Joshua and the Shadow of Death by Gary McPherson
The Whole Way Home by Sarah Creech
Generating Business Referrals Without Asking by Stacey Brown Randall
Book: “Joshua and the Shadow of Death” (Berserker Series)
Author: Gary McPherson
Publisher: Self-Published / Gary McPherson
Genre: Thriller / Mystery / Suspense
Basic Description: Richard left me a note telling me to help Harold find the men responsible. Richard claims if we fail to solve his suicide that his company and everyone working there will be lost. What does that mean, and does it matter? How can I help? I am a psychiatrist, not a detective. If I fail, what will become of Barbara? Will Harold’s grief unleash the beast living inside him? The berserker is controlled, but he is not contained.”
Join childhood development psychiatrist Doctor Joshua Zeev as he attempts to find the answers to his best friend’s death and help the family through their grief. Will his challenge of a lifetime bring answers and closure, or even more perilous dangers?
Arden’s Thoughts: If you’ve been following along with me for a while, you know my typical reads involve love / romance / Hallmark Happy Endings. I mean, the princess should always get the happy, handsome prince. Or, maybe the princess should get the new vacation house in Hawaii. She isn’t sure yet.
So, when Gary McPherson’s book was presented to me, I entered my reading it with a bit of trepidation. I wanted to do a review of it justice.
Y’all, I had a ball reading this book. Joshua got a little deeper into his thoughts at times than I preferred, but, to be fair, his world was rocked majorly by the actions of other characters in the book. I really enjoyed Harold and his development process throughout the journey of this book.
Bonus to reading “Joshua and the Shadow of Death”: I got to interview the author! Check out our chat below…
ARDEN: What was the process like to create the various characters and plot lines for your book?
GARY: Before becoming an author, I worked as a software developer and IT Manager, so I am very comfortable with flow charts and high-level requirement documents. This book started with a character flowchart, plot flowchart, and Scene Outlines.
However, once I began to write the book, a lot of things changed. Similar to many others, I found my characters living in my head, and often my challenge was finding the words to properly describe the scene I could see playing out in my imagination. Sort of like going to a movie and creating a book based on what you are watching. That movie did not always match the scene as it was originally outlined. So, some of those early guides became obsolete rather quickly.
I will say the best pre-writing document I used was the plot points. “Joshua and the Shadow of Death” has a lot of layers to it. The plot outline helped me to keep control of the direction of the story when it could have easily rabbit trailed into other directions.
I made that sound easy, but the pre-writing documents took me at least a week to create. It is probably longer if I count the tweaks I made while I was writing. One of the toughest exercises in any part of the process is creating something, walking away, coming back and self-critiquing it, and asking trusted friends or other writers to critique your work, and then adjusting as needed.
ARDEN: It sounds like you put a ton of work into creating this story before the story even took life. With that said, how hard was it to write the death scenes?
GARY: I’m not normally a crier. I cried many times writing chapter one. I think I cried once during an edit review in regards to Barbara.
I lost my father to heart failure six years ago. I was in the trauma room when he passed. I took those emotions and memories to create chapter one. The chaos, Joshua’s somewhat random thinking, people crying one moment and then showing no emotion the next. That was life, in a nutshell, the day of my dad’s death and many months that followed.
So, every edit and each read through of that chapter pulled those memories back. A good story is created from the heart. The death scenes are the sad parts of my heart. Some have told me chapter one is heartbreaking. Believe it or not, that makes me smile because it means I conveyed the scene correctly, and that is the goal of any writer.
ARDEN: I agree that chapter 1 was heartbreaking, especially Harold’s reaction. You seem to have an affinity for Harold. Why is that?
GARY: Harold is a funny character. Originally, he was going to be an antagonist in the novel before it became a series. However, the more I thought and wrote about him, the more I liked him. Eventually, he became that friend that you know will get you into a little mischief, but he will never push things too far. There is a lot of me in Harold.
ARDEN: Whoa… Harold as the antagonist. I’m going to be honest… I’m glad you didn’t go that way with him. I enjoyed his character so much. However, our lead was the good doc. What is it about the doctor that makes him so self-deprecating? Why does he doubt himself so much?
GARY: In the prologue, Joshua is pretty sure of himself. He assumed he had cured Harold’s half-brother, and so he thought he could do the same for Harold, it was just a matter of time. At the beginning of the prologue, Harold is going berserk, and Joshua fearlessly steps in between Harold and his dad to defuse the situation. Although life is chaotic, Joshua feels he has things under control. The story then jumps eighteen years to chapter one. Joshua had not planned on being there that long. We see that by this point he is so obsessed with his inability to stop Harold’s rage that he misses identifying the gunshot. Richard’s death breaks through Joshua’s tunnel vision. Suddenly, he realizes he may not have answers to some important questions, like suicide, death, and even the berserker syndrome.
All of us go through a self-doubting stage of life at least once. Joshua’s world is essentially torn apart, and now he has to walk through the shadows to discover who he is.
ARDEN: Ah… interesting. That makes more sense to me now. So, what was the writing and publishing process like for you?
GARY: Speaking of obsessive, I believe that is the word that best describes the writing process. I have arthritis, fibromyalgia, and neuropathy in my arms and hands. There were days I would write until my fingers would lock up simply because I could see the story playing out in my mind and I had to capture it, pain or no pain. Thankfully, those moments were normally followed by a few quiet days to let my hands recover.
For publishing, I looked at the choices of traditional vs. independent publishing. I researched various authors’ opinions who have tried both, reviewed the comparisons in the “Creative Way” writing course I was taking, and then wrote down the pros and cons of each. Ultimately, I opted to go independent publishing, but I made sure I modeled my process closer to that of a traditionally published book. I have multiple independent editors who worked for former publishers like Simon&Schuster. These wonderful people are my content, copy/edit, and proofreaders. I also have a terrific beta reading team. Finally, I chose a company who did an amazing job designing the cover and interior design of the book.
I will say the biggest advantage of traditional publishing is that you have fewer headaches to distract you from writing. I’m essentially a team of one. So, any time there is a distribution issue, a deadline from an editor that needs to be bumped, or a beta reader who had to drop off and now has to be replaced I am the individual who has to resolve the problem.
To do a story correctly, you cannot simply slap a couple of drafts in Microsoft Word and upload it to Amazon. Writing, and publishing takes a lot of work, and in some cases most of your savings depending on the publishing path you choose.
ARDEN: Thank you for sharing that information. I’m a huge advocate of authors and love sharing the painstaking process you all endure to get your books into our hands. By the way… when is the next book available??
GARY: “Harold and the Angel of Death” is targeted for summer reading 2019. The draft is complete, and it is currently in the self-edit stage, so we are early into the process.
ARDEN: Fantastic! What else would you like to say to my readers and viewers?
GARY: First, I would like to thank you for taking the time to review my book. I do hope your readers and viewers will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Joshua’s character allowed me to connect my life experiences between Southern California and North Carolina. So, despite some of the darker moments, a lot of the book brought back good memories.
I also want to let you and your readers in on a couple of inspirational secrets.
First, I am adopted. My parents used the Children’s Home Society in Sacramento back in 1966 to adopt me at three weeks old. The orphanage in the story is inspired by this organization and the Baptist Children’s Home in Thomasville, NC. I often passed the exit for the orphanage when I would commute from Charlotte to Raleigh. I combined these two children’s organizations to create the orphanage referenced in the book.
The second secret is the defense companies. My father worked for Douglas Aircraft. They later merged to become McDonnell Douglas. (Today they are part of Boeing.) Dad moved from the aircraft to the rocket division in the sixties and worked with the engineering team. When I was in my early teens, he would sometimes pull me into his home office and show me some of the top secret weapons the company was building at the time. Those weapons are not this book, sorry. However, the inspiration for all the defense companies in the story came from those conversations with my late father.
Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel by Drew Hill
What to Say When You Talk To Your Self by Shad Helmstetter, Ph.D.
Author: Michael G. Love
Publisher: SPARK Publications
Basic Description: There are many ways to leave the old dogmas behind and embrace the new understanding of who we are and how we relate to this universe. In author, Mike Love’s personal experience with this has been facilitated by the Twelve Rays. In The Reality of Your Greatness he shares with you a new understanding of the way he now thinks things are. Mike shares with you the information about the Rays. He offers practical ways to use the Rays in your everyday life. He invites you to follow along with him as he experienced the Rays.
Arden’s Thoughts: Finding peace in our busy lives is so hard. To me, anything that can help me find some clarity and serenity sounds lovely. I know taking time to meditate is important to my overall health, but goodness… being still. Y’all want me to be still?!? Luckily, I discovered The Reality of Your Greatness full of meditations transcribed by Mike Love. Mike gives readers guided meditations around each of the 12 rays of light. I got to spend some time with Mike and learned more about the 12 rays. Check out this interview…
Arden: What is your goal with writing your book?
Mike: The message of this book is simple. You are more than you think you are. You are Greatness. Now I’m not saying you can aspire to greatness. I’m saying you already are Greatness. I think that might be hard for some people to believe. I know it was hard for me to believe at first.
I’m probably a lot like some of your readers. I used to think that the person that I saw in the mirror every morning was the only me I really knew. I wasn’t sure what comes after this lifetime and I didn’t know what came before this lifetime. And I think a lot of people are OK with not knowing for sure. But as you get older, I find the answers to these questions become of more interest to you.
I became convinced of the reality of my greatness by working with the Twelve Rays. I am a big fan of meditation, although I resisted it for a long time. You know I thought it wasn’t for me. But then I tried it, and I realized the benefit I got from it. So, when I connect with the Rays I do so mostly by using meditations. There are many guided meditations in the book.
I was encouraged to let my light shine and that’s what I hope this book does. I hope it encourages people to let their light shine. And what I mean by that is I believe we all have special gifts to share. And when you get the opportunity to share them in your own way, you are letting your light shine and your example encourages others to do the same.
I also think that the book presents what I call a new spiritual metaphor. In this digital age, many of the old institutions and dogmas are just not working for people. I mean, just take a look around. This new spiritual metaphor will hopefully provide a framework for understanding that helps people to find their own answers to life’s important questions.
Arden: Wow. That’s really beautiful. So, what was the process like for you to write this book?
Mike: The process probably started around 2002 when I decided to open a wellness center in Charlotte that I named Phoenix Rising. My intention was to promote alternative healing modalities like Reiki. To tell you the truth, I couldn’t even spell Reiki at the time. I was also interested in exploring other avenues of communication to get answers to some of my personal questions.
One day a woman came into the center and told me she had a message for me from somewhere beyond. I was curious so we pursued it. We did a number of sessions together and one day the information about the Rays started to be delivered. It turns out that the information was delivered over a period of several months. But even before the Ray information was received, I was encouraged to write a book.
You know how life has a way of happening? Well, that’s what happened for me. I closed the center in 2005 and spent a lot of time and energy on keeping things going. I eventually got the information about the Rays together and started to share it with people in workshops and seminars. That is how I developed many of the guided meditations that are in the book today. About twelve years after I received the information about the Rays, I finally sat down and wrote the first draft of the book. Then I let it sit on my bookshelf for about 18 months.
About a year ago, I joined a small business development group. We meet every two weeks, still to this day. One of the participants is a gifted astrologer and she was very interested in knowing more about the Rays and how they fit into her work. I told her that I had written a manuscript and she asked if she could read it. So I gave it to her. At our next meeting, the group held an “intervention”. She had read the book in a single day and then gave it to one of the other members of the group and she read it in two days. They wouldn’t let me leave the meeting until I promised to publish the book.
That’s when the fun began. I knew who was going to publish the book for me (I had an existing relationship with Fabi Preslar at SPARK Publications) and so we sat down and her team took me through the process. It isn’t easy to let go of something that is so personal with the intent of sharing it with the world. I’m still getting over that.
I am so happy with the way the book turned out. My publisher did a really great job of leading me through the process, making really insightful suggestions, and keeping me on track.
Arden: That’s so cool and a real testimony to what it looks like to work with great people. I’m curious… Do you have a favorite ray or meditation?
Mike: My favorite Ray is the Third Ray, The Ray of Active Intelligence, or as I call it the “Get ‘er Done” Ray. The Law of Attraction became very popular with the success of the book, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. My understanding is that the Law of Attraction is just part of the Third Ray.
The “Get ‘er Done” Ray is the energy that allows us here in this dimension to manifest our thoughts into reality. It helps us to put a plan together that really gives us the understanding on how to make our thoughts become real.
It also, and this is where the Law of Attraction comes in, draws toward us the resources to get the job done. People may think that this applies mainly to money, but it doesn’t. Remember resources can mean just about anything that it takes to finish the project, people, materials, expertise, you name it.
When you understand how this Ray works, you quickly come to the conclusion that the universe is on your side and is supporting you all the time. The important thing to remember is that the universe makes no judgment. It doesn’t decide if what you want to manifest is good or bad for you. That is your responsibility.
Arden: I’m pretty sure every single person reading this wants to know more. How could my readers use your book?
Mike: I think the best use would be to feel better about yourself, knowing that you are more than you think you are and you are capable of achieving what you set your mind to.
We all have limiting beliefs about ourselves, our abilities, and our availability of resources. See yourself as a child of God, or Spirit, or All That Is, or whatever other name you may use to describe that one Source. Then realize you have a Divine Heritage. Just as an acorn has the heritage of the oak tree, we have the Divine Heritage of our Creator. Didn’t let anyone tell you that you are less than anyone else.
Arden: Where can they find you to learn more about this work?
Mike: I’m right here inside their computer. I have a Facebook page where I am constantly posting things. It is 12rays. I even do Facebook live events. And my website that has a lot of information and all the book meditations is www.twelverays.com. Of course they can buy the book at www.realityofyourgreatness.com or Amazon.com.
Arden: Perfect! Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know?
Mike: Yes. I’m so glad you asked. We haven’t spoken about the music! There is an accompanying 2 Disc CD that is composed and played by Richard Shulman which features music infused with the energy of the Ray. There is a really interesting story here, but in the interest of keeping things brief, I’ll leave it for now. This is the first music that I am aware of that has the energy of the Rays blended into it.
As I said, it is a 2 Disc recording, and I like to say CD but it is of course also available in MP3 format to download. You can hear some lovely samples of it on the www.realityofyourgreatness.com website.
This is melodic keyboard music. There is one track for each Ray and they are relatively short, generally between 5 to 8 minutes each. I think you will find that it really helps you to tune into the vibration of the Ray energy.
Mike will be hosting Facebook Live sessions weekly starting August 8, 2018 at 8 p.m. EST on the 12rays Page. He will speak on discovering the reality of your greatness through the 12 rays and the meditations. Like his page to stay up-to-date on all he is doing!
Author: Holly Pasut
Publisher: SPARK Publications
Basic Description: Have you ever said yes when you should have said no, especially in your workplace and to someone you thought was trustworthy? Holly Pasut, widow and single mother of three children, was a nationally recognized real estate agent in a booming market. Then she said yes to something that landed her in federal prison. A Strange Path to Freedom shares slices of Holly’s prison life through her quirky and often spiritual lens, as well as the wisdom she gained from the experience. Holly spent time in a literal, physical prison. But people erect figurative, mental prisons around themselves all the time. Her stories offer a guide for others to free themselves from negative thoughts and emotions that lock them in. And they offer a cautionary tale for navigating ethical choices in the workplace.
Arden’s Thoughts: I’ve always believed most of us are one to two steps away from tragedy. One misstep and we’re in for it. In fact, just today, I was riding my bike, hit a curb, and took a 6 feet spill. I miraculously ended up on my two wheels without a scratch on me. Legit miraculously. But, what happens when the miracle doesn’t come through and we have to deal with some really tough stuff?
Well, we deal with it. And, if you’re like author Holly Pasut, you make the most of it. In her book, Holly shares insights of how she made a mistake, tried to rectify it, and still ended up in federal prison. The beauty of Holly and her writing comes through so simply: She’s not bitter. She’s gracious and wants to share her experience so others don’t have to experience the loss she did. I recently got to interview Holly. Check it out…
Arden: Why would you write a book about such a vulnerable and heart-breaking topic?
Holly: I never set out to write a book. Actually, I felt silly calling myself a writer, plus I didn’t think I had the skills or drive to complete a book. While I lived in [prison] cube 44, I journaled daily. It was healing and therapeutic for me, it was my truest self, sharing with my most trusted friend. Sometimes, I wrote from my heart, my personal sadness and other times I wrote about the craziest things that happened in prison. When you put 1200 women together, you’re going to get some pretty wild things! When I returned home, I went through those journals and found myself laughing and crying. For some oddball reason, I began blogging about the difference between women on the outside and women on the inside. When I met Fabi Preslar, with SPARK Publications, she seemed fascinated with my experience and planted the idea of turning my blogs into a book. Again, I resisted, but over time and support I decided it was my chance to do something with what I had learned and hopefully others would find themselves in my story.
Arden: Well, I think a lot of people will benefit from what you have written. Do you fear judgement on other people’s parts about what you have experienced? If so, how do you counteract this judgement?
Holly: Yes, I absolutely do. But it isn’t fatal. I know I am judged by others, but I am not responsible for their judgement or what they choose to believe. It is however hurtful. Since I cannot change what happened to me, I accept it and use it to weed out the people I want to spend time with. I call it “my filter.” Those that judge, are not the ones I want to spend time with anyway. I probably would have been one of those judgmental people too. Now, I find an admiration for people I meet who are not and those are the folks I am fascinated with.
Arden: That’s quite gracious of you and a good lesson for all of us! You know, you write about prison in a way most people do not. There is almost an appreciation for it. Did you appreciate it?
Holly: That is a great question, and I get it. In a strange way, I see that too. It definitely is the thorn in my side! If I had been locked up for a long time, I might feel differently, but I had an end in sight and tried to make the most of my time. Thankfully, my sense of humor helped. I don’t think I ever felt lower, than when I entered the prison gates. I not only was physically incarcerated but became mentally locked up as well. I couldn’t change the physical part and it wasn’t as if I decided to free myself mentally, it was as if something in my head unlocked itself. Spending endless hours reading, praying, meditating I began to see the world a little differently than I had experienced and I liked what I saw. I like to say, I was beginning to live a new way of thinking. I never want to go back to prison, yet in way I am grateful for the trip. Mental freedom is being true to who you are and that is real freedom.
Arden: Hmmm… Mental freedom is being true to who you are. That’s really beautiful. With that quote in mind, what has been your favorite thing to do since being released from prison?
Holly: LOL, the first thing I asked for was a cup of hot brewed coffee, in a ceramic mug, with half and half and I wanted to hear the sound of a metal spoon as I stirred my coffee. It was actually a struggle coming home, because I was lost. My career and reputation were gone, I didn’t know where to go or what to do. My new pain was soothed by my favorite thing, being able to touch my kids, kiss their cheeks and hear their voices, along with little things. Having a hand towel to dry my hands instead of toilet paper. The convenience of having a bathroom, a few steps away instead of down a dark hallway. Today I have lots of favorite things and feel grateful for all I do have. I continue to get up at 5 am (sometimes 6:30 instead, LOL) and pray, journal and meditate, it’s one of my favorites of favorite things.
Arden: So, Holly, what is next for you?
Holly: Who knows? I do know I cannot control what life throws a me, I can only control how I will react to it. I would like to continue speaking to white collar professionals as a cautionary tale and university students as a preparation tool. My attitude is to go through the doors God opens for me. If the doors close, I will be redirected. I like the idea of maybe writing another book too, perhaps the focus will be about living beyond a stigma.
Arden: Very cool. Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know?
Holly: Hmmmm. A question often asked is why I get up in front of audiences and speak. I will try to explain my own personal, why. The pain I caused my family and especially my kids was not the kind of pain that goes away with a Band-Aid or an apology. Speaking to adults gives me an opportunity to protect their kids and or the ones that love them. They suffer greatly. Sometimes I tell audiences I don’t really care about them personally (in a funny way) because I don’t know them, but I feel a personal attachment to their kids and their family and standing up before audiences as a reminder that sometimes knowledge is not always enough motivation to do the right thing. Critical thinking errors, fear of disappointing others, people pleasing the list goes on, can land you in prison. The decisions we make today will affect others, and that is why I made my decision to speak to audiences, not because I want to share my critical thinking errors, but because we all share critical thinking errors, mine took me Federal Prison.
As far as reading the book, it is a quick read, not a victim book, sprinkled with suffering, hope, humor and lessons learned. I would love to speak to readers who too have pulled themselves out of their own personal muck and found ways to buckle on their boot straps and move forward. Those are the kinds of people I want in my next book.