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.