alka-Seltzer.
It must be said: When it comes to this author and his ideas, he would definitely get my vote for being “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” So, pick up a bottle of Dos Equis, sit down in a leisurely spot, and read this book!

Quill says: This is most definitely an author who needs to have 9-Lives (get it?) so that readers can enjoy his words for the next thousand years!

For more information on SPOTS: A Tale of Star-Struck Misfame and Misfortune, please visit the book's Goodreads page.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

#AuthorInterview with Steve Zell @SteveZellTales

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Steve Zell, author of Running Cold.

FQ: How did Running Cold come about? I know you love Jerome, AZ (which I am a huge fan of, by the way), did that play into the landscaping of the novel?

ZELL: The idea of something as fun as creation going terribly wrong is always on my mind. With a quiet, German engineer dad, and a gregarious Italian mom, I identify with Michael’s (main character in Running Cold) “half-halfs.” I was the first interdisciplinary studies graduate from the University of Arizona where Chemistry and Fine Arts were more or less my majors. I love creating, and I really love using technology to do it! But creation is always an experiment, and experiments don’t always yield predictable results...

As far as Jerome goes – I have a story that might explain the direction I’ve taken in writing. When I was a kid, a lot of Jerome was still abandoned – you could walk right into the old buildings and explore. I was combing for souvenirs inside a crumbling, old hotel where the only light came from broken out windows and holes in the walls. In one of the furthest rooms in, someone had scrawled a message on the far wall, “Stop me before I kill again.” Scared the hell out of me.

Jerome & Tombstone, AZ, and Bodie, CA, all figure more into my first novel, WiZrD – where the town of Pinon Rim literally cycles through periods of euphoric boom and deadly bust – but La Vista in Running Cold is also a place that “use to be” something other than what it seems to be when Michael and Brit arrive.

FQ: It would be interesting for readers to hear about “A Day in the Writing Life of Steve Zell.” What is that like? Music in the background? Prefer to write outside or inside? Is writing time set aside each and every day, or do you just sit down and begin?

ZELL: The day always begins with coffee – loads of it! My favorite place and time to write is in a coffee house before the sun comes up. I like to write while I’m still partly in a dream state, which keeps the images flowing and I don’t tend to edit my thoughts, and I like the chatter in the background. I wrote quite a bit of Running Cold in a great little coffee house called Sponda in Hermosa Beach, CA, which, sadly is gone now (the coffee house, not the town – I guess I need to be clear on that...). A lot of Sandy’s dialogue actually came from the surfers who were regulars there – and one in particular, whom I picture when I see Sandy. If I write in my office at home, I tend to have Steely Dan playing. I tend to jump back and forth between drawing, music, and writing.
One other odd bit about writing in coffee shops. I love to build computers out of odd things like briefcases and paint boxes, and use those to write with. I’ll try to include a picture or two. The only bad thing is they don’t run on batteries so I need to be near an outlet to use them.

FQ: What is the best ghost town you’ve ever explored, and why? Will it (or has it) appeared in one of your books? Is there one ghostly location you are dying to explore, like your own “Overlook Hotel” that King made so famous?

ZELL: Tombstone is great (go there in October for Helldorado Days – they recreate the shootout at the OK Corral) – I was the cartoonist for The Tombstone Epitaph while at UA. Tombstone was famously, “too tough to die” so it probably never was technically a ghost town, although a lot of people were killed there for really dumb reasons (including mishandling a package at the post office). I’d say my favorite so far is Bodie, CA. I haven’t been there in a while, but the townspeople left in a hurry - there are still books sitting on the desks in the schoolhouse – it really IS a ghost town.
Part of the actual Overlook from Kubrick’s The Shining is Timberline Lodge here in Oregon – and I’ve yet to go through it. I understand it’s been remodeled which is sad. What I’d most like to do at this point as far as haunted experiences go is spend some time in Gettysburg at night. The ghosts of the Civil War must have a lot to say.

FQ: Your resume is long and varied. Can you tell readers about being the “Voice of Doom” for Baywatch? Can you also share a bit about the Intel Audio Alliance and the work they do?

ZELL: Yeah, if a lifeguard died or had a bad day for whatever reason, you’d hear me singing the sad rock ballad in the middle of the show while they ran a montage of his/her Baywatch life. In one of the more “famous” situations, Mitch (David Hasselhoff) fell in love and proposed to a character who contracted and died of cancer within two episodes. I’m singing over a montage that includes Mitch kidnapping her from the hospital and carrying her to the Santa Monica cliffs for one last sunset. I’ll include the YouTube bitly link for that one YouTube). The set on Will Rogers Beach was fun, and the people (and food) were great! These were the Pamela Anderson, Yasmine Bleeth, Nicole Eggert (whom I’d first met when she was a kid while warming up the audience on the Charles In Charge set days), and it was pretty lively. Robin and Judithe Randall were the songwriting team and they did really nice work there and in general. I sang their original demo for a song called, “Tomorrow Doesn’t Matter Tonight” which was the third single on “Knee Deep in the Hoopla,” the Starship album featuring, “We Built this City,” and “Sara.” That song sadly “stiffed” (quit rising up the charts) when the payola scandal hit the industry.

The Intel Audio Alliance was a great group of folks. I was hired at Intel for my experience with 3D animation and I began our Dreamworks partnership. What I found was that although video was being taken seriously, audio was being ignored on the “serious” workstation side despite being recognized as important on the consumer PC side. I had to argue that animators didn’t animate in silence – we almost ALWAYS animate to audio cues. I found a couple like-minded folks in different divisions, cobbled together a budget, and worked with my friends at Cakewalk, who created music software that ran exclusively on Windows-Intel based machines at the time, and put together the Intel Audio Alliance with their help and the help of Rory Kaplan – an amazing keyboardist who worked with Michael Jackson among others. We essentially went everywhere from Skywalker Ranch to Zoe Thrall’s Las Vegas, Studio at the Palms, with folks like Billy Bob Thornton (who roadied for Blood, Sweat, and Tears as a kid and is actually an accomplished songwriter and drummer), Graham Nash, and some amazing engineers and producers – convincing folks you didn’t HAVE to use Apple machines to make music! Eventually even Apple converted over to Intel based processors (I’m not saying we did that – but we played a part). And...the Intel Audio Alliance was responsible for one of the greatest nights in my life – after an incredible music video party/demo at Zoe Thrall’s studio, I spent an amazing night at the V-Bar with Billy Bob, Graham Nash, Billy Gibbons, Rory Kaplan, Lisa Roy...and a bottle of Grey Goose.

Author Steve Zell enjoying one of his hobbies -
tinkering with computers
FQ: You write music, blog, run your own publishing company...where do you get the time? If you had to choose, is there one artistic path you like more than the others? Or is it nice to get a break from one to do the other?

ZELL: The truth is, I never have enough time, and likely won’t. When I was also working full time I literally felt as though my instruments and workstations were under twelve feet of water – and I could only use them as long as I could hold my breath. That feeling hasn’t completely left me.

I really do love doing anything I can creatively – and yes, I jump back and forth. It helps keep things fresh for me. It’s also the great thing about technology – you can easily hop from one activity to the other without a lot of extra setup (although I’ve built separate workstations for each thing I do, have named them, and I treat them more or less as pets). I really have fun “painting” the covers for my books – but I haven’t actually used physical paint or a pencil to draw in a couple decades. Not sure what the policy is on links here, but I’ll include one more to a song called Hero I wrote right after narrating, Running Cold ( http://bit.ly/ZHero). Narrating is fun too – I love acting and I do community theater whenever I can here at the Hillsboro Artists Regional Theater (HART) – but producing audio is a major chore! That song is a good indication of my state of mind while editing audio (combined with all the craziness in the country right now). Getting better at audio production…but it really is more necessity than fun at this point.

FQ: Along those same lines, when it comes to music, you offer up a lot of ‘odes’ to the Beach Boys in your books; is this your favorite band? What about their music speaks to you?

ZELL: I love their harmonies, and the painfully innocent and heartfelt lyrics. Songs like Warmth of the Sun, In My Room, and God Only Knows, in particular, still break my heart. My favorite band, hands down, is Steely Dan. I find something new in their songs every time I listen – so glad I got to see them live once! Very sad that Walter Becker is gone, and happy that Donald Fagen continues to create! More often than not, they’re playing in the background while I write. One of the coffee houses I wrote at quite a bit would even switch to Steely Dan while I was there.

FQ: A cartoonist is also a part of your background. Where and when did you become interested in animation? Are you still involved in that area?
A hobby of Steve's - building "odd things" from computers

ZELL: I’ve actually been interested in animating ever since I first saw Felix the Cat on a black and white TV as a kid. I’ve always drawn and sung. Writing came later. I used to try to copy John Romita’s style of Spiderman, and drew my own comics as a kid. I became interested in computers through what began as a temp job that became permanent at Digital Equipment Corporation, and when computers hit the animation world it was as if the heavens had opened for me! I got my first animation job (actually as a digital animation tools instructor for traditional cell and stop-motion animators), literally because one of the heroes of the industry, Ray Feeney, found me passed-out (I had pneumonia) at one of his workstations. He knew I was sick, but gambled that I was dedicated and not insane – and offered to teach me for free if I would then teach other artists.

I own a seat of Maya (an Alias, now Autodesk, 3D modeling and animation software package), and still work with it from time to time – but I’m very rusty. The griffon silhouette on the cover of Running Cold is a 3D model I built in Maya and then rendered flat.

As a side note, the eyes on the cover actually belong to my daughter...it still creeps her out whenever she looks at it…

FQ: What is next for Steve Zell? Can you tell us what projects are on the horizon for 2018?

ZELL: I’ve got three novels that I’m working on right now in degrees, with one that has most of my attention. Without giving too much away, it does have parallels to Running Cold. I’ve already begun working on the cover. On the music side, I’ve been producing (if you can call it that...my keyboard skills are limited at best) an album – hope to have that out in early spring with the next novel to hit in December 2018 or early in 2019. I’m also resting up to narrate WiZrD – lots of characters...aaiiieeeEEEE!

FQ: Last, but not least, readers like to know...If you could sit down with one writer or musician for a chat, who would it be and what is the one question you would love to ask?

ZELL: Man – there are quite a few. I’d love to sit down with Flannery O’Connor before she became gravely ill, and just let her talk. She had to be a hoot!

To learn more about Running Cold please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.