Tuesday, October 31, 2023

#BookReview of Lock's Galactic Mess by Jack Cullen

Lock's Galactic Mess (Lock Ferguson vs. the Aliens, Book One)

By: Jack Cullen
Publisher: Evolved Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: September 12, 2023
ISBN: 979-8-89025-000-1
Reviewed by: Kathy Stickles
Review Date: October 31, 2023
I can honestly say that I have never had as much fun reading a book as I did while reading Lock’s Galactic Mess. This is a book for everyone that combines the Science-Fiction genre and lots of adventure with a huge dose of comedy that readers will remember long after they close the cover. I honestly cannot say enough good things about the book.
Lock’s Galactic Mess is the story of Loughlin “Lock” Ferguson who, as a teenager, was abducted by aliens. Living in a very small town, as soon as he was returned to Earth, Lock confided in his cousin Tavish who immediately told the whole school and the secret was no longer a secret. Fast forward to the present, Lock is now in his 50’s, has never left this small New Hampshire town, and is working as a janitor and his cousin is now the mayor of the town. While attempting to put his town on the map and bring in tourists, Tavish has set up a UFO seminar and wants Lock to attend and tell his story. Lock agrees, although he is definitely not happy about the idea, and brings along his roommate and best friend Stella, a woman who is a veteran and believes highly in fighting, drinking, owning as many guns as possible, and teasing Lock mercilessly even though she is the one person who will always be there to shield him from anyone else who tries to make fun of him.
As the reader quickly finds out after the seminar, the alien who abducted Lock is now back and fixated on using Lock as a weapon to take over the Earth. With a lot of help from a very friendly alien named KayCee, whose goal is to protect Lock and save the universe, as well as Stella, Tavish, and some other new friends, Lock sets out to save the world and somehow stop the alien’s plans for destruction and domination. Without giving anything away, I must say that the adventure that follows is one of the most creative and interesting plots I have ever read in a book.
In Lock’s Galactic Mess, author Jack Cullen has shown readers how very talented he is. This is a hilarious and extremely well-written story that showcases the author’s wit and creativity. There is so much action, both on Earth and in space, and just when you think you have something figured out, the author throws in a new twist that completely changes everything. Stories such as this are very hard to come by and we need to grab them when we can and hold on.
What really brings the whole story together is the amazing characters that Cullen has created. Every single one of them, from the main character to those around him lending their knowledge and support, are so well-developed. In addition, they all have such varied and different personalities, both human and alien, that the reader becomes very involved with each one. You will truly route for each and every one.
Lock’s Galactic Mess is simply marvelous. It is a creative story with incredible characters that will make you laugh-out-loud throughout. I cannot recommend it enough, regardless of what genre of story you enjoy. The only bad part is that now we have to wait for Book 2 in the series to find out what happens next for these amazing characters. I, for one, really hope it does not take too long.
Quill says: Lock's Galactic Mess is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. It combines everything great about a story...an excellent plot, wonderful characters, lots of adventure, and tons of humor. It is absolutely riveting and tons of fun. Do not miss it!
For more information on Lock's Galactic Mess (Lock Ferguson vs. the Aliens, Book One), please visit the author's website: https://jackcullenwrites.com/

Monday, October 30, 2023

#BookReview of The Lost Dresses: A Novel by M.A. McLaughlin

The Lost Dresses: A Novel

By: M.A. McLaughlin
Publisher: Alcove Press
Publication Date: February 6, 2024
ISBN: 978-1-63910-564-9
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: October 27, 2023
The Lost Dresses by M.A. McLaughlin is an engaging historical tale that showcases one of the Victorian age’s noted poets, Christina Rossetti.
In 1864 Verona, Italy, Christina Rossetti returns to her family’s homeland with great expectations. Her hope is to wash away her unfulfilling life and poetry career in England and embrace a new chapter in her life. Perchance, she has an exchange with an old family friend and finds a gift her father once gave her. It is a precious box with three distinct Muses carved into the lid. Curious, she puzzles over how to open the mysterious box and finds a secret compartment. Inside, there is a letter from her beloved father with a request to carry on his wishes of something he was unable to do in his lifetime.
Fast forward to Verona, 1947, and Marianne Baxter is traveling from her Boston home to post-war Verona for the opportunity of a lifetime. She is an accomplished textile historian, and the purpose of the trip is to see three exquisite Victorian dresses that were once owned by the famous poet Christina Rossetti. Apparently, the dresses had been hidden away in a trunk for nearly a century and most recently discovered at the Fondazione Museo Menigatti. Given Marianne’s exceptional knowledge and expertise, it only makes sense she would be the chosen one to bring the dresses to life once more for the purpose of putting this incredible find on display. Still grieving from the loss of her husband Paul, there’s a part of this trip that gives her hope to start over. However, once in Verona and at the Fondazione Museo Menigatti, the rather handsome and debonaire owner is not exactly the most welcoming. Compounded by his icy reception and her first inspection of the dresses, Marianne discovers a mysterious letter with a daunting warning that was hidden among the dresses. It alludes to a pendant and stolen book that must be returned, that is a connection between Marianne and Christina which ultimately triggers more questions than answers.
M.A. McLaughlin has done a superb job of showing wonderful historical accounts of the famed Victorian-era poet, Christina Rossetti. The stunning scenes of the beautiful backdrop of Verona set the tone for believable dialogue and the reader is easily transported to a romantic period of time of days gone by. McLaughlin has precision focus when detailing and developing Marianne’s character as an accomplished textile historian. "...Holding my breath as we moved closer, I finally stood in front of it, gazing down at its contents, neatly folded garments within the frayed brocade interior. With my fingertips, I lifted the blue poplin walking dress on top and noted that a layer of white silk separated it from the one beneath it, preserving them from each other..." (pg. 27) What an enchanting read this is. In addition, M.A. McLaughlin delivers a zinger of a plot twist at the end which is another reason why The Lost Dresses is a must-read!
Quill says: The Lost Dresses is a wonderful journey that enlightens the reader with the rich history of one of the Victorian era’s most noted poets, Christina Rossetti.
For more information on The Lost Dresses: A Novel, please visit the author's website at: martyambrose.com/

#Bookreview of The NeverEnd Friend by Sapana Grossi

The NeverEnd Friend

By: Sapana Grossi
Illustrated by: Igor Kovyar
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group
Publication Date: October 2, 2023
ISBN: 978-1626349377
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: October 26. 2023
An amazing adventure with gorgeous illustrations that follow a boy in search of his best friend (and stuffie), awaits young readers when they delve into the pages of The NeverEnd Friend.
Achille is a young boy who is deeply attached to his stuffed teddy, Benji. Together they have fought dragons, explored the vast seas of the world, and even slept on the moon. They are inseparable, and Achille expects to have many more grand adventures with Benji. That is until one night, when his parents called out to their child, letting him know that it was bedtime. Achille was ready for bed...but he couldn’t find Benji. There was no way that Achille could go to bed without his best friend.
Achille searched everywhere for Benji, but the stuffie was not in any of the usual places – not below deck, not in the den, or even in their favorite crater. The frustrated boy plopped down on his bed, wondering what to do. And soon, he drifted off to magical places...
The young boy floated past the garden and his sandbox, and then found himself being scooped up by the front bucket of a huge bulldozer. He was brought to the base of a mountain where he met...Claire, his guardian angel. Achille asked Claire if she knew where Benji was, and the answer surprised him – Benji was at the top of Mount NeverEnd, that big, big mountain that was right in front of Achille.
A great adventure awaits Achille upon that mountain, but once he finds Benji, Achille will have to make a monumental decision. Benji, it seems, has found his family, and wants to stay with them. But Achille needs his best friend – he really wants his stuffie to return home with him. What will Achille do?
When I received The NeverEnd Friend to read and review, I was immediately taken by the absolutely gorgeous illustrations. Every page, with brilliant artwork, brings the story to life. But illustrations alone don’t tell the tale of Achille and Benji – the creative and unique story of a boy looking for his best friend will keep youngsters captivated. When Benji and Achille are reunited, the joy they share is palpable, and I suspect more than one young reader will clap with delight. But then, the decision that Achille is faced with when he learns that Benji wants to stay with his family will likely pull at the heartstrings. The entire adventure imparts important lessons about family, love, and making difficult decisions that will help others. At the back of the book is an author's note that includes several pages explaining the use of names, places, and things incorporated into the story. It adds a nice touch to an already outstanding book.
Quill says: The NeverEnd Friend is a beautiful story about friendships, adventure, and most importantly, being selfless and willing to do what is needed to help one’s friends.
For more information on The NeverEnd Friend, please visit the author's website at: sapanagrossibooks.com/

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

#AuthorIterview with DTM Harris, author of Mosscroft: Shadows Not Forgotten, Book One

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with DTM Harris, author of Mosscroft: Shadows Not Forgotten, Book One.

FQ: Mosscroft is described as the “thrilling kickoff to an action-packed sci-fi saga.” At this point, do you have a plan for how many books you anticipate writing to conclude this entire series? Do you have any of the future books written yet or are you in the planning stages?

HARRIS: I believe this first book is just the beginning of something bigger; this one alone has multiple territories that can be explored and it can evolve into a series of stories based on each territory and character.

FQ: When writing an entire series such as this, do you write the entire series first and then determine where to separate the story into books, or do you just write one book at a time, allowing your creativity to flow naturally and the story to develop at its own pace?

HARRIS: I have a clear idea of the themes I want to talk about, but the story truly develops as I go along. Working on a non-fiction book can allow authors to outline their books in a certain way, however, for me the story takes turns as I become more involved with the narrative and the character I am focused on.

FQ: The story of Mosscroft is so unique and well-developed, from the names of its lands and various jobs down to the animals that live there. Where would you credit the inspiration behind this truly distinctive sci-fi saga?

Author DTM Harris

HARRIS: That’s a tough one. Everything is developed from my imagination and open to changing at any given time. Originally, I was at my daughter’s lake house in Canada drinking grappa. There was a picture of dogs playing poker and I instinctively wanted to give them all a story. As I began writing the story, I soon realized it was difficult to give them a life on earth as we know it, so I changed “earth” and then changed the character of the dogs. It’s funny to think about it since I just found the first few pages I had written and it evolved into something quite different.

FQ: The sheer number of characters in Mosscroft is staggering. First, how did you develop so many integral characters? Are any of them modeled after friends or family of yours? Second, during the writing process, did you have a method for keeping them organized, or were you able to simply commit them to memory once you introduced them in the story? I have to imagine it would be (at least for me!) overwhelming.

HARRIS: There were 3 generations within the story, so it was easy to add characters. I was very lucky to have grown up with a great deal of curiosity. My mother’s family is from Malta. Every Sunday we would all gather at one of her siblings' homes. I would hear so many stories of their parents, grandparents, cousins, etc. I could never listen to them enough. I loved the stories.

The Faremouth’s were developed by using my mother’s maiden name “Faremouth.” One of my dogs had gone blind, but she was always gentle and kind, so the Faremouth was a tribute to my mother and my pet at the time.

There are many parts of my life hidden within the book, and mostly for my enjoyment. The Arm Protection Headquarters (APH) is also the acronym for my high school, Allen Park High! I came from a wonderful city with only one high school and, to this day, many of us are still in touch. There are many more family “stories” within the book.

Even Jonas is reminiscent of my Uncle Joseph who also owned a restaurant. He was a very quiet man, but one of my many hero’s growing up.

For organization, I use good old fashion index cards, plus diagrams. I use the diagrams for both the lineages and the timeline. The hardest thing is to keep the time lines accurate so the diagram works perfectly.. We learned this as children to organize reports and it still works for me!

FQ: In your bio, you share that there was a pivotal moment in your life that prompted you to begin sharing your narratives with the world. Can you explain what this pivotal moment was and how it came about?

HARRIS: My third grade teacher was Mrs. Jones. I was terribly shy, but I could draw and write. She constantly gave me pictures to draw and would hang them up on the walls for decorations. She encouraged me to write stories of my drawings and asked me daily if I had written anything new! She, and she alone, established a confidence in me that has been my anchor ever since. She was a true friend, as well as a teacher. Without her encouragement, I’m not sure I would have discovered how much I enjoyed writing.

FQ: Can you share with your readers how your daughter was the driving force behind your decision to publish your first science fiction novel?

HARRIS: My daughter and I are very close, and thankfully share a wonderful friendship. Many times she would read the things I wrote, but Mosscroft was her favorite. It was her favorite from the very first draft. My daughter, my grandson and myself all live together and during Covid, there was plenty of time to write and read. It was at that time I found an editor. After at least 10 more revisions, Merideth said, ”This is it. Let’s get this published.”

FQ: You profess to be a self-claimed introvert, but even with this personality trait, it does not keep you from speaking up for causes that you care about. What types of causes have you publicly supported over the course of your life, despite your introverted disposition?

HARRIS: My first important one was in the early 1970’s. I had married my high school sweetheart after his return from Vietnam. I soon learned he had a drug-abuse and a violence problem. I wanted to get away from that, but discovered women were considered chattel in a marriage. A man was allowed to hit his wife without fear of prosecution. After that an attorney from Illinois contacted me because he had a client who was in the hospital with almost every bone in her face broken. I flew in and talked to her. She then moved forward with her own divorce.

I’ve done my best to help every woman I knew who was in my situation and helped make the public aware of women’s situations. It would not be until 1978 before Michigan took domestic violence seriously. I stood on the court steps with many other women the day the bill was passed. By then, attorneys were offering divorces for $100 and WITHOUT a matching check from their husbands! Illinois was soon to follow.

I was part of a lawsuit around 1978 against a “gym” that paid the men $125 per week and women $85, for the same work. We won. I was only one of many who worked hard for women’s rights; and I am proud that we did.

FQ: You share in your bio that you have penned a myriad of poems throughout your life. Are any of these poems available as a published collection? If not, do you have any plans to publish any of your poems?

HARRIS: No, they have never been published. I recently took them out and thought about using some of them embedded in my stories. I just never gave it too much thought. Most were written in my youth and we all know how emotional youth can be! Lol

FQ: Finally, and I realize this isn’t book-related, but I always enjoy getting to know authors through our interviews, and I have to say, I absolutely love the photo on your website of you and your dog. Would you tell us a bit about him/her? Name, personality, etc.

HARRIS: Yes, Masha. We dog sit Masha and we have a very special relationship. She is so sweet with a personality all her own. I just love her. We had just lost our dog of 18 years and Masha has helped fill a void. My family loves dogs and we’ve had them all our lives. Today, I am happy to say we have a new dog named Hollywood. My grandson named him after his father (who was dedicated in the book). Mark’s nickname was Hollywood. I refer to him as our personal Yeti! At 6 months old, over 40lbs, and pure white, he’s our family joy. He’s just a sweet gentle giant and a welcomed addition to our family.

#AuthorInterview with Lin Wilder, author of Plausible Liars

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Lin Wilder, author of Plausible Liars: A Dr. Lindsey McCall Medical Mystery.

FQ: Thank you for the opportunity to chat with you today. I want to congratulate you on the many awards you have received for your bodies of work. Let’s start with the moving quote at the beginning of your book: "The spirit distinctly says that in later times some will turn away from the faith and will heed deceitful spirits taught by demons through plausible liars – St. Paul, 1 Timothy." Of the endless (and profound) passages in the Bible, why were you drawn to this one in particular?

WILDER: In the early months then years of wrestling with this story, I had three maybe four titles. None of them was right. Then one morning, I was praying the office readings for the Liturgy of the Hours and St. Paul (who became a friend when I wrote My Name is Saul) showed up with this passage in Timothy. Voila! Perfect!

FQ: Early on, when you are developing Zoey/Joey’s character, I was moved by the exchange in English class between him and his teacher Ms. O’Brien when he corrects her about the number of years Thoreau lived on Walden Pond. Are you a fan of Thoreau? Do you have a favorite of his work?

WILDER: It’s difficult not to be a fan of Thoreau if you’re young, idealistic and a loner. When I was Joey’s age, there were many passages from On Walden Pond that I’d memorized. As I considered this young, impossibly confused youngster, Thoreau and his musings fit. They’re timeless, really.

FQ: I enjoyed the siblings LJ and Morgan and their two dogs, Max and Gus. There is softness and understanding that you anchor at the onset, and we learn early on that Morgan is autistic. I emphatically believe there is a healing that takes place between the connection man has with animals and I wonder if this was intentional for you to keep this notion alive throughout the story. The scene where LJ is looking for Morgan and doesn’t get an initial response triggers the dogs and Morgan tries to calm them: "...Max, baby, shhh, it’s OK," she whispered, "Nothing to get upset about. It’s just LJ’s drama queen act. Gus be still, boy. Everything is fine, just fine..." (pg. 4). Have you ever worked with service animals or been around them?

WILDER: No I haven’t. But I sure admire people who do. For my book, Do You Solemnly Swear? I read extensively about war dogs, their handlers and was left with the conviction that we know next to nothing about these 4-legged creatures who choose us. No matter how badly dogs are treated, they continue to prefer our company. It’s miraculous.

FQ: I found myself holding my breath often when reading Joey’s entries in his journal. He seems so conflicted (and afraid). It’s difficult not to go off on a full-blown tangent, but if you had to encapsulate in a sentence or two, what is your opinion on the trajectory and forced awareness and acceptance of the transgender movement in today’s society?

Author Lin Wilder

WILDER: After pondering this question for a while, I realize I cannot encapsulate it in a couple of sentences: it’s far too important a question to do that. Instead, Father John’s reply to Kate when she asked him “how we got here?” is the only possible answer. Read Genesis to hear “the Great Heart beating behind those words.” Kate’s “Corrupting America’s Children: Creating Chemical Eunuchs,” details some of the ‘modernist’ philosophical trails that led us here.

FQ: In line with my previous question, I appreciate your embellishment at the end of your book in offering up certain sources you used in penning Plausible Liars. However, I find it very difficult to remain calm and clear-headed when I hear of toddlers and elementary-aged children being subjected to choosing their gender. In your opinion, when do you suppose it became the mission and guideline to disallow children to develop in their own time and pace (and the parent must take a back seat as well)?

WILDER: This story is based on a real event that happened in California. How frequently is this happening with toddlers nationwide, I don’t know. But it is true that California passed legislation mandating teachers to ‘teach’ gender identity in the elementary schools. In this mindset, parents lose their authority. My character, Dr. Heathcock is loosely based on an LBGT educational activist named Sears who began writing guidelines for sexual classroom education back in the late eighties.

FQ: Let’s address the elephant in the room. Personally, I’ve noticed an acceleration in the past handful of years to eradicate religion. In your opinion, do you think it is as simple as people are reticent to seek and learn about spirituality, or do you think there is something far more evil at play in our world today?

WILDER: Yes. I think people are reticent for many reasons. But it isn’t spirituality that’s the problem, it’s Jesus. In the current worldview, spirituality is fine and no threat to those in power. But those Jews and Christians are getting in a lot of trouble here and in the world when they strive to follow God’s law. But we’re told by Jesus that we will be persecuted - just as he was. There are something like 2 million Americans who claim to be Satanists. Most of them think I’d guess that it’s cool...like a tattoo, have no clue what they’re inviting into themselves. Yes, I am convinced demons like Morgan saw riding Joey exist in the world and are eager to do the bidding of their boss and destroy humanity.

FQ: Character Morgan has a unique ability toward clairvoyance. Is there a connection between clairvoyance and autism, and have you done any research on this?

WILDER: Morgan’s an empath and yes is clairvoyant. As far as I know, autism and clairvoyance are not correlated, but no I’ve not researched this question,

FQ: There seems to be a redefinition of words and procedures in our world today. One glaring example is when Justice Ketanji Brown was being considered for the Supreme Court and when asked to "...define a woman..." her answer was disturbing in that she would not commit to her understanding of the definition. Similar to this, "...It’s not called a mastectomy. It’s called a ‘top job,’..." (pg. 27) Is this definition limited to gender reassignment surgeries, or do women who have to have a breast removed due to breast cancer have to call it this now?

WILDER: Yes, euphemisms can be effective in many areas. But I believe “top job” is limited to girls who’ve decided to be boys. The phrase sounds more innocuous than does double mastectomy, kind of like abortion as healthcare.

FQ: Last question, and I ask this with the deepest and most heartfelt intention. I believe God is the answer and can heal humanity. Someone very dear to me once said: When you ‘let go,’ you ‘let God.’ Do you think humanity will wake up before it’s too late?

WILDER: I spent much of my life as an atheist. I walked away from God because I didn’t want to “waste my life” like my mother had. I rewrote Kate’s answer to Lindsey’s question to Kate about the timing of her conversion three times and was finally satisfied with her answer that “I realized the darkness began with me...” This entire woke movement is about humanity’s waking up isn’t it? But waking up without God doesn’t lead to light but darkness.

FQ: Thank you for the honor of this interview today. Plausible Liars is one of the most disturbing (and enlightening) books I’ve read in a while. What’s next, and are you able to share a nugget or two?

WILDER: I’d intended this to be my last book. But no, it isn’t. After I take a break, I’ll start on One Smooth Stone, returning to the ancient novel series with the early life of David. His twenty-eight years as the son Jesse and his brothers ignored. Until the prophet Samuel was told to anoint him, the shepherd boy.

Thank you for these questions, I enjoyed thinking and replying to them . Thank you too for your thoughtful, gracious review.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

#BookReview of Plausible Liars: A Dr. Lindsey McCall Medical Mystery

Plausible Liars: A Dr. Lindsey McCall Medical Mystery

By: Lin Wilder
Publisher: Wilder Books
Publication Date: October 24, 2023
ISBN: 979-8218297305
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: October 23, 2023
Award-winning author Lin Wilder brings the fifth novel in her Dr. Lindsey McCall medical mystery series to light in Plausible Liars. The fascinating and compelling subject matter coupled with the sparks that fly from Wilder’s pen make it impossible to put this book down until the last page is read!
Investigative journalist Kate Townsend had no idea the number of feathers she was going to ruffle after writing and publishing her series, "Corrupting America’s Children: Creating Chemical Eunuchs." Danny Sugarman, a three-year-old in the same preschool as her son was not only the victim, but her inspiration to write the series. When Kate happened to arrive early one day to pick up her son, ‘JH,’ she happens to see a group of children in a circle dancing around Danny. He was crying and looking at a cake as the children danced in a circle around him chanting: "...Susan come out..." (pg. 65) After watching the activity for a few minutes, Kate walked over to the group and was disturbed when she witnessed young Danny in a skirt and "...crying hysterically, screaming that he didn’t want to be Mia, over and over. The other kids, including JH, started to cry, too..." (pg. 66) When Kate approached the teacher, Addison, to help, little did she know that her act of listening to Danny and helping him remove the skirt Addison thought would be okay to dress him in and replace his trousers, would be an act that would come back to bite Kate tenfold.
Meanwhile, Kate’s friend Dr. Lindsey McCall is at the center of quite a storm that is brewing and the epicenter of the storm she is about to be thrown into is transgender politics. Joey Carmichael used to be Zoey until he met Dr. T, and the journey of her gender transition was born. Joey is an impressionable young teenager and his mother, Cassie, was never going to be mother of the year. She had her own set of problems with drugs and alcohol. Joey’s confidante was his journal and that was his safe place to share his turmoil: "...when I was little, I looked exactly like Mom did at age three, then four, then five: freckles, curly red hair, and dimples. She showed me pictures to prove it. I’ve heard that some kids get stories read to them before bed. Not me. Just about every night, she would bring out that photo album and touch it and then me. “You’re going to look just like me, Zoey, honey.” Oh no, Cassie Carmichael, I am not going to look just like you. In fact, by the time I’m done, we won’t look like we’re in the same genus. OK, diary that might be a slight exaggeration, but you’ll see..." (pg. 3) Time and circumstances will expose whether it is Dr. T (or Dr. McCall) who has Joey/Zoey’s real best interests at heart. What both Kate and Dr. McCall would soon be subjected to is the fight of their lives for their respective freedoms or life behind bars.
Author Lin Wilder

Lin Wilder has done an exceptional job of research (both medical and case study) and applied it to an equally fascinating read. The relatable believability and color applied to all characters in this riveting and very controversial read is fantastic. There are many opportunities throughout this read that have a sublime nuance toward all that humanity is faced with in our world today and all roads typically lead to: pick a side. I applaud an author with such enviable talents to incent awareness across many of the pages of this novel. There are triggering moments with outcomes that range from anger, sorrow, and the sense of innocence usurped to name a few. It’s difficult to site one particular scene toward either argument (for or against) gender transitioning or dysphoria when touching upon the storyline because Wilder has proficiently presented argument for both sides of the topic. Ergo, bravo! You have ‘shown’ your audience versus ‘tell’ and simply put, it is up to the reader to process and evaluate. Personally, I have great respect for Ms. Wilder for her unabashed willfulness to plant the seeds of faith throughout this read and it is because of this I personally maintain hope and faith for better times to come. Thank you for penning such a fascinating and educational read!
Quill says: Plausible Liars may be a work of fiction, but it is hauntingly real in the societal climate of today.

Monday, October 23, 2023

#AuthorInterview with Angela Williams, author of The Poetry Project: Genesis

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Angela Williams, author of The Poetry Project: Genesis.

FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?

WILLIAMS: I am a Southern gal, born and raised in small-town USA. I love big and hard. Jesus is my number ONE, with my best friend and sidekick-hubby right up there as a close second. My three adult kiddos and four grandbabies (as of now, but the number keeps growing) are my whole world! Life is busy and our hearts (and hands) are full! My husband and I are entrepreneurs and own a small business (the fourth one we've successfully started and run together) and we are very involved with ministry and loving people. We have been married for eighteen years and for all of that time, my husband has tried to convince me to write a book. I finally listened. It is my goal to serve in any capacity I'm able to with a fierce passion and zeal to point everyone to the reason for the hope that lies within me, Jesus Christ, my Savior and King. So that is the purpose of my books (and my life).

FQ: Have you always enjoyed writing or is it something you’ve discovered recently?

WILLIAMS: I have enjoyed writing all my life. I was one of the nerds in school who actually loved English and reading class. I always excelled at it and found spelling, grammar, and most of the parts of language arts fun and exciting (I told you, NERD)! I can remember being in about Junior High when I discovered that I could write poetry. It came to me easily and I really enjoyed it. I would write about boyfriends and friendships and all the deep matters of life that a twelve/thirteen year old ponders. As I continued to grow up and life got in the way, writing took a backseat and it wasn't until I gave my life to Christ at the age of 26 that I picked up pen and paper again, when I started journaling. I have kept a journal and have written down a lot of my prayers, and I've also written some poetry on and off over the past 16 years. I had a successful blog site where I was faithful to write and share my thoughts and insights with the world several years ago, and I loved it. I've just started a fresh new blog site, and I have been working on this Poetry Project this past year, with the intention of publishing the entire six-part series over the remainder of this year, prayerfully.

FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.

Author Angela Williams

WILLIAMS: This book, The Poetry Project: Genesis, is the first in a six-part series, which I've written as a retelling of some of the harder-to-read/understand parts of the Bible. I've covered Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (which is called the Pentateuch or the Law of Moses) and the book of Job. I know this may seem like a strange project, but as I mentioned, poetry has always come easy to me and last Easter, the Lord challenged me to use my gift in this way. I love poetry that rhymes, so as I was spending time in my Bible, words started coming to my mind and onto paper and it ended up being a beautiful flowing retelling of what I'd just read, but I was weaving Christ and the Gospel and also my takeaway into each section I'd read. I wasn't even sure exactly how the final product was going to turn out, whether it was just for me or if I was supposed to share it with others, or exactly what God had in mind. But as I went along, I shared it with our small group (and others), and everyone loved it so much and told me that they were learning new things that they'd skimmed over before or never really understood, and (as was my goal) they were seeing that God is the same loving Creator and Father in the Old Testament as He is in the New. There is no disconnect. He is the same - yesterday, today, and forever. So I was convinced that I needed to be faithful to publish these writings and put them out into the world. I have not found much in the way of Christian poetry out there, so it's my hope that this book will reach and bless many. And I trust that it will reach exactly every person it's meant to. I am also certain that believer and nonbeliever alike will enjoy this work if they are open to give it a read.

FQ: Please give our readers a little insight into your writing process. Do you set aside a certain time each day to write, only write when the desire to write surfaces, or ?

WILLIAMS: I would sit down each morning for my quiet time with the Lord where I would pray, read His Word, and then just ask the Holy Spirit to give me HIS words and allow them to flow out of my heart and onto the paper. I would pray for whoever may read these words, that it would penetrate their hearts and that He would do the work of drawing them to Himself. He was faithful to meet me there every single morning without fail, and after about three to five hours, I would have one day's worth of material (so basically what's now become my chapters) finished.

FQ: What was the hardest part of writing your book? That first chapter, the last paragraph, or ?

WILLIAMS: The hardest part of writing my book was DEFINITELY Leviticus, lol. Numbers was actually very tough as well. There were many days that I sat down and read and felt like it was just so dry, I had to step away and come back the next day to try again. I LOVE God's Word, don't get me wrong...it was just a very challenging task for me to make those books come alive the way I had done with all of the others parts of this project. However, I am satisfied and certain that in spite of this, the reader is going to be able to enjoy even these books in a way that they may not have before (for the same reason).

FQ: The genre of your book is Poetry. Why this genre?

WILLIAMS: More specifically, Christian Poetry. To be honest with you, I have never read any other Christian poetry before! When I was trying to start the publishing process for my book, I went to our local Christian bookstore so that I could look at some similar books and none existed! I even asked the manager if they had anything of the sort, and she said they did not, but in fact they need some because she would very much enjoy reading that kind of writing (which, of course, prompted my sweet doting hubby to tell her all about my project)! She loved the idea and asked for my name and if I would bring her a copy of my book once I got it published. And I absolutely plan to do so.

I did not realize just how challenging it was going to be, but it has also been SUCH a blessing for me. I have learned SO MUCH myself as I've gone through the Word each day. I was adamant about sticking to the integrity of the Scriptures, so it took a lot of time, thought, prayer, and research before the work was finalized.

FQ: Do you have any plans to try writing a book in a different genre? If so, which genre and why?

WILLIAMS: Yes. I plan to write something about my life/testimony. A memoir, maybe. I'm not sure. Again, my husband (my biggest fan outside of Jesus) is always nudging me to write, and he thinks the world would greatly benefit from hearing my story of heartache turned to hope, my mess made into a message, my pain transformed into passion to see others set free.

FQ: Who are your favorite authors?

WILLIAMS: I know this may sound cliche or what you'd expect a Christian to say, but literally my favorite authors are the writers of the Bible! The Apostle Paul is honestly one of my favorites, I think. I love to read his epistles and I spend a lot of time in them. I relate to him a lot because of his beautiful story of redemption. When he saw Christ, he was knocked off his horse and became a completely new person...same for me.

FQ: As an author/writer, what famous author (living or dead), would you like to have dinner with, and why?

WILLIAMS: As I said, the Apostle Paul. I think it would be fascinating to share a meal with him and hear from him directly. He had such a hatred for the early church until he met Christ and then he turned the world upside down (along with the other disciples, but he is responsible for so much of the New Testament). His words always encourage and challenge me in how I am living in this present world and I would just love to sit and break bread with him.

FQ: What is your all-time favorite book? Why? And did this book/author have any influence over your decision to become an author?

WILLIAMS: The Bible, obviously. Because it IS the Word of life! It gives me life. It is where I turn for guidance, counsel, direction, encouragement, correction, hope, joy, peace, wisdom...literally everything. Yes! This, my first project, is based solely on it! The Author of it, God Himself, definitely commissioned me to this work and has walked with me every step of the way. And I leave the results in His faithful hands knowing I was obedient to His call.

Learn more about The Poetry Project: Genesis and author Angela Williams at: https://angelawilliams1006.wixsite.com/unapologeticallyme

#BookReview of These Things Happen by Michael Eon

These Things Happen

By: Michael Eon
Publisher: Girl Friday Books
Publication Date: September 19, 2023
ISBN: 978-1959411161
Reviewed by: Rebecca Jane Johnson
Review Date: October 19, 2023
These Things Happen is a realistic novel that confronts alcoholism, spousal abuse, child abuse, tragedy, and suicide. The story begins with Daniel Zimmer finding his brother, Max, having just attempted suicide with a gunshot to his head. Daniel holds his brother while help arrives. He had been trying to convince Max to attend AA meetings with him, and regrets not knowing the depths of Max’s despair. Can Max recover from his trauma, addiction, and depression?
The second chapter travels back in time to 1975, when Daniel was 12 years old, and Max was 14. The two brothers, growing up in Brooklyn, received a rare gift of some money from their father to spend at Woolworths. To impress his terrifying father, the older brother, Max, chooses to buy a cap gun, when he would rather have bought Hit Parade Magazine. Daniel wanted to buy a wolfman figurine, as he relates to the wolfman from the Lon Chaney Jr. film; however, his father is enraged by his choice of what his father refers to as a “doll,” and so Daniel is also forced to purchase a cap gun.
The novel proceeds with each chapter shifting between 1970s Brooklyn and 1990s Brooklyn to reveal how significant moments in childhood impacted Daniel, the main character and narrator, later in his life. He is attending AA meetings with over 300 days of sobriety, only to relapse when tragedy hits. In the 1970s timeline, Daniel builds a friendship with Brie, a neighbor who is asthmatic. In the 1990s timeline, Daniel is on the verge of breaking up with his live-in girlfriend, Jill. His relationships with these women reveal dimensions of Daniel that are full of both tenderness and resentment.
As a twelve-year-old, Daniel loves playing the trumpet, and he carries the mouthpiece around as if it is a good luck charm. As a grown adult, Daniel works in real estate in Brooklyn, never realizing his dream to travel to places like Chicago and New Orleans to play trumpet.
This novel is captivating, and the poignant details give a sense of the eras. The relatable characters and their struggles will appeal to anyone familiar with the pillars of Alcoholics Anonymous. One shortcoming of this novel is that the narrative timeline gives a random hither-and-thither swinging quality. But that is a minor flaw for an otherwise engrossing read. And while this book may not be lighthearted reading, it can evoke the desire to support and care for each other, to work to find hope. These Things Happen inspires strength to cope with the effects of addiction and abuse - sobriety is a worthy pursuit.
Quill says: These Things Happen is a stunning, cinematic novel that provides the reader with a satisfying emotional catharsis.
For more information on These Things Happen, please visit the website: https://www.michaeleonauthor.com/

#bookreview of Mosscroft: Shadows Not Forgotten by DTM Harris

Mosscroft: Shadows Not Forgotten

By: DTM Harris
Publisher: BookBaby
Publication Date: September 20, 2023
ISBN: 979-8-35091-427-6
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: October 18, 2023
New science fiction writer DTM Harris has made her debut into the world of published authors with her first novel entitled Mosscroft: Shadows Not Forgotten, a thrilling story of a war based on electromagnetic pulses between the seven territories of Juno and the dynamic characters this war affects.
The story opens as we meet Ronan, who works as a Two Sider in the Chamber of Dissatisfaction and lives in the territory of Mosscroft. A Two Sider is similar to a judge in that they have the ability to exercise complete autonomy over rulings. It is a special day for Ronan as it is the day of his son Magnus’s Responsible for His Own Destiny (RHOD) celebration. However, before Ronan can even begin to enjoy the celebration intended for his son, his friend Jonas shows him an article in the community newspaper, The Mosscroft Chronicle. The article references a hearing that is scheduled regarding Dagmar, who has been exiled into the Lands of the Dismissed (LODS), and is now requesting re-admittance into Mosscroft. As a Two Sider, Ronan is required to attend this hearing. Both Ronan and Jonas wonder if there is an ulterior motive prompting Herschel, the Director of Orders, to call this hearing. Ronan’s day continues to become even more peculiar as his father, Rupert, rather than coming in person to attend Magnus’s RHOD celebration, instead sends a rather cryptic message to Ronan’s house explaining that he has been called away to an emergency meeting. Ronan finds this rather odd as Rupert has been retired for some time, and it makes him even more uneasy when he tries to call his father and he is unable to reach him.
After the conclusion of Magnus’s RHOD celebration, Ronan, along with Jonas, Quinn, and Magnus, make plans to go to Greisling to attend the hearing regarding Dagmar. Before they leave, they meet up with Franceska, who works with Ronan in the Chamber of Dissatisfaction, and learn that she, too, is making the journey to Greisling for the hearing. Unbeknownst to them, this journey will present them with more questions, challenges, and secrets than they thought possible while they learn who their true alliances are and a new war threatens devastation among the territories of Juno.
For a new author, Harris has written an impressive debut novel with Mosscroft. The sci-fi world is thoroughly developed, from the transporters that are used for travel, to the advanced weapons and computers, to their legal system and how they deal with criminals. The details that Harris included in her story were simply astounding, and this allows readers to more fully immerse themselves as they progress through the narrative. Similarly, Harris incorporated a rather large cast of characters in her story, which can sometimes be confusing. To combat this, however, Harris included a Cast of Characters index at the back of the book as well as a Glossary of Terms. Adding these two indexes was a very smart idea on her part, and readers will surely appreciate these supplements.
One minor drawback of Mosscroft was the number of typos that were noted throughout the book. There were numerous instances of missed quotation marks, incorrect punctuation marks or missed punctuation marks, using the incorrect version of “your,” using “whose” when it should have been “who is,” and using “than” when it should have been “then.” These mistakes were a bit distracting while reading.
Quill says: Harris has achieved a winner with the story of Mosscroft: Shadows Not Forgotten. This thrilling, action-packed sci-fi narrative will quickly draw readers in and keep them captivated until the last word is read.
For more information on Mosscroft: Shadows Not Forgotten please visit the website: https://dtmharris.com/

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

#AuthorInterview with Margarita Barresi, author of A Delicate Marriage

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Margarita Barresi, author of A Delicate Marriage.
FQ: I want to begin by thanking you for the opportunity to read A Delicate Marriage. Before getting into the specifics of the book, I’d like to ask a bit about you. In your bio, it states you were raised in Puerto Rico by your grandparents "...hearing stories about the ‘good old days’..." I would imagine you have some wonderful tales to share, but could you tell us about one that you often think of when reflecting on your time with your grandparents?
BARRESI: I loved hearing about my grandparents’ courtship. My grandmother was a debutante, and my grandfather was a poor nobody when they were dating, so my grandmother’s father, Cheo, did not approve of him at all. Cheo did everything in his power to derail the romance—from insisting all their dates be chaperoned to ordering expensive drinks my grandfather could not afford to making my grandmother mourn her own grandmother for an entire year during which she was not allowed to socialize. You’ll recognize some of Cheo’s tactics in A Delicate Marriage. He was relentless.
FQ: Your credentials, ranging from public relations, marketing communications, and now full-time writing, are impressive. What was the catalyst that sparked your interest in becoming a full-time writer?
BARRESI: I’ve been an avid reader all my life and have always wanted to write my own book. I used to wake up from dreams writing dialogue in my head that sounded like the current book I was reading. But as a young adult I was not adventurous enough to become a creative writer. Instead, my career in communications involved a lot of writing and I enjoyed that, but as I got older, I became more secure in my ability to make my dream come true and decided to take the plunge. Age has a way of letting you ask and answer, “What have I got to lose?”
FQ: You reference your two cats: ‘Luna’ and ‘Rico.’ Were they rescued from Puerto Rico? Any connection between Hurricane Maria and their finding a forever home with you?
BARRESI: Yes, Rico and Luna survived María as kittens and ended up in the same shelter in Puerto Rico. Someone had brought Luna there and poor Rico wandered in by himself one day. An organization called Paws 4 Survival brought them to Massachusetts. They were super bonded, so although I had wanted to adopt only one cat, we took them both. They are they funniest, cuddliest, most social cats I’ve ever known. I’m sure it’s because they’re Puerto Rican!
FQ: I was fascinated with the distinct line between have and have not in Puerto Rico’s history. In 2019, the company I worked for held a conference in Puerto Rico. Part of the conference program was to end with a day of service where all employees participated in a rehabilitative restoration that would leave a positive impact on the community. We were blessed with the opportunity to spend the day in Yabucoa and did many service projects. I was astounded to learn a lot of what these beautiful people still struggled with in the aftermath of a hurricane that devastated this beautiful island nearly two years prior. I certainly don’t want to turn this into a political discussion, but I thought about this experience when you referenced Yabucoa as one of the areas where the ‘jibara’ (poor people) lived. What is your view on the timeliness (or lack thereof) of the relief post-Maria?
BARRESI: I know Yabucoa well, as it was my grandfather’s hometown! María decimated Yabucoa and every town on the island, with rural and mountainous areas suffering the most. Yet help from the U.S. was slow and insufficient. A 2022 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights compared the government’s response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane María in Puerto Rico, both of which hit in 2017. In Texas, FEMA distributed more than $100 million to hurricane survivors within the first nine days after the storm. Nine days after María, a stronger and more destructive storm than Harvey, FEMA had distributed $6 million in aid throughout Puerto Rico. The inequity is staggering, even though both populations are U.S. citizens. In Puerto Rico today there are still houses with blue tarps for roofs, as well as many abandoned properties because their owners could not afford repairs after the hurricane.
FQ: In line with my previous question, you infer in a few areas of the book the inherent resistance from the native people when it comes to accepting help from the U.S. What was your inspiration for weaving this into the storyline?
BARRESI: To answer that, I need to revisit some history. In 1897, after 400 years of colonial rule, Spain agreed to give Puerto Rico its independence. Plans were underway to sever the colonial relationship when the Spanish-American War broke out and Spain lost. Unfortunately, Puerto Rico became one of the spoils of the war when Spain ceded the island to the U.S., which was interested in its strategic Caribbean location. So, there was a generation that rightly felt the U.S robbed Puerto Rico of its independence. I mean, they were so close to autonomy! Puerto Ricans are a proud bunch, and this baggage still plays a big part in how many of us see the world.
FQ: There is a compelling passage you wrote in the epilogue: "...The government’s brilliant idea, instead of adjusting the budget, had been to issue bonds. They borrowed money from Wall Street, and when they couldn’t pay it back, the banks allowed them to borrow more. Maria had hit an island with a debt of $74 billion and an infrastructure in ruins. The American, in whom Papi had held such faith, had abandoned them decades ago. According to the news, they weren’t stepping in to help now either..." How were you affected when writing such powerful prose?
BARRESI: Well, thank you. I’m glad you found it powerful because that was my intent. As part of the Puerto Rican diaspora, it’s been incredibly difficult to witness these events from afar. In addition to the U.S. stepping away, we’ve had corrupt government officials who made a lot of bad decisions. María, for me, was the last straw. I was incensed at the lack of response from the federal government. The news showed FEMA “helping” by distributing Doritos and candy bar packets in towns where people were starving. I was angry when I wrote those words and I still am because Puerto Rico will never be the same.
FQ: You touch upon the dynamics of the position the man and woman assume in the household. During the era of this story, Marco was portrayed as the provider and Isabella as the mother and homemaker. In your opinion, when did this change? (i.e., blurred lines between man providing and woman nurturing).
BARRESI: This dynamic was very much of its time, particularly in Hispanic Catholic households. However, many poor women took on sewing and ironing during the early years of the 20th century and later, when the island became industrialized, they worked outside the home in factories. Puerto Rican women also had influential female role models throughout the 20th century. Doña Felisa Rincón De Gautier was mayor of San Juan from 1946 to 1969. Others include the writer Julia de Burgos, poet Lola Rodríguez de Tío, many women in business, and even Rita Moreno. Today, of course, successful Puerto Rican women abound, even in the Supreme Court.
FQ: I was charmed by the beauty of Old San Juan when I was in Puerto Rico. There is a sense that pulsates wherever one walks along the streets of a place in time that I fear won’t exist in another generation. I sensed this when reading different scenes in A Delicate Marriage. If you were given the opportunity to maintain this allure to the end of time, what would your contribution be to solidify this happening?
BARRESI: I will continue to write about Old San Juan and perhaps entice people to visit and spend their money there. Hopefully, it will always exist as it’s listed in the National Register of Historical Places and several of its structures are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Many of the buildings in Old San Juan predate any European-built structures on the mainland.
FQ: It’s interesting that during Muñoz’s reign and Operation Bootstrap, hundreds of American companies were brought to the island through the ’70s. Yet post ‘modernization’ and when the incentives ran out, the Americans left with nary a backward glance. What is your view on this?
BARRESI: The concept of corporate social responsibility and “doing well by doing good” did not exist back then. Companies came to Puerto Rico because they could operate tax-free and pay their workers lower wages. When those incentives ended, so did their interest. The exodus was callous, irresponsible, and created a tax void the island hasn’t been able to fill to date.
FQ: I want to thank you again for writing a wonderfully captivating and historically rich story. I would imagine you are already deep into the process of penning your next book. If so, are you able to share? If not, when? The world needs more authors who are capable of telling a great story!
BARRESI: Thank you! I am working hard on the next project. While researching A Delicate Marriage, I learned that doctors tested the birth control pill on women who lived in housing projects in Puerto Rico in the late 1950s. These women did not know they were participating in a drug trial, just that they could take a magic pill that would keep them from conceiving. Even though the trial results were problematic, the FDA approved the pill, and the rest is history. But there were real costs to the women in Puerto Rico and that’s what my next book is about.