Wednesday, December 26, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Zari Reede

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Skyler Boudreau is talking with Zoe Tasia and Minette Lauren, the two authors who make up the writing team behind the pen name of Zari Reede, "author" of Blinked

FQ: What made you decide to set Blinked in 1975 New Orleans, during Mardi Gras?

ZOE: I decided on 1975 because I wanted a time with less advanced technology and I liked that era’s vibe.

MINETTE: I chose the city because I lived near The Big Easy for a large portion of my young adult life. I felt the fantasy element of our story would blend wonderfully during Mardi Gras.

FQ: Blinkedis a book co-written by two authors.  Why did you decide to write under a single pen name, rather than have both your names printed on the cover?

Minette Lauren
Author Minette Lauren
Zoe Tasia
Author Zoe Tasia
ZOE: I think we both value our privacy, so we planned on writing under pseudonyms when working on our own books. I guess we could have used Minette Lauren and Zoe Tasia, but I really liked the name Zari Reede and for a reader looking for our books, remembering Zari Reede is much easier than remembering two names.

MINETTE: I know it sounds terrible, but I probably wouldn’t read a book with two author’s names on the front. I never considered using both names. I loved the name Zari. It was one of Zoe’s Characters.

FQ: As a two-person writing team, after writing three books together, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced in writing collaboratively? Does your teamwork make any part of writing easier?

ZOE: I’ve learned if I have a certain idea I really want to write about at a later point in the book, I better bring it up soon, because it may not be possible depending on what Minette writes next. We both have great imaginations and can come up with some pretty wild story twists. Writing together challenges and pushes me. I find that I take more risks when writing as Zari Reede. Co-writing is fun and much easier than writing alone. I don’t think I’ve ever had problems with writer’s block when working on a Zari Reede book. Wish I could say the same about my solo projects.

MINETTE: Zoe and I have very different reading taste, so finding a story we both want to tell is sometimes challenging. Editing is always a difficult process, but It’s nice to have back up. It takes me twice as long to write a book on my own, and co-writing holds me accountable for getting the work done.

FQ: Many fantasy novels published today are dark and serious but Blinkedis laced with humor. How do you find the comedy in your writing? Do your senses of humor differ from one another?

ZOE: I’m a firm believer that you can find humor in almost situation. I’m a bit of a social klutz and major nerd, so often when I develop comedic moments, I draw upon that. I sometimes throw Minette off with some of my geeky references, but I think we find the same things funny generally.

MINETTE: Zoe is being kind. She has a far better vocabulary than I do and an uncanny memory for details and facts. Sometimes I have to use google to investigate her meaning. She is hilarious and makes me laugh out loud when I read her scenes, but she is a closet comedian. People who know her would be surprised by her imagination. I always try to work a little humor into our stories. Sometimes it becomes a competition over who can write the funnier scene. Even our Mystery-thriller has a few chuckles.

FQ: What is one element (a character’s personality, setting, voice, etc.) that changed between drafts of Blinked? Why?

ZOE: Timing was really hard to keep track of as we moved between characters and worlds, so I know we had to make changes there.

MINETTE: Ugh, the magic! The witch was taxing for me. Zoe was a stickler for rules in fantasy, and I’ll be honest when I say, I never quite understood the rules. As a result, I probably wrote more Mindy, Jim, Reggie and Rapunzel scenes.

FQ: Is there any story behind the pen name “Zari Reede?”

ZOE: I went through my World of Warcraft account. I have one character named Zari and one named Reede. The names worked well together.

MINETTE: Zari was a character in Zoe’s familiars’ book. I had never heard the name before and thought it was different. Reede was like read, plus my sister, who was a writer,said she would write under the name Freede. I liked the similarity of it.

FQ: What does your writing process look like? Does it change with every book?

ZOE: We take turns starting stories and usually end up writing about 1,000 words before emailing it back. I don’t think it has changed all that much.

MINETTE: I love the spontaneity we start each story with, writing by the seat of our pants. About half way through, we meet up for a champagne filled lunch meeting and discuss where we are headed. After that, the cards all fall into place. I miss the writing when we finish a story together. The editing is a bear.

FQ: When a character “Blinks” in your novel, they exchange places with an inhabitant of the mysterious world Ortharos. How was this interesting idea initially inspired?

ZOE: I knew I wanted us to write a fantasy book next and I knew I wanted to yank the reader into a dramatic moment with the first line. So, as authors are wont to do, I played the what-if game and came up with the first line of the book. “I went to bed with my husband and woke up with a monster.” Then I had to ask myself, how did a monster get in bed with her without her noticing? And that’s when I came up with the concept of Blinking. From that point, Minette and I elaborated and that first line grew into this zany book.

MINETTE: We always take turns starting the stories. Zoe gets credit with Blinks’s beginning. We did have to meet once or twice to flesh out the particulars so that we both understood the balance between worlds.

FQ: Is there anything that you’ve learned from each other while writing together? If so, what?

ZOE: I learned that Minette is very much a pantser. As a plotter, I worried about how that would translate into a cohesive book. There are the occasional growing pains, but so far, the books have surprisingly come together with ease.

MINETTE: Co-writing is like literary chess. It’s an addictive game, but it takes two writers that play well together. It’s not always easy to agree and share the same vision of the story. Compromise is the best and the hardest part of the equation. We have both let go of scenes that ached to delete, but we can agree later that the book was enriched by the sacrifice.

FQ: If you could offer any advice to young writers who want to collaborate on a project, whether it be a book, short story, or other form of fiction, what would it be, and why?

ZOE: One of my favorite authors is Ilona Andrews. Ilona Andrews is a writing team consisting of a married couple. I love my husband very much, but I fear such a project would put much strain on our marriage. Prior to becoming published, I thought co-writing would be very difficult. After all, most writers do write alone or only co-write on the one-off project. Minette and I didn’t set out to write a book. That a writing exercise ended up becoming a novel, was a happy surprise, certainly to me. My advice is not to be afraid to collaborate with another author and be aware that different authors approach it in different ways. Experiment and do what works. You’ll never know if co-writing is right for you unless you try.

MINETTE: It’s great fun and easy to write with someone you know and trust. However, it’s not for everyone. I can’t think of one other person I would want to share this journey with. My husband is my best cheerleader, but as Zoe said, I wouldn’t want the added friction of writing disagreements weighing down our daily lives. Zoe and I live an hour away from each other. It’s a good buffer for co-writing.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

#BookReview - Once Upon A Girl

Once Upon A Girl

By: Katie Keridan
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: November 2018
ISBN: 978-1727705386
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: December 19, 2018
Rising storytelling-poet Katie Keridan reaches out to her audience as she bares her soul in her unique work, Once Upon a Girl.
Keridan opens with a nameless poem that reads:
I crumble under the weight of this pain
except…I don’t
I just wish I could
And then closes with an eye-popping commentary:
(what is the proper response for when the spouse
you were in the process of divorcing
commits suicide?)
Perking the interest of readers from the get-go, Keridan will not disappoint her audience since her poems do much more than explain her seemingly dark writing style. While the outpouring of words, no doubt, reflect a painful past, Keridan chooses to let vulnerability and transparency be her guide as she peels back facades and exposes the truth about herself, her suffering, battling with low self-esteem, and the process she’s taken to reinvent herself.
Keridan’s near 200-poem collection is exceptional on many different levels. Most prominent is her E.E. Cummings-approach to writing, which is marked with lowercase letters with minimal punctuation, and set to freeform with a light sprinkling of haikus. With no table of contents and very few titled poems, Keridan has the freedom to also reinvent her poetic approach, which functions more like a storytelling journey that chronicles her experiences.
Much of Keridan’s poetry, like the opener mentioned above, have no titles and include commentaries which offer clarity to her poems that are replete with many low-self-esteem-related themes. While general topics cover relationships, love, marriage, others get more specific, such as abuse, bulimia, self-mutilation, stolen childhood, and unconditional love, to name a few. There are inferences, too, such as codependency in relationships. Plenty of metaphors are sprinkled throughout as well. One that stands out is fire, which Keridan explains in one of her commentaries as relating to her.
A handful of poems that actually have titles made their first appearances in other sources such as “Soul Recognition” and “My Moment” in The Sand Canyon Review 2018,“The Truth of Always,” “Interludes,” and “Different and Never Enough” in Inquietudes Literary Journal 2018, “Hotel Room” in Madness Muse Press 2018, and “Space Between” in On Arrival through Eber & Wein Publishing.
Keridan’s words are straightforward from beginning to end—a reflection of the promise she made to be true to herself. But her poems serve a purpose beyond self-expression. Her hope to her readers is this: “May you know that you are not alone in how you feel.”
Quill says: Once Upon a Girl sends a powerful reminder that there is hope in the midst of hopelessness.

#BookReview - When the Rules Don't Apply

When the Rules Don't Apply

By: Gerard Shirar
Publisher: iUniverse
Publication Date: December 2017
ISBN: 978-1532036699
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: December 20, 2018
Sometimes the law of the land gives way to the law of the jungle; in this gripping crime novel, author Gerard Shirar shows both, up close and at times, very ugly.
Timothy Flaherty and Donny Faye were friends all through elementary and high school, their main link being sports. Timmy knew Donny was different from him – sometimes he had marks on his face, like he’d been hit, and he never talked about his home life. That only seemed to make the bond stronger.
When both young men are drafted and sent to Vietnam straight out of high school, that link is broken for years, as Flaherty goes to college and becomes an attorney while Donny turns to crime. And not just any crime. With nothing to lose after a dishonorable discharge from the military, he gets “work” with Percy Dwyer, a criminal overlord who needs a guy like Donny – to kill people who get in Dwyer’s way. Faye and Flaherty are destined to meet again, when Faye finds himself framed by his pitiless boss.
Told in two parts, Shirar’s narrative doesn’t spare any nerve endings. Faye’s life path as recorded by Flaherty began when his brutal father told him he was “an accident.” Faye goes on to justify his own cold savagery with the street-wise logic that “I only did to him what he would have done to me.” Even when he tries to confess, a priest will not absolve him, so he gives up on religion, relying instead on something called “Him” who might be God, an angel or the devil. Flaherty meanwhile is learning the multi-layered morality of the legal profession that can involve cutting deals while making life-or-death decisions – no more crucial than when he finds himself defending his old friend, whose sins are many, and hard to stomach.  The dilemma he faces as a lawyer - and as a human being - is whether there is a good choice, and whether he will make it.
Shirar, as an Army veteran and former attorney, has walked some of the walk he so intently details.  He writes with admirable confidence, not a word out of place. His story hinges on the teetering balance between two versions of justice. In the first half of the book, we see how a man can be degraded without becoming a total monster, and in the second, how a man may, when called upon, do the wrong deed for the right reason.  The reader can readily visualize the ambience Shirar so vividly depicts, from the gloomy underworld peopled by street thugs to the lofty and sometimes conflicted realms of legal power.
Quill says: Readers will find themselves picturing Shirar’s When the Rules Don’t Applyas a gritty, noire film, and will hope to see more output from this talented wordsmith.

#BookReview - A Town Divided by Christmas

A Town Divided by Christmas

By: Orson Scott Card
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publication Date: November 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5385-5685-6
Reviewed by: Gina Montanha
Review Date: December 17, 2018 
Two post-doctorate scientists are sent out on a grant from the University of Chicago, to conduct some interesting research in Good Shepherd, North Carolina. Drs. Delilah “Spunky” Spunk and Elyon Dewey are an unlikely pair of opposites, but each has a skill set that will positively contribute to the completion of their genetic studies.
Good Shepherd, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, is a lively little town with a population of only 10,000. Spunky & Elyon are expected to sample 100% of them, over the course of a few months. A seemingly daunting and impossible task, the two PhD’s assimilate into the quaint town quite quickly and easily. They befriend the eighth term alderman of Good Shepherd, Eggie Loft, who has been unable to get anyone to run for mayor or even another alderman seat in all that time. The town is chock full of odd dynamics and strange relationships among its residents.
Throughout the weeks spent studying their subjects in Good Shepherd, Spunky and Elyon are entertained by an amusing mix of fun names, mysterious church rivalries and odd historical nostalgia. Spunky becomes intrigued by Eggie Loft and even the socially challenged Elyon develops his own romantic interest. As Christmas approaches, there’s a few actual references to a “Hallmark Christmas movie” in the making. 
Even though the romances are a bit predictable, this is a cute little story to be enjoyed around the holidays. And while you may figure out who’s kissing who, you may not expect the surprising ending, which reveals the real reason behind the mysterious dueling nativities.
Quill says: A Town Divided by Christmas will warm your heart, so enjoy it by the fire with a steaming cup of cocoa. It’s a quick read sprinkled with romance, mystery and an unexpected twist of an ending.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

3 (Unusual!) Social Media Tips for Launching Your Book

3 (Unusual!) Social Media Tips for Launching Your Book
by Cassie Premo Steele

I woke up one morning two weeks after my new novel, The ReSisters, was released to find that it was #1 on Amazon’s bestselling children’s books about prejudice and racism.

This was quite a feat for an author who published with a small, independent press. I had no marketing budget. No agent. And I had not done a book tour. 

So how did I do it?

I used social media, but not in the usual ways. I approached my social media campaigns with the same ethic that I brought to bear in writing the novel itself: with collaboration, art, and gratitude.

It’s not about what. It’s about how.

1. Collaboration

When I decided I wanted to write a novel about intersectional feminism featuring a Native teen girl, I reached out to my friend, Amy Alley, who is an amazing artist.

I asked her if she would do the art for the novel – and I did more than that.

I asked her who her favorite Native women artists are. I asked her what Cherokee stories she liked best.

I wanted the book to be a true collaboration.

Your lesson: if you want your book to be a success, start by reaching out. Learning from others. Bringing them into success with you.

Your homework: brainstorm ways you can work with someone else on your next project. Not just use their art or ask for favors. But truly collaborate.

Your result: your social media posts will not only be “shared,” but really shared. Others will feel the mutuality of your work and want to be part of that.

2. Art

Social media is visual. People respond to cat GIFs and cute puppy pics and clever memes.

But most of all, they respond to real art.

For 26 days before my book release, I posted a painting a day on Instagram. I’d painted the paintings to coincide with the themes of the novel. I allowed people to get a sense of who I am and what I care about. 

Art is about authenticity.

So much of social media is about surface shallowness.

People know the difference.

Your lesson: if you want your book to be a success, ask yourself who you are and what you care about.

Your homework: brainstorm ways you can use social media to share aspects of yourself as an author in ways that are authentic and genuine.

Your result: your social media posts will feel true because they are true. Don’t be afraid to reveal vulnerability and fear and darkness. We all share this, and we turn to authors and their books to be the light through it.

3. Gratitude

Before, during, and after the launch of the novel, I expressed gratitude. Regularly and often.

I thanked people who signed up for my newsletter on my website by giving them a ReSister Self-Care Kit. I thanked people who had attended my writing workshops in the past by sending them special emails. I thanked the writers who wrote blurbs for the novel by mailing them signed copies of the novel. I thanked everyone who attended the book launch party by giving them little gifts. I thanked everyone who shared a post about the book on Facebook and I thanked everyone who wrote a comment of congratulations.

I did this because I truly am grateful. To have readers. To have supporters. To have people who care about books and want the world to know that books can change the world.

Your lesson: if you want your book to be a success, ask yourself who has helped you and how you can thank them.

Your homework: brainstorm ways you can express gratitude in advance. Don’t wait. Give first. Receive later.

Your result: your social media presence and online communication will focus on others, not on yourself. This is a rare quality, and we need more of it these days.

Good luck. May your journey as an author bring you success and happiness and may you share this with others.


Cassie Premo Steele is the author of The ReSistersand 15 other books. Her website is

Link to The ReSisters on Amazon: 

Links to my profiles on

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

#BookReview - Blinked @Minette_Lauren


By: Zari Reede
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Publication Date: December 2018
ISBN: 978-1626948075
Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau
Review Date: December 3, 2018
Mindy Nichols is an agent of the Inner Space Monitoring Alliance, or “ISMAT.” This secret government agency is charged with protecting Earth from a phenomenon known as “Blinking.” Blinking is an occurrence that connects Earth with the strange world of Ortharos, swapping their inhabitants back and forth with no discernible pattern. It’s 1975, and as New Orleans’ Mardi Gras celebration is in full swing, Mindy is forced to abandon the festivities when her husband Jim is Blinked away and replaced with one of Ortharos’ otherworldly inhabitants.
Blinked opens with a bang, thrusting readers headfirst into the behind-the-scenes battles taking place between the ISMAT agents and the displaced creatures of Ortharos. Author Zari Reede wastes no time in acquainting the audience with the dramatic battle sequences that carry the rest of the novel forward.
Ortharos is a strange world vastly different from Earth. Populated by creatures the ISMAT agents consider monsters with a lack of any sentience, Reede guides the audience through a large cast of different species and relationships. She draws from mythology and fairy tale lore, including all kinds of creatures, from dwarves to fearsome cyclops.
With four different narrators, keeping character voices distinct and individually engaging can be a challenge. Reede successfully offers a unique voice each time she shifts to a new point of view, keeping each chapter refreshing and exciting. There are times when this skill falls short, however. One of the four narrators, a resident of Ortharos named Winnalea, speaks in an older form of English. It’s well-written and makes her chapters more interesting, but most of her chapters are used to provide short summaries of story events rather than move the plot along. There are a few other places where this happens with other narrators, but Winnalea’s chapters are the only ones that are almost exclusively summarizations.
There are also several points throughout the novel where actions are over-explained, instead of allowing the reader to infer. It makes the prose awkward at times, slowing down the pace of the story and hanging up action-heavy scenes like battles or chases to explain minute details that can often be left unsaid. Other times, the tone of the prose comes off as overly casual and very passive. Zari Reede leaves little to the imagination of the audience. It’s an interesting stylistic choice that may intrigue some readers while turning others away.
Blinked is a charmingly weird novel. Taking a place like New Orleans, rich in history, during such an iconic time of year as Mardi Gras, and seamlessly weaving a second, secret world into its history makes for an entertaining journey for readers. It ends with a bang, reminiscent of the high-energy, edge-of-your-seat battle with which the story began.
Quill says: Blinked is a fun, light read that is perfect for any reader who likes a little humor with their fantasy.
For more information on Blinked, please visit the author's website at:

#AuthorInterview with Ann Crawford @ann_crawford1

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Ann Crawford, author of Fresh off the Starship
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?
CRAWFORD: I love to say that I'm a high-flying, deep-diving, world-traveling, life-loving author. All of those adjectives are things I do literally -- as a pilot (student for now) and scuba diver; I've been to all 50 states and 65 countries and counting; and life lover? Well, that just came with this body, LOL, although there certainly have been periods of my life (death of a loved one, divorce) where I've had to work on it.
I used to list where I live, but now I just say, "Oh, all over." I've lived from one shining sea to the other shining sea to the prairie and then to the mountain. (Yes, I'm definitely mixing up our patriotic songs here.) That prairie part includes Kansas for a few years--which was needed to write my latest book. Right now my husband and I live with a view of Colorado's Rocky Mountains out the window.
I believe in love at first sight, that good always prevails, and that we're here for those wildwonderfulwayoutthere visions of ours to come alive.
FQ: Have you always enjoyed writing or is it something you’ve discovered recently?
CRAWFORD: I've enjoyed writing since I could first hold a pencil. As I was growing up, my mother was extremely ill, but she would read to me and those were among the most precious times of my early years. She always wanted to write, but died before she could accomplish that.
Even as a youngster, I always figured I'd write books to give another child that same sense of connection....although it took many, many years to really get the books rolling. My first book was picked up by a publisher in 2001 , and my writing has picked up steam so much that I've published 3 books in the last 18 months.
FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.
CRAWFORD: My books are very hard to categorize --they're women's fiction, inspirational/uplifting, funny (mostly...the one about the witch hunts not so much), a love story and with a little science fiction/fantasy thrown in, too. Fresh off the Starship falls into all of these categories, as well.
Ever wonder what it's like to wake up as a newly minted but fully grown human? It can be as challenging as it is delighting. Imagine the joy of a very first shower or Starbucks Caramel Macchiato...and it was VERY fun writing those as brand-new experiences.
Here's a brief synopsis: A starbeing catapulted across the universe to Washington, D.C., but at the last second got diverted to...Kansas! Determined to still be a positive influence, she quickly learns how to live in this very strange and foreign land. With as many laugh-out-loud moments as there are deep, philosophical ones, readers will certainly enjoy the journey, including falling in love.
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 …?
CRAWFORD: My books start writing themselves in my head before I ever start typing them. I speak notes into my iPhone for a bit. Then when the story is bursting at the seams, I sit down at a specific time every day and write the book.
Since my books are coming so fast and furious these years (for me, anyway), I do have to take some downtime between books. But then they start knocking on the door (inside my head) and the stories come.
FQ: What was the hardest part of writing your book? That first chapter, the last paragraph, or …?
CRAWFORD: The plot lines and especially the conversations are always the easiest to write. For me the hardest part is descriptions of the land, scenery, surroundings, and sometimes the rooms the characters are in. The first line usually comes to me long before I start writing the book; the last line comes by the time the characters (and I) have arrived there.
FQ: Who are your favorite authors?
CRAWFORD: I love Dan Brown and Kathleen McGowan, with their twists on what's been accepted as history as well as the current status quo. Jean Houston is one of my sheros. I had the opportunity to work with Barbara Marx Hubbard when I was much younger, and it was like she picked me up by the scruff of the neck and lifted me up to a whole new level, saying, "You're going to live way up here now." I'm so grateful.
FQ: Did your family & friends encourage you to write your book?
CRAWFORD: Always! They are my biggest cheerleaders. They love my writing and are always eager to see what I'm going to come up with next. My readers often say that their least favorite part of my books is when they end, and this one is no exception.
FQ: Did the story change as you wrote the book?
CRAWFORD: The story always changes as the book is written. My writing often surprises me.  I mentioned that in a screenwriting class once, and the professor said, "You mean as if to say, 'I can't believe I just wrote that?'" Well......yes! LOL
The characters sometimes blurt out things that weren't in my head. A fun twist will suddenly emerge with no warning. Something comes at the end that makes me have to rewrite some of the middle.
I understand that Alfred Hitchcock storyboarded every shot of his movies. I know writing books and film-making can be very different, but I'm the exact opposite of his process.
FQ: Tell us about your favorite character and why that person is your favorite.
CRAWFORD: Missy, my starbeing, was such a fun character to write about. Just about anything is possible with and for her. She's so open-minded and curious. She's so wise and yet everything on Earth was new to her. Having her learn about the beauty of life here--and especially love--well, it was about the most fun I've ever had in all of my writing.
FQ: Was it important to you to have a plot that would keep readers guessing about the outcome?
CRAWFORD: Yes, as always! I love surprise endings.
For more information on Fresh off the Starship, please visit the author's website at:

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

#BookReview - In the Shadow of War

In the Shadow of War

By: Patrick M. Garry
Publisher: Kenric Books
Publication Date: July 2018
ISBN: 978-0983370369
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: November 2018
Patrick M Garry creates an emotive, microcosmic atmosphere against a backdrop of national conflict in his new book In the Shadow of War.
In the Shadow of Warcenters on narrator Glen Kinsella, recalling his younger years. As the story opens, it is summer, 1970. Glen is a recent high school grad who grew up shepherding his mentally deficient brother Ricky, who recently died in a freak accident for which Glen feels responsible. Despite his special needs, Ricky was charming, with amusing speech patterns and a fascination with Martians that came from watching sci-fi movies. From his years with Ricky, Glen learned that contact with such people could bring out your meanness, your sense of playfulness and your deepest affection. Every year the two boys were dropped off by their parents in Corcoran, a tiny “blink-and-it’s-gone” town occupied by their Grandpa and a few other diehards who were trying to keep the town’s ambience alive. Ploughing the fields for meager crops and arranging an occasional burial in the Corcoran cemetery, Grandpa hits on the idea of reviving the town with new blood. He invites three women to move in: all are married to soldiers deployed in Vietnam, one of them, Sharon, already a widow.
Glen, in his first summer without Ricky, is swept up in the lives and histories of these women and of the vets who occasionally come for picnics. But two visitors will change Corcoran – and Glen – forever: former soldier Will, who has dark news to impart, and Suzanne, a footloose young woman with a secret she feels she must hide, especially since she and Glen are falling in love. And around all of them, a sinister plot is underway for destruction of the town they all call home.
Garry’s intriguing novel interweaves one boy’s coming-of-age drama with the memories, conversations and interactions of a gaggle of diverse characters. Glen’s recurring recollections of his time with Ricky provide a kind of playbook for his current exploration of the world of adulthood that he soon must enter. As the summer passes, the boy also learns more about Grandpa’s deep attachment to Corcoran. The potent framing for this elaborate interpersonal tapestry is the Vietnam War. Protests against the war are mounting, and protestors come to Corcoran, affecting and afflicting its newfound collection of war wives, widows and survivors.
Garry, an award-winning novelist and professor of law, has constructed a sensitive, intelligent story redolent of the times, bringing the Vietnam War to Corcoran through the conflicting feelings and opinions of the community. At times there are too many small mysteries, questions and solutions in confluence, leading to a crowded feel. But as regards the central theme, readers with ties to those difficult times will appreciate how judiciously the author presents varying viewpoints without forcing the reader to take sides. When Will expresses what Nam was like for the warriors, he could as easily be speaking for those back in the US watching the action on TV each evening: “You never knew where anything was going, or how anything would work out.”
Quill says: Garry has created a memorable snapshot of a divisive era in our nation’s history, revealed through the eyes of realistically conceived characters who, no matter the outcome, have much to gain or lose.
For more information on In the Shadow of War, please visit the author's website at:

#AuthorInterview with Nancy & Eddie Sullivan

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Nancy and Eddie Sullivan, authors of Secret Adventures of the North Pole: Magic in the Frosty Air

FQ: What first made a husband and wife team come together to bring Freezyville and all its wonderful characters to the public?

NANCY: The inspiration for this story came several years ago. It was the day after Christmas and I was admiring all the pretty decorations. I gazed upon our snowman and snow women ornaments. Wandering how nice it would be to leave them out all year long. It was almost as if they were looking back at me. I started to get the idea. A magical place near The North Pole where all the people are made of snow, filled with love and laughter. Brought to life by the magic in the frosty air.

EDDIE: A few years later, I wrote a song entitled Magical Journey. This inspired Nancy to create Princess Rose, the villain of her story. Slowly, the story evolved, inspiring me to write more songs. As for any creative work, our dream is to share it with world, and to bring smiles to those we share it with.

FQ: What made you decide to add an audiobook in with this package? Is this something that you feel you will continue to do in this particular genre?

NANCY: When Eddie first read the book out loud it brought the book to life. You could really feel the excitement and the emotions of the characters. He's also pretty good at doing different voices, so all the characters got to have their own distinct voice. This really brings out their personalities.
Eddie has been a songwriter for many years. He has a knack for coming up with great original holidays classics that both children and adults will enjoy. Hopefully, one day they will become holiday classics. The audio CD is a great way to share Eddie's songs and adds to the enjoyment of the book.  In addition to the audio book, the music soundtrack called Symphony in the Frosty Aircan be purchased at CD Baby.  Children and adults alike will be singing along with all the happy tunes.

EDDIE: Finally, the sound effects compliments of Free Sound Effects complete the experience.  It's like listening to a movie where the visual is a combination of the illustrations and a child's vivid imagination.

NANCY AND EDDIE: We will definitely continue the audio books. In fact, the second book in the series, More Magic in The Frosty Air,is already published and available on Amazon and Barnes And Noble. This book also has an audiobook available at CD Baby. It was a lot of fun recording the books and music with Joe and Tom at SI. Studio.

FQ: How did The illustrations come about? Can you tell readers what is more fun and perhaps, more difficult when it comes to putting together an entire package instead of just a hard copy by itself? And what can future writers in children's genre learn from your experience?

NANCY: While writing the story the characters and their personalities seemed to have a life of their own. The characters were drawn several times until finally their images matched their personalities.
EDDIE: I was very meticulous with some of the building illustrations which took countless hours over days and days to complete. During the audiobook in addition to the hardcover gives the audience the full experience. In addition to seeing how they look, everyone can hear how they sound. I had a blast recording it! I must say though, it was quite challenging switching back and forth from narrator to character. The editing was tedious for me especially the studio engineer, but the end product was well worth the work! Joe did a great job!

NANCY: What other writers can learn from our experience is to take your time. Keep revising the text and the illustrations until you're completely satisfied with them. Make sure you pick a good publisher.

FQ: Will this be a series? Is there another Noel Claus tale in the works?

NANCY: Yes, this is definitely a series with endless possibilities. As we mentioned earlier, the second book, More Magic in The Frosty Airalong with the audiobook is already released. The third book, A Wish For A Christmas Fish, staring Frankie The Fish, Rufus and Cliffy, among other lovable characters has also just been published. It is now available at Barnes And Noble, Jet and Amazon will soon have it too.

EDDIE: This is just the beginning! We have many more exciting adventures yet to come from our lovable characters!

FQ: Did each of you always have a passion for Christmas/holiday tales that made you want to walk down this path?

EDDIE: We have a special holiday tale of our own. This time of year is very special to us. We met on December 23rd... Once upon a time each of us were both shopping for Christmas presents for our mothers. Nancy had been waiting in line at the jewelry for almost two hours! I came strolling into the store. Saw the long line and said to myself, there’s no way I'm going to wait...Let's see who I can get in line with. Oh look, there's a pretty girl. My heart started to pound. Suddenly, a strong voice like that of a drill sergeant commanded me, “Walk! Now!” Shaking off the fear, I marched on over there and bravely introduced myself. She smiled, and my heart told me that this was the start of something magical. I smiled back, and the rest is history!

FQ: Could you share with your readers what you hope children (and adults) will take away from the book; a specific lesson that you hope Freezyville will teach them; or an emotion it will leave with them as the new year begins?

NANCY: The first thing that comes to mind is that my character, 'Sammy The Snowboy' never judges Princess Rose harshly. He sees beyond her exterior, and looks right into her heart. Even though she intends to keep him, Sonny and Stephen locked away in her dungeon, he still extends to her a random act of kindness. It is this kindness that can change a person's life forever.

EDDIE: The book also contains a great message of unselfish, love and loyalty. The people of Freezyville are willing to go through anything for one another. And even for those they don't even know.

FQ: Do you have a specific author that you'd love to meet and greet, and perhaps ask a question of? If so, who would that be, and what would you like to learn from them?

EDDIE: For me, that would have to be Charles Shultz, creator of Peanuts, and Theodor Seuss Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss. Creator of my favorite Christmas cartoons - How The Grinch Stole Christmasand A Charlie Brown Christmas.

NANCY: For me, it would be Alan Alexander Milne, author of the Winnie The Pooh series.

EDDIE AND NANCY: What we would like to learn from them is the secret of capturing the hearts of audiences, young and old, generation after generation.

FQ: What's next? Are you currently working on another project together? What should readers keep an eye out for in the months to come?

NANCY: As we mentioned, More Magic in The Frosty Airand A Wish For A Christmas Fishare now available. There are many more stories yet to come for Sammy The Snowboy and the entire gang. Santino, Eddie Elf's crazy little kitty will have an adventure of his very own. Santino's character is based on our very own tuxedo little kitten.  He is very playful and always getting into mischief. He also craves content attention. We have enclosed a picture of him. Ralphie Reindeer's character is based on our Pekingese dog. He is very funny and lovable. We also enclosed a picture of Ralphie. Getting back to the question, Freddy and Teddy our little panda twins will have a book of their very own. I will also delve deeper into the story of Princess Rose and the characters from Keepsake Castle and Banesberry Castle.

EDDIE: We will also be working on developing these great books into full length animated feature films that we hope will be playing in movie theaters across the country.  We smile at the thought of happy families enjoying them year after year making all our stories wonderful holiday traditions.

Monday, November 26, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Rose Miller

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Rose Miller, author of Girls Can Be Cowboys Too!
FQ: Thanks very much for your time today Ms. Miller. This book checked all the boxes for me when it comes to a great read. While you address early on what inspired you to tackle this project, I’m curious if there was one trigger that launched your creative juices to get flowing. Could you elaborate further?
MILLER: I think writing is more in my blood than I realized. I enjoyed writing my previous books because they were about my life with my animals, and the stories just flowed. This would be a totally different project because I had to find the gals, (not too easy) travel to them if needed, think of questions (I had never done interviews before) and then write. The writing was the easiest because I wrote them as a conversation just as it occurred. So basically, I couldn’t help myself!
FQ: I love the diversity you paint between the personalities of horses and their counterparts in the mule. Of all the four-legged beauties you’ve owned, what is one of your fondest experiences of owning a mule? 
MILLER: Rather than one experience, I think it is a special mule: Susie Q. She was the fourth mule I purchased in my quest to find the perfect mount for my old age. I had been showing Tennessee Walking horses and since they were “showy” they usually were not the best for trail riding. Retirement came about because I lost my young girls that helped me. First my daughters, then the other young gals got married, or went to college. Trail rides beckoned. Susie proved herself to be that nearly perfect mule. I have owned her for twelve years now; she moved to Arizona with us (along with 2 horses and 2 other mules) and allowed me to explore the Arizona countryside near our home, alone. Usually riding by yourself in the vast open spaces is not recommended, but with Susie, I felt safe, and indeed she has never done anything remotely dangerous in those twelve years. She is a true treasure.
FQ: I was taken by Mary’s philosophy in your book (and addressed the passage in my review). What was your a-ha moment in your life that led you down the path of your equestrian lifestyle?
MILLER: I think you are referring to Mary’s question in her poem: Have you ever had a dream or goal...I think I, along with hundreds of other women, was born with the “horse gene.” We have to have horses. I wrote about my quest to become a horsewoman in my first book: The Horse That Wouldn’t Trot. I had the desire, but needed my dad to get my first horse when I was sixteen, and my husband’s blessing to pursue my goal after we were married. So maybe no “a-ha” moment per se, it was there the very first time I saw a horse as a child!
FQ: There is such a wonderful diversity in the women you depict in your book. How often do you connect with them and what made you decide on the women you did choose to write about? Are there any others you have met since publication that have a unique story to share? 
MILLER: A few like Kim McElroy are neighbors, and I get organic beef from her, and visit when I can. Because it is Arizona, the space separating us is large, so even neighbors are not close by. However, we do keep in touch via email, and Facebook. I cast my net far to find the ladies to interview, mostly by word of mouth, and that is why the book ended up being such an eclectic collection of stories. I only interviewed two women that I did not use. I was searching for “stories” not just about their lives, perhaps because that is what I love to read. It is also how the book: Girls Can be Cowboys Too! became such a large (500 plus page) book. I did not have the heart to discard any, and yes, I have met more inspiring ladies. There could be a Part Two!
FQ: I have great admiration for the women in your book including Amanda Marsh and her story of the brave Hot Shots who lost their lives in the infamous Yarnell Hill Fire. It saddened me greatly to watch the movie fashioned after this event. How difficult was it for you to put Ms. Marsh’s story into words? 
MILLER: First, thanks for seeing the movie! I hope many more will do so after reading her story. Second, I was so honored that Amanda was willing to tell me her story. She is really a private person and this was a tragic event in her life, so I was surprised but so grateful she shared. Third, she made it easy to write as she is a beautiful speaker, she needed no prompting; she just told her story. There was one thing she asked: Do not have it be the most important or “keynote” story. When it came time to put all the stories in order, I realized after reading hers again, that nothing could follow it. I sat in awed silence. It was the closer. I cried as she told the story, and again as I wrote it, not because of the horrific loss of her husband and best friend, but because of the love story she shared. Not just of first love, Eric Marsh, but the second love of her life, Jason. Their unselfishness and total love simply overwhelmed me. I probably would not have gone to see the move, Only the Brave, but after she shared how much making the movie helped her heal, I wanted to. After we watched it, and as others also related, there was just total silence in the theater, many cried as this was local, and the hotshots were known to many of us.
FQ: This book has terrific pace. Was there ever a time when you had to set your pen down because you ran out of creative flow? If so, how did you rally and continue writing? 
MILLER: I actually had many days of putting the pen down between interviews and write-ups, but never ran out of creativity because the next story was waiting to be told. The gals were terrific and we had a blast.
FQ: It must be difficult to pinpoint one place as being your favorite in the majestic land of Arizona. If you had to choose, where would that be and why? 
MILLER: It is cliché, but it would have to be the Grand Canyon. We take family and visitors there now and then and it has never gotten “old.” After you park your vehicle and walk up to it, bam! There is that awesome vista, it gives me goose bumps every time and sometimes tears as I gaze upon what God has wrought. I had the opportunity to ride down to the bottom with a group, spend the night and ride back up on one of the Grand Canyon mules. That is when I fell in love with mules, hastened home and began buying my own! I wrote about that experience and my burgeoning love of mules in Mules, Mules and More Mules. So not just the Grand Canyon, but mules!
FG: In line with Question 7, what is one of the most notable experiences you have had on horseback in the back country of Arizona and why this event?
MILLER: It would have to be riding down the Canyon on a Grand Canyon mule. His name was Charlie, and he was the slowest darn mule in the bunch. I kept lagging behind, a cardinal sin in Canyon mule riding. Bob was with me and he wasn’t a rider at that time, more of a passenger. The story is a good one. We got to see the Canyon from top to bottom, it took five hours of strenuous riding because it was downhill and hard on the knees and body, then uphill to come back and darn, it was hot, and Charlie lagged even worse coming back up. Still I was hooked on mules because they were careful, self preserving (not stubborn as believed) and hard working. I wish I were in physical shape to do it again, but guess I will have to stick with riding my Susie on level ground these days. Some people I know have ridden the Canyon on their own mules, but I wouldn’t want to do that; I would choose one that “has been there and done that.” Some of the trails were frightening and some turns downright scary.
FQ: It’s difficult to single out any of these amazing cowgirls in your story because each of them is so unique. I was in awe of Kimberly and her bull riding experiences on her bull Jazzy. Have you ever saddled up and ridden a bull? If so, please share your experience. If not, would you ever? 
MILLER: Well, that is funny because yes to a cow, not a bull. When I was growing up in Pennsylvania on our farm, we had Jersey cows. Dad was a school teacher, Mom stayed at home. Cows were useful; a horse was not, so no horse. I did have this most precious Jersey calf that grew into a wonderful milk cow. My sister and I tried riding her, but her backbone stuck up as dairy cow’s do and it was not fun. We did hitch her to wagons, though. Eventually, Dad relented and both I and my sister got horses!
FQ: Janet Gabrielson is your mule buddy. I enjoyed reading about the resentments mules can harbor if something doesn’t sit well with them. Please share one of your most notable moments with your mule and its obstinance and how you overcame the situation. 
MILLER: This is an ongoing situation and how it ends is not known at the moment, but I am sure it will be wonderful. Eleven months ago I began having hip issues which eventually turned out to be bone on bone, and a replacement was suggested. Because of winter weather and the pain, I hung up my bridle, pursued different treatments because I did not want hip replacement surgery and all that goes with it. Long story short: that was impossible, so a month ago I had the surgery which has turned out to be a blessing, and I am recovering nicely. But during that year, I couldn’t ride or even be safe around my mules. Apparently, Susie took it personally because she became aloof and uncooperative, definitely not my perfect Susie. She pouted. The other two mules and my horse never changed. My feelings were hurt, but I guess hers were too. My animal communicator said that Susie was perfect because of me, we were a pair, we nurtured each other, and we were on the same wave length. When I quit doing things with her, she became despondent, just hanging out wasn’t enough. She also has become more jumpy. That has to stop because I want to start riding again and a jumpy mule and a new hip don’t go together. I will chat with my animal communicator again, and now that I can walk and stand without a cane, I can groom and fuss over her. Treats seem to help too, bribery is good. We need to reconnect, but I am sure we can!
FQ: It was an absolute pleasure to read and review your book. You have a tremendous command of your pen. I can only hope you are working on your next book and if so, are you able to share a sneak peek.
MILLER: Not sure about another book, may retire with this one. I really love this book, and I can say that because it is not about me this time. The women are truly awesome. I love this book—oh, did I say that already?

#BookReview - Girls Cam Be Cowboys Too!

Girls Can Be Cowboys Too!

By: Rose Miller
Publisher:  Dog Ear Publishing
Publication Date:  August 2018
ISBN: 978-1-457-6482-6
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: November 22, 2018
Rose Miller delivers a great read that showcases the unsung hero ‘cowgirls’ of Prescott, Arizona in her latest book: Girls Can Be Cowboys Too!
In 2012, Rose Miller made the move from Indiana to Prescott, Arizona, along with her husband who had just retired from his chiropractor practice, and their son Bob. Shortly after arriving in Prescott, Miller made it her mission to meet her local ranch women neighbors. She opens her writing adventure with meeting neighbor Kim McElroy. An instant connection was formed between the two women as they shared ‘...animal escapades, and how we survived them...’ Miller was coming off the finishing touches of her previous memoir Dogs, Dogs and More Dogs and contemplated whether her plans would be to stop writing or perhaps there was another book percolating. It was then she was inspired to focus on some incredibly strong, humorous and hardworking ranch women as the platform for her next book. Initially, she was going to title her book Ranch Wives but realized once she started meeting some of these ‘ranch wives,’ the women transcended far beyond 'wives.'
When Miller first moved to Prescott, the transition proved to be a lonely time. She left behind a close-knit family community and their horse farm and traded it for the ‘wilderness’ of Las Vegas Ranch Estates in Prescott, approximately 25 miles north of town. One of Miller’s new doctors, Dr. Heidi Hartman-Taylor, encouraged Miller to make the connection with Kim McElroy, particularly because both women had an innate love for mules. McElroy had cattle which piqued Miller’s interest further as she had a desire to own cattle as well and could use some sound advice on how to get started. As the pages continue forward, Miller steps her audience through introductions of some of the finest, true grit cowgirls with a variety of talents and abilities ranging from cattle ranching, to horse management and breeding, and even to a particular cowgirl who loves to saddle up her bull and ride him.
I was immediately intrigued to read and review this story for a couple of reasons: 1) my undying love for horses; and 2) my love of Arizona and its magnificent wide-open western spaces. Miss Miller paints a captivating vision through descriptive detail of the landscape of the high desert of Arizona as much as she pays fantastic homage to the tenacity and endurance of the women (beside their cowboy men). One passage in particular that truly grabbed me was how Miss Miller captured Mary’s (a cook for the Diamond A Ranch) philosophy: ‘Do you ever have a dream or a goal or feel a call in your life? I know I do. I’ve been thinking about what holds us back a lot here lately. Is it fear? Is it that we think it’s just too big and impossible? Do we think that our dreams won’t fit into what other people’s expectations are for our lives? Probably it’s a little of all of those things. All I can say is that not answering that call, not chasing those dreams, not working for those goals will get you to a place where you are bitter and resentful...’ This resonates deeply with me and that is the true essence of what an accomplished writer does: tap into the reader’s emotions purely through sound word placement. Miss Miller has done a superb job in cross-sectioning a diverse group of women in this beautifully written body of work. I am a fan and look forward to her next project.
Quill says: Girls Can be Cowboys Too! transcends far beyond the reaches of its subject matter. It is a story full of inspiration and adeptly showcases some pretty darn amazing cowgirls!
For more information on Girls Can Be Cowboys Too!, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Secret Adventures of the North Pole

Secret Adventures of the North Pole: Magic in the Frosty Air

By: Nancy Sullivan & Eddie Sullivan
Publisher: Apollo Printing
Publication Date: November 2017
ISBN: 978-1640841970
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: November 20, 2018 
Yes, Christmas cheer is starting to build. We are all getting into the magical mood that only the holiday season can bring. This is the time where happiness and peace comes over people like a shroud of bliss, and that white-haired, jolly man with the ability to take his sleigh around the globe gets ready to spark the imagination of millions once again. This is also the time where writers and illustrators come out of the woodwork to present those special stories that end up becoming a part of holiday family traditions.
This Christmas tale is one that Noel Claus has kept inside her heart and has now written down so that others can enjoy. She recounts the adventure of Stephen the Snowshoe Hare: how he goes missing and how his friends and family embark through Keepsake Forest to rescue him from Princess Rose…the ruler of Keepsake Castle.
Sonny, Stephen’s younger brother, and his best friend, Sammy, need to save Stephen and bring him back home to Freezyville. But in order to get through Keepsake Forest, these young ones need a gift that only Isabella, the Night Time Fairy, can provide. Isabella's gift is a magic dust that allows them to leave Freezyville. The lovely fairy arrives and promises them they will wake on the edge of Reindeer Lake with a boat at their disposal in order to begin their journey.
It is Christmas Eve morning and everyone is celebrating the annual Snowfest by listening to the music of Eddie the Elf and the Toymakers. Here, we meet everyone that Freezyville has to offer; from Mayor Finn (a snowy owl originally from Ireland who has been in Freezyville for several years) to Ralphie Reindeer to Jilly Chilly, one of Sammy’s friends who’s worried that she can’t find Sammy anywhere. When the note is found, left behind by Sonny and Sammy stating where they were going and why, Freezyville comes together to help. Everyone is worried and must find a way to bring their boys home.
Readers will love not only the town, but also the townspeople and creatures who reside there. In fact, it is a place that’s poorly named, in my opinion, simply because the hearts are so warm there that it seems to me the snow would melt from all the love and devotion they have for one another. (Makes you want to run right out and find its location.) Keepsake Forest is filled with its own fun characters as well, and when Keepsake Castle is discovered and a random act of kindness is delivered, a princess comes into the picture with a backstory that will tug at the heartstrings. 
The creators of this story have done a lovely job when it comes to storylines and characters. There are those out there who will also like the hand-drawn illustrations. They will bring a smile to the faces of parents who love seeing their children’s artwork, and have children racing around the house looking for crayons so that they, too, can create a story of their very own to share with their friends. But the best part of this “package” is the CD. An audiobook is provided which children will love to hear as they look at the pictures provided in the hard copy format. (The narration helps a great deal, because the hard copy has some flaws when it comes to formatting and punctuation, making it a bit difficult to read.) But slip in that audiobook, have the words “come alive” and you’ll have a great time ushering in the holiday season.
Quill says: Make time for this one. There’s definitely magic in the air that will stick throughout the year, making this a new holiday reading tradition.