Wednesday, May 31, 2023

#AuthorInterview with Verlin Darrow, author of Murder for Liar

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with Verlin Darrow, author of Murder for Liar.
FQ: The list of industries you have worked in and jobs you have held in your lifetime is quite extensive. Is there one particular job or career that stands out to you as the most rewarding or exciting?
DARROW: Being a therapist has proven to be the most rewarding career/job I’ve ever had. Playing professional volleyball in Italy was certainly the most exciting.
As a therapist, I utilize all my hard-earned life experience, insight, professional skills, emotional and spiritual development, and whatever else gets pulled out of me in sessions in service to others. As I’ve aged, a lot of things that used to be important to me dropped away, leaving helping whoever I can as the remaining worthy activity. After all, we’re truly all in this together. (It could even be argued that our sense of ourselves as separate individuals is an illusion, but that’s a discussion for another time).
As a professional athlete, the excitement factor might seem obvious, but it went deeper than the competition and the fans. It was simply challenging every day to live in another country and try to build a life that worked. I have a lot of respect for anyone who manages to do that successfully, especially in this country with our gnarly language. For me, challenging equals exciting. For better or worse (and often worse), I’ve always pushed myself past psychologically safe bounds.
FQ: Murder for Liar is your fourth standalone book. Would you say there is a central theme that unites all four of your novels, or are they each their own separate entity?
DARROW: While separate novels, with unique characters and plots, all my books thus far embody underlying themes of how people change, what might lie beneath the physical world, and how do people cope with extraordinary events. In my latest book, Murder For Liar, Tom is a psychologist who has to figure out how to deal with seemingly impossible events, as well as several murders. To do so, he has to expand his sense of most everything. In my first novel, Blood and Wisdom, a private investigator solves a murder at a spiritual retreat center, while falling in love with its teacher. Coattail Karma is a wild, no holds barred fantasy thriller, taking similar themes to extremes. And Prodigy Quest explores what happens when a genius ten year-old is tasked with finding a book of wisdom. In that one, I include the contents of the book he finds as an appendix—the world according to Verlin.
FQ: At its core, Murder for Liar is a mystery but the psychological components of the story make it dark, intellectual, and at times, simply horrifying, which in turn makes it impossible to put down. What inspired the story? With you being a practicing psychotherapist, did you base some of this on your work with clients, or did you simply develop this remarkable story yourself?
DARROW: Actually, as hard as it might be to believe, a great deal of the plot, at least early on, was autobiographical. A long time ago, I was approached by a charismatic, spiritually-oriented guy who told me I was someone special in that realm, with a vital mission to perform. I posited that he was either crazy or quite spiritually advanced and knew what he was talking about. Biased by my ego—who doesn’t want to be special?—I settled on the latter since he could do things beyond logic and science—impressive, mind-blowing stuff. So I signed up as the first disciple of what became a small, benign cult, serving as my guru’s assistant. I eventually realized that our sincere and hardworking leader was also delusional, and I graduated myself and everyone else out of the group. So I grappled with some of what my protagonist does, which I think lends authenticity to being in Tom’s head as he weathers much more than I did, including murders.
As a therapist, I did indeed use amalgams of former clients to help me create believable characters. The story itself more or less wrote itself. My style is to get started and see what the hell happens. Then I fix the screw-ups later.
FQ: The supporting characters in Murder for Liar, including Zig-Zag, Dizzy, and George, are unique, to say the least. How did you develop such distinctive characters?
DARROW: I really don’t know. It feels like they write themselves, pretty much. I guess that represents the presence of my subconscious in my process. When something bubbles up, I’ve learned to trust it. Perhaps a character says—for no discernible reason—that they’re allergic to strawberries on page nineteen. Lo and behold, on page 248, this turns out to be an important plot point. It’s all a bit mysterious to me.
FQ: What would you say has been the biggest surprise to you thus far on your author journey since publishing your first book?
DARROW: How humbling the process is, leading to diminished pride about myself as a writer. As in other endeavors, when I reach a goal, especially one in relationship to creativity—like getting published—what feels as though it’s going to be the end result turns out to be just one more step in my process. In other words, whatever expectations I had around being a published author making my life complete or filling me with never ending warm puppy vibes inside got squashed. I’m still me, warts and all, and the fifteen minutes of fame, even if it’s stretched longer, is never sustaining in and of itself. The real satisfaction comes from the writing, not the result.
FQ: Do you have any plans for future books, and if so, what can you share about these plans?
DARROW: The first book of a more genre-ish mystery series is currently at a couple of publishers, and early indications are that it will be out next spring. The current title is The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth. In it, a former Buddhist nun returns to her dysfunctional family of origin in northern California and tries to solve multiple murders. She’s both psychologically and spiritually-oriented. It was fun—and challenging—writing in a woman’s first person voice.
FQ: From reading your author bio, it seems like you have undergone some rather unique experiences in your lifetime. Two especially notable ones are surviving the natural disasters of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens and the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. Can you share a bit about these experiences?
DARROW: I played in a volleyball tournament a couple of days before Mt. St. Helens blew its top. As our plane departed Portland for home, the pilot told us he was going to detour to fly over the volcano so we could all take a look—which we did. The eruption reached a crescendo ten minutes later, once we were barely out of range. So that experience was largely conceptual, but still sobering. At any time, from however unlikely a direction, I learned that most anything on any scale could happen.
I was in Mexico City at the end of a buying trip for a folk arts store I owned. At seven-twenty in the morning, I was tossed out of bed by what was an 8.1 earthquake. I was at the center of it on the top floor of an elderly wooden hotel. Huddled in an archway, I endured four and a half minutes of shaking, rolling, and swaying, hearing deep rumbling, screams, and buildings crumbling into the street. When the hotel swayed, it was extreme enough that I could see the ground beneath my window—an array of decorative metal spikes atop a restaurant roof. With each sway, I was sure the next one would bring me down to my death. Now here’s the interesting part. I wasn’t scared. I just waited patiently to see what would happen. In fact, dying felt okay—not good, not bad, just what was happening. The quake was so out of my control, so beyond me, that any reaction seemed pointless. And I became curious about what might happen once I died. Then I didn’t die, of course. I no longer fear death, I no longer kid myself that I’m in charge of my life, and like the volcano experience, I now know that you never know—not about anything, not for sure.
FQ: You have previously written manuscripts of children’s books but did not publish them. Do you have any plans to write for this audience in the future?
DARROW: At the time I wrote them, my writer’s mind operated at a fifth-grade level. That was the vocabulary and complexity that naturally came out of me in a first draft. I was a slow bloomer about most things, but especially writing. These days, I would have to translate from a more mature style into something compatible with younger readers. I’m afraid my ideas about life and the themes I care about might be lost. At the least. I’m not confident that it could be any sort of maestro if I tried. I did have some wonderful titles back in the day: Nightmares Are Caused By Bad Dust Bunnies, The Dog Who Burped His Way to Mars, and others.
FQ: The ending of Murder for Liar is unexpected, to say the least. Seeing Tom become a better version of himself after all he has been through is quite satisfying, although the events leading up to it are surprising. Did you have an “aha” moment when it came to how you would conclude your story, or did you know this from the beginning of writing?
DARROW: I never know how things will turn out in my books, which keeps me interested to find out. Often, I write myself into a corner and have to figure out how to proceed, which sometimes leads to major plot twists. That’s what happened in this book. About three-quarters of the way through Murder For Liar, there’s as big a shocker as I’ve ever created. That’s because the first draft ended there, much to my chagrin. Not only would the manuscript be too short, I didn’t like those scenes as my ending. So I came up with a way to go forward, which wasn’t easy, but led to some surprises that readers seem to like.
FQ: If someone who had never read any of your books wanted to read just one, which one would you recommend he read and why?
DARROW: Actually, that depends on the person, but so far everyone who has read my latest—Murder For Liar—has liked it the best. I guess I get a little more skillful as I continue to publish books. Personally, I like Coattail Karma the best, but I’m a rather idiosyncratic reader and I wrote that one aimed at myself. At the time, since it was actually written before the others, I felt hopeless about getting published, so why cater to the world at large? As it turned out, after an editor’s heavy hand, the book actually has wide appeal and garnered good reviews. Anyway, you can check out all these on Amazon or my website——and see for yourself what interests you.

Monday, May 29, 2023

#BookReview of Laban Learns Mindful Breathing by Sara Taher

Laban Learns Mindful Breathing (Mindfulness for Children)
By: Sara Taher
Illustrated by: Vanessa Moreno
Publication Date: May 20, 2023
ISBN: 978-9948791898
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: May 26, 2023
A beautiful white cat who easily gets stressed and frightened, but learns how to control those scary situations, is the first of a planned series of books focusing on mindfulness for children by author Sara Taher. Parents and caregivers take note - this is a fantastic start to this new series.
Laban (his name means yogurt in Arabic) has just been adopted and is getting used to his new home. Laban is a curious cat who loves to explore, but sometimes, not knowing what is around the corner can be quite frightening. In fact, just this morning, when Laban strolled onto the balcony "...suddenly, out of nowhere, a dreadful, dangerous, dark dragon came at me! Can you believe such a thing happened? I was Cat-rified!" But was it really a dragon?
It was, however, a busy day and there were more scary things to come. At lunchtime, Laban headed to the kitchen (he was sure he smelled fish - yum!). But as he approached the kitchen, he was sure he saw "...a wild ninja coming at me with shiny, sharp, shearing swords! It was terrifying! Can you believe such a thing happened to me? I was meow-struck!" But was it really a ninja?
There were more scary things waiting for Laban - would he ever get over his fears? Would mindful breathing help him?
Laban Learns Mindful Breathing is such a fun book that manages to entertain while also teaching youngsters an excellent way to deal with their fears. For each of Laban's stated fears, an illustration first shows what is really happening (the dragon is really a dragonfly, the ninja is a prickly cactus, and so on), so readers can see what the "thing" is before another illustration shows what Laban imagines the danger to be. Eventually, Laban is backed into a corner, literally, and closes his eyes. When the monster that is chasing him is still there when he opens his eyes, Laban decides to try his breathing exercises. The author, Sara Taher, does an excellent job, through Laban, of explaining just how mindful breathing can help overcome stressful, scary things. And through this relaxation process, Laban realizes that those things that were frightening him were really harmless. Adorable illustrations add to the tale to make Laban and his experiences come to life.
Quill says: An absolutely adorable book, Laban Learns Mindful Breathing isn't just fun - it teaches a valuable skill that children can use to overcome their fears. I can't wait to see what else Laban has to teach in his future adventures.
For more information on Laban Learns Mindful Breathing (Mindfulness for Children), please visit the author's website at:
Messy Mama Sara – Children's book Reviews and more!
Messy Mama Sara – Children's book Reviews and more!
About Sara Hello Book Lovers! So glad you stopped by! My name is Sara and I’m an indie writer, former Kindergarten teacher, and my special skills include speaking like Arnold Shwarzenegger and making an exceptional mess in record time. Ever since I started reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five serie...

Friday, May 26, 2023

#authorinterview with David Towner, author of The Spectacular Life of Benito Martin del Canto

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with David Towner, author of The Spectacular Life of Benito Martin del Canto.

FQ: Have you traveled to or maintained any personal ties to Spain, the setting for much of this work?

TOWNER: Yes. I was stationed in Spain briefly while in the military and subsequently have visited many times as a tourist. We continue to expand our time in Spain each time we visit and in the next few years, we plan to make our primary home somewhere in Andalusia.

FQ: Given your graphic novel background, do you envision this remarkable story as graphic, or film-ready, in nature?

TOWNER: Yes. I actually wrote the screenplay first and adapted it later as a novel. I envision a hybrid animation/live action film.

FQ: Can you briefly describe the research needed to piece together this complex, historically-based saga?

Author David Towner

TOWNER: There were many elements that I had to research, and the collective process took over 5 years. Firstly, the story isn’t plausible unless the historic dialogue closely replicates Cervantes’ voice. I read nothing but his material for almost three years to get the cadence and vocabulary correct. I also had to make sure that the historic elements mirrored reality as well as the chronology of Cervantes’ life. I took several creative liberties with historical elements, such as implying that Don John of Austria, King Philip II’s half-brother, was the inspiration for Don Quixote. And although there are many hopeful conspiracies, there is no evidence that Cervantes and Shakespeare ever met, let alone had a personal relationship.

FQ: Do you see Cervantes as a saintly person - one whose miraculous life might, as you seem to indicate, provide substance for miracles among his readers?

TOWNER: Like many brilliant creators who are only recognized for their work posthumously, I think Cervantes was a mis-understood genius who was way ahead of his time. His work stands the test of time and has inspired millions. I think most writers and artist who believe in themselves can identify with a sense of being greater than their recognition. If Cervantes were born 400 years later, he would likely have been a global sensation by the time he was 30. Yet, he died penniless with a long history of incarcerations, rejections, and failures. That is really the underlying theme of the book. Benito is pleading for the world to recognize the gift of creators while they have access to them. Yet, he is also not deterred by the lack of recognition. Fortunately, artists are driven to create, with or without prosperity. But of course, a bit of acknowledgement can be quite inspiring.

FQ: Do you envision a sequel or series involving the book’s modern heroine, Taryn?

TOWNER: I have a series of short stories based on some of Benito’s magical experiences that I didn’t include in the novel. I think those could serve as a catalyst to an expanded second edition or perhaps, a follow up novel.

FQ: I’m intrigued by your film, Our Scripted Life, which was downloaded half a million times in the first three months. Wow! Would you tell our readers about this film? 

TOWNER: I had a series of sketches built around a goofy hillbilly family and over the course of several years, I experimented with different ways to expand the sketches into a feature film. During that period, I also conceived a story about a low-budget soap opera actor who was secretly in love with his co-star who he believed to be an aristocrat from the UK. He decides to produce a low budget film to lure her into his world because “film actors always fall in love on set”. I decided to blend the two stories and one thing leads to another, and his love interest takes him home to meet her family. Not in London, as he expected, but in rural Kentucky. Fortunately, we finished the film in late 2019 and premiered it at TCL Chinese Theater 14 days before the Covid-19 pandemic. Once everything got shut down, we uploaded the film to Amazon and it was a hit. Not bad for an ultra-low budget, experimental film. I am very proud of that film and a true creative family was born as a result of it. I am still in touch with the entire cast and many of us have worked together since then.

FQ: I believe our readers would also love to learn about your popular graphic novel series, Aztec Warrior God. Please give us a little background on the series, how it started, and what makes it so popular. 

TOWNER: I conceived the origin story in 2009 while visiting Mexico. Over the next several years, I developed the story to include indigenous people from around the world and the series included 24 novels. Due to the series’ very specific timeline, I had to release the first novel in August 2021. The pandemic also was a blessing for this project because the two top-tier artists I approached were on hiatus from their previous engagements and they agreed to help me. We created the art for the main character, Amoxtli, and I posted the art on a facebook page without much thought. Two weeks later, when I checked on the response, we had over 50,000 followers. Today, we have 21 million active readers, and our recently released animation has over 2 billion minutes streamed. I think the appeal to the series is multi-faceted. People love the indigenous representation and historical elements, the art is so high-quality, it could stand on its own, and people are ready for positive stories that focus on diplomacy, compassion and tolerance. Our characters are traditional superheroes, but they always approach conflict with diplomacy, using violence as a last resort.

FQ: I worked in a college physics department for almost 30 years. Please tell me about your theoretical physics background! What did you study? Where? Any interesting papers I could look up? 

TOWNER: I remain fascinated by Physics and if you read the Aztec series, you will see many familiar references including multiple theories and even appearances by Stephen Hawking and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I studied Physics while still in the military but never pursued it as a career since most of the opportunities were in academia and required a PhD, which never appealed to me as a young person. Academically, I am quite a contradiction. I have undergrads in Criminal Justice, Physics, and Marketing. I also have 30-40 credit hours of electives that were not applicable to any of my majors. I blame my thirst for knowledge and my ADHD.

FQ: I also see that you're a fan of Dinosaur Jr. It's certainly a small world as I lived a few houses away from one of their leads, Jay Mascis. His family and ours were good friends.

TOWNER: I consider J Mascis as brilliant as Miguel Cervantes. Way ahead of his time and not nearly as recognized as he should be. He is responsible for some of the most incredible guitar riffs (and entire songs) in history. Dinosaur Jr. should be playing extended engagements in sold-out stadiums but the last time I saw them, there may have been 800 people in the audience (mostly 40+ guys like me). Yet, three chord country artists or rap stars who can’t even write music, get to perform in front of 100,000 people. This is the bane of an artist’s existence.

#authorinterview with Susan Dormady Eisenberg, author of One More Seat at the Round Table

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Susan Dormady Eisenberg, author of One More Seat at the Round Table: A Novel of Broadway's Camelot.
FQ: Thanks so much for your time today. Let’s start with your bio. It’s interesting how a lot of your early career was devoted to promoting performing arts while living in New York, and then it transitioned to writing publications for banks, hospitals, schools, and other organizations once in D.C. You are such a natural with your storytelling toward theatre, and I have to ask how much of Jane’s character is channeling the ‘inner workings’ of you?
EISENBERG: Thanks for interviewing me and offering such kind words about my work! Your opening question is very interesting. When I’m writing, I’m never aware that I might be putting part of myself into my characters. In Jane’s case, I envisioned her as detail-oriented, sensitive to the moods and feelings of colleagues, and eager to expand her skill-set. As we know, she applies these qualities to her early production work for Camelot. In hindsight, I suppose I shared these traits doing promotion for the arts and also in my freelance writing, so maybe I was channeling my own ‘inner workings’ with Jane’s work ethic. But I get so involved with my characters, they appear to live in the world and seem entirely separate from me.
FQ: In line with my previous question, was there ever a time when you would have liked to be on the Broadway stage? If so, what would be the play that would satisfy such a ‘bucket list’ coup?
EISENBERG: When I was young, I desperately hoped to perform on Broadway in musicals, and I trained my soprano voice for years—in high school, college, and a long while afterward. And though I didn’t make it to Broadway, I performed the role of Guenevere in an amateur Syracuse production of Camelot when I was 28. And guess what? Our director persuaded the producers to let him borrow Oliver Smith’s original Broadway sets. When I stood on the high platform to view “the Jousts” between Lancelot and the knights, I had to pinch myself because Julie Andrews, my idol, had stood in that exact spot in the 1960 production. But I quit performing after doing Camelot, having realized I was a better writer than singing actress. But the experience satisfied my “bucket list” requirements. It was done on a grand scale in a large civic center with a full orchestra. I got an authentic taste of doing a Julie Andrews role and it was thrilling! Best of all, I met my wonderful husband Barry Eisenberg, who played a knight in the chorus. We’ve been happily together ever since.
FQ: Why do you suppose actors and actresses are on a much higher pedestal?
EISENBERG: Actors and actresses, whether in plays or musicals, sacrifice a lot for their art, and the struggle to get a foothold in theater can be soul-numbing. I put them on a pedestal because I know how much talent, training, perseverance, and will it takes to reach the professional realm, even if they are mainly working in regional theater or tours. I’ve heard veteran actors tell aspiring actors not to pursue this field if any other career will do, and I believe that’s a good yardstick. Which means the people we see on the professional stage need to be there and are giving us their all.
FQ: In line with my previous question, what would be your one solid piece of advice to an aspiring author when it comes to not only publishing but marketing their body of work?
EISENBERG: There is always a two-fold process when I’m planning to release my work to an audience beyond my family and small circle of beta readers. First, though I find a lot of joy in the writing process, I work hard to produce the best book—and tell the best story—I’m capable of. Then, when the novel is in the hands of a publisher, I turn my full attention to marketing because in order to find your work, potential readers need to know it’s there. The main advice I’d give aspiring writers is to take some online classes at Writer’s Digest or the Authors Guild and steep yourself in what book marketing professionals suggest. They know what works and what doesn’t, and with the increasing importance of social media, there are many creative ways to reach your potential audience. Also, I’ve heard it’s never too early to start developing your email list of contacts, even if your book won’t be out for many months. The conventional wisdom is that your best reader prospects are people who are willing to add their contact info to your email list.
FQ: I was intrigued by the many nuances throughout One More Seat at the Round Table in how the ‘rules’ on the road when it comes to ‘dalliances’ are a different set than those assigned to day-to-day life off the road. By no means am I priggish, but why do you suppose this is? I would imagine there’s more fact than fiction to this notion. What’s your opinion?
EISENBERG: When I worked in regional theater, I noticed how lonely performers got when they were away from their partners and families for weeks at a time. Actors tend to be extroverted, convivial people who form close friendships with colleagues, and sometimes those friendships morphed into sexual relationships (so I heard on the grapevine). It was my observation, however, that much of what happened on the road, stayed on the road.
FQ: In line with my previous question (and without too much of a spoiler), I enjoyed reading the outcome of the relationship between Dan Elsdon and Jane’s best friend, Sarah. Did you allow their situation to write for you, or was this a storyline that you had a few scenarios in mind and how did you make the decision on what the ultimate outcome would be?
EISENBERG: Thanks so much for asking about Dan and Sarah because their trajectory is vital to my plot. When I introduced Dan, I assumed he was a compulsive Don Juan and I didn’t imagine he would form a deep attachment to anyone in Camelot, given his engagement to a prominent socialite. When Sarah got involved with him, I figured her goose was cooked. But since I had no plan for these characters, I allowed their relationship to evolve organically. Their choices surprised me, and I found Dan’s growth as a person rewarding. From Jane and Sarah’s first dinner at Sardi’s, I was also committed to deepening the bond they forged in college. I believe in the importance of female friendship, so I was glad that, in the end, the main women characters supported one another in meaningful ways.
FQ: With the ever-evolving world of technology and the wonders of AI, do you think in the future, the theatre will take its last bow only to be replaced with feature-length virtual experiences where one sits with headgear on alone in his/her bedroom?
EISENBERG: Historians such as the great Oscar Brockett trace the origin of theater to Athens in the 5th century B.C. when dance-drama was presented before an audience. These rituals entertained and often incorporated costumes and masks. Flash forward to the present day when theater thrives in most places in the United States, whether it’s professionally produced (on Broadway or at regional companies) or presented by amateurs in community or school shows. The universal element is the live interplay between actors and audience members who respond to one another in real time. In my opinion, nothing could ever rival or replicate being “in the room where it happens,” to quote Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. But perhaps access to virtual theater will be a good option for those who are unable to visit an auditorium. As for the art form itself, theater may change, but I believe it will endure.
FQ: You capture the essence of the beat of the city streets of New York, and I had a grin on my face when I read this particular passage: "...I bolted across 42nd Street with all its girly shows, but the city’s seamier side didn’t bother me. If you were going to live here, you had to accept the shady stuff along with the glamorous parts, and as long as you walked fast and looked confident, you’d stay relatively safe..." This is such a melancholic passage because I think the beat of this once-iconic place has changed quite a bit. What is your view in today’s climate toward the city’s character?
EISENBERG: I lived in New York City in the late ‘70s before 42nd Street was “Disneyfied.” I worked for The Joffrey Ballet then, and being in Manhattan was the answer to a prayer. Honestly, I didn’t feel at risk, even in Times Square, which was an unsavory area. Instead, the theater district with all its warts felt wonderfully exotic to me. I liked its energy. Nowadays it’s cleaner and seems safer, but I miss the old electricity when I visit. Honestly, I hated it when they tore down some historic theaters and the Hotel Piccadilly to build the Marriott Marquis.
FQ: I was enthralled with your devotion toward the light you would shine when folding Richard Burton’s character into the storyline; particularly how he was a cad, but a lovable one at that. There is a scene between him and Jane that I read and reread; it was so profound: "...Before you go, I’d like to put a thought in your mind about engagement. It’s a wise anonymous poem from the seventeenth century and in sonorous voice, he intoned: Love not me for comely grace for my pleasing eye or face, Nor for any outward part, No, nor for a constant heart. For these may fail or turn to ill, so thou and I shall sever. Keep therefore a true woman’s eye and love me still by know not why, So hast thou the same reason still to dote upon me ever..." I emphatically believe there are moments in a writer’s life when a passage grabs their creative mind in the most unexpected moment and writes profound magic for the writer. Was this one of those times?
EISENBERG: Yes, writing that scene was a transformational moment for me. I was casting about for something Burton could recite to Jane that would be new and fresh when I found that anonymous verse online. It was perfect. And when I put those words into Burton’s mouth, I was enthralled, as if he were in the room reciting the poem to me. I had not planned what would come next for Jane and the leading man, but I felt in my heart that he was seductive more than predatory. I like many scenes in my book, but that one is among my favorites.
FQ: Thank you again for writing an utterly delicious body of work. I cannot wait to read your next novel where you stated in your bio the subject will be Annie Oakley. Any chance we can get a teaser of what to expect?
EISENBERG: I worked for many years on my new book, Annie Oakley & The Wild West, which follows the career of American “trick shot” Annie Mosey Butler (stage name Oakley) from her teenage match against her future husband, Irish marksman Frank Butler, to her amazing success as the marquee star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West when it performed in London during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee (1887). Though Annie is often confused with a brash western woman, Martha “Calamity Jane” Canary, she grew up in Ohio and was a prim Victorian, a lady who sat in her tent embroidering while Buffalo Bill’s rip-roaring show was happening in the ring. The central conflict in my novel is between Annie and her vain, temperamental boss, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, who resented her prowess with a shotgun and her growing fame that threatened to eclipse him. I had a great time writing this book about the hopes and dreams of an icon who left few letters and gave few interviews. It was a challenge, but I had terrific sources.

#BookReview of The Spectacular Life of Benito Martin del Canto by David Towner

The Spectacular Life of Benito Martin del Canto

By: David Towner
Publisher: Splash Marketing
Publication Date: May 9, 2023
ISBN: 979-8988353010
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: May 25, 2023
Writer and entertainer David Towner has added to his accomplishments a riveting tale within a tale, exploring life’s deepest mysteries through the medium of literature, history, and one young girl’s perspicacity and persistence.
Taryn is an avid reader, twelve years old when her father Peter, knowing her love of weird books, brings home a gift from a trip to Spain – a shabby, time-worn volume that oddly seems to have been written entirely by hand. Taryn, highly intelligent, can read and speak Spanish and is immediately entranced by the autobiography of a man who was left in the woods as a child and raised by a herd of mountain goats. Prodigy Benito, born in 1500s Spain, is teaching school in a monastery by age two when his account begins, and only a few years later, commanding a rough-hewn boat to sail to the New World in defense of the interests of his nation. Along the way, he will encounter a slave ship and free its captured African occupants, using a shark as an ally. As Taryn reads, she shares her book with her Spanish teacher, Alice, who becomes increasingly fascinated by the archaic volume. With her knowledge of ancient literature, Alice becomes convinced that its author is none other than Miguel Cervantes, widely thought of as the world’s first novelist. Clues for this assumption sparkle through Benito’s narrative, so Alice decides she must take possession of Taryn’s book and send it to scholarly authorities. Taryn, meanwhile, is agonizing over the dreadful coma that her father has fallen into, hoping to communicate with him by reading from the book he so kindly gifted her.
Towner, whose accomplishments include the creation of the highly popular graphic novel series, Aztec Warrior God, is a Spanish speaker and former military man, able to bring to this enthralling story multiple experiences and endowments. His book jumps from the current day and the loneliness of Taryn sitting by her father’s hospital bed, to the darkness of medieval prisons and the gleam of royal dwellings that confront the wild, wily genius Benito. Towner’s wide range of artistic abilities includes a grasp of the life of Cervantes with its complex historical underpinnings, the imagination to restyle what is known about him into someone pretending to be, or perhaps being, that renowned figure, and the empathy to see the mysteries unfold through the eyes of a bright young female.
Quill says: The Spectacular Life of Benito Martin del Canto provides a panorama that, though targeted for young adults, will mesmerize readers of any age, causing those who have not heretofore encountered David Towner’s talents to thirst for more of his handiworks.
For more information on The Spectacular Life of Benito Martin del Canto, please visit the author's Facebook page at:

Thursday, May 25, 2023

#BookReview of Hollow Gods: Why LIberalism Became a Destructive Religion

Hollow Gods: Why Liberalism Became a Destructive Religion

By: Davidson Loehr
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: June 13, 2023
ISBN: 978-1639888221
Reviewed by: Kathy Stickles
Review Date: May 23, 2023
Hollow Gods: Why Liberalism Became a Destructive Religion is the newest book by Davidson Loehr who has been, in his own words “a liberal all my life.” This book is an in-depth look at what the author believes is the harm that liberalism has done in five areas of life: education, media, politics, race, and religion.
In Hollow Gods, Mr. Loehr looks into what he thinks liberals have been trying to do in terms of replacing religion and God with a type of socialism where they are the ones in charge. In each of the areas listed above, the author puts forth a case to show that liberalism is failing in what they are trying to do because there is no tolerable or satisfactory way to replace religion.
I do like the way Mr. Loehr has set up the book in terms of separating each of the chapters into sections. The first section of each chapter is “Visions,” and it lays out how liberals think and why they are positive that they are correct and others are wrong. The second section is “What’s Wrong,” and in this section the author offers the reader his assessment of why he believes that the ideas other liberals put forth in the first section are completely wrong. Finally, the third and final section of each chapter is one of “Excerpts,” where Mr. Loehr goes into detail regarding the research that he has done from different sources to make his points. This final section was very interesting as it shows the author's exploration into what others think about the topics as well. By reading this section, people will be able to come up with their own ideas, perhaps even do some of their own research, and decide whether they too agree with the author or whether they have an entirely different opinion on what is put forth in the book.
For many reading this review, Hollow Gods may seem to be a book that is largely about politics. While there are certainly a lot of points made regarding politics, as well as the other areas being discussed, the book is first and foremost about religion and how it seems to be used, at some times, as an excuse to explain what people are trying to do to change society into what they believe it should be. That, in itself, is enough to make the reader stop and think.
Hollow Gods is a well-written and interesting read. There is some repetition throughout the book, but it does not take away from the points the author is trying to make. While it might not be to everyone’s tastes, I would say it is well worth giving it a try as some of the points the author makes are very interesting. The book will definitely give the reader cause to do some deep thinking about how they look at these areas of life and how others may view them.
Quill says: Hollow Gods: Why Liberalism Became a Destructive Religion is a compelling look at the beliefs that Mr. Loehr has and will give readers a reason to do some soul-searching as they look into their own thoughts on the topics that are being discussed.

#BookReview - Karma Two: A Novel by Colleen Hollis

Karma Two: A Novel

By: Colleen Hollis
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: April 28, 2023
ISBN: 978-1639888382
Reviewed by: Kathy Stickles
Review Date: May 23, 2023
Karma Two by Colleen Hollis is a very thought-provoking novel that shows not only the most horrible aspects of life but also gives the reader a riveting story of hope and what one can accomplish when they set their mind to it and force themselves to try.
In Karma Two, we follow Arizona Sunshine Jackson on his journey through life - it is a remarkable story that is at times downright tragic and unimaginable. This harsh beginning eventually leads readers to a story of hope and perseverance as this little boy grows up. In the beginning, Arizona, or AJ as he is known to everyone, suffers through a horrible childhood filled with danger, drug use, abuse, and prostitution. AJ faces so many tragic things as a child, from being separated from his mother and his little brother, to being placed in foster homes which are more dangerous than the home he started in, to living on the streets as his final option. With each new loss and tragic outcome AJ never gives up but keeps trying to survive and is more determined each time to overcome the things that are meant to destroy him.
All of a sudden, while living on the streets, AJ is gifted with a small glimmer of hope that appears out of nowhere. AJ is smart enough to grab the opportunity and hold on tight to his dreams of a better future for himself. Even as he questions whether or not he truly deserves this chance, AJ fights for it with everything he has. That is when the novel becomes more of a joy to read. As AJ finally begins to understand that he is entitled to work hard and better himself, he takes on a whole new personality as a person who tries to give help and support to others like him so that they too can become better people.
The beginning of this novel is truly heartbreaking. There are so many devastating themes that are covered in these pages from addiction to prostitution to physical and sexual abuse to the total fear of life and it does take a strong heart to get through it all. The author confronts all of these topics fearlessly and has created a story that is very powerful. The characters in the book, especially AJ, are very well-written and you cannot help but feel a part of their lives. You will cry with them, hurt with them, want to give up as they do, and finally you will laugh with them and feel their joy.
Karma Two is definitely a book that will leave a huge impression on the reader and be something that is remembered long after you read that last page. As we read AJ’s quest to survive and to correct so many wrongs that he has done and suffered in the past you will certainly believe, as AJ comes to believe, that there is a higher power out there who can help one to survive anything. It is an engaging and well-written story and I would recommend this novel to all.
Quill says: Karma Two is an excellent novel that is based on some very harsh realities of life. It is a story that makes the reader really think about themselves and their own actions and, while it can be a very difficult read at times, the end result is well worth it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

#BookReview - Murder for Liar by Verlin Darrow

Murder for Liar

By: Verlin Darrow
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Publication Date: May 15, 2023
ISBN: 978-1-5092-4897-1
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: May 19, 2023
From seasoned author Verlin Darrow comes his fourth novel published by The Wild Rose Press entitled Murder for Liar. At first glance, Murder for Liar appears to be a simple murder mystery, but upon opening its pages, readers will discover levels of psychological manipulation and thrills that are completely unexpected.
Our protagonist, Tom Dashiel, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Santa Cruz, California. He ascribes to an open-door policy at his practice, meaning that he does not turn away any client, regardless of how hopeless or peculiar the situation seems. The story begins as Tom meets a new client named George Arundel for the first time. George has been referred to Tom by a local psychiatrist who had been unsuccessful in working with him due to “substantial challenges.” The first meeting does not go well, beginning with George sitting in what is obviously Tom’s chair, George taking over the direction of the session rather than Tom, and finally ending with George yelling at Tom that he must work with him because he believes his friend is an angel. George then storms out of the room. Despite the unpleasantness of the first session with George, Tom finds himself looking forward to their next meeting, completely unaware of the psychological roller coaster upon which he is about to embark.
Meeting George is only the first incident in a series of bizarre events that subsequently transpire in Tom’s life. Shortly after beginning psychotherapy with George, Tom meets Zig-Zag, the woman who George believes to be a real-life angel. Tom then makes a new friend named Dizzy, who believes that she is the next target of a serial killer who is currently on the loose committing murders in Santa Cruz. Upon hearing this, Tom agrees to act as her bodyguard in his free time. The events keep getting stranger and stranger as Tom visits a bookstore in search of a clue, only to be helped by a dog, whom the owner has never seen before.
Murder for Liar is, at its core, a tale of suspense. The twists and turns just keep coming throughout the entire story. As a reader, just when I thought Darrow couldn’t possibly shock me any more than he already had, the next event had my jaw dropping as I read. I found myself trying to solve the mysteries as the story progressed, and when I thought I had reached the “aha” moment and resolved one in my mind, Darrow would introduce two or three more in the next chapter. This thrilling tale truly kept me guessing until the very last page.
Darrow’s writing is detail-oriented, concise, and thoroughly captivating. Darrow has the structure of writing a gripping thriller down to a science. His writing draws the reader in, and holds him there until every last word has been read. The psychological characteristics of this mystery greatly enrich the story itself, playing an integral role in making it the successful story it is.
Quill says: With Murder for Liar, Darrow has created a truly unique, intellectual, albeit terrifying, psychological thriller. Readers will appreciate the unexpected revelations throughout the story that continue until the very last page has been turned.
For more information on Murder for Liar, please visit the author's website at:

Friday, May 12, 2023

#BookReview of Academy of Eternity: Unlock the Full Potential of Your Heart-Mind, Now and Forever

Academy of Eternity: Unlock the Full Potential of Your Heart-Mind, Now and Forever

By: Erika Flint and Sarah Solstice
Publisher: Difference Press
Publication Date: May 11, 2021
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: May 9, 2023
A young girl has earthly revelations that lead to her immersion in etheric truths as she is swept into a new field of living and learning, in this fascinating fantasy of multiple authorship.
After Erika had undergone an alteration in her way of looking at earthly events filtered through higher realities, she is mystically whisked to a campus of fellow seekers and a group of teachers who have moved beyond mere “been there, done that” to a perspective that encompasses genuine change. At the Academy of Eternity, she and her classmates will meet Babyji, a joyous infant who tells the group that they will experience their younger selves in the process of learning who they really are. They will be taught how to focus – happily – on higher realties, unlike the children of earth now who mainly focus on what she calls “Simulation.” Working with Erika, Babyji congratulates her when she is able to imagine and then create a beautiful chair for her living quarters. Amid much music and general good will, Erika will encounter a wide variety of deep matters, including neuroscience guided by Professor Sam, companionship from Angela, and the joy of Heart Song from Professor John. She will explore the ways that physical activity within their brains can lead to a universal viewpoint. When Erika is finally ready to return to her earthly milieu, it will be with fresh mental, physical and spiritual changes now inherent within her.
The contributing authors to this delightful yet profound work all have something unique to offer. The actual Professor Sam is Sam Tullman, a student and proponent of such far reaching realms as Rinzai Zen and Field Neuroscience Solutions. Dr. Angela L Auria is a best-selling writer who helps others “free their inner author.” Cal Banyan is a hypnotherapist. M. Shannon Hernandez shares her knowledge of Marketing Methodology worldwide. Real-life Erika Flint and Sarah Solstice have explored the many levels of consciousness that are here represented through the eyes of the innocent Erika, who intuits that the world we can see has many hidden aspects that can help her to help others. The book’s chapters open with short, appropriate poems, and the contributors offer listings of methodologies that can be utilized by all seekers of heavenly, happy wisdom. Academy of Eternity is a manual for group and individual study that merits a place in the glowing limelight of eternal verity.
Quill says: In Academy of Eternity, authors from varying fields of inward development and outward reaction present multilayered experiences beyond the ordinary to give hints as how all humans can advance spiritually.
For more information on Academy of Eternity: Unlock the Full Potential of Your Heart-Mind, Now and Forever, please visit the book's website at: