Tuesday, September 27, 2022

#BookReview of the Adventures of Tandi the Toucan

The Adventures of Tandi the Toucan

By: Julie Jakeman
Publication Date: September 5, 2022
ISBN: 979-8847423960
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: September 24, 2022
Meet Tandi, a beautiful toucan who is about to take children on a fascinating journey through her home in the Brazilian rainforest as she, and readers, learn about deforestation and what can be done to halt its destructive forces.
Tandi, a brightly colored toucan, is enjoying her day along the river where she lives. Her home, the rainforest, is full of life of all sorts – both animal and plant. We meet snakes, monkeys, and even jaguars and learn how the Amazon is “…a tangled web of trees and plants and vines,” and how all those living there depend on this intricate balance to sustain them.
But there’s a problem in the rainforest that has Tandi worried. She’s noticed that people have been coming into the forest and cutting trees down and taking away the wood. The forest is shrinking, and it appears that if it continues, her home may disappear. Tandi sees some heavy-duty trucks move in and then workers with chainsaws appear and cut down all the trees. It’s even worse, says Tandi’s friend the frog who tells Tandi:
“It happens all around the world,”
The frog said with a croak.
“They chop and burn away all day.
It’s gone beyond a joke.”
And then Tandi gets some more bad news:
A tamarin came on the scene,
her baby on her back,
“Without the sturdy trees,” she said,
“The earth just seems to crack.”
Tandi, and indeed all the animals, are worried. What can they do? Will the destruction stop before it’s too late?
Author Julie Jakeman has written a sweet and instructive story about the deforestation of the Amazon that children can easily understand. It clearly lays out the problem, showing readers what exactly is happening and how those things lead to the destruction of rainforests around the world. While the story tackles a serious topic, it manages to stay upbeat and positive throughout. Tandi learns about the destruction of her home, but also discovers how some people are working to restore the forests by planting new trees. The story is written in rhyme and in this tale, the rhyme works perfectly – no strained lines where the text doesn't quite fit. Finally, the illustrations are lovely – bright, bursting with detail, and just plain fun. What a great book to share with someone special who may want to learn about forest life or simply loves stories about animals.
Quill says: The Adventures of Tandi the Toucan is a delightful story, beautifully illustrated, that clearly shows children the dangers of deforestation and what can be done to stop and reverse the damage before it is too late.

Friday, September 23, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Jill George, author of The Light Among Us: The Story of Elizabeth Carne, Cornwall

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Trix Lee-Rainwater is talking with Jill George, author of The Light Among Us: The Story of Elizabeth Carne, Cornwall.
FQ: This was an extremely well-researched historical fiction novel about a non-fictional woman. I am curious - what were your thoughts that day when you first chose to write about Elizabeth Carne?
GEORGE: Anger. It was a day during the lockdown so I wasn’t my best anyway. I was angry that what I found on the web about her said that she had inherited a box of rocks. I thought, “How dismissive and even lazy, what is written about her on the web! She was brilliant in so many ways.” I also feel like back in the early 1800s, she must have seemed like someone from another planet to those around her; she was so smart and capable. I tend to think of brilliant people of the past as people from another time or planet placed there to advance us significantly. I feel like Charles Darwin was one of these people, as another example. Yes, I was so mad that I said to myself, “I am going to correct this wrong by writing a book about her to demonstrate just how amazing she was.”
FQ: Henry Pearce is a fictitious character in the life of non-fictitious Elizabeth Carne. Aside from what he represents, could you tell us more about Henry as a character?
GEORGE: Henry is the adoring and needing public that Elizabeth serves as her mission, as you know. He was an impatient young man in the beginning, eager to prove that he was a capable, committed man, which is why he married. He thought a wife would add to his credibility and therefore help him advance, which he did, but not because of her. Henry liked to read, mostly about sailing ships and navigation, when he had time. He truly regretted never having any children but since he only truly loved Bess, he only wanted children with her. He thought her children would be mild-tempered, intelligent, and dutiful like her. He was so distraught at the end of the book, he gave up his lucrative occupation and bought a boat, where he could live and fish in seclusion, unbothered by the corruption and disappointments of the land-based world.
FQ: I was torn about Joseph Carne. I respect his unerring conviction to set Elizabeth as his heir apparent but, at the same time, I felt saddened by the fact that Elizabeth did not have a choice on the matter. Could you share with us your insights about this?
GEORGE:Elizabeth was not someone who was easily influenced but her father was one who could convince her when needed. While she did have many choices, more than any typical woman of the time, she actually chose the mission and inheritance a few times, based on her father’s discussions with her and based on her own feelings of the importance of meaning. When you read her book Three Months’ Rest at Pau, she reveals to you that duty to friends, neighbors, family, and work are where she believes the true happiness in life are found. Not in pleasurable vacations or other beautiful things. In fact, she says in a poem, “The road to beauty is curved and the road to duty is straight.” I think you can feel okay that she really had duty in her DNA and any other choice would have made her feel poorly later on.
FQ: Aside from Elizabeth, which character did you find most interesting to write?
GEORGE: Henry. I tried to pour lots of passion and emotion into him because Elizabeth and women of her time were not supposed to be loud or emotional as a rule. I attempted to make Henry a bit complicated in that he was a good man who married questionably. He was a kind man but could also get angry and physical. He was handsome but also no ladies’ man—he had integrity and ethics. When temptation came close, he was conflicted about what to do and felt bad about it. Tough choices that people in real life had to make back then to survive. It is truly amazing how many people made it to old age! In summary, Henry was challenging and interesting to write as I tried to add depth to him.
FQ: Could you tell us more about your writing process for this book? Did you brainstorm the overall concept first before partnering with Dr. Dirring?
GEORGE: I had my full, detailed book outline prior to having met John. I was working on historical and family tree details with my dear friend Melissa Hardie. She got so tired of me emailing her with questions (keep in mind she was in Penzance and I was in Pittsburgh and we had not met), that she told me to ask John Dirring, a co-presenter and Ph.D. in Victorian Banking, some of my questions. So I did. I emailed him. I dropped on him, out of the blue, like...a big hot mess. When he said he could answer some of my strategic questions as a subject matter expert and oh, did I know about the ship wreck, I was hooked! After many weeks of his work, I was finally able to convince him, given all his contributions with historical facts and editing, to be listed as a “contributing author.”
Fine, he said. It will be fun, I said. I had not met him in person, either. I had ninety percent of the book done but could not get over to Cornwall because of Covid travel restrictions. I finally dodged two variants and met John on the Paddington Station platform. We went to Penzance and walked to and from every single site mentioned in the book. And do you know, he went there a few days early to make sure he knew where everything was? I mean to tell you, he is a gent. A true gent. I stumbled on such a wonderful Swiss Army Knife when I met him on email. We trudged through four inches of mud and rain, over a mile, to get to the Boscawen-Un standing stones. We tramped through graveyards. We walked from Chapel House to St. Michael’s Mount. All of the photos I have of him show him leading the way and me walking behind, much more slowly. I lost three toenails on that trip, walking to every site. It was one of the best trips of my life! I am so glad we did it. And I added about another 10,000 words of color to the book, so the trip was extremely worthwhile.
FQ: Elizabeth Carne is a remarkable woman. Which of her multitudes of contributions to society would you say is most salient to you?
Author Jill George

GEORGE: When someone logically determines the best course of action is exactly opposite of what the majority thinks and oh, by the way, you have no opinion. You aren’t allowed to have an opinion. And to write books about it? Incredible. So my vote is for Elizabeth’s work on reducing the class system and improving inclusion of the lower classes. Imagine how resistant men were to that idea, how laughable they thought it was! Yes, J.S. Mill fought for inclusion of women, but even he was rejected time and again. The confidence of will to put herself forward in that fashion and to have the foresight to think through and write about factors driving the need for social inclusion is just remarkable to me. She developed a road map for society that most of society did not follow. Think about where we would be as a world if society had followed her roadmap, her logic, her recommendations. We would be richer in every way.
FQ: Do you ever plan to write nonfiction such as a biography?
GEORGE: I would love to. In fact, my third book just might be a biography of how J.S. Mill came to believe in women so strongly and his love affair with Henrietta, his eventual wife. That intrigues me so much because I believe women stand on his shoulders today. He paved the way, as a man, for integration of women in rights to vote, etc. And the love story between those two is incredible. He actually suggested to her husband that he loved Henrietta more and so her current husband should allow him (Mill) and Henrietta to spend time together. Then, when she died, he died soon after. What do you think? Should we do it? John is somewhat interested too.
FQ: The love that struck me the most in this book wasn’t the love between Henry and Elizabeth but Elizabeth’s love for purpose and learning. Was that something you were hoping readers would pick up on?
GEORGE: Absolutely. I was hoping readers would come away with the fact that not only did Elizabeth write books, but her mission went beyond that to trying to solve the root cause of the poverty problem: lack of education and options. I think readers should think similarly in that we need to look beyond. Looking outward and forward is what helped Steve Jobs innovate at Apple. One of the sayings in his biography is, “Think bigger. Connect the dots to something larger.” This is Elizabeth’s premise, too. Women then and now can not only have multidisciplinary learning but can work shoulder-to-shoulder with those making decisions and solving problems. And, wow, do we have problems. Elizabeth would be so proud of our accomplishments but staggered by our problems, I believe. It takes all of us.
Thank you for this opportunity. I enjoyed answering these questions.
Best regards,

Thursday, September 22, 2022

#BookReview - The Garden by Robin Strong

The Garden

By: Robin Strong
Publication Date: October 18, 2022
ISBN: 978-0986231773
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: September 19, 2022
Creativity maven and debut author Robin Strong has constructed two realities that intertwine in this vibrant novel for young adults, in which a young woman’s ambitions collide with events in a virtual world where she will encounter her deepest fears – and overcome them.
When Lucy Fernández was in 4th grade, she saw the school bully tormenting a rather odd, new boy named Ian. For reasons she can’t fathom, since she is the brainy, not scrappy, type, she aggressively defends Ian, and a friendship is born. The relationship between them will flourish in the final year of high school, when she is grappling with her failure to win first place in a crucial TechEd competition that would have all but guaranteed her entry into MIT – her childhood dream. Ian asks her to visit him at home and reveals his own potential entry in a tech competition: he has invented a virtual reality so life-like that Lucy is immediately enchanted by it. The scenery is blissful and she can be as free there as she wishes. The people that Ian has concocted for his world, though, are rather mechanical in their actions and relationships, and this is a flaw that the two teens strive to improve after Ian invites Lucy to partner with him on his project. One important influence on Lucy is her anthropology teacher, Ms. Howell, who sees a bit of her younger, not always successful, self in Lucy and privately urges her to find courage in the challenges that failure can invoke. Lucy develops a personal connection with one virtual girl, Evie. As the virtual world must suddenly overcome the machinations of an evil godlike figure, the dangers to its existence become Lucy’s call to fight in their defense. Pushing Evie to unaccustomed heights of boldness and rebellion will energize Lucy’s own private struggles with self-esteem.
Strong, a freelance editor and Tedx speaker, offers this engaging tale, sure to capture an audience of young readers, and particularly young women, with sharp minds and a sci-fi/fantasy/techie bent. The story has powerful cinematic possibility, with the two teens’ visits to their co-created universe offering wide scope for excitement and change. The rebellion that arises in the VR realm as a result of human tampering is credible, harrowing and ultimately gratifying. Events are clearly depicted and easily envisioned, the characters well drawn and memorable - geeky genius Ian, Lucy’s wise mentor Ms. Howell, and of course Lucy herself, driving herself to impossible perfection, crying in frustration when she misses the unattainable mark, and rejoicing when she finally gets it right.
Quill says: The Garden, geared to a youthful, imaginative audience, features swift scene changes, teen torments, the mysteries of VR technology, and even a small sliver of romance. So compelling is Lucy’s story that readers may well pester Robin Strong for a sequel to expand on her next adventures.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

#BookReview of Don't Look Back: A Mack & M Mystery by Stephen Winn

Don’t Look Back: A Mack & M Mystery

By: Stephen Winn
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: October 2022
ISBN: 978-1639885800
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: September 19, 2022

Stephen Winn pens a winning formula of intrigue, murder, mystery, and who-done-it in his latest Mack & M Mystery Series, Don’t Look Back.

Mackenzie (Mack) Sampson is a relatively successful private investigator. A few years back, he was an even greater detective with Boston Homicide. Detective Nik Lewis, Mack’s boss, used to think as much at one time. That was until Mack screwed up royally by not only showing up drunk to a crime scene but compromising the evidence as well. There were no more ‘get out of jail free’ cards for Mack and Detective Lewis told him that when he fired him on the spot that fateful day.

Fast-forward a few years later and Mack is doing ‘okay’ but the reality is if he doesn’t pull in new business soon, it won’t be long before the doors to his business close permanently. Mack reminisces back to that time when the love of his life Jamie was still alive and how he got to where he is now. Back then, his feet were planted firmly on the ground and he and Janie were destined to live happily ever after until a devastating car accident took Jamie away from him. That’s when alcohol and prescription drugs set up permanent residency in Mack’s life that eventually ruined his professional life as a detective with Boston Homicide. A few years later, he opens his private investigation firm. However, business has been less than great and Mack is worried about yet another devastating closure in his book of life.

Hope shines bright when one least expects it and such is the case for Mack. It seems a body is found in the trunk of an abandoned vehicle outside one of the local watering holes. The car, however, isn’t your typical ‘beater.’ Rather it is a Bently and it just so happens to belong to Bill Stewart, esteemed partner of John Whiting in the successful Royal Ransom import business. John smells a rate and doesn’t trust the local law enforcement to get to the bottom of what really happened to his partner. It’s a win-win situation for both John Whiting and Mack the day he walks through the doors of Mack’s business. For Whiting, the prospect of getting to the truth and for Mack, the offer of $100,000 to keep his business doors open to see another day. What Mack doesn’t know is this God-sent pay day is going to lead him down some very interesting paths before he can stamp the file ‘case closed.’

Stephen Winn knows how to spin a captivating murder mystery. His old school style writing has the allure of ‘gum shoe’ detective nuance sprinkled throughout. Main character Mackenzie Sampson is a guy’s guy and there is an affectionate twist throughout the way Mr. Winn shares the spotlight when showcasing the relationship between Mack and his beloved dog ‘Woof.’ While Winn doesn’t come right out and paint character Mack as a full-blown alcoholic, there are subtleties throughout the read toward Mack’s struggle with alcohol and prescription drugs and his personal reasoning of why it’s okay for him to do so: "...Alcohol hadn’t eased the repetitive anxiety attacks, so he also began popping Xanax like candy. His two growing addictions ended up ruining his professional life—a stellar career with Boston Homicide..." Winn has blended a diverse cast of characters among Mack’s firm with Paula (‘Paul’), M and himself who are likened to a group of misfits who are conversely quite good at their respective contributions. Paula is the office administrator and it’s clear she is the glue. M is the martial arts ‘enforcer’ who keeps things safe in his stealth way and Mack is the charisma who can land the business. The pace is at a great clip from start to finish and the dialogue is credible. Simply put, Mr. Winn has crafted an engaging read and I can only hope he is working on the next in this detective series.

Quill says: Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, Don’t Look Back will throw you a curve ball when you least expected it!

For more information on Don’t Look Back, a Mack & M Mystery, please visit the author's website at: www.stephenwinn.com.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

#BookReview - Late in the Day by Brett Shapiro

Late in the Day

By: Brett Shapiro
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: October 21, 2022
ISBN: 978-1639885336
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: September 19, 2022
Brett Shapiro delivers a heartfelt read by uniting three unsuspecting souls in his latest novel, Late in the Day.
Hank Bauer is recently widowed and cannot get beyond the passing of his beloved Marilyn. They were a family unit for so many years, but he doesn’t spend much time with their two sons, Jonathan, and Matthew, anymore. They have their own lives now. He spends his days on a regimented schedule of rising with the sun and takes his daily constitutional walk on the beach before people arrive. It’s difficult to ‘be’ now that Marilyn is gone. It was much easier when they could share their days with each other. The silence is deafening, and Hank has settled into the false comfort of existence versus living.

Seth Erlich is reinventing his life. After more than two decades of spending his life with Yoni; a man he thought would be his life partner, he calls it quits. Yoni was everything Seth imagined who could make life complete. If Seth could be honest with himself, he would admit the streets of New York had been closing in on him for a while. And his relationship with Yoni had also been in a slow decline for quite a few years before he finally made the decision to leave. Seth didn’t want to end the relationship with his life partner Yoni. Rather, it was an inevitability that it was time. A drastic change of scenery was in order and Seth leaves the familiarity of his New York stomping grounds and heads south to Florida where he welcomes a new companion in the form of a dog. At least the two can spend quality time with each other as they take those daily (and meaningful) walks along the beach at sunrise.
Honey Cavanaugh is a homemaker, and she is married to Glen. In the early years of their marriage, Honey would reflect on how fortunate for her that the school jock chose her. She wasn’t necessarily the ‘plain Jane,’ but she certainly wasn’t the head cheerleader. Back in those days, Glen was quite the catch with his buffed body and popularity. How did they arrive at the place where they are now? Why does Glen want to do nothing but sit in his recliner, watch television, and eat? How is it that he cannot see he carries way too much weight? They used to be intimate daily, and the sheer notion of intimacy is more than a distant memory. Honey loves the beach and specifically loves to capture the magnificent sunrises through her camera’s eye. The one thing Hank, Seth, and Honey all have in common is their daily connection with the beach of Atlantique, Florida: close to where the three live. Little did they know, this factor was merely the beginning of what would unfold as time marched forward.
Brett Shapiro has done a masterful job of marrying the stand-alone lives of three people who would eventually merge together into a wonderful journey of life itself. He has an exceptional vision when it comes to setting a scene that opens the door wide for his audience to cross the threshold and formulate the picture: "...The neighborhood was a safe one, not like the older beachside neighborhoods of Atlantique whose residents had picked up bungalows for a song back in the day so they could spend their days surfing and have a shelter to return to, without paying attention to the upkeep that would be required when their roof started to leak or their windows spawned hairline cracks from seasons of hurricanes. The residents of those neighborhoods got by with word-of-mouth yard work, car repair, plumbing emergencies...” He assigns a relatable voice to the narrator of the story that is akin to sitting and having a long afternoon chat with someone one has known most of their life. The life’s challenges among characters Hank, Honey, and Seth are credible and relatable and I applaud Mr. Shapiro for not pouring unnecessary embellishment on top of characters that work beautifully on just being believable, everyday people. This book is a terrific account of those of us who have arrived at that point in life where our children are grown and gone; we are retired (or about to retire) along with experiencing the loss of a loved one (or more). Well done Mr. Shapiro! This was a very captivating read.
Quill says: Late in the Day is a testament to the notion that life is meant to be embraced to its fullest every day!

Monday, September 19, 2022

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This Month's Book Giveaway Book - Have you entered yet?

This month's book giveaway. Have you entered yet?


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Sunday, September 18, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Jacek Waliszewski, author of Air Boat

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Jacek Waliszewski, author of Air Boat: Love is an Adventure.

FQ: First, thank you for your service!

And now for the questions. First, I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but I have to know...how does a Green Beret turn author and start writing romance novels? I suspect most people would think you’d write tough guy/action/mystery type books.

WALISZEWSKI: I’m a romantic at heart, and a book worm as well. Also, a Green Beret is slightly different than ‘all the other’ Special Operators. We are all taught another language, we often live with and next to our partners, and our greatest weapons aren’t our guns, rather, our skills as Warrior Diplomats. A great example of this is that on this last (and final) mission to Afghanistan, we were direct personal advisors to the last Special Operations General of Afghanistan – Sami Sadat – This relationship is captured viscerally by National Geographic in the movie Retrograde, which was directed by Matt Heineman and just debuted in Telluride, the Zurich film festival, as well as a few others. Here’s the teaser link www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeCEhBvfgOc (For reference, I am the ‘bearded guy’ seen in the first 12 seconds.) 

Suffice to say, my experiences that directly or indirectly influence my writing are going to be rooted in all aspects of life, and love, romance, and adventure are going to be critical aspects of that, especially to a hopeless romantic like myself.

FQ: Is it true that you wrote Air Boat while stationed overseas? If so, would you tell our readers how that happened? 

WALISZEWSKI: Absolutely. I started writing Air Boat while in Afghanistan in 2021. I was on the last SF team (12 Green Beret’s) in Helmand, Afghanistan. In those last few months, our stress levels were through the roof because we didn’t know how it would turn out (Were we evacuating? Were we staying behind and fighting? Are we going to hold out like the Alamo against the Taliban?)

To top it off, a 20-year war was ending all around us and it was mind blowing.

In the midst of this, I found myself walking through a very post-apocalyptic landscape of buildings, roads, and memories, some not ones I wanted to particularly revisit. So I wanted to read something, that could distract me fully.

I found (read: I broke into) an old abandoned USO library, and looked through all their dusty books, some looking as if they’d never been read before, others holding onto whatever glue hadn’t dried out in the multiple 120F summers they had spent there. I would pick up a book, read the first page, and put it down. Pick up another book, read the first paragraph, and put it down. I’d try to start in the middle of a different book, but it didn’t work for me either. Nothing resonated. The books were too stereotypical, or they were too fantastic, or they were too romantic, or too predictable. I couldn’t believe them, let alone find the time to absorb from them what their author had wanted me to discover. In short, I couldn’t let the book do what a book was supposed to do - to tell a story that would serve as a time machine to another world or place in history. (I hope I’ve painted the picture of where I was when I was trying to find a book to read, no doubt the reason I couldn’t find one!)
So what did I do? I started writing the book I wanted to read. To make a long story long, that was the genesis of Air Boat. A frustrated Green Beret, in the heart of Afghanistan, seeking a place to escape to, where love and friendships are paramount, and adventure is never too far behind.

FQ: Have any of your military buddies read the book? What has been their reaction?

Author Jacek Waliszewski

WALISZEWSKI: Several of the guys I work with have bought it - they told me they bought it for their wives or girlfriends - but in private, they tell me that they also read it after their significant others had, and really liked it. I won’t tell you their names, but I assure you it’s been a few very macho men – ha! Also, when I was writing it in Afghanistan, I shared the story with my guys in between when we were working, and the next day, we’d be in the middle of a meeting or operation, there’d be a lull, and they’d turn and ask me, “So what is Luke up to?” or, “What’s Saint getting into today?” and I realized that I wasn’t only creating a time machine for me, but also for the guys I was with.

FQ: The chapter where we go back in time and see Luke returning home to an empty house was so sad. Was that a hard chapter to write? 

WALISZEWSKI: This was a difficult story, yes. In part because I combined two true stories to write it. One was mine, where I came home early from a deployment and no one was home when I got back (my phone had broken and circumstance dictated that I didn’t have a spare key) and another friend of mine, who came home and his fiancĂ© had left him. He and I shared a few poignant moments and points of honesty over this, and when I asked if I could combine elements of his real life and mine to help explain what it sometimes feels like when you come home to a different world, where no one remembers your name or they care more about things like bake sales and HOA dues, he immediately said yes. But what’s more important, perhaps, is that ‘bearded guy’s return’ chapter wasn’t just a subset of my story or experience, but a lot of the guys with whom I work with, and it seems to have resonated.

FQ: How much of Jacek is in Luke? Or perhaps he is based on a friend or an amalgamation of several friends?

WALISZEWSKI: I work with a lot of phenomenal GBs that I admire and look up to. At first, I really drew on their characteristics, but then Luke (and Stella and Saint) became real people. I would get lost in their story and I wanted to do right by them. At a certain point the book was no longer about me telling a story in a book, it was about Luke and Stella getting their story out in the world. And there at the end, when Luke had to commit and make such a hard decision, I would be lying if I didn’t shed a tear knowing that I was responsible for creating that world.

FQ: The chapter where Luke is planning on returning Saint but does all he can to put off the inevitable was heartbreaking. I found myself hoping Luke decided to keep Saint and I think, for me, that’s when Luke really came to life and I really cared about him. Was that the plan? To show Luke’s gentle side?

WALISZEWSKI: I wrote from a place of honesty. Luke is a man who wants to do right by the world, even if there is a significant degree of personal sacrifice. Saint represents the one good thing Luke has found since coming back; a quiet understanding between the two, one of respect and love. So for Luke to have to choose between doing the right thing, and sacrificing himself just one more time, was critically important to showing him to be as human as all of us are. I wrote it in a way that I knew I would feel, a disjointed frustration between right and wrong, and I’m glad that the struggle felt real to you because it was very real to Luke.

FQ: I love the way you describe certain minor characters by a trait or clothing item - “The Bearded Man,” “Hat-Bro” - did these names just pop up as you wrote or were you thinking of trying something unique to define these characters?

WALISZEWSKI: Ha! Yes! (I’m laughing). This is my personal adaptation. I’ve travelled the world (4 continents, 40 countries) and worked with thousands of people from so many cultures in my time as a Green Beret. We (the collective GB community) often times find ourselves around a campfire or table retelling stories with our friends and family, and due to time and distance, we’ve sometimes forget what the person’s name was in the adventure we had just experienced, but we rarely forget them. So we give them nicknames, sometimes to continue the story, other times to exaggerate a particular characteristic. As I was writing Air Boat, when a character or a person who was worthy of mention came into Luke or Stella’s life, I found myself wanting to highlight them for the reader, but not necessarily distract the reader with anything more.

FQ: I’m guessing by the section where Luke meets the Russian ladies that like Luke, you too speak some Russian. I enjoyed that encounter as I too, know some Russian and so, found it fun to read/translate. Are you fluent? How many languages do you speak?

WALISZEWSKI: I was as fluent as I ever was when I lived in Eastern Europe for several years, and while I maintain some proficiency, it usually takes me a week or two to warm up my language skills. Right now I’m pretty good at Polish, still ok at Russian, and for a while I could speak Ukrainian pretty well. When I lived in Germany, my German was pretty solid, and when I was in Africa, after six months, my French was enough to get me into trouble and my Swahili was enough to get me out of it.

FQ: On your website, you mention being the son of Leszek Waliszewski, one of the original founders of the Solidarnosc movement in Poland. I understand you were only months old and yet helped with the movement. Do you recall stories from your father or anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

WALISZEWSKI: This is such a deep question and thank you for asking it. I had always been told about how my mom hid propaganda papers in my diaper and hoped I wouldn’t pee on them, and how my dad saw me for the first time after spending six months in prison. He relayed the story to me how his fellow Solidarnosc aka Solidarity members were so happy to see me they tore up some bed sheets and made a ‘prison’ birth certificate that I still have to this day. As I grew up more, he would tell me how he and Lech Walensa started working together, how he got arrested at the train station, about meeting Regan and briefing US Congress. My dad and mom are huge inspirations for standing up for what they thought was right, and restarting a life in America as immigrants with just two suitcases, two kids, a handful of dollars, and no English skills. Their struggles and sacrifices helped shape me to be who I am today, and I can never fully express my gratitude for their sacrifices.

FQ: What’s next for writing projects? Will we meet Luke and Stella again? (Please say yes!)

WALISZEWSKI: Glad you ask! While Stella doesn’t play a part in my next book, Luke and Kyle do. I’m halfway done with the Edge of Texas, where we follow Owen and Dakota through their romantic adventure. Owen is easy going but always planning, and Dakota is a journalist trying to gain inside access into US Special Operations in the middle east. Everyone’s plans are going great until Syria collapses in civil war, and Owen and Dakota have to work together to escape.

#BookReview of Air Boat: Love is in Adventure

Air Boat: Love is an Adventure

By: Jacek Waliszewski
Publication Date: July 2022
ISBN: 979-8839286757
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: September 16, 2022

A retired Green Beret with a somewhat mysterious past, a strong-willed woman who loves to fly, and an adorable three-legged Husky with a penchant for roaming set the stage for debut author Jacek Waliszewski's unique romance Air Boat.

Luke is an ex-Green Beret who has attempted to leave his past behind and make a new life in the woods of Montana. He lives alone in a house that he is slowly fixing up, and spends his free time fishing on a nearby lake. We first meet Luke as he settles in for a quiet morning of fishing. The lake is quiet except for the sounds of a nearby flock of geese. But the quiet is soon destroyed by a low-flying air boat. As the plane gets close, the geese panic and fly - right toward the plane. In order to avoid the birds, the pilot is forced to immediately dive toward the water...and Luke. The young man jumps into the water, flipping his kayak and losing his favorite fishing rod in the process. Yes, Luke is very upset.

Back at his cabin, Luke soon meets a lost dog - a three-legged husky, that, according to his collar, goes by the name of Saint. Perhaps Luke realizes just how lonely he is when he starts to plan a life with the sweet dog, buying food and a dog bed for his new buddy. But Saint's owners have posted flyers about the dog all over town and when Luke's friend hands him one of the lost dog flyers, Luke decides to do the right thing and return Saint to his rightful owners.

Arriving at Saint's home to return the dog, Luke meets Pierce and his wife Barbara. The military man agrees to stay for dinner as a "thank you" for finding and returning their dog, and soon meets the couple's daughter Stella. Things look promising until Luke discovers that Stella was the pilot of the plane that almost hit him. So much for sparks flying. But perhaps things will turn-around thanks to Saint, some flying lessons, and a trip to Minnesota...

Air Boat is one of those very enjoyable romance novels that quickly grabs you and before you know it, you've finished reading. While the writing was a bit stiff in the first few chapters, the author soon finds his stride and the story really takes off. Luke was an interesting character - he definitely had walls built around him, and whether those walls will come down thanks to Stella will keep readers guessing. Stella, in contrast to many woman portrayed in romance novels, was a very strong woman who didn't need a man to make her complete. There are some tense moments and events that will emote feelings of excitement, anticipation and a comment of "I did not see that coming." Kudos to Jacek Waliszewski for entering the highly competitive romance genre with a debut that should help establish him as an author to watch.

Quill says: Romance, suspense, and a few unexpected twists and turns makes Air Boata very satisfying read.

For more information on Air Boat: Love is an Adventure, please visit the author's Instagram page or his website.

Friday, September 16, 2022

#BookReview - He Wears a Blue Bonnet by John Orton

He Wears a Blue Bonnet

By: John Orton
Publisher: UK Book Publishing
Publication Date: July 8, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-915338-34-1
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: September 13, 2022
From award-winning author John Orton comes He Wears a Blue Bonnet, a historical fiction account of five young Scottish men who find themselves indentured servants. The setting is South Sheels, England in the 1650s.
Our young heroes become friends on the battlefield, and after Cromwell’s victory, forty of the soldiers are captured and sold to go work in the salt pans in South Sheels. Malky, Davey, Niall, Dougie and Tomag are among this group who find themselves living this new, rather bleak life. Working in the salt pans is a whole new life for the men, and as Malky and his friends try to figure out their love lives and careers, they often wonder if freedom will ever be attainable for them. As they navigate their lives the best that they can, trouble and mischief seem to consistently find them. In those days, Parliament was very strict regarding any immoral activities and the consequences for participating in these activities were severe. Public floggings were commonplace, and many townspeople flocked to the marketplace to witness them. The enforcers of these punishments did not discriminate among genders; it was not unusual for a woman who found herself pregnant out of wedlock to be publicly beaten for all the town to see.
The men do their best to adapt to the foreign culture of England into which they are immersed. Malky and Davey find love, although whether those loves will last is uncertain. Dougie discovers that he is not quite cut out for the intense work of the salt pans, which is made especially evident after he suffers intense burns from a chunk of burning coal one day. Niall escapes, while Tomag builds himself a good career distilling whiskey. These events just hit a few of the high spots of the fulfilling and diverse lives that the men lead while residing in South Sheels.
Orton has achieved success with He Wears a Blue Bonnet by balancing the accurate and thorough historical fiction in the story with the highly detailed character development that is present throughout. He Wears a Blue Bonnet is a unique story in that there is a myriad of characters, which can often lead to minimal character development. However, Orton does a superb job avoiding that common writing mistake.
As a reader who is not familiar with Scottish dialect/words, I appreciated the glossary that Orton included at the back of the book. It was very useful and I found myself flipping to it numerous times throughout the story. That was a smart addition by the author. Another bonus feature was the inclusion of several drawings and maps throughout the book. These helped bring the story to life and provided more of a backdrop for the setting itself.
Quill says: Author John Orton has penned a certain hit with He Wears a Blue Bonnet. So much more than just historical fiction, Orton’s novel provides in-depth characters that the reader will become emotionally invested in. Add in the shocking twists and turns and it's unlikely that you will stop reading until the last page is turned.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

#AuthorInterview with Tom Bisogno, author of Siena My Love

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Carolyn Haley is talking with Tom Bisogno, author of Siena My Love.
FQ: Based on the story itself and your author bio, it’s obvious this is a “book from the heart.” Would you say it’s a fictionalized autobiography, or just that the time, place, and music combined to inspire a love story?
BISOGNO: The first experience that influenced the book started when I was ten years old and I was assigned by the teacher to help a late registrant named Carol catch up on her classwork. Her Mom loved baking so I would walk Carol home and we would always get milk and cookies...I found you could actually be friends with a girl. But her dad got transferred to California, and I never saw her again. The music in the story is the music I heard and enjoyed listening to on the radio in my teens and still do on YouTube. The celebrity part was based on my imagining “What if a well-known celebrity like Sinatra or one of the crooners returned to visit a grandfather as an adult, was single, and then met his childhood friend and there were sparks?” So there are actually some autobiographical elements in the story's DNA. Since I only dare to sing in the shower, I am not Michael Ventura.
FQ: Siena obviously plays a very important role in your life, and your book. You mention in your bio on your website that you first visited Siena as a child with your family. What originally brought your family to Siena to vacation? Relatives or simply a desire to visit a beautiful part of Italy?
BISOGNO: I visited Siena as an adult a few times with my family. One time we lived in a thousand-year-old tower. I really loved the historic city, the pageantry and especially the wild horse race at the Palio, and of course the beautiful surrounding countryside, vineyards, and hills.
FQ: Your bio also tells us you’ve written for stage and film. Do you plan to convert Siena My Love into either of those media?
BISOGNO: Yes...as either a full-length film or a streaming 4-part TV series.
FQ: If you had to stand on stage today and sing one of the songs featured in the story, which would it be?
BISOGNO: My two favorites are “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” But I don’t think anyone will ask me to sing on stage.
FQ: I see from your website that you also offer workshops. Would you tell our readers a little about those, and how/why you started offering them?
BISOGNO: I taught the full range of communication subjects at WCSU, Marist, Iona, and Dominican colleges for 17 years. I missed teaching because I taught students valuable life skills and about teamwork and leadership. So, I'm always interested in sharing my knowledge and years of experience and research in many different interesting areas.
FQ: How do you go about structuring a story? Are you a plotter or do you write as the story develops in your mind?
BISOGNO: I did a detailed treatment like you do for a film to outline the elements of story as I thought it would develop. Using the treatment as a guide, I just started writing the novel and researched as needed. I even thanked Google for making it easy to find things quickly like the distances and travel times to places, or details on place and health issues. Of course, as I edited, I had to fix the tracking elements, expand the descriptions and dialogue, correct typos and misspelling, etc. My collaborative editors at Atmosphere Press were a great help in finalizing the process.
FQ: Of the diverse types of writing you’ve done—novel, script, screenplay, nonfiction—which comes most naturally to you, and we’re likely to see more of?
BISOGNO: I think I would love to do a variety of writing...a novel, a nonfiction book about communication... Currently I’m working on a screenplay or TV series for Siena My Love. I wrote a self-published coming-of-age book and I am thinking about revisiting and hopefully publishing it, and then doing a screenplay. But first I’m concentrating on Siena My Love until we know it is on its feet and going in the right direction.
FQ: One of the interesting aspects of the book is that you translate all the Italian dialogue into English. Those of us who are monolingual in English appreciate this very much! It makes us wonder how many languages you speak, and how many you write in. Tell us about that.
BISOGNO: Unfortunately, I took Latin (which is not very useful except for having many contributions to the English language) and French in both high school and college, but never had to use them. Alas, I am only fluent in English as my parents (my dad emigrated from Santa Lucia and my mom’s parents were from Sicily) spoke Italian as their secret language. They did not share it with me or my brothers and since my grandparents only spoke Italian, I never really knew them in any detail, though my grandfather was a gentle man and grandma was very religious. I did have help with a friend who is a bilingual Italian stage producer/director and her friend who translates for film projects.
FQ: Are you currently working on your next writing project? Or perhaps something else from your varied background - please tell us what’s next.
BISOGNO: I’m plotting the elements and selecting dialogue for the screenplay for Siena My Love. I do have several chapters of a nonfiction work on team and leadership skills that at some point I will revisit.

Monday, September 12, 2022

#BookReview of Annihilation (Gehenna, Book 2) by Kaylin McFarren

Annihilation (Gehenna, Book 2)

By: Kaylin McFarren
Publisher: Creative Edge Publishing LLC
Publication Date: January 3, 2022
ISBN: 978-1685640569
Reviewer: Rebecca Jane Johnson
Review Date: September 7, 2022
Annihilation is a dark fantasy with psychological complexity, multiple characters vying for power, and multiple subplots that continually take new directions. For readers who like to escape into drama that centers around domination and submission, Annihilation grabs the attention and sustains it.
The story begins with Lucinda, Lucifer’s greedy, soul-eating daughter, reigning as the Queen of Hell, just after her father Lucifer’s death. Her despotism and cruelty crave a battle between Heaven and Hell; she devours souls, so their power becomes hers. Lucinda wants Samara’s powers - Astral Wandering, Soul Whispering, and the ability to move through different dimensions. Samara is so powerful and beautiful because she is part demon, part human, and part angel. But her multiple dimensions get her into nightmarish struggles on Earth and in Hell.
Samara’s father Crighton is half angel and half demon while her mother, Ariel, is an angel trapped in a demon body. The love between Crighton and Ariel may be doomed due to Crighton’s enslavement to Lucinda. Using the couple, Lucinda tries to destroy Samara. Meanwhile, Samara confronts her own inner battle. She is haunted by three murders of her best friend, her former lover, and his recent lustful girlfriend. Samara struggles, feeling responsible for their deaths.
Lucinda’s plans involve seducing Samara’s young brother, Caleb, who is dead and gets his soul stolen. Coming to Caleb’s aid is Onoskelis, a demon who is a member of the rogue demon tribe called the Black Crows who have their own plans to overthrow Lucinda from inside Hell’s army. Things heat up after Lucinda enlists Caleb to be her right hand. Erotic tension builds. The intimate moment between Lucinda and Caleb reveals the depths of Lucinda’s evil imbued with eroticism.
Demons listen to each other’s thoughts, so Caleb learns to watch his thoughts as to not reveal mutiny. In this scenario, the great enemy is gaslighting, the psychological warfare in which one being tries to control another, especially by perceptual and emotional manipulation. The author weaves this kind of psychological warfare into the complex narrative. For readers roused by betrayal, this story offers one after another.
While everyone is distracted with these dramas, Lucifer returns from the dead, punishes Lucinda and then forces Samara into submission, and seats her on the throne as the new Queen of Hell.
This is not a story that pits the forces of good against the forces of evil, but reveals how those two forces cope with fear, sadness, and anger. Emotional tension and release swing from sophisticated to haphazard. A reader’s ability to care about outcomes is at times overwhelmed by sporadic plot twists.
Book 2 in the Gehanna Series, Annihilation, makes the most sense after reading Book 1, Soul Seeker. The rivalries between Lucinda and Ariel feel more urgent if readers know the backstory. Yes, there is psychological depth here, though in some moments, that psychological depth derails the momentum of the plot. For instance, after Ariel buries her first-born son, her inner dialogue makes it hard to follow if she is in grief or sexually aroused. But it eventually makes more sense when her dialogue with Crighton reveals that her sanity is in question.
Trigger warning: the author is generous with graphic descriptions of violent, gory death and torture and less generous in conveying details of scenery or characters’ physical descriptions. Overall, it’s a satisfying read for those who can forgive the numerous typographic errors in the text, and some references may be offensive to those who practice Wicca.
Quill says: Annihilation is a psychological thriller with action-packed dramatic suspense and gory details, a pleasurable read for seekers of dark fantasy.
For more information on Annihilation (Gehenna, Book 2), please visit the author's website at: www.kaylinmcfarren.com.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Check Out Kindlepreneur

Hey authors! Looking for some help with your marketing? Check out Kindlepreneur - it's a great site full of useful information for authors looking for ways to get their books seen/purchased.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

#AuthorInterview with McKinley Aspen, author of Praesidium (Shadows in the Wind, Book One)

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Carolyn Haley is talking with McKinley Aspen, author of Praesidium (Shadows in the Wind, Book 1).
FQ: Have you personally experienced any supernatural phenomena? If so, what happened?
ASPEN: I have personally experienced ghost interactions - like when my grandfather passed...the night before he passed he sat on the edge of my bed and talked to me and told me stories as if everything was perfectly normal and then he told me he was leaving and to take care of the family...the next morning when I woke up my family said ‘your mother had a tough night’ and I answered “oh I know Grandpa told me he was leaving” and I carried on like it was business as usual. The family members did not really like this response, but it was the truth of the matter. There was no other way to explain the things I knew and the things I had been told.
FQ: When you first conceived the story, were you planning for it to be a series, or did so many ideas start coming while writing that your vision expanded to “the continuing adventures” of the team?
ASPEN: When I first thought about this series, it was one gigantic brain dump onto paper. I thought “oh my goodness this is waaaay too long for a book” and then the idea of splitting it up and having a series just made good sense.
FQ: Did any particular novels or films inspire you to write Praesidium?
ASPEN: I have been inspired by all sorts of writing across many different genres - nothing in particular.
FQ: How about reality: Are any of the characters inspired by yourself or people you know?
ASPEN: Yes some of the characters have ’nods’ to people I have met throughout my lifetime
FQ: Your author bio mentions a family dog. What breed is he/she, and what’s his/her personality like?
ASPEN: Otis, the family puppy, is a rescue dog and he is a mixture - he has beautiful curly hair and is dark red, but he doesn’t shed. He is very sweet, and he turns 2 in September 2022!
FQ: What’s your process for structuring a story? Are you a plotter or a pantser, or something in between?
ASPEN: I am something in between and it depends what I am writing. For the spy novel I am currently working on, its more planning and pacing...it just depends.
FQ: The Praesidium of the title is not identified in the story. Will it be revealed later in the series, or are readers expected to figure out its meaning?
ASPEN: Praesidium means Protection - and while the word itself is not used in book one, it is intentional because in book two the reader learns more about the organization and the Latin names of the books...however, protection is highlighted as part of the job that the Raphael and his team bring to the world.
The next book in the series is Cogitatio (pronounced co-gee-ta-tee-oh) and it means REFLECTION. In book two Raphael begins the book using this word and explaining it.
FQ: Tell us something about the next volume. Is it in progress or complete? Will the same characters be featured, or will the cast change?
ASPEN: Book Two is in editing right now — the team members have grown, and there are a few new folks added along the way. A majority of book two deals with the idea of imprisonment, both individually (like a prison in your mind) and socially (like incarceration) and focuses again on highlighting hope...
Book Three is in draft...and Book Three reveals a lot of the backstory!