Friday, August 31, 2018

Book Review: The Gilded King by Josie Jaffrey

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Book Title: The Gilded King
Author: Josie Jaffrey
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

From the very beginning of the book to the end, I was captivating by the world that Josie Jaffrey creates in The Gilded King, which happens to be Book I in the Sovereign Series. I am not sure exactly what I was expecting from reading this novel, but I was not disappointed. Initially, the plot reminded me of the movie, “I Am Legend.”  

In this book, there are two distinct worlds: Blue and Red. Blue is where Julia resides, but Red is where she desires to go. However, Julia is paralyzed by fear of the unknown beyond the border that separated the Blue and Red worlds. Because of Jaffrey’s writing style, I was extremely curious about what was in the Red. As I read the book, I quickly understood.

The Blue is the remaining city after catastrophic destruction within the world. This city is guarded by a wall that separates it from The Red, where sudden death is imminent. Two young girls, Claudia and Julia, are servants within the Blue, and they are being groomed to provide the necessary nutrients of blood to their assigned superiors, The Noble. Jaffrey made it easy for the reader to understand the apparent caste system that was created when the world was transformed into what controlled the lives of Claudia and Julia. I admired the character, Julia. I loved how she does not fit into the sterotypical female role of submission. Even though she is a servant, she is very much aware of her thoughts and intuition. I love that about her character. 

I won’t give away the plot or provide any spoilers. Let’s just say that if you love books that transport you into another world then this is the book for you. I must admit that I was captivated by the way that Jaffrey allows the plot to unfold. Even though I was in the comfort of my bedroom as I read the book, I felt like I was right there with Julia when she first met Lucas for the first time. I could see Felix and Cam climbing the trees. Every scene that I read felt so real to me.

About the book

In the Blue, the world’s last city, all is not well.
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Julia is stuck within its walls. She serves the nobility from a distance until she meets Lucas, a boy who believes in fairytales that Julia’s world can’t accommodate. The Blue is her prison, not her castle, and she’d escape into the trees if she didn’t know that contamination and death awaited humanity outside.
But not everyone in the Blue is human, and not everyone can be contained.
Beyond the city’s boundaries, in the wild forests of the Red, Cameron has precious little humanity left to lose. As he searches for a lost queen, he finds an enemy rising that he thought long dead. An enemy that the humans have forgotten how to fight.
One way or another, the walls of the Blue are going to come down. The only question is what side you’ll be on when they do.

About the Author

Josie lives in Oxford, England, with her husband and two cats. When she’s not writing, she works as a lawyer, specialising in intellectual property and commercial law. She also runs a video book review club, The Gin Book Club, through her website. The Solis Invicti series (a prequel series to the Sovereign series) is available now. For additional information, contact:

Friday, August 17, 2018

EXCLUSIVE Blog Tour: Mississippi Writer, Robert Donohue at Mississippi Book Festival

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Tomorrow is the Mississippi Book Festival, and if you attend, you will find Robert Donohue, the author of an epic fantasy called Child of Creation.  I cannot wait to share my book review about this science fiction book. Stay tuned for my review.

If you see him at the Mississippi Book Festival tomorrow, tell Robert that you learned about his book via my blog. Be sure to take a picture with him and tag me in the photo on Instagram and Twitter. I would love to learn about your interaction with him. 

About the Book

Alone and terrified, the only son of the village’s hunter is on the run from a threat he doesn’t even understand. Marauders, who destroyed his village and murdered his parents, are chasing him to silence the only voice left able to bear witness to their atrocities. His parents ominously warned him to trust no one as they sent him away while they fought courageously to give their young teenage son a chance to live. Thus, begins the adventures of Lark. Follow Lark as he joins a group who teaches him that the world isn’t as simple as he was raised to believe. Lark soon learns that the fantastic stories he and his friends grew up hearing of a much bigger world where not just Elves and Dwarves, but Gnomes and Trolls, even magical Sprites could exist, are true. Even more disturbing, he begins to learn that his own heritage includes stunning secrets. Secrets that cause Lark to question not only who he can trust, now that he is on his own, but why his parents kept so many truths from him. Lark is forced to grow up quickly as he ventures into the incredibly dangerous world outside the sleepy little village of his youth and must learn and adapt, or die. Without any other real options, he begins a personal quest to make those who destroyed the only world he had ever known pay for their crimes. All the while, learning what it means to be the Child of Creation.

About the Author

Born in Chicago and raised in Syracuse, New York, Robert Donohue moved in his mid-teens to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he has been ever since except for a few years of college. He spent most of his career in law enforcement and some retail management. He graduated Summa Cum Laude in Organizational Management and is currently working on his Master's Degree in Homeland Security at Mississippi College. Robert has been an avid reader since about two and his favorite authors are Terry Brooks, Louis L'Amour, David Eddings, and the master, George RR Martin.

Robert Donohue Q&A - Child of Creation

What genre do you write and why? I write to relax.  I enjoy reading Epic Fantasy novels and so, my first published book is in that genre.  I grew up reading Louis L’Amour and Clive Cussler though, so I have a desire to try that genre at some point, and I have started about half a dozen times a book about my adventures in Baghdad, Iraq in 2004 when I was there serving as a police advisor helping to stand up a democratic policing presence in a country that had none.  Basically, I just like to write, and the fantasy genre is the most open, allowing me to be the most creative with character development and what I can do to create conflicts that drive character interaction.
Tell us about your latest book.  Child of Creation is an epic fantasy novel about a young man, Lark, who is suddenly, and violently, torn from the only world he has ever known when the small village he has never been more than a few miles away from is attacked and everyone in it, including his parents, killed. As the only witness to that atrocity, Lark is sent away by his mother who strangely tells him to keep who he is a secret just before sending him away.  Lark then has to figure it all out, how to survive in a world he doesn’t even really understand and wanders into a variety of challenges along the way, forcing him to grow up faster than he ever thought he could, and face the fact that somehow, his tragedy is tied up in a much greater series of events than he ever imagined he could be a part of.
What did you edit out of this book?  I started this book when I was a young police officer, and as such, I saw quite a bit of the seedier side of life. As I got older, and my children started growing up, I started to wonder if what I wrote was appropriate for them to read.  With a book about a 14-year-old, I wanted kids around that age to be able to enjoy it as well so much of the more descriptive depravity of the world Lark finds himself in was edited out to make the book more acceptable to me as a parent.
How was this book published? (traditional, small press, self-pub, etc.)  Why did you choose that particular publishing route?  I tried for years, possibly decades, to find an agent or a major publisher who was interested in working with me to get the book published.  I sent out dozens of queries all over this country and England as well and, to this day, don’t even know if any of those people took the time to review what I sent them.  Eventually, I took the bull by the horns and decided to self-publish.  I searched the internet and found out there are more ways to publish a book than there are books to publish so I spent some time gathering and comparing offers and found Page Publishing’s offer to be the fairest, and most likely to produce a finished product that would be successful in showing my talents to the best advantage.
How do you select the names of your characters?  The most popular question I have received since people started reading my book.  I basically didn’t want to accidentally step on any toes, so whenever I ran into the need for a new character name, I would start putting vowels and consonants together until they sounded like the character I was creating. I wanted an entirely new world that broke stereotypes from other worlds while at the same time, creating an entirely new set for this new world’s inhabitants.  There are patterns in the names that I try to follow.  I will leave the identification of those patterns to the imaginations of my readers.
What marketing methods are you using to promote your book? A part of my choosing Page Publishing was their offer of sending out a press release about the book’s release and setting up a web page. I was also moved to work with a terrific group of publicists out of Austin, Texas called PR by the Book who helped me make contact with you.  It is an uphill battle for any self-published author to convince people to give your work a chance, but I have been pleasantly surprised at the acceptance the book has received and hopes that the more people read it, the stronger word of mouth advertising will work in my favor.  It is about the characters and the world they live in, and if they drive people’s imaginations strongly enough, I will reach a point where the book can and should sell itself.  All I have to do is keep finding people to convince to read it until I reach that point.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad or good ones?  I haven’t had an official book review come out, but I imagine it will depend on how they are trending.  I tend to want to know what people think because that drives the next book and the next after that, however, a series of bad reviews might create a negativity that I wouldn’t want to affect my writing so I might be inclined to ignore those in favor of providing a more positive outlook for those fans who enjoy what I am doing.  While I have always written as a way to relax, if I am going to sell these books and make it a career, I will need to be able to shrug off the clunkers and drive forward with the knowledge that there are people who enjoy what I am doing, and I write for them.
Do you Google yourself?  Not much to find about me in Google.  I am just a quiet, family oriented, guy who writes because he enjoys writing and spends the rest of his free time enjoying family and friends.
What formats is the book available in? The book is available in paperback and ebook versions.  It is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, I-Tunes, Google Play, and Kobo along with a host of other sites.  It is also available through Ingram wholesalers for any bookstore looking to carry it. 
Who are your favorite authors? Terry Brooks and his Shannara books got me into the whole fantasy genre as a teen, and Star Wars and George Lucas was the only real science fiction I ever got into. However, Louis L’Amour and Clive Cussler were big influences and currently, George RR Martin is a genius with how he creates characters that are so real you can believe in them.  Last but not least, David Eddings was a tremendous influence on my writing.  I have read everything he wrote for decades over and over.   I would say my favorite writer today though, is Robert Donohue.
What advice do you have for other writers?  If it matters more what other people believe that what you feel about your writing in your heart, then you are writing for the wrong reasons.  Writing is a personal thing for me, and I think that helps me create stronger characters and delve more deeply into their interactions with each other.  Don’t write to sell books, write to make strong stories. 
What's your favorite quote about writing/for writers? I read somewhere that "If it's good, I won't have to sell it, it will sell itself, and if it isn't, well then it is a good thing I have friends to tell me so."  I don’t know who said it, but I believe it.
What's the best thing about being a writer?  For me, it is being able to come up with problems and then finding ways to solve them.  We all face challenges in our life that seem so momentous at the time, but then, as the years pass fade into obscurity.  For the people in the books I write, those challenges will live on just as strong today as they were the day I wrote them.
Where can people find out more about you and your writing? Hopefully, there will be plenty of opportunities to read a variety of reviews over time, but I currently have a page on the Page Publishing Website, as well as a Facebook author’s page, and an another Facebook page dedicated to the book series that will continue after Child of Creation,  
Who is your favorite character in your book and why? I tend to be like a parent who prefers not to declare one of his kids, (characters), the favorite.  They all have their positive and negative traits but in the end, it is their humanity and their way of dealing with each other that will define them.  I truly would rather each reader find their own favorite for their own reasons. Imagination is a wonderful thing and, at least inside this world we live in, each person has their own experience and environment to rely on to help them choose who might become the one they most want to know what is going to happen to as the series develops.

Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book? So far, I have been pleasantly surprised by the reactions.  The Fantasy genre is one that only has a certain group of fans, so it was important to me to appeal to those people who enjoy regularly letting their imaginations carry them outside a normal world. At the same time, I wanted to create a story that even those who aren’t normally fans of sliding slightly past reality wouldn’t be able to resist.  From what I am hearing up to now, I succeeded on both counts.

How long did it take you to write your book?  I started writing this book in the early 1990’s shortly after I started working on the Police Department.  Between edits and struggles finding the perfect venue from which to let the story out to be seen by the public, it took close to 25 years to get it published.

Who designed the cover? Page Publishing hired the artist to handle that with input from me on what I wanted to see there. 

Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected? I did figure out how complicated and expensive the process of getting a book noticed is.  The most difficult thing in the world is to be a member of a group 8 million stories big and trying to get people to pick your story out from among the masses without the help of one of those big five publishing organizations or an agent.  I plan on becoming the exception though, not the rule.

Where can a reader purchase your book?  My book is available online through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, I-Tunes, and Google Play as well as on request from most any book retailer upon request.  I would really love to see sales pick up in the local bookstores as I am a small-town guy and that would generate interest that would allow me to make some appearances in many of these smaller venues where the events would be more personal.
What are you doing to market the book?  I have hired PR by the Book to help kick things off, and I am working with many local stores and regional organizations to try to get some traction for building a brand that people will recognize.  I am always open to suggestions, though, and ready, willing, and able to step up and do whatever it takes to get people to open the front cover.

Who inspires you? Inspiration is funny, there are so many things that can drive it.  I am inspired by the gifts God gave me to use words, I am inspired by making my children proud, and I am inspired to do whatever it takes to make my beautiful wife of 28 years comfortable and happy.  Most of all I am inspired by having the ability to get up out of bed every day and be relatively free from pain and worry.  All of these gifts that God gives me are humbling and unique. 

When and where do you write?  The great thing about this new technological age we live in is that I can keep my laptop with me and write just about wherever and whenever the passion strikes.  When I started this book, I wrote 900 pages in pencil, because that way I could erase things I didn’t like, but now I keep a laptop in a backpack nearby, and whenever the mood hits, away I go.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? I honestly had to look this one up.  I generally have a direction that I think the story should go and then I start to type and go where the story leads me.  I guess that makes me a pantser if I understand things correctly. The greatest thing about being a writer for me, especially in this genre, is that I can take the story literally anywhere so long as the storylines remain seamless and the writing is such that I am not ashamed to show it to my kids.

Do you believe in writer's block?  I do think there are times it is easy and times it is harder to take the story where you want it to go.  The fact that I started this book in the early 90’s is probably the best evidence of that. However, the benefit of fiction is that there is literally no direction you can’t take it so if one way isn’t working you can drive the story somewhere else and come back to the hard part.

If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be?  Believe in the passion that builds the desire to sit down and write.  Never be afraid to put yourself into your stories, and drive harder for longer than you believed you could if you ever want to be successful. 

How do you research your books?  Another benefit of fiction is if you can’t build a convincing story with factual information, you can make some stuff up that is plausible and drive the story that way.  It is about the suspension of disbelief in my mind.  There has to be a certain amount of ability to create plausibility in people’s minds to get them to buy into the story, but once they buy in, you are ready to take their minds places they never considered it possible to get to.

What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.  Book two of the Then Came a King series, Coming of Age is complete…for the most part.  I am editing it for contextual disagreements with book 1and trying to make sure I haven’t taken the characters to places they really don’t need to go.  I am afraid of the sequel syndrome where everything after the first one is disappointing, and so I want to use each book in the series to build a stronger connection between the readers and their favorite characters. The hardest part of that for me is keeping each character in their lane so to speak.  The amount of time it has taken to get this published has made that effort considerably harder than it should have been.  Imagine trying to remember what your motives were for a particular idea, 25 years ago.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing versus traditional publishing?  While self-publishing created my opportunity to actually be published instead of just a guy pecking away on his laptop, I really believe it has opened the market so wide that it has made it much more difficult to get noticed and therefore much less likely to be successful.  In the end, a well-written story with strong characters will remain the standard for success in literary pursuits, but there are so many great stories out there who just need that notice from that one influential writer to break out of the pack and become something special.  I hope we aren’t hurting ourselves by overloading the market with humdrum at the expense of the spectacular.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer? Honestly, I just have always enjoyed writing.  I was a writer long before I was an author.  I can say for sure that I was awful at writing in high school.  I didn’t have the patience for all the research that was necessary for the type of writing we were doing, but then when I hit college and got into the mandatory composition classes, I found out that fiction was so much easier to come up with and I went from D’s and F’s on papers to consistent A’s.  I would say that was when it became fun for me and that was where I started to enjoy just making up the stories.

Does your family support you in your writing career? How? My wife would much rather I will be up helping out around the house I am sure, but, for the most part, my wife and both of my kids are supportive of what I am trying to do.  They offer encouraging words when I feel like I might be wasting my time and help to suggest storylines when I get stuck and am not sure where to take the story.

What are some of your all-time favorite books?  The Sword of Shannara was the first Fantasy novel I ever read.  The Belgariad series by David Eddings was an important part of my teen years, as was Louis L’Amour and Clive Cussler.  I stumbled into the Song of Ice and Fire long before it was a fad to do so and really really liked it.  There are so many historical books that I have really enjoyed that I can’t even name a single author other than Winston Groom who wrote an interesting historical non-fictional account on the Battle of Vicksburg about the town I live in.

What is your favorite book you've read this year so far? By far Child of Creation by…Me.  I had to read it so many times during editing that I really have had to struggle to finish everything else.  Between writing, (I am deep off into the third book of Then Came a King), and working two jobs, and taking Grad school, it has been a difficult year for reading.  However, I hope to find an author who grabs my attention and takes me away from all of my daily detail nonsense soon, and then I will be off to the races again breezing through books like they were only a page or two long.

What books or authors have most influenced your life?  I would say I take something from each of the books and authors who have caught my attention as I describe in previous answers.  As for influencing the way I live my life, I like to find those characters who have a strong moral compass and who are able to avoid the pitfalls and temptations of the easier path.  Like many of the Sackett characters that Louis L’Amour wrote about.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?  My wife would tell you I am a professional sleeper, but in reality, I work about 60 hours a week between all of the jobs I work and then I am a part-time graduate student as well.  Soon I will be teaching at the college level also and hopefully still be writing and doing press and book signing events.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Book Review: Crude Blessings by T. M. "Roe" Patterson

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Book Title: Crude Blessings: The Amazing Life Story of Glenn Patterson American Oilman
Author: T. M. "Roe" Patterson
Format: Hardback
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“My dad taught me that honesty and integrity are everything in business and in life. He always said the decisions you make are only as good as they are for everyone you work with. There is always plenty of room for decency and trust.” - T.M. “Roe” Patterson
This fantastic biography was quite intriguing. From the Foreward to the Epilogue, Patterson pays homage to the legacy of his father. While doing so, he also illustrates what families and caregivers experience when a loved one is battling diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Before the narrative begins, you read a page that says that 25% of the proceeds from his book will be used to provide Alzheimer's care, support, and research. I found this to be genuinely commendable and speaks volumes about his dedication to helping others, whose family members were dealing with Alzheimer. People, who are supporting loved ones with Alzheimer, will find tips on how to help, especially when the family member is experiencing denial, as well as how to start and continue the caregiving process.

Patterson's admiration of his father reminded me of how much I respected and admired my own father. The story of how clean Glenn Patterson liked to keep his truck, even though it worked around dirt and oil fields tickled me. I can only imagine how my "elbow grease went into cleaning that truck after work. The story made me looked at my vehicles differently. It's time for a good vacuuming and cleaning of the exteriors and interiors of my cars.

Right before Chapter 8 begins, Patterson shares intimate photos of his father and his family. I enjoyed looking at the images, which helped me gauge how important family was to Glenn Patterson. I think my favorite photo is of Glenn teaching his son, Robert, how to shave. The image silently shares how vital Glenn took teaching his children every aspect of work and life.

His mantra, "Always do the right thing" turned out to be an enviable formula for success in a highly volatile industry. Many would say, this is likely missing in today’s business environment.
The life of Glenn Patterson is painted vividly by Patterson. Patterson allows the reader to see the family man and businessman sides of his father. Glenn Patterson's work ethic was very impressive. How he saved the company from closing is absolutely fascinating. Glenn Patterson's ability to overcome the oil field crash and to continue despite the Jody Nelson embezzlement scandal makes his biography a must read. Entrepreneurs can bring so many takeaways from this text to help their businesses. One major takeaway is to make sure that your staff treats the equipment of the company with pride and respect. His desire to have clean equipment in an oil business proves this example. Another takeaway from this text is how Glenn Patterson used what can be considered "old-school" business methods to create tremendous success.

About the Book

Crude Blessings: The Amazing Life Story of Glenn Patterson American Oilman is the rags-to-riches story of Glenn Patterson’s road to survival and success in the volatile and unpredictable “modern age of petroleum.” Born on the family ranch in Blackwell, Texas, Glenn became one of America’s energy industry pioneers. His core values, work ethic and dedication to his family and employees are a valuable example for the American spirit of perseverance, hard work, and fair play.
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Much more than one son's homage to his dad, Crude Blessings is a compelling narrative about a family patriarch who embodied the best qualities of the Greatest Generation, which inspired and powered the success of America. Timely because of the increasing polarization in our country, Glenn Patterson's story and values were examples of the Christian ethos of decency, integrity, faith, and trust throughout his life in his business and family. 

Building his business on a foundation of “always doing the right thing,” Glenn was revered by colleagues, customers and competitors alike. During the most disruptive period any industry had ever faced, his company, Patterson Drilling became one of the largest oil and gas-drilling companies in the country. The legacy of embedding strong family values in a small business is described in this new book through a first–hand account of the sector’s fierce challenges during the last two decades of the 20th century. Glenn’s journey became spiritual as well, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease at too early an age, which led to struggles with his own mortality and his relationship with God.

About the Author 

T.M. “Roe” Patterson is a 23-year industry veteran in the oil and gas services business. Moving to his dad’s family business Basic Energy in 2006, he was named Top Public Company CEO by the Fort Worth Business Press in 2014. Holding a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Tech University, he and his wife Tonya have two children and live in Fort Worth. He is active supporter of The American Heart Association, North Texas Alzheimer’s Association and speaks frequently across the country on the practical approach to leadership that his father embraced. Crude Blessings is his first book.

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