Tuesday, May 31, 2022

#BookReview - On Becoming Me: Memoir of an 80's Teenager

On Becoming Me: Memoir of an 80's Teenager

By: Kirsten Hegberg Pursell
Publication Date: October 2021
ISBN: 978-1737770503
Reviewed by Lynette Latzko
Review Date: May 30, 2022
Ah, the teenage years. Some of us look back at that time in our lives fondly remembering a carefree seven or so years of fun, exploration, and optimism about the future, while others would rather bury their heads and forget some of their angsty teen years filled with uncertainty about the different sexes, acne, and seemingly endless piles of school work. But what if you could read about all of it, your innermost, private thoughts during those teenage years as they occurred in your journals? Would you want to bring up those memories, and most importantly, would you want anybody else to read them?
That is exactly what author Kirsten Hegberg Pursell decided to do in her latest book, On Becoming Me: Memoir of an 80's Teen. But why would someone want to relive all those moments, the good, the bad, and even the embarrassingly ugly, and present it to the world to read (exactly how it appears in her diaries, poetry, and letters) and possibly set oneself up for a lot of criticism? According to the author, one of the most important reasons she decided to publish her memoirs was to celebrate her life, and how she became who she is today - by revealing everything, not merely the clean and wholesome parts, but the dark sides as well.
You see, at the beginning of Kirsten's diary, she was a confident, young girl who was an excellent swimmer with a bright future. A girl who did well in school, loved her family and friends, and had crushes on boys (both real and celebrity). But as the years progressed and the hormones started to wreak havoc in her mind, things changed for Kirsten. The once positive diary entries became negative, and filled with angst and identity confusion. Readers get a firsthand glimpse into her private experiences as she moves throughout her teen years, battling with the wild vortex of emotions she’s feeling over new romantic relationships, while also juggling other fragile relationships with her parents and friends. Fortunately, despite all the turmoil over the years, Kirsten ultimately begins to pull herself out of the darkness, accepts who she is, and begins to blossom into her true self. While this memoir presents a very real look into the tumultuous years of the author’s teen years, it is heavy on her loves, lusts, and romantic relationships, and can become a bit tedious to read at times. Though quite typical for a “boy crazy” girl of her age, one can’t help but wonder what other events occurred during these times that weren’t mentioned in her diaries, but might have been equally critical in shaping her future. However, readers of any age should not shy away from experiencing this book. Whether you are a teen yourself experiencing similar issues, or an adult walking down memory lane, this book will have something for you.
Quill says: Author Kirsten Pursell opens up her “memory vault” in a raw, honest, coming-of-age memoir set against the backdrop of the 80s, that is relevant for all generations.
For more information on On Becoming Me: Memoir of an 80's Teenager, please visit the author's website at: www.kirstenpursell.com

#AuthorInterview with William Leroy, author of Case of a Puzzling Book

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with William LeRoy, author of Case of a Puzzling Book: A Maximo Morgan Mystery.
FQ: Thank you for such a fun read. I'm going to jump right in and ask how difficult was it to keep track of antics (and personalities) between sisters, Eppie and Popo?
LeROY: I am the one who should thank you, Ms. Lunsford, for your time spent with my tale. In answer to your question, I recall being told in a school English Lit class that character determines behavior. I didn't understand at the time, but after getting a sense of who and what Eppie and Popo each were, they just did what came naturally.
FQ: In line with my previous question, the names you assigned to each character are priceless! Where on earth did you come up with them?
LeROY: I had in mind rival sisters; stumbled upon the ladies known to the public as Ann Landers and Abby Van Buren, and to friends and family as 'Popo' and 'Eppie.' In terms of your question, somewhat oddly the character most commented on by readers is the tale's nameless 'kid.'
FQ: Without going down a political rabbit hole, I was fascinated toward Eppie's conviction to 'editing' classics to assign her point of view. What is your take on how more and more platforms are developing a 'correctness' on how one should describe something and the proper word for doing so?
LeROY: Eppie is an exaggerated throwback who has a problem with "dirty words," specifically including George Carlin's seven words that once upon a time could not be spoken on TV. Because they were taboo, there was a counter-reaction and now those words are if anything overused and mindlessly trite, in my opinion. I suspect the day will soon come when the same "forbidden fruit" phenomenon -- such as Popo's affected use of unfiltered Camel cigarettes as props -- will will make usage of currently politically incorrect terms downright hip.
FQ: In line with my previous question, have there been times when you have had to pause and think about what you will write next? Do you find yourself doing a self-edit more given today's climate than perhaps in years prior?
LeROY: Yes. But in line with my previous answer, I expect climate to change.
FQ: I enjoyed the homage you paid to the days of 'gumshoe' detective work. Who is your all-time favorite of the era of 'Private Dicks'? Why?
LeROY: My favorite was Brad Runyon a/k/a The Fat Man, a character on oldtime radio seemingly devoid of self awareness of what a ridiculous figure he was. Somewhat in the same vein, if he were a Private Dick instead of a Deputy Sheriff, my favorite would be Barney Fife.
FQ: When that first spark is lit that triggers: "I do believe I have a story brewing," how do you begin your process? Do you sketch an outline? Are your fingers burning to get right to it and you simply sit and begin to write?
LeROY: My fingers usually burn through a first chapter, then cool down. But I am a dogged sitter. The typical story doesn't begin to really brew until about halfway through a given book, which usually startles me.
FQ: What is the most memorable of character you have developed and why him or her (and what resonated to develop the character in that way)?
LeROY: Hmmm. Wish I could remember one who is memorable to me. They tend to wander off; never call, never send cards or letters.
FQ: In line with my previous question, I absolutely adored the opposite ends of the spectrum between sisters Popo and Eppie. Which of the two characters do you identify with more and why?
LeROY: If I identified with either, I think I might kill myself. Popo's pretentious intellectualism is particularly both annoying and amusing to me.
FQ: One of my standard questions to fellow authors is: when your pen begins to drag, what do you do to ignite the writing fire again?
LeROY: Nothing in particular. Just try to stay calm and carry on until the Muse yells "Fire!"
FQ: Thank you for your time today. It was a delight to read Case of a Puzzling Book. I have to say, the multiple layers and descriptive elements had me envisioning myself in the moment given the depth of your characters This is such an art and I hope you are working on your next title. If so, are you able to share a taste?
LeROY: Well, in the mode of Noah Webster -- rightly acclaimed for putting down in words what he knew and coming up with an all-time bestseller -- I might pen something about a big pigeon race that recently generated quite a local stir. And of course there is the Queen's Platinum Jubilee to get excited about. I suppose something will come up for me to put down in a book.

#AuthorInterview with Amy Katherine, author of Holding Superman's Hand

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Amy Katherine, author of Holding Superman's Hand.

FQ: As an accomplished writer and artist, can you tell readers a bit about your background?

AMY KATHERINE: I went to the University of Texas at Austin and majored in Fine Art. The years I spent after that creating and teaching art were some of the happiest in my life. More recently, raising children overseas has been amazing and made me more adventurous and curious than ever before. I would say they are the ones who fuel my fire to continue in experimenting and creating.

FQ: I see from your bio that you have spent the last seven years in Europe. Where, exactly, was your homebase; and did living overseas inspire your writing on a new level?

AMY KATHERINE: We had such a wonderful time in Europe. We lived in a small town in Germany just outside of Stuttgart called Böblingen. Hubby worked on one of the American military bases nearby and my children went to the German school system, and we dabbled in homeschooling like many folks during the pandemic. A couple hours by high-speed train from Paris, and driving distance to Italy, Switzerland, and Croatia made our little town a fantastic travel hub that brought immense cultural and food wanderlust to our family. Our kiddos learned to swim in the salty Mediterranean with unabandoned joy and to enjoy the taste of steamed mussels and enjoy life to the fullest without hesitation. I’m so grateful for that.

I was born and raised in Texas, and while I enjoyed sugary Trdelnik pastries in Prague and the magical twinkle of the Christmas markets in Vienna, somewhere lost and deep down I was always a little homesick. I missed Texas barbecue. I missed the easy way of speaking that comes out of the south. I missed people who were raised right, like my husband. I missed the old-fashioned gentlemen who would hold open doors when your hands were full.

True fact - I was inspired to tell my tale about Texas by a European male in his 30s wearing tight orange pants. Now I love tight orange pants like anybody but while boarding a plane to Riga, Latvia with my one-year-old baby, I had an encounter that was inspirational, but not in a good way. We had left the bus parked on the tarmac and were just about to board the airplane, when a storm hit. I had no umbrella but managed to wrap my infinity scarf around my child while rushing towards the airplane steps. This is when the gentleman in the orange pants pushed past me and my sweet baby so that he could cut in line and board the airplane first. Now I can open doors while carrying groceries like any mama can, but I do appreciate the southern ways. And I have been to a dive bar, spoiler from book two of this series, where an uncouth man pulled my hair—perhaps as a means to flirt. But even this man would have waited out in a thunderstorm for me and my baby to board the plane in the rain. Raindrops dripping off my chin and finally entering the aircraft, I walked past Mr. Orange Pants and vowed to write my book in appreciation of Texas men and their notorious southern charm.

FQ: Between writing and creating artwork, what do you feel are the benefits of each and which, if either, do you like to do more?

AMY KATHERINE: There is a beautiful cadence to writing. The initial wave of thought, strong and powerful words pushing you to the shore of completion. But the tide of editing will pull you back, insecure and hesitant. This back and forth is a beautiful process. Wine is often a powerful breaker crashing in the ocean of thought. I am impatient at times and enjoy the fast-paced satisfaction of my dirty fingertips and curious paintbrush lost in the moment. No waves. No back and forth. Just onward process across the canvas. So, I love the processes of both visual art and written word. And what I choose has a lot to do with my mood, and possibly red wine consumption.

FQ: It’s hard for one and all to balance things in life. As a mom, can you tell aspiring writers out there how to handle establishing a writing career while still being that great parent to two fun-loving, rambunctious kids?

AMY KATHERINE: This is a fun question. The truth is there’s only two options for an aspiring writer with kids. You’re either going to pursue your dreams or you’re not. In my case sometimes pursuing my dreams meant that I was editing Chapter 4 with an iPad being scooted on a pillow while I was pretending to be a horse with a precariously balanced small person riding my back.

FQ: I found it interesting that the protagonist’s name is Amy and, of course, that’s your name. Was there a reason for this? Is there perhaps a little of you in her? Or was there another reason for naming her Amy?

Author Amy Katherine

AMY KATHERINE: Oh, so this is good. So I am Amy Emerson, the protagonist in this story, to an extent. I wrote it as fiction, because sometimes real life is more painful or complicated than a well-written fiction could ever be. The pieces needed to fit together, and real life doesn’t always work out that way. But he was real. He was my Superman and he taught me self-worth, advanced mathematics, and how to make a perfect martini. He taught me how to love with passion and how to fight. He taught me all of the beautiful things about living well, like how to hold someone as the rain hits the window pane, fingertips running circles on skin, and love all their imperfections and quirks. And when I was in trouble, and I needed him most, he whispered the words in my ear that became my own voice. And before I knew it, Superman had given me his cape and I had become my own superhero.

FQ: Would you share with our readers some of your other writing projects? 

AMY KATHERINE: Writing Holding Superman’s Hand was on my heart to write for years. A solace and a joy, the words had been written on my heart for so long, it was an easy translation into type. Books two, three, and four in the series are all completed and floating just off the shore of editing and revision.

FQ: If you could choose to sit down with one writer, or artist, from the past and ask them questions, who would that be and what would be the one question you would love to ask them?

AMY KATHERINE: George Orwell. I would take a sip of strong coffee and look him square in the eye and say, “1984—Never more relevant than today. Can you envision a rewrite, Sir, in which we all make it in the end? Dammit. How did you know?”

FQ: Where did the idea for this novel originate from? Are you a writer who likes to produce an outline first, or was this an idea that just sort of “hit you between the eyes” one day and you had to start writing it down?

AMY KATHERINE: No outline. No highlighters. I met him when I needed him. He saved my life, you know. Many times. Superman was there when I needed him and he helped raise me in many senses. I let him. I raised him too. Taught him compassion and empathy where he didn’t have that innately. This story was always behind my eyes. Somewhere between me and the outside world around me. One day, I just found the strength to say it: I was weak and scared, and Superman swooped up and taught me the life skills I needed to be strong. Not strong like him. Strong like me.

FQ: Since Holding Superman’s Hand is book 1 in a planned series, can you give readers a sneak peek, so to speak, at what will be coming next?

AMY KATHERINE: There may or may not be a scene in book two, where Matthew puts inflatable armbands on Amy when they are out fishing. He convinces her that they will certainly get in trouble with a fishing and game warden. Because there aren’t enough life vests on board, they had to borrow these bands, and it will have to do. She resists at first, but eventually gives in to her goody goody personality. Oh, and they are pink unicorn armbands. Matthew is not prepared to see her in armbands, though, and his reaction to his own prank is priceless!

FQ: Thank you so much for your time, and this incredible book! Good luck with the next one!

AMY KATHERINE: Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk about my book. I loved the process! Amy Katherine

Monday, May 30, 2022

Meet Author Jacob Paul Patchen, author of No Pistol Tastes the Same

Meet author Jacob Paul Patchen in his new author
biography page at Feathered Quill. Learn about his new book, No Pistol Tastes the Same, and about his writing process.

#AuthorInterview with Jacob Paul Patchen, author of No Pistol Tastes the Same

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Jacob Paul Patchen, author of No Pistol Tastes the Same (PTSD Disaster Book 1).

FQ: Mr. Patchen, this book is pure poetry. Can you tell me how easy (and/or) difficult it is for an author to weave poetry with such gritty, dark fiction at times?

PATCHEN: Thank you. To be honest, poetry is my core and my foundation. I started writing poetry around 12 years old after my parents divorced, and it has been a therapeutic outlet ever since. After Iraq, it was there for me to use as a tool to unpack and confront the dark emotions/thoughts/moods that consumed me. So, for me to weave the poetry in with a topic and book like this, it just seemed fitting and natural. Though I’m fairly new to fiction (a few years), I’m still learning how to mold the two forms together. But I am quite proud of how this one turned out.

FQ: Along those same lines, is there one genre you prefer to write in; fiction or poetry? And, for those out there just beginning, can you explain the pros and cons of each genre?

PATCHEN: If you would’ve asked me this 3 years ago, poetry. Hands down. But as I keep exploring fiction and the stories I want to tell, it’s really growing on me. It would be ideal if I could keep blending the two together.

Poetry Pros: Quicker and less rules (both things I’m really fond of). Easier for me to confront and deal with emotions or thoughts of the moment.

Poetry Cons: Hard to sell lol

Fiction Pros: The story process is an art form all in itself. It’s a different beast, but one that is exciting to explore. People are more interested in it.

Fiction Cons: The time invested. The money invested. The rules, guidelines, and different opinions that contradict each other. What one person loves, someone else will hate for the exact same reasons.

FQ: PTSD is certainly a tough subject to take on, let alone portray so eloquently. Is there ever a point where you come across writer’s block when trying to put together such a tale? And what is the goal you have when it comes to taking on such hard subjects like war, mental health, etc.?

Author Jacob Paul Patchen

PATCHEN: Thank you! Yes, writer’s block is something that I think no genre, subject, or writer can escape. Although, I do think it comes in different forms. Sometimes mine comes in moods. When I’m in a mood that isn’t creative enough to put words into sentences, then I do one of the many other writing responsibilities, like marketing or researching. Also, a good workout, run, nap, or snack helps out too.

My goal since the beginning has always been to better understand life, to bring awareness, change, new thoughts or ideas to a subject that may not have had without that inspiration. I think, for me, my purpose is to make people come as close as they can to experiencing that subject or topic to better understand what it’s like for others.

FQ: Are you personally a fan of war stories or history in general? When did you first find these subjects (or others) to be inspiring enough for you to begin your writing career?

PATCHEN: I hate to say this, but I’m not a big reader myself. I know. I know. It’s awful. I’m ashamed. But movies serve as a big inspiration for me. I grew up in the country where we played outside in the mud, hunted, played army in the woods, and fantasized about being heroes and good guys. I’ve always found that sort of thing interesting, not to mention, it inspired me to join the Marines and fight for my country. And as with all of my writing, I base a lot of it off of my own experiences.

The first time I wrote about war was my 2nd year of college after I got back from Iraq. It was a productive experience to write about those things that gurgled inside of me. So, maybe in my writing, others could possibly find some hope or help or just see the bigger picture a little better.

FQ: If you could give one piece of advice to the independents out there just starting out, what would you most want new writers to know and understand?

PATCHEN: There’s so much lol. I think, first of all, the shock for me was the many layers to the business. The marketing, promoting, editing, social media, selling, brand building, time and energy, convincing people that you’re really doing it––those things were more than I was prepared for. My first book had the potential to be great, but my lack of experience, research, and patience had me put out a book that wasn’t ready. This kind of ruined the big start I had in mind back then. So, go through the process. It’s not a get rich quick sort of thing. It’s painful and hard. It’s insane and demanding. It’s a real pain in the ass. And maybe that’s why it’s so rewarding in the end.

FQ: If there was one historical character or even writer that you could sit down and speak with, who would that be and what would be the one question you would most want them to answer?

PATCHEN: I might have to have a beer and come back to this one...Okay. Jesus. Let’s go with Jesus. Is that acceptable? Does it count? Because I’ve got a lot of questions I could throw his way. I guess the most important one might be...Hey, when you coming back, Big Guy?

FQ: Since this is Book 1, can you give readers a sneak peek into what you’re currently working on? And, if possible, what future plans you have for this particular series?

PATCHEN: Sure, absolutely. So, I’m a couple chapters away from finishing the first draft of book 2. It’s called, No Blade Cuts the Same. Right now, I’m discovering that my characters really want to heal and put things back together. But it’s not that easy, is it? Some things happen. Some darker demons come to rise. Some characters prosper while others take a hit. But ultimately, we see some of the same themes playing out, though in a completely different world from where Book 1 started.

At the moment, I plan on a 3 book series for the PTSD Disaster series. But there might be more. I don’t want to leave the story unfinished. So, who knows? It’s all a surprise to me, too.

#BookReview - Taming Infection: The American Response to Illness from Smallpox to Covid

Taming Infection: The American Response to Illness from Smallpox to Covid

By: Gregg Coodley and David Sarasohn
Published by: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: June 21, 2022
ISBN: 978-1639883189
Reviewed By: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: May 26, 2022
Co-authors, physician Coodley and editor Sarasohn, have collaborated to remind and inform Americans about the prevalence of physical scourges, plagues, and pandemics that have deeply affected our nation from earliest times to the current day.
The topics covered in Taming Infection begin with tuberculosis, a disease still to some degree extant but far more curable than it once was. Its spread through airborne transmission was presumably exacerbated by large numbers of people living in crowded conditions, leading to slow, painful death. Pioneering medical research suggested that TB was caused by germs, microbes, tiny almost invisible entities that entered the body through various means. This basic model has gradually emerged as medical fact regarding most forms of illness, with the microbes being carried in some cases by rats (the plague), mosquitos (malaria) or water supply (cholera).
The diseases explored here also include smallpox, yellow fever, typhus, syphilis, influenza, AIDS, measles, diphtheria, pneumococcus, and Covid-19. With the exception of AIDS and Covid-19, nearly all these massively destructive maladies have been known and noted since record keeping became common. The earliest influenza epidemic occurred in North America soon after Columbus landed and also affected pilgrim settlements in New England. The outbreak of the so-named Spanish Influenza in the early twentieth century affected and was affected by the migration of soldiers to and from Europe in World War I, and its treatment has early similarities to the recent Covid-19 phenomena, including mask mandates and the disparities between what the public were told by government and what they were seeing in their own families and regions.
The authors offer copious data throughout this admirable collocation, with reference listings of several pages concerning each of the diseases examined. They conclude that “the conflict between humans and pathogens is an ongoing struggle.” It is certain that new diseases and new strains of bacteria will continue to arise, and the question for all Americans is how to react to deal with them – medically, socially, and individually.
Quill says: In Taming Infection, Coodley and Sarasohn have constructed a scholarly guide that concerns and should be accessed by all Americans, calmly and accurately setting forth the history of communicable diseases and their ravages as an alert to handling the next national medical crisis.
For further information on Taming Infection: The American Response to Illness from Smallpox to Covid, please visit the book's website at: www.taminginfection.com

#BookReview - No Pistol Tastes the Same (PTSD Disaster Book 1)

No Pistol Tastes the Same (PTSD Disaster Book 1)

By: Jacob Paul Patchen
Publication Date: May 24, 2022
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: May 26, 2022
I can't imagine the hardships of war. I used to hear my grandfather and my uncles speak about their various experiences during the times they served this country, and I would cringe. I still (and always will) wish peace and protection for all the brave men and women who lay their lives on the line for the rest of us...and I will always thank them with everything I’ve got. But I also know I am too scared to ever take their place, and I am in awe of them eternally that they have the courage to do what I definitely cannot. Books like this—those books that come along maybe once in a decade—make me even more awestruck. Not only did the writer do a fantastic job portraying his characters, but he went further. He not only showed you the emotions someone felt, but he painted a multicolor portrait of every scene, every event, every moment this man experienced on battlefields, and the continuation of nightmares that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) provided on top of all the rest of the horrors.
We begin watching quietly as Sergeant JP Grimm holds his grandfather’s gun in his trembling hand. We watch him remember his beloved grandparents as he stares at a faded American flag between their two graves, and suddenly smells his grandma’s strawberry rhubarb pie fresh from the oven. Suffice to say, as the opening expires, readers are already fixated on what JP’s mind holds, and excited about the cinematic experience we are about to embark on with this character as the veil is lifted and the chapters begin.
As the path moves forward, U.S. Marine JP Grimm returns to the life of a civilian from the desert of Iraq. The man is now looking at a home, a wife he loves, and a son he finally gets to be around and watch grow up after all these months. Through no fault of his loving family, however, JP is also dealing with an “alternate” personality he owns after his heartfelt, painful experiences. He finds an inability to calm his own temper, and his level of paranoia seems to grow with each day that goes by. So not only does he have to deal with all things the war in Iraq loaded onto his shoulders, but JP must also now deal with heavy guilt when it comes to not being the loving, kind father and husband he longs to be. When the abyss he feels grows so endless that JP just can’t find a reason to stick around anymore, he places the metal against his skull and decides to end it once and for all. Whether unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how JP will look at this event, death by suicide is simply not in his cards; fate takes over.
Poetic, gritty, sharp – even if you are not a “war story” enthusiast, this is one of those novels that does not weigh a reader down with constant explanations of military tactics and terms. Although the author certainly knows what he’s talking about, he does not dwell on anything for too long; he works more on making the dialogue (whether it be from the civilian’s POV or the serviceman’s) flow perfectly, allowing the reader to be engaged during the entire novel.
This one man’s path to recovery and deliverance is a strong one, and the portrait of PTSD that this author creates with (I swear) Michelangelo’s brushes, shows jaw-dropping talent. Not a surprise, considering this is not the first book by this incredible author. But it’s certainly the one, thus far, I will remember for decades to come.
Quill says: This is one book that deserves to win the highest awards possible that the literary world provides.
For more information on No Pistol Tastes the Same (PTSD Disaster Book 1), please visit the author's website at: https://jacobpaulpatchen.com

#BookReview - Case of a Puzzling Book: A Maximo Morgan Mystery

Case of a Puzzling Book: A Maximo Morgan Mystery

By: William LeRoy
Publisher: Mossik Press
Publication Date: April 1, 2022
ISBN: 978-0999418598
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 27, 2022
Case of a Puzzling Book by William LeRoy takes the reader on a whimsical path of whodunits full of twists and turns along the way.
Popo Crowder owns the Twisted Sister Coffeehouse in the unassuming small town of Henryetta, Oklahoma. In addition to the purchase of a cup of coffee, patrons can select a free book from the shop’s library book exchange. There are lots of genres to choose from ranging from erotic to literary fiction. However, Popo’s twin sister Eppie does not necessarily see eye-to-eye when it comes to the content of said free books. Eppie frowns when it comes to the ‘literary’ titles offered up. This notion motivates Eppie and her ‘group’ to edit books of questionable nature. This alone is fodder for strong differences of opinions between the sisters. A rift akin to the ‘Hatfield’s and McCoy’s’ is alive and well between the sisters and is the backdrop for the mystery that unfolds.
Imagine Popo’s curiosity when a stranger takes Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence and in exchange leaves The Same Old Story by William LeRoy. This in and of itself should not raise eyebrows. However, Popo is confused when she flips through the pages of Lady Chatterley’s Lover only to discover words and complete sentences missing from select pages in the book. Popo decides to hire private detective Maximo “Max” Morgan to investigate the mystery. It is only fitting that Max’s role model is private eye Brad Runyon; the character created by novelist Dashiell Hammet. Max’s proposition is to dive deeper into the oddity of what Popo believes was intentional degradation of the literary work The Same Old Story. Only time and Max’s true ‘gumshoe’ detective work will solve the mystery of these happenstances.
William LeRoy serves up a fantastic novel with a terrific blend (and balance) of plot twists and turns that compel his audience to pay close attention. There are three different voices sharing the spotlight (Popo, Eppie, and Detective Morgan). I find this fascinating that Mr. LeRoy has managed to breathe equal life and depth into each character. There is a delightful journey of multifaceted layers applied to each unique personality. Not only do the descriptions complement, but there is a tone of individuality identified that moves the story and pace forward. There is a sister rivalry that plays out throughout the read that brought a smile to my face often given I have two sisters of my own and therefore could relate. While there are several passages to select; early on, Mr. LeRoy does a superb job of nailing the opposite ends of the spectrum the sisters occupy—Popo being the renegade and Eppie, hands down, the prim and proper do-gooder: “…Entering the dining room and finding Eppie already primly seated at table, she further relished the prospect of wiping the bright-eyed, self-satisfied smirk from her sister’s face…” Priceless! Mr. LeRoy sprinkles nuggets like this through this entire read highlighting the diverse personalities of these sisters! This is quite the engaging and enjoyable read.
Quill says: Case of a Puzzling Book is an intriguing read and just when you think you have solved the ‘mystery’ ...think again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Interview with Author Ruth Maille, author of The Power of Gratitude

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with Ruth Maille, author of The Power of Gratitude: Unlocking Hidden Treasures.

FQ: So far you have focused on the power of positivity and kindness with the first two books in this series. What made you decide to focus this book on the topic of gratitude? 

MAILLE: My preschool children are always inspiring me with new ideas for my books. This time we were outside playing when one of the children pointed to a cloud shaped like a heart. She shared how we could find more things in the clouds if we used our imaginations. That turned into a conversation about gratitude. After researching how children experience gratitude with over 100 children, The Power of Gratitude was born.

FQ: How did you develop the main character of this series: Orbit, the globe? 

MAILLE: While working on the cover for The Power of Positivity, we were trying to find the perfect picture to represent the book— something that encompassed the message and spoke to both girls and boys. While working on the page "O is for Optimistic" with my illustrator, I fell in love with the image of the globe and the little girl. The image inspired me to hold a contest on Facebook to suggest a possible name. That led to many choices that were all good, but something was still missing. None of them popped — until one day, someone suggested the name Orbit. I knew "Orbit" could be the main character for the series of books I wanted to write about character traits. Being a globe, Orbit encompasses all children and the many different facets of wisdom. From the uncountable hours I have spent reading with children, I knew it is always fun to have a main character who can share his knowledge in a fun and entertaining way with a great message.

FQ: What is the significance of the bandages on the top of Orbit's head?

MAILLE: Orbit was created during the Pandemic, and our world was hurting at the time. The bandaid represents the earth's healing. Maybe someday, his band-aid will come off, but I think the world has a lot of healing still left to do.

FQ: This is the third book in the "Power Of" series. Can you share if you have any more books planned for this series in the future?

Author Ruth Maille

MAILLE: Currently, I am working on research for a new book, The Power of Empathy. Empathy is an important character trait that is a learned behavior. It begins by helping children recognize and label their own emotions. That empowers them to recognize similar emotions expressed by others around them. As parents, we can ask them frequently how they are feeling, talk about their feelings, and point out where they see someone being empathetic. Eventually, as children practice this over and over, it becomes natural.

FQ: Along with your other books in this series, you have also authored a coloring book and two activity books that feature Orbit. Do you have any plans for a coloring or activity book based on The Power of Gratitude: Unlocking Hidden Treasures?

MAILLE: Not at this present time. I am busy learning more about marketing and expanding my email list. I want to promote my next book through Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform, as I did with The Power of Kindness. I learned a lot through that experience. Hopefully, I can incorporate some of what I learned to create another even more successful campaign with options that include coloring books and activity books.

FQ: Explain more about crowdfunding, please. 

MAILLE: Crowdfunding is an alternative way of fundraising for projects through an internet platform to help support individuals with a vision. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are popular crowdfunding platforms. Backers give money to support the project in return for a "REWARD" or "PRODUCT." It is a limited-time campaign, usually between 7-30 days. This type of campaign is an "all-or-nothing" campaign which means if your fundraising goal is not met, the project is not funded, and no one gets charged. Crowdfunding can help authors print their books in larger quantities and make the project more cost-effective. Using crowdfunding also created the opportunity for me to donate over 200 books as one of the rewards being offered.

FQ: Your "Power Of" series is a collection of social-emotional learning books for kids, focusing on teaching them traits that are vital to helping lead to emotionally healthy adulthood. What led you to want to write these types of stories for kids? 

MAILLE: Thirty-one years of working with children in my preschool have taught me that it is essential to teach children at a young age these character traits. I have been lucky to help the children I care for learn these lessons one-to-one. The Pandemic made it even more apparent to me that ALL children need to be taught these tools to navigate what life throws us. Writing became my instrument to reach more children. Also, it allowed me to help my many friends who are teachers that are constantly working to help their students with social skills. My goal was to create fun, entertaining books and convey important life lessons. My personal experience has shown me books are a great way to help children learn these valuable skills they will need as they grow up.

FQ: What is the single most important lesson you want kids to remember after reading The Power of Gratitude: Unlocking Hidden Treasures?

MAILLE: No matter what, there is always something to be grateful for. The way to discover the treasures all around us each day is to use the magical key of gratitude.

FQ: How do you choose the topics on which to focus your books? 

MAILLE: Many times my ideas come from my children. When I wrote The Power of Kindness, my children and I were having a snack. One of the children said something that wasn't kind to another child. That was a perfect opportunity to talk about kindness and how they could make a difference by choosing to be kind.

FQ: The words you chose to represent each letter of the alphabet are extremely varied. With such a wide assortment of words in the vocabulary to choose from, how did you pick the words that appear in the book? 

MAILLE: I interviewed over 100 children ages 4-8 and asked them three questions.
1. What does gratitude mean?
2. What is something you are grateful for?
3. Where do you see gratitude in your life?

I learned so much from these children. Their answers were unique. They gave me more information to work with than I could have imagined. You see, I enjoy listening to children. They are more intelligent than many adults think. When I listen to what matters in their lives, I feel like I get to know them deeper, which is a gift to me. I hope my focused listening gives each child the message that they are important and that what they share is valuable.

FQ: Are the children that Orbit visits within The Power of Gratitude: Unlocking Hidden Treasures characters who have appeared in your previous "Power Of" books, or do you create new characters for each story? 

MAILLE: I introduced three new characters in this book plus used some of my previous characters. All of the characters have personalities, and hopefully, as children read my stories, they can identify with one of the characters. The three new characters are Rosie, Trent, and Kim.

Rosie is a bubbly, sweet, and curious little girl who is up for any adventure. She loves nature, especially Lady Bugs and Honey Bees. Rosie loves jumping in puddles and singing with her friend Dominic. Trent loves helping his mom in the garden. His favorite vegetables are lettuce, carrots, and peas. He loves trains, and someday, he hopes to travel around the world on a train. Kim loves to learn about new things, especially birds. She can tell you all about why an egg is an oval. Her favorite thing is flying a kite with her good buddy Trent.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Caryn Rivadeneira, author of Penny Helps Portia Face Her Fears

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Caryn Rivadeneira, author of Penny Helps Portia Face Her Fears (Helper Hounds).
FQ: First, thanks for writing such a fun and educational book. For those not familiar with the Helper Hounds series, would you tell us a little about the background on the series (how the idea for the series came about, what you hope to teach children, etc.)?
RIVADENEIRA: The idea was inspired by a couple of things—my own rescue dogs who have offered me so much love and support and an amazing organization called Comfort Dogs. After learning about the work the Comfort Dogs and other emotional support animals do, I thought it would be fun to tell the stories from the dogs’ point of view. My goal is less about “teaching” kids things, but offering fun stories that also happen to offer on-ramps to conversations or thoughts about some of the biggest issues facing kids today. But, of course, I do want to show kids that rescue dogs are the best.
FQ: Each book in your series deals with a different topic that children may struggle with on a daily basis. How do you choose what topics to write about?
RIVADENEIRA: My own kids were super helpful. Sadly, there is no shortage of issues that kids today deal with, so it was more a matter of what issues we could address in a compelling way and offer some kind of helpful perspective on.
FQ: Along the same lines, how to you choose what breed of dog to feature in a book? And are they based on real dogs?
RIVADENEIRA: Sparky, Robot, and Penny are based on my own dogs. Spooky and Brisket came from dogs I “knew” via social media. The others…I’m not sure I can even say how they came to be. Obviously having two pit bulls reveals my deep love and affection for Pitties. But I also love mutts and terriers and standard poodles (and all dogs!), so they were fun to include.
FQ: As the owner of a rescued pit bull, I must thank you for featuring one of these wonderful dogs in your book. Please tell us about your pit bull. And is Penny based on your dog?
RIVADENEIRA: YAY! Thank you for rescuing. Indeed, Penny was based on my late dog Sierra (she’s in the author photo on the back!). Sierra could never have been a Helper Hound, however. Sierra loved people, but did not like other dogs. Helper Hounds University would’ve been tough for her! Today, we have two other rescued pit bulls—Vinny and JP. Vinny actually made it into the last Helper Hounds! We see how he failed Helper Hounds U! This would also be true. Vinny loves people and dogs (and cats—we just learned!), but he struggles with anxiety, which causes some behavior issues. JP would be a fantastic Helper Hound. He’s deaf and super-low key. Just wants to snuggle people all day. Snuggling seems to be the pit bulls’ primary trait.
FQ: We meet “The Gray Sisters” on the first page of Penny Helps Portia Face Her Fears and I suspect readers will be surprised to meet them again later in the story. It was a really nice way to wrap up the tale. Was this your plan when you first began working on the story?
Author Caryn Rivadeneira

RIVADENEIRA: NO! That was a surprise to me too. While I write with a vague idea of where a story might land, the beautiful part of writing is that characters tend to show up—or surprise us. But I do love a good redemption story—so maybe somehow this was always part of the plan.
FQ: Where did the idea for “Helper Hounds University” come from? Is it based on a real training center for service dogs?
RIVADENEIRA: I’m pretty sure I stole the idea from Guide Dogs for the Blind. I’m not sure of other organizations that have an actual campus. Comfort Dogs might. But I just liked the idea of dogs having a university. Seemed like fun! Can you tell I have college-aged kids?
FQ: When Portia meets Penny, she says “Pit bulls are mean,” but Penny soon proves Portia’s misconceptions about these lovely dogs wrong. If you were to talk with someone who is convinced pit bulls are all aggressive, what is one thing you would want to tell them?
RIVADENEIRA: Maybe more than tell, I’d show them some of the 1 million ridiculous snuggle pictures I have of my dogs. But in reality, most people who fear pits or think they are mean have just never met one! In fact, studies show that most people can’t even identify a pit bull. They have vicious monsters in their minds so are surprised to find medium-sized boxy-headed house hippos with silly smiles. So, I do like to ask if people have met one—or if they’d like to meet mine.
FQ: Readers also get to know Portia, a young girl who has been misunderstood because of her Down Syndrome. She really has a lot in common with Penny in that respect (being misunderstood) and I liked how you didn’t dwell on it but rather showed how strong Portia is. What is your hope that readers will take away from the story about kids they may know who have Down Syndrome?
RIVADENEIRA: That’s a great question. My hope was to present Portia as a character with Down Syndrome rather than make it a book about someone with Down Syndrome. I hope that distinction makes sense. Her having DS is integral to who Portia is—but not necessarily more so than anything else. We’re not meant to pity Portia or see her as a superhero. Portia is a person with fears and challenges and courage—like anyone else.
FQ: The illustrations in your books are wonderful. How closely do you work with the illustrator? She must be a dog person since the sketches are so “spot on.” Do you discuss what scenes should be illustrated? How you want Penny and the other characters to be portrayed?
RIVADENEIRA: I was so fortunate to have such an amazing illustrator and illustrations! But, I can take zero credit for any of it. As is typical in publishing, the fine folks at Red Chair Press lined up Priscilla Alpaugh. I believe I did send pictures of my own dogs—but otherwise, Priscilla just really caught the vision and did amazing work.
FQ: Are you currently working on the next book in the Helper Hounds series? If so, would you give our readers a little “tease” about the story?
RIVADENEIRA: With eight books in the series, we are probably done. I don’t have anything else to tease! However, part of me believes there’s a rescued Old English Sheepdog with a story to tell…And maybe an Afghan hound…I could write about dogs all day!