Friday, January 31, 2020

Feathered Quill Book Awards

And the winners of the annual Feathered Quill Book Awards are... we've contacted all the winners and are now sharing to all our social media sites. We'll also post about special awards, etc. in the near future. To see a list of all the winners, follow this link:

Monday, January 27, 2020

#AuthorInterview with Claire Fullerton @cfullerton3

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Claire Fullerton, author of Little Tea
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book.
FULLERTON: I grew up in Memphis and loved every minute of it. Memphis is a musical mecca, and I worked in music radio. I now live by the ocean in Malibu, California with my husband and 3 German shepherds. I am a full-time writer and part-time ballet and Pilates teacher.
FQ: Have you always enjoyed writing or is it something you’ve discovered recently?
FULLERTON: I was naturally drawn to writing at an early age through consistently keeping journals. If one does so, they can look back later to discover their journals are comprised of stories. Publication came to me first with poetry. Short-stories came next, and from there I wrote a weekly, creative column for my local newspaper. I wrote my first novel after living on the west coast of Ireland. Writing is a growth process, and I've simply stayed the course.
FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.
FULLERTON: The title, Little Tea, is after a significant character whose real name is Thelonia, whom the reader comes to know as the narrator reveals her backstory of growing up in the Deep South on her family's 3rd generation, ancestral grounds, once called the Wakefield Plantation, yet in later years was considered a family business, in that it was a working farm. The story of Little Tea is told in the first person, as the narrator, Celia Wakefield, returns to the South from California to reunite with her two childhood friends, one of which is in a marital crisis. The 3 friends spend a leisurely weekend at the lake in Heber Springs, Arkansas, where they discuss life, marriage, and their coming of age. The two storylines fit together as Celia examines her storied past and what came of her friendship with Little Tea as a result of a tragedy in the 1980s that had far-reaching repercussions. Theirs was a bi-racial friendship, subject to regional, social ramifications, and the reader comes to realize that now times have changed.
FQ: What was the impetus for writing your book?
FULLERTON: I began writing Little Tea with an eye toward depicting the magic of intimate, female friendship-- the kind that begins when young and lasts through a changing, evolving lifetime. Though lives take surprising directions among friends, some friendships remain as anchoring touchstones like a baseline, so that people never forget who they are, essentially. I wanted to write about how friends try to help each other out when there are doubts and confusion. They try to fix each other, and when a quandary is put before 3 friends, they arrive at different solutions. And in writing the backstory of Little Tea, the impetus was to depict the social mores of the Deep South in the 1980s. Times have changed, now. What was once unacceptable has become acceptable.
FQ: What genre would your book best fit? Why this genre?
FULLERTON: Little Tea straddles a few genres. It is upmarket fiction, in that it incorporates commercial fiction with a focus on language. Little Tea fits into the women's fiction category in that it is a story women will relate to. It could be considered Southern fiction in that its sense of place is a significant part of the story.
FQ: Who are your favorite authors?
FULLERTON: Pat Conroy, Anne Rivers Siddons, Ron Rash, Billy O'Callaghan from Cork, Ireland, and most writers who have a unique way of turning a phrase.
FQ: What is your all-time favorite book? Why? And did this book/author have any influence over your decision to become an author?
FULLERTON: The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. In this brilliant story, Conroy artfully lays bare the family dynamic in such an astounding way as to turn pain into art. His use of language is lyrical and his setting of the South Carolina Lowcountry is rife with visceral imagery. The Prince of Tides is an emotional experience with such poignancy that it shows all writers endless possibilities.
FQ: Did the story change as you wrote the book?
FULLERTON: I will say Little Tea grew and achieved depth when I started writing the narrator's back story. Dimension was added when I answered my own question of why Celia Wakefield has hesitant to return to the South from California. As I wrote Celia's backstory, it was clear that she had yet to reconcile her past. With her unhealed past, Celia's present was affected, and the story took on life when Celia's past and present unwittingly met by the surprise entrance of her childhood boyfriend into the story, which set up her having to revisit what she'd tried to outrun.
FQ: Was the plot worked out completely before you started or did it evolve as you wrote?
FULLERTON: Little Tea's plot evolved as I explored the dynamic of friendships. Once I brought characters from the past into the story, there was the opportunity to write about cause and effect. I think our present frame of mind, attitudes, and general outlook on life is shaped cumulatively by what has happened to us in the past. We may soldier on through hard times, but eventually, realize that in order to move forward, we need to heal the past. This is what led me through the writing of Little Tea. It was an exploration through a tumultuous past that Celia Wakefield was subject to because of her family dynamic in the Deep South, where misguided regional attitudes came into play and charged the story. My task was to give Celia Wakefield a healed way of considering her personal history and give Little Tea a satisfying ending.

FQ: Was it important to you to have a plot that would keep readers guessing about the outcome?
FULLERTON: I wanted Little Tea's plot to be something all readers could relate to, and I kept that as my focus all the way through to an ending that completely surprised me!
For more information on Little Tea, please visit the author's website at:
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Sunday, January 26, 2020

#AuthorInterview with Michael O'Keefe @mokeefewriter

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Michael O'Keefe, author of A Reckoning in Brooklyn

FQ: How much of Butchie or Eddie is really you?

O'KEEFE: Actually none. The character in the book who represents me most closely is Paddy Durr, the detective and main character of my first novel, Shot to Pieces. Butchie and Eddie are composites of cops and detectives who I admired as a kid. They put me on the right path and kept me there. They also imbued in me an unquenchable desire to protect people who couldn’t protect themselves, and the moral underpinnings to choose to always do the right thing, even when it wasn’t the most advantageous thing for me.

FQ: Have you ever worked with a tight group of cops such as you depict in the book, with family and social connections that seem so essential?
Author Michael O'Keefe
O'KEEFE: As a cop and detective for almost twenty-five years in the NYPD, I experienced that brotherhood and family-like love and loyalty on an every day basis. Butchie’s and Eddie’s loyalty to each other isn’t contrived. I lived it.

FQ: In your years as a cop, did you have any connection, direct or peripheral, to the ABSCAM scandal or similar politically motivated crime schemes?

O'KEEFE: I worked a number of organized crime and gang conspiracy murder cases, but with respect to government corruption; I was almost indicted for murder at the behest of the mayor of New York, for the simple act of saving my own life—shooting and killing a man who was trying to do the same to me. After I was acquitted, the mayor sicked his pals in the US Attorney’s Office on me and my Anti-Crime team. Their position was; we were making too many gun arrests and seizures. “No one could be that good,” the US Attorney maintained. Five years and five grand juries later, they found out they couldn’t get a jury to agree.

FQ: You have written two books about crime in Brooklyn; what is your sense of the direction that area is going – up or down – in the current era?

O'KEEFE: The Bushwick section of Brooklyn, where I grew up and later worked, has changed substantially since I retired. It went from a drug infested murder-warren to something akin to the West Village. Art galleries, restaurants, gourmet shops etc. But presently violent crime is rising at a precipitous rate, even in Bushwick. The culprits are the mayor, the city council, and the media who have beaten down the police and handcuffed them from doing their job. There will be a rebound and a return to sanity as it relates to criminal justice policy, but it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Author Michael O'Keefe
Author Michael O'Keefe
FQ: This book, while violent and filled with hateful villains, is essentially a hopeful story that shows how friends can help friends and morality is an absolute that rises at times even above the law. Is that a theme that was observable in your work as a cop?

O'KEEFE: It was the essence of being a cop. A reviewer of the book stated this premise succinctly; “This is not a book for the tender or easily offended, but it has the visceral power to inform the reader what it’s like to live a violent life on the side of the angels,” wrote Otto Penzler, of Penzler Publications.

FQ: Who is your favorite crime/tough guys novelist?

O'KEEFE: I grew up a fan of Hemingway, Steinbeck and Fitzgerald. They wrote about crime with a very literary approach. I discovered Wambaugh in high school. I loved his human portrayal of cops, not excusing but understanding human frailty in law enforcers. Presently I am big fan of Michael Connelly, Nelson DeMille and Lee Child. They get it. They have taken the time to know cops and do their research. James Patterson not so much.

FQ: Do you have plans for the next creative endeavor?

O'KEEFE: I expect to release, Burnt to a Crisp, a Paddy Durr novel, in November of this year. I’m already half done with the sequel to that. In the meantime, I am preparing A Reckoning in Brooklyn and Shot to Pieces for release as audio books. I’m hoping to have them both available before the spring.

FQ: Do you have plans, as seems possible from the book’s ending, for a sequel? Perhaps the development of Paddy Durr?

O'KEEFE: As you can see from the previous question, that is a resounding yes. But eventually Paddy must retire. Despair not! Paddy’s children, Patrick and Kaitlynn have followed him into the “family business.” Then there is an entire generation of young cops and detectives Paddy has mentored over the years. The possibilities are limited only by my imagination.

#BookReview - A Reckoning in Brooklyn @mokeefewriter

A Reckoning in Brooklyn
By: Michael O'Keefe
Publisher: Ingram Spark
Publication Date: November 2019
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Date: January 25, 2020
An unlikely pair of cops faced with an unsavory nest of unrepentant bad guys use their special skills to mop up the mess in New York City in the late 1970s.
The place is Brooklyn, the neighborhood Bushwick, first settled by Germans, then inundated with Italians who gradually dominated the criminal life of the neighborhood. Then the area became a stomping ground for Hispanics and others who, unable to thrive by conventional means, turned to crime and gang violence, still overseen by the established Italian overlords. Joey “Butchie” Bucciogrosso grew up on its mean streets, remarkably untouched by the corruption, though unknown to him, his own family had been brutalized in the worst possible way when a prominent capo raped his mother in “payment” for her father’s “dues” to the mob weeks before her wedding. When Butchie is fifteen, he learns of this perfidy and vows to eliminate the perpetrator and all like him. 
After a harrowing, heroic stint in the Marines in Nam where he nearly loses his life saving his fellow soldiers, Butchie returns to Brooklyn and becomes a policeman. His partner is Eddie Curran, an Irish immigrant with a charming brogue and, like Butchie, no mercy in his heart for wrongdoers like the ones he observed back home and now sees in Bushwick. Both Eddie and Butchie know how to box and shoot, and are not afraid to wipe out the senseless brutality of street crime at its core – mob rule. Together they will go up against the worst sorts of mobsters – those motivated by political ambitions – and settle some old scores.
As a retired NYPD detective who was raised in New York City, O’Keefe follows one of the primary rules of composition: write about what you know. His debut novel, Shot to Pieces, shares the Brooklyn setting. In an afterward to A Reckoning in Brooklyn, he draws connecting lines between its fictional happenings and the very real ABSCAM Investigation that arose out of the New York underground and rose to the level of national political scandal. As creator of gutsy characters and twisting plots, O’Keefe applies violence and vitriol with a heavy brush. He is also at home, it seems, writing about women, who play active roles in this gang-busting saga. The personal histories of Butchie and Eddie add layers of empathy as well, as the reader will see in stark detail how amorality is not necessarily an inherited condition, and organized religion often offers only homilies, not solutions, when real evil is afoot. Fair handed, O’Keefe never neglects the human and redeemable aspects among his wide range of street savvy good and bad guys, allowing exoneration for the innocent and absolute elimination for the guilty. 
Quill says: A Reckoning in Brooklyn will satisfy fans of the cops and mobsters genre, offering two indomitably tough protagonists duking it out with an almost endless stream of greedy, depraved villains. 
For more information on A Reckoning in Brooklyn, please visit the author's website at:

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

#BookReview - My Dear Hamilton

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton

By: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: April 2018
ISBN: 978-0062466167
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: January 19, 2020
Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, authors of the highly successful American's First Daughter, tackle another great topic as they take on the life of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, the wife of Alexander Hamilton.
The story opens in 1825 when James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States, comes to Harlem, NY to visit Eliza. By this time, Alexander Hamilton has been dead for over twenty years. Why has Monroe come to visit? To understand that, and all the "history" between them, it's necessary to go back in time...
It is now 1777 and the reader is taken back to when Eliza, or Betsy as she was called in her early years, is a young woman living with her parents, General Philip Schuyler and wife Catherine. The family is wealthy and Betsy's biggest worry at the time is that her sister Angelica has run off and eloped. But we soon learn that General Schuyler has been accused of dereliction of duty. As a devoted daughter, Betsy will do whatever she can to help her father, who is later acquitted of the charges.
In 1780, while staying with her aunt in New Jersey, Betsy meets Alexander Hamilton, one of George Washington's aides-de-camp. They'd actually met before, at the Schuyler's house where Hamilton dined with the family - but the courtship begins in earnest in New Jersey. While intrigued by Hamilton's good looks and charm, Eliza is sure that the military man will have no interest in her as she's known around her family as the practical sister and typically ignored by the men who visit. But Hamilton is intrigued by Eliza's knowledge and confidence and they are soon married. The novel follows the couple through the ups and downs of family life, while also delving deeply into Hamilton's contributions to building a new country. 
My Dear Hamilton follows the life of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, not just through the more famous episodes such as the writing of The Federalist Papers and the death of her husband, but also through lesser known events such as the death of her eldest son. At just over 600 pages, this is a book that requires a bit of time and dedication by the reader. But that time and dedication will be well-rewarded with the understanding that comes from reading this book. While there is not a lot known about Eliza, and the authors had to use a bit of fiction here and there, overall the story comes across as a very believable version of what happened during the founding of our country. Kudos to the authors for their exhaustive research and for bringing to life the story of a very fascinating woman.
Quill says: For fans of historical fiction, particularly of Revolutionary War history, My Dear Hamilton is a fantastic read.

#BookReview - You Are Mine, Porcupine

You Are Mine, Porcupine

By: Helen L. Wilbur
Illustrated by: Stephanie Fizer Coleman
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: February 2020
ISBN: 978-1534110038
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: January 19, 2020
A sweet baby porcupine learns about the world around him in the new book You Are Mine, Porcupine.
The story opens with a little porcupup (the term for baby porcupines) exploring the woods. His mother keeps a close eye on him as they chew on tree stumps and eat clover, leaves, and dandelions. His mother warns him that there are many dangers in the woods, particularly for porcupines who move very slowly. But, she tells him, porcupines have quills that help protect them. 
The woods are deep and dark. Beware!
They're full of hungry wolves and bear.
So don't forget those long, sharp spines
Protect all wandering porcupines.
There is so much to see in the woods and the little porcupup has wandered a bit too far from his mother. It isn't long before a wolf spots the baby and begins to follow him through the woods...
You Are Mine, Porcupine is a wonderful story about porcupines, a rodent who seems to get little coverage in children's books. While the wolf stalking the baby may frighten more sensitive readers, the mother's advice is taken to heart by her child so the story has a happy ending (the wolf gets a quick lesson on porcupine quills). Children will learn several facts about the small rodents simply by reading along and seeing what these cute creatures do during the day, as well as their nocturnal activities. As a bonus, there is a two-page spread at the back of the book with facts about porcupines. 
Quill says: A cute little porcupine will enchant young readers as they learn about the small rodents and see that a mother's love knows no bounds.

#BookReview - The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2020

The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2020
Publisher: World Almanac
Publication Date: November 2019
ISBN: 978-1600572302
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: January 19, 2020
You may think that in today's digital world, there's no need for a print version of The World Almanac, and if you do believe that, you'd be wrong. There's something about having a complete, and I mean complete, resource instantly available, sitting on your desk, ready to use. 
A new edition of The World Almanac comes out every year and while some of the material is the same from year to year, such as landmark decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, there are also numerous new sections. New features this year include a 2020 election preview, the 2010 to 2019 decade in review, as well as new statistics on topics such as top-grossing movies and religious populations. A fun new section is the "Never Say Die: Memorable Comebacks by Athletes" that includes great comebacks from athletes such as Tommy John and Peyton Manning, all selected by the editors of the Almanac.
The statistics included in The World Almanac are truly mind-boggling. From the 100 tallest buildings in the world to presidential elections results by state, it's in here. And if you can't find it in this volume, it doesn't exist. Curious about U.S. Health Expenditures? It's in here - from 1960 through 2017. Wondering how your state income tax rates compare to the rates in other states? It's in here. Want to go hiking and need to find information about the national trails system? Pick up this book and you'll find your answers.
There are lots of reference guides on the market today, but none compare to The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2020. Each year the publishers of this volume put together the ultimate guide and while you may not need to purchase one every single year, it's a definite must-have that should be updated every few years. Whether you're a student about to embark on a research paper on the Constitution, or an avid political fan who wants to back up all arguments with facts, this is the perfect book to help you along the way.
Quill says: It may be the age of the Internet, but the print version of The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2020 is an invaluable resource.

Friday, January 10, 2020

#AuthorInterview with Amy Rivers @WritingRivers

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Amy Rivers, author of All the Broken People.
FQ: I see that you’re a seasoned writer, but All the Broken People is your first endeavor into the psychological suspense genre. Why did you choose to write this type of story? 
RIVERS: I've always loved suspenseful novels, whatever genre they fall into, and I studied psychology because I love thinking about why people do the things that they do. Writing a psychological suspense novel was the perfect marriage of those two loves. But when I started writing full-time, I had a particular woman's story in mind, and while it involves psychology and is often suspenseful, it didn't fall squarely into the suspense/thriller genre. That first book turned into two books. After I finished the second book, I realized that if I wanted to dig deep into the topics close to my heart, I needed to go darker. Luckily, around that time, I became completely obsessed with kudzu and secrets and All The Broken People is the product of that obsession.
FQ: Will there be a sequel? I’m curious to find out if Larry Lee can truly break away from Jasper and move forward in his life despite all the tragedy he’s caused and had to endure.
RIVERS: Larry Lee is one of my very favorite people. At the moment, I don't have sequel planned. Larry Lee's story is sad, and I'd love to give him a happy ending. In fact, I hope he did find happiness, or at least peace, but I don't have anything more to say about him at this time.
 FQ: Why did you choose the small southern town of Jasper, Georgia, as the primary setting in your novel?
RIVERS: My husband's family lives in Jasper, Georgia. Until I met him, I'd never spent any time in the South. I grew up in the New Mexico desert. Georgia was absolutely fascinating to me. Everything from the landscape to the culture. It's very different from what I grew up with. Jasper is a beautiful small town north of Atlanta--and I adore it. But I grew up in a small town. I'm very familiar with the way that small town politics and society can be both good and very bad. When you live in a place where you know everyone and everyone knows you, it's hard to escape your past. The same forces that make it difficult to transcend your reputation or past actions also tends to be fiercely protective of its own, leading to corruption, cover-ups, and a willingness to overlook even the most horrendous crimes. Silence hides violence, and small towns can be very silent. Jasper seemed like the perfect place to stir things up. And, of course, there is kudzu.
FQ: When you write, do you base any of the characters on people in your life, or do they spring into life completely out of your imagination? 
RIVERS: Many of my characters are inspired by people I know or have met. I'm much more comfortable writing in the real world, so I can't help but think about how real people would react in extreme situations. But once I'm immersed in the story, the characters become their own people. I can still see resemblances to real people, but it doesn't take long to lose track of the inspiration and see the characters as unique individuals.
FQ: All the Broken People has won a few awards including the 2019 Distinguished Favorites by the Independent Press Award. What is your secret to writing award-winning novels?
RIVERS: Oh how I wish there was a secret! I try to write the best novel I can, creating characters who are relatable and will stick with my readers after they finish reading. With each story I write, I get better. I learn new things. Hone my craft. I think those are the things that have led to the critical successes that I've had with All The Broken People. I'm incredibly proud of this work, and I look forward to continuing to grow as a writer.
FQ: One of the themes of this novel relates to forgiveness and redemption. Do you believe that all people, regardless of how terrible their past behavior might have been, have the capacity for redeeming themselves, and ultimately being forgiven? 
RIVERS: I think that they both redemption and forgiveness require a certain amount of empathy and compassion. I do believe that people who do terrible things can seek redemption and be forgiven. In fact, I think that forgiveness is a necessary part of healing for victims of crime, or even just careless behavior. That being said, I know that there are people who are psychological incapable of empathy and so seeking redemption is most likely something that they would never think to do. Or, if they seek forgiveness outwardly, they may have ulterior. For instance, psychopathic serial killers might not be capable of seeking redemption. And it may seem impossible to forgive someone who commits such heinous crimes, but the ability to forgive is still invaluable in coming to terms with and moving on from said crimes.
FQ: What type of process do you go through when you’re writing, and does it differ between each story you write?
RIVERS: Every story I write starts with a character or a set of characters. Currently, I'm writing a story that revolves around two sisters and their family dynamic. Once I can picture my characters, I move on to a problem. One that would challenge those characters given their personalities, careers, or backgrounds. In All The Broken People, I started with Alice. I imagined her background. She is the child of an alcoholic and she has struggled with addiction herself. She's convinced herself that she's recovered, and it's true that she's not drinking anymore. But, as if often the case, Alice is co-dependent, obsessive, and self-destructive. Those qualities lead her down a road where she finally has to face who she is and how she's come to be in the situation she now finds herself. Combine that with a series of suspenseful and often frightening occurrences and you've got yourself a story. This is the way my mind works, so every story starts in a similar fashion, but with different characters and circumstances.
 FQ: While Alice is caring for Mae, she busies herself doing research for an article about the tragic life of Juanita Jones. Can you tell readers a little more about Juanita, and why you chose to include her in this story? 
RIVERS: As I was researching the history of Jasper, Georgia and of Pickens County, I ran across the story of Juanita K. Jones, a 15-year old young woman who was killed by her husband. I'd been thinking about all the ways that domestic violence may present itself in a marriage - with my character, Alice, in mind. The story of Juantia's short life and brutal death struck a chord with me. The patterns of abuse present in her relationship with her husband were testbook, but the nature of her death was not. The year was 1940 and domestic abuse inside a marriage was something that people usually swept under the rug. Juanita was neither the first nor the last woman to die by her husband's hands, but her youth, her status in her hometown, and the fact that she was pregnant at the time of her death, gave the crime notoriety. Juanita's husband was convicted of murder at a time when even being charged with domestic abuse was practically unheard of. I wondered how Alice, with her own troubled past, would respond to Juanita's story - how it would make her feel about her own life and life choices.
I met with Juanita's family, and as I learned more about her, I couldn't shake the need to give this woman a voice. And, with her family's permission, I incorporated her story into my book as a lens through which Alice beings to understand her own situation. After publication, I met with the director of the North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network to establish the Juanita K. Jones Memorial Fund, which will benefit domestic violence victims in North Georgia. Sharing Juanita's story firmed my resolve to instill in everything I write, fiction or otherwise, a sense of responsibility to those who have come before us, and for future generations.

#AuthorInterview with Behcet Kaya @bhctkaya123

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Behcet Kaya, author of Body in the Woods: A Jack Ludefance Novel
FQ: The invention and use of stealth technology in aircraft is a critical component of your novel, and possibly the reason why one of the characters meets his untimely death. Can you briefly educate readers about what you discovered with regards to this type of technology?
KAYA: Actually invisible technology is not a new concept. In fact the joint strike force F-35 has that technology. But even the F-35 JSF is not a hundred percent invisible; the Germans have radar that can detect a F-35 war plane. What I did was make it a little more hi-tech, so to speak, and far beyond what is currently on the market.
Author Behcet Kaya
Author Behcet Kaya
FQ: Body in the Woods has all the suspenseful elements and a strong, likable character, Jack Ludefance, to become a great Hollywood movie, at least in this reviewer’s opinion. Who would you like to see play the part of Mr. Ludefance, if your novels were ever made into movies? 
KAYA: I think Matthew McConaughey would be ideal to play Jack Ludefance. He’s Southern, rugged, and a versatile actor.
FQ: I saw that you'll be releasing a new Jack Ludefance novel next year. Will any other characters from this book be making an appearance in the new story? 
KAYA: Yes! The title of the novel is Appellate Judge. Rudy will be hired by Jack to do some hacking, as well as Jack’s sister Margaux, his love interest Lee, and Jack’s navy buddy, Hiker, who is now Sheriff of Santa Rosaria.
FQ: Aside from another great installment in the Jack Ludefance series, are you currently working on any other projects? 
KAYA: Yes, but I don’t know that I should reveal too much as it is just in its conceptual infancy stage. I am thinking about writing a fictionalized story based on a true story of a Turkish man’s life during the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds period. A Robin Hood kind of bandit who steals from the rich and helps the poor. The local people always hid him and actually feared him. Because of these actions the authorities could never capture him. The evidence of his story is in the Turkish archives and has created quite a myth around his life. However, his descendants are asking too much money for the rights to his story at this point in time.
FQ: You have successfully written several novels, including Road to Siran and Murder on the Naval Base. What advice would you give to new authors who are just starting out in their writing career?
KAYA: Read ferociously and learn to listen. A writer’s ears should be like a sponge. He must pay attention to everything and everyone around him; the conversations at next table in a restaurant, riding on a bus, or train, or plane. My late mother-in law, who was also a great writer and a columnist, always listened. We would go to a restaurant and have dinner and carry on a conversation, but she could tell me everything that was going on at the next table. There was a post on Facebook not too long ago that read: “I am a writer. Anything you say or do will be written.” There is also the big hurdle of learning how to market your books; something that I am still working on.
FQ: What motivates and draws you towards writing thrillers? Do you ever get mentally exhausted when you’re writing a particularly fast-paced scene?
KAYA: I guess my writing crime stories comes naturally. I grew up reading crime thrillers. No, I never get mentally exhausted. Every writer is different. There may be times when I don’t write for days at a time. And other times I stay up until early morning until all the ideas are down on paper. My wife is my right arm; not only does she do the first draft editing, but she is also my sounding board. I often ask her what is the right thing to do in such and such circumstances and she will give some ideas which I let percolate in my mind. Sometimes I let go for a while and later the full thoughts will come to me. In other words, I don’t write continuously, but when I am in the writing mode I can’t be stopped.
FQ: Who are your favorite authors, and do they inspire you when you’re writing? 
KAYA: Currently I am enjoying the character of Colonel Drummer in Brian Haig’s novels. But my favorites are the classics - Leo Tolstoy, Turkish author Yasar Kemal, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Charles Dickens, D.H.Lawrence, Alexander Dumas, to mention a few.
FQ: Over the years you've been interviewed by several readers and reviewers about your books. Is there anything you’re anxious to let readers know more about you, or your writings, that hasn’t been asked about in the past? 
KAYA: In writing I need inspiration as most writers do. In the spring of last year I took up the violin and am studying with an excellent teacher, who by the way, may be featured in my next novel.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

#BookReview - Dvorah: Prophetess, Judge, Warrior @ShrinkingBuddha

Dvorah: Prophetess, Judge, Warrior: The Simple Girl Who Grew Up to Lead Israel (Fierce Bible Women Book 1)

By: M.J. Lalli
Publisher: Adler & Holmes, LLC
Publication Date: August 2018
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Date: January 8, 2020
In her exploration of the dynamic accomplishments of Dvorah based on biblical text, novelist M. J. Lalli has created a vibrant tale of love, war and wisdom.
Dvorah (often seen as “Deborah”) is the daughter and only child of a strong, assertive mother, Ajalon, and a stalwart, visionary father, Eleazar. They reside in the Promised Land of Israel, in early times when Israelites and Canaanites were at odds. Both a precious and precocious child, Dvorah is trained in household arts as diverse as working with wool and making bricks. In her early teens her parents gift her with a mare, Zenja. As time goes by, Dvorah and Zenja will become mutually trusting companions. 
When she is about 18 years of age, Dvorah hears the voice of God telling her that she is to act as a judge among the people, and though she is ready and willing, she must rely on God to show her what to do next. She is intuitively guided to station herself on a hill under a palm tree and use palm fronds as instruments in her work. She soon begins hearing cases, gaining respect and renown. A few years later, God tells Dvorah to contact her cousin Barak and inform him that he is to lead an army against the Canaanites; he agrees, while insisting that she accompany him. That struggle concludes with an Israeli victory at Mount Tabor, and Dvorah, hailed as both prophetess and warrior, returns home with the assumption that she will continue her life as a judge. But she will face yet another conflict as two determined men vie for her hand in marriage.
Lalli, who is a scientist by profession, has clearly done extensive research to underpin her well-organized vision of the life of Dvorah. The scenes ranging from home life to warfare have a ring of authenticity. Young Dvorah is sent to the fields to analyze the growth of flax needed for brick making, and measures time by the size of shadows passing over the house. A description of young Barak killing a lion with a slingshot makes us believe in that weapon’s power, and we will see it employed later as Barak strikes down a giant attacker to save a comrade. Lalli’s characters speak in simple, flowing dialog, neither archaic nor stilted. She reveals her knowledge of biblical lore in the many stories recounted, using some Hebrew words and phrases as needed. Most chapters conclude with footnotes containing biblical references, and within the narrative, Dvorah and others compose or quote from songs recounting great deeds and praising Israel’s God.
Quill says: Lalli’s strongly plotted saga of the deeds of a formidable female from Old Testament times will appeal to fans of historical fiction, as well as to those who enjoy romantic, heroic tales from any era.

#BookReview - All the Broken People @WritingRivers

All the Broken People

By: Amy Rivers
Publisher: Compathy Press, LLC
Publication Date: March 2019
ISBN: 978-0578425313
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: January 7, 2020
Alice Bennett, journalist and wife to a man who appears to be wonderfully perfect, was finally able to crawl her way out of a horrifically abusive childhood, and into a well-crafted new life full of promise. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always seem to play out as planned, and Alice’s past, coupled with controlling behavior by her husband, slowly erodes their marriage. Meanwhile her mother-in-law, Mae, suffers a tragic fall that lands her in the hospital, unable to walk unassisted and care for herself. Alice decides to take some advantage of the situation by moving down to Georgia, where Mae lives, to not only help her at home while she recovers, but impress her husband enough that he’ll be more willing to work on repairing their relationship. 
During Alice’s time caring for her mother-in-law, she attempts to do research for an article about a woman who was gruesomely murdered by her husband in 1940, but she quickly discovers that living in a small, very close-knit southern town makes it nearly impossible for her to get any answers when the townspeople are not only closemouthed, but suspicious of the outsider’s inquiries. Alice is also confronted with the reality that her in-laws have a decades-old feud with another family, the Simms, and her husband was somehow involved with the Simms’ daughter, Beth, and her brother, Larry Lee, who are both notorious for their addictions and criminal activity. She is both shocked and saddened by the fact that her husband may not be the man she originally thought he was when they first married.
While Mae Bennett is busy recovering, she suddenly has a flash of memory that someone pushed her, causing her to fall. The town law enforcement is quick to respond to this latest development, but slow in thoroughly investigating and, like the rest of the town, believes that Larry Lee is somehow involved. Matters only worsen when Beth Simms blows back into town, unleashing havoc in her wake; and at the same time, unusual and potentially criminal events are happening to a few townspeople. Alice and the folks of Jasper don't know whether or not anything is related to Mae's fall, or the Simms, and they're getting worried that their once peaceful town will soon be too dangerous to live in. But will they find answers quickly enough to put a stop to further destruction, or is it too late?
Seasoned author Amy Rivers’ first venture into the suspense genre proves to be a well-written, enjoyable read. The numerous characters are fully developed and likable; even with some of the “bad” characters readers will find it hard not to feel a bit of sympathy for their unfortunate lots in life. If you’re seeking a fast-paced thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat, this is not the story for you. However, if you’re in search of a read that is heavy, richly atmospheric and a suspenseful slow burn, this is definitely the novel for you. Like the kudzu that the author writes about in her story, All the Broken People will quickly grow on you and won’t release its hold until the dramatic ending. 
Quill says: Looking for a well-crafted suspense novel filled with strong, likable characters? Look no further!
For more information on All the Broken People, please visit the author's website:

#BookReview - The God Child

The God Child
By: Stuart Rawlings
Publisher: Sierra Dreams Press
Publication Date: November 2019
ISBN: 978-0977140510
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: December 8, 2020
The third in a funny, fast moving series, Stuart Rawlings’ The God Child shines light on some of our most famous historical figures, as they take a stance against some of our most scurrilous moderns.
The story opens with a gathering led by a little girl in a wheelchair. Through her mysterious powers she has brought back to life the following cast: Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Moses, Jefferson, Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hitler, Joan of Arc, Einstein, Michelangelo, Beethoven, H. G. Wells, Margaret Mead and Freud. She will give each participant money and gear for a one-month mission to “explore this modern world, interact with others and do whatever you want to do…” and report back to her. Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt visit their American homesteads, then cast their attention on President Trump; Hitler and Joan of Arc will visit Hitler’s old home in Bavaria; Wells and Einstein aim for Geneva; Shakespeare, Michelangelo and Beethoven set their sights on an arts tour of Europe; Mead inveigles Freud to accompany her to the South Pacific. The four religious icons have separate agendas: Moses will go back to the Holy Land; Mohammed will visit places where Islam’s teachings have gone astray; Jesus wants to confront evangelical American sects; Buddha will go to Myanmar. 
So the adventures begin, with Hitler and Joan anonymously settling down on a little farm until his identity is discovered and the pair is arrested. Freud and Mead, now lovers, seek to aid the despised Rohingya people with help from Buddha. Mohammed takes on oppressive leaders in Syria and Saudi Arabia, and he, Moses and Jesus will meet up in Damascus. With Wells as his publicist, Einstein sacrifices his newfound life to illustrate the truth of global warming. Much of the book’s plot centers on advances by Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt to reform Donald Trump, shown initially as “an ignorant, narcissistic, amoral bully.” Among the scattered illustrations, his face appears many times. Trump learns from his resurrected counselors that he can gain more support by following a less self-centered agenda.
Rawlings is a highly educated author who teaches others. He has authored twenty-three previous books along with other media productions. His writing has bite as well as humor. The scenes involving Trump are hilarious, but with an aura of authenticity. The reader will wish this volume, or perhaps the whole series, could be made into a cinematic production, with enjoyably conflicting input about what actors/actresses would play which roles. Rawlings offers a somber ending, while leaving a crack in the door for a future sequel. 
Quill says: There is enough good-natured fantasy to keep the reader rolling along with Rawlings’ fertile imagination, and enough factual, historical material to raise some philosophical questions. 
For more information on The God Child, please visit the publisher's website at:

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

#AuthorInterview with Pat Finegan @pat_finegan

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Patrick Finegan, author of Cooperative Lives.
FQ: After a thirty-year career in law, corporate finance, management consulting, and risk management, why publish a novel?
FINEGAN: Unfinished business. My parents were disillusioned former artists – disillusioned because they abandoned years of creative endeavor to raise children and forage for sustenance. For much of my childhood, we lived hand to mouth. Everything was about managing expectations, bracing my brothers and me for the same crushing disappointments they experienced and were convinced we would share. Life vacillated between bitterness, depression and occasional joy, with daily reminders that secondary education was a luxury, that anything beyond trade school or community college was unthinkable. When I secured a full-ride debate scholarship to Northwestern, I fled home and resolved never to return.
My flight lasted thirty years. But the ghosts of childhood endure. Had my father lived to retirement, he might have finished the novel he outlined when he was thirty. My mother might have returned to painting. Or music. But they died. Unfulfilled promise was their bequest, stowed among their meager earthly belongings. The rationale was subconscious, of course, but publishing a novel was my way of attending unfinished business.
FQ: What inspired you to write this story?
FINEGAN: The financial crisis. Like so many management-level employees in finance, I found myself unemployed and previously too well-remunerated to persuade recruiters I’d accept an entry-level position in another industry. I had time on my hands. To keep myself sane, I spent hours each day writing. Professional screeds, computer programs, fiction, it didn’t matter, so long as I was busy. Many of the fictional pieces were stories about imagined neighbors. Months passed and I began to concoct connections, eventually constructing a novel. But the root inspiration was the financial crisis. Like 9/11, it was over in a flash, but it etched deep scars in my generation and framed how succeeding ones view nearly everything.
FQ: What would you say was the inspiration for your characters?
FINEGAN: My neighbors. I had so many of them – some famous, some not, each bludgeoned in some way by 9/11, the Madoff scandal and the financial crisis. I knew only a handful socially, those down the hall plus some resident activists, but I secretly observed others as they shuffled through the lobby or stared down in the elevator, and I speculated about their lives.
When Tom Wolfe published The Bonfire of the Vanities in 1987, it was the defining satire of New York’s young professional elite. What happened to those masters of the universe? They aged, bore children and became my neighbors. And when the financial markets crumpled, they were seized by the same fears, insecurities, and feelings of helplessness that gripped working class families for years. But because they were previously cocooned, the fears struck harder – a great basis, I thought, for a story.
FQ: Why did you choose a 2012-2013 setting?
FINEGAN: My goal was to publish something contemporary; the dates weren’t supposed to matter. Alas, I work slowly. Six years elapsed between the first draft (May 2013) and the book’s eventual publication (March 2019). ISIS, Wikileaks, the 2016 US presidential election, Brexit, white supremacy and immigration paranoia weren’t on my radar. Their development made my plot obsolete. To solve this, I backdated the story to the completion date of my first manuscript. It was easier than keeping pace with politics and technology.
FQ: You mention in your preface that the world of 2013 New York no longer exists. How has it changed?
FINEGAN: For a brief interlude, because of 9/11 and the financial crisis, New York’s elite acknowledged the fragility and happenstance of economic privilege. There was a glimmer of humility, upon which I built my novel. But a younger generation of power brokers swept in, many exhibiting the same pre-bubble imperiousness we did. A roaring stock market and raft of upper income tax cuts will do that.
One consequence is Billionaire’s Row, a collection of ultra-luxurious, ultra-tall dwelling complexes casting long shadows across Central Park and the Hi-Line. The residential complex in my novel is probably déclassé by today’s standards. Yet the new high-rises stand half-empty and don’t front the park. Go figure.
Shopping has changed. Retail is dying, even in New York City. So are taxis. Uber and Amazon have carpet bombed Medallion holders and New York’s flagship department stores into insolvency, just as they have everywhere.
New York’s traffic has become more orderly. Dedicated bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, well-marked crosswalks, the ticketing of cyclists, the push for congestion pricing – the city has prioritized reducing Midtown traffic and eliminating pedestrian deaths. It has more to do, but today’s street chaos is a distant echo of what’s described in my book.
The most visible changes are, of course, political. Eavesdropping has become ubiquitous and unfathomably advanced. Wikileaks spilled the great NSA secret – that it sees and hears anything it wants. Nearly all our movements and conversations are recorded somewhere – by security cameras or our interaction with Internet and phone-connected devices. My book’s federal agents and their adversaries were equipped with eavesdropping and hacking tools that were, in light of Wikileaks’ revelations, too primitive.
The foreign adversary in my novel was Iran. By late 2013, however, President Ahmadinejad was gone, replaced by a reform party cleric who forged a denuclearization pact and de facto peace treaty with the world. For two sweet years, New Yorkers no longer feared Iranian terrorism. And believed Al Qaida was in retreat. But the Arab Spring became winter, ISIS emerged in Iraq and Syria, President Assad waged war against his citizens, Saudi Arabia waged war against starving Yemenis, and a newly elected US president renounced the country’s most sacred oaths and commitments. And befriended tyrants.
This made us more polarized, even New Yorkers. Nuance, so crucial to fair journalism (and plausible character development), no longer seemed viable. New Yorkers, who inclined for decades toward progressivism and consensus-building, became riven by internecine feuds over being liberal purists versus pragmatists in the battle to regain Congress and the presidency. Fairness no longer seems an option – in broadcasting, politics, or judicial reasoning. Were my novel truly contemporary, its characters would be strident in their respective convictions, and quick to attack others ad hominem.
Finally, race and gender issues have risen in importance. Eric Garner’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement changed New York’s conversation about race. I’m not sure my principal characters would have been plausible in a post-MeToo and Black Lives Matter environment. The same goes for the book’s discussion of immigration policy.
FQ: As I mentioned in my review, you’ve captured the feeling of New York, and New Yorkers perfectly. Was it hard to get that perfect setting or did it come naturally as you wrote?
FINEGAN: I concentrated on the world and people I knew. I wanted my first work of fiction to be judged by the merits of its writing, not the quality of its research. I stayed within my comfort zone, employing characters who were montages of people and personalities I knew, describing real places, real art exhibits, and real historical events. I focused on professions and medical procedures I witnessed firsthand. Strip out the plotline, and I could have reformulated much of the manuscript as a memoir. The writing flowed slowly but naturally.
FQ: Having lived in New York for 30 years - how well do you know your neighbors?
FINEGAN: Poorly. Our neighbor across the hall was the lone exception. She was my daughter’s surrogate grandmother, the reason my wife and I never hired a babysitter, not once! She was the retired personal assistant to the chairman of Schubert Theaters, widowed since her thirties, who raised three children on her own, and whose flair for living knew no bounds.
At the end of the hall lived the head of Planned Parenthood and her husband. They renovated their three-bedroom apartment beautifully and used it for soirees and fundraisers. A Who’s Who of showbiz and political figures passed our door, but we only exchanged pleasantries at the elevator or sipped champagne together in the all-doors-open hall parties on New Year’s Eve and Thanksgiving. I inherited a seven-foot saguaro cactus when they moved into a high-rise around the corner and remain in professional contact.
Next door to the Planned Parenthood couple was the pied-à-terre of the president of Reader’s Digest. He was good for a boisterous “How are you, my old friend? How are you doing?” in the hallway before rushing to his next social or work engagement. He served briefly on the co-op’s board, but the tribulations of the publishing industry were great, and Reader’s Digest eventually folded. My “old friend” sold his pied-à-terre.
Our neighbor next-door was an aging pension fund manager who spent six months renovating a studio apartment before moving in. He treated us to a tour when it was completed. He resembled Keith Richards, had two attractive adult children, and played keyboard silently while wearing headphones. For a while, he dated a concert pianist who complained about my comparative awfulness (I played a baby grand), but their relationship soured. My dying neighbor downstairs, by contrast, sent requests via elevator attendant to play more Haydn, which I did. Once yearly, my neighbor, the pension fund manager, would schlep gifts from our closet to our tree when we were out, consume some milk and cookies, and make boot prints on our balcony.
In sum, we relied on our neighbors for all sorts of assistance, but, in truth, we scarcely knew them.
FQ: Since New York is such a strong “character” in your story, and those who know the city will “get” certain things, how do you think people who have never been to the Big Apple will respond?
FINEGAN: The response has been mixed. Some readers are repulsed by my characters or their language and quit by chapter three. Others toil on and are rewarded. The novel’s themes are universal. And most readers find its characters relatable. What separates fans from critics are age and politics. The book is a difficult read for those who became adults after 9/11 and even more difficult for those who consider NYC an irredeemable blight on their MAGA-nation.
FQ: Do you have any new writing projects brewing? Have you thought about trying a different genre, different setting (a place where you haven’t lived, perhaps?)?
FINEGAN: I think Cooperative Lives exhausted most of the genres. It is part mystery, thriller, romance, detective story, historical novel, political satire – you name it. As for science fiction or fantasy, the real world is dystopian enough. There’s no shortage of material.
My next project, a contemporary novel, is set in metropolitan New York but will probably become historical because I write so slowly. The characters are younger and more geographically dispersed than those in Cooperative Lives, but the city still draws their lives together. I devote a lot of ink to water.
FQ: Self-publishing is becoming quite popular these days. What advice would you give to first-time authors looking to follow in this same vein?
FINEGAN: I made every mistake imaginable. Most were costly.
First, do not rush publication. I was adamant about publishing before my sixtieth birthday. Had I waited six months, I could have circulated advance reader copies (ARCs) to newspapers, libraries and bloggers and built some pre-launch buzz. What I learned is that newspapers and bloggers do not cover “old news.”
Second, apply for a Library of Congress number before publication. You won’t get one afterward...ever.
Third, hire a cover illustrator. Personally, I love my cover, but I lost count of the negative comments received because of it. I capitulated somewhat last month and revised the font. The experience was exasperating. A book isn’t its cover, I fumed. But apparently it is. Save yourself the exasperation. Hire a professional.
Fourth, hire an editor. I have professional editing experience and thought, after seven years of re-reading and rewriting, that the manuscript would be error-free. Close, but those first few copies (the ones I sent to friends and reviewers) were cringeworthy. I was too familiar with the material; I didn’t see all the typos. On a different level, a good editor will make your manuscript tighter.
Last, keep your day job. There’s very little money in publishing. Write because you love to, not because you’ll pay the rent. You probably won’t. At least not after just one novel. It’s a long, uphill climb but personally rewarding.