Saturday, June 30, 2018

#BookReview - Confessions of a Timid Rider @timidrider

Confessions of a Timid Rider

By: Heather Wallace
Publisher: Water Horse Press
Publication Date: June 2018
ISBN: 978-1387812899
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: June 29, 2018
Author Heather Wallace delivers a book that is part memoir and part self-help as she shares her experiences and offers helpful advice in her newest book, Confessions of a Timid Rider.
Author Wallace begins her memoir with a brief chapter describing her internal struggles with being both an introvert and an extrovert - in essence, an "ambivert" (showing tendencies of both). This conflict has played a large part in her struggles to overcome her fear of "what ifs" while spending time with horses. Next, she begins the recounting of her childhood obsession with horses. She would do anything for a pony ride or a few moments with a beautiful steed at birthday parties or when the circus came to town. While on vacation when she was nine, she convinced her parents to take the whole family on a trail ride through the desert. As soon as she was mounted on her gray pony, the author started falling in love with the adorable steed. But then the sweet equine shifted its weight while quietly waiting for the other riders, and Ms. Wallace panicked. She was taken off the pony and thus began her lifelong love/fear affair with horses.
While Wallace's fear at times seemed overwhelming, she didn't let it stop her from taking riding lessons as a teen. Things went well...until they didn't. She loved riding and spending time at the barn, but always, in the back of her mind, were her "...own insecurities and vivid imagination..." that kept the thought of accidents and "what ifs" always present.
Wallace briefly discusses her college years when horses were not part of the picture, then on to motherhood and the eventual need to "get out of the house," where she again found herself in the company of horses. She began with a "schoolmaster" (a safe, older horse), and worked her way up to a younger and somewhat less predictable equine. Always in the back of her mind were the "what ifs" and her struggles with confidence. Still, her time at the barn was an important part of her life and soon she was bringing her children along with her to experience the joy of riding. Watching her girls ride helped Wallace pursue her own dreams of riding, as well as realize just how wonderful spending time at the barn was for all, while still, at times, fighting the fear of getting hurt.
Horses, and the time spent riding was, and is, a constant battle for Heather Wallace. In her memoir, she bares her soul and admits to the struggles she has faced throughout her life. Horses, being around the barn, and the sheer joy of galloping through a field have brought her indescribable joy, but also frequent bouts of fear. She openly discusses all, and how she dealt with those issues. Every chapter is named - for example: For the Love of a Thoroughbred - and below many of those chapter names are "Confessions" - such as: the fear of something is usually worse in your head than in reality/it's not easy getting back in the saddle after you've been hurt - so true! These confessions were a great part of the book and let the reader know exactly what Wallace would discuss in that chapter. If you're a horse person, then you have undoubtedly experienced exactly what the author has, but if not, you've still likely experienced times of doubt and fear that may become overwhelming. Wallace shares many ideas and techniques in this easy reading memoir that helped her work through her issues, and these strategies will likely help the reader as well.
Quill says: Confessions of a Timid Rider isn't just for horse enthusiasts but for all of us who have struggled with thoughts of fear, of being afraid to try something new, and of fighting the urge to let the fear of failure keep us from achieving our dreams.
For more information on Confessions of a Timid Rider, please visit the publisher's website at:

Friday, June 29, 2018

#BookReview - Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief @DiamanteLavenda

Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief:
Spiritual Insights Expressed Through Art, Poetry and Prose

By: Diamante Lavendar
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication Date: July 2018
ISBN: 978-198205683
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: June 14, 2018
It is so difficultTo be in a situationWhere peace eludes you at every turn.--“Understanding of Spirit”
This combination of inspirational artwork and poems has been created to comfort those experiencing grief and loss.
Author Diamante Lavendar writes that, “to fully understand life, we must understand loss.” Pain forges valleys, and joy can fill those valleys. She often refers to God, or Spirit, as a bringer of hope, and writes with the absolute conviction that death is simply a “metamorphosis.” Many of her poems read like mystical messages left for the reader on a cosmic bulletin board, superimposed over vivid color photographs depicting a beautiful sunrise or the moon peeking through the trees.  In one of her rhyming works, “Never Goodbye” she laments the death of a daughter, asking:
How am I expectedto continue living,when all around me,is pain and misgiving?
But she concludes this poem in a different, more positive mode: “I will miss you until we reunite in God’s grace.”
Lavendar exhorts the reader to believe in angels and miracles; don’t just dream – “let your dreams overtake you.” In “Belief” she evokes the image of “a flow of supernatural energy.” In addition to the photographs, there are emotive artworks incorporating butterflies, hearts, stars, angels and glowing faces floating in the heavens. Through these, Lavendar is emphasizing the etheric nature of the soul that accompanies statements such as this: “Death is not an ending but a beginning to a different reality.” There are a few darker aspects to the grieving process – grief can be an empty void, hard to comprehend, requiring a “dedicated decision” to overcome by embracing the light. A humorous piece expresses the notion that though life’s experiences may be good or bad, we should “flow with it” and “knock on wood” – set on a green, tree-filled background.
Author/poet Lavendar is winner of the Mom’s Choice Award and member of the RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) Speaker’s Group. She has previously written two novels, Breaking the Silence and The Secrets of Yashire, and a poetry collection, Poetry and Ponderings, with Christian messages about overcoming the ravages of child abuse. Her writing as demonstrated in this poetic collection is capable and heart-felt, with illustrations to give color and shape to her well-chosen words.
Quill says: Throughout these selections – a rich mix of wise words, honest remembrances, sorrowful admissions and spiritual communications – it is clear that Lavendar has a sincere wish to fulfill the promise of the book’s title: to guide those suffering grief to a more hopeful state of mind.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

#BookReview - Go Home, Afton

Go Home, Afton (Book 1 in the Afton Morrison Series)

By: Brent Jones
Publication Date: June 2018
Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau
Review Date: June 2018
By day, Afton Morrison is a children’s librarian in small town Wakefield. By night, she stalks a known sexual predator throughout her town. This man will be her first kill. The murderous instincts she has suppressed for most of her adult life demand action and, combined with her meticulous attention to detail and a plan inspired by real-life serial killers, she might just get away with it.
Author Brent Jones holds nothing back from his readers. From the opening scene, we are thrust into Afton’s head as she watches her prey from the shadows. Readers learn right away that her target is a bad man, but they also learn that Afton isn’t necessarily a hero.
Afton knows this too. She is eerily self-aware of her actions. While she wants to kill the predator because he is a danger to women, she also wants to do it for the sake of killing. The reader isn’t entirely sure whether they want her to succeed or not.
What’s more, Afton is being stalked by someone herself, a mysterious man she calls “the Man in Shadows.” Between organizing a murder and looking over her shoulder for her own pursuer, Afton can’t relax. Neither can the reader.
The tension introduced in the first chapter is carried throughout the entire novel. Just as the reader starts to relax, Jones throws a new wrench into the story. He does a fantastic job of layering suspense.
One of the creepiest things about Go Home, Afton, is the darkness hidden in the mundane. Afton takes great care in her cover as a children’s librarian. For most of the novel she is painstakingly diligent in making certain that no trail leads back to her. When she finally does slip up, the reader is startled. They remember that murder is not an easy thing to get away with. There are plenty of real-life murderers who were also convinced they would never be caught.
There is a plethora of novels about serial killers. What sets this one apart is that Afton has not yet committed her first murder. It’s portrayed as a much-anticipated coming of age event, like an eighteenth birthday or getting married. There’s something infinitely creepier about being inside the head of someone like that. She is fastidious in her planning and the most unnerving part about it all is that she explains everything in such a logical and reasonable way that the reader needs to remind themselves she is planning someone’s death and not a social function.
The ending is one of this novel’s strongest components. Everything comes together, and Brent Jones introduces a sudden plot twist in the final few pages that will leave his readers aching for the sequel.
My only criticism is that little is left for the reader to infer on their own. While Afton’s explanation of her own motives works well for the suspense of the story, I found some of her analyses of other people to be a little distracting. They pulled me out of the action and it was difficult to get back into it at times.
Quill says: Go Home, Afton is the first of a four book series. With such a gripping start, the author has set high expectations that I have no doubt will be met. I look forward to seeing what other work he has to offer!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

#BookReview - The Innkeeper's Daughter

The Innkeeper's Daughter

By: Michelle Griep
Publisher:  Shiloh Run Press
Publication Date: March 2018
ISBN: 978-1-68122-435-8
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 27, 2018
Michelle Griep serves up a great balance of romance and mystery in her latest novel, The Innkeepers Daughter.
Nineteenth-century Dover, England is alive and well and the shenanigans just keep coming for Johanna Langley at the Blue Hedge Inn. The Inn is all that is left to hold onto for her dear ‘mam’ and brother Thomas. Another payment is due to the miller in less than a fortnight and where the money will come from is more than uncertain. The Inn is in desperate need of repairs and the only tenant is the rather unusual Lucius Nutbrown and his sidekick puppet. At least his payment may keep the miller at bay for another short time. Between the hope of new tenants arriving at the dock and her faith in the Lord above, perhaps the Langley family would have a roof over their head for a while longer.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Alexander Moore stood on the porch of house number seven; awaiting a greeting from Magistrate Ford. He wondered why he had been an invited dinner guest as the Magistrate never invited guests for dinner. The butler, Underhill, looked more like an undertaker than man servant and once inside, Moore continued to wonder if he was in the right place…or not. When he is deposited beyond the creaky doors and into a room of opulence, Moore’s inhibitions are laid to rest. Yet, why is he here? He’s about to find out just exactly what the next assignment will be for this Bow Street Runner. Once formalities are set aside, Ford gets right to it and delivers a bounty of coin and details of Moore’s next assignment. It would seem Moore is no longer Alexander Moore. Rather he is a wealthy wine broker and will immerse himself into the dastardly world of breaking up a sinister smuggling ring that well could devastate the likes of Dover if not stopped.
Moore continues his trek down New Street and heads south on Canon. As he travels further from the city center to its outskirts, he pauses to witness a scandalous lowlife swindle an unsuspecting lad of his money. Alexander approaches the lad and proposes an opportunity for the lad to recapture the coin he recently lost. Agreeing to carry his bags in exchange for the money lost to gambling, Thomas realizes he has no choice; especially if his sister Jo finds out he was gambling. The pair set off for the Blue Hedge Inn. When they arrive at the Inn, Johanna is wrestling with the greens that must be hung for the upcoming festival. Misgauging her step, she loses her footing and plummets to the ground below. Fortunate for her, the mysterious (and quite dreamy) Alexander Moore is there to catch her and most certainly break her fateful fall. What lies ahead for the Langley family and Mr. Moore’s ultimate destiny will take all parties concerned on a roller coaster of adventure, mystery, danger and the outcome will be one that none of them could have fathomed in their wildest dreams.
Michelle Griep has done a more than admirable job in penning an engaging tale of murder, mystery, romance and intrigue. Her characters are rich, and the dialogue is spot on for the nineteenth-century English period. She has an innate ability to pour on the charm in one sequence of dialogue while tempering it with cheeky humor in the next. The backdrop is painted with great description that portrays a distinct image of the impoverished as much as the privileged and how the two stark differences coexist and work in a delightful story. There is a wonderfully sublime tone of faith and religious belief throughout that reminds the reader of the reality that no matter the outcome, someone (or something) greater always manages to deliver just when it may seem hopeless. I praise Ms. Griep for knowing how to set a terrific pace of ebb and flow throughout this read and look forward to her next novel. Well done!
Quill says: The Innkeepers Daughter is a great read of high stakes adventure and delicious romance.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Five Tips for Writing in a Literary Collaboration @BenedicteRouss

Five tips for writing in a literary collaboration
by Bénédicte Rousseau

As a writer, I believe that the quality of my work is directly linked to my ability to engage entirely with the project I am working on. This is a challenging process, one of rawness and authenticity, that requires dancing with the unknown, and each writer has to find their own way to handle it. For that reason, writing in a literary collaboration is demanding, maybe even excruciating at times. It can nonetheless become an exquisite experience of friendship and growth — if you learn to navigate this collaboration like a pro. 

TIP #1: Create an alliance 
When co-writing a novel, the alliance is an intentionally and consciously shaped partnership that is focused on co-creation. This implies becoming allies in both the doing and the beingwithin the framework of this process of co-creation and understanding that successful partnerships are dynamic and change over time. An alliance is more than a formal agreement or a set of rules. It is a partnership container that integrates the agreed intention (co-writing a novel), the complexity of human beings and interactions (with their full range of emotions), the changeability of circumstances, and principles of evolution and closure. The stronger the alliance, the more efficient your collaboration.

TIP #2: Practice conversation
This one might seem obvious, but it is not. Conversation is not just talking — it is an art form. Moreover, the first level of conversation one should have is with oneself. The truth is that we often are in conflict with different parts of ourselves. In other words, how are you going to get along with your writing partner if you cannot get along with yourself? Human beings often interact with others based on assumptions of what others are feeling, thinking, and wanting. This is part of human nature. Question your assumptions of your writing partner and of your collaboration. Learn to host yourself and to be in conversations that matter, i.e. conversations that foster the process of literary co-creation.

TIP #3: Deal with conflicts   
Relationships are challenging; they involve ups and downs. A literary collaboration is no exception to the rule. Of course, conflicts and moments of chaos can hurt and be destructive. However, the beauty and truth of them is that they bear seeds for individual and collective growth, and they are an opportunity for speaking what really matters from a literary and/or collaborative point of view, in the process reinforcing the alliance. Learn to see conflicts as opportunities. This will improve the quality of your novel and also increase your personal well-being. 

TIP #4: Be flexible 
Life does not happen to you, it happens for you, said Jim Carrey in one of his famous speeches. I believe that is true. Life is in constant movement and happens for you when you go with the flow. This does not mean being passive. On the contrary, it means actively adapting to permanently evolving circumstances and inner changes. Both you and your writing partner are going to change during your collaboration. Therefore, you have to be willing to adjust your alliance whenever appropriate and to build on each other’s ideas, even when it takes you to uncomfortable or uncharted territory. 

TIP #5: Nurture kindness
We may be writers, but we are more fundamentally human beings — I should hope so, anyway. What is there at end of the day but the love that we have given and received? The world does not need another novel or literary genius. The world needs kindness. Writing is a work of emotional nakedness and humbleness in front of the vastness and mystery of existence. Accept being a tool for the sacred to be expressed. Shift your attention to the story that wants to be told at this moment. If you are going to dive deep, kindness and friendship towards yourself and your writing partner are essential. In any case, this partnership will take you where you need to go. And now find yourself a writing collaboration and enjoy the ride! Because it is all about enjoying oneself, isn’t it? 

Bénédicte Rousseau is the co-author of the new book, Shaman Express (May 2018). She has a Master’s degree in philosophy. After an unfulfilling corporate career, she quit her job and began traveling the world. She now is a student of the Foundation of Shamanic Studies, and is an active writer and explorer of diverse realities.

For more information, visit and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram at @benedicterousseauauthore and on twitter at @BenedicteRouss

Book Review - The Separation. @auctionguy28

The Separation

By: Thomas Duffy
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: January 2018
ISBN: 978-1983520877
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: June 20, 2018
In the year 2075, life in the United States had unfortunately evolved into a chaotic mess. Crime and unemployment was at an all-time high, while teenage pregnancy was out of control. Higher education was almost nonexistent, forcing schools to shut down due to lack of enrollment. By the time the year 2090 arrived, the future of our country was so bleak, the government had decided to take control of the situation by forcing underachieving high school students to be separated by sex and enter into rehabilitation programs, and then, upon completion of the programs, return to their families for further vocational education until the age of twenty-five. However, this decision to separate the sexes did not seem to remedy any issues, and only further frustrated the young into more rebellion. In 2163 it was then voted upon by the citizens of the United States that children born would be immediately separated by sex and raised in same-sex States by same-sex educators until the age of twenty-two and completion of their education. The young adult would then be introduced into mixed sex society where they would be further educated with regards to the opposite sex, and begin gainful employment and integration into society.
The Separation, by author Thomas Duffy, follows the story of Finn Parker, a male separated from his parents at birth and strictly educated by all-male instructors until he turned twenty-two. Finn excelled in his education and became not only a model student, but a model citizen once he was placed into mixed-sex society where he eventually marries Angela, and together they have a child of their own who is also taken away at birth. Though Finn tries to maintain a relationship with Angela, he struggles with his place in society, and ultimately makes several decisions that drastically change his future.
The author does a good job presenting a dark, dystopian story of an oppressive government-controlled society that focuses on education and career advancement at the expense of basic human needs of truth, freedom, and love. The Separation has the potential to be an excellent book, specifically for book clubs, because despite it being set in the future, critical topics, especially related to gender in society, are very relevant today, and will be sure to spark hours of debate amongst members. However, while the story itself is a compelling one, exposing readers to heavy topics such as gender roles, freedom and religion, there are some issues in the writing, mainly in spelling and grammar, that cause some unnecessary hiccups and distractions to the overall flow. Also, while the main character, Finn, is presented in an excellent and likable manner, allowing readers to not only connect with his character, but to root for him throughout the story, the interactions of other characters and the dialog feel a bit flat and forced at times. With that said, the core of the story is presented well enough to hook readers’ curiosity right from the opening lines, following through with a few interesting plot twists, and successfully carrying them towards the ending.
Quill says: The Separation provides readers a good glimpse into a dystopian future that will leave readers thinking about this story long after they have finished reading.

Win A Book!

Have you entered our monthly book giveaway contest yet?  It's quick and easy and you could win a brand-new SIGNED book!  This month we're offering "Wild Wild Weasel" by Salvo Lavis & James Munn.  Just go to our main page and scroll to the bottom and you'll see the entry form.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

#BookReview - Sniper: A Frank Renzi Crime Thriller

Sniper: A Frank Renzi Crime Thriller

By: Susan Fleet
Publisher: Music and Mayhem Press
Publication Date: May 2018
ISBN: 978-1-7321-3010-4
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: June 15, 2018
For those who have enjoyed these books since the word “go,” it is a pleasure to state that even though this is the 8th tale in the Frank Renzi series, this is among the “best of the best” in the crime fiction realm that’s appeared in 2018, thus far.
We head back to the great city of New Orleans and find it to be as provocative and colorful and…dangerous as it was before. The true evil that citizens are putting up with at the moment is a deadly sniper who seems to be picking his victims at random. This is the type of villain who causes the streets to go dead as residents hide behind closed curtains, terrified of the day this person might set his sights on them. Police, unfortunately, are as confused as they possibly could be. The clues are not showing up and the leads are few and far between.
On top of all this, a female has been walking through the doors of the unique shops located in the French Quarter and walking out with highly expensive items. You’d think this thief could be taken in easily, but that’s not happening either. In fact, not only does she have the owners of these shops up in arms, but she’s also garnering headlines that “call out” to the sniper who now wants to set up a meeting with the young woman.
Enter, Frank Renzi. It’s no surprise that this gritty NOPD cop takes the reins of this tale, considering he has shown himself to be the best. His intuition leads him to discover and uncover important information that others just can’t find. Which is good, considering that this sniper’s targets might not be random at all, and with a VIP coming to visit, Frank Renzi may be the only hope there is to stop this crazy killer before the tag “sniper” transforms into “assassin.”
Renzi’s words and thoughts are compelling, and watching him come up with solutions while the plot twists and turns faster than the sniper’s bullet once it leaves the gun, is action at its finest. There is so much intrigue and “sidebars,” so to speak, in this book that the mind constantly races. Various characters’ viewpoints are given by Susan Fleet who has most definitely proved to be a master at the art of writing crime fiction. And with this latest challenge, it is easy to say that if a “Hall of Fame” for beloved detectives existed, Frank Renzi has certainly earned his place.
Quill says: There is not a moment in this book where you will not be completely hooked!
For more information on Sniper, please visit the author's website at:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Mario Dhingsa @MarioDhingsa

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Mario Dhingsa, author of High Office Whispers: Pleasure. Power. Pain.
FQ: High Office Whispers is definitely a unique book.  How did you come up with the idea for writing it?
Rory Bremner as Tony Blair
DHINGSA: Growing up in England, some of the funniest programmes were political satire. My favourites were Spitting Image,and the impressionist Rory Bremner. Just before I began writing High Office Whispers, I remember following a lot of news at the time, and just began to imagine the events in between the news headlines.
Ronald Regan on Spitting Image
FQ: There are a lot of political figures you could have written stories about.  How did you decide on those in your three stories?
DHINGSA: It all started with Berlusconi! His headlines were becoming more sensational and increasingly startling. The corruption allegations were mounting, and the debauchery details were soaring. Pope Benedict was also making headlines (though not quitefor the same reasons), and given how close the two of them live in Rome/Vatican City, it seemed natural to assume that the two of them would have to interact at some point on a personal level.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard (left) and the Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott
Silvio Berlusconi and Pope Benedict XVI
Living in New Zealand gave me greater exposure to the acerbic scuffles between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, during her leadership of Australia. The headlines of Putin’s machismo seemed like a natural conclusion to the story’s arc.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
FQ: On your website, you mention that the book was originally written as a radio play.  Was it ever performed?
DHINGSA: I received a really nice letter from Radio New Zealand politely declining it, but they suggested I write something similar on NZ politics. I have always been more excited by the implications of international politics, but I appreciated Radio New Zealand’s consideration.
FQ: All three stories take place in 2011.  Why 2011? Was there something, or some events, that drew you to that year?
DHINGSA: 2011 had so many dramatic and controversial politicians/leaders, six of which are described in High Office Whispers.But it was a fascinating year in its own right: The Arab Spring was unfolding, and the stock markets were unravelling. Osama bin Laden was shot in Pakistan; Prince William married Catherine Middleton; and The Artistwon five Oscars. All in all, an eventful year.
The Occupy Wall Street movement began in September 2011
FQ: This book is quite a departure from your previous works.  Was it more difficult to write?  Or perhaps more enjoyable?
DHINGSA: It was more difficult and more enjoyable! Writing comedy is difficult enough, but political satire requires a certain level of credibility and fact-checking for it to function. However the finished project always brought a smile to my face, and seeing someone genuinely laugh from something you’ve written is one of the warmest feelings in the world.
FQ: Do you have any plans to write another series of short stories dealing with political figures or events?
DHINGSA: My next book, Maps of Bliss and Rage,will be published next year. One of the chapters has a similar High Office Whispers exchange between Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. The more you research such characters, the more you grow to understand them in many unexpected ways.  
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger
A few friends of mine have asked if I would write something on President Trump. But he doesn’t need me to write his satire; he crafts his own material.
FQ: I understand that you are currently working on a children’s book.  Would you give our readers a sneak peek?
DHINGSA: It’s Blade Runner for children! My son has read some of it and as long as I keep making him laugh, then I have enough of a reason to continue.
FQ: I have to say that my favorite of the three stories was the last, with Putin and Medvedev. I could easily picture Putin acting/reacting the way you imagined. And the ending, without giving it away, was quite funny.  Was it fun to write?
DHINGSA: Everyone seems to love the Putin/Medvedev conversation the most!
Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin
I’m glad that readers finish the book on such a high, even if the characters themselves don’t. It was certainly enjoyable to write. If you can make yourself laugh when you write, then you’re already halfway there. But it was also a little melancholic too; you do wish the characters could break the cycles that they are stuck in.
Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin
FQ: If you wrote another short story about the current Pope, Pope Francis, who do you think he would be meeting with?  
DHINGSA: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. She was President of Argentina from 2007 – 2015. There were several corruptions scandals during her presidency, some of which are ongoing. Pope Francis is also Argentine, and had campaigned so effectively against corruption in his home country that Kirchner considered him a political rival. If the two of them did meet to talk about the old days and old wounds, it would be a conversation worth listening to.
Pope Francis and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
FQ:  I see that you’re a member of The New Zealand Society of Authors.  We have a lot of authors reading our pages – would you tell them a bit about this organization?  Has it helped you promote your book?  Would you recommend that authors seek out author/writer groups to help promote their works?
DHINGSA: I am a member of the New Zealand Society of Authors, and – when I lived in England – had joined the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. Both organisations were invaluable towards my development as a writer, and I would strongly recommend any aspiring writers – of any age or ability – to join a similar organisation or author/writer group for at least one year. Anyone who wishes to develop, like so many things in life, are never able to develop on their own.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Jo Ann Bender

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Hamburger Scott is talking with Jo Ann Bender, author of Casanova Cowboy: Where the Old West Lives on in the Rusty Springs Valley.
FQ: If you live in Montana, how much comes from the nearby region.
BENDER: I have lived and worked in Montana.  Now, I make my home in Eastern Washington in a very remote area near the Canadian border.
FQ: Do you have a sequel in mind?
BENDER: Yes, the third in the Wild West series is Ladies of the Ti-Pi.  There are five chapters already written.  It takes place right where the Casanova Cowboy leaves the valley to go find Alexis in California. He’ll return for his saddle he left high up in the Oliver Barn in the next book.  Readers will meet Leigh from the first book, Rusty Springs.  She came from Florida, rented the Sheriff’s cabin and returned to live in the area, but in the town of Rusty Springs, not out in the country.  She raises and trains search and rescue dogs now and will be needed to find a person who is missing from the Stitch N’Bitchers.  The underlying theme: best use of time.
FQ: Why did you make Lance such a lover?
BENDER: The cowboy leads the same style of life as the original Casanova of the l7th century.  Both are creative individuals who have many unique qualities and skills, lead adventurous lives and are remembered for their daring feats.
FQ: Do you have knowledge of Viet Nam Vets and PTSD? 
BENDER: In my career with two American Red Cross Chapters (Iowa and Montana), there were many situations in which, as pr director, I had a need to know.
FQ: Why did you decide to make Alexis unresponsive to sex?  Why did you decide to make Lance such a lover, and yet, almost envision him as a monk?
BENDER: The first on a list of a man’s need is for sex.  Next is his need for a woman who shares his recreational passions (football, hiking, other sports, shooting, traveling, etc) and in this case it was a woman unlike any he’s ever known.  She has things to teach him and he is eager to learn.
Lance has the ability to make any woman (or man, too) find him irresistible.  His eyes focus upon the person like a warm shot of Jack Daniels.  He is a hero to many throughout a lifetime, perhaps because he was the only child of a single mom who he felt he had to help in so many ways. He learned about taking care of himself, and others, until his mother had to reluctantly part with him at the early age of 12 and send him off to work at a ranch in Texas.  She was dying and wanted to save him the heartache and not to feel so helpless watching her deterioration.
Woman chased him no matter that he usually found himself working at remote ranches.  But his for love for dancing brought him into contact with so many females.  In this story, when he sees Alexis, in a place in the forest. wise, tiny, standing in the circle of people who want her wisdom and counseling, the sunlight aglow behind her, cupid and his arrow is ready to strike his heart.
Alexis, though she never says so, needs him, whereas others never do in the same way.  He must be with her to protect her as she is dying.  Other women, such as Stormy, pursue him.  His feelings for Alexis are righteous, strong, steady and gentle.  His men friends try to steer him away from Alexis, but, cupid’s arrow has done its job, has penetrated and gone deep.
My novel looks at the powers of seduction, from the unlikely standpoint that this time they are those of a male.  Even the novel’s title, Casanova Cowboy, is flirtatious.
But, so is the prequel: Rusty Springs, a fact that was brought to my attention by a man. “Really?” I asked.  “I guess it could be thought of as sexy.”
Many men want to let me know they’ve read one of my books.  Even my memoir, Snowbirds, non-fiction about an RV trip with problems, has been touted by several guys as my best prose.
Meanwhile, the first two books are now audio books, and so Lebensborn.
Writing audiobooks must be my legacy.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

#BookReview - Casanova Cowboy

Casanova Cowboy: Where the Old West Lives on in the Rusty Springs Valley

By: Jo Ann Bender
Publisher: Bender & Associates
Publication Date: April 2018
ISBN: 978-1882384051
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: June 10, 2018
There’s a new man in town, and he’s a cowboy. This is the underlying theme of the latest novel by author Jo Ann Bender (Rusty Springs, Lebensborn Secrets).
Joy Ann Oliver can hardly wait to tell the Stitch’n’Bitcher club the news: her husband Larry has engaged the services of a cowboy to help out on their Montana ranch for a few months. Lance Turbyfill, it turns out, is a rugged, blue-eyed 50-something cowgirl’s dream, and he is soon ensconced in his self-built tipi (he calls it a lodge) on the Olivers’ property. As he reunites with an old love, and considers a new one, Joy Ann is observing the new ranch hand, and wishing Larry was just a little bit more like Lance.
During his time on the Oliver homestead, likeable, hardworking Lance will join the local scene. He attends a nearby gathering for folks who think the US is headed for a fall and are saving up provisions for that fateful time, and later goes to a meet-up for former Viet Nam vets where he hopes to get some relief from the PTSD that riles up inside him periodically. There he meets a strong-minded, soft-voiced woman named Alexis who has the power to take his bad dreams away.
Lance finds himself needed most when wildfires start up and the winds are carrying the blaze to Rusty Springs. He volunteers to go with a young man named Cole to do some emergency work near an abandoned mine. Neither man realizes that old enemies of Cole are stalking the area, waiting for a chance to exact some long-festering revenge.
These dynamics and more make Bender’s book a fast paced adventurous read with some intellectual and spiritual overtones. Lance is not “just a cowboy” – he helps Joy Ann save Larry’s life and keeps Cole from breaking down when the two of them are in grave danger. Bender seems to have an eye and ear for Americans who break with tradition, whether it be those getting ready for the end times, or vets haunted by the horrors of war, or a cowboy who chooses to live like a Native American. She also displays a pleasant way with language; early on Lance realizes he is losing his enjoyment of the simple pleasures of life: “There is no music in the soul of a man who cannot see the freshness of an early morning after a rain, or a night sky beginning the day.”
There is plenty of action here, and romance, and some sexy interludes. There is also the thread running through the narrative of Joy Ann’s mute longings for a more fulfilling relationship; yet she will not let these feelings destroy the bond she and her husband have been building for so long.
Quill says: This is the modern West at its complex best. Lance is a well-drawn hero with an eye for the ladies and the guts to take on Mother Nature and some nasty bad guys. In the end, he’s off again to chase a new kind of dream. Does this alluring story beg a sequel? Bender’s readers may well hope so.
For more information on Casanova Cowboy, please visit the author's Facebook page at

#BookReview - High Office Whispers @MarioDhingsa

High Office Whispers: Pleasure. Power. Pain.

By: Mario Dhingsa
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Publication Date: December 2017
ASIN: B078H48FN1
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: June 9, 2018
Author Mario Dhingsa delivers an interesting, and entertaining, read in his newest work, High Office Whispers.
Available only as an ebook, High Office Whispers is a collection of three short stories that were originally written as a radio play.  As such, it reads like a play with notations such as "Choral orchestra heard as scene introduction," or "Door closes. Mobile phone rings," to help set each scene as well as better explain various actions.  For all three stories, the year is 2011, and the place is...well, each place is somewhere very important to world events.  Now on to those stories...
The first story takes place at the Vatican and as in all three stories, revolves around just two people.  For this one, we're taken to a private meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy.  The real Berlusconi served as Prime Minister for nine years and had a controversial career with many "highlights" including a prison sentence for corruption.  In this story, Berlusconi meets with the Pope at the Pope's request. The Pope, it seems, is bothered by Berlusconi's lifestyle and his apparent ability to spread "...the seeds of sin."  The Pope wants Berlusconi to confess his sins, but will he?
In the second tale, we meet Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister of Australia and Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition (he became Prime Minister in 2013).  On opposing sides, Gillard is hopeful that the two can find middle ground from which to agree.  But Abbott is far more interested in having Gillard call him "Tony A."  Apparently, it's very important to Abbott...When Abbott starts talking about what he does to "...perform in this damn theatre of politics," things really get going.  It sounds a lot like what is happening currently in the U.S.
The final story takes place at the Kremlin between - who else - Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev (President of Russia).  Putin has called the meeting between the two, at 6 a.m., as a "catch-up" meeting to learn of recent events that he, as Prime Minister, needs to address.  Medvedev does his best to update Putin, but Putin is far more interested in manly things like taking his shirt off.  This meeting is not going to end well...
High Office Whispers is a quick read, one that you could easily do over a leisurely lunch.  The stories are quirky - definitely a bit offbeat and unusual.  They also all made me laugh, roll my eyes numerous times (in a good, "oh my" sort of way), and picture those famous people in the circumstances the author created.  It is definitely interesting to imagine what the Pope or Putin might do behind closed doors and author Mario Dhingsa has given us a humorous look that may also get you thinking about what might really go on when the cameras are gone.  As a very reasonably priced ebook, High Office Whispers is a good investment for a fun afternoon read.
Quill says: If you've ever wondered what happens with powerful people behind closed doors, check out High Office Whispers - you're sure to get a laugh.
To learn more about High Office Whispers, please visit the author's website at: authors/

#AuthorInterview with Ann Crawford @ann_crawford1

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Ann Crawford, author of Life in the Hollywood Lane.
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?
CRAWFORD: My background is allllllll over the place -- literally! I've lived in all four continental time zones...from sea to shining sea to the prairie to the mountain (and, yes, I totally know I'm mixing my patriotic songs here). I've traveled to 65+ counties (and counting) as well as all 50 states. I try to bring the fascinating people I've meet and places I've been into all of my books, and they especially show up in this one.
I feel like just about everything I've done in my life prepared me to write this book. I lived in California for many years and worked for a while as a documentary filmmaker and as a talent manager. The devotion my group of actors showed to their craft and how hard they worked -- and how hard "the industry" is -- left a profound impression on me.
As I was reading through the book to finalize it, I realized that not much in my life could've been different in order to make this book the way it is. Lots of the travels I've done, people I've met, filmmaking and screenwriting classes I've taken, myriad jobs and plays and movies I've been involved with, fellas I've dated (not quite as many as Trish, though), plus a lifetime of books and articles I've read and movies I've watched, not to mention the tragedies I've faced and mistakes I've made all make an appearance in this book. It's quite a conglomeration!
FQ: Have you always enjoyed writing or is it something you’ve discovered recently?

Author Ann Crawford

CRAWFORD: I've enjoyed writing since I could hold a pen. Books were a revered item in my household as I was growing up, and I knew I'd be a writer someday.
FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.
CRAWFORD: In Life in the Hollywood Lane, Trish, a 40-year-old actor, travels the journey of grief with dedication if not always grace, learns the ins and outs of how "the industry" works, follows her dreams, and finds that this crazy life might not be as bad as she'd convinced herself it was. While this is a book about a woman whose best friend commits suicide, it's funny, quirky, wise, and inspirational--not a downer.
Taking a true tragedy and giving the path of grief its full due, while still being considered a humorous book, makes my book unique. I also provide a lot of insights into the movie industry from an insider's view.

Author Ann Crawford recording an audiobook

FQ: What was the impetus for writing your book?
CRAWFORD: I worked in talent management for a bit, and one of my actors committed suicide. A dear friend also committed suicide a number of years ago, so it's certainly something that's been on my mind. The other inspiration was falling in love with (I love very easily, LOL) and admiring all of the actors I worked with...they work so hard, are so dedicated to their craft, and are amazing being. Hollywood -- both the place and the industry -- can be so tough on people.
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: I find having a routine helps the writing process more than anything. I also have a special playlist that I develop for each book. So as soon as I sit down at the appointed time and turn on the appointed music, I'm like Pavlov's dog and the writing flows (well, usually...some days it's just not there and I'll go do something else).
Ideas come to me at all times of the day or night, so I keep a notepad handy. That can be a little challenging in the shower, a place where ideas really tend to come for some crazy reason. But I just summarize the idea to one word, and I can usually remember that word to write down the whole idea. If I don't do that, the idea often dissipates like a dream.
FQ: Are any of the characters based on real people you know? If so, how closely does your character mimic the real person?
CRAWFORD: As I mentioned, I worked in talent management for a bit, and one of my actors committed suicide--an utter shock to everyone who knew her. About a year later, I started writing the book based on that event and from the point of view of her best friend, but the characters are completely from my imagination and aren't based on the real people involved.
FQ: Tell us about your favorite character and why that person is your favorite.
CRAWFORD: I love Trish, the shero of this story...although Cyndi, her BFF who died, is a shero of her own journey and I definitely love her, too.
Trish is quirky, funny, playful, passionate, and dedicated to seeing her dreams come true. She's been compared to Bridget Jones more than she's weepy, loopy, silly, and bit all over the place, as well. She's real, and that can be messy sometimes. But she also has a phenomenal power inside that she discovers and allows to make an appearance in her life.
I have family in Wisconsin and have spent a considerable amount of time there. When I told a family member that my book's star is from Wisconsin, she said, "And of course you made her virtuous and perfect!" (Actually, she didn't say "perfect," but something close.) I said, "Of course not! Who would want to read about someone who's totally perfect?" Trish has her faults and foibles, but she takes on her challenges and carves out a remarkable life for herself in one of the toughest industries and places to succeed. I adore this person!

Ann Crawford, also an award-winning filmmaker, on location for a movie

FQ: What was the most difficult scene to write and why?
CRAWFORD: Well, after writing about a crucifixion and a burning at the stake in other books, this was a breeze! Well, maybe not quite a breeze, but this book was far easier than those two others were.
I lost my mom at a young age. I went through a divorce. A dear friend committed suicide, as I mentioned. My brother has a terminal neurological illness and is very slowly winding down his life. Drawing on the memories of grief and adding the current grief about my brother helped me write about Trish's pain in a very real way. There are a couple of scenes where Trish is overwhelmed with her pain and screaming at the world and at her friend, and those were the hardest to write in this book...but, still, this was nothing compared to some scenes from previous books!
FQ: Was it important to you to have a plot that would keep readers guessing about the outcome?
CRAWFORD: If I'm writing a book, it's bound to be a love story! So anyone who's read a previous book knows falling in love will probably be an outcome. Many of the other elements of the outcome happen gradually throughout the book, so it wasn't too important to keep folks from guessing what would happen.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Meet Author Jo Ann Bender!

Meet the author of "Casanova Cowboy" in our new
"Meet the Authors" section!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

#BookReview - Galahad's Fool

Galahad's Fool

By: Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller
Publisher: WoodWorkers Press
Publication Date: June 2018
ISBN: 978-0-9997287-0-3
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: June 2018
In Northern California, a place that offers the colorful growth of flowers, a stage blossoms as well. Or, at least, it did. Here is a place built by a husband and wife team that allows others to enjoy the world of imagination. The male part of this duo, a puppeteer and writer by the name of Albert Fisher, is dealing with pain and loneliness. His wife, Lainie, was lost to him, passing away in the early morning hours while in a coma. Albert is currently working on putting together a new play and attempting to mold the puppets that will be the stars of the show; although one is giving him a great many problems. He heads down to the local coffee shop where he 'people watches,' and he continues to write about one person who was a hero to a great many. A hero who appeared on paper doing incredible things, which calls for a true hero’s soul to “show” through the eyes of this puppet.
Sir Galahad is that character and, a bit like the beloved “Monty Python,” Albert’s attempting to write a humorous tale in regards to Galahad and his new quest. As much as Albert utilizes this new show that he’s putting together as a form of healing – now that the anniversary of the death of his wife is almost upon him – Albert also uses this play and this character as something to throw himself into…something that allows him to almost “be” the aging Galahad in this tale.
Sir Galahad, to Albert, has given up the days of horsing around and is now settled, married, growing older, and living in a ranch-style castle with his beautiful wife. Albert “lives” through Galahad, giving the hero who was one who never lost faith, a look at real life and the traumas that can come from it. What he doesn’t know right off the bat is that Sir Galahad, in return, will be the path that brings the spark of belief back to a man who has been hurt by life, itself.
Readers take quite a trek with Albert and Galahad, learning about Albert’s “Lost Boy” moments and his days while growing up in Iowa. They will see Albert wrestle with his feelings, try to regain the imagination and need for both his life and the play, while Galahad forms an army and a Fool switches places with a woman in order to help form a kinship between the characters. You also meet a costumer by the name of Jeanette that adds yet another layer to Albert.
The writers of this tale, a husband and wife duo, offer scenes of perfection when it comes to backstage life, making the scents and sounds of the playhouse world jump off the pages. Not to mention, the nuggets of wonder provided by characters when asking questions such as whether or not people have to be fools in order to believe in the magic of faith. Galahad wore armor and Albert wears irony, which is certainly a form of armor many of us clothe ourselves in. And watching Albert relieve himself of burdens and learn how to bring back the soul in both a puppet’s eyes as well as his own can and will take your breath away.
Quill Says: There is emotion in this book that is done so well, there’s no doubt you will read it again and again.
For more information on Galahad's Fool, please visit the website