Wednesday, December 26, 2018

#AuthorInterview with Zari Reede

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 20, 2018

#BookReview - Once Upon A Girl

Once Upon A Girl

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

#BookReview - When the Rules Don't Apply

When the Rules Don't Apply

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

#BookReview - A Town Divided by Christmas

A Town Divided by Christmas

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

Sunday, December 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

So how did I do it?

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

It’s not about what. It’s about how.

1. Collaboration

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

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

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

I wanted the book to be a true collaboration.

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

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

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

2. Art

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

But most of all, they respond to real art.

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

Art is about authenticity.

So much of social media is about surface shallowness.

People know the difference.

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

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

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

3. Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Link to The ReSisters on Amazon: 

Links to my profiles on

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

#BookReview - Blinked @Minette_Lauren


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

#AuthorInterview with Ann Crawford @ann_crawford1

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