Sunday, February 28, 2021

#BookReview - Mia and Nattie: One Great Team! by Marlene M. Bell

Mia and Nattie: One Great Team!

By: Marlene M. Bell
Illustrated by: Grace Sandford
Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing
Publication Date: October 2020
ISBN: 978-0999539446
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: February 25, 2020

When a tiny little lamb is born early, and her mother can't take care of her, what will happen to the newborn? Will Mia, the young girl who helps her grandmother on the farm be able to save the lamb?

Mia is a young girl who loves helping her grandma on the farm. She enjoys taking care of all the sheep, but especially the lambs. One day, when she finds a newborn lamb who has been abandoned by her mother, Mia needs to investigate. The lamb's mother had no milk for her baby and wasn't able to take care of her. But soon Mia realizes that the tiny lamb is very small and will need special care. She scoops up the lamb and lavishes the baby with love.

Mia quickly brings the lamb, who she has named Nattie, into the house. She finds a perfect spot for the lamb in the laundry room, dries her off with a towel and gives her more loving and cuddles. Looking over the new baby, Mia notes that Nattie's mouth is a bit crooked, her legs are shorter than a typical lamb's and one of her horns is straight, instead of being curved like the other lambs' horns. But in Mia's eyes, Nattie is perfect. The bond between the two is set in motion and they become best friends, with Mia feeling a sense of calm and well-being whenever Nattie is around.

While Mia was convinced that Nattie was the most perfect little lamb she'd ever seen, the lamb never caught up to the growth of the other lambs. By the time she was a full-grown ewe, she was still too small to be kept with the rest of the flock. Mia's grandmother wanted to sell Nattie to a neighbor but Mia, who deeply loved little Nattie, wanted to keep her. If she could only find a job that Nattie could do so Grandma wouldn't sell the ewe...

The story of Nattie is based on a true story of Natalie, a Dorset lamb that the author found in her barn during a late-night barn check. Like the fictional Nattie, the real Natalie was small and couldn't be kept with the other babies. This children's book, however, takes a delightful turn when Mia is drawn to the little lamb, finding perfection in the animal's unique appearance and size. Their bond is a joy to read about, and Mia's insistence that she find a job for Nattie is a nice lesson for children - that every animal (or person) has a special talent. Mia and Nattie: One Great Team! is a sweet story that will appeal to both animal lovers as well as those who simply like a feel-good story before bedtime.

Quill says: Mia and Nattie make a wonderful team that "ewe" will love getting to know in their charming new story Mia and Nattie: One Great Team!

For more information on Mia and Nattie, please visit the author's website at:


#BookReview - The Concrete Vineyard by Cam Lang

The Concrete Vineyard

By: Cam Lang
Publisher: Tellwell Talent
Publication Date: December 2020
ISBN: 978-0228832249
Reviewed by: Risah Salazar
Review Date: February 25, 2021

On Canada’s 150th birthday, 91-year old Edward Mitchell, who is quite the celebrity on Niagara-on-the-Lake, is mysteriously killed. As the investigation begins, instead of finding answers, more questions arise as leads and revelations point to different people; it seems like everyone has a motive. As if his death is not enough of a mystery to solve, it is also a puzzle to figure out what happens now to his vast private property since he doesn’t have a next of kin. Or does he?

Detective Bryan Dee, the chief investigator (also an avid golfer), makes his move but the private property alone would take days, even weeks, to finish searching. He's annoyed he's losing time for his dear sport but he's got to do the work. Fortunately, his urban planner best bud Kris Gage is taking a vacation and visiting the town shortly. Since Kris is an expert with properties, Bryan initially asks for his advice. The next thing they know, Kris is also investigating the murder. But the deeper they go, the more and more people get involved. Is it the shady realtor and his son who did this? And just a few days after Edward's death, his best friend and executor of his will, Benedict Picton, goes missing. Looks like the cause of this whole fiasco points to the will, the beneficiary, and of course, the inheritance. The more secrets they uncover, the more Bryan realizes that he can’t trust anyone, not even Kris.

Cam Lang’s The Concrete Vineyard has the power to intrigue. A huge chunk of the book carries an intellectual tone but there are witty moments too. The book anchors on great world-building that strongly appeals to the senses. However, due to the complexity of the story, the main narrative gets sidetracked by subplots, character backgrounds, and the setting’s history.

At first, it’s not even obvious what the plot is about. It was mentioned at the very beginning that it will be Edward’s last day, but it takes a while to get to his death and the audience’s anticipation dies down waiting for that. Lang writes incredibly well and nothing ever gets predictable. However, as he pours his heart into writing, he gets carried away with details. Although the facts about Canada, wine, and grapes are interesting, as the story progresses, these facts tend to drag down the reading experience. As mentioned earlier, the main narrative gets sidetracked by these facts and more.

While The Concrete Vineyard does a good job in engaging the readers' minds with the main plot, it does have an issue with its voice. There is a constant shift from third to first person. It would have been better if the change happened per chapter. But no, sometimes, within the same chapter, there would be a sudden change in point of view. This makes the transition rough and confusing.

Quill says: In general, Cam Lang makes a good and compelling debut in The Concrete Vineyard. But looking closely, some details need to be more concise and consistent.

For more information on The Concrete Vineyard, please visit the author's website at:



Thursday, February 25, 2021

More #AwardWinningBooks for Your Reading Pleasure

Looking for some great reads? Here are some additional selections - books that placed in our 2021 annual award program. See all the books at: 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

#BookReview - Sammie and the New Baby

Sammie and the New Baby

By: Sue Gilligan-Hannon
Illustrated by: Morgan Spicer
Publisher: Gilligan Publishing
Publication Date: December 2020
ISBN: 978-1735961408
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: February 2021

Debut author Sue Gilligan-Hannon introduces readers to her two adorable goldendoodles, Sammie and Lulu, in her new book, Sammie and the New Baby, the first in a planned series of books that tackle topics common to young families.

Sammie is a very, very happy dog who just loves and adores her family. She gets to go on long walks with her daddy and go for car rides with her mommy where she can stick her head out of the window and enjoy all the great smells as they zoom along. And probably Sammie's favorite activity is eating. Eating from her doggie bowl, eating from the kitchen table, eating from...just plain ol'eating.

There are so many fun things Sammie does with her family like playing ball, taking a nap in the sun, and oh yes, did I mention she loves to eat? Life is good for Sammie - she loves her family and she knows they all love her.

One day, some strange things appear at the house - a baby gate, a new food bowl, a blanket, a ball...wait a minute, this doesn't look good to Sammie. The lovable goldendoodle is then dismayed to discover a new puppy in the house. How could her family get another dog? And what's worse is that her whole family seems completely charmed by Lulu, the new puppy.

Author Gilligan-Hannon has written a delightful story about welcoming a new baby into a family. Instead of showing the usual reactions of a young child to a new baby, the author tells her story through the eyes and thoughts of a dog. Children will easily get drawn into the story of Sammie, who suddenly feels that her family has forgotten about her once the new puppy arrives. The illustrator, Morgan Spicer, has done a fantastic job of creating two very cute dogs who help capture the imagination and will likely delight children. Kids will fall in love with Sammie and Lulu and come to understand that having a new baby doesn't mean that they will be forgotten by their family but instead realize that a new sibling can bring a whole lot of fun. And Sammie's discovery, at the end of the story, of the trouble, that he and Lulu can get into will give kids a giggle.

Quill says: Welcoming a new baby into the family can be a challenging and stressful time, but Sammie and Lulu are ready and eager to help ease the transition with their adorable new story, Sammie and the New Baby. 



#BookReview - Don't Call Me Fuzzybutt

Don't Call Me Fuzzybutt

By: Robin Newman
Illustrated by: Susan Batori
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: March 2021
ISBN: 978-1534110731
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: February 23, 2021

A bear's hibernation, and a woodpecker's need to peck wood, lead to an epic fight between woodland creatures that instead of escalating, ends in a delightful resolution among good friends.

Bear is getting ready for his annual ritual of hibernation. He tucks himself into bed with his teddy bear and falls asleep almost instantly. Unfortunately, Bear is a very light sleeper and almost any noise can wake him up. So he knits a sleeping cap and earmuffs and chops down several trees to make a good, solid front door. Now it should be quiet enough for him to sleep.

Nearby, Woodpecker is a master building of houses, from rustic ranches to solar-powered duplexes. To build his houses, Woodpecker has to peck holes in pine trees. But when Woodpecker notices that some of his houses have disappeared, he goes on a search to find out who, or what, was taking away his buildings.

When Woodpecker follows the trail of evidence right up to Bear's front door, he confronts his neighbor and asks about the missing houses. Bear doesn't appreciate being woken up from his deep sleep and calls Woodpecker a Featherbutt. Woodpecker's feeling are hurt but he doesn't back down and soon things escalate and the pretty bird calls Bear a Fuzzybutt. Eeek! Like Woodpecker, Bear's feelings are hurt. Will they be able to patch things up or will the name-calling continue?

Author Robin Newman has tackled an all-too-common issue that many kids are faced with on a daily basis. Name-calling can be hurtful and too often children who find themselves in such battles often don't know how to de-escalate. Through the eyes of Bear and Woodpecker, two cute animals who truly mean no harm to each other, readers will see that feelings can easily be hurt. As well, the author shows how the simple act of apologizing can do wonders to resolve such conflicts.

Quill says: A fun story that shows children how easily name-calling can escalate and what to do if such a fight develops.


#AuthorInterview with Julia Soplop, Author of Equus Rising

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Julia Soplop, author of Equus Rising: How the Horse Shaped U.S. History.

FQ: Just reading your bio, you have spent a great deal of time documenting animal behavior all over the world. What made the horse such an appealing subject for you?

SOPLOP: Something that fascinates me about the horse is that, unlike most domesticated animals, the horse exists as the same species in the wild. Selective breeding by humans has really only resulted in superficial changes to horses. We can watch how horses behave naturally in their bands in the wild, then turn around and watch how they behave at the barn in their artificial social configurations and indoor environments.

At the same time I was becoming interested in observing and photographing wild horses, my young daughters begged me to enroll them in riding lessons at a local barn. I’m not an equestrian, and the idea scared me! They were relentless in their begging, though, and I eventually gave in. What I didn’t realize was how much I would enjoy bumming around the barn observing domestic horses one morning per week for the last four years while the girls rode. It’s interesting to see how the natural behaviors horses evolved over thousands of years to stay alive on the Great Plains, like spooking at a loud noise or unfamiliar sight, still exist—and wreak havoc—in a domestic setting. A domestic horse who has never encountered threatening wildlife is still on guard at all times for the possibility of a mountain lion jumping on its back!

FQ: Is there a location that you’ve been, or a specific animal/mammal you’ve researched, that you absolutely loved? Along those same lines, is there a location/animal you long to travel to and research that you haven’t as of yet?

SOPLOP: When I was in college, I traveled to Madagascar for a couple months as a field research assistant to study the behavior of sifaka lemurs. Look up sifaka, because they’re adorable and have the most interest way of locomoting, called vertical clinging and leaping. Lemurs are endemic to Madagascar, and they’re critically endangered due to habitat destruction and climate change. I feel humbled to have spent time observing them, because, devastatingly, they may not be around much longer.

I have a cousin who is a Great White shark researcher. In better times, she travels to South Africa to study them. I would love to go with her one day to observe her work—when travel is safe again and when I get up the guts to climb into a cage in sharky waters.

FQ: As an author and a photographer, yourself, how do you feel about the “team” of illustrator and writer? Your team certainly worked well; have you done other projects together? 

Author Julia Soplop

SOPLOP: I had been an admirer of Robert Spannring’s art for several years before we started working together. As soon as the manuscript began to take shape, I realized his particular style could help breathe life into some of the historical events and scientific concepts I was tackling. I was so honored when he agreed to illustrate it, and I think we both came away from the project proud of the final product. His art really elevated the manuscript. I hope we find an excuse to work together in the future!

FQ: When did you become a lover of history? Is research something you always were fascinated by?

SOPLOP: I’ve always enjoyed reading about history, whether in nonfiction books or historical fiction. But when I started homeschooling my kids several years ago, I began to think more deeply about how narrow my traditional history education had been, as it was for most people in my generation and still is for many kids today, and how I needed to do better by my kids. I made it my job to ensure that when we studied a historical event, we read numerous perspectives, not just the traditional party line that dismisses the experiences of many players in history. Curating my kids’ history education spurred me to want to help amplify the stories of those largely left out of the historical narrative.

FQ: What inspires you to sit down and do all of this study? Do you get excited from books, music, traveling – something specific that makes you want to start writing a book?

SOPLOP: Equus Rising grew out of a history curriculum I wrote for my kids. When we decided to spend a year studying U.S. history, I wanted to do so in a way that would hold our attention. Our mutual interest in horses gave me the idea to tell the story of our country’s history using the horse as a common narrative thread to tie together events we usually study in isolation but are very much connected. This approach also allowed for the inclusion of figures often written out of traditional histories: women and people of color. Once I started to pull together the information, I realized there really was a story there that hadn’t been told in a cohesive way. The curriculum morphed into a book idea.

In general, I’m very curious and can find inspiration in just about any direction I look. My background in documentary photography and writing has shown me there is always a story brewing if you’re willing to listen closely enough to hear it.

FQ: What is some advice you could give a person who wishes to start on a career path such as yours – field study/research/writing?

SOPLOP: The path to becoming a nonfiction writer isn’t clear-cut like a lot of professional paths. If you want to be a lawyer, you take the LSAT, go to the law school, and then pass the bar. Congratulations, you’re a lawyer. My professional journey has been much more circuitous. I always had an interest in research, especially in the fields of biology and public health, as well as in writing and photography. But by the end of college I realized I didn’t want to be a practitioner of science; I wanted to be a writer who could communicate research in a way that would help non-specialists understand important technical issues that influenced their lives.

Becoming a credible communicator of any subject requires understanding the basics enough to identify the field’s experts and ask them the right questions, so you can accurately write about the significance of their findings. Looking back, I’d say my coursework as an undergraduate and then as a graduate student in medical journalism was pretty evenly split between content courses—such as biostatistics, epidemiology, neuroscience, animal behavior—and courses on communicating evidence effectively to a broad audience.

My main advice for nonfiction writers is this: follow your curiosity by working to gain both content knowledge of your subject area and writing skills. Allow yourself to pivot. Take interesting opportunities when they arise—Madagascar!—even if you’re not sure whether they’ll advance your career. They probably will. And if not, they’ll make for a great conversation starter. Also read extensively. Write constantly. There has been nothing traditional about my career, but every class I’ve taken, every book I’ve read, every professional experience I’ve had, has contributed to my ability to chart my own path, which has been quite satisfying.

FQ: Are you interested in one day writing fiction? And are you working on anything currently that you can let readers in on?

SOPLOP: Actually I’ve had a rough draft of a novel sitting on my shelf for six or seven years that I furiously wrote during NANOWRIMO while my kids were in preschool two morning a week. There’s a reason it’s still on the shelf. It needs serious help! Every few years, I pick it up and make some tweaks. Then I feel overwhelmed and tuck it away again. Let’s just say I’m a better editor of fiction than a writer of it. I think I’ll finish it at some point, though.

I’m currently working on two projects. One is an eBook called Untangling the Self-Publishing Process that I plan to publish soon to empower independent authors. The other is a much larger project that I’m still researching and outlining. It’s a book to help non-scientists become more effective and responsible consumers of health and science news. I started planning out this book before the pandemic, but now it feels more timely than ever. I think some people are realizing they could probably use a bit of help in this area, even if they’re generally educated and informed. Part of me wishes I’d finished the book before the pandemic, so it could be helping people navigate the onslaught of research coming at them. The other part of me has been fascinated to closely follow the science unfolding quite publicly around COVID-19, as well as the intense misinformation campaigns surrounding it. The book is practically writing itself.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Looking for Some Great Reads?

Looking for some great reads? Check out these award-winning books that placed in our 2021 annual award program. See all the books at:

Friday, February 19, 2021

#AuthorInterview with Amy Rivers

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Amy Rivers, author of Complicit (A Legacy of Silence).

FQ: Can you detail some of the particular ways that your work in the field of Sexual Assault Nursing played into this story?

RIVERS: My understanding of and appreciation for the field of forensic nursing is probably the most obvious way that working in the field plays into my story. Despite not being a nurse, I completed Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner training, observed and debriefed on cases, and prepped nurses to give expert testimony in court. I was involved in several multi-disciplinary teams that put me in direct contact with law enforcement and other professionals from a variety of jurisdictions. I was involved in community education and advocacy events, which gave me invaluable perspective on the impact of sexual violence for victims, their families, and entire communities. To say that these experiences simply affected me would be an understatement. I think it would be difficult to leave that field completely behind and I am grateful to have found a way to not only make sense of my own thoughts and feelings about these topics, but also to share some of my perspective with readers.

FQ: Which female writers, contemporary or classic, have served as inspiration for your mystery books?

RIVERS: I love to read Karin Slaughter and Lisa Gardner, who are both masters of this genre. They write a lot of trauma and interpersonal violence into their books so I get a pretty good education on how it’s done just by reading them. These are the women who I hope one day will read one of my books and think “YES!” I’m a huge fan of Isabel Allende who writes beautifully about women and familial relationships. I also adore Jane Austen’s knack for creating minor characters who are as fascinating as her leads. Really, there are too many to list. Women writers are amazing.

FQ: Kate and Tilly, two of your lead characters, have had many traumas to overcome; did you have a model for their often rancorous, but ultimately forgiving, relationship?

RIVERS: Since I’m constantly studying human behavior in relationships, especially when it comes to my family, the dynamic between my sister and I was where I looked first to make interactions between Kate and Tilly more authentic. That being said, neither character really resembles us. We’ve both certainly had our fair share of struggles, but nothing like what Kate and Tilly have gone through and continue to go through. On the other hand, my sister is my best friend and I wanted Kate and Tilly to find their way back to one another, probably because I find so much comfort in my relationship with my own sister.

FQ: How long did it take you to complete Complicit from the time you first envisioned it? 

Author Amy Rivers

RIVERS: The general idea for Complicit has been stewing in my brain for years but from the time I started putting words down it took about a year and a half to finish. The initial writing process is pretty quick for me. I spend most of my time in revision, where I get rid of all the garbage and fine-tune what’s left. At publication, Complicit will have gone through about 10 full revisions, a developmental edit, a line edit, and proofreading.

FQ: Could you envision a feature length film based on this book?

RIVERS: I would love to see this story on screen. When I’m writing, I think about who I’d want to see playing my main characters. For Kate and Tilly, I’d love to see someone like Diane Guerrero or Adria Arjona. It’s probably not a coincidence that both of these women are activists and advocates in addition to being accomplished actresses. The subject-matter of Complicit is very dark and serious. I’d love to see it acted by people who can really showcase the depths of these themes, while bringing out the hope and resiliency that are also present.

FQ: Is writing now your full-time profession?

RIVERS: It is, yes. Of course, I also run a writing organization and I’m a mom, so I have responsibilities that sometimes supersede my writing time, but I’ve always worked best under pressure so the rigorousness of my juggling act suits me. I am very lucky to be able to pursue my dreams this way, and I owe a lot of thanks to my incredibly supportive family.

FQ: How has your role as Director of Northern Colorado Writers influenced your own writing style and aspirations?

RIVERS: The great thing about running NCW is having access to so many talented people. I’ve learned a lot about writing outside my comfort zone and I’ve come to appreciate how passionate and steadfast writers can be, even in the face of constant rejection. In terms of my personal time, I knew when I took over the organization that I’d have to make some changes to my personal writing goals and that’s actually been a blessing. I sometimes resist letting go of things, but writing full-time and running NCW has forced me to slow down, to get extra-organized, and to prioritize in a big way. All good things to practice.

FQ: What advice would you offer to other women who might wish to undertake works in the mystery novel genre?

RIVERS: There really is no limit to what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it. The publishing industry can be a trying space to work and crime fiction can sometimes feel very male-dominated, but there are really wonderful, supportive organizations out there that will help you in your journey. Sisters-In-Crime is one of my favorites. My local chapter consists of wonderfully talented writers who span the genre from cozies to hard-boiled detective stories to thrillers. Finding a community is one of the most important things that I’ve done for myself as an author, and I really recommend it to anyone who wants to journey down this rabbit-hole.

#AuthorInterview with Deborah Stevenson

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Deborah Stevenson, author of An Armadillo On My Pillow.

FQ: Deborah, you do so much, from fiction to non-fiction to prose, etc. – do you have a personal favorite when it comes to writing?

STEVENSON: I enjoy all of it. I probably lean toward fiction, but often it is based on real life. As for prose or verse, I try to let the story choose. Some lend themselves better to prose. Others to verse. Verse is almost like a word puzzle—finding just the right words, rhythms and rhymes. It’s also challenging—you have to make sure the words progress the story. There is a tendency for the words to take on a life of their own otherwise. It’s a fun challenge, and I think an added layer of fun for readers when done well.

FQ: Your books are very empowering, and certainly something children need nowadays. Where do the original ideas come from? Do these creative ideas come from watching the state of the world on the news, or the issues you see in society, etc. that you wish to address?

STEVENSON: Thank you so much. Empowering children is a key motivation for my writing, and I appreciate your affirmation that I’m accomplishing that goal.

Current events certainly prompt stories. For example, Oy, Elephants! (about circus elephants who retire to a human Florida retirement community) was inspired by the news that Barnum and Bailey was allowing their circus elephants to retire. The Last Rhino was inspired by the real life crisis facing the world’s rhino population due to poaching. The Green Woolen Fedora (coming out in April) was inspired by the emotionally charged separation of grandparents and grandchildren during the pandemic.

Many stories are inspired by my personal experiences. Soaring Soren is the true story of my beloved French Bulldog, who had many inspirational messages to share with children about determination and never giving in to perceived limitations. Pugs Wearing Parkas is based on two hilarious, little pugs in my neighborhood who would run out in their parkas and terrorize my doberman on walks. 

Other stories are purely imagination, and often come to me in dreams. The funniest example is the Chicken and Egg series. I dreamed FOUR books in one night. I woke up at 1 AM with all four in my head, went downstairs and frantically wrote for 12 hours straight, trying to get them all down before I forgot them.

FQ: Your thoughts and stories certainly inspire creativity in children, as well. Do you have children of your own, or were you perhaps a teacher surrounded by young readers? Did they inspire you?

STEVENSON: I have a son. He’s grown now, but when he was little we read together every day, and often spent joyful afternoons in the library reading and researching animals and other topics. I adored seeing books through his eyes. Reading opens up wondrous worlds and new ways of thinking. My interest in writing for children definitely was sparked by that experience with my own son, as well as by my own love of reading as a kid.

I love to do school visits for my books and find the kids are so inspirational. They absorb positive messages like little sponges, in such a simple and lovely way: kindness, caring for other people and creatures, bravery, overcoming obstacles, and supporting each other. It is rejuvenating to see how much they care and want to help create a better world. As a society, we need to nurture and grow those natural inclinations. I hope my books can play a part in that.

FQ: Where did the idea for Armadillo come from? Do you remember when the thought struck you, so to speak?

STEVENSON: Armadillo was one of those ideas that came to me in a dream. It combines two of my favorite things: animals and imagination. I hoped to introduce children to some lesser-known animals in a fun, imaginative way, that would also be educational. 

I also hoped the book would showcase Morgan’s incredible talent for portraying endearing animals in expressive, fun ways. It did, and she went to town in this book. The art couldn’t be cuter or more fun. 

There’s an activity book on my website that children/teachers can use to study about animals, and to create their very own imaginary animals that are adapted to their very own imaginary habitats. It is free, educational, and fun, so please check it out:

FQ: Have you always had the same illustrator? I must say, Morgan Spicer did an incredible job. Is there a certain ‘partnership’ that you feel needs to be formed between author and illustrator in order for a book to truly work?

STEVENSON: Morgan and I have done five books together so far and I’m her biggest fan. A picture book truly tells a story in BOTH words and pictures, and so a strong, creative collaboration between author and illustrator definitely adds to the book. It is possible for author and illustrator to work separately. It’s often the case in traditional publishing. But that partnership is one of my favorite parts of the creative process. My interaction with Morgan adds so much to our books. One of us will have an idea, the other adds to it, and that back and forth has taken us in some amazing, unexpected directions.

I do have two other illustrators I work with...David Stedmond from Ireland illustrates the Chicken and Egg book series. His very expressive, comical, cartoon-y style suits these books perfectly and he’s done a fantastic job. Stella Mongodi is an Italian illustrator who lives in the UK. She has a fine-art, feathery, dreamy style that was perfect for my upcoming book, The Green Woolen Fedora. She just finished the art for the book and it is gorgeous. She really nailed it and she adds in many fun, creative details that children and grown ups will enjoy discovering.

I could go on and on about these incredibly talented illustrators, but I’ll just say I’m in awe of their creativity and blessed to work with them. 

FQ: This book, as well as the adorable Pugs Wearing Parkas and others, all have that animal theme. And, I must say, the illustrations are hilarious – do animals play a big role in your own personal life?

STEVENSON: Absolutely! I have always been a huge animal lover, and so it’s a special treat to win the We Love Animals award. 

When my son was young we had a lot of unusual pets: chinchillas, a hedgehog, a few different lizards, fish, a gerbil. We also had cats and dogs. I love all animals, but have a special affinity for dogs. In my spare time 😉 I train dogs (my own and other people’s) for the sport of dog agility. Agility is intense, detailed communication at high speed, and highlights the incredible connection that is possible between humans and canines. I confess I am addicted to it. 

I try to support wildlife conservation efforts. So many amazing creatures are threatened if we do not do something to change the current trajectory. It would be heartbreaking to think that future generations might never know them, except in books. And perhaps, even more alarming, their fate predicts our own in many respects. In my efforts to help wildlife, I also have an “adopted” rhino, but it’s symbolic...he doesn’t live here. This is a great activity for home or classroom and a lovely way to connect with conservation efforts and wildlife.

FQ: What are your hopes when it comes to the younger generation and reading? It seems like everything is about a computer and no one wants to teach the power of books anymore; is there any advice you would give to kids out there who may want to write one day?

A driving force in my writing is encouraging children to love reading. It opens up worlds and minds, inspires dreams and imagination, and reminds us that life is about perpetual learning. Whether it’s a paper book or a computer, that curiosity that moves us to keep learning is the greatest gift we can impart on our kids. In a world where we seem ever more divided, reading connects us to those who are different from us, and helps us understand the deeper, important ways we are all alike.

To children interested in writing, three words: READ and WRITE! 

We learn about writing by reading. And we improve our craft by writing. Writing is difficult, but never get discouraged. The more you write, the better you’ll get. 

It is human nature to want an outlet to define, organize and communicate our feelings on things that matter to us. Writing is so rewarding because it enables us to do just that…to touch others in meaningful ways.

FQ: Can you tell us what we can all look forward to next when it comes to your amazing writing in 2021?

STEVENSON: Always lots of irons in the fire. The Green Woolen Fedora is next up, coming out in early April. I invite folks to check out the book trailer here:

It’s a sweet, sentimental, funny story about the joy of true friendship and the power of remembrance. The art is magical and the messages timely. It’s a story for all children age 3 and up, but will resonate especially with children who are apart from or have lost a loved one.

After that is Book 3 in the Chicken and Egg series: Do Chickens Have Lips? Illustrations are in progress now, and the story is as silly and fun as could be. I hope it will provide some giggles for kids and parents during what has been a stressful time.

And perhaps the pugs will be making a comeback, in new outfits (it’s a surprise) and this time instead of seasons, teaching us a little about time.

I also just finalized a manuscript that is one of my all time favorites. Not ready to give it away yet, but I adore the premise and the main character and I hope children will too.

FQ: Thank you. Congratulations on the award; you certainly deserve it. And my granddaughter just absolutely LOVES your books!

STEVENSON: Thank you so much. I’m thrilled your granddaughter loves my books! That warms my heart. And I am thrilled that Armadillo won the We Love Animals award, because it is truly a book about loving and appreciating animals.

I enjoyed pondering your thoughtful questions, and the chance to share a bit about myself and my work with your readers. Thank you for all the important, valuable opportunities Feathered Quill provides to help authors and readers connect.

#AuthorInterview with Jacqueline T. Johnson

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Jacqueline T. Johnson, author of Test of Time (Sons of Meir Book 1).

FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?

JOHNSON: I was born in Virginia. I’m married and have two sons, a daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren. I love to read and write, but my hobbies are watching anime and playing video games. My love for action and adventure, and for the details of storytelling inspired me to want to capture the hearts of readers. This is all part of why I love writing. A well told story, where the reader can see and feel the imagery is the only way to keep an audience coming back.

FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.

JOHNSON: Test of Time is the story of Erich, a former assassin, and Nash, a guardian of Noyi. The story opens with Erich freeing Nash from prison for a crime they committed. Erich convinces Nash to rejoin the original mission to take control of the throne of Meir. Their collaboration sets off a chain of events from kidnapping, to a masquerade, to visions of a long-lost brother. Erich is thrust into power by a suspicious king, while Nash is forced to face his past and a brother whom he thought was dead.

Heroes or villains? Meir has an unlimited number of villains...Artemis, a mysterious leader of the Dwellers, to a phantom menace the Terror of Noyi, and there is also a nameless specter who lives in the shadows. The ending of Test of Time brings the story to a full circle forcing Erich to question—can he kill the man he considers his friend, his counterpart…a brother? From the battles, to victories, the thrills never stop!

What makes Test of Time unique is that it isn’t the usual heroic saga where the actions of the characters are predictable. I wanted my characters, the fighting and battle scenes to have a touch of fantasy—but also be realistic. The characters are likeable because they are relatable in their actions and reactions.

FQ: What was the impetus for writing your book?

JOHNSON: Becoming a writer wasn’t something I imagined as a career. I wrote my first sentence after being inspired by a scene from Disney’s Peter Pan. I had watched this movie a thousand times with my youngest son. There’s a scene where Peter Pan pleas for Tinker Bell’s light not to go out. I sat down with a piece of paper and wrote one sentence: Can you love someone so much that you can feel their pain? From that one sentence, I wrote five books. Writing has become an expression of who I am, where my emotions, thoughts, and dreams come to life. Writing in the fantasy genre opens unlimited avenues for my imagination.

FQ: Who are your favorite authors?

JOHNSON: I don’t have a favorite author. I like anything that holds my attention and makes me not want to put the book down.

FQ: As an author/writer, what famous author (living or dead), would you like to have dinner with, and why?

JOHNSON: The last author that left a lasting effect in my memory is Corrie ten Boom. To have dinner with her, to explore the wisdom from her life of forgiveness is a journey I think we all need to take.

FQ: Is this the first book, the second, etc. in the series and how many books do you anticipate writing in this series? 

JOHNSON: Test of Time is the first book in the Sons of Meir series. There are presently five books in the series, but I do see the possibilities for more.

FQ: Tell us a bit about the series. Do you know where the series will take the characters or are you working that out as you go along with each book? What has been the reader response to your series? 

JOHNSON: Sons of Meir tells the adventures of two men who discover they’re pawns used by their government to start a war of power. The series is the adventure of three kingdoms, two men, one mission. Throughout the series, their friendship is tested by the Terror of Noyi, Artemis, leader of the Dweller nation, and intertwining webs of deceit and betrayal that send shockwaves that threaten to destroy the house of Meir.

When I write, the development of the characters and conflict works out as the books progress.

The response of the readers has been very positive! Each book has received a four-to-five-star rating. One reader, a librarian, wrote a grant to purchase Test of Time to form a book club in each middle school in her district. This allowed students from each middle school, who wouldn’t have normally interacted, to discuss Test of Time collectively. For over six weeks, I was able to join the students in an online discussion of Test of Time, which was exhilarating to hear their discussions from a reader’s point of view.

FQ: Did your family & friends encourage you to write your book?

JOHNSON: Yes, my family & friends are constant encouragement for me. On days when I don’t feel as if I have the education or experience to be a successful writer, my family reminds me that a natural gift for writing isn’t something that can be taught in a classroom—it must be developed from within the writer.

FQ: Tell us about the protagonist in your story.

JOHNSON: The protagonist of the story is Erich. Erich is a mysterious man whose life is surrounded by intrigue and masquerade. He was born a Dweller named Victor. Dwellers are feared and hated just because of who they are. Victor was groomed from birth to be an assassin. Victor changes his name to Erich; then teams up with Nash, a Noyitian guardian, to forge a new destiny but with every adventure Erich is forced to face his past demons and the temptation to embrace his altered ego, Victor.

FQ: Tell us about your favorite character and why that person is your favorite.

JOHNSON: My favorite characters are the villains. I love the freedom I have with these characters where there are no limits in how I can develop them. When I develop a villain, there is no moral dilemmas in the inspiration behind their actions.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

#FeatheredQuill #BookAwards

Award certificates and award seals are being mailed out this week for all gold, silver, and bronze winners in the Feathered Quill Book Awards 2021. For finalists, we had a run on the seals and have had to re-order so there will be a bit of a delay before we can ship your certificates/award seals out to you.

#BookReview - Complicit (A Legacy of Silence) by Amy Rivers

Complicit (A Legacy of Silence)

By: Amy Rivers
Publisher: Compathy Press
Publication Date: April 2021
ISBN: 978-1734516043
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: February 15, 2021

Award-winning author Amy Rivers creates and gradually untangles a complex story of hometown horror, family dysfunction, and the triumph of determination over decadence in the first book in her new Legacy of Silence series, Complicit.

Central character Kate Medina is a school counselor in her childhood home of Alamogordo. She talks to troubled teens at work, and cares for her father Frank, who is slowly dying of cancer, when at home. Her profession allows her to do some good, but there are girls who seem to need extra guidance, and refuse to take it when offered. And Kate has old traumas to deal with, having left her former, and highly desirable employment as a prison counselor after being the victim of a brutal attack. And there’s her younger sister Tilly, whose avoidance and sarcasm make Kate feel like the good sister, though, frustratingly, Frank always seems to side with Tilly.

When a teenaged girl goes missing, reviving Kate’s memories of a terrifying experience she had as a teen that has haunted her ever since – she and her pal (but not boyfriend) Roman discovered a charred body in a car, a mystery that was never completely solved. Now it seems, the two of them may have to collaborate, since Roman is a police detective and needs to mine Kate’s professional observations for any slightest clue to the missing girl’s background, mood states, and possible whereabouts. Together Kate and Roman will uncover a web of evildoers among the town’s elites, putting them both in jeopardy.

Rivers writes with skill and art, putting us squarely in the scene and inside the mind of her heroine. Kate is a strong woman trying to be stronger, overcoming harsh memories as she learns to empathize with other victimized females, many of them young and all systematically abused, right in her own, supposedly safe hometown. She must deal with conflicting feelings and with some scurrilous players who seem to hold all the cards. Even with Roman’s support, it’s a tough position to be in, made more so as the two find themselves becoming more than pals, but still reluctant to make a full commitment. This book is denoted as the first of the Legacy of Silence series, treating in this volume with the wide and often hidden activities of sex traffickers. Readers will hope that Kate and Roman will return again in partnership to battle crime and abuse wherever found.

Quill says: Amy Rivers has outdone herself with Complicit, a far-reaching, imminently relevant look at covert conspiracies and sisterly secrets in small town America. Her fans will be watching for the next in her Legacy of Silence series.

For more information on Complicit (A Legacy of Silence), please visit the author's website at:


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

7 Steps to Write a Great Book Description by Jessica Fender

7 Steps to Write a Great Book Description

Have you finished writing your book? Congratulations! You’ve done a great job! You are one step away from success. Now you need to write an outstanding book description to attract more readers.  

Modern readers have unlimited access to millions of different books. And that explains why they’re getting pickier about what they read. If your book description is not enticing enough, the book lovers will likely skip your book.

If you want to get your book noticed, you need to use the following seven tips.

Think like a reader

The first thing you should do is to switch your mind from “author’s mode” to “reader’s mode.” 

Imagine yourself as a reader. What is your background? What do you value in a book the most?  

Once you put yourself in your readers’ shoes, you will get an idea of what you should write in your product description.

Let’s say you wrote a thriller book. Your target audience is female readers of the 25 to 34-year-old age category. What things should you emphasize in your book description to grab the attention of your readers? You can specify that the protagonist of your story is an attractive blond guy with beautiful blue eyes.

Do you think that it’s a “cheap” trick and it’s not worth using? Well, this trick is simple, but it always works. And if you want to engage your target audience, you should consider using this trick for marketing purposes.

Present your protagonist

Your book description must include information about your protagonist. That’s an obvious thing.

But do you know how to present the hero of your story the right way? Think about what your protagonist and your readers have in common. It can be anything from childhood memories and family problems to conflicts with bosses and attitudes toward social movements.

The key idea here is to describe your protagonist in a way it will resonate with your target audience on a deep emotional level. This psychological trick will allow you to hook random readers and convince them that your book is worth reading.  

Create an intrigue

The next step you should take is to reveal some key aspects of the plot. 

That’s the most challenging part of the book description writing. You need to present the most provoking ideas from the first chapters of your book to entice readers. But you should do it mindfully and carefully in order not to kill the intrigue.

Keep in mind that if you overdo this part and reveal too many details, book lovers will not want to buy your book. They will choose other books that have descriptions that drive curiosity.

Use emotional adjectives

You need to describe the content of your book using emotional adjectives. It will allow you to tap into your readers’ emotions and maximize your marketing efforts.

Here are a few examples of emotional adjectives for different books:

     Romantic novel: joyful, confident, delicate, hopeful, inspired

     Horror story: dark, gratified, gloomy, terrifying 

     Drama: depressed, tense, overwhelmed, drained, cranky

Create a few book descriptions

If you want to know whether your book description is good enough, find a way to test it. 

Create two or three book descriptions and show them to your friends and family. Ask them to provide you with adequate feedback and to choose one description that they like the most.

If you don’t trust your friends’ opinion, you can consider other options. For instance, you can post your book descriptions on social media and ask your followers to vote for the best description. Or, you can visit websites and forums for book lovers and publish your descriptions for review there.

Set the right tone

It goes without saying that you should write a book description in the same way you wrote your book. You should use the same language and the same tone of voice. It’s your opportunity to demonstrate your unique writing style to the readers and make them want to buy your book.

Proofread your book description

Your book description must be perfect in terms of grammar. Otherwise, your book will make a bad first impression on your target audience, and that will result in a big failure.

Don’t forget to edit and proofread your book description before publishing it. Double-check every sentence and spell-check every word. If you find it challenging to spot your own typos, seek professional editing and proofreading help.

There is no limit to perfection 

We can’t stress enough how important a great book description is. 

A winning book description will turn your book into a bestseller. A poorly-written book description will ruin all your efforts.

If you have already written a description for your book but feel like it’s not good enough, don’t rush to publish it. Try to find a way to improve it and make it almost perfect. Your efforts will be rewarded in the long run.


Author’s bio. Jessica Fender is a professional writer and educational blogger at GetGoodGrade, an aggregator for useful college resources and websites. Jessica enjoys sharing her ideas to make writing and learning fun.