Friday, June 28, 2024

 #AuthorInterview with Helena P. Schrader

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Douglas C. MacLeod, Jr. is talking with Helena P. Schrader, author of Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift.

FQ: Cold War is about a very specific time after World War II-the Soviet blockade and the Berlin Airlift. Why choose this specific time period as the setting for these protagonists’ stories?

SCHRADER: I lived roughly 25 years in Berlin and my husband is a Berliner so I feel a strong affinity for Berlin and what it suffered in this period. Then in 2006, a U.K. publisher commissioned me to write a non-fiction work on the Berlin Airlift to mark the 60th anniversary. My research for that book brought me in contact with many survivors of the Blockade and Airlift — Germans, British and Americans, including the famous “Candy Bomber” himself, Gail Halvorsen. The non-fiction book titled The Blockade Breakers could not begin to include all the human stories I discovered, and it was obvious that Berlin Airlift offered the raw material for a thousand novels. In short, I was drawn to the topic then, but was already fully engaged on other projects. I did not return to the Berlin Airlift until the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

FQ: You earned a PhD in history from the University of Hamburg, and you have expertise in both aviation and World War II. What led you into this field of study, and why write novels as opposed to commercial or academic non-fictional works, in this particular instance?

SCHRADER: Does any of us know why we get interested in a particular topic?

I lived in the UK as a girl when memories of the Second World War were still vivid and pervasive. I was there when the film “The Battle of Britain” was released and I lived near to RAF Tangmere. That’s probably what first got me interested in military aviation. I devoured first-hand accounts of the Battle of Britain, along with memoirs and histories. Eventually, I risked writing a novel on the topic, Where Eagles Never Flew, which included a German plotline and highlighted the role of groundcrews and controllers as well. There is nothing in my entire writing career of which I am more proud than that one of the surviving RAF Battle of Britain aces, Wing Commander Bob Doe, called this “the best book” he had ever seen on the Battle of Britain, adding that “it got it smack on the way it was for us RAF pilots.”

While studying at university, however, I encountered the German Resistance. I was fascinated by this moral and ethical struggle so different from the nationalist resistance movements in occupied Europe. So much so, that I went to Germany to continue my studies and eventually earned a PhD with a dissertation on a leading Resistance figure. I met survivors and family members of Resistance leaders. I visited in their homes, held long discussions over ethics, courage, human nature, guilt, greed and more. We became friends, and I became obsessed with telling their story. Yes, I wrote and published my PhD thesis, but how many people read those? I believed a novel would reach more people and spent the next twenty years trying to interest agents and publishers in Germany, the US and the UK in my manuscript on the German Resistance. Nobody wanted a book about “good Germans,” so I self-published under the title Traitors for the Sake of Humanity.

By then, I was working and living in Berlin and spoke fluent German. My interest in military aviation had resulted in not only the novel on the Battle of Britain (Where Eagles Never Flew mentioned above), it had also produced a non-fiction, comparative study on women pilots in WWII. It was this latter book which brought me in contact with the publishing editor who would contract me to write the non-fiction work on the Berlin Airlift referenced above.

Non-fiction books are all very well, but I still think novels have a greater capacity to engage people at an emotional level. Novels can also reach an audience that would never pick up a non-fiction book on a specific topic. In the case of the Berlin Crisis of 1948-1949, the advantage of a novel is that it can go beyond the political chess game and logistical accomplishments to explore the social and psychological impact of this pivotal historical event. With Cold War, I hope to reach readers at an emotional level.

Author Helena P. Schrader

FQ: Cold War is a work with a lot of moving parts to it, and yet the novel is quite linear in its construction. When starting this project, as well as the entire series, was that your intent to ensure focus was maintained? What is your writing and research process like?

SCHRADER: If an author is writing about common events in a familiar setting, then it can be intriguing and beneficial to play with time and space. The author does not risk jeopardizing the readers fundamental understanding of the context and subject. In contrast, in an unfamiliar setting, sophisticated narrative techniques tend to obscure and confuse rather than enhance a story. Given the complexity of the historical situation in Cold War — starting with the division of Germany into four zones of occupation, but with Berlin itself inside the Soviet zone, yet also divided into four — any approach other than a very straight-forward, chronological one would have resulted in chaos and irritation.

As for process, in this case the research had largely be completed when writing The Blockade Breakers, although I consulted a couple of recent releases. I then outlined the key events that I wanted woven into the story and got to work. For Cold Peace, I found it easier to write each storyline separately and then interweave them. By the time I was writing Cold War, the characters were sufficiently established and familiar for me to write the book as it appears, chronologically.

FQ: Cold War has many strong female characters, and a good portion of your canon speaks to women and their affiliation with the military. Do you have the sense that women are fundamentally under-represented in stories about military service and, more specifically, World War II?

SCHRADER: No. Not really. Men did — and still do — dominate the armed forces. It would be perfectly appropriate for most books about the Second World War to focus on them. In fact, however, there seem to be an inordinate number of books about women during the war, mostly as spies and resistance fighters, or on the home front.

FQ: You seem to have a very strong sense of voice; your characters are very distinct and the dialogue in Cold War is very indicative of the time or of how the time is generally represented. Do you think that comes from your knowledge of and research on the subject matter or is there something more personal happening? How did you come up with your characters’ voices?

SCHRADER: For a historical novel to work well, it must be more than accurate, it must also feel authentic. It is the latter which makes it considerably easier to write non-fiction than fiction. A non-fiction book remains a contemporary work looking back at a specific topic in the past. We can use modern language, references, draw parallels to the present, exploit hindsight etc. etc.

A novel should do none of those things. A novel should transport the reader back in time and make them feel as if they are living through the events described. The people who inhabit a novel ought to use the language of the period (to the extent this is still comprehensible to modern readers). They should have the same interests, opportunities, belief-systems, prejudices etc. etc. as the people of the age in which they “live.” I’m pleased to hear that you think I succeeded in doing this!

If I did, it is largely because of my heavy reliance on primary sources for my research. That is interviews, letters, memoirs, autobiographies, oral histories and diaries. If you immerse yourself in enough primary sources, the language of the age starts to become second-nature.

But you are correct that there is something ‘more personal’ at play as well. My major characters are people who have asked me to write about them. I am only the media for those who want their stories told. I try very hard to let them speak for themselves.

FQ: Around the world, we are currently seeing the horrors of war and potential for conflict. Ukraine-Russia. Israel-Palestine. Taiwan-China. Cold War is quite timely in that way. Was this intentional? Or, are stories like this just so common place that it seems like you were being intentional?

SCHRADER: The parallels to the invasion of Ukraine and the increasing threat of a Chinese blockade of Taiwan were a prime factor motivating me to returning the topic of the first battle of the Cold War. As I mentioned, the Berlin Airlift had long intrigued me, but I’d put on a “back burner” for a “later date.” That date seemed to have come.

FQ: What one appreciates about Cold War is its accessibility to the general public; the work is not difficult to follow, even though there are technicalities and complex terminologies associated with the military. Your forward, in particular, is most helpful in keeping your audience on track. Do you find it difficult to suppress the need to get technical for the sake of the story?

SCHRADER: Thank you! I’m very relieved to hear that you, as a reader who had not read Cold Peace, found it easy to get involved in the story and follow it!

As to your question, the problem is not wanting to get lost in technicalities, but rather remembering to include explanations of things that seem absolutely obvious to me. I’m frequently baffled when readers make comments that reveal a fundamental lack of understanding of essential facts, e.g. that Berlin was 100 miles inside the Soviet zone, that the Airlift operated from bases in western Germany (not England or the US), that RAF pilots could have any rank from Sergeant to Air Marshal etc. My editor, who is completely ignorant of all things military, kept forcing me to put in more information than I thought necessary.

FQ: You are quite prolific. You have written close to 30 pieces of fiction and non-fiction. What is it about writing and research that draws you to do it so regularly

SCHRADER: I simply can’t stop. The stories — or voices as you put it — are in me. They want to be heard. I live in fear I have not done justice to my subjects. I’m particularly distressed by feeling I’ve failed to market my books adequately.

All the dead ask of the living is that we remember them. My books are intended as memorials. I wish they were bigger, stronger and more enduring than what I create on my laptop, but I have no other tools.

FQ: This is the second book of a trilogy. Can you tell us a bit about what your plans are for the third and final book in the series?

SCHRADER: Cold Victory picks up where Cold War ended, again taking the reader into the hearts and minds of the familiar British, American and German characters. The first draft of Cold Victory is roughly three-fourths finished, which means it is on track to be released in April or May of next year, 2025.

However, Cold Victory posed significant challenges to me as a novelist because historically the logistical and political challenges to the Airlift had been overcome by the end of January 1949. From then onwards, the volume and diversity of supplies delivered by the Airlift just grew and grew. That makes for a boring plot.

To counter that, I chose to explore the changing nature of the world as it slid deeper into the Cold War by giving two characters greater freedom to operate outside the rigid framework of the historical record. This was risky for me as an author because it entails trespassing into two personally unfamiliar genres: crime and espionage thrillers. In one case, a murder trial shines a light on the incomplete de-nazification of Germany. In the other, a clandestine operation to rescue a civilian from unjust accusations of espionage highlights the degree to which the Cold War was fought “under cover.”

Nevertheless, the framework remains the Airlift. The over-arching theme is turning enemies into allies. Yet the need to confront the new Stalinist threat also resulted in an overhasty and imperfect pasting-over of the Nazi past; collective guilt became collective amnesty. In addition, this first victory of the Cold War left a bitter after-taste by leaving Germany and Europe divided for another forty years.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

 #Bookreview of Knife River

By: Baron Birtcher

Publisher: Open Road Media

Publication Date: April 23, 2024

ISBN: 978-1504086523

Reviewed by: Diana Coyle

Review Date: June 26, 2024

In Knife River by Baron Birtcher, Sheriff Ty Dawson is trying to keep the peace in Meriwether County during the 1970’s when the world is in strife. Sheriff Dawson is trying his best to keep the riff raff out of his county, but trouble just seems to find him no matter how hard he and his deputies try.

One case Ty is currently investigating is trying to discover the identities of two men who shot a young eagle on federal land. He and his deputies will stop at nothing to find these two men and arrest them for committing such a heinous offense. While trying to find out who the two men are, and who owns the helicopter they were using to commit the offense, he decides to travel to the meadow area not too far from his Diamond D ranch. He’s hoping to find some incriminating evidence there to support his case. After finding some evidence, Ty decides to pay a visit to the closest developed property nearest the meadow. This secluded resort contains a record studio built from the remains of existing abandoned buildings. Since so much money was put into this development, he hopes he will cross paths with the owner there knowing they have a helicopter pad on property – something very few people have in this part of town.

He meets Len Kaanan, the owner of the property, and is told that although the property has a helicopter pad, Len doesn’t own a helicopter. It is there for all his music clients when they need to fly in and out of the area when they are recording their songs. One popular client, Ian Swann, is presently recording an album which they know will be a huge success. Len assures Ty that no one has used the helicopter pad in quite some time. But something doesn’t sit well between Ty and Ian, and Ty is determined to do whatever he has to in order to get to the bottom of who shot the eagle and just who this Ian Swann character is that is giving him a bad feeling in his gut. Will Ty and his deputies find the two men who killed the eagle? What does Ty discover about who Ian Swann really is?

Right from the start, this story will grab you and take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. The reader is first pulled in as to why an eagle, which is a protected species, is senselessly killed. As you turn the pages, you are traveling along with Ty and his deputies wanting to find the truth as to why this crime took place and who the two men are that committed the wrongdoing. As law enforcement is investigating, you will find your heart pounding in your chest because you feel as if you are another deputy on the case needing to find the necessary answers to make an arrest. Birtcher skillfully penned the story to make it feel so real that you personally want to make the two arrests and have these men serve time for the federal crime they committed.

The setting of this story will pull you in as well because of the way the author described the land, the people and the animals as seen through Ty and his deputies’ eyes. It will make you feel as if you are actively investigating the crime and looking for your own evidence to solve this case. As each person is investigated, you will start coming to your own conclusions if the person may be guilty or not of committing this crime and question if they are one of the men that should be put in jail. The author is very gifted at describing scenes to make them authentic and so believable that you will think you are another character in the story watching everything unfold before your eyes.

When Ian Swann entered the story, something didn’t feel right about him at first. Then as his story unfolded, he became an integral part of Ty’s investigation, which later takes a drastic turn in the story. Readers will be riveted, sitting on the edge of their seats while trying to find out who Ian really is and how he fits into the situation as a whole.

Quill says: Knife River is one mystery thriller that will take you on a roller coaster ride until the very last page. It comes highly recommended by this reviewer!

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

 #AuthorInterview with D.L. Jennings

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with D.L. Jennings, author of Days of the Dark (Book 3 of the Highglade series).

FQ: You wrote your debut novel, Gift of the Shaper, while on active duty serving on your ninth combat tour. I am curious, as I'm sure your readers are, as to what that looked like. There you were, on active military duty, writing a novel. It doesn't sound like an environment that would be conducive to writing. How did this process go for you?

JENNINGS: I would say it was exactly the environment that was conducive to writing, mostly because of a combination of factors: a remote East African location, no internet, and down time. All of those things put together made for just the right ingredients to spark a creative urge in me to start writing. I had brought a few books with me, but quickly tore through them. I told myself that, since I had grown up reading fantasy, maybe I could try my hand at writing it, too. After settling on a general setting and an idea for the characters, I started writing what would become Gift of the Shaper on my iPad, finishing the whole thing over the course of about a year.

FQ: The entire fantasy world you have created for the Highglade series, including the region, characters, artifacts, even the names, is so comprehensive and creative. You did not miss one single detail. How did you create such an intricate world? Did you derive inspiration from anywhere?

JENNINGS: I have always loved daydreaming, and I did so much of it when I was writing the series. I was raised on Dungeons and Dragons, and my favorite part was always the character creation: what was this one like? Where did he come from, and what shaped him? I poured those kinds of questions into my writing to make sure that each of my characters were believable and fleshed out. I also took a lot of inspiration from various cultures – Irish, Mongolian, Bedouin – when shaping the characters and the regions they’re from.

FQ: Would you say you're a fan of reading fantasy yourself? Any favorite fantasy authors?

JENNINGS: My mom raised me on Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, so it was only natural that I would gravitate towards writing fantasy as well. I would have to say that my favorite author, though, is Robert Jordan, who wrote the Wheel of Time series – not only because he was a great writer, but he was a fellow war veteran and ended up doing something great with his life. It’s very motivating to me.

Author D.L. Jennings

FQ: In your bio, you share that you've been deployed 11 times to six different locations. Can you share a bit about these experiences: where you've been deployed, and what your role was within the Air Force Special Operations Command?

JENNINGS: I was a Career Enlisted Aviator in the Air Force, and my specialty was called Airborne ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) Operator, which basically meant I spent a lot of time on a special mission aircraft collecting intelligence. I flew somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 combat missions, and I only know that because they gave me a certificate when I hit 300, as it’s considered a difficult milestone to achieve. What it all boiled down to, though, was I was doing a job that I loved supporting some of the baddest dudes on the entire planet, and considered myself very lucky to be doing it.

FQ: When you were writing the Highglade series, did you have any issues keeping all of your characters and details straight? Did you have an organization system as you progressed with your writing and the details became more complex?

JENNINGS: When I was writing Awaken the Three (Book 2) and Days of the Dark (Book 3), I found myself doing a whole lot of CTRL+F in the manuscript for the first book. I wanted to make sure I got things straight like eye color (a very important trait for the race of people called the Athrani), previous character interactions, and overall story arc. The closest thing I have to organization is a text file on my phone with potential plot points or bits of dialogue that I may or may not end up using. I think it would drive a normal person mad, but then again I spend several hours a day talking to made up people in my head, so I think I’m already past that.

FQ: Days of the Dark is the conclusion of the Highglade series. Since your first series as a published author has been so successful, do you have any plans for future standalone books or perhaps another series?

JENNINGS: I have always loved writing, and consider myself very lucky to have found it. I’ve been rolling around an idea for a new story for a few years now, but I wanted to make sure that I finished my series first; it was very important to me that I told the whole story. Now that I have told the best story I could, I am very excited about my next project, which I try to update on my website,

FQ: On your website, you share a bit about your journey to becoming a published author, including the rejections you faced along the way. What advice would you give to someone who wants to publish a book, but is intimidated by the process?

JENNINGS: You never know what you are truly capable of until you try. Some of my friends have told me that they’re impressed with my imagination and that they could never write a book, but I was in my 30’s the first time I ever put pen to paper (metaphorically). Writing a book is far and away my proudest achievement and I’m so happy I attempted it – but at the same time I never would have been able to do it without the encouragement of my friends and family, people who told me that what I was writing was something worthwhile. I would say to anyone who is thinking about writing a book: do it. If you have it in you, it will get done.

FQ: You share that you travel a lot, and you even blog about it on your website and Instagram. Can you share with your readers a bit about your favorite trip recently: where you went, what you experienced while there, and why you loved it?

JENNINGS: Travel is one of my favorite things to do, and this past October I did something I almost never do: I visited the same place twice. Two years ago, I stumbled on a castle for rent on Airbnb. It slept 10 people and was situated in a Tuscan town called Poggibonsi. I had always wanted to go to Tuscany, and I knew that some of my friends and family would want to join me, so I reached out and got enough people interested in sleeping in a Tuscan castle that we ended up making it happen. We had such a good time that we ended up going back in 2023, and the owner remembered us. The last night we were there he cooked all of us a traditional Tuscan meal complete with wine made from grapes that he grew in his vineyard right on the property. We spent 5 days there in total, and I think, without exaggeration, it is my favorite place on earth. I have a feeling we will be back again.

 #Bookreview of Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By: Helena P. Schrader

Publisher: Cross Seas Press

Publication Date: May 15, 2024

ISBN: 979-8987177020

Reviewed by: Douglas C. MacLeod, Jr.

Review Date: June 25, 2024

Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift is the second book of a three-part series (Bridge to Tomorrow) written by Dr. Helena P. Schrader and devoted to a largely forgotten part of World War II history: the Russian blockade or Berlin Crisis of 1948-1949 when Berliners were unable to get the basic supplies they needed to survive because of Russian interference. Most historical novels and works of nonfiction about this time period are about what happened prior to and during the War, mainly focusing on the Holocaust; however, what Schrader expertly does is speak to the aftermath of the War, when innocent lives were (literally and figuratively) picking up the pieces and starving for the essentials. The Berlin Airlift in Gatow was a lifeline to those who needed assistance, and Cold War (the sequel to Cold Peace) is a dramatic attempt to show how significant this innovative and creative initiative was to a devastated nation on the brink of being ripped into two distinct worlds.

There is no doubt Dr. Schrader knows the subject matter; she earned her PhD in history from the University of Hamburg, and her areas of expertise include aviation and World War II, so it is obvious she is familiar with what happened between 1948 and 1949. This fact is apparent in her discussions about how the Berlin Airlift was built and used, from its paltry beginnings to becoming the juggernaut it was, eventually dropping almost 13,000 tons of necessities to the German people. Most of the novel, which is also a multi-character melodrama indicative of 1940s and 1950s war pictures, is devoted to providing readers with a complete understanding of the difficulties surrounding the Herculean task of ensuring an entire population of people are fed and living comfortably in a war-torn nation. She does this with an unparalleled audience-centered confidence; the book is simple, focused, and straight-forward, even if over 500 pages long. Dr. Schrader goes day by day, in a linear fashion, which makes Cold War flow and makes the building of the Airlift into something most readers can understand without googling different mechanical terminologies or looking up convoluted airplane schematics. The work is accessible and keeps readers engaged in both how the Airlift was built and how individuals, who had their own personal baggage to deal with, sacrificed it all to guarantee the safety of those in need.

Much of this has to do with Dr. Schrader’s “Forward,” which provides audience members a full synopsis of Cold Peace, plot points about the first book, character biographies, maps, and list of side characters who are not and who are historical figures. Similar to the expositions given day-after-day in daytime soap operas, having this “Forward” brings those who did not read the first novel in the series, up-to-date on what is currently taking place in the story; and, it orients readers in the hopes they will be able to stay focused on what is happening throughout. Although the number of characters admittedly can be quite dizzying (10 protagonists, and a slew of bit players, come and go throughout the work), Cold War is relatively easy to follow and is rife with a great deal to keep the audience on the hook: danger, suspense, intrigue, passion, good versus evil, and battles. In other words, Cold War possesses all the components needed for a successful historical novel very much like that of Casablanca, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and a slew of other films coming out of America and the United Kingdom during that timeframe. The narrative is indeed important, but so is readers knowing about the tenacity of those willing to lose it all to save their fellow humans.

This tenacity comes from both men and women. Very different from the films discussed above, and many other war films, Cold War places women at the forefront of the narrative. Oftentimes, writing and visual authors of history whitewash groups of people out of said histories. Systemic misogyny and racism are a sad but true part of world history. Dr. Schrader, instead, recognizes women were just as important to the war effort. They were: pilots; translators; air traffic controllers; journalists; and, blue-collar workers. They contributed their time, blood and love of country to their countries of origin just as much as the men did, and Dr. Schrader does an excellent job in showing this fact of history in Cold War. Thus, the women get equal “screentime” and readers can get a good taste of what it meant to be a woman during this most difficult time in world history. And, ultimately, what makes Dr. Schrader’s timely work so valuable is how accurately Cold War shows the trials and tribulations all human beings went through during World War II and soon thereafter, as well as what they may be going through now in several countries around the globe. Just as much as it is historical, Dr. Schrader’s novel is a covert commentary of what is happening today and our need to be better humanitarians.

Quill says: Cold War is a sprawling but absorbing narrative that gives readers a full and accurate understanding to what happened during the Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949.

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

Friday, June 21, 2024

 #Bookreview of See the Good/God in Everything

By: Regina Clifford

Publisher: Lightning Strikes Press

Publication Date: April 22, 2024

ISBN: 978-0-9756636-1-5

Reviewed by: Rebecca Jane Johnson

Review Date: June 21, 2024

See The Good/God in Everything offers life advice from a woman who knows. Regina Clifford gained wisdom through life experience and through humble prayer. She is a wife and mother whose faith in God has been tested by challenges with fertility, marriage, family, blended family, faith, career, emigration, and friendship. Her marriage to a divorced, older man launched her into a life she did not expect. Through marriage, she gained five adult step children; turning to her faith in God helped her get through life’s challenges. Growing up Asian in Canada, living in the Middle East, being estranged from her family, then becoming an Australian resident inform her international perspective. Whether her insights come from relationships, fertility, marriage, travel, citizenship, baby care, love or forgiveness, Clifford confronts everything with honesty and a strong desire to release judgment and be open to self-improvement. This book is like having a good friend offer intimate and useful advice.

This book reads like journal entries, written by a God-loving soul on a contemplative journey through life today. Each journal entry begins with a provocative title such as: “Working Moms Are My Heroes” or “Check Your Heart Often” or “Be Prepared to Face Your Insecurities.” In each entry, the author describes some issue she confronts, the challenge she faced, and what she learned from it. Each entry ends with a short prayer of thanks to God and closes with a Bible verse that invites readers into further reflection on the topic.

For example, in “Happiness is an Inside Job,” Clifford considers societal notions of happiness, then describes a time when her husband was miserable, and explains what she did to stay strong and not let his misery get to her. She ends this passage with a verse from Proverbs.

This would be a good book to feature in a Bible study book club. It offers tools to cope with repeated rounds of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), repeated failures, endless hoping and getting hopes dashed but ultimately overcoming in the end. From these journal entries, readers get bits and pieces from the author’s life; however, this is not written as a memoir with any story arc. Sometimes the apparent randomness of the topics makes it hard to read in one sitting; nonetheless, this could be a useful book to open to any random page to read daily for quick bites of wisdom and inspiration. The author is purely delightful when she reveals herself through her quirky imagination: how does she deal with toxic thoughts? She visualizes putting bad thoughts into a giant golden toilet and flushing them down while two angels stand witnessing and protecting.

This book encourages keeping faith, and it offers strength, and even a little amusement, to anyone who may be seeking a friend. Clifford is a fellow mother who looks at life’s drama with honesty, humor, and scripture. Clifford discovers that to get into the Word more, all she had to do was put down her phone and pick up her Bible. Her advice is friendly and relatable. The balance of being both realistic and positive makes this book feel like it would be a perfect gift for a mother-to-be who loves to read, to journal, and to study the Bible.

Quill says: See the Good/God in Everything dazzles with wisdom and tenacity; it is a prayer book that holds motherhood and marriage inside a faithful heart, beating to the sounds of a prayerful mind.

For more information on See the Good/God in Everything, please visit the author’s website at:

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

 #AuthorInterview with David Litwack

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Trix Lee-Rainwater is talking with David Litwack, author of The Maker of Worlds.

FQ: What was the initial spark of inspiration that led you to write The Maker of Worlds?

LITWACK: Inspiration often starts from the oddest of places, and the resulting novel may end up far from that seed. This idea began when I’d gone for a walk to the Locks in Ballard, Washington.

The locks allow boats to pass from Puget Sound to Lake Washington, adjusting for a water height difference that can be as much as thirty feet. I watched as a modest sailboat with a lone sailor on board entered. The massive iron gate closed behind him, and the water began to drain. The level lowered leaving him with four surrounding walls well above his head, obscuring the view of what lay beyond.

When the level had settled, the gate in front began to creak open. I imagined what might happen if he found on the other side, not the familiar lake, but a new and unexpected scene. What if he saw something more like a magical realm that let him leave his troubles behind and provide the opportunity to conjure a new world. new world of his making.

FQ: Lucas and Mia both carry significant emotional baggage from their pasts. How did you approach developing their complex inner lives and making their personal journeys feel authentic alongside the fantastical elements?

LITWACK: For different reasons, both had lost hope in their prior lives—why they risked the maelstrom. As they progress through their new world, testing out their emerging powers, each responds in different ways, sometimes throwing them into conflict. But underlying all lay the desire to discover a more hopeful future. That is their bond.

FQ: The theme of finding meaning and purpose in life is central. How do the journeys of Lucas and Mia reflect your own views on this universal human struggle?

LITWACK: Someone once told me you need three things to find happiness: Something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for. These two had lost all three and in their grief, were reluctant to accept new ones. Only through overcoming adversity and having their values repeatedly tested did they find their way.

FQ: One of the key themes seems to be the tension between individuality/personal desires and the needs of the larger community. How did you approach navigating that thematic territory?

LITWACK: All those who pass through the maelstrom to the enchanted land gain magical powers, which they learn to use over time. The more they learn, the more their power grows. The easiest way to use magic is to lord over those less powerful, serving one’s own desires, but such power doesn’t bring happiness. Discovering when and how to use that power tests your character and determines what kind of person you’ve become. 

FQ: Lucas and Mia’s relationship is central to the narrative. How did you approach developing their dynamic and the evolution of their bond over the course of the story?

LITWACK: After a trauma, grief doesn’t easily allow one to trust again. During their journey, they’re challenged by adversity and are constantly forced to negotiate the right path. As they become pilgrims through a strange land, making hard choices and confronting their demons, their trust grows as does their bond with each other.

FQ: The book raises thought-provoking questions about the nature of reality, the limits of personal power, and the responsibilities that come with profound abilities. What do you hope readers will take away from those themes?

LITWACK: We tend to think there’s a single reality, yet when people look at the same set of events, they often respond in dramatically different ways, with joy, fear, anger etc. How we respond to the world around us affects our view of reality. In this book, magic is merely an extreme form of choosing our reality, if one only believes hard enough. And the choices we make can sometimes change the world.

FQ: Can you talk about the storytelling techniques you employed, such as the use of dreams/visions, to propel the narrative forward?

LITWACK: Except for the first chapter, none of the story takes place in their old ‘real’ world’ But to deepen character, I needed to give each of them a meaningful backstory. Some of that could be done with dialog, but I wanted them mostly in the moment rather than in the past. The dream sequences reveal more about their character but in a way that sets up the next major event of the story.

FQ: The ending leaves the possibility of Lucas and Mia moving on to a new world/realm. What possibilities excite you about continuing their adventures?

LITWACK: While the story is complete as is, once these characters have tasted adventure, there’s always the possibility of more to come. CS Lewis did this across seven novels in the Narnia chronicles, with characters aging and evolving as they return to the magical realm for new adventures. 

Monday, June 17, 2024

 #AuthorInterview with Renee Crames

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with Renee Crames, author of Magical Animal Faces.

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

CRAMES: I grew up in White Plains, New York. I was the oldest of 4 children. My parents came to the United States as adults. I was the first person in my family to go to an American school. My imagination was sparked by the varied books I read such as Aesop's Fables and Grimm's Fairy Tales.

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

CRAMES: I have always enjoyed reading from early childhood, but it wasn't until recently that writing became a hobby and passion that blossomed into something amazing.

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

CRAMES: This book is unique as its characters represent amazing people I have encountered throughout my life.

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

CRAMES: At this moment I plan on continuing to write children's books. I have another story brewing in my thoughts and I look forward to developing that further.

FQ: Who are your favorite authors?

CRAMES: I have particularly enjoyed books by Herman Wouk ranging from Marjorie Morningstar to Winds of War. Wouk is a master storyteller who spins a captivating tale that resonates with real life. In non-fiction, Walter Isaacson is my favorite author.

FQ: If a character(s) is based on a real person, what made you decide to do that? Did you tell that person he/she is a character in your story and if so, what was their reaction?

CRAMES: The main characters were based off my grandchildren. They have always enjoyed the stories I told to them through the years and they inspired me to share a story with them in it to the world. The oldest was so excited to see herself represented in print in the book!

FQ: With so many books being released each year in children’s books, what made you decide to publish your book? What makes your book stand out from the crowd?

CRAMES: I decided to write a children's book because I have always loved telling stories to my children and now my grandchildren. I think my book stands out as a feel-good family book that focuses on instilling values and kindness into the world and I feel like everyone could use a little more of that in their life.

Friday, June 14, 2024

#Bookreview of The Maker of Worlds

By: David Litwack

Publisher: Evolved Publishing

Publication Date: May 22, 2024

Reviewed by: Trix Lee-Rainwater

Review Date: June 14, 2024

What would you sacrifice to remake the world? Let’s find out in David Litwack's novel, The Maker of Worlds.

We follow the journey of Lucas, a young man haunted by the recent death of his beloved Addy. Feeling lost and adrift, Lucas contemplates passing through a mysterious portal known as the maelstrom, which appears on the lake near his home every spring. Though he had always been intrigued by it, Lucas had never taken the leap - until now, six months after Addy's passing. When Lucas finally summons the courage to pass through the mysterious maelstrom, he finds himself in a fantastical borderland, a transitional realm where magic is real. There, he meets the custodian, a peculiar man who explains to Lucas that he now possesses the ability to shape this new world through the power of his imagination and conviction. However, the custodian also warns Lucas that the enchanted land is ruled by dangerous sorcerers, and that he must be cautious in how he wields his newfound abilities.

Soon, Lucas is joined by a young woman named Mia, who has also stumbled into the borderlands through the maelstrom. Like Lucas, Mia is grieving the loss of her past life. Together, Lucas and Mia set out to explore the borderlands and hone their newfound magic, creating everything from lush gardens to cozy cottages. However, their abilities soon draw the attention of a tyrannical lord of a nearby castle, who has used his magic to abduct children from the neighboring villages. As Lucas and Mia grow in skill, they become entangled in the tyrant's schemes, forced to confront not only his malicious magic but the darkness that lies within their own hearts.

Litwack's The Maker of Worlds is a fantasy adventure that immerses the reader in a vivid magical realm, where the protagonists' growth and transformation mirror the larger struggle between light and darkness, hope and despair. Litwack's novel excels at exploring the corrupting nature of power and the sacrifices required to wield it. The breakneck pacing and vivid action sequences keep the pages turning, while the world-building immerses readers in a realm where the line between reality and fantasy blurs. Yet, the story's true strength lies in its examination of the human condition, as Lucas and Mia grapple with questions of purpose, loss, and the true meaning of hope.

What sets The Maker of Worlds apart is the author's balancing act between the grand, sweeping scope of the fantasy genre and the relatable and deeply personal struggles of the protagonists. Readers will be left pondering how far they would go to remake the world in their own image, and whether the price of such ambition is too high to bear.

Quill says: A thought-provoking fantasy adventure that examines the pitfalls of absolute power, The Maker of Worlds is a must-read for fans of immersive, character-driven fantasy.

For more information on The Maker of Worlds, please visit the author's website at:

Monday, June 10, 2024

 #Bookreview of The Contessa's Legacy

By: Nora D'Ecclesis

Publisher: Renaissance Presentations LLC

Publication Date: April 24, 2024

ISBN: 978-1-7330201-5-2

Reviewed by: Tripti Kandari

Review Date: June 10, 2024

Blending historical narrative with dramatic flair, The Contessa’s Legacy by Nora D’Ecclesis is a tale of lives interwoven into a tapestry, distanced by centuries and bridged by the spirit of resilience and traditional legacy.

The happy anticipation of the wedding of the members of the influential Salacia family sets the scene in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. Oblivious to this urban centre of prosperity, the inescapable volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius is what awaits it. After the entire city is covered by the eruption, the Salacia family sets off on a meandering journey to find refuge. It is along this journey that Marcus and Julia have their poignant marriage ceremony that symbolizes hope and resilience for their new haven in Naples, Italy.

From the ancient ruins of Pompeii to refuge in Naples, the narrative leapfrogs centuries ahead to the streets of America, introducing the life of Contessa Angelina, an old noblewoman born in Italy and thrust by circumstances as an immigrant in America. Balancing her Italian culture with the bursting democratic American soil, she becomes a bridge for the family to their culture and traditions.

This shift paints the picture of the sudden rupture of life in ancient Rome to the relentless pursuit of preserving ancient legacies and values on new soil. As if echoing through generations, struggles faced by Contessa in modern America resonate through her oldest granddaughter Lydia, whose personal and societal struggles with bullying and social acceptance create an inner battle that mirrors the volcanic disruptions faced by her ancestors centuries ago. An emotional core to the narrative, Lydia’s poignant story revolves around resolving her battles of past, trying to find catharsis and closure of the devastation in her inner landscape. Could ancient Pompeii, undone by volcanic fury and unfinished tales, seek resolution through its descendants?

The story explores how people view their lasting legacies in various ways: some consider them a burden, while others find them inspiring. Marcus and Julia's wedding during difficult times reflects their commitment to preserving the customs and heritage passed down by their forefathers. It serves as a powerful symbol of optimism, resilience, and the guidance they believe their ancestors provide for their journey ahead. Similarly, Sophia, deeply inspired by the values of her grandmother Contessa and mother Lydia, develops a strong sense of environmental conservation. Her beliefs enable her to not only uphold her heritage but also to set sail and contribute to society. For Lydia, her family's legacy is a symbol of pride. Yet, it also burdens her with preconceived roles as she struggles for identity.

The juxtaposition of tradition and change in the narrative mirrors the societal dynamics. In portraying Contessa’s embrace of her traditions on American soil and Lydia’s internal struggle against imposed values, the text reflects the clash between cultural assimilation and traditional preservation. The narrative here points to a balance between a way of life that honors the past while shaping the future.

Quill says: The Contessa’s Legacy is a compelling and affecting story targeted at readers interested in intricate narratives spanning different eras and contemporary issues. Illuminating the enduring power of the human spirit of resilience, it radiates the themes of identity and the impact of history on the present life.

For more information on The Contessa's Legacy, please visit the author’s website at:

 #Bookreview of The Fallen Man (The Olympic Peninsula Series, Book 5)

By: Cat Treadgold

Publication Date: June 1, 2024

ISBN: 979-8-9877363-5-7

Reviewed by: Kathy Stickles

Review Date: June 10, 2024

Cat Treadgold is back with the final installment in The Olympic Peninsula Series and, as always, she does not disappoint. With very captivating characters and excellent writing, along with romance, fun, some challenges, and a little bit of the paranormal, The Fallen Man is an excellent conclusion to this series that will be adored by readers.

In The Fallen Man, we finally get to meet the last of the O’Connell siblings, the eldest brother Edward. He has returned to Port Townsend no longer a priest, as he has been for years, and hopes to figure out where he will now fit into the world and the family. When Edward was younger, he was one who caused some trouble and, for lack of another phrase, really “sowed his wild oats.” While trying to deal with his life and change himself for the better, Edward became a priest and turned away from his family. Unfortunately for Edward, others within the priesthood decided to work against him. With no easy way out of this situation, Edward gives up this calling and returns to his roots.

Lisette Manegold, who owns a café in Port Townsend, is a woman who also has quite the checkered past. Having changed her name and moved to this small town to open her café, Lisette hopes that the past is finally behind her. With a questionable reputation, Lisette is not a person who would be easily accepted by the wealthy O’Connell family and she knows it. So, what happens? Of course, Edward wanders into Café Lisette and is immediately taken with the beautiful Lissette. Having just gotten out of a relationship that was no good for her, Lisette is not sure whether she is ready to take this chance. What would happen to this new relationship if Edward and his family discovered her past?

Cat Treadgold has created another mesmerizing plotline for this book that delves not only into Edward and Lissette’s new relationship, but also into the past of both characters. In addition, we get plenty of fun and emotion with the other members of the O’Connell family, who we have grown to love and root for over the course of this series. The Fallen Man is set during the Christmas season, so not only do we get to meet new characters, but we also get a huge dose of the rest of the family and everyone being together to celebrate.

The characters, as always, are so well-developed and the reader ends up caring about each and every one, not just the main characters. With excellent dialogue and descriptive settings, The Fallen Man pulls the reader in and holds their attention from page to page. This author is such an excellent writer and this story is a perfect example of her ability to pull together so many different personalities and secondary plots without making any part of the story feel forced or confusing.

The Fallen Man is a riveting end to a wonderful series and I highly recommend the book to all romance lovers out there. The saddest part for this reader is the fact that this is the end of the series. Maybe we will all get lucky and there is a brother or sister out there in the O’Connell family that we do not know about yet, because Ms. Treadgold has yet to invent him or her. I guess we can always hope!

Quill says: The Fallen Man is a fabulous conclusion to The Olympic Peninsula Series that should not be missed. Throughout these five stories (and I have been lucky enough to review every one of them) I have had nothing but compliments for them and I do not often feel that way. I cannot wait to see what Cat Treadgold comes up with next.

For more information on The Fallen Man (The Olympic Peninsula Series, Book 5), please visit the author's website at:

Sunday, June 9, 2024

#Bookreview of Immune Heroes

By: Namita Gandhi, PhD

Illustrated by: Tamika Bramwell

Publisher: Nimitry Books

Publication Date: January 23, 2024

ISBN: 978-1917095211

Reviewed by: Anne Hubbard

Review Date: June 9, 2024

Immune Heroes by Namita Gandhi, PhD tells the complex tale of how the human body works to heal itself, written in a whimsical and fun way that children will both understand and enjoy.

As the story begins, we witness siblings Mayu and Nimi riding their bikes when Mayu’s bike wheel hits a pebble, causing him to lose his balance and fall to the ground. In the process, he scrapes his knee and as Mayu cries that it hurts, Nimi offers comfort by telling him that the pain he feels is his body beginning the healing process. The story then shifts to illustrating what is happening internally under Mayu’s skin, where the scrape has occurred. The readers meet Captain T, the Helper T cell, neutrophils, platelets, microbes, macrophages, pseudomonas, and dendritic cells. As the story progresses, readers learn what each type of cell is responsible for during the healing process and how they work together to prevent infection and, ultimately, protect the person who was injured.

The author Dr. Gandhi, together with her illustrator Tamika Bramwell, do a superb job of taking a complicated issue and explaining it in such a way that is not only understandable to kids, but also amusing. The cells have adorable facial expressions throughout the story, and Captain T jumps for joy at the end when his team is effective against the enemy bacteria. Kids will love seeing the bacteria and cells “come to life” and will celebrate when the good guys are victorious at the conclusion.

While this book can certainly be appreciated for its amusing nature, Immune Heroes can also be utilized with young children as a teaching tool regarding the complex nature of the immune system. This book would be a welcome addition to a classroom, especially for teaching science-related subjects or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). The wording is simple enough for early readers, though kids will likely need help with the technical words identifying the different types of cells.

Quill says: Immune Heroes is a whimsical take on a complex topic that kids will enjoy for its fun, bright illustrations and parents will appreciate for the education that it provides.

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

 #Bookreview of Wall Pilates Workouts for Women: 50 Complete Video Tutorials and Illustrations to Lose Weight, Gain Confidence, and Get the Body You Want – 28-Day Ab Transformation Challenge Included

By: Evi Matonis

Publisher: Evi Matonis

Publication Date: May 30, 2024

ISBN: 978-1-915710-68-0

Reviewed by: Douglas C. MacLeod, Jr.

Review Date: June 6, 2024

Wall Pilates Workouts for Women: 50 Complete Video Tutorials and Illustrations to Lose Weight, Gain Confidence, and Get the Body You Want – 28-Day Ab Transformation Challenge Included, written by trained instructor and licensed physical therapist Evi Matonis, is similar to the slew of workout books that have come out over the last year, in the hopes of making sure individuals live their healthiest lives in body, mind, and spirit. The author speaks about the types of Pilates easily available to women and their special needs, the steps women can take to ensure they do not injure themselves, ways to modify and readjust if they need to focus their attention on other areas of the body; she also provides helpful diagrams and drawings for those who are visual learners and easy-to-read problem-solving tips so corrections can be made, if necessary.

Matonis begins her work with a brief history of how Pilates came to be: Joseph Pilates, a German-American prisoner of war, created this form of exercise (originally called Contrology) when observing the movements of cats while incarcerated on the Isle of Man. After experimenting, he recognized that his range of motion, strength, and mental well-being all were improved by doing these stretching exercises, and because of his success, decided to write two books on the subject matter. These books (Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education and Return Life Through Contrology) would later become the catalyst for future trainers who were attempting to improve the lives of their clients, and would later evolve to what is currently known as contemporary Pilates. Pilates have several foundational principles, according to Matonis: Centering; Concentration; Control; Breath; Precision; and, Fluidity. By regulating and optimizing one’s mind-body connection, Matonis claims: Pilates will not only help rehabilitate the client or the exerciser, but also strengthen the core, and allow for more physical flexibility and better balance. It is also worth noting that this form of rehabilitation can be effective when using both traditional and wall Pilates, although the focus of Matonis’s text is wall Pilates and, even more importantly, how women can thrive when and after using this popular form of exercise.

Generally, books like these speak only to, or place emphasis on, the physical advantages of exercising; however, Wall Pilates Workouts for Women changes that dynamic by speaking about mindfulness and how it plays a major part in one’s workout. To understand how the body reacts to the types of movements being done is imperative to the entire workout experience, and, more so understanding how your body is handling the exertion is key. Matonis writes in such a way that readers feel like she is personally speaking to them, even if the intended audience is women. Much of the introduction speaks about the cues needed for women to engage their core-navel to spine, breathing with rib expansion, imprinting the spine, and lifestyle and dietary changes; however, the book caters to all in that that it makes it seem like most readers can gain some level of education out of the provided information. It is because of this that there are moments in Matonis’s work where the audience is admittedly and unintentionally ambiguous. The drawings show readers women in various Pilates poses but the primary pronoun used throughout the text is “you,” so one does not know if the author is speaking to her, him or them, thus how is this material specific to women? A chapter about why these types of Pilates are most beneficial to women would have been a good way to offset this minor issue.

By adding the above suggested chapter, Matonis’s work would have been more empowering for women; but, what Wall Pilates Workouts for Women ends up being is a fantastic practical guide to getting stronger, healthier, and mindful. By the end of the book, Matonis makes sure her readers realize how important it is to be consistent and dedicated to this shift in lifestyle. This is a continuous journey toward a pleasurable destination, filled with improvement, persistence, and enrichment. Matonis is adamant about making sure that performing wall Pilates regularly should be a part of our day-to-day routine. By doing so, not only do readers get in shape but they also learn more about who they are, what they are capable of, and how they deal with low-impact, positive stress on the body. The idea here is to be proud of all that is achieved. As Matonis writes: “Perfection is not the goal, progress is.” As long as the mind-body connection is intact, and one puts forth the effort to keep it that way for as long as it takes, according to Matonis, joy is inevitable.

Quill says: Matonis produces a practical guide for women who want to learn how to build up their physical, emotional, and spiritual health using a form of Pilates that seems easy to do, but is certainly more complicated than it appears.