Monday, April 30, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Steve Zell

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Steve Zell, author of Urban Limit: They are already inside...
FQ: Let me say a heartfelt thank you for such a thrill of a story! Have you ever been compared to Stephen King? Often while I was reading Urban Limit, I found myself periodically drifting back to years ago when I read The Stand.
ZELL: Thank you for your wonderful review! And the comparison is certainly an honor. I have gotten that a few times now - I think King and I both like seeing things through the eyes of kids. Their ability to find magic (good and bad) in the world is fantastic. We also both seem to like taking a “normal” community or family and giving them something terrifying to deal with.
FQ: In line with question 1, I’m curious to know what inspired you to conjure up such a dark and entertaining tale.
ZELL: I can’t help seeing connections in seemingly unrelated things or events. Of course, a lot of Urban Limit’sinspiration just came from living in Oregon. As gorgeous as it is, it’s a place where a family can take one wrong turn on an autumn mountain drive and be found by hikers late in the spring. Right out my front door I’ve seen all four seasons in one April day – the weather here can change that fast. It’s a tough enough proving ground that we have our share of Olympians – both famous and infamous – and, yes, we have our share of illegal pharma going on in the mountains and forests. The title comes from Portland’s obsession with urban growth boundaries and limits – which I can’t help but read as, “that place where civilization ends.”
On a side note with regard to inspiration – the idea for my first novel, WiZrD, came from something I saw while stuck in traffic in LA…but that’s literally another story…
FQ:  The motherlode of a storm that changes the Carroll family’s lives forevermore was quite fantastic. Your description in setting the scene at the onset and the propensity in which it raged on was fantastic. I see you traded Southern California and Arizona for the Portland, Oregon area. What is the most horrific storm you have weathered in that area of the country?
ZELL: So far (knock on wood) I haven’t been in a storm here nearly as frightening as half the earthquakes I experienced in LA – but the ice storms that come with Oregon snow storms can be brutal – especially in the higher elevations. We lose hikers and mountain climbers on Mount Hood every winter. The worst snowstorm I’ve weathered was actually on my way home from school in Schenectady, NY, in eighth grade. I literally trudged home 2 miles from school through a blizzard in my school clothes with a light sweater and leather dress shoes. I know that sounds like a typical “dad” story…
FQ: You are quite descriptive when addressing not only the evils of the meth camps in the mountains of Oregon, but also the tie-in of the element of Isis setting up shop. What drove you to tie these two themes of the story together? 
ZELL: It made sense to me that a terror group looking for a way to smuggle personnel and deadly cargo into the US would choose a partner with a strong illicit-cargo smuggling network already in place. MS-13 would be a solid choice. Hopefully the DHS is thinking the same way…
FQ: The ‘super fortress’ Ken Carroll built for his family seems like it could withstand just about anything that came its way. Without too much of a spoiler, do you suppose we humans have become far too reliant on the modern technologies at hand to provide a false sense of security as a result?
ZELL: It was fun coming up with a “high tech” design for removing snow from the Carroll’s roof that isn’t any more “high-tech” than a dog shaking water off its coat. But yes, sadly “self-reliance” doesn’t carry much value anymore, in fact, it’s largely ridiculed. Convenience is king. A world full of self-driving cars with hackable software at the wheel is scary as hell to me. At the same time I do love technology – I draw/paint my cover-art on a digital tablet and much of what I did as an animator and instructor was teaching traditional cel and stop-motion animators how to move to digital tools. I haven’t used actual paper and canvas for years. We make trade-offs, but I do worry about that.

FQ: I like the nuance toward the all American, Olympic contender you painted in the development of Kristi’s character. Yet, when exposed to the contamination of the meth leeching into the pristine mountain streams she drank from, it was clear her life was spiraling out of control. What made you take that detour with her character?
ZELL: With world-class athletes - so driven to compete with the best and win – I think a lot of them are looking for an edge. It comes down to integrity, emotional and physical cost. Kristi has a lot of integrity and her case is special – she isn’t juicing willingly, and by the time she realizes what’s happened to her she’s already hooked. I think it would be a really, really difficult choice for anyone at that level – and when it’s her family’s life or death, not a medal she’s fighting for, she’s forced to make a tragic choice.
FQ: This is a wonderful story of good versus evil and I applaud you for not ending it with ‘… and they all lived happily ever after…’ Did you find the more invested you became with the axis of evil, the more the story took on a life of its own? If so, what was that like? If not, have you experienced this euphoria in this or any of your previous works?
ZELL: Thank you for that. I’m definitely not tied to happy endings. I was bullied enough as a kid to learn you have to fight back to end it – but no fight comes without pain, even loss. You need to be ready for the pain, and for failure, without letting that stop you. I know that the ending to WiZrD shocked some folks when it came out while Running Cold has an ending I’ll just call, “quirky.”
FQ: In line with question 7, how do you overcome those moments when you transition from a pen that flows to a pen that is forced? How do you get back on track when you feel you are forcing your pen?
ZELL: When I wrote WiZrD I took the time to write an outline before I started – and wound up throwing most of that away as the characters interacted with each other and grew. If the fight is between what you’re planning for a character to do, and what that character actually would do in that moment you’re looking through their eyes, the character has to win that battle. The only hard & fast rule I have is knowing how the story ends before I start writing. If my characters come up with a better ending along the way, that’s great! As long as they’re in charge, I’ll go with it – but I have to have a strong ending in mind before I begin.
FQ: I noticed in your bio that you were an animator and digital animation tools instructor while in Los Angeles. What was your most memorable project while doing this line of work?
ZELL: Hah! The most memorable could actually be one of the worst ever. I was a lead animator on The Nuttiest Nutcracker, which was meant to replace the stop-motion classic, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, as the Christmas favorite. I came to the production late and you won’t find me in the credits, which is likely a blessing. During the final weeks of animation (what we call “crunch time”) the director brought all the animators together in one room and drew a pile of steaming poo on the white board. The very next day we had a new director. I still have a production shirt from that show which reads, “F’it, Ship it.”
FQ: Again, I want to thank you for delivering such a fascinating (and thrilling) tale. What’s next? Are you able to give us a teaser?
ZELL: Thank you again – and yes, I’m working on four stories bit by bit (one of them is a sequel to Urban Limit) – but the next book out, hopefully by the end of 2018, features two characters from Running Cold. I won’t say more now than it’s a thriller/murder mystery with supernatural underpinnings. I have the title (and the ending of course), but I’ll wait till I’m a little closer to publishing before I get that out there…

Monday, April 23, 2018

#BookReview - Urban Limit

Urban Limit: They are already inside...

By: Steve Zell
Publisher:  Tales From Zell, Inc.
Publication Date:  June 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9847468-4-2
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 22, 2018
Steve Zell delivers an edge-of-your seat, page-turning thriller in his latest novel, Urban Limit.
Ken Carroll hasn’t made that golden age of retirement quite yet. However, he has managed to climb high enough on the ladder of notoriety and success with Portland Micro to earn the coveted (and forced) four-month, paid sabbatical. ‘…Seventeen years straight, a long, wide, river of press releases, PowerPoint presentations, and trade shows interrupted by nothing more than his daughter’s weekend sporting events, and an occasional day-trip to the mountains…’ Finally, the dream home and destination were no longer on their distant horizon. It was right in front of them. Ken looked forward to leaving the city behind and moving to the quaint and quiet mountain community of Cedar. He couldn’t wait to reconnect with creating music in his private studio. After all, the past seventeen years were the sacrifice he made for family and work to arrive here now. He was convinced once his family settled into the new state of the art fortress he had built, they would come around. It would be an adjustment, but wasn’t that what life was about? What Ken wasn’t prepared for was the magnitude of adjustment that lie in wait for them and it wouldn’t take long before too much change wasn’t necessarily the plan Ken had in mind.
Amanda Carroll would stand by her man. She was completely committed to making the transition from city to mountains and had spent the previous months preparing their twin teens Kristi and Reed for the drastic change as well. Living in the mountains meant homeschooling for the two. Not quite keen on the matter, they didn’t have much of a voice in changing the situation. Kristi acquiesced once she realized daddy had designed her very own practice ski slope with tow rope to get her back up the hill in their own backyard. Kristi was an Olympic contender and there weren’t many kids on her block who had their very own personal training grounds. In contrast, Reed was a computer nerd. He wanted nothing more than uninterrupted hours to spend lost in the fantasy of Mythykal - his latest fascination in computer games. Indeed, it’s going to be an adjustment for all the Carroll family members. When the mother of all storms begins to brew and is headed straight for their mountain, perhaps Ken should have thought his plan out a bit more thoroughly. By the time the storm passes, lives will change, and some will be lost…forever.
Steve Zell is the master of ramping the goose bump effect early on in this thriller of a story. From the onset, there is a sublime element of foreboding that only builds with intensity from beginning to the bitter end. The characters are superbly developed with their own identities ranging from innocence to blatant selfishness. There is a fantastic tone of foreboding and evil that lurks beneath the surface that moves the story along at a good clip. Mr. Zell has an envious talent of setting each scene with precise description and an intensity that lends way to credible dialogue. It makes for a wonderful ride through terrific peaks and equally low valleys throughout. I have not had the pleasure of reading any of Mr. Zell’s previous works, but certainly have penned him in to do just that and soon. Well done Mr. Zell. I look forward to your next thrilling tale.
Quill says: Be careful what you wish for in your retirement years. When the time comes, what you envisioned may not be what actually comes to pass.
For more information on Urban Limit: They are already inside..., please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Gate 76

Gate 76

By: Andrew Diamond
Publisher: Stolen Time Press
Publication Date: June 2018
ISBN: 978-0996350761
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: April 21, 2018
Private Investigator Freddy Ferguson, who is currently on a case involving stolen artifacts from the Smithsonian, finds himself in the San Francisco International Airport staring at a couple ahead of him in the security line. He’s drawn to them, like the proverbial moth to a flame, and can’t help noticing their details; she, a hard-looking, but attractive blonde with bloodshot eyes, and he, a greasy goon in a suit that doesn’t quite match his overall look. He’s got a grip on her elbow, and though she has a stoic look on her face, Freddy can’t exactly figure out why he feels the need to keep watching them. Maybe it’s one of these premonitions he gets that something is not right, and bad things are about to happen. Unfortunately, he may never know, because as the line moves, he loses sight of them and eventually forgets what he sees and starts thinking about the case he’s working on, and what he’s going to tell his boss, Ed Hartwell, when he returns to his office.
Later on, after going through security and stopping for a beer, Freddy spots the same girl, this time completely alone, browsing the airport shops, and then quickly walking towards her gate when she hears the agent make a last call for her flight to Honolulu. What catches his eye this time is the fact that an airport worker who’s supposed to be emptying trashcans is clearly more interested in also watching the blonde lady, and begins to push his cart closer to her gate. At that point, Freddy follows both of them from a distance and watches as the lady checks in at the gate and walks down the gangway to her plane. The trashman moves on and appears to be phoning someone as he walks away. Other passengers continue to board, and the next thing Freddy sees is the blonde woman hurriedly walking back out of the gangway, rustling through her purse, and rushing into the restroom. Eventually all passengers board the plane, the gate closes, and the plane takes off, without the mystery woman aboard. He’s about to walk away when he recognizes the woman, this time with brown hair, sporting sunglasses, and a different outfit with high heels, emerging from the restroom and making her way to another stop a few gates down from the original flight. She again checks in at the gate, but this time she boards a flight to Chicago.
PI Ferguson eventually boards his plane heading towards Washington Dulles International Airport. During the flight, he can’t help but spend time thinking about what he witnessed earlier at the airport. He can’t get it out of his head, something is niggling inside his mind, perhaps it’s one of the premonitions he often gets not only from being a private investigator, but from his troublesome past as a champion boxer. When the flight lands in Washington, he walks out into the airport and immediately his eyes are drawn towards breaking news playing on a nearby television. The flight bound for Honolulu never made it to its destination. Reports say the flight was fully booked, but Freddy knows the truth, not all the passengers were aboard the flight that went down into the ocean.
Like a dog with his favorite bone, Freddy Ferguson is in hot pursuit of answers, and won’t give up trying to find the blonde woman, despite a few run-ins with law enforcement, and being told by his boss to “back off” and continue with his current assignment. Readers will be hooked from the shocking beginning of this thriller that has both corrupt law enforcement and politics at its core. They will be whisked through several plot twists as the main character tries to not only discover and find the mysterious woman, but who she is running from, all before they get to her first. However, the author may lose or confuse some readers due to his numerous characters intertwined throughout the storyline; perhaps a character list would be a helpful addition to the beginning of the novel. But that should not dissuade readers from diving into Gate 76 by Andrew Diamond, especially fans of action-packed thrillers. Readers will quickly find themselves following along with the main character, a former boxer with an abrasive past, as he desperately tries to put all the fragmented pieces together and to ultimately put a stop to the blonde woman’s pursuers.
Quill says: Gate 76 is a good read filled with an intense plot, and equally powerful characters that will have readers quickly flipping pages until the very end.
For more information on Gate 76, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Slay the Dragon @lzubulake

Slay the Dragon

By: Laura A. Zubulake
Publisher: Laura A. Zubulake
Publication Date: March 2018
ISBN: 978-0985064037
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: April 22, 2018
A politician discovers that defending the poor becomes costlier than he anticipates in author Laura A. Zubulake’s debut mystery.
Forty-six-year-old Cesar Rosada is no ordinary politician. The famous football star turned Minister of Finance, Cesar never loses sight of his meager beginnings; his highest priority is to help the impoverished in his country break the vicious cycle of oppression. Making strides is slow going amid corruption, especially when opioids are involved. Cesar’s plans (Project Amalur) for citywide changes are met with opposition, beginning with a cryptic phone call.
The call is not the only situation that troubles Cesar. The mysterious deaths of a top-level administrator and a boy (who was involved in a local robbery) coupled with the lack of news coverage also weigh heavy on his mind. More disconcerting events follow that harm the agricultural sector. It’s not until a significant explosion directly affecting his parents’ coffee farm that Cesar believes that all of the incidents are somehow connected. Whether or not he can successfully identify and successfully deal with the miscreants remains to be seen.
According to Zubulake’s website, it is during her many years working on Wall Street where she was able to hone “her communication skills, business acumen, attention to detail, and sense of intrigue.” There is no doubt that Zubulake utilized these skills in the shaping of her first novel, particularly capturing the vicious cycle of exploitation within societies and governments.
A tension-filled plot from the get-go, Zubulake’s fictional Latin-American-ish setting lends plausibility to the ubiquitous corruption connected with opioids and the problems associated with people’s efforts to solve societal ills once and for all.
Zubulake surrounds Cesar, her protagonist, with a tight and well-defined cast. The characters, designed mainly as foils, keep pushing and prodding Cesar in directions that steadily test his principles. Chapters alternate between taciturn and tightly-lipped characters replete with elusively laced conversations and consistently closing on cliffhangers.
While extremely well-written, there are a couple of chapters focused on drug-related history and statistics that may bog down the narrative flow for those who are well-versed on those topics. Regardless and to Zubulake’s merit, the inclusion of such pertinent information makes for a well-rounded plot.
Quill says: Kudos to Zubulake for producing Slay the Dragon, a gripping and provocative read.
For more information on Slay the Dragon, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - The Lemonade Year

The Lemonade Year

By: Amy Willoughby-Burle
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: April 2018
ISBN: 978-1629724119
Reviewed by: Diana Buss
Review Date: April 2018
Nina’s life is a mess. She’s in the middle of a divorce, her teenage daughter seems to hate her, her past with her mother has always been somewhat rocky, her brother is estranged, her sister is still dealing with the effects of an accident from her childhood and her father has recently passed away, bringing them all together at last. What could possibly go wrong? Just when she thinks it can’t get any worse, she fears her job as a food photographer is on the line. Her most recent assignment, "32 Ways to Make Lemonade," certainly doesn’t make her sour mood any sweeter. It’s going to take an awful lot to help Nina keep it together, especially when her entire world is falling apart.
When Nina begins seeing Oliver, a caretaker for her late father, she begins to think everything will be ok. He’s sweet, calming, and so much younger than she is. It’s hard for her to get past the age difference, however, he’s the calming presence she needs in her life these days, especially since her husband Jack wants to get back together with her. To make matters worse, her daughter Cassie doesn’t understand what’s going on and is taking everything out on Nina, right down to staying with her dad out of spite. Overall, Nina’s life is currently all about relationships. Her relationship with her mother is strained as she struggles to stay away from the alcohol that caused their childhood to be so rough, her sister is counting on her to come to her aid when the holes in her memory become too much and her brother needs her now more than ever as he realizes he has a family of his own. With all the family drama, secrets, and new beginnings, will they be able to come together without the glue that once held them all together?
The Lemonade Year is the perfect read for the spring and summer seasons. Not only is Nina entirely relatable, but it’s very easy to understand how she’s feeling and why. This doesn’t just stop at Nina, however. You can feel the pain of her mother as she fights to keep memories of her past behind while moving forward after the death of her husband, the fear of Lola and the suspense of wondering when she will remember her accident and the inner turmoil of her brother, Ray, who blames and punishes himself for his past and for his part in Lola’s accident. Nina’s relationship with each of her siblings, her mother, father, husband Jack, daughter, and Oliver are expertly portrayed and never confusing. This helps the story develop and makes you want to learn more about each individual's viewpoint of the situation. While we get a peek into that, I would love to see short stories or gain more insight into the lives of the rest of the characters. I believe another book, perhaps detailing Lola’s journey on her trip, her brother’s new relationship and family and Nina’s endeavors to fix her relationship with her husband and daughter would be just the cure for the sadness that follows when this book is over.
Quill says: The Lemonade Year is the perfect book to pick up and enjoy, then struggle to put down.

Monday, April 9, 2018

#AuthorInterview with John Henry Hardy @midnightyankee

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with John Henry Hardy, author of Whisper In My Ear (Vol III of III)
FQ: When you came to the end of this long trek, typing that last word, what feelings did you experience? How difficult is it for an author who has expressed so much emotion and told such a great tale to have it come to an end?
HARDY: To be honest Amy, I felt a sense of relief. My wife is rather ill and I am her sole caretaker (14 plus years plus), and while I was writing this trilogy her cardiac output became catastrophically low. In fact, I didn't write  a single word in the trilogy for two years-it took that long for her heart to recover, but she has other medical problems that must be constantly addressed.  But my sense of relief, was in knowing I finally finished what I needed to say to the public what Vietnam veterans are really like; they are not the baby killers the liberal media and the cowardly left leaning draft dodgers make them out to be. I tried to make the main characters as similar as I could to the men and women who served there. For Vietnam era veterans, this tale will never come to an end. Their battle scars, plus the emotional trauma inflicted upon them by the antiwar demonstrators will forever remain a haunting part of their lives and memories.
FQ: When Vietnam War soldiers returned home and were treated, for lack of a better term, unadmirably, that must have felt horrible. What was it like for some, perhaps even yourself, to have to deal with that?
HARDY: It was traumatic, Amy. I met vets who would not tell anyone that they served in Vietnam-even though they were very proud of their service. I met one army veteran in the gym who said he was relieved when he found out who I was. He had been maligned so many times in the aftermath of his service that thereafter he only discussed his military association with his family and friends. They even targeted American service women, the Angels of Mercy, who cared for the wounded in the hospitals and aid stations.
FQ: It is obvious you would be comfortable in the telling of war stories, certainly considering the amazing service you’ve done for this country as a Marine. But, if you wanted to “reach” into another area, can you visualize a type of plotline that you feel would be fun to tackle? If so, what field would your next hero be working in?
HARDY: Thank you for asking me this question, Amy! My last published novel was titled The Day God Played Baseball. It is for kids and adults who love the game-in fact even God loves the game so much that he decides to play on a downtrodden team called the Cherokees, as pitcher. But there is evil lurking here, and as you know, God doesn't like liars and cheaters. I tried to make it funny to satirize  the buffoons I met in real life, who acted somewhat like that who sponsored the Creeks, the team playing against the Cherokees for the league championship. During the game, strange things happen to the cheating players and their coach that cannot be explained by physics or gravity or good old common sense!
FQ: As per this review, do you have your own personal favorite literary characters that will always be a part of your mind? Any that, perhaps, changed your life or boosted your desire to write?
HARDY: You know Amy, I cannot think of one literary character (male or female) who will always be a part of my mind or encouraged me to write. I attribute this to the fact that although we were poor, I had a great mother and father and uncles that were also great role models. They all taught me to be independent and self-reliant; therefore,  I don't need any heroes in my life, although my classmates and my teacher in eighth grade loved my compositions and encouraged me to continue to write. I don't meant to sound arrogant, Amy, but I have been standing on my own feet for so long that in times of trouble the only hero I need in my life is God.
FQ: If so, who would be one character in fiction that you would love to meet or learn more about?
HARDY: Well Amy, John Wayne wasn't  fictional, but the characters he portrayed were; the roles of a men who were strong and self-sufficient; who didn't take any crap from those who tried to cheat or belittle them;  characters who loved and served their country and their families, and was brave enough to defend the weak and oppressed, and yet man enough to stoop and help a child.
FQ: This incredible trilogy has TV and/or movie screen written all over it. Tell me: Who are the stars best suited to be Cathy, Norm and Dion?
HARDY: Amy I am sorry, but as I look around Hollywood today all I can see or hear are liberal actors who support illegal alien immigration, who belittle our country, and denigrate our president and first lady. Gone are the Jimmy Stewarts, the Clark Gables, and the likes of Peter Falk etc. etc. etc. of yesteryear, when Hollywood men were really men. Don't get me wrong, there are a number of stars that have served this great country-but they're not speaking out. If I was ever so lucky to have my book on the big screen, I would like to see someone new given a chance. Someone who loves our country, supports our president and our constitution, and recognizes that we are a country of laws and boundaries The men and women in our armed forces deserve someone who represents them to be of the same high caliber as those who gave so much.
FQ: The scenes are so real in your stories: Is the POW material, in particular, something that came about from real facts and stories you perhaps heard over the years? If so, does it help to place these scenes on paper, and open some eyes in regards to what the men and women of the world who fight for the rest of us are/were up against?
HARDY: Yes Amy, the treatment of American POWs in Hoa Lo (the Hanoi Hilton) is as depicted in the story. It is based on meticulous research, the internet, and accounts of former POWs. I would recommend reading Commander Richard Coffee's book When Hell Was In Session.  I have discovered over the years that most people in this country don't want to hear the truth about real life horror stories. Even the documentaries on TV do not mention the torture endured by American POWs, and the North Vietnamese government tends to gloss over what happened in their prisons all over North Vietnam and not just at Hoa Lo. I believe that at last count about 2300 American POW are unaccounted for, and presume to have been murdered by the North Vietnamese. Thanks to heroes like Colonel Bud Day, who had his men memorize the names of fellow prisoners, we know what happened to some of them. We American have to understand that Asian countries' laws and customs are not based on Christian-Judeo principles, and they treat people and play to win by any means possible, which is reminiscent of the Nazi concentration camps in the case of Hoa Lo (known to American POW as the Hanoi Hilton). Today, the Vietnamese welcome us; they want our money and support against the Chinese, who have usurped the waters of the South China Sea that have been claimed by Vietnam for centuries. The Chinese want the oil located beneath its waters. In my book When Brothers Meet I warn about China's and Russia's global intentions about controlling the world's supply of oil.
FQ: Do you feel that PTSD can be treated? Do you agree with how it is being treated?
HARDY: I don't feel qualified to answer either of those question, Amy. But keep in mind, that Navy Seal Chirs Kyle, America's top sniper in Iraq/or Afghanistan, was murdered by a PTSD patient he was trying to help.
FQ: Can you provide something to hold your fans over? Such as, what is on tap when it comes to your next creation?
HARDY: I am working on a book that deals with interplanetary space travel. The sun of Rau (Proxima b in the Constellation Centaurus) is dying and its people are looking for  new planet on which to live. They are a friendly and advanced civilization that has much to offer planet Earth. NORAD sees the tiny blip on its radar screens which is one of Rau's spaceships at 2355 every Christmas Eve and calls it Santa's Sleigh. They begins to think it is an enemy agents aircraft that  sneaking into the country in an effort to attack American interests and government. China, with the aid of huge American trade deficits, is now the most powerful nation in the world and is challenging America for world eldership, and has formed an axis with Russia with the intent of ruling the world. Together the axis military might dwarfs that of the United States.. Will the US president convince Rau aliens, with their superior weapons and metallic soldiers, save the free world from the axis super powers and their  nuclear holocaust plans? Stay tuned and find out!

#BookReview - The Adventure of Thomas the Turtle

The Adventure of Thomas the Turtle

By: Stuart Samuel
Illustrated by: Nathaniel Dailey
Publisher: Jupiter Scientific
Publication Date: July 2017
ISBN: 978-0965517607
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: April 9, 2018
Thomas is a very curious little turtle and his curiosity is about to send him on the adventure of a lifetime...
Thomas lives in a lovely pond with his sister Sally and mother Myrtle.  The water is clear, the pond is surrounded by beautiful trees and grasses, and Thomas has a perfect rock to sun himself on when the weather is nice.  What could be better?
Thomas likes to explore the pond but his mother has warned him about one very dangerous area  - the "forbidden region" - because of what happened to Thomas's father there.  Myrtle explains that his father, along with his eleven brothers went out to explore one day but unfortunately, Thomas's father went off to that area and was never seen again.  Under no circumstances was Thomas allowed to go there - ever.  Of course, we all know how youngsters can be so curious and Thomas was no exception.  When he decided to go explore the other side of the pond, with his mother's permission, things went well at first...
All went well with Thomas's explorations until one day he decided to venture too close to the area where his father had disappeared.  He slowly, and cautiously, got closer and closer to the forbidden area until he noticed that the current was getting stronger.  He tried to swim away but it was too late and he was swept away.  No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't escape the strong current.  In moments, he was tossed right over a waterfall, and plummeted down into the dark water below.  Would Thomas be able to escape the deep, dark water and if so, how would he ever find his way home?
The Adventure of Thomas the Turtle tells a good story about a curious turtle and how his explorations landed him in trouble.  Readers will learn about the ideal turtle environment and what turtles like to eat.  Youngsters will also learn additional turtle facts through Thomas's adventure such as how his shell became dry and hot as he struggled through a grassy hill in search of his pond - he couldn't be away from water for very long.  There are points in the story where the narration and dialog are somewhat stilted because of the use of words or terms that are either a bit dated or are for a more mature reader. There is also a recurrent theme with the "forbidden region" and how "an evil force dwells among those waters" that may frighten very young children.  It makes sense that the turtles would perhaps think such things since they wouldn't understand a waterfall, but young readers who are sensitive may not enjoy that aspect of the story. Overall, however, for youngsters who are eager to learn about turtles, this book may certainly fill that need.
Quill says: A nice story that teaches children a bit about turtles, their habitats and needs.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

#BookReview - Whisper in My Ear (Vol. III of III) @midnightyankee

Whisper in My Ear (Vol. III of III)

By: John Henry Hardy
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: August 2015
ISBN: 978-1-5150-1504-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 9, 2018
All obsessed readers (and even those not so obsessed) can always come together and agree on one thing: There are characters in the literary world who are truly unforgettable. And when it comes to those who have read this amazing series from the very beginning, they have already concluded that some of those unforgettable characters have come from these particularly emotional, heart-wrenching, action-packed, suspenseful pages. This is Volume III, the conclusion that author John Henry Hardy has provided, and one he certainly should be proud to call his own.
When we began these books, we met the three main characters and watched them grow. One grew from a playboy into a man who loves with all his heart. One went from a small town boy filled with pride for his country to a grown man whose loyalty grew, although his eyes saw things in Vietnam that broke his soul and caused him to become a killer. Lastly, we watched a young Minnesota girl grow while working above-and-beyond to aid the soldiers in Vietnam by becoming an RN and a Lieutenant. A woman who ended up being personally harmed by a man who was not focusing on her to be his ultimate victim.
Cathy Addison is that woman, and she now has to deal with the pain of being brutally harmed by a psycho who was actually stalking her colleague and very best friend by the name of Barbara Mandera. Although Cathy now feels completely alone, her fiancĂ© (the small town boy named Dion) feels even more so. Upon waking up in the hospital after taking down a devious enemy by the name of Nin Thu, he is wondering why on earth Cathy hasn’t been in to see him. It’s as if she disappeared overnight. However, when he finds out about the crime that has occurred, he ends up tracking down and burying the psycho while fighting for his own life.
In a frightening turn of events, Cathy comes upon the murdered man and, not knowing he is already with The Reaper in the fiery place he most definitely belongs, shoots the corpse. Believing that she has become a cold-blooded murderer, Cathy’s mental state disintegrates even more. Resigning her post in Vietnam, Cathy runs home to Minnesota. Not only will she have to deal with the memories of her attacker and the belief that she is a killer, but she is also up against a criminal trial while attempting to deal with a “little something” that came from her Vietnam nightmare.
Norm (the one-time playboy), has news of his true love, Barbara, unveiled to him. Norm is the son of a truly rich family with chins in the air; he has a mother who will quite literally stop Norm from receiving any money if she ever hears about, let alone meets Barbara. Although Norm was set to go against the “family” demands, once he finds out Barbara’s wealth of lies and cover-ups, he leaves her. But when Norm finds himself in true enemy territory after being shot down, he begins to rethink his personal views on many things, most especially his harsh judgment of the woman he still desperately loves.
These characters all come together. As Dion pledges his loyalty and fights to regain the woman who no longer owns the same “pure heart” she once had, Norm – a man who has gone through the ultimate horrors of torture – attempts to right his life and, hopefully, find the happiness he has always wanted.
Readers will cringe at the very vivid prisoner-of-war descriptions when it comes to Norm. But, like the first two volumes, they will also be able to witness the good and cheer for the people who strived to do their jobs while growing, learning, fighting…and, perhaps, finally achieving the best life has to offer.
Quill says: After this incredible journey it’s difficult to say John Henry Hardy could top it, but fans cannot wait to see him try!
For more information on Whisper in My Ear (Vol. III of III), please visit the author's site at:

#BookReview - A Well-Respected Man

A Well-Respected Man

By: David W. Berner
Publisher: Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Agency
Publication Date: April 2018
ISBN: 978-1-948260-00-8
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 5, 2018
Author David W. Berner delivers a compelling read in his latest novel, A Well-Respected Man, that will have you asking yourself "What would I do?"
Martin Gregory was a professor at Elmhurst University just outside Chicago. He was best known as the author of Fire and Wine, a book he thought was about redemption, but his readers saw as focusing more on the modern woman.  While the initial print run was small, and the book seemed to be one destined for a back shelf, readers started discovering the book and sharing with their friends.  Soon the book was flying off those back shelves and Martin became a bit of a celebrity.  
Women were drawn to the words that Martin had written about relationships and love and often wanted to meet him.  One such woman was Amelia, a junior at the school. It wasn't long before Martin found himself falling in love with the twenty-one-year-old student.  But when his relationship with Amelia became public, his world was suddenly turned upside down.  He was asked to leave his teaching job - a job he loved. Other jobs followed, but none suited him and as he drifted between jobs, so too did he and Amelia drift apart. 
Now all that was behind him.  Fire and Wine had been published twenty years ago and Martin was now living in England where he was teaching in the small town of Banbury. He was happy, or so he thought.  He life was uncomplicated, mundane, and predictable.  Sure, sometimes fans of his novel still sought him out, but for the most part, life was quiet.  That was until a stranger showed up at his door and asked to speak to him.  Martin, annoyed and in a hurry, rudely brushed the woman off.  Later, Martin realizes that he was overly harsh to the woman, and wishes to meet her again.  Eventually the two connect, and the question is asked...
When I sat down to read this book, I had planned to read just a few chapters and then return to it the following day.  After all, it was late and I was tired.  It got a lot later, however, as I found myself drawn into the story, and I had to find out what Martin was going to do.  The choice was a difficult one, and one that would see him traveling back to the States in an effort to decide.  Not until the last few pages do we learn, along with Martin, what the decision will be and along the way, just like Martin, we waver in what is the right choice. Each chapter begins with a quote from Fire and Wine, many of which tie in beautifully with the story - "Love is not about gazing into each others eyes, it's about looking together into the sun." Berner's writing is captivating and descriptive, and set the scenes beautifully.  I was there with Martin in the English countryside, as well as taking the train ride through the United States.  A Well-Respected Man drew me in and now, a week later, it still lingers in the back of my mind. I highly recommend this novel.
Quill says: This novel asks a hard question and the story will stay with you long after you have turned the last page. What choice would you make?
For more information on A Well-Respected Man, please visit the publisher's website at:

Thursday, April 5, 2018

#BookReview - Emilia and Evelyn's Squizit Visit

Emilia and Evelyn's Squizit Visit

By: Candace Cozzens
Illustrated by: P. Anthony Visco
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: October 2017
ISBN: 978-1548615208
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: April 3, 2018
An afternoon of playing in the yard turns into a very memorable experience for two young girls when an odd little creature shows up to share their play day.
Emilia and Evelyn were having a great day in their yard. Emilia was pushing her sister on their swing and they were both having loads of fun. Dad, meanwhile, was doing something on his phone - talking maybe - but he really wasn't paying attention to his girls. All was peaceful until...
"All of a sudden from out of the woods, a creature appeared.
It was egg shaped and purple with green spots! It was really weird!"
A meatball shaped nose, three legs, two arms, one red eye and one green...this was definitely an odd looking creature. And it was probably one of the only things that could make Dad put his phone down and pay attention to what was going on around him! Emilia and Evelyn didn't know what to call the creature until a strange sound escaped from his mouth - "squizit" - and Dad declared that this was "...a Squizit visit!"
It soon became apparent that the Squizit wasn't there to cause harm but rather have fun. And how does a Squizit have fun? By stealing Evelyn's ball and then by jumping - splat! - right into the nicely raked pile of leaves that Dad just raked up earlier in the day. Dad realized that the Squizit was going to make a mess of the whole yard and it was time for the creature to go!
"At this point their Father started to chase the bothersome beast;
But it was too quick for Dad, who tried his best to say the least!"
Would the Squizit ever head back to the woods? The girls wanted to keep the silly creature but their dad knew better and wanted it to go away. But how?
Emilia and Evelyn's Squizit Visit is a sweet and goofy story told in rhyme. We never learn exactly what the Squizit is, or why it came to visit, but that's not the purpose of the story. Rather, this is a slightly non-sensical story meant to make children laugh and giggle and it certainly will. It is a relatively short story - two lines per two-page spread - so that it can easily be read to children ages three and up. The illustrations add to the light-hearted tone of the book with the expressions of the Squizit, which run the gamut from happy to goofy, as the highlight of these pictures. Overall, a nicely told tale that children will certainly enjoy.
Quill says: A fun and silly little story that just might become a bedtime favorite.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

#BookReview - The Italian Party

The Italian Party

By: Christina Lynch
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 2018
ISBN: 978-1-250-14783-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 1, 2018
Christina Lynch takes her audience on an adventure to the Italian countryside in her debut novel, The Italian Party.
Newlyweds Scottie and Michael Messina begin their lives as husband and wife far from the familiarity of their homeland, America. The year is 1956 and the place is Siena, Italy. Their marriage is built on a foundation of secretes. Michael believes Scottie is a privileged debutante and comes from fine stock and family wealth. Granted, Scottie did grow up with the finer things in life—private boarding schools, followed by an equally prestigious degree from Vassar, but maybe the family wealth wasn’t quite what it used to be. Michael, on the other hand, was a kid from the Bronx. Fortunately, Michael rose above humble beginnings. He was smart—very smart and fortunately, Scottie wasn’t. She was the perfect bride for him given his line of work.
So how did this young couple end up lightyears away from their homeland? According to Michael, he landed the job of a lifetime. He was hired to be the Ford Motor Tractor Company’s esteemed representation in Italy. The war had ended in Europe a mere eleven years prior. It was important for America to maintain a presence in the wake of the remnants the Germans had left behind. What Michael failed to explain to Scottie was this great job was little more than a cover for his real job: the CIA. His true purpose in whisking his new bride away to the lovely Tuscan countryside was to play a significant role in persuading the upcoming election’s outcome to that of democracy. Scottie loves Michael—especially his breathtaking good looks. They are the signature American couple—she with her gorgeous blonde hair and him with his swarthy good looks. While there is a definite adjustment period for the two initially, Scottie learns how to blend in with the locals—perhaps a bit too much, while Michael immerses himself further into the spy versus spy life he willingly signed onto. What the two couldn’t possibly know is just when everything seems to be falling into place, chaos is lurking around the corner awaiting their arrival.
How fitting for Christina Lynch to spin a tale of romance, politics and the ever-looming threat of communism for today’s audience to gobble up. This is a story of delicious action and adventure, sprinkled with the perfect balance of romance throughout. Ms. Lynch has a wonderful ability to set a scene and solidify the allure with crisp and believable dialogue. This may be her debut novel, but the writing portrays a seasoned veteran from beginning to end. The development of unique personalities showcases the uniqueness of each of her characters; paving the way for her audience to bond with each one. She is also keen to note the dynamics between husband and wife and particularly, the woman’s role in the late 50’s which anchors the relevance of the story even more. Bravo Ms. Lynch. This was a fun read with great twists and turns along the way.
Quill says: The Italian Party is an adventure that reaches far beyond the notion of a ‘party.’

Interview with Author Simon Plaster

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Simon Plaster, author of Flicks: A Tale of Cinematic Docudrama, Half-Truths and Half-Fictions

FQ: When it comes to Henrietta, do you have a planned ending for the main character of your series before beginning the first book, or does the time to say goodbye come about during the process?

PLASTER: I'm glad you ask. Henrietta --- named after her hometown and originally spelled with a y (which drove her to distraction) --- was what I thought a minor character in the first tale, titled SUMBITCH. Only after reading what she did and said, did I realize she was the central and most engaging figure. The discovery is typical of delights to be found in writing. Say goodbye? That would be undelightful, but it's up to her. She has a mind of her own.

FQ: You offer a snippet of info on a non-documentary flick in pre-production entitled The Platinum Loop which is what your story is loosely based upon. Can you give readers more information about this and how you discovered this particular fact?

PLASTER: After stumbling upon a trailer for the flick on YouTube, then reading the book, I got in touch with the author/screenwriter and offered an idea for a somewhat different and better storyline. He told me to go to hell. That's Hollywood for you: Sumbitches won't give an outsider a break.

FQ: Along those same lines, are you personally a Monroe fan? If you were asked to give your own personal views on the "how and why" she died, what would those be?

PLASTER: While not necessarily a Marilyn Monroe fan, I have a lot of fondness and admiration for the woman beneath the image, Norma Jeane Baker. I think she was emotionally unstable, vulnerable, and killed herself by drug overdose. The specific "why" of it, in my opinion, was the way she was exploited and discarded by the Kennedy brothers.

FQ: Based on the plotlines of this series, are movies and TV also personal "favorites" for you? Are they hobbies, perhaps, or obsessions?

PLASTER: I hardly ever go to movies anymore. On TV I like what might be called traditional flicks, including old ones. Turner Classic Movies is a priceless treasure.

Author Simon Plaster
FQ: Who is your own personal favorite when it comes to TV/movies? And if you could choose for us, who would be "the one" actress you could see playing a perfect Henrietta on the small and/or big screen?

PLASTER: Hmmm. Tea Leone comes to mind as having that so-called "it" quality that makes you keep an eye on her. As for an actress to play Henrietta, I'm an oldtimer and not up to date, but actually have in mind the young Cissy Spacek when I write about Henrietta.

FQ: Just between us . . . will Henrietta ever garner that Prize? And if so, what would you think the headline would read that would bring home the gold?

PLASTER: Well, some may recall that in my tale titled TICKS, she got a story put in The New York Times about a court case and expert testimony that creation of a human allergy to meat and milk would lead to vegetarianism and eliminate more methane gas than the amount of CO2 put out by burning fossil fuels. The article included a picture of a cow below a headline saying SHE DID IT! Later she was told that the Times ran the story by "a correspondent from Hicksville" to discredit the idea. Henrietta is way too honest to ever make a name for herself in today's journalism.

FQ: You weave the web of sarcasm quite well. Have you ever had to deal with skeptics or perhaps those who dislike that writing style?

PLASTER: I like to think of my writing as more satirical than sarcastic, but no doubt there are hundreds of thousands of what you call skeptics out there. Nothing would suit me better than to deal with them, but book sales have been flimsy as an old maid's bedroom curtains.

FQ: What advice would you give to start-up authors who also like that web of sarcasm on how to best deal with the negative?

PLASTER: My advice would be to try to come up with something funny, and send it to me.

FQ: What's up next for Henrietta?

PLASTER: Well, her new boss adopts a sensationalist style of journalism and tells her to find a local angle to go with a British tabloid story about possible sighting of a ghost at Buckingham Palace. She locates a Haunted Castle dinner theater and runs into a hell of an uproar staged by Me Too witches. The haunting tale, scheduled to be released on or about Halloween, is titled BOO!

#BookReview - Flicks

FLICKS: A Tale of Cinematic Docudrama, Half-Truths and Half-Fictions

By: Simon Plaster
Publisher: Mossik Press
Publication Date: February 2018
ISBN: 978-0-999-4185-0-5
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor 
Review Date: March 31, 2018
For those who have fallen in love with Henrietta from Oklahoma – the journalist who one day wants to win the grand prize for “serious” reporting – you will be happy to know that she is back. Not only is she knee-deep in yet another case, but she has also gotten into the middle of one that “stars” one of America’s favorite all-time actresses, Marilyn Monroe.
We begin by sitting beside Henrietta in the OKC SCENE News Group’s reception area, kicking herself. Not literally, of course, but she is still recovering from the fact that another reporter, Sylvia Bird, reported on a story incorrectly. Henrietta knew the real truth and wishes she had snagged the headline; not only would it have been factual, but she would’ve also moved a step up in her career instead of down. Now, here she is just waiting to be canned, because the OKC scene she was employed to report on – the Weekly Stockyards’ – has lost its main attraction by burning down. Instead of a firing, however, her boss does not send her packing; he assigns her to a new scene and wants nothing but good vibrations to print as the city heads toward this weekend’s upcoming Film Festival.
Attempting to correct her co-worker’s first story, Henrietta comes up against Deano DeBoffo once again. This is a man who is quite literally stranded in OKC by the FBI and others. He has been accused of shady activity. Not a stretch, considering this is a man from Hollywood whose real name is Cosmo and who has a background in criminal activities. Under the DeBoffo name, he is known as a famous producer/director in L.A. Wanting nothing more than to get out of the Sooner State, DeBoffo ends up running into a screenwriter who claims to own a large, long-hidden secret: a loop of film that shows Marilyn Monroe in some pretty…sexy ways and unveils the facts as to how and why the bombshell was killed. He wants DeBoffo to work with him to create a docudrama that he is sure will bring in lots of cash.
Enter a man named Jim Bob who is both high school Drama teacher and wannabe actor. Oddly enough, he is also a Monroe impersonator. This comes with both downsides and upsides. Downside being that men seem to forget that he is not Ms. Monroe and wish to have a fling with the star; upside being that Jim is cast in the DeBoffo docudrama not only as the “villain/enemy” of Marilyn’s but also as Marilyn, herself.
More, you say? Well, throw in the Speaker of the Oklahoma State House of Representatives (a politico known as “Dobber”) who wants nothing more than to cancel funding for the arts, yet at the same time becomes enthralled with this documentary and wants to be part of the cast up on the big screen.
In other words, you have a cast of characters that is unforgettable. This is a few days of Henrietta’s life that will open new doors to her reporting career. Especially when these “half-truths and half-fictions” come together to reveal a startling ending to Marilyn’s life that no one saw coming.
This author has consistently done a bang up job when it comes to Henrietta and the world around her, and this new tale is no exception. Although having the ability to stand-alone, the story is far more fun when you go back and jump on the reporter’s bandwagon early on. With writing on the sarcastic side, liberal use of bold type versus regular, and with some characters sporting an accent (AKA: words spelled in order to capture that southern vibe) readers should be prepared for a slightly bumpy ride. But, no worries, you will get used to the author's quirky voice. 
Quill says: Hopefully the “star” reporter will appear again soon, as readers cross their fingers for Henrietta to bring home that ultimate prize!