Wednesday, November 28, 2018

#BookReview - In the Shadow of War

In the Shadow of War

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

#AuthorInterview with Nancy & Eddie Sullivan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Rose Miller

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

#BookReview - Girls Cam Be Cowboys Too!

Girls Can Be Cowboys Too!

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

#BookReview - Secret Adventures of the North Pole

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

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

#BookReview - WWI Crusaders

WWI Crusaders

By: Jeffrey B. Miller
Publisher: Milbrown Press
Publication Date: November 2018
ISBN: 978-0-9906893-8-6
Review by: Janice M. Ladendorf
Review Date: November 2018
WWI Crusaders offers an interesting look at the CRB - an American-led relief effort in Belgium during World War I.
The book is really two books that came together over time. The first part was published in 2014 under the title Behind the Lines. It described how an unusual relief effort began in 1914 in Belgium. The author rewrote this portion of the story and continued on through the conflicts of 1915, the crises in 1916, and the end of the program in May of 1917. 
When the war started, Belgium at that time was a highly industrialized nation whose people imported most of their food. When their country was conquered by Germany, the food situation grew considerably worse. First, the Germans grabbed most of the available food to feed themselves. At that time, farming still required a great deal of manual labor and the German rulers began a series of brutal raids to round up strong men to work on their farms and in their factories. The Belgium population was soon destitute and starving.
Before the relief operation could begin, two crucial diplomatic agreements had to be prepared and approved. First, the occupying authority had to agree to allow the relief shipments to enter the country and not to grab or store their cargoes for themselves. When the Germans attacked, the Belgium forces managed to keep a few ports on their western border free by flooding the land. These ports were being blockaded by the British and they had to agree to allow the relief ships through their blockade.
The relief service was organized into two branches. One was the Commission for the Relief of Belgium or CRB. It was responsible for raising money, buying food, and shipping it to the Belgium coastal ports. It was headed by Herbert Hoover. The second one was Comite National de Secours et d'Alimentation or CN. It was responsible for shipping through the country and distributing to the inhabits. All of its members were required to maintain strict neutrality in both thought and deed. Many American college students were responsible for helping distribute supplies throughout the country.
The author spent years researching this book and his efforts are reflected in the amount of detail contained within its pages. This is a long book (726 pages) and it is full of countless stories that recapture events surrounding the author's large cast of characters. In addition, it includes some stories about the Belgium resistance and the fight against their hated German overlords. The author grew up learning stories about the CRB relief effort from his mother and drew heavily on the records left by his grandparents who took part in it. For those who want a good WWI history read, particularly one with a focus on Belgium, this is definitely a book to check out.
Quill says: Any student of WWI, as well as anyone who is interested in relief organizations, will find much of value in WWI Crusaders.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Interview with Author Kathleen Kaska

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Kathleen Kaska, author of A Two Horse Town.
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?
KASKA: I'm a Texas gal. Except for an eighteen-month hiatus living in New York City after college, I lived in the Lone Star State continuously for fifty years. Since then Texas has been hit and miss—a little hit, but a heck of a lot of miss. There was a time when I thought I would happily die in Austin, Texas. But circumstances and weather—especially weather—changed that. Now I spend most of the year on Fidalgo Island in Washington State with a view of the bay and the mountains. When I gets homesick, my a husband and I plug in the iPhone to Pandora and select Willie—as in Nelson, (Hope you don’t have to ask). Soon we are dancing the two-step, imagining we're at our favorite honky-tonk in Tokyo, Texas where the mayor is believed to be a dog. Who wouldn’t miss that? 
It was my love of animals and the outdoors, and my need to support certain social causes that led to the writing of A Two Horse Town.
FQ: Have you always enjoyed writing or is it something you’ve discovered recently?
KASKA: I've been writing for about twenty-five years. It's something I'd always wanted to do, but I had to work up the courage to start. I also had to find the time in my teaching schedule. I started writing in my early forties and retired from teaching about ten years ago. Now my time is spent writing and enjoying free time with my husband.
FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.
KASKA: A Two Horse Town is part of my Animal-Rights Mystery Series. Here's a brief synopsis: With her coffee-guzzling dogs and a welcome mat that starts at the business end of a shotgun, Ida Springfield weathers all the challenges life hands her. Until the local government gets the idea to build a dam to help the ranchers, a dam that would dry up the water on her ranch and destroy the habitat for the herd of mustangs living there. After further alienating the "goofballs at town hall," Ida lets go of her pride and accepts the help of animal rights activist Kate Caraway. Kate feels a need to escape life in Chicago after so many years in her beloved Africa. She's eager to get to Montana and find some peace from rural surroundings. After tumbling down a mountain, finding a body, and getting warned off by the mayor, Kate understands why her husband wants her to come home. But Kate can't leave without saving the mustangs and helping the 82-year-old woman and her mentally challenged twin sister stand up to the town bigwigs. To do that, she has to find out who killed Ida's estranged son and why town officials believe her great-grandson committed the crime.
FQ: What was the impetus for writing your book?
KASKA: The idea for this series started forming in my mind when I was a member of Wildlife Rescue, Inc in Austin, Texas where I helped rehab and raise orphaned wildlife. So, I wanted to write a series that made readers aware of animal-rights issues. The first book in the series, Run Dog Run, published in 2017, takes place in the world of greyhound racing.
While traveling through Montana several years ago, I became aware of the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range, which is a refuge for a herd of free-roaming mustangs. These horses have a unique genetic makeup that doesn’t exist in other breeds. I began imagining what would happen if their habitat were threatened, and the plot for A Two Horse Town unfolded from there.
FQ: What was the hardest part of writing your book? That first chapter, the last paragraph, or ...?
KASKA: The hardest part of writing a book occurs about two-thirds of the way in. I plot by the seat of my pants until I reach a point where I have to pull everything together. That's when the work begins.
FQ: The genre of your book is Mystery. Why this genre?
KASKA: I write mysteries because I enjoy reading them. The challenge is making the plot work. I used to compare the process to putting together a jigsaw puzzle, but I've come to realized it more like playing 3-deminsional chess. I also write nonfiction, which has its own challenges in the planning and outlining process.
FQ: Do you have any plans to try writing a book in a different genre? If so, which genre and why?
KASKA: Right now, I'm sticking with mysteries, but I'm writing a hard-boiled detective novel set in the 1940s in Manhattan. l love reading Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Mickey Spillane and I wanted to try my hand at the sub-genre.
FQ: Who are your favorite authors?
KASKA: My favorite authors are: Martha Grimes, Dick Francis, Elizabeth Peters, E. B. White, Roger Angell, poet Billy Collins, John Irving, F. Scott Fitzgerald, just to name a few. I also love discovering writers I've never read before. I've recently discovered David Handler, author of the Stewart Hoag mystery series.
FQ: Which do you find easier, starting a story, or writing the conclusion?
KASKA: Starting the story and concluding the story is easy, it's the middle that is challenging. It's definitely a mental workout.
FQ: As an author/writer, what famous author (living or dead), would you like to have dinner with, and why?
KASKA: I would like to spend time with E.B. White. He lived during an era that has always fascinated me. His essays are timeless and I would love to ask him about what inspired him. Although, shying away from talking to people, he might not be easily forthcoming.

Meet Author Jodi Auborn

Meet Author Jodi Auborn - Get to know Jodi and learn about her books in our new "Meet the Authors" section: 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Jodi Auborn

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Jodi Auborn, author of My Ten-Acre Wilderness.
FQ: You wrote a lot as a child. Who or what was your original inspiration to develop that skill?
AUBORN: Basically, it was my overactive imagination that just naturally spilled out onto paper. My dreams, hopes, and wishes seemed like they could really come true, if I wrote stories about people who achieved those same dreams, and went off on the wild adventures that I imagined myself doing someday. Writing allowed me to create the perfect friends and life. As a horse-crazy child, writing about horses was almost as good as having one.
In high school, I had an English teacher who really helped and encouraged me with my writing. She had faith in me that I could really do it, and make something of myself.
FQ: When did you first realize you were, or could be, a “real writer”?
AUBORN: That was the winter that I was 10 years old, after I finished the original draft of my first novel, Stormwind of the North Country. I was so proud of that story and expected it would make me rich and famous! Thankfully, several years later I realized how childish and unrealistic it was, and decided to rewrite it. But the first time that I felt like a real writer was when I completed those two dog-eared notebooks that contained my handwritten first manuscript!
FQ: You are a religious person; do you find God and spirituality in nature? 
AUBORN: Yes. I feel closest to God in nature, such as when I'm gardening, taking a walk, or camping (especially late at night), whether I'm alone or with a special animal such as a dog or a horse. I'm more apt to feel God's presence alone in nature rather than in a formal church setting surrounded by other people.
FQ: Is the memory of childhood part of what keeps you close to the outdoor world you grew up in?
AUBORN: Yes, very much! As I mentioned in my book, I've worked for the past ten summers at the campground where my parents took me camping as a child. Although I don't have kids, I feel that, in a way, by working there I'm passing on a legacy of wonderful camping memories to a new generation. Whenever I take a canoe out on the lake, unexpectedly encounter a wild animal, or even hear the call of a loon or squawk of a seagull, I feel like a kid again. And those childhood memories also keep my dream alive of buying (or building) a country house in Maine, and recreating the good aspects of my pre-teen years living in my family's Adirondack cabin.
FQ: What comforts and sustains you these days in the indoor environment of your cottage? 
AUBORN: Throughout my house are photos and souvenirs from my travels and past. Each of the three rooms has a different decorating theme. I still have my childhood Breyer horses and dog figurines, etc. Even the silliest little knickknacks from past vacations still bring a smile and a memory. But it's not only the little things: I remind myself that my first house is a stepping-stone to my dream house that I mentioned in the question above.
FQ: Have you saved mementos of your grandparents and parents?
AUBORN: Yes, I have some of my grandpa's woods carvings, the step-stool he made me when I was a toddler, and his handcrafted dresser and bookcase. But the biggest “memento” (if you could call it that) of my grandparents is their whole house! My mom still lives there, and I visit often.
I have a guitar that my dad had given me, the bill of sale for my first horse, Sally, a hand-written vacation diary that Dad had kept, and several of his music binders. One of the most fascinating things of my parents is a case full of receipts and letters, real-estate ads, building-supply lists, and the blueprints of the log cabin featured in “My Ten-Acre Wilderness.” After decades of believing that it had all been destroyed in a flooded basement, I was thrilled when my mom found it not long ago. It was an interesting perspective of that time as seen from my parents' point of view, as opposed to my own child's-eye view.
FQ: Since you had social limitations as a young person, has the Internet been a help in communicating with your fans? 
AUBORN: Yes, a big help! It brought me in contact with so many interesting people and exciting events! For instance, the first year that Stormwind of the North Country was published, I spoke to a 4th-grade class about my book and the writing process, and to a middle school class at the middle school that I attended as a pre-teen. The Internet helped me find local book fairs , book stores, and craft sales to sell my books and photography. My most unforgettable Internet/fan story was that it brought me in contact with the current owner of the Hadley cabin, (the house that plays a major role in My Ten-Acre Wilderness). She had read the first edition of Wilderness, (originally titled The Forests I Called Home, which is now out of print.) She e-mailed me, and we exchanged photos of the house: during construction and in the present-day. I was pleased and happy to see that the neglected wreck of a house that I described in the book was finally cleaned up and loved again.
FQ: Do you think your career as a writer was in some way spurred on by the drive to overcome your childhood disabilities?
AUBORN: In a way...subconsciously, I think I tried to compensate for my lack of athletic ability and math skills/aptitude with art, writing, and music. Although I credit my daily horseback riding with curing my early childhood medical condition (which caused weak muscles in my lower body), it didn't help the fact that I was uncoordinated and terrible at team sports (and thus was always the kid chosen last for teams in gym class). I wanted to prove myself to my classmates that I was good for something. By high school, I believe that any energy and emotion that I might've put into a social/dating life was channeled into my stories.
FQ: Your book seems to offer encouragement to young people struggling with identity issues - would you recommend your book specifically for Young Adult readers?
AUBORN: Yes – especially the middle-school/junior high kids who are trying to discover and accept themselves: the loners and misfits who are struggling to fit in, only to be labeled “strange” and “different.” If there's anything I hope they can take away from the book, it's to be yourself, and have faith that everything will work out, even if it's in ways that you don't expect. Don't be afraid to be the “weird” kid, the one with out-of-the-ordinary hobbies and seemingly impossible dreams...because someday, you may find that your life turns out more fulfilling than the lives of those who simply followed the crowd and did what was expected of them.
In much of my early school years, I struggled to discover who I was and how to relate to my classmates. I talk about this in Chapter 4, “The Winter Cottage.” When I started 5th-grade in a new school, quiet and introverted me invented a loud and wacky persona in an attempt to impress people and make friends. However, the things that I believed to be fun-loving and outgoing were actually creepy and annoying. Quite understandably, my antics turned people away rather than drew them in, and earned me years of mockery and a visit to the school psychologist. Although things slowly improved the next school year (and were much better by high school), I learned a lesson about being myself and not trying to act like someone I was not.
I also think that animal lovers, especially young horse fans, would enjoy the book.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Feathered Quill #BookAwards Nominate Now!

Awards sell books! 
Time is running out to nominate your book for the Feathered Quill Book Awards.  

If you're looking for a great way to promote your book, consider the benefit of adding an award sticker to its cover to tell readers that your book is a winner.  Does your book have what it takes to win? As an added benefit, all books receive judges' comments - another great tool for authors to promote their books.

Learn more at

Monday, November 12, 2018

#BookReview - My Ten-Acre Wilderness

My Ten-Acre Wilderness: A Misfit Girl's Quest for Home

By: Jodi Auborn
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: September 2017
ISBN: 978-1723097515
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: November 9, 2018
A coming-of-age memoir by a sensitive, talented woman, My Ten-Acre Wildernesstakes us back to simpler, more natural values.
Jodi Auborn was the only child of parents who were, in their own ways, nonconformists. Early on she learned that she could not have certain small luxuries because the family values involved thrift and hard work. She learned to get along with wild animals – rabbits, a ferret, even frogs – for pets, and the outdoors as her private haven. The first time she truly recognized a sense of belonging was in the midst of a dark stormy night, at her grandparent’s house in Ticonderoga, New York where vintage Christmas ornaments gave a feeling of security while the snowstorm outside called to her adventurous inclinations. When she was ten, the family constructed and moved into a log cabin in the woods of the Adirondacks. After much wishing, she finally got a dog, and at age twelve, a horse, Sally. With Sally she explored the forest with its derelict houses, abandoned trailers, a favorite pond and farmers’ fields. Because physical and mental deficits made it hard for her to socialize well at school, her close friends were few. The outdoors became her refuge: “It was better than any playground; it was my own world.” As an adult she remained restless, living a nature-centered existence that kept her close to the north woods and waters. 
Auborn’s writing talents were and are her saving grace. From an early age, perhaps in response to her marked differentness from her peers, she began keeping a journal and writing short stories symbolic of happenings in her life. Over several iterations, she wrote a novel about her alter ego, a bold girl named Kat who could freely do what Auborn was forbidden or too shy to do. She also composed poetry. Her girlhood poems and diary entries form part of the memoir, remarkable for their maturity and insight. 
When Auborn grew up, her first novel about Kat was published, its title, Stormwind of the North Country, redolent of that early revelation at her grandparents’ home. That book and a sequel are designed for teen readers, while a third offering, Matthias: The Ghost of Salvation Point, written to honor her father, is targeted to middle-grade readers. Her writing is skillful and secure, putting the reader in the places she has explored. My Ten-Acre Wilderness is peppered with photographs of those places and the people and animals she loved. In an especially poignant scene she recalls her return to the abandoned cabin of her idyllic childhood; there in the ruins she struggled with bleeding fingers to extract the “time capsule” notes she and her father had composed and hidden there years before. 
Quill says: Today Auborn works guiding campers, and lives quietly content in a 1930s vintage cottage near her childhood home. She has garnered a devoted readership and will doubtless gather more fans with these moving recollections. 
For more information on My Ten-Acre Wilderness, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Perfectly Imperfect @eshewords

Perfectly Imperfect: A Collection of Words and Thoughts, Volume 3

By: Amber Whitted
Publisher: Day Blue Green Night Publishing
Publication Date: June 2018
ISBN: 978-0692107045
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: November 2018
Rising spoken-word artist Amber Whitted cuts to the chase in the third volume of her collection of words and thoughts, Perfectly Imperfect.
Originally a play on the author’s birthday, the title, Perfectly Imperfect, is aptly suited to Whitted’s newest collection of poems that reflects on “what it truly means to be human.”
Whitted divides her fifty-plus poems into six sections that are a balanced mix between her personal experiences and life in general. With “identity” being the overarching theme, related topics cover love, relationship, femininity, and spirituality, to name just a few.
Much of Whitted’s work is set—with the exception of section five, which are all haikus—in lilting free-form verse that is replete with accented rhymes and periodically sprinkled with alliteration and repetition. Her writing is sure, steadfast. While deftly expressing the Black female experience, what she pens is not limited, by any means, to the African American community. Coming from the depths of her heart, Whitted speaks to all of humanity.
Whitted does not mince words. She manipulates the written word into visceral prophecies, much like a potter does shaping clay into eye-catching sculptures. Her messages are crisp, clear, and filled with humility, honesty, and tenderness that have been woven tightly together with integrity.
Shifting between first and second points of view, Whitted can capture the essence of a topic in a matter of a few lines, or carry a reader through the highs and lows of a particular experience from one of her longer two-pages-or-more poems.
In her poem “Sankofa,” Whitted zeros in on this powerful Ghanaian image and message of not forgetting one’s roots while moving on in life.
“Echoes of your influence linger.
I take only what I need
to journey on.
Promise beckons me forward,
and closed time offers
nothing new.”
Whitted gives stability to all in Perfectly Imperfect, as seen in this self-titled clip…
“I am perfectly imperfect
and elegantly errored.
I am a being in development,
healing from her past
and moving toward her future...”
And words of encouragement, as in her haiku titled “Youth”:
“Life gets hard sometimes.
For now, laugh, play and enjoy.
Be the child you are.”
Rounding out her themes, Whitted includes an inspiration segment dedicated to her love and relationship with God.
“It is my hope,” Whitted states, “that you [the reader] will see your perfectly imperfect self in these pages and be blessed by each word.” Kudos to this rising spoken-word artist for attaining her goal.
Quill says: Perfectly Imperfect offers a collection of refreshing and inspiring words and thoughts that speak to all walks of adult life.
For more information on Perfectly Imperfect, please visit the author's website at:

#AuthorInterview with JP O'Donnell

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with JP O'Donnell, author of Pulse of My Heart: A Gallagher Novel
FQ: To begin, would you give readers a sneak peek so to speak inside the latest novel, Pulse of My Heart, and how the idea came into being?
O'DONNELL: At the end of my previous Gallagher novel, Deadly Codes, the relationship between Gallagher and Kate appears to have ended. Was it over, or merely "on hold?" Many of my readers wanted to know and sent emails and messages asking me to write a sequel. I also spoke to a book club where a woman asked me what type of books I thought I was writing. Of course, I answered, "Mystery Thrillers." She shook her head and said, "No...what you are writing in the Gallagher series is a love story. The relationship between Gallagher and Kate is what drives your novels." This response made me realize that a sequel emphasizing the rekindling of their relationship could really work.
FQ: Along those lines, with writing a series and the work that goes into always having the character develop with each new title, readers like to know if the author of a series knows ahead of time what they’re going to write. Can you tell readers if, when you first began the Gallagher series, you knew this was a character who would remain for more than one book? And, if you did, was there already an outline of sorts in your mind for what the character would do next?
O'DONNELL: Yes, when I first conceived the idea of writing a novel, I knew it was important to create a main character that readers would find compelling. From the beginning, Gallagher had to be the man that every guy wanted to be, and also the man that every woman wanted to be with. No doubt that Gallagher has his own set of faults---he drinks way too much coffee, and, yes, at times way too much scotch--- but he possesses a unique combination of compassion, skills and toughness that help him to not only solve cases, but to escape the danger that inevitably follows him. After I saw the positive response to Gallagher in Fatal Gamble, I knew I had a character that had "legs" and I spun him off again in Deadly Codes. In fact, Gallagher's persona in Deadly Codes and the characters/story of that novel served as the basis for the feature motion picture, Bent (2018) that was released in March and is now available on video on demand and DVD. The film stars Karl Urban, Sofia Vergara, Andy Garcia and Grace Byers. It was a thrill for me to be on the set and watch the characters I created come to life on the screen.
For each of my Gallagher novels, my outline was fairly simple: I wrote the first chapter and the last chapter. Then I "connected the dots" to get from Chapter One to the ending.
FQ: Are you currently crafting, or interested in crafting, in the future another series character?
O'DONNELL: At this time I have switched gears a bit and am finishing a series of children's bedtime stories. My background as a career pediatric dentist gave me the wonderful opportunity to interact with children on a daily basis and find ways to put them at ease during their dental visits. As my grandchildren came along (now 7, 4 and 2), I began making up stories to help them fall asleep at night when they visited us. They enjoyed these stories so much, our daughter asked me to record one of them so she could play it at home. This gave me the idea to consider publishing an illustrated children's story book. I hope to have the first one available within the next year.
But, don't worry...I do have an idea for a fourth book in the Gallagher series. Here's a hint: Does something happen to Norman?
FQ: On the opposite side of the fence, are you interested in creating a standalone that you wish to share information about?
O'DONNELL: See below about my children's books.
FQ: If you were asked who, perhaps, are/is your favorite detective(s) in the world of fiction, what would you say, and what about them appeals to you as a reader?
O'DONNELL: No doubt on this's Spenser from the Robert Parker series. Having lived in the Boston area for most of my career, I enjoyed the references to locations and places I knew so well. But, most of all, it was Spenser's cunning and cleverness, and his interactions with his sidekick, Hawk, that made the series so enjoyable.
FQ: What writer would you love to sit down and have dinner with, even if you could go back in time to sit with one who is no longer with us, and what question would you love for them to answer?
O'DONNELL: I have to give two answers on this one: Robert Parker, of course, and Harlan Coben. I include Harlan Coben for two main reasons: he is the master of "the great first line" that gets you hooked within a few seconds, as well as riveting stories (e.g. Tell No One, Gone for Good, etc.) that keep you turning the pages long into the night. I met him briefly at a book signing years ago and found him to be a very friendly, nice person who offered encouragement to me to keep writing.
FQ: Is there a specific genre you have always wanted to write in that you haven’t tackled as of yet?
O'DONNELL: See above: Children's Stories.
FQ: Beginning and building a writing career is a tough job, yet you have done it perfectly. Is there a piece of advice you could give to up-and-comers that you have learned during building your career? Perhaps advice on one thing they should do and one thing they need to avoid?
O'DONNELL: First of all, write because you enjoy it. You must be able to please yourself before you can expect to please other readers. Secondly, if you have aspirations to publish your work, don't rely on your close friends and family to give you an objective critique of your writing. They love you and will not want to hurt your feelings with harsh criticism. Instead, seek out a professional writer/editor who can offer an honest evaluation of your writing and suggestions on how it can be improved. There are a number of book review sites, including the Feathered Quill, that, for a reasonable fee, will provide a fair and accurate assessment of your work.
FQ: What are your feelings in regards to utilizing social media and whether or not it offers enough positive effects to help a writer achieve fans/followers?
O'DONNELL: I believe social media can be a valuable tool to help an author, particularly one who is self-published, achieve a wider audience of followers. This is a new venue for all of us, and I am still learning all of the nuances involved. In the coming months, I hope to expand my use of social media to make more readers aware of my Gallagher trilogy.

#AuthorInterview with Michael Pronko @pronkomichael

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Michael Pronko, author of The Moving Blade
FQ: What is the significance of the menacing statue on the cover of The Moving Blade
PRONKO: Menacing and protective, that’s Fudo Myo-o. The god has many meanings, but the name translates as something like “unmoving, shining king.” He is a guardian deity, with a sword of wisdom to cut through ignorance and a lariat to tie up demons. Encountering a huge statue of him in a dark temple can really jolt you out of the everyday and spellbind you. The deity has many variations stretching back to China and India, but in Japan, he is often thought of as one of the gods that protects Tokyo, and old Edo. There is a series of temples devoted to him in Tokyo. To me, he encapsulates the lurking violence, good and bad, in human experience.
FQ: How has your writing improved or changed since your last book, The Last Train?
PRONKO: I think it’s more the process of writing has improved. That’s what I focus on. For example, I upped the rewriting. With each rewrite, I focused on one particular point, character, connection, suspense. That’s not just fiddling with the words, it’s rewriting by rethinking, reworking, reconceiving, reconnecting. Because I wanted to tell a slightly different kind of story this time, I had to create not just one character’s background, but an entire range of back stories flowing through the history of American and Japanese relations. Spending time on that, I think, helped tell a stronger story.
FQ: Did you complete any research while writing this novel? And if so, what was the most critical thing you learned from this research?
PRONKO: I read a lot of history about the United States and Japan since World War II. While working at The Japan Times for years, I had seen most of the contemporary issues in recent years. It’s a relationship with a lot of subtle entanglements and unresolved issues. But those are hard to distill and squeeze into a novel. In this age of facile politicizing, it’s also easy to indulge in snap judgements and knee-jerk analysis. And I confess I sometimes, often, do that on my own time, but in a novel, that doesn’t get you too far. It feels go to let loose, but it’s not interesting to read. A novel is more about how people live with the conditions and situations that surround them. That is interesting. So, I guess I learned to cut out all the research and personal opinions by the final draft.
FQ: I read that some famous authors have writing rituals like fellow mystery/thriller writer, Dan Brown, who supposedly hangs upside down using anti-gravity boots to help him relax. Do you have any specific habits or rituals when you are writing?
PRONKO: Writing is already like hanging upside down—reversing, upsetting, pumping too much blood to the head. Nothing more like that for me, thanks. I do write, or usually rewrite, on the Tokyo train. When I can get an elbow free. Something about the motion lets me think freely. And Tokyo trains are filled with people reading, which I take as encouragement. If I get a seat, which is rare, I rewrite on printouts of the last chapter. If not, and there’s room, I write standing. If it’s too jammed for that, I’ll just think through a plot point, then scrawl it down or put it on a voice recorder once I get off the train. Other than that, the basic ritual is butt in chair in morning.
FQ: If the Detective Hiroshi mysteries were to become a movie, what actor do you envision playing the detective?
PRONKO: I like the actors from 1950s films, Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Ken Takakura, Tatsuya Nakadai, but that’s just a dream list now, sadly. Some current actors like Hidetoshi Nishijima, Yosuke Eguchi, and Hideaki Ito are compelling, and have done similar roles. Koji Yakusho is always great. Shinichi Tsutsumi would fit Detective Hiroshi perfectly. I’m not sure how well known those actors are outside Japan, but they should be.
FQ: I noticed that in both books of this series your victims are American men. Is this done purposefully, or is it a mere coincidence?
PRONKO: Is that me killing off my American side? Some latent self-pity, or secret suicidal impulse? Hmm, I wonder. But, maybe not. I sketched out several novels for this series, so these two just happened to be the first ones that came together concretely. There were Japanese killed in those novels, too. In the next novel, there are no Americans at all, and in the one after that, the killer is American and the victim Japanese. So, half-coincidence, maybe?
FQ: One of the subjects mentioned in The Moving Blade refers to the SOFA agreement between the US and Japan. Do you believe that the US will ever fully remove its military presence in Japan?
PRONKO: I doubt the US will ever fully remove its military presence from the world! For one thing, decommissioning 800 bases in 70 countries would take a lot of logistics and a lot of budget. It might happen that the US scales down or consolidates some of the bases, but the military presence in all these countries will continue for the near future. The arguments for and against the US presence in Japan are very complex. But, at least, it’s important that Americans and Japanese know and think about where their tax dollars are being spent. Whatever one’s opinion, it’s important that the American military presence not be downplayed, concealed or ignored.
FQ: Now that you have two great mystery novels under your belt, what advice would you give new authors who are considering writing in this genre?
PRONKO: Genre can be demanding, even tyrannical. People like to know what they’re getting ahead of time, and genre helps with that, but delivering too much of what people “like” is not always good. I think of genre as a recipe. Whenever I use a recipe, though, my kitchen never has all the right ingredients, and after a glass of wine, or two, I ease away from preparation techniques and start improvising. If the food comes out right, that’s all that matters. The nice thing about a novel, compared to dinner, is that if it’s not right, you can redo it or throw it out. I like the mystery genre because so much variation is possible. Almost anything could, conceivably, fit inside. That’s a lot of room to work, so new authors, and old ones too, should work with that room. So, the tightness of the genre should be respected and the looseness explored.
FQ: In our last interview you mentioned this current book, and another book in The Detective Hiroshi series. Will the series definitely end with the trilogy, or have your writing plans changed?
PRONKO: It won’t end at three. The next one, Tokyo Traffic, is now being rewritten. That will be followed by two more in this series, which are sketched in already. I want to do a standalone with Sakaguchi, the ex-sumo wrestler, and a prequel with Takamatsu. After that, I have a few other books in mind, though, too. And I’d like to get back to writing some essays about Tokyo again, too.
FQ: After finishing this second novel in the series, I have a few unanswered questions, and am curious to learn more about Detective Hiroshi Shimizu. Can readers look forward to learning more personal details about the detective in your next novel?
PRONKO: In the next one, Hiroshi has moved in with his long-lost girlfriend and much comes out about his inner world and about his past. I don’t want to let out everything about him too soon, but as he opens up to her, we learn more about him! So yes, more to come, a few more questions answered, a few more posed, about Hiroshi, Tokyo and the constant undertow of crime.