Thursday, March 28, 2024

#AuthorInterview with Robert Callaway, author of Becoming Forever Families

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kathy Stickles is talking with Robert Callaway, author of Becoming Forever Families.
FQ: Would you tell us a little bit about your own background and how you came to write this book and the previous ones about the Wilkinson family? What made you want to put your feelings down on paper?
CALLAWAY: I was diagnosed on the autism spectrum over 30 years ago, and a therapist who knows me very well recognized that I have an important message to share, which will help many people. I have learned how to overcome practically all aspects of this disorder, and I share how higher functioning individuals with this disorder and similar brain developmental disorders can overcome them and live happy, fulfilling lives. This information is shared in the story of the Wilkinson family, along with the trials they experienced, and how these life experiences prepare them to become forever families.
FQ: Never having read the previous books, I am hoping for a little background on the Wilkinson family from previous stories. While I know that the books are considered non-fiction, I am wondering if the Wilkinson family is a real one in your life, or a family created for the story to make your points.
CALLAWAY: As this book, Becoming Forever Families, is a sequel to my other two books, it is highly recommended that the prequel Living a Miracle be read first, so that the reader can understand the story and the continuity within this book. Ethan was diagnosed with autism, which created some unique issues for him and his family, including his two younger sisters. The Wilkinson family is based on information from a neighbor lady I knew, whose grandson was diagnosed with autism, and needed helpful information from me to share with him and his parents.
Names have been changed in this story, and I have included some fictionalized material within the story, based on actual events I have witnessed, to make the story of the Wilkinson family more understandable, and to help make the points I present very clear.
FQ: I really do love the title of the book. I thought it was a lovely statement and am curious as to whether the title came first, or did it kind of just show up as you wrote?
CALLAWAY: The title of this book came to me first, as this concept was briefly mentioned in my previous book, Living a Miracle. I felt this is a rather important title, as family members have very strong connections with each other, and want them to continue forever.
FQ: Do you have any plans to continue the Wilkinson family story in another book and, if so, what do you see coming next? Is there more for them to teach us?
CALLAWAY: I don’t have any immediate plans to continue this story, as I desire to promote these important messages I have written with as many people as possible. However, I may continue their story at a future time with a message of how a high functioning autistic adult can teach and help other people in ways never imagined previously, so that people can realize that their family ties really can continue forever.
FQ: I see from your bio that you have done a variety of things in life. I have to ask what possessed you to switch to writing and teaching others through that writing?
CALLAWAY: When I realized that I was becoming much more capable in many aspects of my life, and I recognized more blessings that God has given me later in my life, I had a strong feeling that I really need to share this important, true information; that it would resonate with a great number of people.
FQ: Have you put any thought into a different genre of writing and what you might be able to produce, or is non-fiction where your passion lies?
CALLAWAY: The family story in my last two books does include more realistic fictionalized material, especially with my last book. My first book, however, is more non-fictional, with some biographical information. I do enjoy writing both types, but I enjoy writing fiction a bit more.
FQ: Although I might be able to guess the answer to this question, I have to ask...If you could meet anyone (alive or dead) for one hour, whom would you choose and why?
CALLAWAY: I would choose my wife, who has now passed on, because I would like to see her again and talk about some important items, including my published books which were written since her passing, and the important messages they contain.
FQ: I really enjoyed your Reading Guide and believe it would make an excellent guide to run discussions in small group sessions. Have you ever done this? Perhaps meeting with Bible study groups or similar groups?
CALLAWAY: I am in the process of working with some people to make this happen, and I’m sure that when this book reaches a larger number of people, especially Christians, that they will desire to incorporate this book into their book clubs, as it touches on a very interesting subject.
FQ: I see from your author biography that you have a background in science and mathematics. I've often heard from scientists that you can't believe in science and also believe in God. Why do you think some scientists believe this? I've always wondered about it.
CALLAWAY: I know that since God has created all things, that all science is included in this, and I know that those scientists who don’t yet understand this fact will learn of this at some future time. I know that everything is connected, including how we all fit into the picture.
FQ: Now that Becoming Forever Families is complete, what comes next for Robert Callaway?
CALLAWAY: I have been working on some anecdotal short stories. This is still a work in progress. As noted earlier, a continuation of the Wilkinson family’s story might be forthcoming.

#Bookreview of Breksta's Academy by Natasha Quay

Breksta's Academy

By: Natasha Quay
Publisher: Ensisheim Partners LLC
Publication Date: November 13, 2023
ISBN: 979-8218229467
Reviewed by: Rebecca Jane Johnson
Review Date: March 23, 2024
Breksta’s Academy is a dystopian fantasy that reveals the ways friendship overcomes the thirst for vengeance. This novel tells the story of a young girl, Breksta, whose mother is killed by angry militants. Breksta is taken from her peaceful home and raised by an oppressive regime that forces her to enlist in a military academy. Once a free spirit who played in forests, built fairy houses, and picnicked with her gentle mother, Breksta must learn to shoot a rifle and spar with peers. In classes, her teachers use physical brutality to punish whatever behaviors the tyrannical director regards as defiant. Readers feel sympathy for Breksta who learns her mother was the leader of a group called the Dreamers, people who use magical power and who are at war with the US. For this connection to the Dreamers, Breksta is a target of Madam Director’s desire for revenge.
It’s a relief when Breksta meets a roommate, Hestia, who is kind, and the two vow to be trusting friends. When Breksta is accused of attempting to drown Hestia (she was really trying to save Hestia), Breksta serves time in solitary confinement. Hestia soon proves herself to be a devoted friend and then throughout the rest of the novel their friendship is tested in various ways.
Over the course of the novel, Breksta keeps her Dreamer identity suppressed while she also tries to learn about herself as a Dreamer and be an accommodating cadet. Who are the Dreamers as wielders of magic or special powers? What was the source of the conflict between the US military and the Dreamers? These are questions that don’t get their due development in the novel. Breksta’s character is passive. The way she finds out that she also has magic feels anticlimactic. Character development depends a lot on characters acting out of pure vengeance to eradicate all Dreamers.
The strengths of this book lie in its overall message that friendship conquers hatred and heroes risk their lives for justice. A memorable quote is from early in the novel, when Breksta’s mother encourages her, “But you are kind, Breksta. As you were kind to that wolf and everyone you have ever met, despite any potential danger or consequence. I believe you will one day earn your place beside the legends of old as an even greater warrior. Not for your superiority, but for your clarity of mind and purity of heart” (page 89). It’s Breksta’s friendship with Hestia that slowly reveals her purity of heart. It’s her ability to see past the military Academy’s illusion of “us versus them” that reveals Breksta’s clarity of mind. The story is well crafted in terms of sensational events, although it moves slowly due to a lack of character development. Breksta’s motivating desires are vague, and it’s more than halfway through the book before Breksta and her friend Hestia promise to travel and find peace after they graduate from the Academy, a motivating desire whose urgency does not match the violence that looms large, permeating every page of this Orwellian epic.
Quill says: Breksta’s Academy is a dystopian fantasy with a clear message: when violence battles magic, neither is more powerful than building friendship and taking courageous action in the name of justice over vengeance.

#Bookreview of In the Time of Coronavirus by Janet Zinn

In the Time of Coronavirus

By: Janet Zinn
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: June 4, 2024
ISBN: 979-8891322141
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: March 23, 2024
Writer and psychotherapist Janet Zinn offers a collection of web entries created during the coronavirus period, arraying a wide range of thoughts and feelings and an opportunity to examine them in her new book, In the Time of Coronavirus.
Zinn began her blog with a purpose: “to normalize our collective experiences.” Although some examples described are personal, she expands on them, and, at the end of each weekly contribution, offers pertinent exercises – both mental and physical - for her readers to practice. Her opening foray, “Self-Care Versus Scare Care,” focuses on the global upheaval that the virus undeniably brought to bear, offering a relevant way to shift perspective from “scare” to “care” by imagining trying to comfort a fearful friend. Throughout her posts, Zinn describes her many walks in New York City’s parks, her short getaways with family, and other lively ventures, all accompanied by photographs. An early entry deals with the death of her father from the virus, helping her to recall her childhood sensitivities as she walks through a park almost deserted on a rainy day. Consideration of often-fraught political news suggests fresh ways to understand the differences in people, while also stressing their similarities and acknowledging their individual strengths. Dandelions, considered a nuisance by some, offer a colorful uplift, prompting her advice to make a bouquet of weeds. While exploring the negative ambiance that the virus has created, Zinn continuously stresses the possibilities and positives, advising readers to change their routine, de-clutter, and make lists of constructive affirmations. As well, she gives such human-scale directives as lighting a candle, using a face cream, or simply snuggling. Zinn believes that despite the rigors of the era, the time will come when we will look back with sentimental feelings on “the lessons learned in the time of Coronavirus.”
Zinn is a licensed psychotherapist who served as a mental health first responder after 9/11, and is therefore well acquainted with the trauma that can result from a widespread awareness of the crisis. She arrived at the decision to create her blogs as she herself faced the trials of the pandemic. The blog evoked feedback from her audience, convincing her that this collection could be well received by a larger audience. With its intimacy centering on Zinn’s experiences and its universality deftly depicted to reach the hearts and minds of others, her book is sure to fulfill the purpose she envisioned.
Quill says: Janet Zinn’s self-help manual, In the Time of Coronavirus, offers an empathic, week-by-week view of the effects of coronavirus restrictions that will be read and appreciated by anyone seeking to solve a large variety of life’s problems.
For more information on In the Time of Coronavirus, please visit the author's website:

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

#AuthorInterview with Pam Atherstone, author of Copper and His Rescue Friends

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Pam Atherstone, author of Copper and His Rescue Friends.

FQ: First, I'd like to congratulate you on writing such a heartwarming book. I enjoyed every page of "Copper and His Rescue Friends." With several books to your credit, what inspired you to write a book about animal rescue?

ATHERSTONE: Thank you so much; I’m always thrilled to know people enjoy my stories.

My inspiration for “Copper” is the current situation in the pet world, specifically dogs. I feel that most of the problems with shelters and rescues being overwhelmed by unwanted dogs are a consequence of the pandemic. People staying home, especially those who worked remotely, obtained canine companions. However, those wonderful companions became an issue when they returned to work. So, the poor dogs have been surrendered to shelters or dumped off somewhere for people who care to deal with them. It’s a very sad situation, and by writing this story and targeting the middle school age group, I hope to educate and inspire the younger group to step up and help in some way.

FQ: Copper is delightful! Is he based on a real dog?

ATHERSTONE: Copper is a figment of my imagination, coupled with memories of a labrador mix in my childhood neighborhood. That dog was Duffy. He was big, he was yellow, and although Duffy was never in a rescue situation, I could see his personality come alive in Copper, as I wrote.

FQ: What about the other dogs and cats in the book? Are they based on real animals? And are their stories real, or are their stories based on cases you've encountered?

Author Pam Atherstone

ATHERSTONE: The other animals are a combination of stories I have heard from people in rescue, my own experiences, and some inventiveness. For example, Amethyst, the antisocial Siamese who accepts love from an autistic child, was based on a personal experience. The real cat was a calico who had suffered endless torment from a woman in her nineties who had dementia. When the woman passed, and we had to find a home for the cat, we found that no one could handle her until one day, when she instantly connected with an autistic child. It was a true miracle to witness the loving bond form between them.

FQ: Rusty's story really hit hard. When he explains, " day, my ears started bothering me; they burned down deep human mama started brushing my ears, and the more she brushed, the more they hurt. I tried to pull away from her, but she kept holding me down and brushing and brushing; I finally couldn't take it anymore, so I bit her hand..." Wow, how sad. It really shows kids to look for underlying causes when dogs act out. Is Rusty a real dog? Or is this a real case? And if so, what was actually wrong with Rusty?

ATHERSTONE: Yes, Rusty was a real dog. His story was sadder than I related. Cockers and other long-eared dogs often suffer from ear infections. However, the real Rusty had ear mites that penetrated his brain, causing permanent and irreversible damage. Unfortunately, his aggressiveness could not be reversed, so he had to be euthanized.

FQ: Telling the story from Copper's viewpoint was a great idea. Was it hard to write the story this way? I have to imagine that you had to put yourself in Copper's mind as he tried to figure out what was going on.

ATHERSTONE: Writing from Copper’s point of view was fun. How many cute memes and videos have you seen on social media putting words into the mouths of pets? This was probably the underlying inspiration for me. We all seem to anthropomorphize our animal companions in some way, so why not let them educate as well? I hoped doing so would draw young readers into the story and make it enjoyable.

FQ: Rescue work must be very close to your heart. Do you currently help out at a rescue? Or do you have experience working with rescue animals?

ATHERSTONE: Except for my horse, who was born in my pasture, all of our animals are rescue animals and have been for more than forty years. Suka, our husky, was found roaming the streets of a drug-filled ghetto neighborhood, scrounging through drug paraphernalia, looking for food. She was about six months old and emaciated, and her fur was matted when she came to us. She is now six years old and a fantastic, loving pup. Chloe, a Staffordshire terrier-Shar-pei mix, was dumped on the road on a scorching day (108f) when she was about nine months old. She was scared and had minor burns on her paws when my son found her and brought her home. She’s now two and quite a handful. She’s always into something, but we love her endlessly. We also maintain a colony of feral cats and have adopted an abandoned pot-bellied pig.

My time is limited, but I assist when I can. Our local shelter depends on volunteers for many things. Even if I only have enough time to help prepare meals, wash bowls and blankets, and do other menial tasks, it supports the overworked staff. I also help in supplementary ways; monetary and equipment donations and education opportunities can go a long way to assisting those who can give their all for our innocent, loving companions.

FQ: Your book talks about some harsh realities - a family member dying, abusing an animal, etc. Was it hard to decide what to discuss or in how much detail?

ATHERSTONE: It was sometimes hard to decide on the amount of detail to include. The harsh realities of life are just that—realities. I want kids to know that these things happen and that they should know about them. Some of the tragic stories those in rescue have told me would make you sick to your stomach. While I wanted to be honest about the realities, I didn’t want to overdo them. I want to educate without being sensationalistic. That is also why each chapter ends with a life lesson, whether it’s for Copper or the reader.

FQ: You've written both children's books and adult fiction. Do you prefer one over the other? Do you find one easier? I know some people think, mistakenly, that children's books are easy to write. What would you tell them?

ATHERSTONE: Each genre has its own challenges. I write historical fiction for adults, which requires extensive research, character development, story continuity, and attention to the small details.

Children's picture books can be challenging in getting a complete story into a few short pages of text worded in a way small children can understand. If the author writes in rhyme, the story must follow the rules of poetry and still make sense. Something I haven’t really achieved as yet, although I have tried. Then, once you have the story perfected, you must consider the illustrations, especially if the author is not an artist. Finding an illustrator is another research-filled process.

“Copper” is aimed at mid-grade readers, but that was a challenge, too. Research on word count and current language is necessary, as is consideration for the different reading skills within an age group. I consulted several teachers and received helpful feedback, although some of it was contradictory and confusing.

FQ: In your biography, you mention enrolling in a writing class that spurred you to start your writing career. What would you tell others who want to start writing but are hesitant? Should they take a writing class? 

ATHERSTONE: I encourage everyone considering writing to take a class, workshop, or join a critique group. These opportunities enable one to learn the chosen genre technique and connect with other writers. The camaraderie and feedback are invaluable to developing the craft and expanding one’s knowledge.

Since that first class, I have attended all-day workshops and seminars, joined critique groups where authors write in all genres, including screenwriting, and been invited to join the National Association of American Pen Women and the Dog Writers Association of America, two prestigious writing organizations.

I wouldn't be writing at all if it had not been for that first writing class (which I still attend).

FQ: What advice would you offer someone who wants to get involved in helping animals in need?

ATHERSTONE: ADOPT DON’T SHOP- give a shelter or rescue pet a new chance at love and a good home. So many of the animals in shelters and rescues come from backyard breeders and indiscriminate reproduction. Buying from these people only encourages them to keep breeding for the money.

If you can’t adopt, FOSTER. Fostering is essential because it allows the animal a chance to decompress. Many dogs do not do well in the shelter environment; they shut down emotionally or become reactive, actions that prevent them from finding new homes. However, fostering allows them to be who they are and discover there is love for them.

If you can’t foster, VOLUNTEER. Volunteering is something children can do. Cleaning bowls or cages, taking dogs on walks, brushing cats, and showing them love are huge assists to rescue workers.

If you can’t volunteer, DONATE. Rescues are typically non-profit organizations that can use funds for veterinary bills, medications, food, vaccinations, and spay and neuter procedures. In addition to monetary donations, shelters, and rescues can always use blankets, towels, sheets, pet beds, leashes, and collars.

If you can’t donate, EDUCATE. Learn about what rescues and shelters do to save unwanted or abused animals. Encourage friends and family to have their pets spayed and neutered. Tell people about the importance of microchipping pets and keeping the microchip information up to date so lost animals are returned to their owners and don’t end up in shelters. My horse is microchipped, too.

Copper and His Rescue Friends is my small way of helping by educating children about rescue and donating the proceeds from the book's sales to local rescues to help them help the animals.

Anyone can do something to help save lives!

Thursday, March 21, 2024

#Bookreview of Embers of Shadow: Ages of Malice, Book 3

Embers of Shadow: Ages of Malice, Book 3

By: Lloyd Jeffries
Published by: Buckminster Publishing
Publication Date: April 28, 2024
ISBN: 979-8-9855269-7-4
Reviewed By: Kathy Stickles
Review Date: March 18, 2024
Embers of Shadow, book 3 in the Ages of Malice series by Lloyd Jeffries, is without a doubt the best one yet. I have been lucky enough to review all of the books thus far in this series and I can say without a doubt they just keep getting better and better. This author is obviously creating the series with deep thought and care so that his readers get the absolute best he has to offer with each new story. I really do not have the words to explain how much I love them and how much I recommend each of the books to everyone out there.
In Embers of Shadow we really get two stories in one. On one side of the world, in the Middle East, we have our favorite broken-down addict and biographer Emery Merrick. Emery is spending most of his time watching as our old friend Cain (in everyone’s opinion, the Antichrist) embarks on and apparently succeeds in staging a coup that will change the face of the world. Also on this side of the world are two of our other favorite characters, both immortal, just like Cain. There is Longinus, always by Cain’s side and doing his bidding, and Igneus, who is out there trying to stop Cain. Poor Emery, as always, is caught in the middle as he attempts to figure out how to help destroy a madman and fix the world, all the while wondering what has happened to the love of his life, Rhyme.
On the other side of the world, in the United States, we find Rhyme, Cain’s wife and Emery’s ex-wife, fighting to stay alive as she tries to escape from the FBI, Cain, and the president of the United States, among others. With the help of an old friend, Rhyme’s own intelligence, and an amazing Doberman pincher named Houdini, she might just survive long enough to join forces with Emery and stop her insane and evil husband before he destroys the world and the love of her life.
Embers of Shadow is a spectacular story that will keep you enthralled from beginning to end. Lloyd Jeffries has created a riveting series with very compelling characters. He is an amazing storyteller and shows readers this yet again with a story that is extremely well-written and well-developed and filled with wonderful and very descriptive worlds that just pull you right in. The characters, each and every one, are fabulous, and each is a perfect addition to the story. As always, this book is packed with action, suspense, politics, and religion that make it a roller coaster ride of excitement. With the fascinating characters, unexpected twists and turns, and an ending that will blow you away even as you beg for more, there is nothing about Embers of Shadow that is wrong. I honestly read the book in one sitting and I am guessing that will be the case for many of you. Add this to your list of must-reads right now. You will not be disappointed!
Quill says: Embers of Shadow: Ages of Malice, Book 3 is the best of so many worlds...a perfect addition to the series, an exciting thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats, and best of all only the third book and we know there are more to come. What more could any reader want?
For more information on Embers of Shadow: Ages of Malice, Book 3, please visit the author's website at:

#Bookreview of Copper and His Rescue Friends

Copper and His Rescue Friends

By: Pam Atherstone
Publication Date: July 17, 2023
ISBN: 978-0997927177
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: March 19, 2024
Pam Parten Atherstone
A story full of love, hope, and friendship awaits readers of Pam Atherstone's newest book, Copper and His Rescue Friends.
Copper is a beautiful young dog who is half Labrador Retriever and half Irish Setter. When just a young puppy, he left his littermates to be taken to a loving home where he met a special young girl by the name of Amber. With fur the color of a newly minted penny, Amber named her new puppy Copper. At first, things were great - the two spent all their time together, going for walks, sleeping together, and playing together. But after about two years of living with his loving family, Amber no longer wanted to play. She stayed in bed all the time, until one day, her parents took the little girl away. Copper never saw his sweet best friend again. And then the arguing started. Amber's parents fought all the time, and poor Copper didn't understand what was happening. The lovable dog just wanted Amber to return home.
Not long after the fighting started, Amber's dad took Copper for a ride. It was a long ride and eventually the car stopped on an isolated road. Copper was afraid to get out of the car, but he was pulled out by Amber's dad. And then the car drove away! Copper was confused and frightened. He didn't know where he was or what to do...
Copper stayed in the spot where Amber's dad had thrown out the dog bed and food and waited for the car to come back. But it never came. The next day, Copper wandered along the road, found an old, discarded chair to sleep on that night, and then continued walking the following day. Fortunately, Copper was about to meet a wonderful woman by the name of Miss Lily, who would change Copper's life for the better. Miss Lily was extremely patient with the confused dog as she coaxed him into her car and again when, once at the rescue, Copper was too afraid to get out of her car. Eventually, however, Copper settled into his new life at the rescue and made new friends. And each of Copper's new friends had a story to tell - a story of their own rescue. These stories take up the bulk of Copper and His Rescue Friends and each one will draw you in and make you wonder about how cruel some people can be and also the kindness that other humans show our dog and cat companions.
Author Pam Atherstone has done a wonderful job engaging readers in a story that showcases the plight of so many dogs and cats. Told in the first person by Copper, the reader sees things through the dog's eyes - the joy of playing with Amber, the confusion when she goes away forever, and the fear a dog endures when his family literally throws him away like trash. The book is really a collection of short stories, with Copper's presence asking questions of his friends as he hears their stories the connecting element. Many different situations that bring dogs to a rescue, from the death of an owner to a dog that has to wear a "cage on his face" (a muzzle), are presented. The stories do tackle life-changing situations (the death of a family member to abuse), but the author does an admirable job of not dwelling on those events, but instead briefly explaining what happened and then moving on to the positive outcomes for each animal. Copper and His Rescue Friends is a book that brings the important job of rescue to light and one that young dog and cat lovers will devour.
Quill says: Copper and His Rescue Friends is a story that will draw young readers into the lives of some amazing animals and may even inspire some of them to learn more about rescuing animals.
For more information on Copper and his Rescue Friends, please visit the author’s website at:

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

#AuthorInterview with Alicia Stephens Martin

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Alicia Stephens Martin, author of The Silver Cowgirls.
FQ: Thanks very much for the opportunity to chat today. It was such a pleasure to read this very engaging story. Before getting into the actual story, let’s talk about you. You have a well-rounded and impressive background: successful stylist, salon owner and teacher, Bachelor’s degree in creative writing AND a daughter who became a champion equestrian! Of your multi-faceted talents and accomplishments, what would be your impact statement that captures the sum of all?
STEPHENS MARTIN: Wow, this is a thought-provoking question. Let me start with an explanation. I wasn’t very focused in my twenties. Instead, I was a girl who frolicked in and out of so many dreams, a late bloomer who made some wrong choices. Suddenly, life had scooped me up and this salon owner was burdened with a scorching feeling of unfulfillment. I was thirty-six, with a love for horses. Even though it almost broke the bank, I bought a horse and spent a year on the road showing with a group of girls. (That is, when I wasn’t working sixty-hour weeks.) My heart horse, Ruby, was instrumental in changing my perspective. I realized the business didn’t go under, clients continued to make appointments, and although I was exhausted, I was like most to juggle. I had every intention to continue showing the next year, but instead I said yes to adopting a child and I never looked back. Being a mother was a game changer. Unfortunately, when my daughter was seven, I became widowed. I found myself a solo mom and indebted business owner. I had the desire that my daughter follow her life’s dreams, unlike her mother who merely touched on a festering passion for writing. That is when my real journey began. I didn’t truly believe in myself until I was in my fifties and started writing after I obtained the college degree. So here you go, finally, my impact statement: “Always say yes! Don’t look back. Follow your passion at any age. Embrace it like an out of control love you thought you had lost forever and have been given a second chance. Embark on the adventure with joy like it is your last breath.”
FQ: I chuckled when I read your line: "Her daughter became a champion equestrian, and Alicia drove the horse trailer and wrote." If ever there was a statement I could relate to, it is this one. We have two daughters who spent many years in the saddle, and while I didn’t drive the trailer, I certainly was the resident groom, carpool mom to get them to/from the barn and shows, wallet for the endless purchaser of tack and show/schooling garb and the list goes on. Do you also ride?

Author Alicia Stephens Martin

STEPHENS MARTIN: Horses were instrumental in my evolution as a woman, mother, and certainly as a writer and even a business owner, especially my heart horse who has long passed. But when I became a mom, I centered around my daughter’s equestrian adventure. My passions slipped to the back burner. When she graduated, I realized I loved to ride but was bursting to write. I decided to concentrate on one task at a time. I told myself, “Write the bestseller, and then back to the saddle.”
FQ: I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamics and interactions among the four characters: Presley, Wheezy, Gigi, and Rachel. Having read your bio, it seems there is a little of each of them in what makes Alicia Stephens Martin tick. Who do you identify with most, and why her?
STEPHENS MARTIN: While I admire Wheezy for her unshakable determination, and Presley for her calm, steadfast belief in others, they are both my dream alter ego. I clearly have been in wreckless Rachel’s in fear, missing what could have been grand opportunities. And we all have that little Gigi inside of us, caught up in a material world which leaves our inner soul incomplete.
FQ: I have been a breast cancer survivor for eight years now. When I read the moment when Presley was bald due to the cancer treatment, I had to take a few moments for myself to reflect. For me, it wasn’t so much that my hair was my identity, but while my daughter was shaving my head, I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. There is something so grounding for a woman and her ‘perfect hairstyle.’ Immediately after my head was shaved, my daughter looked at me and said: “I’m not gonna lie Mommy, you have a great head..." That was a powerful moment for me and was a turning point for me to believe I was made up of much more than a great haircut. As a stylist, what words of encouragement would you give a woman going through something like this?
STEPHENS MARTIN: Let me say, you are an inspiration! I have worked with cancer patients through the Look Good Feel Better program as both a class facilitator and an educator. There is never a patient who is not a testimony and a life motivator for me. And as much as some want to say “It’s just hair,” that is never the case. For women and men, it’s part of their identity, one in many cases that they must learn to live without. I have watched them rise up in two short one-hour classes—resurrected with an inner strength. What a powerful moment, learning to live without, realizing you are constructed of so much more than hair.
FQ: I applaud you for the character you developed in Wheezy. She is a black woman of substance, and it was refreshing to see you develop her as such not because of her skin color, but because of her tenacity and convictions to follow through and persevere. We live in a world that is far too quick to judge on many levels, and I thank you for staying true to the story and character development. Did you ever feel apprehension toward saying the ‘wrong thing’ about any of the characters when developing them and if so, what was your process to change direction?
STEPHENS MARTIN: Absolutely. For example, I have never had cancer, although I had lost my husband to the illness and worked with many patients. I never would want to offend anyone, as I truly have never walked in anyone else’s shoes but my own. My career has been dedicated to working with women and promoting both beauty and enhancing oneself, never to judge what makes another feel good. To each their own. I felt most apprehensive about Wheezy’s character. My daughter is adopted and was referred to as “the little Black girl” beyond her immediate riding circle of friends when competing. This always bothered me. She had a name and/or back number, so why the color of her skin? In fact, her heritage is Indian. How uneducated and ignorant. Yet, so was I for not speaking up, too worried my explanation would jeopardize her placing or confidence. It was this way until she won her state championship for the second year in a row, then the tide changed. The fact I never spoke up while sitting in the stands has always gnawed at my core.
FQ: Is there any correlation between the Silver Spurs Rodeo and the Silver Spur championship in your story (i.e., was this part of the foundation in building the event in your story)?
STEPHENS MARTIN: No. All imagination. The story is based on my experience at age thirty-six, I ironically won first in the nation for Pole Bending. Believe me, it was a miracle, I was scared stiff. The comradery of friends and love of horses that year have been stalled in my heart forever. This was the only year APHA (America Paint Horse Association) did not award belt buckles! I was disappointed. At that time, I wanted to wear a silver buckle as large as my waist. Although now, past sixty, I appreciate the lead glass engraved plaque in my living room. As for the Silver Spur in The Silver Cowgirls, I wanted something like the Silver Buckle Competition for the novel, but Silver Spur sounded better!
FQ: I think we all know a person in real life who is the equivalent of the character Randall Emerson (character Gigi Emerson’s husband); diabolical, self-centered, etc. He too was well-developed and I often think when a character is so deeply defined, there is someone in real life walking among us who the author uses to create the fictitious one. Is there one person you thought of when writing the story (or is he a combination of many rolled into one)?
STEPHENS MARTIN: Another profound question. I’ve had my share of diabolical human beings. And I will leave it at that.
FQ: Wyndham Glick is the whole package: horse whisperer, perfect specimen of a man, and likable. I am a true believer in humans who are capable animal communicators. Have you ever crossed paths with one during your years spent with your daughter competing? If so, what was your experience like? If not, what are your thoughts about this gift?
STEPHENS MARTIN: Yes, double yes and triple yes. I have found that the most paramount horse trainers—both men and women—are capable animal communicators. By miracle, my daughter and I had the privilege to study under two remarkable trainers, Peg and Terry Helder. This led to a chance meeting with Guy McLean who was very influential in my daughter’s equestrian life at a time when she needed it most. The gift he demonstrated to her was to follow your heart.
FQ: I was saddened when I read the reason behind Rachel carrying tremendous guilt in connection with her husband’s death. Has there ever been a time in your life when something has happened that you wish you could change, but the circumstances surrounding the matter wouldn’t permit you the opportunity to change the outcome?
STEPHENS MARTIN: When I became widowed, guilt followed me for heavy at times that I didn’t even allow myself to smile. I missed so much living because I questioned why I was still here. I thought I didn’t deserve to be happy. But life is a journey. Not until my mother’s unexpected death did I reevaluate and realize I had missed so much for decades. I finally said yes to a date. And two years ago, I married the love of my life.
FQ: In line with my previous question, what words of encouragement would you give to a friend who is suffering from a situation that he/she wasn’t at fault in creating but carries the guilt regardless.
STEPHENS MARTIN: I recently published The Silver Cowgirls Journal in hopes of helping others. My own journal became a reflection, bearing my soul which was full of unspeakable and trapped emotions. When reflecting back on those pages, I realized the pain this woman, me, was suffering from. I had to forgive, let it go, and move forward. Life will always have challenges. Healing is our triumph. Find an outlet, a safe place—whether it’s on the back of a horse, the pages of a journal, or climbing Mount Everest—and breathe new life into your soul. I believe every person deserves this!
FQ: It was such a pleasure to read The Silver Cowgirls. I curled up immediately and let the story consume me. You are a wonderful storyteller, and I have to assume you are working on your next book. If so, can you share a teaser? If not...when?
STEPHENS MARTIN: There is definitely a sequel in progress, coming early 2025. But in the meantime, I am finishing my next women’s fiction, and you can guess there are hairdressers and horses!

Monday, March 18, 2024

#Bookreview of Mark's Way by Thomas Willis

Mark's Way

By: Thomas Willis
Publisher: Tifton Press
Publication Date: July 2023
ISBN: 979-8989305209
Reviewed by: Diana Coyle
Review Date: March 15, 2024
When Jim Herbert decided to have a quick fling with a pretty woman, Tanya Griffin, who he met at a local bar, he could never have imagined that night would be the catalyst for his life changing forever. Now, being charged with suspicion of murder, Jim must find a way to prove his innocence in Mark's Way, a thriller that lives up to the name "thriller."
Who would have thought a night of some fun could turn so seriously out of control for both Jim and Tanya? After waking, he realized he not only had to treat his pounding headache, but also needed to leave before things got awkward in the morning for the both of them. He decided to help himself to some aspirin in Tanya’s medicine cabinet, but in the process dropped the water glass, which caused it to shatter all over the bathroom floor. Quickly trying to clean up the mess and not disturb snoring Tanya, Jim cut himself badly and left blood all over the bathroom. During all the commotion, Tanya hadn’t budged and just kept snoring away. When Jim finally left her apartment, he not only made sure the door was locked behind him, but he also knew this was going to be a one-time fling. A short time later, when the police came to arrest him, things went from bad to worse in a hurry.
Mark Price and Jim became friends years ago when Jim was still married to Julie. Although they grew apart in their marriage, they shared custody with their special needs daughter, Libby. Jim was Libby’s world and they were extremely close. Julie believed Jim was innocent and would do anything to help him prove it, so she asked their mutual friend, Mark, to look into Jim’s case. Mark received top notch training in the Special Forces and had served his time during the Vietnam War. If anyone could find the person who framed Jim, it was Mark. Being visited in jail by Mark was a surprise Jim didn’t see coming, but a welcomed one when Mark decided to help Jim prove his innocence. Why was Jim framed for murder, and by whom? Can Mark find enough evidence before Jim is put to death for a murder he didn’t commit?
Readers will immediately be pulled into this riveting thriller. As you turn the pages, each chapter is dedicated to a specific character whose story will unfold specific details, little by little, that will lead you further along this harrowing tale. Each chapter builds on the last, which makes the story more intriguing by the minute. This is a thriller in which readers will find themselves gripping their books tighter than usual because they can’t help but become so entangled in Jim’s unfortunate life-changing circumstances. Willis does an excellent job placing the reader in Jim’s shoes and having them worry as each day ticks by, wondering if evidence will be found that will exonerate him. This reviewer enjoyed following Mark as he tried speaking with people who he hoped would provide enough evidence to free Jim of his life-altering criminal charge. Clearly you could see how Mark’s Special Forces training led him from one lead to another – making sure he obtained the information he was looking for from each of his contacts. He was on a mission to find evidence to help Jim, and he stopped at nothing to do it. Without a doubt you hope that Mark would be the right man, at the right time, to find the evidence that truly proved Jim’s innocence.
Quill says: Mark’s Way is one thriller where readers will find their pulse quickening and their hearts pounding. It comes highly recommended by this reviewer!

#Bookreview of Eden by Jamie Lisa Forbes


By: Jamie Lisa Forbes
Publisher: Pronghorn Press
Publication Date: May 22, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-941052-37-2
Reviewed by: Nellie Calanni
Review Date: March 14, 2024
When college-bound Rowen Hart is left reeling from his father’s suicide, he finds himself having to become the man of the house and navigate the waters of his rural, very racially divided town in 1950s North Carolina. What will his future hold now that the aftermath of his father’s death has left him and his mother in undesirable circumstances? Jamie Lisa Forbes takes readers along Rowen’s journey through manhood and adulthood and shines a light on the pivotal people he meets along the way in her newest novel Eden.
Eden begins with Rowen months after his father’s suicide, in his new home on the outskirts of town with his bedridden-from-grief Mama and devoted housekeeper Adeline. He is discouraged by his inability to hold a steady job and perform tasks that every man in White Rock, North Carolina is expected to have perfected by his age. Daddy never taught him how to fix anything or lift a finger for that matter, and so the broken gate out front remains broken and the land at Sawyer’s remains untended to. One morning, he decides to be late for work on Sawyer’s property, but not for any common excuse. There’s a murder trial taking place – Franklin White has been accused of killing his drunkard brother-in-law, Birch Whitney – and Rowen is curious and thankful for another scandal to be overshadowing his father’s untimely death.
Rowen’s interest in the case is soon piqued for another reason. Eden, the murder victim’s 10-year-old firecracker of a daughter, is called to the stand. She witnessed her uncle kill her father right before her eyes and is happy to tell anyone who will listen. Rest assured the whole town is listening, but believing her account is another story. Eden’s mother, if you can call her that, has decided she’s had enough of her daughter’s testimony and shameful presence, so what is a 10-year-old accused of lying to do? Run away to the outskirts of town and have someone else take her in.
When Eden shows up at Rowen’s home with only the clothes on her back, Adeline and Mama are pleased to take in the child. Rowen, however, is not. Eden is brash and brazen for her age, curious and ill-mannered too. Between his boss Sawyer, his co-worker Sammy, his greedy Uncle Hugh, Eden, Adeline, Mama, and his soon-to-be-wife Jewell constantly breathing down his neck, Rowen struggles to keep up with demands and expectations. An unforeseen bright spot throughout Rowen’s toils, however, is his budding friendship with Eden. As he spends more time with her, Rowen begins to see the world through her eyes, and regrets not being more of an open-minded young man. Then one day, everything changes – again. Eden’s mother has come to take her back. Rowen doesn’t know it yet, but he won’t see Eden again until she’s grown with adult struggles of her own. What will become of their reconciliation? It’s an emotional ride for readers as well as the characters in Eden.
Jamie Lisa Forbes details 1950s small-town North Carolina in a way that makes readers feel like they’re sweltering in the heat of the courtroom and shivering amidst the coldness of racial and class prejudices. To be able to communicate to the audience different relationship dynamics, whether it’s intimate relationships, friendships that break racial barriers, family ties, or the relationship an individual has with themselves, in such a heartbreaking and realistic way shows her dedication to understanding diverse backgrounds and what it meant to have grown up in the south during such emotionally charged times. This book is the perfect reminder for readers that life would be much less colorful if not for the people we meet along the way.
Quill says: Unexpected relationships can be the most rewarding, and award-winning author Jamie Lisa Forbes details them beautifully throughout Eden.
For more information about Eden, please visit the author's website at:

Meet Author Susan H. Hines

Meet Author Susan H. Hines in her new author bio page and learn about her new book, Buckley's Family Fishing Trip.

Friday, March 15, 2024

March Book Giveaway

Have you entered this month's book giveaway yet? It's your chance to win a brand-new copy of "A Change in Destiny" by Janet Shawgo. This book was a winner in our 2024 Feathered Quill Book Awards. The contest form is simple and only takes a minute to fill out. And... we don't save contact information so you don't have to worry about FQ contacting you after you enter. Just go to our main page, scroll to the bottom, and you'll see the entry form: