Thursday, January 31, 2019

Interview with Author Brit Lunden

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Brit Lunden, the author of Bulwark.
FQ: Bulwark starts out right in the middle of the action, without boring the reader with pages of introductions, scene setting, etc. It’s all right there on that first page. Was this intentional?
LUNDEN: Yes. I start all my fiction right in the center of the action and let the reader learn by showing, not telling. It's how I like to read other author's books, and it's the way I always modeled mine, from children's books to adult fiction.
FQ: The setting of Bulwark, Georgia, is very much a character in the story. Is the town based on a town from your past? Or one that is completely made up?
LUNDEN: I drove through Georgia when I was fifteen years old on a trip down to Florida with my family. The quiet, isolated feel stayed with me. We stopped for a rest break in a rural area. I recall a peach farm. I remember getting out of the car and looking at the night sky, and it took my breath away. I had never seen so many stars. I felt like I was in the middle of space. That sense of wonder never left me, and when I created the characters, I plopped them down in an imaginary town based on that spot when I got out to stretch my legs over forty-nine years ago. I wanted to recapture that feeling that I was completely cut off and anything could happen. I want to add, that I was not scared. I thought the place felt magical.
I started Bulwark with a bunch of authors working on an anthology. They wanted to do something paranormal for a Halloween release. I jumped in and built the town and created Sherrif Clay Finnes and his challenges. Another author supplied me with the delightful cousins Trout and Bobby Ray. Nobody finished their story except me, so I asked if they minded if I published. They didn't. Bulwark became a real town for me.
Cut to almost two years later, I was approached by several authors who want to use Bulwark and the characters for another anthology. So, now eight new short stories will be published (including one of mine) on March 19th, based on the town.
FQ: Sheriff Clay Finnes was an interesting protagonist. While the story was short, which didn’t give you much time to develop your characters, he was a complicated individual which added to the intensity of the story. Did he come to life as you wrote, or was he well-developed in your mind before you began the story?
Author Brit Lunden
LUNDEN: None of my characters are well-developed in my mind. They come to life and begin to tell me how they want to react or what is right for them. As you said, I start stories by jumping into the action, and the characters play the plot out. I ask them how they would handle things and as they reveal bits of themselves. They do become real to me, and I try to be respectful and not impose my own opinions on them. How boring would that be, if everyone thought alike?
FQ: When Clay goes to find the gingerbread house, the drive down Linden Lane came to life in a very creepy way. Was this part of the story fun to write? Difficult?
LUNDEN: I have fun in every part of the stories I write. I never see it as creepy, and only when I reread, I wonder where the heck it came from. I can't watch scary movies or read horror books - I'm too afraid, so I have no idea where this stuff comes from. When I read reviews that something I wrote was frightening, I'm usually surprised - because I'm easily frightened. I'm more intimated writing a sex scene.
FQ: There are numerous fairy tale references in Bulwark. Do you have a special affinity for this genre?
LUNDEN: I was brought up on fairy tales. My grandmother read me a book that was my mom's when she was a kid. Cinderella was my first movie, and I was enchanted with her ever since. I have so much Cinderella paraphernalia in my home, it looks like Disney threw up in here. I think I must have been my mom's princess. I have sons, so the whole princess thing kind of got pushed behind Hulk Hogan and Transformers.
Now I have two grandsons and two granddaughters.
We have different perspectives on fairy tales today. We tell our daughters that they shouldn't rely upon a man to save them and we say to our boys never kiss anyone while they are sleeping without permission.
I read Jane Yolen's How to Fracture a Fairy Tale on a recent plane ride. It was a delightful modern flip on fairy tales, and I loved it. I also remember loving Maleficent, the movie and the spin on true love.
I think fairy tales gave people hope in the old days. I think they also served as morality lessons. I think people today are more sophisticated and don't like stories shoved down their throats. They also don't want to be manipulated or told how they should feel.
FQ: Bulwark – an interesting title for the story, for the town, and also that Clay was Jenna’s “...bulwark and could stand her onslaught.” Would you discuss how you decided on the name “Bulwark” for your book and it’s multiple meanings?
LUNDEN: I was having trouble with the title, and it popped into my head. I knew Clay was Jenna's bulwark. He would stand in front of a tsunami for her. I had such a mental picture of this guy. He was incredibly brave and self-sacrificing, as well as deeply in love with his wife. I realized as I was writing the inhabitants were all sort of depending on Clay, and I felt their isolation - that his bravery and intuition was what was holding the demons at bay. It seemed a perfect name for the town.
FQ: It seems that Clay Finnes has many more stories to tell. Will we be seeing him again in a future work?
LUNDEN: YES! I am so excited about the eight new short stores that are being worked on right now. I continued JB Stratton's story. He is the retired football player in chapter 2 who succors the car accident victims. If you think Clay was an interesting character, wait until you meet JB.
Dr. Kent and Terence are being included n a short story by DJ Cooper, Erica Graham is writing about Clay and Jenna's neighbor, Dell Henderson is working on something related to the civil war, and RL Jackson hasn't told me where she is going with it, but I can't wait to read it. I bet there will be some vampires to be found. Also, included are Kayleigh MacLeod, Katey Kelley, and newbie Brittney Leigh.
FQ: You’ve authored numerous stories for children. Bulwark is your first work of adult fiction. What made you want to tackle this very different genre?
LUNDEN: I read and review mostly adult fiction and nonfiction. When I started writing, I thought it would be the great American novel. I didn't expect to find my niche with children's books. However, I was writing to a very specific audience - my grandchildren. Captain No Beard was based on games we play as a family and situations that occurred with several members. The cultural series was born from my grandson's interest in diversity. Can a Princess be a Firefighter? was a love letter to my granddaughters and Rocket-Bye was the same for my grandsons. As they grew, I started reading early reader chapter books, and that morphed into the Oh Susannah series.
Many of my author friends asked me to write romance or adult themed books. I decided to take a chance with Bulwark, and I enjoyed the experience very much. I am honored that these authors liked the story enough to help the town evolve and continue to live.
FQ: Coming from your children’s genre background, how different is it to write an adult fiction story? Do you have the entire plot worked out before you begin writing or does the story come together as you write?
LUNDEN: All stories, no matter what the genre come together for me as the plot thickens. I can think I have an idea of where it is going to go, but very often, my characters steer the story in another direction. I know I started The KnowingBulwark's sequel in the direction of horror and I think it ended up as a tender paranormal love story. I'm waiting to hear from my beta readers if they felt the same way.
FQ: As a very prolific writer, I’m sure you have more books in the works. Would you tell our readers a little about what’s next for you?
LUNDEN: I just published Mindfulness for Kids with Calista Press. It was my first non-indie assignment, and I had a great time. I collaborated with a therapist and enjoyed the experience. It was published under my Carole P. Roman brand. I am hoping they will ask me to do another. I am finishing up a book called Marketing Indieworld with authors Julie A. Gerber and Dr. Angela Hausman that should be published later this spring.
Regarding Brit Lunden, the Bulwark universe will expand. I think I have more stories of the residents. If the anthology is successful, I believe we can get more authors involved. I loved Clay and Jenna, and I want to revisit them. Nobody wrote anything for Dayna Dalton, and I think she has a story to tell as well. She's a rare combination of good and bad and too delicious a character to ignore.
Lastly, I do all the marketing and publicity for my son, another prolific author. He has some exciting things happening this spring. Either way, my calendar is filled!

Meet Author Carole P. Roman

Meet author Carole P. Roman in our new "Meet the Authors" section of our website:

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

#BookReview - Material Things

Material Things: The Untold Story of a Young Entrepreneur Who Made a Killing in the Jeans Business

By: Larry Spencer
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-0578212326
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: January 29, 2019
Young and avid for sensation, three young men start a business selling clothes at the height of the hipster years in California, and wind up with a very different kind of business on their hands, one that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Author Larry Spencer (The Tipping Point of Oliver Bass) has created a small, at times cozy, mostly crazy universe as the setting for his colorful cast of characters. 
It starts with a funeral. As might have been predicted nearly 40 years before, when alcohol addicted Logan Alexander was thrown out to fend for himself by his wealthy parents, the old guy has finally taken his own life. Hearing of his pal’s suicide, Chris Styles calls their mutual buddy Matthew Street who now lives in Scotland. Matthew surprises himself by agreeing to fly across the pond and attend the funeral with Chris. There they meet Logan’s daughter who demands to know more about her mysterious father. 
As the three friends recount their story, we watch Matthew, Chris, and their friend Jon Lewis decide, on rather flimsy pretext, to turn Matthew’s small but chic hair salon into an emporium selling bell-bottom jeans. “Jon’s Drawer” takes off, riding a wave of hip fashion, and for a few years the guys enjoy a flourishing business, a few puffs or snorts of illegal substances, and not a few encounters with sultry, sexy ladies. But it all comes crashing down when Jon allies himself with a friend who shares his passion for expensive cars and designer drugs. There’s a major bust and everyone runs for cover. But where’s Jon? And how can Matthew bail out while a presumption of guilt hangs over them?
Spencer is at home with his hippie heroes - their drugs, desires and devices. The reader will assume he’s been there from the authentic way that he lives inside each of the young men, but most especially in the mind of Matthew. Too, young women like lonely Linda, unfaithful Andrea, and Sage the shoplifter have their parts to play in an era when love and lust were suddenly free and everyone seized the moment. The author writes with confidence and builds his plot with notable skill. There’s never a dull moment as the companions move from a laid back ethos that takes life as it's thrown at them, to the frantic requirements of real commerce, to a sad realization that it's all gone down the tubes and everyone has to find his own way out of the rabbit hole. Along with a zesty helping of steamy sex, crime is an insistent counterpoint all along, as those who enjoy recreational highs have to deal with lowlifes and the law. 
Quill says: This tightly plotted 60s/70s subculture saga will provide tangy memories for those who were there, and understandable envy among those who wish they had been. Exuberantly recommended.

Monday, January 28, 2019

#AuthorInterview with John Egenes @jegenes

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Skyler Boudreau is talking with John Egenes, the author of Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America.

FQ: Your ride took place in 1974, but you waited until 2017 to publish your own account of the experience. How do you feel this distance from the event has affected your documentation of it?

EGENES: I’m glad I waited. I wrote a manuscript shortly after the ride but knew immediately that it wasn’t a good effort. It was because I was too close to the material, still living within the shadows that the ride cast. Hopefully, the years imbue a bit of wisdom and a sense of purpose in a person, and I like to think they’ve done that for me [smiles]. I was able to view the ride with both a macro and a micro lens, to be able to see the big picture and the details within. And it was great to be able to compare and contrast things today with those of yesterday. But I didn’t want to pine away for the good old days, and I think I managed to steer clear of that. The passage of time has given me a perspective that I think made the story much better.

FQ: During your ride, you seem to become somewhat frustrated with media coverage interfering with your journey. What led you to the decision of writing a book and thus creating a kind of media coverage of your own?

EGENES: The media coverage was frustrating at times, but it was more of an annoyance than a real problem. And I suppose yes, writing the book has created media coverage, but I certainly don’t mind it this time (I’m not riding a horse!). In fact, I’d like mind more of it. As corny as this sounds, I reckon I want Gizmo (my horse) to be recognized for what he did. It’s no accident that I put his picture on the cover.

FQ: What is one thing you wish you would have done differently on your journey and why?

EGENES: I’m not sure that I have second thoughts about what I did and didn’t do during the journey. There are many things I wish wouldn’t have happened, and almost all of them involve hardships for Gizmo. There are probably things I wish I would have known beforehand, but a large part of the reason I took Gizmo out on an unknown trail was to experience new things, to learn about the country and its people, and to spend a significant amount of time alone. And I was able to do all of those things. I certainly didn’t do things perfectly [laughs]. I made a lot of mistakes along the way and I definitely had more than my fair share of screwups. But fortunately, I’m a quick learner.

FQ: What were some of the challenges you faced returning to regular society after your ride? Was there anything you were glad to have back?

EGENES: Coming off of self-imposed isolation is difficult, but you don’t realize it for quite some time, until you’re back into civilization and trying to fit back in. At first, I was overjoyed to have finished the ride, to have a horse who was still in one piece and healthy, and to make it home to California. And I know that in his own way, Gizmo was, too. But it’s inevitable that you start comparing your life back in society to what you lived on the trail, and sometimes it just doesn’t quite measure up. Still, I was happy to get back to playing music, to seeing my friends, and not having to worry about finding water for my horse every day [grins].

FQ: Did you receive any criticism along the way (from friends and family, media outlets, etc.) that you felt was unfounded? How did you handle press coverage you disagreed with?

EGENES: Before the ride there were certainly those who thought I was crazy to attempt such a thing, and that it was impossible. I expected that—actually, anyone who attempts something like that probably expects naysayers—but I have always deflected those sorts of opinions. I’ve always followed my heart, as I did in this case. And though I disagreed a bit on some of the things said in the news, none of them were earthshaking, and none really made a difference in what I was doing. So in the end, that part didn’t really matter to me. For the most part, the press was overwhelmingly friendly and supportive, and I still appreciate that to this day.

FQ: How did Gizmo re-acclimate to life off the trail once your journey was finished? How was he changed after the experience?

EGENES: I worked Gizmo for about a month after we got home, a bit less and less each day. It’s not good to work a horse very hard every day for a long time, then just let him stand in a corral or a stall. So I sort of “re-acclimated” him to a life of leisure. After that, I turned him out to pasture on about a thousand acres, with some other horses and mules. He spent about a year up there, and I’d go up to see him often, just to visit, check his feet, and see that he was healthy and to give him a Snickers bar. The ride ruined him as any kind of show or working horse prospect. He had a definite mind of his own, and he did things his own way. But he was great to ride, wonderful on pack trips into the wilderness, and he even carried my daughters around when they were very young (and he was very old). And for the rest of his life he always whinnied and came running whenever I showed up.

FQ: Your love of horses and respect for other animals is evident throughout your book. Have you always gotten along with them? Is there any animal you would not like to meet?

EGENES: Yep, I’ve always gotten along well with animals. Having raised two daughters who are both horse people, we had dogs and cats, horses and mules, donkeys and goats and all sorts of critters. My youngest daughter Julia is now a veterinarian, in fact. And today, my wife and I live with three cats here in New Zealand. Animals have always been a huge part of my life. And I’m not sure there’s an animal I wouldn’t want to meet. And again, it sounds corny, but every single critter on this earth is beautiful and amazing in its own way.

FQ: Have you ever revisited any of the locations you passed through on your journey? Is there any one place that stuck out to you during your travels?

EGENES: I’ve been to some of the places out west, in the Mojave Desert, the Painted Desert, and various places in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas… all the way through to Tennessee. I didn’t really set out to revisit any of them, but whenever I’m on a driving trip and I get anywhere near my trail route, I try to go visit it. It’s always interesting to see the places, and to see how well my memory has preserved them. It’s always amazing when I drive for an hour along my trail, then realize it took four or five days to travel the same distance with Gizmo. The one place, overall, that sticks with me is the Painted Desert, on the Navajo Reservation. There are some specific spots, but I don’t want to advertise them, out of respect for the people who live there.

FQ: If you had the opportunity to repeat the experience all over again, would you? Why or why not?

EGENES: Probably not across today’s America, but maybe somewhere else. During the ride I often went into the library in some little town and would look at the world atlas. I’d hatch plans to ride across China. Of course, in those days China was not accessible to Americans, but I dreamt I could ride across the breadth of that great country. It would have been something, and I probably would have pursued it had the political climate of the day been different. Not sure I’d be up to it today [laughs].

FQ: Describe yourself in three words at the start of the ride. Now describe yourself in three words immediately after the ride.

EGENES: Three words at the start: naïve, eager, optimistic
Three words at the finish: wisened, exhausted, optimistic

#BookReview - Man & Horse @jegenes

Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America

By: John Egenes
Publisher: Delta Vee
Publication Date: August 2017
ISBN: 978-0692930854
Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau
Review Date: January 28, 2019
In 1974, John Egenes decided to embark on a months-long mission to travel across the country on horseback, from California to Virginia Beach, accompanied only by his horse and best friend, Gizmo. Passing through eleven states, they experienced numerous hardships and trials and witness some of the wildest natural places in the United States. Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across Americais a tale of the stunning transformation of a man and his horse on an immeasurably difficult journey from their home, to the other side of the country.
Man & Horseis told through a mix of Egenes’ first person point-of-view accounts, photographs, and old logbook entries. Each piece of the format blends together perfectly and adds a unique element to the story that allows the reader to digest the events in different ways. Egenes’ writing style also makes use of all five senses, immersing the reader in every aspect of his and Gizmo’s journey. The reader feels like they are walking alongside the two of them during their story. 
Egenes chooses to begin their journey on the West Coast rather than the East Coast. He writes, “...because we are traveling west to east and crossing great deserts first, we will become hardened to the trail, rough and feral, and adopt the attitude ‘it’s us against the world.’” (pg. 24) This proves to be the right decision, as “...the eastern part of America is fenced and tame. There is no open country, no place to spend days and weeks by yourself.” (pg. 24) He goes on to explain that had they begun in the reverse, they would not have achieved the complete isolation they did until much later in their journey and would have emerged from the challenge far different than they did. 
It’s difficult to imagine a feat like this being accomplished today. While Egenes faced many challenges in 1974, like being bitten by a black widow spider in the middle of the desert far from civilization and the needed antidote, there are new challenges in 2019 that would make his journey just as difficult. In one line of this book, Egenes says, “I’m reminded daily how fragile this existence of ours is.” (pg. 76) One mistake could be the end of them. From the expansion of cities to the popularization of social media, today’s travelers would be unable to achieve the same level of near-total isolation that Egenes and Gizmo experienced in the 70’s. 
One powerful lesson readers can take from Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across Americais the virtue of taking life at a slow pace. Egenes must find ways to fill long stretches of empty time on his long journey, away from the easy distractions of everyday civilization. He says, “It’s best not to look ahead to see how much time you must fill. The real trick is to simply live in the moment (I know, a bit cliché, but it’s true nonetheless) and allow yourself to focus on what’s in front of you without worrying about how long it will take you to do something or how much time you have before sunset.” (pgs. 122-123)
Quill says: Man & Horseis more than a horse book or a survivalist book. It is an illustration of a great part of a man’s life and shows its audience that if they really want to do something, even something that seems wild, impossible, or unattainable, they can still achieve it with an iron will to succeed.
For more information on Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America,please visit the author's website at:

Friday, January 25, 2019

#BookReview - Raven Gone Rogue

Raven Gone Rogue

By: John Fennell
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: April 2018
ISBN: 978-1718614017
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: January 23, 2019
Cold-hearted killers meet lion-hearted, determined adversaries in this latest offering by award winning writer John Fennell II.
Raven, who was known back home in West Virginia as a smart, pert young thing, has broken all the rules, even abandoning the Foundation, an organization dedicated to finding and eliminating evildoers all over the globe. Raven went rogue because the Foundation would not allow her to put the final touches of her revenge on the murderer of her beloved Uncle Bill. An international consortium, the Foundation is run by Amelia, the grandmother of Raven’s one true love, a downhome boy named Naci who is himself no slouch at intrigue and dangerous deeds.
Raven has joined forces with the mysterious Morgan, a noted and feared hit man whose post-kill “calling card” is a vintage silver dollar.  Befriending Morgan, Raven learns that the great love of his life, a woman named Lilly, was killed in a drug-related incident in Latin America. Or was she? Might she still be alive? Raven resolves to track down the truth about Lilly, also known in undercover circles as the Hawk. Raven will learn more about Lilly – and about her pal Morgan – to her peril, in a saga that reaches from the inviting beaches of Florida to the dingy dives south of the border. Ultimately, it will be Uncle Bill who guides her – with a message from beyond the grave.
This adventurous, murderous, twisting tale follows the first of Fennell’s Raven series, Raven and the Panther. Like that book, this one shows how Raven compounds killings and stacks bodies like a one-woman world war without losing her small-town values or her passion for Naci, who is equally forever smitten with his beautiful, daring lover. Though separated by current circumstances, two lovers will have a chance to get together secretly in one sexy, steamy encounter. This and other erotic interludes are vividly described, offering a counterpoint to ever changing, ever escalating violence that characterize much of this thriller, the balancing act a testament to Fennell’s talents. A prolonged death scene composed of bloody choppings before the final slice is but one of the disturbing images that Fennell has masterfully created to demonstrate the extreme malice of Raven’s enemies. So when she strikes - rapidly, efficiently and effectively – the author makes it seem almost a kindness to the monstrous foes she is dealing with.
Quill says: Readers with a taste for the eternal struggle between greedy, gore-enthralled goons and strong, steady-minded super-sleuths will gravitate to Fennell’s imaginative work and will want more. With a sequel waiting in the wings, they should not be disappointed.
For more information on Raven Gone Rogue, please visit the author's website at:

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Feathered Quill Book Awards - Announcement Coming Soon!

It's almost time to announce the winners of the annual Feathered Quill Book Awards!  Winners will be announced on Feb. 1 (or a few days earlier...).  This year has seen a fantastic mix of books, from children's to science fiction and memoirs.  See if your favorite book is one of the winners.  All winners will receive an email from Feathered Quill before the official announcement goes up on our site.  Good luck!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Cynthia Bardes @PansythePoodle

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Cynthia Bardes, the author of Pansy in Africa
FQ: For readers not familiar with your series, would you give a little background on how the Pansy series developed?
BARDES: One day, when crossing Wilshire Boulevard, I was struck by a car. My injuries required surgery and a lengthy recuperation at the hotel. While bedridden, Pansy kept me company and her popularity with employees and guests of the hotel started me thinking. She is very curious and spunky, I imagined her having all sorts of adventures while I was laid up.
FQ: And how did the real Pansy come into your life?
BARDES: I saw her little pansy-shaped face and it was love at first sight!
FQ: Pansy has been all over the world – what made you decide it was time for her to take a trip to Africa?
BARDES: Well, I went to Africa some years ago and I remember the effect it had on me and my daughter. Seeing animals in their own environment. I know how much children love animals, and the importance of showing them places and other people.
FQ: Have you selected the next part of the world, and the next mystery for Pansy and Avery to solve or is it still a “work in progress”?
BARDES: Currently, Pansy in Rome is being illustrated, to be released in October 2019.
FQ: Your Pansy series has been quite successful. How many books do you envision in the series? Are you full of ideas for future stories, just begging to be written?
BARDES: I have tons of ideas! There is no limit to the number in the series. I hope to keep going as long as there is an audience.
FQ: I love the idea of a Pansy stuffie. How do children react to seeing a stuffed Pansy that they can have to bring home? Has it had a positive impact on book sales?
BARDES: Kids love seeing the stuffie with the books. But, honestly, I think the books sell the stuffie so they haven’t increased book sales.
FQ: Your stories, along with Virginia Best’s illustrations, are really the perfect blend that brings each great adventure to life. Tell us a little about your working style? Do you talk frequently, go over every illustration in detail, or let Virginia’s imagination run wild and see what she comes up with?
BARDES: After I write the story it is edited to a workable version, then Virginia and I meet for an 8 day brainstorming session at a delightful Vermont Inn. This way we can focus without any distractions and we create the storyboard with very basic sketches to work out images and text. Virginia then takes this document back with her and I wait to see what she comes up with. She is amazingly creative, and her color is wonderful.
FQ: From your website, it looks like you’re very active at book signings. Do you enjoy these events? Getting feedback from your fans? Do they ask you about the real Pansy?
BARDES: I love book signings and meeting Pansy’s fans. Sometimes I am able to bring her with me and the kids are so in love with her. She is a gem and handles all the attention with true diva grace and poise. Feedback from children and their parents is invaluable.
FQ: Speaking of Pansy, how is she handling her fame?
BARDES: Pansy is a pro! And she loves all the attention.
FQ: Have you ever considered writing in a different genre? Would another genre interest you or do you plan to stay with children’s books and/or the Pansy Mystery series?
BARDES: I actually wrote the outline for a novel several years ago, but never got back to it after I started the Pansy Series. There are so many story ideas for Pansy that I don’t know if I’ll ever find the time to go back to it.
FQ: The books in the Pansy series are all “heirloom quality” with thick pages and oversized dimensions. With so many books from big publishers resorting to inexpensive paper with print that comes off on your hands, etc., your quality books are refreshing. What made you decide to put quality over cost?
BARDES: I have fond memories of my childhood books, passing them along to children and granchildren. That’s important to me and I wanted to create something that would be a permanent addition to a family. Something connecting the different generations.

Meet Author Ann Crawford @ann_crawford1

Ann Crawford has lived by one shining sea, then the other, then the prairie, and now the mountain – just to combine a couple of our great patriotic songs here. She grew up in New York, about an hour north of the city, and then went to college at Boston University. She then lived in Northern California for 23 years until love at first sight called her to move to Kansas. She and her family moved to Colorado about 10 years ago and her writing nest has a view of a grove of trees in a beautiful garden, with the Rocky Mountains in the near distance...

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

#BookReview - Pansy in Africa @pansythepoodle

Pansy in Africa: The Mystery of the Missing Lion Cub (Pansy the Poodle Mystery Series)

By: Cynthia Bardes
Illustrated by: Virginia Best
Publisher: Octobre Press
Publication Date: October 2018
ISBN: 978-0-692-98457-4
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: January 20, 2019
Pansy the adorable poodle is back at it, solving a mystery in a far-away land, this time in Africa!
As the story opens, Pansy and her best friend Avery have just arrived in Africa. They are super excited because they are going to go on a safari. They meet Gregory, their guide, who tells them that they will first go to their camp and then head out the next day for a grand safari. 
On the way to camp, they see a leopard taking a nap high up in a sausage tree and then they come upon three lions. Avery and Pansy quickly realize that the lions are crying. Gregory explains that the lions are sad because one of their cubs, Zuri, is missing. Pansy immediately jumps into detective mode and offers to help find Zuri.
The next morning, the group is joined by Hodari, a man from the Maasai tribe. Hodari will help lead the safari, show Avery and Pansy interesting animals, as well as join the search for Zuri. 
Hodari gives Pansy and Avery several clues that may help them find Zuri. He explains that the little cub loves gardenias and that the other cubs make fun of her because she has a crooked paw. Pansy has her clues and now she's ready to find Zuri - and have fun exploring the wilds of Africa.
Pansy in Africa keeps the momentum of this fun series going, offering a great adventure in a beautiful land, with a mystery that will keep young readers invested in the story so they can learn Zuri's fate. While searching for the lion cub, Pansy and Avery take the reader on a fun safari that offers page after page of vibrant colors and beautiful animals. Fun facts are inserted throughout, such as why flamingos are pink and what giraffes do with their tall necks. Pansy and Avery do manage to solve the mystery of the missing lion cub and teach readers a valuable lesson at the same time. As an added plus, the book is a bit oversized, with thick pages that make this a definite "keeper" for your child's bookshelf. The big question is, where will Pansy go next? Readers want to know!
Quill says: Another winner in the Pansy the Poodle Mystery Series that will keep kids engaged and have them asking when the next book in the series will arrive.
For more information on Pansy in Africa, please visit the series' website at:

Thursday, January 17, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Ann Crawford @ann_crawford1

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Ann Crawford, the author of of Fresh off the Starship

FQ: Let us begin with Missy. Can you tell readers a bit about how Andromeda and Missy came to fruition? Was it a goal of yours to reach readers in a way that would perhaps brighten their lives in a world that is currently leaning toward the pessimistic?

CRAWFORD: Absolutely! I feel like one of my main purposes is to brighten up an otherwise pessimistic world with my stories.
I’ve wanted to write about something that takes places in Western Kansas ever since my husband – a former Kansas farmboy – took me there; I met his wonderfully charming relatives and fell in love with the land. I’m from the East Coast and lived on the West Coast for most of my adult life. When I tell people I lived in Kansas, their eyes glaze over…like I’m sure mine did at one point. I wanted to show these Kansas folks’ depth, sincerity, and wisdom – they’re definitely not the bunch of “hicks” so many may think.

I heard a line from the movie Starman many years ago – something along the lines of “You humans are at your best when you’re at your worst.” I’ve wanted to create my own starbeing for decades and have to look through her eyes to see how beautiful we humans can be and how amazing life on Earth is. It was really fun to have to imagine taking a sip of water for the first time as well as the many other fun things humans engage in.

FQ: You have written in a few genres – from romantic comedy to historical fantasy. If you had to pick one that you love the most, what would that be and why? If there is not a “favorite,” per se, is there a favorite character of yours that you feel a true affinity to above the others?

CRAWFORD: The one thing all of my books have in common is that they’re inspirational. The main thrust of my stories is to have the shero shoulder awful events / marriages / circumstances and spin them into gold somehow. I also love love love writing about falling in love, so they involve a love story.

My favorite books to write are romantic comedy but with a deeper message. In between the chuckles in Fresh off the Starship,I talk about sexual abuse, drug addiction, PTSD in the Vietnam veterans, and other issues. Those PTSD events are true stories from some vets I’ve had the honor to know.

In every book I write, I love to show how we – no matter how “ordinary” we may think we are – all are extraordinary or very special in one way or another. Missy’s already extraordinary (being a starbeing on Earth – on her own planet, she’s not quite so extraordinary), but she lost her training in her descent to earth. So she has to figure out the ways of these strange humans without letting on that she’s not who they think she is.

These characters come to me and knock on the door of my consciousness and won’t leave me alone until I’ve written their story. I’m not even kidding! The best example of this is Catriona in was SO challenging to write a book about the witch hunts, and I tried to not write it, but I kept hearing her words of wisdom and light in my head—so I had to finish it, and I’m so happy I did.

FQ: In your bio there is a line that states you “...believe in love at first sight, that good always prevails, and that we’re here for those wild-wonderful-way-out-there visions of ours to come alive.” Since you seem more than optimistic when it comes to life, how difficult is it to leave the abysmal, daily “headlines” in the dust?

I do read the news (digitally) and listen to NPR almost every day, so those headlines are top of mind. But I really do believe that good prevails, that love triumphs, and that we’ll come through any adversity that we face, whether individually or as a collective. I definitely believe in love at first sight – it’s happened to me! I also believe that we’re all special and unique in our own ways and that we’re here to see whatever dreams we hold come to be. That’s one of the main reasons we’re here.

FQ: Along those same lines, if there was one wrong in this world that you had the power to make right, what would that be and why?

CRAWFORD: First I would feed every hungry person. Next I would abolish human trafficking* and slavery, where it still exists. I do believe that we will ultimately right the wrongs in politics and wars. Regarding what we’re doing to the environment and the animals. I would love to end trophy hunting, killing elephants for their ivory, poaching, and the like. I’d love to see us go with 100% renewable energy to stop polluting the air, water, and ground. That all would be a good start!

*One of my last feats in my time in talent management was landing Alpa Banker her phenomenal role in Trafficked, which is a heart-wrenching but important film about human trafficking. I highly recommend this movie. It also stars Ashley Judd, Sean Patrick Flanery and Anne Archer.

FQ: Can you tell readers a bit about your documentary filmmaking and how/why you decided to go into that industry? Can you tell us a bit about your current or upcoming projects in that arena?

CRAWFORD: I was writing screenplays at the time; a friend recommended taking the film class she was in (to help with screenplay writing) and I absolutely fell in love with it! I used to do a lot of work for Amnesty International, and I ended up finding the Veterans Vietnam Restoration Project, and my first movie was documenting a trip they took. The purpose of their trips was threefold: to give something back to the country of Vietnam, to heal their wounds of war, and to (in the former Executive Director’s words) atone for what they may have done there. It was one of the honors of my lifetime to be with those men as they shed decades of guilt. Our team built an annex for a clinic that serves amputees – there are still land mines going off, unfortunately. That film won a very prestigious award.

The next movie involved traveling around the world asking people from all walks of life how we can make peace. That journey was another honor of a lifetime.

My heart is really with writing, though. I am turning several of my books into screenplays, and perhaps the movies will get made – but probably not by me. I’ll be writing more books!

FQ: Give us a peek into an Ann Crawford Writing Day, if you will. Such as, do you work in a specific room, have music playing in the background while you write, the family dog at your side…? What is needed to make those ideas flow?

CRAWFORD: I have a writing “nest” – a comfy sofa that faces out a window where I have a view of a grove of trees and a beautiful garden. I have a desk, too, but I never seem to write there. I put my laptop on a huge, thick cushion on my legs, and I’m more comfortable than at a desk plus my posture is better. I’ve written four books on that sofa. Oliver, our parrot, is right next to me enjoying the view, too, along with some neck scratches when I’m taking a break.

I generally meditate right after breakfast and then write. I spend the afternoons doing things like marketing work (which can be endless) and recording audiobooks. I’m converting a couple of my books into screenplays, as I mentioned, and that sure takes a while.

I do develop a new music playlist for every book…and after a little while it’s Pavlovian: as soon as I turn on the music, I’m in the world of the book. Even now, if I hear a song from the Angels on Overtime playlist, I’m back in the mountains of Idaho.

FQ: In a writing world that encompasses a great deal of marketing via social media, can you tell us a bit about your foray into websites, Twitter, Facebook, etc.; and how you use these paths to not only promote your books and talk to your fans, but also help others become humanitarians, such as yourself? Do you feel social media is a positive thing for the writing industry?

CRAWFORD: I think social media is the greatest thing since sliced bread! I love being able to reach so many people and hear how my books have touched them.

Publishing coaches actually advise people to skip the traditional bookstore tours and just do social media – i.e. blog tours and the like – these days.

FQ: Everyone is always asking writers what advice they would give to new authors when it comes to making their writing better. If you could give a piece of advice to a writer just starting out on what NOT to do/or, what to avoid in order to make their career better, what would that be?

CRAWFORD: Keep writing! Show up to, as the adage goes, “put the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair” at a pre-arranged, uninterruptable time every workday, and the book will get written. Even if you have only fifteen minutes a day, little by little a book can get done.

Some writers are plotters, where they outline and pre-arrange the book before writing it. I’m definitely not one of them. I write whatever wants to be written that day and then tie those pieces together.

For me the most important thing is being open to the music from the muse and the changes it might bring. I once said to a screenwriting professor that my writing surprises me sometimes. “You mean you say, ‘I can’t believe I just wrote that?’” she asked. The class laughed, and so did I. But…well…yes, I do mean that, LOL.

FQ: What comes next in the Ann Crawford world? Can you speak about any titles that are coming out in 2019?

CRAWFORD: I put out two books last year and I’m expecting the same for this year. One is called The Life of My Love,which is about finding the love of your life (something I’ve done very well!). The second book is about three generations of women: an aging hippie flower child, a bank executive, and a trans woman college student.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

#BookReview - Fresh off the Starship @ann_crawford1

Fresh off the Starship

By: Ann Crawford
Publisher: Lightscapes Publishing
Publication Date: November 2018
ISBN: 978-1-9485-4382-8
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: January 13, 2019 
If you’re a fantasy lover, who also likes more than a little bit of humor in their lives, then this is one of those books you most assuredly do not want to miss.
Author Ann Crawford introduces readers to many new things – the most important being a literal “starbeing” named Missy. Missy hails from Andromeda, a galaxy far, far away that George Lucas would feel a kinship for, considering that he is the name synonymous with such galaxies. (Yes, that is a shout out to you Star Wars fans!)
Missy is coming directly to Earth for more than just a shopping trip in downtown Manhattan. She is, in fact, on a quest. She has been given an assignment to stop Earth’s humans from heading into the dark abyss that is just waiting out there to destroy them and their planet. What she aims for is Washington, D.C. After all, that is the location on Earth where the people-in-charge sit. But, much like those aliens who ended up in Roswell, New Mexico back in the 1940’s, Missy ends up completely missing D.C. and instead lands in Kansas. As we all know, politics is not exactly what Kansas is all about. 
Once in Kansas, however, Missy provides enlightenment, humor, fun, and inspiration that only a “starbeing” could produce. As she awakens after landing on Earth, she hears strange voices all around her. Of course, they are human voices, but they sound more than a bit odd. Yes, Missy knows English. She had to learn it in her studies before heading out on this assignment. But the accent is brand new to her alien ears. Even though her mission has been diverted and Missy is now in Kansas attempting to live life as a small-town girl, she has not forgotten—nor has she given up on—her initial goal to help humanity discover the beauty and kindness that is all around them. Using her own charm, Missy leads people back to a world of understanding. A world that sees and loves nature and respects all creatures, whether great or small.
This is one of those books that offers pure and utter honesty to readers. It allows everyone to laugh and enjoy the words and the character of Missy, while also being captivated by romance, a solid plot, and dialogue that is absolutely thought-provoking. We learn lessons through Missy, and each of us are reminded that life is something that should be cared for and never taken for granted. The author has done a great job encasing a true ‘chick-lit’ work within an emotional drama that, quite literally, can alter one’s perception.
I give an A+ to this wise, memorable character. And, I must say, I hope this is one who readers clamp on to in order to perhaps see more of Andromeda’s “starbeings” come to Earth in the future. Frankly, I think one that does land in D.C. and gets a job inside The White House would be a joy to see.
Quill says: An insightful, warm book that definitely does the author proud. 
For more information on Fresh off the Starship, please visit

#BookReview - Spellweaver @ann_crawford1

Spellweaver: A Historical Fantasy Novel

By: Ann Crawford
Publisher: Lightscapes Publishing
Publication Date: July 16, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-9485-4321-7
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: January 12, 2019 
When it comes to the fantastical, author Ann Crawford yet again lets her imagination run free as she introduces readers to a young heroine, a diabolical fiend, a heartwarming village, and those who can be manipulated by a devious mind. 
Her name is Catriona: a stunning Scottish girl who seems to have the sun emanating from her at all times. Catriona’s hair glows like copper fire, and she is the one who villagers absolutely love to speak with because of her undying charm and passion for life. She is also the older sister of Elspeth – a young lady who does not speak a word. She was said to have chattered all the time when she was just a babe, but when their mother died after having never quite recovered from childbirth, Elspeth stopped uttering a word. The girls have no clear memory of their mother, but their father turned from a leader of the village that was held in high-esteem to a man who still holds the title of leader, but was so hurt by his wife’s death that he became nothing more than a drunk. He also held anger and hatred in his heart for Elspeth, blaming her for his true love’s death.
In this village there is one who despises Catriona, but only because he absolutely wants her to become his own wife. He goes by the name of Shane, and the only way Catriona has figured out how to deal with him is to be the kindest person she can be while Shane is around. Her voice never rises in anger, with anyone, and she basically spends her days picking plants growing on the mountainside that come in handy for the villagers. You see, Catriona is a Wiccan healer. Although many still classify Wiccan as being witches and warlocks who are out to damage and harm life, Catriona is a true Wiccan—out to protect people by utilizing her knowledge of herbs and remedies in order to help those in need feel better. 
There is darkness on the horizon of this small Scottish village, however; there are strangers bearing down on their land. One is a witch hunter. Dressed in black, he and his attendant are coming towards the village for a very important purpose, to call out a true “Spellweaver” and burn her at the stake. The other man coming closer to them is on his own journey that does not involve darkness or pain. He hails from a familiar land that the villagers (and readers) certainly know about: Glastonbury. His name is Byron, and he has been traveling for almost a year. Although he has stopped in many a town along the way, no others have played home to a young woman, such as Catriona, who steals his heart in the very first moment he lays eyes upon her.
From romance to deception, this tale holds on to the reader and never let’s go. Not only are the characters and subplots intoxicating, but this story is also told from five different perspectives, with the book being broken up into the elements: earth, air, wind and fire. The addition of the fifth, being ‘love,’ rounds out the elements. Here, the magical exists. Here, the fantastical is normal. And it is here, where you are guaranteed to lose yourself within the pages. 
Quill says: All that can be said is that the author has cast her own remarkable “spell” upon readers with this unforgettable tale.
For more information on Spellweaver: A Historical Fantasy Novel, please visit

Friday, January 11, 2019

#BookReview - Life in the Hollywood Lane @ann_crawford1

Life in the Hollywood Lane

By: Ann Crawford
Publisher: Lightscapes Publishing
Publication Date: May 2018
ISBN: 978-0982169025
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: January 10, 2019
At first glance, Life in the Hollywood Lane appears to be just another fictional account of the life and times of an actress in and around the famous city. But this story is so much more - it's a story of a woman discovering the innermost truths about herself and taking the reader along for the journey.
Trish is an actress who has had some success in Hollywood, and while she hasn't made it big, she's "...made it medium." Originally from the Midwest, Trish moved to Hollywood as soon as she was old enough to make the trek and got busy going to auditions. It was at an audition that she met Cyndi, her soon-to-be BFF - "...the bestest of bestest friends in the history of bestest..." Cyn was bright, beautiful and had that special something that drew people to her. Together, the BFFs made a life in Hollywood, doing commercials and nabbing an occasional role in a movie. Trish and Cyn were able to pay their bills, but they always felt as if they hadn't quite "made it." 
As the two friends continued to work on their careers, time passed and suddenly it was twenty years later. In a town that judges a person in large part on their looks, reaching the age of 40 can be a big deal. For Trish, the event passed without much fanfare, but for Cyn, it was a much bigger deal. The night before her fortieth birthday, she killed herself.
The events up to and including Cyn's suicide happen within the first 20 pages and then the focus shifts to Trish's journey after her best friend's death. Dealing with the pain, the emptiness, the family, all these and more determine what Trish does. She questions so many things about her life, and her best friend. What could she have done differently? Was is something she said? Didn't say? The numbness and guilt could be overwhelming. Slowly, with the help of friends, such as her very funny agent Cara, Trish is able to get back to living.
While a book about an actress dealing with her best friend's death may sound like a real "downer," Life in the Hollywood Lane is actually a very uplifting read. Author Ann Crawford has a knack for setting a heartfelt, and yet, at times lighthearted, atmosphere to her stories. This is the second of her books that I've read, the other was Angels on Overtime, and both books had many, many funny moments, as well as deep, thought-provoking ideas. One moment you'll feel yourself tearing up as you read, and then a minute later you're laughing. As Life in the Hollywood Lane progresses, Trish begins to find herself, and find new relationships too. The author, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, shares snippets of what it's really like behind the curtain of fame in Hollywood, getting ready for the Red Carpet, the hurry-up-and-wait aspects of movie making, that add a bit of realism to the story. Most importantly, however, is the journey of discovery the Trish goes on and with which she takes the reader along. "...we can't truly be destroyed...only matter what path we take." Words to live by, Trish, thanks for sharing.
Quill says: Life in the Hollywood Lane is a heartfelt, uplifting, and at times funny story about one woman's journey to finding herself that will linger with you long after you've finished reading.
For more information on Life in the Hollywood Lane, please visit the author's website at:

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

#AuthorInterview with Katie Keridan

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Katie Keridan, the author of Once Upon A Girl

FQ: You mention in the book’s bio that you’ve wanted to be a writer “ever since I can remember.” Can you recall that turning point?

KERIDAN: For me, writing has always been a way to make sense of things. Slowing down and reproducing experiences one letter at a time has helped me better understand the world around me, as well as the ever-changing landscape inside my own head. As a child, writing initially allowed me to describe things that were important to me, validating them and giving them a permanence at a time when things seemed to change so fast. It then allowed me to control things – specifically, to make sure that the ending would be happy – at a time when I felt unable to control much of what was happening in my life.

FQ: Again, from your bio, you mention: “The stories and poems I read as a child shaped me into the person I am today.” Which writers (authors/poets) inspired you over the years, and how?

KERIDAN: I grew up loving John R. Erikson, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beatrix Potter, Thornton W. Burgess, Bonnie Bryant, and Ann M. Martin. Many of the authors used animals to teach “life lessons,” and I liked learning vicariously without having to make all the same mistakes for myself. I also liked stories with strong female characters who valued family, friends, and actively solving problems.

FQ: What are some favorite book titles, and why did these books make an impression on you growing up?

KERIDAN: This list could be pages long, so I’m limiting myself to three:

The first is a series, rather than one single book – the Hank the Cowdogbook series by John R. Erikson. I read those books over and over again, and I also wore out the audiotapes I’d borrow from the library, listening to them as I fell asleep. Hank was such an endearing character…he made so many mistakes, but his heart was always in the right place. The books felt familiar (they took place on a ranch, I grew up on a ranch), and they were filled with humor. They taught me that, even when things seem terrible, there is always a reason to laugh.

The second book is Sabriel, by Garth Nix, the story of a young woman with magical powers who leaves behind the world she knows to fulfill her destiny as a necromancer called the Abhorsen. I was immediately captivated by the mixture of strength and vulnerability in the character. She was simultaneously mysterious and relatable, and I just love that she failed and grew and learned and fought for what was important to her.

The third book is The Book Thief,by Markus Zusak. That book broke my heart in all the right ways. It taught me that, no matter the circumstances, there is always beauty to be found. It always made me dream of one day writing something even a fraction as beautiful…something that settles into your bones and acts as a demarcation between before I read thisand after I read this.

FQ: Your main purpose for writing Once Upon a Girl is to raise awareness to low self-esteem and provide hope for those who feel hopeless. You mention in your bio that what you read as a child made you “feel strong and smart and hopeful.” Obviously, an accumulation of events that took place in your life, left you high and dry and misdirected before you had to reinvent yourself. What words of hope would you offer to those who have lost their way and have bought into hopelessness?
KERIDAN: Reinvention is always possible. You are never too far gone to get where you want to go. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, only that it’s possible.

FQ: You paint metaphors throughout Once Upon a Girl. Name one metaphor you hope readers will find relatable and hopeful?

KERIDAN: I hope readers relate to the metaphor of being their own rescuer – don’t sit inside the castle, bemoaning the fact that you’re trapped, waiting for someone to save you. Save yourself! Leave the castle, find a dragon to help you burn it down, if need be, make your way through the woods, and make your own happily ever after.

FQ: One strong theme inferenced in your poems is codependency. While the term is often related to alcohol or drug addiction, the reality is that it works with relationships, too. A vicious love-hate (often passive-aggressive) cycle develops among people of low self-esteem who develop a false sense of love. What words of advice would you offer to those who find themselves going from one codependent relationship to the next?

KERIDAN: In looking at my own life, my co-dependency was classic “looking for love in all the wrong places,” to borrow a line from the country song. Humans are created for connection, and sometimes we become so desperate for it that we’re willing to do anything to have it. Real relationships never involve desperation! They involve choice and respect. Ask yourself the hard questions and answer honestly (perhaps with the help of a professional therapist or someone you trust)…does this person make me feel good about myself? What have I changed in order to stay with this person? What will happen if I stand up for myself? Why do I fear not being in a relationship? Until you address the root of your co-dependency, you’re very unlikely to change it.

FQ: You incorporate more storytelling in your poetry, which allows readers to join you on your personal journey to reinvention. Do you see yourself continuing in this style, or delving into novel writing?

KERIDAN: I hope to do both! I want to continue writing poetry and using it as a vehicle to connect with others and remind them that they aren’t alone. At the same time, I love the style of a novel, where you can work in a longer time frame and have the freedom to bring in different perspectives.

FQ: If there is one thing you hope readers will take away from your book, what would that be?

KERIDAN: It would be the unwavering belief that they, too, can reinvent themselves.

FQ: Do you envision yourself doing counseling, volunteer or otherwise?

KERIDAN: When I’m not writing, I’m actually a pediatric neuropsychologist. I specialize in cognitive testing with children and adolescents, many of whom have a chronic medical condition or have experienced a brain injury. I identify their unique learning strengths and challenges, and this helps them receive the support they need, both at home and at school. It also helps them realize that they aren’t “stupid” or “bad.” I’m especially passionate about identifying dyslexia, as no child should ever miss out on the joys of reading simply because of how their brain is wired.

FQ: Do you have any project in the works? If so, can you give your audience a peek into your new writing venture?

KERIDAN: I’m currently working on a fantasy novel that’s a coming-of-age story involving (surprise, surprise) a female protagonist who learns to stand up for what she believes in, even when doing so means making very hard choices. At the same time, she also discovers that some of the things she believes in are not as infallible as she’s been told, and this will require change on her part. The book is currently with my editor, and I hope to have it finished and published this year.