Thursday, October 28, 2021

#BookReview - The Mask by Clayton Marshall Adams

The Mask
By: Clayton Marshall Adams
Illustrated by: Rohan Daniel Eason
Publisher: CJ Sparrow Publication
Publication Date: October 2021
ISBN: 978-057856993-2
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: July 25, 2021
A young man, alone and unloved in a world that finds him ugly, is the premise of the mesmerizing story The Mask.
Born deformed, with a face that terrified people and legs that bent in different directions, Mil was very much alone. Too slow to run away from bullies, Mil was ridiculed and called horrible things like “freak” and “the village idiot.” When he was old enough to care for himself, his parents abandoned him in the forest. Mil, however, found a semblance of peace in the forest, a place where no one would bother him and he was able to pursue his passion – sculpting things from the wood he collected.
The only person who ever showed Mil any kindness was Maria, a young girl from the village. But even she eventually stayed away, once another boy teased her for befriending the deformed boy. Mil was alone and unloved, but that was about to change.
One day while Mil was searching for interesting wood to use in his sculpting projects, he stumbled upon something buried in the dirt. Thinking it was a bowl, Mil picked it up, only to discover that it was a mask. Interesting, he thought, but not something he wanted. He was about to throw it away when The Mask spoke to him, telling Mill to “...put me on...” and “I can make you beautiful.” The Mask told him he’d be so beautiful that no one would be able to ignore him. There was just one catch – at some point, The Mask would ask Mil for a service and if Mil refused, then the boy would revert to his old, deformed self. The Mask wanted an answer immediately and he wasn’t willing to wait. What should Mil do? He had to make a monumental decision, a decision that could potentially change his life.
Author Clayton Marshall Adams

Written by the author when he was just 16 years old, The Mask is a powerful allegorical tale about bullying and self-image. The villagers are cruel and one boy in particular, Rufus, takes bullying to a new level when he spits in Mil’s face while mocking him. The story is short and can be read quickly and is most suited for pre-teen and teen readers. Younger readers may benefit from reading it along with an adult they trust to help open dialogue about bullying.
The choices that Mil makes are decisions that many in his position would choose and will draw readers to him. The ending involved an ultimate choice and what happened surprised this reviewer and will likely startle readers too. Without a spoiler, I’ll say the ending had me initially reacting with a “wait, what?” but then I thought about it and I realized it was perfect. Undoubtedly, the ending, and indeed the whole story, will make readers think about their own choices and provide a jumping off point for conversations asking, “what would you do?”
Quill says: The Mask is a story that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. Simple yet fascinating, it deserves to be shared with both pre-teens and teens.
For more information on The Mask, please visit the publisher's website at:

#BookReview - We Have Something to Say!

We Have Something to Say!
By: Sonia Myers
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: September 2021
ISBN: 978-1639880331
Reviewed by: Dianne Woodman
Review Date: October 28, 2021
We Have Something to Say! is told through the eyes of middle school student Jenny Barajas, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. Jenny becomes interested in environmental issues introduced to students by Ms. Morgan, the science teacher. She raises students’ awareness about the ramifications of pollution on the planet. Jenny watches a video at the suggestion of Ms. Morgan. The video makes an impression on Jenny and leads to her kick-starting an advocacy campaign that focuses on single-use plastics and their adverse effects on the ocean. After Jenny takes on the responsibility of leadership in the campaign, she finds herself struggling to have faith in her own abilities. At times Jenny feels an overwhelming sense of fear that she has taken on more than she can handle and will fail in her efforts. However, Jenny receives support and encouragement from unexpected sources.
Sonia Myers has crafted an excellent fictional book for middle school readers interested in learning about the environment and current issues affecting the planet’s resources. Myers makes the story interesting by using a straightforward approach to how pollution affects the planet’s health. Readers can easily follow along with the students in the story as they gain knowledge about the impact on the ocean and marine life resulting from plastic and trash accumulation. Readers will also find it interesting to learn about the steps taken by the students in their efforts to bring the issue to the forefront of people’s minds.
Myers draws readers into the story by creating a relatable main character who takes on the responsibility of putting together a documentary to encourage people to get involved in helping reduce pollution. The author does an excellent job of gearing the story toward middle-grade readers using an age-appropriate writing style, perfect pacing, and creative figurative language. The portrayal of interactions between characters is spot on for the age group. This interesting story will emotionally resonate with middle-grade readers. It brings awareness to environmental problems that the world is facing, and readers can see firsthand the efforts required for tackling pollution. The story blends environmental education and activism with family relationship challenges, differences of opinion that cause rifts in friendship, intrapersonal conflict, camaraderie, teamwork, and generosity.
Readers can refer to a list of resources provided by the author. They include books, documentaries, and websites. They are a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about problems relating to the environment and the organizations that are working toward improving the health of our planet.
Quill says: Middle-grade readers who are curious about current environmental challenges will find We Have Something to Say! an outstanding read.
For more information on We Have Something to Say!, please visit the website:

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

#AuthorInterview with Linda LaRocque

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Linda LaRocque, author of Grandma Lou's Wonderfully Weird Christmas Dinner: A Christmas Tale for the Entire Family.
FQ: Please tell our readers a little about the quote that appears at the front of the book, “The Shortest distance between two hearts is a story.” Why did you include it, what does it mean to you? What can it teach us?
LaROCQUE: I chose this quote because in my opinion, few things can permanently impact a life and touch the human heart more than a simply-told story. It’s certainly a method that’s been used for centuries. Nearly everyone has been told a story that continues to resonate with them throughout their life.
FQ: Like so many young children, Ernestine experiences disappointment from circumstances beyond her control (missing the church play). Why did you decide to include this at the start of the story, rather than just write about Grandma Lou and her dinner?
LaROCQUE: Once again, in my opinion, telling this story through the eyes of a child was more effective. It is a simple story with a simple message consisting of hope, love and acceptance and I felt such simplicity would be better told in this manner. I wanted this to be a book a family could read together. And when told through the eyes of little Ernestine, it’s more interesting to children. In addition, it’s important to show that Ernestine overcomes her enormous disappointment in not being the heavenly angel in the Christmas program. We can see this change of heart by the way she eventually accepts the new girl having the opportunity to be this year’s “heavenly angel” and her being next year’s “heavenly angel.” Often times, lessons in overcoming childhood problems can be more effective when told to a child through the lens of another child.
FQ: I would love to meet Grandma Lou. Please tell me she’s based on someone you know/knew.
LaROCQUE: Grandma Lou is me.
FQ: Ernestine’s father tells her the story of Grandma Lou’s Christmas dinner is a true story. Is it? If not, where did the idea come from?
LaROCQUE: It is absolutely a true story that happened to me and the dinner was around my dining room table. In fact, I have a photo that Bill took of us, complete with Gil sitting in the dining room chair.
FQ: Ernestine adores her Grandma Lou. In today’s busy world, so many young children barely know their grandparents. What do you feel youngsters get from having a close relationship with elderly relatives?
LaROCQUE: I think it’s wonderful when possible. There are times when children may find it easier and more comfortable to talk with grandparents or other elderly relatives because it’s not unusual for them to be more understanding. After all, understanding is one of the gifts that age gives us. Often times if a child is struggling, it can be a caring grandparent or other elderly relative, who may offer the greatest and most enduring help.
FQ: It’s refreshing to read a story that promotes strong family values. How important was it for you to include a loving family and a loving Christmas dinner? Do you think in today’s world, many of us have lost a sense of family?
LaROCQUE: I didn’t start out to write about values. They simply surfaced as I recalled the actual events and how they unfolded. I’m selfish and just did this because I didn’t want to be alone. All I did was provide the home and the food and “my guests did the rest.” I do think we have lost sight of family values and I hear others voice the same concerns. As a species we are not designed to live apart. We need each other. And for those who for whatever reason find themselves alone, all the money in the world can’t do for them, what sharing a Christmas dinner around a real dining room table at someone’s home can do. As in this case, most were strangers, but it didn’t matter. The spirit of love brought us together and it was transformational for all. Gil still had ALS, Kelly remained homeless, Sharon still struggled, as did Bill, but for a few hours on Christmas Day, we were all made to feel accepted, perfect, loved and important. And there could be no greater gift to give one another. It is my hope this simple little book with its simple little message may encourage other people to do something likewise. This kind of thing, has the potential to teach children values bring people together helping them to belong, and to create a feeling of family for another, where there was none before. Again, only in my opinion.
FQ: Please tell our readers a bit about the plays you’ve written.
LaROCQUE: I actually wrote a play about this years ago called The Gathering which was produced in southwestern Michigan at 15 different theaters. It was my first play. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to have several award-winning plays done throughout the country. Most recently, they were done in June of 2021 in Dallas, Texas, October of 2021 in Traverse City, Michigan, and in Madison, Wisconsin in February of 2022. All fresh off the pandemic!! While most of my plays are comedies, they have great take-away value and, I’ve been told, written with heart. Most are based upon some aspects of real life and using humor, I have managed to weave in certain values we as humans struggle with. I am presently working with Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan where the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is performing some of my short plays before the Medical School and Health and Human Services to help the medical students better understand aging and its effects. To date the program has been successful. My plays are available through Playscripts, Art Age Publishing, Pioneer Drama Service, and Smith and Kraus.
FQ: You’ve also written numerous short stories – it seems to be your preferred genre. Many authors veer away from this genre as it can be quite difficult to successfully tell a great story in a limited number of words. What draws you to the genre?
LaROCQUE: Actually, my preferred genre is playwriting; however, short stories are definitely a close second. The reason I enjoy writing a short story is because short story writing is a wonderful discipline as it keeps me focused. Short story writing is a reminder that “less is often more.” Most short stories are between 1000 to 1500 words. It’s often referred to as skinny writing. In that word length, you must engage the reader, and include some sort of take-away value. In order to achieve those two requirements, the writer cannot squander words, because there’s little room for fluff. It’s easy for writers to get carried away and become verbose and when that happens you run the risk of losing your reader. And that’s something no one wants to do. So, these short story writing disciplines have helped me greatly as they’re a constant reminder of the importance of trying to make a point with an economy of words while staying on target. To me short story writing is definitely a valuable teacher.
FQ: Do you have plans to write more Christmas themed short stories? Perhaps a collection of stories gathered into one book. Is this something you’d like to do?
LaROCQUE: Over the years, I’ve written many Christmas-themed short stories. In fact, I currently have two in this year’s (2021) edition of Chicken Soup for The Soul, Christmas Blessings. This does sound like a very worthwhile idea; however, at this time I’ve no plans for a collection of short Christmas stories in one book. But you’ve got me thinking!

#BookReview - The Code by J.R. Klein

The Code
By: J.R. Klein
Publisher: Del Gato Press
Publication Date: April 2020
ISBN: 978-1-7339069-8-2
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 26, 2021
Right off the bat with this fantastic story, I felt like I was home again. In my youth, there was a private, high-brow college set in a small, quaint village in the state of Connecticut. Although it was as hoity-toity as they come, the large stone buildings made it seem ominous as you drove by it; it looked more like the front of Shawshank Prison than a school for the elite. In this mystery, that sent chills up and down my spine, the setting is a quaint village in the state of Vermont. In this rural community of Covington, not much happens. In fact, the only thing that even brings outsiders into the town is Graebner College.
Now, something is wrong inside the ornate and somewhat frightening walls of Graebner, and as readers see with their own eyes these strange sights one by one, the foreboding sense of “something” coming grows intense. You see, Graebner was not always a college; two centuries ago it was the home of the Schulenmeister Theological Seminary. When it was the seminary, local folklore talks about the “satanic worship” that occurred there. They describe the place as being the home to boys who were being trained to go out and preach the Gospel. But unexplained illnesses hit the seminary and the town; there are stories still circulated about the boys’ experiencing hallucinations, coughing up blood, etc. Even the local farmers blamed the place for various deaths and ended up hanging a group of the faculty members on the front lawn of the campus long ago. Well, now we are in the present. Any old ghost stories should be gone now…right?
Meet Nick and Katy; current students of Graebner. Nick Sanchez is unlike a lot of the “silver spoon” kids that go to college here. The son of Mexican immigrants, Nick came to Graebner on a full scholarship because he was able to graduate top-of-his-class from high school. Nick is a senior and looking at his next step being medical school. Katy Malone, now a sophomore, is the exact opposite. She was raised in the ritzy suburb of Chicago, has never experienced the “rough” patches of life, and is praised for being fun, charming, and crafty, to say the least.
This evening, Nick and Katy are in the library at Graebner to open up a hidden door leading to a secret passage that they discovered. Logical thinking tells them that this strange passageway was used by the seminary long ago, but when they enter into this dark portal, they discover that the place has been used much more recently. As the author walks readers through this scene, he’s so good with words that you see the smooth flagstones, worn over time by the marching of students, underneath Katy and Nick’s feet. You see the Byzantine arch just wide enough for seminary students to walk through as they march to their classes. You also swallow hard when you come upon the bone-dry skull sitting atop a pole, a stone plaque quoting Genesis (Death is Life), and the ceremonial altar with a black wood cross dangling upside down above it.
This place has something to do with The Code. Dating back to the time of the Illuminati, this is a powerful process that can be conducted only two nights a month during the quarter moons. But even though this Code has been around for a while, it seems that it still goes on to this day. It’s not exactly a secret: A very rich donor to the college, his strange and eerie assistant who has read up on all the history of the seminary and this process, and even the president of Graebner, Clara Parker, are aware of what’s going on in the present; although Ms. Parker would rather not know everything her largest donor is doing. She’s just happy it’s raising vast sums of money for the college coffers. But will not knowing the facts end Clara’s life? We shall see.
I can’t tell you how much I really want to tell you about this incredible book. All I can say, without giving away some seriously cool plot points, is that you have to read this book. For those who read this author’s psychological thriller, The Ostermann House, and could barely breathe because of the excitement, The Code runs neck and neck with that one.
Quill says: You have got to read to believe. I guarantee, you’ll never look at those quaint New England villages in the same way ever again! 5 Stars!!
For more information on The Code, please visit the author's website at:

#BookReview - Adam's Roads by Edwin Litts

Adam's Roads

By: Edwin Litts
Published by: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: April 2021
ISBN: 978-1-63752-976-8
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 26, 2021
Adam Bell is a recent Army veteran who has just turned twenty-five years of age and is currently a college student. Sounds quite normal; however, this author has written one of the most intriguing characters I’ve laid eyes on in a long time. Not only dramatic, Adam’s story is so “fast” and there is so much life going on around him, the story is also one that draws you in and doesn’t let go.
Although being a bit insecure, Adam does have his desires almost engraved in his mind; whether or not he can attain them will be up to him, logic, trust and, hopefully, having a strength inside his soul that sometimes he simply doesn’t show. When he sets eyes on Mary Bellemore, her absolute beauty sends his heart aflutter. She becomes his new goal, so to speak, and he decides that to be her ‘Man,’ he must prove to her he’s the right one. Frist step: become a success. Second step: Find a way to pull that strength from the depths of his soul so he can find a way to talk to her.
The “roads” Adam must travel in this book are at times hurried, and at times desolate and lonely. But because Mary is his purpose, he is willing to walk those roads in order to give her the type of mate he feels she deserves. Readers are “gifted” – and I use that word because the author has written this so well – by hearing Adam’s inner dialogue with his own psyche about life, romance, and the pursuit of something that means more than anything else in the world: happiness. His observations of the world around him, from vehicles to people he meets and attitudes he comes across, are realistic, dramatic, and makes the reader nod their head, as if knowing exactly what Adam means because they’ve gone through it themselves at one point in their own life.
Adam is not only a character that is almost written in poetry form, considering the lovely flow of this book, but his dreams soar as well. The nicest part about this tale, I believe, comes from the fact that Adam is, in a way, everyone. We have thought these things; the young man or woman walking by us on the street perhaps are thinking these things right now. There are no walls for Adam; he’s each and every one of us. The author has nailed his own goal, because “Adam’s Roads” through life have made readers laugh, cry, and appreciate life, itself.
Quill says: This is the ultimate coming-of-age story that will resonate with you long after you’ve left Adam Bell behind.

Monday, October 25, 2021

#AuthorInterview with Helena P. Schrader, author of Grounded Eagles

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Helena P. Schrader, author of Grounded Eagles: Three Tales of the RAF in WWII.
FQ: Have you traveled to or maintained any personal ties to the countries/locations about which you write, and if so, how does that affect your compositions?
SCHRADER: I spent a number of years in the UK as a teenager, a formative age, and visited regularly thereafter. I still have friends there, although it has been a decade since I last spent much time there. My father was teaching engineering at Portsmouth Polytechnic when we lived in England, and I visited RAF Tangmere more than once. That was where I became fascinated by the Battle of Britain. So, yes, visiting a place is very important to my ability to get inspired by a topic and also to visualize it and write about it.
FQ: What single piece of advice would you give to a person preparing to read your work with little previous knowledge of the RAF and the wartime events you depict?
SCHRADER: I’d like to think that no reader needs any background information before reading my books. Yet it is also clear to me that people with RAF ties will probably be my best customers. Since two of the stories revolve around minor characters in Where Eagles Never Flew, reading that first might enhance the experience of reading Grounded Eagles. On the other hand, the tales in Grounded Eagles are only about 100 pages each whereas Where Eagles Never Flew is 600 pages long. So, I suspect more people will want to start with these simple tales and then, if they are intrigued by the era, milieu and characters, go on to read Where Eagles Never Flew. For those unfamiliar with RAF 1940s jargon, it might be useful to scan through the glossary before starting to read so that one doesn’t have to interrupt the action to look up something.
FQ: What initiated your fascination for aviation?
SCHRADER: It may have been flying at the age of three across the United States from Michigan to California and from there to Hawaii and finally on to Japan. Those flights were in DC-4s — four engine propellor planes with a maximum passenger capacity of 80. Air travel at the time was still a luxury with excellent service and an ambience of adventure rather than stress. It was also an age when children travelling were extremely rare, and everyone made a fuss about me. Two years later, we flew back from Japan via Hong Kong, Bangkok, Karachi, New Delhi, Ankara, Istanbul, and Rome. We drove across Europe from Rome to Copenhagen but my five-year-old brain could not absorb so much data and I remember the early parts of the trip better. From Copenhagen, we flew to London and finally via Dublin across the Atlantic. I can being invited into the cockpit on several occasions. I loved it! In retrospect, I suppose the flights punctuated the stream of impressions, and aircraft interiors, being more or less identical, seemed familiar and so comforting. I have certainly had a love of travel ever since.
FQ: Once settled on aviation as a focus, what drew you so strongly to concentrate on World War II?

Author Helena P. Schrader

SCHRADER: It started with the Battle of Britain, which was a classic underdog-beats-bully fight. The Luftwaffe seemed to hold all the cards and the RAF was not given much of a chance of winning — certainly not in the U.S. that was still strictly neutral and had almost written Britain off. It was also a close-run battle — despite what some pundits will tell you with the benefit of hindsight. At squadron level, the RAF was sustaining between 50% and 70% casualties (including wounded). Replacement pilots were sometimes shot down on their first combat sortie; many did not survive ten days. The average age of pilots in the Battle was 20, and these were very ordinary young men, still immature and often incredibly irresponsible. But perhaps most appealing to a novelist, they were literally fighting over their homes, their girl-friend’s place-of-work and the playing fields of the schools they had attended only months before. They could return from a near-death encounter with the Luftwaffe and go out to a dance with their girl or drop in on their Mum for dinner. That mixture of war with home-front was unique in history and provides a wonderful setting for fiction.
FQ: Other than its relative rarity, what prompted you to compose a romance about older people?
SCHRADER: “A Rose in November” was a wedding gift for my older sister when she married at age 55. She had complained to me that all romances featured young lovers and longed for a story that featured mature lovers. I’d just finished writing “Where Eagles Never Flew,” and one of my favorite characters in that novel is Hattie Fitzsimmons, an unmarried woman in her mid-forties, who rather than sitting around feeling sorry for herself had become active in the Salvation Army. Her role in Where Eagles Never Flew, was almost insignificant, however, so as soon as my sister complained, I thought: “That’s it! I’ll tell Hattie’s story.”
FQ: Have you considered writing your own life story, since it must surely be very interesting (!)?
SCHRADER: Never. I can’t think of anything more boring than talking and writing about myself. I’ve lived my life, for heaven’s sake! Day by day and week by week Why would I want to relive it again and again as I develop a manuscript?
I’m not saying I haven’t had an interesting life. I have. If someone else wanted to write a biography at some point (long after I’m dead) it might even make a good read. Yet, I’m not at all attracted by the idea of spending my time wallowing in memories and glorifying myself in any way. I firmly believe that if I have any skill at all it is gift intended to tell the story of others — people more deserving than myself.
FQ: Do you believe that current thinking on PTSD among soldiers is as advanced and sensitive as it needs to be?
SCHRADER: I’m not qualified to answer that question. I’m a historian and novelist and my research focused on the RAF’s concept of Lack of Moral Fibre (LMF) — which is not the same thing as PTSD.
PTSD is a recognized psychological diagnosis describing symptoms caused by a traumatic experience such as being a victim of violent crime, a natural disaster, rape, or combat. LMF, in contrast, was a term invented by senior RAF leadership in 1940 to deal with the unexpected refusal of some volunteer aircrews to fly.
The refusal to fly was in some cases caused by PTSD triggered by combat experiences, but not always. Nearly one third of all LMF cases came from Training Command and involved men who had not seen any combat at all. Other factors such as lack of confidence in commanders and aircraft also led to the refusal to fly. In short, LMF should not be conflated with PTSD, and I have no qualifications whatsoever to talk about PTSD in the modern environment.
FQ: Can you say a bit more about the next novel you have planned and the role to be played by a previous character depicted in Grounded Eagles?
SCHRADER: I’d be delighted! Without any spoilers, the leading character in “Lack of Moral Fibre”, Pilot Officer Christopher “Kit” Moran, also plays a leading role in my next release Lancaster Skipper.
Lancaster Skipper is a long overdue (on my part) tribute to the men of RAF Bomber Command. While the “fighter boys” of the Battle of Britain are everyone’s darling because they were indeed so “few” fighting a defensive war against the Nazi aggressor, the “bomber boys” were trapped in a subsequently discredited bombing offensive against the German people. The efficacy of strategic bombing was called into question almost before the war was over, and the horrible toll on the civilian population — particularly the fire storms that consumed Hamburg and Dresden — horrified many in the post-war era.
While hardly anyone blames the pawns of this war, the aircrew, they are usually portrayed in literature as victims rather than heroes, as the dunces of the diabolical and heartless political and military leadership. Yet interviews with surviving veterans don’t wholly support this popular view. Many former Bomber Command aircrew firmly believed that they contributed materially to victory in WWII. I agree with them. I wanted, therefore, to write a book that highlighted their role and gave them more nuanced faces and voices. Lancaster Skipper follows the pilot of a Lancaster from the start of operational training to the end of a tour of operations. The woman he loves and the other six members of his crew all have supporting roles — particularly his girlfriend.

#AuthorInterview with Diana Howard, author of "Winter Solstice"

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Diana Howard, author of Winter Solstice.
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?
HOWARD: I grew up in a family that was obsessed with words. My parents were both avid readers and did not hesitate to correct when a word was used inappropriately. I will never forget my mother critiquing the letters that I would mail home from college and then sending them back to me with corrections. I majored in English and Education in college but didn’t begin writing in earnest until my late 30s. Besides writing and revising I also love to play Bridge. I teach a class each week on how to play bridge effectively and for fun. I also write children’s stories, having published two books in the past 10 years (Applesauce and Boo Boo La Roo with a sequel to Boo Boo coming out in early 2022).
FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.
HOWARD: Winter Solstice is a memoir in poetry chronicling the last 15 years of my mother’s life. She was diagnosed with middle stage dementia in 2007 but showed symptoms for it at least 5 years prior to her diagnosis. As a writer and her daughter, I wanted to document her disease but also document my journey with her. Thousands of families are affected in one way or another by dementia. It is my hope that those who read this modest book, will come away feeling supported and validated.
FQ: Please give our readers a little insight into your writing process. Do you set aside a certain time each day to write, only write when the desire to write surfaces, or ...?
HOWARD: I usually write early morning for an hour or two each day. I am not rigid about it because I know what I miss one day, I will make up for the next. The challenge of revision is one of the favorite parts of writing for me. It requires walking away, coming back later, rereading then walking away again. Sometimes that process takes days and sometimes it takes months.
FQ: Is there a genre you have not yet delved into that you would like to attempt in the future?
HOWARD: Yes, actually - short stories. Years ago, I took a correspondence course from the University of Iowa - taught by someone from the Writers Workshop (I attend their writing festival in the summer as often as I can). During that course, I wrote poems but also a couple of short stories. The instructor thought I should focus more on the short stories than my poetry. Well - that didn’t happen but I do have 3-4 pages of several different stories waiting to be attended to.
FQ: Who are your favorite authors?
HOWARD: I think my favorite poet is Mary Oliver. My writing seems to emulate her at times - so I’ve been told. I also love traditional poets like Robert Frost, Wendell Berry – gosh, I could go on and on. I love that they bring nature into their writing.
FQ: Where do you think you’ve improved the most in your writing process and ability and how do you think you have evolved?
HOWARD: When I began writing poetry 30 some years ago, I wrote mostly prose style with no form at all. I wanted to tell stories with my writing but didn’t know how to do it as efficiently and “correctly” as a poet. People would tell me that I had a way with words but I wanted to learn more and obtain a bit more credibility with my writing - so I began attending workshops at the Iowa Writing Festival. Because of Covid, the classes right now are virtual but just last year I took two 5-week courses. I love the courses and always come away having learned something new but also feeling validated for what I have already created.
FQ: Did your family & friends encourage you to write your book?
HOWARD: Yes, my siblings have been incredibly supportive. They could write their own story about this topic, I am sure.
FQ: Tell us a little about your qualifications in your field.
HOWARD: My qualifications are limited officially but I sort of come by it naturally. It is not hard for me to put scenes, feelings, experiences into poems. What I needed to learn was technique - the kinds of things I learn when I go to workshops.
FQ: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
HOWARD: Knowing when to stop. I had over 100 pages of poems and vignettes that I had written during the last 15 years of my mother’s life. It is an emotional topic that i already know can move one to tears. That is why I kept it short. I also think I struggled a bit with a feeling of shame that I am talking about my mother in this way. What I want everyone to know is that having dementia is nothing to be ashamed of. The more things are out in the open, the more support families will have as they struggle with its many symptoms and constant challenges.
FQ: Did you have “Beta Readers” review your manuscript and if so, what sort of feedback did you receive? Was it nerve-wracking waiting for their responses?
HOWARD: No, I did not. But yes, it probably would have been:)
For more information on Winter Solstice, please visit the website:

Sunday, October 24, 2021

#BookReview - The Power of Kindness by Ruth Maille

The Power of Kindness: Through the Eyes of Children
By: Ruth Maille
Illustrated by: Pencil Master Studio
Publisher: Orbit Publishing
Publication Date: September 2021
ISBN: 978-1955299022
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: October 23, 2021
Coming off the success of her debut book, The Power of Positivity, author Ruth Maille offers young readers another book full of positive messages in The Power of Kindness.
The story opens with Orbit, a character we met in Maille’s first book. Orbit is "...a fun-loving Planet Earth whose purpose is to spread kindness...” (from The Power of Positivity) This time around, Orbit is a teacher, and still intent to spread kindness wherever, and whenever, he can.
Orbit arrives at a kindergarten class where he meets an enthusiastic group of children. He asks the students, “What is kindness?” and the hands fly up in the air. Children shout their answers, and they range from it’s “...a form of love” to it’s “…filling someone’s heart so they can feel happiness.” Orbit encourages the children by telling them that they are all correct and he explains further that kindness begins with a choice.
With the full attention of every student, Orbit tells them how anyone can choose to be kind. That comment catches young Dominic’s attention because he admits that making a choice can be hard. To help Dominic, Orbit suggests a simple breathing exercise and carefully explains how it’s done.
When Orbit then asks the kindergarten class where they’ve seen kindness, the responses came quick and enthusiastically. From helping a grandparent to rescuing a dog, the children come up with wonderful ideas of how to be kind. And those suggestions are sure to give young readers lots of great ideas as they keep turning the pages.
Author Ruth Maille has struck gold with her new “Power of” series for children. I read/reviewed her first book, The Power of Positivity, and found it a great way to help children understand and get through the pandemic. Now, with her second book, she shows children how to spread kindness, something we could really use more of right now. In her Introduction, the author notes that the idea for the book came when she asked children in her daycare and preschool “…where they felt kindness in their lives.” As children often do, they came up with some creative examples, and The Power of Kindness was born. But this book doesn’t just have a nice message, it’s also beautifully designed. The illustrations by Pencil Master Studio are gorgeous and a perfect match to the story, but that’s not all. The paper is a thick, high-gloss paper, the type that isn’t often used because of the expense. Finally, the cover is embossed and just beautiful. It’s obvious that these books are a labor of love for the author and readers are the lucky recipients. Kudos to the author for this lovely book and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Quill says: The Power of Kindness is a fantastic way to help children understand the awesome power they have to spread kindness and truly make the world a better place.
To learn more about The Power of Kindness: Through the Eyes of Children, please visit the author’s website at

Saturday, October 23, 2021

#BookReview - Grounded Eagles: Three Tales of the RAF in WWII

Grounded Eagles: Three Tales of the RAF in WWII
By: Helena P. Schrader
Publisher: Cross Seas Press
Publication Date: October 2021
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: October 22, 2021
Three intriguingly intertwined stories by aviation expert and award-winning author Helene P. Schrader focus on the experiences of wartime pilots in the sky and on the ground, coping with trauma, disability, and the possibilities for new challenges.
Each story reads like, and could be deemed, a novella, so much background and apparent zeal does the author provide for her characters and their complex situations. "A Stranger in the Mirror" is David Goldman, whose horrific crash has left him with burns on the face that make him unrecognizable even to himself, and a crippled hand that may prevent him from ever flying again. Raised by a cold, distant father of Jewish heritage and a mother who cared but could not reach out to her children as she should have, the boy had an ambition to fly from childhood. Born in Germany and schooled in Switzerland, Goldman finally has a chance to volunteer for the RAF from Canada, at the outbreak of war. But when his plane is downed, he awakes in a hospital where a pretty young nurse gasps in horror at the sight of him. He will slowly recover with the help of an adopted family who also need his help, and learn to accept his new capabilities.
"A Rose in November" depicts a romance between two people who are older but not necessarily wiser. Rhys Jenkins, a widower struggling with fathering two teenagers and handling a new job and sudden transfer for the RAF, will need to examine his past mistakes and look to the future. He will have the quiet but affirming support of a woman who finds in Jenkins a possible soulmate. When he discovers an unpleasant truth about her, he acts in haste, with potentially disastrous consequences.
In "Lack of Moral Fibre," Schrader explores the tangled web of post-traumatic stress as earlier defined by military thinkers and dictated by those in power. Kit Moran is being analyzed for his LMF, the official term at the time, after expressing unwillingness to take to the sky again following a disastrous incident that has shaken his confidence. Like other characters in Schrader’s pantheon, Kit will need to find and boldly express himself.
Schrader’s expertise in subject matter she has chosen is evident on every page of the three tales she has created. A previous novel, Where Eagles Never Flew, garnered several prestigious awards. In this trilogy, she has tapped some of the characters from that work, a few of which were real people, with some action based on true incidents of war. She supplies historical background for each segment, and a lengthy glossary of aviation terminology and some common slang reflecting the era and culture in which the stories are based. Her readership will doubtless welcome this new foray into the nuts, bolts and bolts-from-the-blue realm of wartime airmen and will gladly anticipate another novel promised soon.
Quill says: With credentials and genuine enthusiasm for the daily professional and personal challenges faced by men who choose to make war in the skies, Schrader has constructed a trio of powerful tales expressing a myriad of viewpoints - male, female, young, old – with rich historical detail to underpin and enrich each offering.

#BookReview - Dangerous Freedom by William Dean

Dangerous Freedom
By: William Dean
Publisher: Lonely Whale Press
Publication Date: August 2021
ISBN: 978-1737345206
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: October 22, 2021
Once a serial robber on the FBI's Most Wanted list, Wallace "Bud" Baker spent half of his life in the Idaho State Penitentiary, and wasn't very surprised when he was recently denied parole once again. He openly admitted that, despite avoiding fights and generally keeping to himself in prison over the years, nothing dramatic changed. Except for the fact that, in more recent years, he found himself becoming a prison hero of sorts by studying law books for countless hours, and successfully bringing about much needed reform in the Idaho prison system. But unfortunately this wasn't enough of a positive transformation for a release from his life sentence. So it came as a major shock when, not too long after the parole denial, Bud was awoken in the middle of the night, given a bus ticket and fifty dollars, and was told that the governor gave orders for his immediate release. The catch? Bud was to take the bus to the Oregon coast, and from there he could go anywhere, just never back to Idaho, and he would never involve himself in any further lawsuits between the state of Idaho, or their prison system, otherwise he would risk being taken back into custody with no possibility of parole. He of course agreed, nobody would ever forgo their chance at freedom, but how was he going to survive in the real world with no money or job training because he spent over two decades of his life incarcerated?
Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against him, Bud arrives in the quiet town of Astoria, Oregon, and immediately begins setting up a new life for himself. His ultimate goal is to work and save enough money so he can return to a cabin that’s been waiting for his arrival in Alaska, near an area he fondly remembers from childhood, and quietly live out the rest of his life. However, Bud’s plans begin to change when he falls in love with a local woman who played a part in helping him get on his feet. Everything seems to be going well with his future, and their relationship, until one day his girlfriend asks him the ultimate question. Will Bud help her sister get her baby back, who was stolen from her a few months earlier while she was in the hospital. Will he break the law and risk his freedom, and a chance at living his dream life in Alaska, in order to right a wrong that happened to someone he barely knows?
William Dean, a former investigative journalist turned fiction author, writes a solid and enjoyable tale of suspense in his new novel, Dangerous Freedom. Along with the author's ability to vividly, but succinctly, describe the book’s settings, readers will find themselves quickly devouring the pages to find out what will happen next in this story, as the tension builds around the characters and the plot quickly unfolds. More than just a fictional story, Dangerous Freedom also provides readers with the ultimate food for thought that will linger in your mind well after finishing the novel - is breaking the law by kidnapping a baby from his adoptive parents justified, because in the end you’re doing the right thing by returning the child to his biological mother?
Quill says: Pick up a copy of Dangerous Freedom by author William Dean for a page-turning suspenseful read that will keep you thinking about the story well after you’ve finished reading.