Thursday, May 27, 2021

#BookReview - Baby Out of Wedlock

Baby Out of Wedlock: Co-Parenting Basics From Pregnancy to Custody

By: Jim and Jessica Braz
Publisher: Boow LLC
Publication Date: May 2021
ISBN: 978-1-7368168-0-6
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Date: May 24, 2021
Husband and Wife team, Jim, and Jessica Braz, team up and deliver a ‘how to’ guide in their release of: Baby-Out of-Wedlock: Co-Parenting Basics from Pregnancy to Custody.
Jim and Jessica Braz make it clear from the beginning that they are not lawyers, nor doctors. However, the journey they embarked upon in writing this book is based on both of their experiences of having a child ‘out-of-wedlock.’ Neither opted to marry their significant others when they respectively learned they would welcome a new life into the world. To clarify, in both instances, their respective situations were prior to the two of them eventually meeting, marrying, and having a child together. It’s key to note neither are ‘experts’ in the field of ‘how to’ have a child out of wedlock. Rather, they are writing from experience. The wealth of co-parenting information they present chapter upon chapter is laid out in logical steps from conception to birth and thereafter, sans a married parental unit.
The book opens with an overview of why you should choose to read this book versus other offerings on the subject. The ‘why’ is further supported with the purpose of the book. The latter is clearly stated with Jim’s account as well as Jessica’s account concerning both of their ‘out-of-wedlock’ children. On the heels of Chapter One, Chapter Two launches into the essence of the ‘Surprise, I’m Pregnant’ revelation to what’s next. Mind you, no time is wasted in addressing the proverbial elephant in the room. Exactly how does one address the question on everyone’s mind (especially Daddy’s): is it mine? Ergo, ‘Paternity Test.’ Once this notion is out in the open, Jim relaxes into a cadence of backtracking and the series of chapters that unfold thereafter are full of the inherent (and important) message of: The child is foundational and is the center of everything from this point forward in life regardless of marriage or no marriage, together or apart.
I was intrigued to read this body of work because I wanted to understand how Jim and Jessica Braz not only intended to present the premise, but how would they ‘educate’ the many walks of life who opt for a child (or children) out of wedlock. I found in each consideration Jim and Jessica hit the mark. However, the authors felt compelled to consistently remind the reader that: ‘...If you are happily married or happily engaged, or even if you just know your partner is ‘the one,’ then this book is not for you...’ The first time I came across this suggestion, I thought it made sense. However, it seemed this caution was peppered throughout the entire read. Again, books and subject matter are subjective. As a reviewer, I found this caveat the further I got into the read, distracting, i.e., let the audience ‘out-of-wedlock’ or happily married determine this versus telling them how to approach the subject matter. But overall, Jim and Jessica provide a well-rounded guide for the parents out-of-wedlock to ‘co-parent’ the most important person in their respective lives: their child.
Quill says: Baby out of Wedlock is a great recommendation for those who choose to have a child out of wedlock and want to do the very best in co-parenting the child.
For more information on Baby Out of Wedlock: Co-Parenting Basics From Pregnancy to Custody, please visit the book's website:

Monday, May 24, 2021

#BookReview - Children of the Volcano by Parris Sheets

Children of the Volcano (Essence of Ohr, Book 2)

By: Parris Sheets
Published by: Evolved Publishing
Publication Date: March 2021
ISBN: 978-1-62253-655-9
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: May 20, 2021
When people complain about sequels (whether it be in response to movies or books), those complaints are usually correct. But...stop the presses! Children of the Volcano is one of the very few that deserves absolute praise and not a hint of complaint. Yes, we are talking about a writer who has put together a tremendously well-written, action-packed sequel. (Go figure, right?)
For those who are not yet familiar with this series, in the first book of this epic tale (Warden’s Reign) readers met fifteen-year-old Kole. In that particular book, orphan children were being taken by the god, Warden, who would then use them in his dastardly experiments. Even the very trees in the forest would be uprooted and allowed to roam free—that’s how eerie this world was. Kole, with the aid of his mentor, Russé, learned how to protect the children and tame Warden’s evil version of Mother Nature, so to speak, at the same time. But when one of Warden’s creatures destroyed the haven that Kole made for the orphans, they had to stand up and fight a battle of monumental proportions.
Now, we enter Kole’s city that has actually seen peace for a time. Yet even though the city is calm, the rest of the world is facing death and destruction. The culmination of the “good” gods is needed in order to put this darkness behind them once and for all. Together, Kole and Russé go on a mission to find the missing gods and stop the evil presence from destroying all that’s left. A cryptic map is the clue that will lead them to the location, yet even though they are successful in deciphering the clue, what they don’t understand is that others have the same mission in mind...and not for good purposes.
With their archenemy closing in on them, Kole and Russé take on a trek that steers them to a forsaken realm playing home to a volcano. With the land around the volcano said to be cursed, readers will stand side-by-side with these heroic characters as they face everything from choking amounts of ash that engulfs the air they breathe, to actual creatures made of stone, in order to reach the very heart of the volcano. Strength, determination, will...all is required to make it through this land and locate the powerful ones that the world so desperately needs for their very survival.
As a reader, it’s quite easy to say that the author writes with a passion that is equal to the creator of Potter and other YA series’ that inflame the imagination. It’s no surprise why Parris Sheets has won awards for this series already, and there’s no doubt she will win many more. Her ability to write about things like restoring life to a cursed, embattled horse to the journeys and emotions of vivid characters like Felix, Aterus, Vienna, and so many more, is phenomenal. You not only can ‘feel’ every step that’s taken in this book, you can visualize every moment. Throughout the entirety of the two books written thus far, you feel like you’re watching them play out on the big screen. All that’s left to say is, hopefully, the ‘big screen’ is where the Essence of Ohr series ends up. (Are you hearing me, Hollywood?)
It has been stated that Book 3 of this series, Beyond the Flame, will be released in 2022. That’s the good news. Bad news is having to wait until then to once again dive into a YA masterpiece that provides over-the-top, fantastical characters, plots and scenes from beginning to end.
Quill says: Captivating is an understatement. This series has rightfully carved its niche beside some of the most popular YA’s written. I see an “Ohr” theme park in our future. Bravo!
For more information on Children of the Volcano (Essence of Ohr, Book 2), please visit the author's website at:

Thursday, May 20, 2021

#AuthorInterview with John Prather, author of "The Jesus Nut"

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with John Prather, author of The Jesus Nut.
FQ: What inspired you to become a writer?
PRATHER: I’ve always loved stories, and wrote a few as a kid. I was always drawn to comedy. First, the brilliant comic characters created by Pat McMahon on Wallace & Ladmo (an Emmy-winning kids’ TV show in Phoenix) certainly informed my tastes. Then my high school Spanish teacher allowed me to create weird, funny dialogs rather than sticking to the ones in the textbook. I know there were many experiences that pushed me, but those are two which stand out.
FQ: Are there any particular writers who have inspired you to follow a humorous, sarcastic bent in your writing style?
PRATHER: Mark Twain stands out as an early model, as does Jonathan Swift (especially A Modest Proposal, which I think might be the most brilliant essay ever written). I read Catch-22 by Joseph Heller in a grad school humor class, and I think he had more impact than anyone. But even someone like Raymond Chandler, who didn’t write humor or satire—his descriptions and dialog both sparkle.
FQ: What would you say was your “Ah-ha!” moment that led you to create The Jesus Nut?
PRATHER: The novel began from the title, actually. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but I thought it would make a magnificent title. Over a period of several years I pieced together the skeleton of a plot, but it wasn’t until recently when I finally realized how much I despised the hypocrisy of the evangelical right. That’s only a small part of the novel, but I think it was my spark (my “ferret,” to use David Morrell’s analogy).
FQ: While your main characters are, for the most part, “regular joes” with real human issues, they are also atypical to those pursuing an odd religious experience. Where did your ideas come from in creating Haley, Brian, and Jesse?
PRATHER: I thought my characters had to be misfits if they were to pursue such a bizarre quest. But, of course, they still needed to have something significant at stake. I tried to think of different permutations of “the Jesus nut” and, from that, the characters began to make some sense. But, to be honest, I really didn’t know them—I didn’t realize how each reflected some of my own issues, and I really didn’t like them—until I began to write them.
FQ: The concept of scholarly research findings on a rejected biblical text is brilliant—an ongoing theme in religious circles, as you mention in the prologue. What inspired you to go in that direction?
PRATHER: Thank you! It began from that idea of exploring different permutations or meanings of “the Jesus nut.” It was also a necessary set-up, I think, to some of the philosophical questions I tried to raise. But it was practical in another way, too. During a How to Write a Novel class, we were talking about someone’s chapter and the instructor asked, “Who doesn’t like a good secret society?” The Council at Nicaea was essentially a secret society as well, so I hope it worked to create a little intrigue as well as to allow for some ironic twists down the road.
FQ: What do you envision your readers to take away from The Jesus Nut?
PRATHER: This is a tough question without my answer being a spoiler, but I’ll try. I’d like them to examine their beliefs about religion or spirituality or faith, however they want to categorize it. How we treat others. Prejudgment. Hypocrisy. Pride. At the same time, though, I want them to enjoy the ride. I think I’ve written an insightful book which covertly poses important questions, but also a very funny book—so I want people to have a good time on the journey.

FQ: Who do you hope to be your target audience?
PRATHER: One of my early editors said, “This ragtag group of outcasts will no doubt resonate with a generation of readers (like me) who feel disillusioned and frustrated by the world today.” That’s awesome! However, I hope the appeal transcends young readers (I’m certainly not a young writer) and extends to people of all ages who desire a more empathetic world. And anyone who likes to laugh. And anyone who likes purple, because the cover is cool.
FQ: Do you foresee creating more stories with Haley, Brian, and Jesse as your principal characters?
PRATHER: I have nothing in mind yet, but considering how long this story simmered before I finally wrote it, maybe something will gel. Each of them definitely has a lot more living to do. I like the characters, so I’d be happy to hang out with them again.
FQ: Undoubtedly, your plot has movie potential. Have you given thought to move your storyline in that direction?
PRATHER: I am delighted you asked this question. One of the first comments from a beta reader was “This is so cinematic.” I have an MA in Radio-TV-Film with an emphasis in screenwriting, which means I instinctively see things through a cinematic lens, so to speak. Since I’m getting ankle fusion surgery on June 3, I’ll be spending a California summer stuck inside. While I’ll miss the beach, that’ll give me plenty of opportunity to write the screenplay. I still need interest from a director, or star, or production company, but I’d like to have a script in hand should that happen.
FQ: Do you see yourself continuing to write in this genre or moving in a different direction?
PRATHER: Depends how you identify my genre—whether you consider this satirical fiction or spirituality fiction or something else. If satire, though, definitely. I love the irony, the turn of phrase, the funny dialog with a more serious subtext. I doubt that I’ll have the same target as in The Jesus Nut, though. There are so many more people and institutions that need skewering!

Meet Author John Prather

Just posted to our website - meet author John Prather in his new author biography page. Learn about his new book, The Jesus Nut, read reviews, and get contact information.

New #BookAward for 2021!

We're excited to announce a new sponsored award has just been added for our 2021 book award program. Thanks to 𝐔𝐧𝐠𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐜𝐡.𝐢𝐨 for sponsoring our newest award:

One winner will be selected based on Best Book Cover Design. The winner will receive a FREE 1-Month Instagram Marketing Manager Takeover to help promote your book. This package includes 4 weeks of Instagram marketing: custom graphics, hashtag strategy, posting at ideal times, content creation, and growing your Instagram following. - $175 Value

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

#BookReview - The Jesus Nut by John Prather

The Jesus Nut
By: John Prather
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: June 2021
ISBN: 978-1637528891
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Review Date: May 19, 2021
One professor’s off-beat religious research turns into an unexpected adventure when it gets the attention of a small but odd motley crew in John Prather’s The Jesus Nut.
“Dr. Haley Berkshire was a tenured professor of Religious Studies who did not believe in God.” She’s also afraid of flying. Those unequivocal statements are crucial to grasping the length and breadth of this supposed far-fetched tale. Regardless of her religious opinion, her position at the University of Utah requires research—a vital “standing as a major institution.” After much blood, sweat, and tears and assembling a research team, Haley becomes the lead speaker at the annual North American Society of Religious Scholars. During the conference, she reveals that her team had located a new text, “rejected at Nicaea for its depiction of Christ”: The Gospel According to Trevor. While the announcement doesn’t raise many hairs among the scholars, what does attract attention has to do with the team’s interpretation of the Greek translation concerning Christ’s horrific death: The Testicle of Christ, in which one Roman soldier cut off and saved said testicle as a souvenir. That said, Haley’s next plan is to go on sabbatical in search of the lost memento. Her unannounced target? New York City (NYC).
In the meantime, news about her findings gets the attention of two unlikely individuals. Jesse Morales has been living on the streets of Venice Beach in Los Angeles longer than he can remember. Despite his meager existence coupled with a constant downward spiral of events, he believes in his direct connection to God—possibly the Messiah. It’s not until he comes across an article about Haley’s research in the LA Times that he believes God has given him a mission. After researching at a local library, he deduces that “The Testicle of Christ” can only be found in one place: NYC. How he plans to get there with no financial resources, only God knows. In North Seattle at Saint Helen’s Catholic Church, Father Brian William Callum Robert O’Shea finds himself questioning his faith. An article in the Catholic Digest about Haley’s discoveries, followed by his research, brightens his religious perspective. He convinces his parishioners to fund his spiritual quest to none other than NYC. What unfolds is a rollicking journey that defies all journeys leading to spiritual awakening as the Lord “works in mysterious ways.”
Masterful raconteur, John Prather, pulls all the heretical stops in The Jesus Nut. Prather’s book tells the story of three diverse individuals who have no idea how their lives will unfold as they venture into unknown “spiritual” territory. Amid religious quirkiness or the lack thereof, Prather opens each chapter with a verse from The Gospel According to Trevor, first in Greek, followed by its English translation before delving into the plot’s principal characters—Haley, Brian, and Jesse—and development. His highly original storyline is a brilliant mix of belief and balderdash that weaves in an interesting religious and nonreligious cast. Most notables include the Westboro Baptist Church, Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, and Kenneth Copland.
Prather’s engaging writing style drips with sarcasm as he keeps his story constantly moving from chapter to chapter, deftly flipping between each character’s backstories. His plot flows from one hilarious ironic situation to another amid unanticipated situations before the trio meets one other in an unlikely event. Prather further draws his readers into his storyline through his true-to-life principal cast that embodies a flurry of relatable human-interest struggles: dysfunctional families, unrealistic expectations of life, rejection, the aftermath of trauma (war), love, hate, and of course, faith, to name a few.
Prather closes with an appendix that includes selected verses from The Gospel of Trevor and a list of Book Club discussion questions. This reviewer’s only thought? “When is The Jesus Nut going to be on Netflix?” The Jesus Nut will keep readers absorbed from beginning to end.
Quill says: The Jesus Nut is the perfect next read for believers and skeptics alike.
For more information on The Jesus Nut, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Beneath the Ruins by Louis Woyak

Beneath the Ruins
By: Louis Woyak
Published by: Louis Woyak
Publication Date: March 27, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-7367634-0-7
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: May 19, 2021
As one who praises books like The Maze Runner series and YA adventures that take one and all to a completely new realm, I have to say that this book is right up there with all of them! However, this author has also managed to write out-of-the-box. Woyak introduces readers to a dark, gritty, dystopian realm called Arkdale. But even if you believe this “dystopian” background has been done too many times before, it will take you only two pages to realize that this author shows you why, “You ain’t seen nothin yet!”
Like those out there who wait for the end of days, Arkdale is preparing for the month of Darkness that will soon be upon them. With the coming of Darkness comes the threatening, frightful creatures that are allowed to roam freely and leave death and destruction in their wake. Fear is an understatement for Arkdale’s residents, who choose to keep safe by locking themselves behind the high walls that surround their city. There are those, however, who are set on a mission that will not allow them to hide.
At an ancient location known as the HARP, a secret has been unearthed; something so powerful that it could literally bring the past back to fruition and form a future that no one wants. A mysterious group in Arkdale that goes by the name of the “Architects” finds this particular secret more than interesting, and end up turning their focus on the HARP, along with the military they lead. But…they have their own enemy who has the ability and desire to be a god.
Once only a legend, the Draugr is an entity that’s slowly coming to life. With its own brand of military in the form of half-dead creatures, this powerful being has only one mission in mind: to destroy the entire world.
With all this legendary power, you would expect a hero like Hercules to save the day. However, in Arkdale, it is a quartet of orphans turned outcasts who must join together and use their friendship, wit, talent and skills to stop a battle that will include everything from metal destructors to ancient horrors. While coming face-to-face with the unspeakable, these friends will discover facts from their own personal pasts. And while one will be changed repeatedly during the twists and turns that commence, all will fight in their own way to brighten the present that’s getting darker by the minute.
Who are the real bad guys? What characters introduced are actually trying to help these outcasts, and which appear simply to destroy their every effort? question of all…when is the next book coming? Yes, the ending is so amazing that you’ll want to get the next title in your hand as soon as humanly possible.
The author has done a perfect job with this book. His unique way of presenting human evolution is astounding and creative. From the good guys to the bad guys, the presentation of each one was superb. The relationships between the main characters are incredible: I am an Ophelia fan, myself, but Lucas, Rainna...well, the list goes on. Let’s just say that every reader will find their favorite(s) along the way. Add to all that the sincere emotions and passion this writer has for his creation, and it makes total sense why you will not be able to put this one down until the very end!
Quill says: A 5-star read that goes beyond the dystopian “norm” and introduces a cavalcade of stars that sci-fi, fantasy, action, and mystery readers will love to meet.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

#authorInterview with Nancy Youngdahl, Author of Life on the Farm

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Nancy Youngdahl, author of The Ruth Adventures: Life on the Farm.
FQ: Ruth, the star of your book, is an adorable little girl. Is she based on anyone? Perhaps one of your granddaughters?
YOUNGDAHL: Not this time. I picked Ruth from examples of several illustrators. I knew how I wanted her to look and described her size, hair and clothing.
FQ: You seem to understand what “life on the farm” is like. Do you, or have you ever, lived on a farm?
YOUNGDAHL: My grandmother and aunt had vegetables, flowers, and chickens...a good friend lived on a large farm with animals, farm equipment, cattle, and milking barn as well as fields of various vegetables. Also another family had huge acres of corn and soybeans, and wheat plus farm animals.
FQ: In my review, I mentioned the episode with Ralph, the donkey. This is a heartfelt story and Ruth learns an important lesson. Do you think that many of today’s children are given a “pass” about taking responsibility when/if they realize they might have been at fault?
YOUNGDAHL: Yes I do. Ruth is being raised in "my style" of teaching and I instructed my children to always take responsibility for their mistakes, always tell the truth, accept discipline when necessary, and because she is part of a large family, to share in chores. Ruth enjoyed outdoors and was a free range little girl.
FQ: It was refreshing to read a children’s book with a message about God’s love and the importance of family. What do you want readers to come away with after reading about God’s love in Life on the Farm?
YOUNGDAHL: I found it hard as a child to see God as a loving father, but as I grew older and attended church, I learned that my God cares and loves all of creation, which includes humankind. This was an important lesson for me to share with all children.
FQ: I found your “Note fort Parents” at the front of the book, about abusive fathers, interesting. Why was it important for you to include that note?
YOUNGDAHL: Because I felt it necessary to have my readers (all ages) realize that whatever our home environment and how we are reared, we need to know that God loves and cares about us, even when life is rough!
FQ: Life on the Farm is the first book in “The Ruth Adventures” series. What was the idea behind the series?
YOUNGDAHL: Fun stories about love, friendship, and even problems that may arise in Ruth's young life.
FQ: Your next book will be another in the Ruth Adventures series. Would you tell us a little about this new book and when we can expect to see it.
YOUNGDAHL: My second book is now available, entitled Ruth Adventures, Best Friends Forever. The story stresses friendship and it's importance. MY first grade actually had a sweet girl named Sue, who took me "under her wing." We are still friends. Sue is a "city girl" who has never been on a farm. The third book in the series will again include Sue as she and Ruth attend "summer camp." I believe children are taught negative racial issues and if reared in a loving home, they DO NOT NOTICE SKIN COLOR, especially when they are young!
FQ: One of your hobbies is watercolor painting. Do you think you’d ever consider doing your own illustrations for a future book?
YOUNGDAHL: I HAVE! My book entitled Remembering Joseph Chickadee, includes ALL of my own illustrations. This book teaches young children about death....maybe a grandparent or friend. I did a lot of research about chickadees and passed on information about these tiny birds and even how to make a suet "meal." It was my second book after My Nana Was A Free-Range Kid, using a different illustrator. This book is based on my childhood in the 50's. Honestly, I do not draw people, but have painted animals, flowers, and landscapes which sometimes include buildings. All my book covers, reviews, and synopsis can be found on
FQ: I love that you’re involved with church fellowship. It seems this is really lacking in today’s society. Would you tell our readers a little about what is involved and why you enjoy doing it?
YOUNGDAHL: Church is the best way to meet positive friends who share similar beliefs. The Bible study group is another way to study the Bible, become good friends with a smaller group of believers, including having meals together or other fun activities.

#BookReview - Bloodroot by Daniel V. Meier, Jr.


By: Daniel V. Meier, Jr.
Published by: BQB Publishing
Publication Date: August 2021
ISBN: 978-1952782046
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: May 14, 2021
Accomplished author, Daniel V. Meier, Jr, has released another gripping novel in the historical fiction genre, entitled Bloodroot.
The story begins in England in the early part of the 17th century. British citizens are being bedazzled by elaborate tales of a promised utopia, over in the New World, filled with vast amounts of land and gold. The land in this utopia is just waiting to be taken by anyone willing to sail across the ocean and assist in the beginnings of a settlement in Jamestown, Virginia.
Bloodroot follows two of these pioneers, Matthew, a carpenter’s apprentice, and his friend, Richard, each with their own personal reasons for leaving their homeland, decide to brave the rough waters and join in the establishment of a new town, all in hopes of obtaining prosperity beyond their wildest dreams. Unfortunately, the organizations running the ships between England and Jamestown fail to inform their potential passengers of a few important facts: necessary supplies are short and in high demand, the weather is vastly unlike anything anyone has experienced in England, and most critically significant is that Indian tribes are outraged by the British intruders, and are quite willing to fight to protect their land.
The two friends do their best to establish themselves in this wild new land with Matthew having an easier time than his friend. This is because he’s quickly chosen by the leaders to assist in important duties such as the construction of housing, while Richard, because of his good nature and overall naivety, struggles to fit in. Over time, though, he quickly falls in love, marries and begins to build a life with his new bride Anne. However, life in this fledgling colony proves to be anything but a paradise filled with riches. The colonist’s daily strife quickly worsens and descends into bloody chaos when their captain is accidentally injured and must return to England, leaving the colonists feuding over not only power, but the desire to discover the elusive gold in nearby lands. Further devastation arises when Indians manage to get into their unguarded lands, killing people and destroying their food supplies, throwing them into a desperate starvation mode. Matters couldn’t possibly be worse for anyone, including the two friends, who are now also dealing with their own devastating issue. An issue that will destroy their friendship and cause Matthew to become fraught with guilt, depression, and desperation.
Meier’s Bloodroot is a raw, emotional, and vividly depicted novel set during a time that, while it may be quite foreign to us in the 21st century, is so well-written and researched, that you feel as if you're actually living in 17th century Jamestown. The author has not only written a historically accurate novel, but has also expertly woven a page-turning fictional tale that easily rivals others in the historical fiction category. Laced throughout this intense tale are complex, believable characters, and a plot that captures your attention from the beginning, and leaves you thinking about many scenes well after you’ve finished reading. Finally, it should be briefly noted that the author provides a glossary of terms in the back of the book (that might otherwise go unnoticed until the end) that may enhance your reading journey.
Quill says: Reading Bloodroot is an intense look into the lives of early Jamestown settlers, and a thoroughly enjoyable read.
For more information on Bloodroot, please visit the author's website at:

#AuthorInterview with Donan Berg, author of Aria's Bayou Child

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Donan Berg, author of Aria’s Bayou Child: A Thriller.

FQ: I see that Aria’s Bayou Child was “based on actual events.” Are you a historical researcher who loves going back to the past and finding something that spurs the imagination, or do most of your ideas come to you from out of the blue and you just become obsessed with a particular subject and feel like you must create a new title?

BERG: Neither. I’m intrigued by everyday people who battle human challenges in truly heroic ways. I believe all humans have an innate power to perform acts the individual never had an inkling they were capable of. There’s an early foreshadowing for Aria’s life that I’ve been told is subtle, but I disagree. Reference to Aria’s early adult years includes refugee mission work in Africa. One needs but a snippet of international news to understand the compassion and dedication required of aid workers amid brutal hardship. It has blessed me to inhale life in an era when inspiring individuals do not hide in caves.

FQ: Being from Ireland, can you speak a bit about your own backstory? What first brought you to the States? In addition, were you always writing from a young age, or did that journey begin later in life?

BERG: I’ve often explained I was a result of the war. WWII, that is. My father was a US Army sergeant stationed initially in Ireland where he met and married my mother. I cherish a $2 bill my father carried in his billfold, where in the outside margin, he wrote the names of the towns he “visited” across Europe. After V - E Day, my mother and I joined him in Minnesota. While in high school, my mother wrote as a local correspondent for three newspapers. I often accompanied her as a photographer. I tell book clubs my novel writing career started upon graduation from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. That is because every journalism student stares at the stars and dreams of writing the “great American novel.” I also relate it took me thirty years to finish the novel as Uncle Sam, marriage, kids, and earning a living intervened.

FQ: I was told that you gave up aeronautical engineering for journalism; what made you take that step?

BERG: Space orbital flight and flying beckoned a high school student who had suffered trans-Atlantic seasickness on the Queen Elizabeth. Daydreaming wasn’t all consuming, as I worked on a weekly newspaper setting type and performing commercial printing duties. While in my spring quarter as a School of Engineering freshman, I learned I was one of 300 calculus students. A fall quarter knowledge tidbit pierced my brain. Fellow calculus students the prior fall had totaled 1,000. A second milestone had occurred three months prior. I earned a national 4-H award in photography, one of the first eight 4-Hers so honored. That same spring a crack US Air Force medical team arrived to give physicals to the ROTC class I was enrolled in. I had no Top Gun vision; my eyesight required glasses. I swear that with my eyeglasses off, the examiner asked me to look at the chart on the wall and I replied, “What wall?” His gracious exam capsulation was that I’d do great in the United States Army. Upon completion of my freshman year, I walked across the street from the School of Engineering to the School of Journalism. I did not leave calculus behind. To graduate with a journalism degree required a broad liberal arts study. In an economics class, I’d missed one class all quarter and the day’s topic was on the final exam. I read the question, marshalled the facts, and used calculus to plot the supply and demand lines. No common line point existed. The lines were parallel. With this conclusion I argued my economics point. The A received never so gratifying. What I later exaggerated as equivalent to a trial by fire became an early lesson to never dismiss any part of, or experience in life, for each day brings value.

FQ: You’ve dipped your hand in many genres, and I was wondering if there happens to be one you have not dived into as of yet that you would like to try? If so, what would that be and why?

BERG: That would be a conscious choice I’m unwilling to contemplate. That’s not to be rude or evasive, but reflects my writing. Aria’s Bayou Child is an example. While concentrating on mystery, I entered romances into the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest. Aria’s Bayou Child, under a different working title, envisioned to be an inspirational romance achieved a second place finish. However, as the story marinated and grew, the bayou whispered within my subconscious and an entirely new vista, not frilly and vacuous, laid down its magnetic welcome mat. I’d never before tried to outline a story into a specific genre. Always happy I don’t.

FQ: Your books are so well-written that it’s logical to assume you’ve become a mentor for writers out there. Do you have certain mentors who have helped you along the way, as well as any authors where you just wait in anticipation for their next book to arrive?

BERG: Thank you. However, writing is a challenge, always has been. I stumble. When serving with the U.S. Army in Korea, I came upon an oriental saying. It said: Fall down seven times, stand up eight. Not to digress further, there are so many “craft” books that can be beneficial. I’ve found helpful two written by Literary Agent Donald Maass. A fellow writer, Michael Hartnett, has been exceedingly kind and helpful. I’m on his subscriber list. As one who edits freelance, confidentiality limits what I can divulge, but the axiom for all writers to read whatever they can is a philosophy I endorse wholeheartedly. Join a book club. My prior answer mentioned that Aria’s Bayou Child started out under a different character name. That name was Amanda. The change required because, while in attendance at a book club, one participant, after the formal gathering ended, expressed spousal annoyance and explained how the offending spouse would meet death without the authorities being the wiser. The story percolated on my drive home and within a day it became a short story entitled Amanda. My version brought to the next month’s book club. However, I refused to let criminal conduct, even if facetious, go unpunished so, if you read it, you’ll find an O’Henry twist.

FQ: Along those same lines, is there any piece of advice you would give to authors who are just starting out on how to keep the passion alive that’s needed for writing?

BERG: Be true to yourself ranks as number one. A close number two is to be honest to the world. Not every person will praise your effort. Ireland exiled James Joyce. Number three is to study others, not to imitate, but to learn what strikes a chord within you. Be alert for the unexpected and the consequences, even if unsettling. And, remember there are sincere friends and family who wish you success as you express yourself in daring and creative ways. If you gaze from your typewriter or keyboard past the clear windowpane to the world, what do you see? A tree? The leaves waving? Is it a bright welcome wave, or a dark goodbye? Siberian buran or a sibilate breeze? Hopefully I sucked you into an exercise that, if repeated, will nudge you into your next sentence and on to infinity.

FQ: Your writing is so vivid. I was wondering if you had ever visited Louisiana and had a hands-on experience with the bayou and all of its’ mysteries? Along those same lines, is there a locale that you long to visit?

BERG: Yes, several times. Crawfish Etouffee and Mile-high cake beats bourbon. In fact, I’ve visited all fifty United States states, plus several foreign countries. It disappointed me last year when COVID-19 caused cancellation of a trip across South America and to the Scottish Highlands. I’d like to reschedule both, but it appears Scotland will open up first.

FQ: As a ‘sneak peek,’ so to speak, is any plot or character currently knocking on the walls of your mind that you are looking at making a book out of?

BERG: Characters, more so than plot, are always swimming inside my head. I always remember my first novel, A Body To Bones, and its completion after thirty years, see question 2. (P.S., I still have the original 53 yellowed pages typed on an “Agatha Christie” typewriter and the handwritten notes, plus other typed narrative.) After a sigh of relief to be finished, they asked me for the excerpt of my next novel. What? I didn’t have one. Three months later I did. Thus, I’ll never be so anxiety ridden again. Aria’s Bayou Child has an excerpt of a future mystery/thriller. My latest, Find the Girl, A Fantasy Novel, has an excerpt of a new fantasy. Both beyond excerpt stage. Since the adage says trouble comes in three, I’m well on my way to pull together another mystery. And, who knows, Sheriff Jonas McHugh is always willing to give me the lowdown on another caper and his friend, Jake Brown, may exit the Interstate long enough to let me warm up my fictional ballroom dance shoes. Happy you didn’t ask for a timeline, for today is always my best day to enjoy life. For your questions, my pleasure. Love to learn what impacts readers.

#BookReview - Aria's Bayou Child: A Thriller by Donan Berg

Aria’s Bayou Child: A Thriller
By: Donan Berg
Published by: DOTDON Books
Publication Date: September 2020
ISBN: 978-1-941244-20-3
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: May 17, 2021
As a reviewer who basically fell in love with this author’s works, it’s quite easy to state that I was completely looking forward to diving into Aria’s Bayou Child. With his catalog, Donan Berg has offered up gifts for those who seek out fantasy titles, romance, mystery/suspense, action, and those who are always searching for something new and fresh in the thriller realm. With each one provided (i.e., Find the Girl, A Fantasy Novel; Into the Dark, Alexa’s Gold, and more), Mr. Berg has yet to fall below the extremely high expectations his amazing writing has set.
This time out, we are headed not only into a thrilling story but, for the majority of the time, the reader is also viewing one of the most vibrant, mind-blowing locations on the map. In fact, I believe if you took a poll, readers would say that the Louisiana bayou—with its ‘weeping trees,’ abandoned huts that look like something from a horror movie, unique and mysterious culture, and creatures hiding in the overgrown foliage that will do far more than go bump in the night—is at the top of the list when it comes to choosing a memorable and frightening setting for a book.
As the story opens, we meet Aria Gleason. This is a woman struggling; her heart holds such intense pain, that most would not even be able to open their eyes in the morning. She has been convicted of her own husband’s murder; a conviction that is dubious at best. Not only has she been labeled a killer, she is also completely heartbroken over the fact that her own child ‘disappeared’ because of the actions of an immoral and detestable baby ring. When her day of freedom arrives and the cell door is opened, Aria embarks on a journey. To say she is obsessed seems lackadaisical, because this poor woman is adamantly gripped by the need to find her child, and will not stop until she does just that.
Aria must go up against many evils in this book. One happens to be a prison guard who knows what the deplorable truth is behind her missing child. Doing any and all things possible to make Aria drop her search, the guard even threatens her in an attempt to erase her obsession for good. Let’s just say that the guard’s actions backfire and, instead of Aria dropping her plans, she becomes far more driven to succeed.
Without much to work with, beside her own strength and a GED she was able to earn while in prison, Aria tries to leave the ‘false imprisonment’ behind in order to move on and bring her baby home. For Aria, however, there are times she must go back and reexamine what happened with husband, Brad, in order to find her way forward.
We are talking pure action here. The steps she must take, the horrible people she must meet, the terrifying moments she must live through that make prison look like a garden party – everything comes at her as events unfold. With each page comes a new suspense. For those who are mothers and love their children more than life, Aria’s outlook is understandable. If a child is taken, insanity can and would set in, and the need to get them back would allow a soul to beg, borrow, steal and kill in order to make their world right again.
Aria ends up being a heroine in many ways. She is challenged, harmed, and shaken to her very core by some of the worst of mankind, but the one thing they cannot shake is her resolve. It is no surprise that Donan Berg’s books have won award after award. You see, not only does he pen tales that keep the reader entranced until the final page, he also creates tales that stick in the mind long after the book has been read, making it necessary to go back and read each one over and over again in order to feel that shot of adrenaline he delivers so well.
Quill says: Aria's Bayou Child lifts the term ‘psychological thriller’ to new heights. To walk inside this author’s mind would be incredible. Since that can’t happen, reading his books is a true treasure.
For more information on Aria’s Bayou Child, please visit the website:

#BookReview - The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson

The Last Chance Library
By: Freya Sampson
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: August 31, 2021
Reviewed by: Kimberly Trix Lee
Review Date: May 16, 2021
Have you ever asked yourself: in the midst of trouble, what would your favorite character do? More importantly, would you be able to do the same? June Jones found her answers in The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson.
The story follows one June Jones, an introverted and reclusive assistant librarian of a local public library in a small British village. June spends her days with the library’s patrons - from helping gentle old Stanley use the computer to checking out books for fiery Mrs. B to recommending books to 8-year-old wonder boy Jackson. June then spends her evenings (and birthdays!) curled up with a book.
When June was younger, she had lofty dreams of going places, studying at Cambridge, and eventually becoming a famous writer. When her mother got diagnosed with cancer, June decided to put her life plans on hold and stay in their village to take care of her mother. She then also started working at the Chalcot Public Library where her mother used to work as a librarian. Years after her mother has passed away, June found herself in her late twenties with her life plans still on hold. She is now working full-time as an assistant librarian in the very same library, still living in the very same house, and still cocooning herself within the comforts of her books.
This peaceful little world that June claimed for herself is soon threatened when the council announces the closure of six libraries, including the Chalcot Public Library, the heart of June’s community. The library’s most loyal patrons decide to form a protest group and stage a campaign to stand up for the library that helped them all in many different ways. Everyone is involved in one way or another, except for June. Her being introverted aside, June has been informed by her boss that under no circumstances could a library worker be involved in any of these protests and campaigns. She is not even allowed to tell any of them about this restriction. June declines the group and is then branded a traitor. The library - second home to some, a safe haven for others, and a representation of her mother’s memories - is on the verge of closure and June feels powerless to do anything about it.
But what would Matilda do? June decides that if she can't support the protest group in the frontline then she would help them from the shadows. In the middle of doing her day job, managing her unwilling involvement in a hen do, and figuring out her feelings for her charming former schoolmate Alex Chen, June, together with the eclectic group of the library’s staunchest supporters, fight against corporate greed to protect what matters.
The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson is a delightful read about an unwilling and awkward heroine and her journey to find the strength to rise up to the occasion and raise her voice to protect something that she believes is worth protecting. June Jones’ character development is realistic and it was delightful to read about her increasingly bold attempts to fight for the library. Freya Sampson did an incredible job in developing the side characters and their dynamics, showing their similarities and stark differences, and giving us a glimpse of what is underneath the cover pages of these people’s lives. The humor, when it appears, is spot-on. It is casual offhand humor that takes you by surprise and gets you laughing out loud in the middle of the night. There are happy moments, there are hilarious moments, and then there are heartbreaking moments - this book will make you feel a whole range of emotions. This also has plenty of literary references and name drops that would make any book lover’s eye twinkle with delight.
Quill says: This is an ode to all readers and book lovers who understand that there is more to a library than just books and there is more to people than meets the eye.