Saturday, July 30, 2022

Feathered Quill #BookAwards

Are you ready? Nominations for the 2023 Feathered Quill #BookAwards open Monday, August 1. Enter early to get the "early bird" discount on nomination fees. Learn more at:

Thursday, July 28, 2022

#BookReview - Sway by Tricia Johnson


By: Tricia Johnson
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: September 13, 2022
ISBN: 978-1639884209
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: July 27, 2022

This evocative offering by Tricia Johnson is pure poesy, an invitation to readers not only to appreciate the images and undertones of each work but also to ferret out the poet’s, and their own, deeper thinking.

This small but powerful aggregation is divided in four parts, each encompassing a season: Wildflower Bloom, Pumpkin Decorum, Light Captured Hexagons, and Melodious. The opening, eponymous piece depicts the poet hanging clothes on the line outdoors in the warm sunshine, noticing how the swinging garments seem to synchronize with nature’s “hidden song.” In “Warmth,” Johnson is again observing the distinctive joys of summer - “peonies blooming” and languid, luscious breezes:

Sit the feet up
Head back to stars
Crossed feet
Enjoy the meet

In “Enchanting Morning Walk,” Johnson cleverly remarks that the subtleties of the natural world as experienced on her trek in the early hours are “songs not heard in cities.” In “Suspension,” part of Pumpkin Decorum, the poet moves forward both inwardly and outwardly through the year as she lies in bed listening to the changing seasons. “Wink” briefly illustrates her recognition of more changes to come, as she returns the greeting of a red maple leaf, a harbinger of autumn. Winter arrives with the “white geometric creations” referenced in the title of the third segment. Johnson designates snow as “a silent friend falling” (“Connections”) and notes in “Sliding Into New” that winter is “absent of color / the color comes from inside.” The Melodious portion that concludes Johnson’s collection highlights the new awakening of spring: “heady, steamy, aromatic” (“Lovely Touch”). She fashions this invitation “To Spring”:

Come pull me from my mind
Out of the tangle
Winters last tentacles

The creator of this engaging assortment of spontaneous, sagacious seasonal vignettes, Johnson, a retired teacher, lives in Pennsylvania, in what one assumes is a rural region where the beauties and quietness of nature can be specially appreciated. The poems arrayed here are in the main introspective, revealing a love of language and a need for the solace and surprises of flowers, fields, stars, and snowflakes. They reflect her wish to share her unique perspective as she takes the simple cues offered by her environment and intuitively fashions them into wonder-laden word pictures.

Quill says: Poet Tricia Johnson has combined her gift of words with feelings, philosophies and natural phenomena in a collection that will warm hearts and open new inner doors.

For more information on Sway, please visit the author's website at:

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Angela L Gold, author of The Lion Within

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Dianne Woodman is talking with Angela L Gold, author of The Lion Within: Power Unleashed Series, Book 1.

FQ: What made you decide to write a book about the conflicts between believers and nonbelievers in the existence of divine power?

GOLD: Jesus—a poor, uneducated carpenter—is the most influential person in all of history. Most people admit this whether he/she believes that Jesus is the Son of God or not. Jesus’s teachings transformed the world from barbaric to civilized. He taught love, kindness, and charity. He even taught to love your enemies. What would the world look like if belief in Jesus was removed? If an individual’s conscience was the only thing ruling an individual’s actions, no doubt the unscrupulous would rise to power and society would slide toward cruel and uncivilized.

FQ: Did you create the United World Order from your imagination, or are any of the characters in the organization based on real people?

GOLD: The United World Order and all the characters are purely fictional. But there are influential people in the world who seem to stir up unrest to further their personal agendas. Those are the types of fictional individuals who joined forces to create and rule the United World Order.

FQ: Why did you set the story in the year 2078?

GOLD: The United World Order took over slowly. They subtly introduced ideas to change individuals’ thinking. Then they orchestrated acts of violence while falsely convicting leaders of religious organizations for the acts. After they had had enough, citizens of all countries begged those behind the UWO to take control. In 2078, the UWO had been in control around twenty years, giving the citizens plenty of time to realize that the regime was not looking out for the general population’s best interests. They were looking out for the best interests of their leaders.

FQ: Was Rory’s out-of-body experience based on an actual occurrence of someone you know or read about in a book? If not, how did you come up with the description of it?

GOLD: Over the years I have read several accounts of people dying and coming back to life. Several individuals recounted hovering above his/her lifeless body and seeing and hearing everything going on below. Many individuals spoke of feeling euphoric while technically dead. Several experienced depression after returning to life, because the afterlife had been that wonderful.

Based on scriptures in the Bible I believed that someone who would be sent back to life would not be able to look on Jesus’s face. Also based on scripture, I believed that the countenance of Jesus would shine brilliantly.

FQ: I thought the decision to have a comatose patient be a witness for Jesus Christ was an interesting choice. Did the writing of those scenes create a challenge?

GOLD: Rory would need an easy assignment after suffering hypothermia. Monitoring a comatose patient fit the bill. The miracle of the patient coming back to consciousness only when Rory was with him would get her attention.

Writing the scenes where the patient went in and out of consciousness didn’t pose a challenge. The challenge was finding examples to share with an unbeliever that best illustrated the love and magnificence of God.

FQ: Typically stories have a well-seasoned/experienced Christian lead a rebellion so again, this was another interesting choice. Why Rory, a young adult, and a brand-new Christian, as the one God called to lead the rebellion against the United World Order?

GOLD: Jesus can use anyone who is willing. Sometimes a new convert is more willing and more pliable. The new convert doesn’t have as many preconceived notions to get in the way of what God is saying. A seasoned Christian may hear what they believe Jesus should be saying instead of what He actually says.

FQ: What made you decide to have an angel be a part of the story? Is the portrayal of the angel who visits Rory based on a personal experience, or is it of someone from your life? If not, where did you get your idea for how to describe the angel in appearance and interactions with Rory?

GOLD: Angels appeared to several people in the Bible—Lot and his family, Daniel, Mary the mother of Jesus, etc.—when something huge was about to happen. Gaining freedom from the UWO was huge, so the appearance of an angel felt appropriate. From encounters described in scripture, angels seemed to have looked like a person. Sometimes an individual knew immediately that he was in the presence of an angel and other times the individual figured it out later. I chose to make Gabriel look human but different—extremely tall, timeless, and glowing—so that between his message and his appearance she could figure out his angelic status.

FQ: Why did you use a freezing sensation to signify the Holy Spirit was speaking to Rory? Has that happened to you or anyone you know?

GOLD: The freezing sensation is from personal experience. For as long as I can remember, during a testimony or a sermon when someone relates how God has moved in a beautiful way, I feel a sensation similar to a brain freeze. Over time, I have decided that it is the Holy Spirit confirming that the statement is the truth. That made it a natural reaction to use for Rory.

FQ: Are any of the miracles God performs in the story based on actual events?

GOLD: Ruby was healed so that Rory would know that Jesus was real. This was based on the disciples asking Jesus if the man who had been blind since birth was blind because he sinned or because his parents had sinned. Jesus said neither. The man was blind so that God could be revealed when Jesus gave the man sight. The sensational miracles during what should have been Rory’s execution were based on the epic-type of miracles that God performed with Moses in the Old Testament.

FQ: Since this is the first book in the Power Unleashed Series, will the second book focus on the rebellion and the continuation of Rory’s faith journey?

FQ: Thank you for asking this. I am excited about the second book. Rory will grow in faith and obedience. She will learn first-hand the difficulties of forming a new government, and she will deal with post-traumatic stress disorder from her time at Gibbons. The story will also deal with second chances. Several characters who made mistakes in The Lion Within will be given a chance to start over and become the men/women Jesus desires for them to be. The United World Order that survived in the Eastern and Central Zones will be a nasty thorn in the Western Zone’s side as the UWO sets their sights on retaliation.

I hope to release the second book at the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023.

#AuthorInterview with Jennifer Sara Widelitz, author of Battle Cry

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Jennifer Sara Widelitz, author of Battle Cry.

FQ: What single piece of advice would you give to a person preparing to read your work with no previous knowledge of your poetic philosophy?

WIDELITZ: Keep an open mind—always. That goes for anything in life.

You might find you can relate to many of the poems in Battle Cry, or only one—maybe even none. Whether you resonate with a collection or not, the important thing is that something is gained from when you first picked up the book. It can be a new perspective, a broader awareness of an important issue, comfort through recognition, or even a kernel of empathy for others. We wouldn’t be complete without our struggles and adversities, but that doesn’t mean we have to face them alone. Pain is a universal language and everyone is suffering in their own way—it is an underlying thread that connects all of humanity. This collection is for all warriors fighting unseen battles who will not surrender easily, even when their efforts go unrecognized, but who may need to be reminded that every battle is worth fighting and comrades can be found if they are willing to look. It is for every survivor of the human condition.

FQ: Does writing about your pain and the ways it might be dealt with give you a sense of hope?

WIDELITZ: I’m a believer in the philosophy that one cannot experience true emotion without becoming familiar with its counterpart. In other words, without knowing pain or despair, one cannot become acquainted with hope. So yes, writing about pain does give a sense of hope. It’s cleansing—a bloodletting of the psyche to allow more room for hope to flourish. There are many writers who feel similarly, using poetry as an outlet for expressing their emotions or to search for kindred experiences in the words of others. There is something soothing and hopeful in seeing others persevere through the same pain that once left you in despair, and something inherently beautiful about witnessing your painful thorns bloom into the hopeful roses in another’s garden, as well as your own.

FQ: Do you see in our current world, with Covid and other factors, the possible development of such elements of your philosophy as regards the challenges of illness?

WIDELITZ: Yes, I see the development of such elements. There has been research into how common viruses like Epstein-Barr are associated with the later development of an autoimmune disease or other form of chronic illness. (You can find out more here.) So it’s no surprise that we’re seeing the same thing with Covid. In fact, the CDC granted $4 million to Nova Southeastern University’s Institute for Neuro-immune Medicine for further research into the lasting effects of Covid due to the fact that many people are experiencing residual health issues. (You can find out more here.)

Although I wish the pandemic never occurred and no one fell ill (or worse), I think one positive thing we—as a world population—can all take away from this horrible experience is a greater sense of empathy. With Covid, I think more people are becoming aware of how debilitating symptoms like fatigue or brain fog or joint/muscle pain can be—invisible symptoms that many with chronic illnesses battle on an everyday basis, not just for a few weeks. And perhaps from the rubble of the pandemic, through our common threads of pain and loss, we can find understanding for others who may be suffering in ways we cannot see.

FQ: What poet(s) influenced you most in the creation of this collection? 

WIDELITZ: As Battle Cry chronicles my own experience, there weren’t many poets that influenced me in the content creation of this collection—not consciously at least. Battle Cry was born by writing the words I needed to hear that I wasn’t finding in the works of others, and so I sought to publish this collection to help others like me who needed to find comfort in the similarity of another’s journey and perseverance.

While there were few influences in content, the overall style of Battle Cry was influenced by the open, confessional styles of poets such as Nikita Gill, Rupi Kaur, Lang Leav, Amanda Lovelace, and Najwa Zebian. Like these poets, I decided to write and publish the poems in Battle Cry primarily in free verse (with several exceptions) and in a straightforward style, unlike my other poems that appear in literary magazines. I came to this decision while keeping the intended audience and message in mind—readers with cognitive dysfunctions and brain fog weren’t going to sit down and dissect a collection like a student in an English class. While still investing a lot of time and effort into crafting thoughtful, meaningful poems with literary elements, I wanted to give readers something they could enjoy and resonate with immediately, not a coded message they had to work hard to uncover. As much as I love the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Rumi, Pablo Neruda, Robert Frost, and Seamus Heaney, to whom I even write a response poem in Battle Cry, it was the works of modern and contemporary poets that were the most influential to this collection.

FQ: Is writing now your primary focus or will you continue to explore other avenues of creativity?

WIDELITZ: Writing is currently my primary focus—both poetry and fiction. In a way, it always has been. I have been writing since I first learned how to hold a pencil, long before I started my pursuit of studio and digital art. Though I will always dabble in other art forms and explore other avenues of creativity, writing is my first love and continues to hold my heart.

FQ: Could you envision a dramatic, emotive film illustrating your own life experience and intrepid development of your artistic talents?

WIDELITZ: What an interesting question! I’ve never really thought about it before...I’ve always been a private person and choosing to publish this poetry collection was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make. It was difficult enough just to summon the courage to share this collection with the public, let alone imagine a film depicting my life experiences in such vivid detail. In a way, a movie seems like it would convey even more vulnerability—the written word is subjective to the reader’s mind, but a clear visual representation leaves nothing to the imagination—and that’s honestly a scary notion.

But the more I think about it, I guess my answer would be a nail-biting yes. I could envision a dramatic, emotive film that would perhaps help others through their own struggles and even help raise awareness of autoimmunity and chronic invisible illness altogether. (Although, I think I would much prefer if it veered towards autobiographical fiction—a film with too much detailed and factual information sounds quite unnerving.)

FQ: Are you able to select a favorite among the collection in Battle Cry and if so, why does that particular poem speak to you so strongly?

WIDELITZ: Selecting a favorite poem in this collection is difficult, like choosing a favorite book or movie or song—something I’ve never been able to do without breaking it down by genre… or sub-genre (ha ha!). And having a personal connection to each poem makes it all the more difficult to select only one. However, there are poems I tend to gravitate towards:

“Lessons From the Trees”
“The Fiery Crown”
“Places Remember”
“I’m tired of being tired”
“Reading Between the Lines”
(...and more)

Each holds powerful memories—some happy, some sad—and I think they speak for themselves as to why I might resonate with them so strongly. For now, I just hope they speak to readers and reach those who need to hear them most.

FQ: You have had your poetry published in various magazines such as your poem “Fireflies” appearing in Stonecrop Magazine. How different is the process when you’re trying to get one poem accepted/published vs. a whole collection in a book? Is one more rewarding than the other for you?

WIDELITZ: The processes for trying to get one poem published versus an entire collection are fairly similar. Whether it is a single poem or an entire collection, there is still a general submission process—with queries and cover letters—resulting in either acceptance or rejection by the agent/publisher. I find it is the process of writing them that differs the most. Crafting one poem that can stand on its own is not like creating a collection of poems that must be cohesive and connected through a common theme to tell an underlying story. Another difference is the writing styles I choose between the two. As I mentioned earlier, I decided to write and publish the poems in Battle Cry in a straightforward style for the intended reader, unlike my other poems that appear in literary magazines, which are more traditional in nature.

Neither is necessarily more rewarding than the other—they are both equally rewarding but in different ways. Writing individual poems for literary magazines is validating to my technical skills and voice as a poet. However, while creating Battle Cry and having it published has also been similarly validating, knowing that the collection is helping others cope with their own battles is its own special kind of reward.

FQ: I see that you recently published a children’s book. Would you tell our readers a bit about it and how the experience of writing a children’s book compares to working on a poetry collection? 

WIDELITZ: I am honored to have been the illustrator for A Heavenly World, a heartwarming tale written by author Tracey Dean Widelitz to help children of all ages cope with the loss of their beloved fur-baby, their fur-ever best friend. While I was not the author of A Heavenly World, I can share that the author’s inspiration for this children’s book stemmed from the same sources as Battle Cry: loss, grief, and painful experience.

Although both books deal closely with themes of grief and loss, illustrating those themes in each was vastly different. The most noticeable distinction is perhaps between illustration styles: black and white sketches versus full-colored spreads with recurring characters. In Battle Cry, I intended for my illustrations to be raw, vulnerable, unfiltered images evoking emotions that may be unpleasant—but important—to sit with, much like the poems and experiences they represented. However, in a children’s book like A Heavenly World, difficult emotions like grief and pain and loss are supposed to be conveyed in an uplifting and fulfilling manner that clearly expresses the message but doesn’t uncomfortably linger. Yet despite these two books differing from genre to message to intended audience, the core of each illustration process was essentially bringing a written story to life, and because of that they felt oddly similar at times.

For those who would like more information on A Heavenly World, please visit the author’s website. 

FQ: From computer skills to artwork - you have a quite a variety of skills. How do you have time for them all? And do you see yourself perhaps combining them such as a poetry book that features your photography?

WIDELITZ: It can often seem daunting, but I think almost all creators would agree they could use a 25th hour in the day, regardless of their skill sets. The issue isn’t necessarily the variety of skills, but rather the number of projects one wishes to tackle. And that is an issue any creator—even one who works strictly in a single medium—finds themselves facing time and again.

In my case, I find I am less focused on what medium I want to use and am more inclined to choose a project or story, and then decide what art form best suits it. I also find knowing how to think in and use one art form helps me with another. For example, there are times when I might sit with the intention to write a short story and don’t have the slightest clue where to begin, so I will imagine how it would be staged visually in a film sequence—perhaps even going so far as to write a screenplay as my outline—and flesh out the story from there. Thinking in this manner often helps me determine the most important details and the best timing. While I have my degree in Visual Effects and utilize my digital skills on a regular basis, my preferred passion has always been writing—though I will often find ways for my skills to overlap, like in Battle Cry. Ultimately, I see myself as a storyteller first and foremost who happens to work in a variety of mediums.

Yes, I do see myself combining them—and I do it often! Battle Cry is one example. While Battle Cry contains illustrations as well as poetry, it also almost featured some of my photography—particularly in the “Interlude: Nature’s Elixir” section. However, my editor and I agreed there was too much vying for attention between poetry, illustrations, and photography. For continuity purposes, we decided to omit the photography and keep the illustrations as their rawness and vulnerability paired better with the poetic theme in this collection as a whole. But I would love to incorporate my photography into another poetry collection in the future, especially one dedicated to nature and healing!

To learn more about Battle Cry or my other projects, please visit my website.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

#@Bookreview - Siena My Love by Tom Bisogno

Siena My Love

By: Tom Bisogno
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: June 6, 2022
ISBN: 978-1639884322
Reviewed by: Carolyn Haley
Review Date: July 22, 2022

So many stories about celebrities in the performing arts are rags-to-riches tales followed by crash-and-burn. Sometimes the protagonist rises again, sometimes not. In Siena My Love, the question remains open until the very end.

Michael Ventura, unlike other gifted artists who are “discovered” and thrust into stardom when unprepared, is an ordinary young man with musical talent who works hard, gets lucky, and makes it big by singing the old crooner classics to a new audience around the world. He is remarkably wise throughout his career, “aware of the difference between what happens to me as a celebrity and things that happen in my real life.” His strong boundaries, plus innate sincerity, warmth, and generosity, make him a character to root for.

But like most of us, Michael has an Achilles’ heel that interrupts his progress and sets him back. He’s not derailed by drugs or alcohol, or a terrible early life that twisted his personality; instead, Michael gets lost in grief. When his father dies, and later his wife dies, he turns inward to a black place that isolates him from loved ones. His psychic withdrawals are the only sections in the book where it’s hard to sympathize with him, because he is surrounded by people who love him, reaching out constantly to support him: family, friends, his business team, and a legion of fans. In real life, so many people suffer grief and loss alone, and would give a lot to have what Michael has handed to him on a platter but ignores or rejects.

His biggest blind spot is Sophia, the girl he spends summers with as a child at his grandfather’s vineyard in Italy. They fall in love when too young to understand what it means to be fated for each other. Michael’s grief, followed by the demands of becoming a professional singer, causes him to turn his back on Sophia and they grow apart on different continents.

The bulk of the book chronicles Michael’s life from childhood to adulthood like a coming-of-age novel. It doesn’t turn intense until his grandfather collapses from a heart condition. At that point, Michael’s past, present, and future converge. He drops everything at the peak of his career and chooses family over the limelight—at great cost. But in the process, he rediscovers Sophia, the little girl next door. By then so much has built up between them that they must start anew to find the love they never acknowledged, yet which never left them. Their new relationship forces Michael to choose between making a comeback to the stage or giving life over to his heart. Or…is there a chance that both can merge together into a greater whole?

The dilemma forms the substance of the story. It would be more engaging if the narrative used a higher percentage of “show” versus “tell” style of prose. The story has many opportunities to be emotionally compelling—heartbreak, romance, victory, defeat, life and death—but what readers get are pivotal moments described passively, such as "Michael was in an emotional state" and “Michael was excited for Vanessa.” After such observations, the narrative moves on. On one hand, this leaves readers free to interpret scenarios through their own lens. On the other hand, it makes for a flat presentation of what could be passionate. The portrayal of Michael’s crises from arm’s-length distance jangles with the emotional purpose of the story. Nevertheless, the novel focuses on love in all its forms, and Michael is one of the nicest guys who ever achieved superstardom. Readers will be hard pressed to not fall in love with him themselves.

Quill says: While the prose technique of Siena My Love could be more developed, the story still gives us a sweet saga about how love manifests across generations and among family and strangers, centered around romantic love given a second chance.

For more information on Siena My Love, please visit the website:

#BookReview - My Child Told Me They're Trans..What Do I Do?

My Child Told Me They're Trans...What Do I Do?: A Q&A Guide for Parents of Trans Children

Editor: Brynn Tannehill
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Publication Date: February 20, 2023
Reviewed by: Rebecca Jane Johnson
Review Date: July 24, 2022
When a child summons the courage to come out to their parents as transgender, parents can turn to this book for helpful resources and guidance. This book is a collaboration of a variety of people who have experienced a child who wants to transition. In previous decades, when and if a child came out, they were told something was wrong with them, but over the years, grown-ups have learned to listen. Now, gender fluidity is something that we can embrace, and this offers parents a way to ask questions and find insights full of courage and intelligence.
The book opens with detailed biographies of parents and Subject Matter Experts (SME) who have contributed to this fountain of transgender wisdom. Some of these biographies describe professional credentials, like “licensed psychologist serving the Gender Clinic” or “pediatrician, mother of three, writer, and transgender activist.” But other bios reveal emotional challenges, such as Marsha Aizumi who has “shared her story of moving from shame, sadness, and fear to unconditional love and acceptance.” The expansive spectrum of expertise, advice, and experience offers healthy perspectives for parents, friends, and family who want to support a child’s smooth and affable gender transition.
With this foundation of trust established, a reader can feel confident they are getting the most accurate and up-to-date information on the best ways to navigate gender transitions and fluidity. Societal stigmas receive critical analysis in ways that open any reader’s mind and help us all transcend anxieties. Two frequent questions parents ask include “What if this is a phase?” and “What if they change their minds?” These questions are answered with well-researched evidence that renders old misinformation obsolete and puts parents’ minds at ease. Accurate information assuages fears so that parents can be supportive, seek out a Transgender Law Center, and start to know legal rights. Also, readers will become familiar with gender dysphoria, hormone blockers, social transitions, and preparing for top or bottom surgery.
The deeper the reader dives into these pages, and witnesses the various stories, the more it becomes clear that we are friends and family, no matter what. Eventually, a reader may find himself asking, is assigning gender at birth limiting our creativity and possibilities as human beings? One of these parents is DeShanna Neal who says, “Freedom of expression is a constant mantra in my household,” so they never felt concerned about gender fluidity, never equated identity with expression. Yes, here, we can safely say wearing a sports jersey with a tutu makes perfect sense.
The “feelings as a parent” chapter reveals that letting go means making room in the parents’ arms to embrace something new or something else. Parents discuss, honestly, what it was like for their child to transition socially. How do families cope if there are other family members who do not accept the transition? How should kids who choose to transition recognize misinformation about gender diversity? These and dozens of other questions make this read satisfying for anyone who wants to know more about what it’s like to support gender diversity.
Quill says: This up-to-date and knowledge-based resource gives parents a sense of community, support, and guidance through any child’s gender transition.

Friday, July 22, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Andy Frye, author of Ninety Days in the 90s: A Rock 'n Roll Time Travel Story

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Andy Frye, author of Ninety Days In The 90s: A Rock 'N' Roll Time Travel Story

FQ: I recently finished reading a memoir based in the 1980s, and loved reminiscing about bits of that great era, but now that I read Ninety Days in the 90s, I find myself loving all that was great about that era too. Why did you choose to have your main character travel back to this particular decade?

FRYE: Just out of college in the mid-1990s, I am part of the first generation that really lived as citizens in both the analog and digital worlds. We went from writing letters and mailing postcards to using email. From busy signals to locating people by GPS and smartphone 24/7. And from four TV channels to thousands.

But the ‘90s music scene was important, too. Pop radio went from a heavy rotation of Milli Vanilli to artists that wrote their songs and played instruments. From mass-produced McDonald’s music to Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Tori Amos, and L7. From Spandex-clad hair bands topping charts to Alanis Morissette selling 33 million copies of Jagged Little Pill. Culturally, it was a big shift.

FQ: Over the years, you've interviewed many music bands (and other celebrities). Who was your favorite band to interview?

FRYE: I’ve interviewed and spoken to Billy from Smashing Pumpkins a few times, so I’ve gotten him in different moods, and when he’s both guarded but also open and willing to talk about new projects, sports, and more. That’s helped me as a writer see different sides of the person versus the celebrity. Seeing people that way from all angles is like observing all four seasons instead of just one.

FQ: Part of Darby’s new job in the past is writing the “Latecomers’ Reviews” on past concerts. For me, I would have loved to go back in time and see the Freddie Mercury tribute concert on April 20, 1992 (I was actually in London, and will forever be annoyed that I couldn't attend). What concert would you love to be able to go back in time and get to see live?

FRYE: Yes, Darby inadvertently gets back her old job as a music writer and realizes she had more autonomy and much more to say than she ever realized—and then makes the most of it.

I have several shows I’d see. Nirvana’s first Chicago show took place October 12, 1991, at Metro, 33 days after Smells Like Teen Spirit was released and changed music forever. Also, the first Oasis show, September 1994, also at Metro. Perhaps that’s why Darby goes back in time to write reviews of those shows.

Plus, I’d see James Brown open the brand new Chicago House of Blues, during Thanksgiving week, 1996. (Turns out Darby had a big show to see that weekend too.)

Author Andy Frye

FQ: Are any of your characters in this book based on you or anyone else?

FRYE: Like myself, Darby is a music lover, coffee aficionado, and insomniac. But I tried to craft her and her friends as unique people. Many of the main characters were informed by people I know or their quirks.

Some scenes are based on things that happened, such as one in the chapter called “Generation Terrorists”—in which rival punk rock girls are arguing on a Chicago bus about whether or not it’s a “sell-out” move to use a cell phone. We had debates on such topics in the ‘90s.

FQ: Do you have past events in your life that you would like a “do-over” and if given a chance, would you time travel to fix it?

FRYE: Perhaps I might do over the part in which it took five years to write this debut novel. Then again, I learned a lot along the way.

FQ: Did you find it difficult or weird to transition from what you have been doing so well for many years (writing articles and interviewing people) to writing a book, which is often time-consuming, and more of a solo endeavor?

FRYE: Not really. I’ve spent the last decade writing about sports, so there is a lot of interviewing and essentially a lot of character study that happens. You learn to ask open-ended questions and listen and observe. That’s helpful when it's time to create characters and reconcile why they do what they do, how they think, and what past experiences make them who they are.

I’ve also done improv comedy for years, which is a very Chicago thing to do. Improv helped me understand how to write realistic dialog.

FQ: As a professional interviewer, what are some tips you would suggest to me and my fellow reviewers at Feathered Quill to avoid the same trite questions everyone asks and keep the interview fresh and an interesting read?

FRYE: I’m not sure I’m qualified to tell you how to do your job, but I think good fiction writers take great care to know their characters and probably want to share as much as possible about who they are and why. So, I’d start there.

FQ: Do you have any new writing projects in store for the future?

FRYE: I’ve got an idea for a baseball novel called A Chip On Both Shoulders, about a girl who grows up to be the first female Major League pitcher, and I’ve also got a proposal I’ve queried for a non-fiction sports book called Smashing Adversity. But for now, I’m focused on proselytizing about the greatness of 1990s culture with Ninety Days.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Theresa Nellis, author of The Portly Lady

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Theresa Nellis, author of Keeper of the Mirror: The Portly Lady.

FQ: I love the title of book 2 in your series, The Portly Lady. How did you settle on this title? It describes her so well.

NELLIS: Funny you should ask. I first envisioned this greedy woman who’d just as soon devour a foster kid as she would a roast beef sandwich on rye. From that point on, her name stuck like a rat’s tail between her large front teeth. Huh?—Book 3, peeps!

FQ: Along the same lines, one of my favorite lines in the book occurs on the second page of chapter 1, “...Zack is now eye-level with the Portly Lady’s thick cankles.” I think that’s when I realized this was going to be a fun read. Do these very descriptive phrases just pop into your head or are these things that you perhaps come up with when doing a re-edit/rewrite of the text?

NELLIS: About 75% of the time, the snarkiness just hits my head like a baseball at Yankee Stadium (well, before all the fanfare, lawsuits, and nets). Besides, all the best teachers are a bit crazy—or is that just something I tell myself? After talking with tiny humans all day, the mutual brain training is quite evident, don’t you think?

FQ: As I mentioned in my review, Sully the dog was probably my favorite character. Is he perhaps based on your own dog?

Author Theresa Nellis

NELLIS: Yes, yes, yes! Years ago, I had a goofy boxer who embodied every nonmagical trait Sully has. A scene from The Book of Peter is a true mark of a Boxer:

“Peter drags his feet along the tattered old sidewalk and nearly trips over a particularly tall group of weeds that had forced their way through the cracks. Sully examines the weeds, does a few quick circles, and relieves himself. Omar walks up behind the dog, plucks a reed, puts it into his mouth, and feverishly chews on it as they walk.” (pg. 133)

FQ: Kate Powell kept a lot of secrets from her husband. How was she able to hide her family secrets from Tom? Do you think he might have suspected even a little?

NELLIS: He didn’t suspect nearly enough. But dear ol’ Tom did start to catch on after his death scare from touching the Book of Secrets.

“Mr. Powell grabs at the smoke-filled snake [oozing from the Book of Secrets]. Dark fangs snap at him, releasing thick pools of blood from the meaty part of his thumb. He shrieks and reaches for the snake with his free hand. And like dangling a bone in front of a dog, the snake lunges at his other hand.” (pg. 49)

FQ: The best way, in my opinion, to get readers to dislike a character is to have that character be mean to an animal. And Peter doesn’t disappoint in this—from calling Sully a “stupid mutt” to actually hurting the dog. Was it a hard choice, as an author, to include these things in your story?

NELLIS: As an animal lover, the animal scenes were the most difficult for me to write. In fact, I rewrote three entire scenes until I was satisfied with Sully’s outcome. However, the final book resolves this in a tender way, though it will take a while because Peter doesn’t do anything on a normal timeline.

FQ: The Book of Secrets—such a cool idea. Without giving away any spoilers, was this a concept you had from the beginning of the series or did it develop as the series progressed?

NELLIS: I envisioned an entire story about the Book of Secrets as a spinoff from this series. However, this part seemed to answer so many of the magical questions I had spinning through my head that I simply had to share it with The Portly Lady’sreaders, too!

FQ: I really felt sorry for Huxley as the story developed. But then, I’d read another chapter and find myself really disliking him. The same thing happened with Peter, although I can’t say where/when for fear of giving too much away. Was this emotional up and down intentional?

NELLIS: My, my, my—Book 3 has some serious surprises in store for you! On a serious note, I pulled from many of my experiences as a social worker as I developed this character. However, Hux won’t disappoint. That’s it—my lips are sealed!

FQ: The story ends in a big gasp (for the reader). Please tell me you’re working on book 3 and we won’t have to wait too long to see what happens.

NELLIS: I’m delighted to share that Book 3 is in the final editing stages. It is my favorite of the three, and I cried as I typed the last line. Well, not really when I typed it because it was the first line I wrote of the third book—but you get the idea.

FQ: Your series has the tag line— “A YA Dark Magic Fantasy Series – Because Happily Ever After is Best Left for Fairytales!” This is absolutely perfect for your series and it’s definitely a tag line readers will remember. Have you had any feedback from readers about it?

NELLIS: I have had some feedback about this. Although my books are intended for both male and female readers, I have received a lot of great feedback from parents of sons. Their reluctant readers just don’t enjoy reading. This series—and all its snarkiness—was right up their alley. Parents, I’ve got your back on this one. Keep your kids reading all the way through to the end of Book 3!

#BookReview of Spirit: A Book of Poetry by James Murdock

By: James Murdock
Publisher: Art of Telling Publications
Publication Date: June 30, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-7348447-2-6
Reviewed by: Lily Andrews
Review Date: July 18, 2022
A deep dive into the human bubble with a cadre of impressive imagery and genuine flair of originality, Spirit is a gala for the spirit and the heart.
Voyeuristic in all the right ways, the poems reflect upon themes such as faith, freedom, loss, love nature, war, and self-discovery. Some poems are long traversing multiple pages such as Ashlyn and Maddie, Wave, Howie, and the Gettysburg Address as others come across as just a few lines such as Atheist and the Believer and Spirit.
Often, Murdock explores the fundamental poetic technique. In Wind, for example, visual imagery dominates. Elsewhere, he offers readers kinesthetic imagery with words such as “I began as a ripple with a thousand miles of fetch before me. The power pushes me bigger, higher, faster, barreling toward where I know I will die.”
In other collections, meaning accrues through repetition creating an intoxicating pattern through the rhythm. In Wall, for example, the repetition present heightens the poetic effect. Further, the entries meditate upon life's musings. In Shooter, for example, the poet condemns some of society's evils such as gun attacks. He takes a stand with words such as: "Take that gun away and he has left the wretched little man he was before he got that gun in his hand."
In others like Maddie, the warmth and joy that surrounds an innocent newborn is heartfelt. Murdock juxtaposes this with entries such as Body Count and Death by Drone whose subject is predominantly on the horrors of death. This alteration of serenity and sadness creates a complex realness that cross-examines, impedes, and edifies. The poems deal with familiar objects, scenes, imagery, principles, and viewpoints in adept creativity that define all human realms including the struggles and successes.
The anthology is schematically titled, bearing subjects that are suggested by their titles. The anapestic tetrameters and line alternation that appear often across the pages provide varying rhymes resulting in distinct clarity and cohesion. While some appear to be narrative poems such as The Girl in the Road, others convey a journey of emotions such as joy, disappointment, pain, heartbreak, and hope. Together, they work to demonstrate James Murdock's enthusiasm and skill for his craft.
Multiple poems invoke tenets of unabashed social justice as a path towards liberty and authenticity. Spirit is truly a breath in experience. They cry to be read out loud, to be set free in readers' mouths where their shine will not be stolen. Further, the lines move like a wild tangled forest, with treasures concealed within. There is something for everyone along the pages. Murdock's work is a deft portrait of the power of poetry to inform, instruct, caution, and guide. The quietly powerful and pensive soliloquy present in some entries further provides a safe platform to reflect and ponder on the subject herein.
Quill says: The masterstroke of this piece of art by James Murdock is the whip-smart clarity of the climactic discourses that make for a nuance-filled experience.

Meet Author Angela Gold

Meet author Angela Gold, author of The Lion Within: Book 1 of the
Power Unleashed series.

Visit our site and learn how you can get your own author bio page.

#bookreview - The Lion Within: Power Unleashed Series, Book 1

The Lion Within: Power Unleashed Series, Book 1

By: Angela L Gold
Publication Date: June 11, 2021
ISBN: 979-8517039545
Reviewed by: Dianne Woodman
Review Date: July 19, 2022

The Lion Within by Angela L Gold is the first book in the Power Unleashed Series. The year is 2078, and the United World Order governs the world population. The Order controls every aspect of a person's life, including religious beliefs. Anyone who professes the existence of divine power is imprisoned and executed. The story is centered around young adult Rory Rydell, a physician student who is part of a training program to become a full-fledged doctor.

When a comatose patient is admitted to the hospital, Rory's life is dramatically affected. Even though there is no proof of the patient regaining consciousness, Rory converses with the patient, who believes Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that Rory is the chosen leader of a rebellion against the Order. At first, Rory thinks she is suffering from hallucinations. Nevertheless, as a result of these conversations, Rory accepts Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. However, she questions God's wisdom in choosing her to lead the rebellion.

The path Rory has chosen is not an easy one. She feels unqualified to overthrow the government's stranglehold on society, as she is a new child of God. Rory’s parents appear to be advocates of the Order, and she struggles with how to deal with her fiancĂ©, who does not have a relationship with God. To complicate matters even more, the role Rory will play as the rebellion’s leader is unclear.

The Lion Within is an exceptionally well-crafted, thought-provoking story that illustrates the universal implications when it comes to people's opinions about whether there is divine power at work in the universe. Readers see the radical difference between those who devote their lives to following God regardless of the consequences and those in global leadership positions who profess God’s lack of existence and persecute anyone who dares to disagree with them.

The author has crafted believable characters with clear motivations behind their behaviors and actions, whether they stand out positively or negatively. Rory's journey in faith includes an out-of-body experience, a new relationship with Jesus Christ, dealing with feelings of inadequacy to fulfill God's calling, visits from an angel, miracles, and supportive believers. These things lead to faith transforming her life in ways that the unimaginable becomes imaginable.

Gold not only shows what unfolds in people's lives when two sides have opposite views in conjunction with their beliefs about whether divine power exists but also the fallout that results from the disparate treatment of people in a society dominated by a dictatorship. Readers get a first-hand look into how God works in Rory's faith journey in which she faces tests that challenge her physically and emotionally. The author has written a book that will give readers something to think about and stay with them long after reading it.

Quill says: The Lion Within is an inspirational story of a young woman's incredible journey of spiritual transformation in the face of overwhelming odds.

For more information on The Lion Within: Power Unleashed Series, Book 1, please visit the author's website at:

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

#BookReview - The Guitar Player and Other Songs of Exile by Jo Ann Kiser

The Guitar Player and Other Songs of Exile

By: Jo Ann Kiser
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: July 11, 2022
ISBN: 978-1639884384
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: July 18, 2022

In these memory-tinged stories, author Jo Ann Kiser revisits the scenes of her youth and development in a manner both touching and amusing as she depicts scenarios centered around her home place in eastern Kentucky.

In the first of fourteen tales, "The Guitar Player," Kiser tells introduces a guitar player, Hollis Ray, a man it seems without age or history who appears many times in the recollections of Clara, a tough-spirited girl determined to finish her schooling despite the raw circumstances her family is mired in. Her father Otis, brother Luke and she must live in a dingy hotel seeking work to bolster the family finances and get her back to college. Strangely, Hollis Ray is part of the saga, sharing his folkloric talents, singing the old songs.

Each of Kiser’s stories are imbued with the symbolism and sad realities of bygone times: many babies lost in childbirth; the struggles between the coal mine operators and the unions organized by desperate miners whose lives are under threat every time they go down in the damp darkness; the diligence of mothers trying to keep families fed on whatever foods can be found; the simple legacies of battered houses, old photos and a wedding ring quilt. Through each scenario there are observers, mostly female but some hard-working men as well. Settings range from “a string of gaunt gray houses perched above a dark greasy river” in a mining village, to the excitements of New York City and the quickly fading comforts of Florida, as characters migrate for money and a new lease on some form of secure lifestyle. The final story, “Encounters of a Close Kind,” links some of the families together in a visit to gravesites high on a hill.

There is little doubt that author Kiser is portraying herself, in bits and pieces, throughout this emotive collection. Scattered through the narrations are young women from the Kentucky byways longing to be back in the safety of a school dorm, clinging to hopes vested in writing and editing jobs such as Kiser has pursued in her own ventures away from coal country and factory towns. Though they have different names and disparate heritage, each is devoted in some way to the past, while embracing the alluring prospects of education, improvement, and a brighter future. Kiser’s prose is delicate and poignant, infused with the accents and small touches that credibly reveal her humble beginnings. Readers will hope for more offerings from this strong American voice.

Quill says: In The Guitar Player, Jo Ann Kiser has wrapped her many special characters in a cloak of memories - some harsh, some tender, all related in some way to hard times and a poverty-shaded childhood that many readers will recognize and identify with.

For more information on The Guitar Player and Other Songs of Exile, please visit the author's website at: