The Sojourners by T.L. Hughes Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

One young man’s adventure seeking to fulfill lifelong dreams turns into a journey of self discovery in author T.L. Hughes novel The Sojourners. Here is the synopsis.

The Synopsis

When Chasing a Dream Leads Deeper Within……

Picking up where Searching for Paradise left off, Mike Hogan, Decky Brady, and Luke Coppens start off in London, still chasing and believing their Hollywood dreams of working in the music video business. But after only a few days into the trip, the friends quickly abandon their efforts and put new plans into place. 

On his own developing journey and through encounters with other travelers and new friends, Mike Hogan experiences the love of finding oneself again. With vivid imagery, poetry and references to great songs throughout, The Sojourners stands on its own as a complete work, with colorful characters and simple people who resonate with the beauty of life. This inspiring, reflective novel shows the importance of ultimate belief in ourselves, and the realization that despite our differences, deep down inside, we all share a common good.

What others are saying:

“Throughout it all, Hughes maintains a tension that transforms this meandering tale into one of complex depictions of human compassion. A charming, soulful entry into a popular (and often disappointing) genre.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Hughes gives us beautiful sentences and finely crafted imagery throughout, with a comforting cadence in his prose, rolling along like a train journey. The story offers carefree country-hopping for the armchair traveler, and each new location – bar, disco, train car, or sidewalk – serves up a vicarious thrill. The Sojourners is a beautifully written work of travel writing, which will be especially appealing to those who have yet to travel, or those who may want to rekindle the expanded horizons of traveling abroad.” Self-Publishing Review, ★★★★ 

The Review

This was an incredibly deep, emotional and thoughtful read. Filled with flowing storytelling and memorable characters throughout, the novel featured incredibly beautiful imagery used by the protagonist, describing his journey through Europe and through the inner workings of his own mind. 

The themes of dealing with loss, finding one’s purpose and discovering the meaning of your own life through travel and adventure really stuck out to me. Unlike other stories of self-discovery, this story stood out for delving into the Cold War era 1980’s, and with each new character introduced in the journey the author saw the real life struggle of topics like racism, politics and religion play out in a completely natural way.

The Verdict

Overall this was a phenomenal read. A detailed, thorough yet pleasant read, the story held the readers attention throughout and painted an image of the protagonist’s journey with such ease that it felt as if you’d lived the journey yourself. Full of humor, wit and charm, the story felt relatable and like something current day readers could draw their real life struggles from. If you haven’t yet, grab this emotionally driven novel The Sojourners by T.L. Hughes today.

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

T.L. Hughes was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and at a young age moved to Lowell, Massachusetts where he grew up, attending the local public schools through high school. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts in 1980, he headed west to California. Today, he lives in Orange County with his wife and family.

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Interview with Author James Rosenberg

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I am a lawyer, married and have three kids.  Those are probably the three most important areas of my life.  When my kids were small, I started telling them long, involved stories that were embellishments of my real life.  One of them, a story about a lawyer with a soccer prodigy son, will be my next book coming out.  What I found is I could tell stories that used plot as a way to develop character.  I realized I loved stories that constantly moved and disliked narrative that was bogged down with description.  My stories depict what happens when a character is faced with difficult choices, which ultimately, I believe, is incredibly revealing.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

I always wonder what is stronger, friendship or the drive for personal enrichment (money).  In my novel, one of the key plot drivers is that three long-time friends are forced to take the opposite sides of an important trial.  The three met the first day in law school but later in their careers find themselves as the attorney representing a woman suing a big company, the lawyer for the company and the judge in the trial.  I thought about all of the major conflict that could arise when each wants to do their best professionally, and how that could affect their friendship.  I have dealt in my career with some lawyers who are highly professional and others who will do virtually anything to win.  What happens if there is a mix of those types in an important case?  Every trial has enough stress.  Add in some volatile personalities and the results can be explosive.

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3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

With every character in the book, you will some good and some not so good.  The three main characters start in the same place ethically.  They are young and impressionable when they are in law school.  Yet just a few years later, they are in completely different places.  Mike still wants to help people and make a positive impact.  Jeri wants to avenge her feelings of rage since almost being raped.  Jack now just wants to become partner at his big law firm and make even more money. 

Sometimes a person doesn’t even realize when he is going down a path that leads towards becoming a lesser person.  Ultimately, lawyers are shaped by their environment.  The people a new lawyer works with teach them how to practice law ethically or how to cut corners.  Good often has to be nurtured and in its absence evil lurks.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

That one is easy.  I’m a lawyer and have been one for too long.  I have been through many trials and think most people find the drama inherent in a courtroom compelling.  I certainly do.  I know I can describe what happens in a courtroom with realism—and I think in a way that brings out the conflict.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I love Jack as a character.  He so flawed, but to me so human.  His primary motivation is success/money, and he lets the ultimate rewards dictate his actions.  I would want to ask Jack if he can see himself the way others see him and whether he would like what he saw.  He has so many good traits—He’s smart, witty, and an incredibly hard worker.  People want to be around him and he’s a leader.  But does he realize what path he’s put himself on because he has only one goal—money?

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

This is my first published book and I am just learning how to market.  I am extremely unsophisticated when it comes to marketing.  I also consider myself to be one of the world’s worst self-promotors.  I am trying however.  So once I learn better how to use social medial to attract readers, I will come back and answer this question again.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

If you like writing, keep writing.  Write about things that interest you.  Don’t worry what other people like.  If you are moved by your writing, others will be also.

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8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I am still working at being a lawyer, but I am trying to write every day.  I am finishing up my next book, The Jersey, about the lawyer with a son who is a soccer prodigy.  It has a significant tragedy in it, but look at it as ultimately uplifting (as much as it can be after such a tragedy).  I have also started by next novel which has a young, rebellious student who kills the president and the effect this has on his family. 

Author Interview with Benjamin Davis

I’ve always loved stories. Eventually, I tried to write one. It was terrible. But my mother, bless her, she read it and said, “have you ever thought about being a writer?” And I laughed, and said, “psh–no. I’m still going to be an astronaut.” I was twenty-one at the time. But I have terrible vision and can’t afford lasik, so the astronaut thing still hasn’t worked out.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

My name is Benjamin Davis. I am an American writer and Journalist living in St. Petersburg. I grew up in a no-name town in Massachusetts where I was more likely to hear horse sex or a pack of wolves eating a rabbit than cars driving by or drunks fighting, as I do now. I work as a freelance editor, tech-journalist, native-speaking-content-monkey, and social media manager for English speaking markets. To cope with the sterility of corporate writing, my fiction sometimes gets a little out of hand. From 2016-2017, I wrote one story every day for a year for the project Flash-365, creating a community of people who appreciate the short-winded and the weird. To me it is where I found my voice and where most of my stories found their home. May of 2018 my first book The King of FU was published.

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Author Interview:

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I’ve always loved stories. Eventually, I tried to write one. It was terrible. But my mother, bless her, she read it and said, “have you ever thought about being a writer?” And I laughed, and said, “psh–no. I’m still going to be an astronaut.” I was twenty-one at the time. But I have terrible vision and can’t afford lasik, so the astronaut thing still hasn’t worked out.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

I couldn’t remember my childhood very well, so I just started asking family members and writing down the bits I could remember myself. It was more of a mental exercise to try and track what the hell happened along the way to turn me into such a dysfunctional adult. At first it was only thirty pages, then as the years went by, I would go back to it again and again with whatever new memory I had or new story I heard. In the end the whole process was on and off for about seven years. I didn’t set out to write a book originally, I was just hunting for some traumatic experience, some explanation–but no, just another privileged middle-class white kid with a lot of embarrassing childhood habits and an overactive imagination.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

It depends who is reading it. A lot of the book focuses on those weird embarrassing situations and feelings that we all have as children that we desperately shove into dark corners of our mind as adults. I always felt like I had no one to talk to about these sorts of things as a kid because all adults were pretending like they never happened to them. But really, everyone still has an embarrassing dirty child inside their head, and in their past.  I just hope that readers will walk away from my book and think, “well–I guess it’s okay that I still pick my nose after my wife falls asleep.”

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I enjoy magical realism because it gives you the ability to make a statement about something without spending ten pages on exposition to do it. If the main character has horns and fur, you probably get that he feels different, there is no need for me to go all Holden Caufield on people to get my point across.

5) What authors or poets were a source of inspiration for you when writing these poems and this book overall?

To be honest, I never saw it as poetry. Or–well, I never intended it that way. I wrote it how it felt to think about it, if that makes any sense. I do have poets I’ve idolized over the years; Sylvia Plath, Charles Baudelaire, T.S. Eliot. But I was more inspired by writers who used a lot of honesty and humor to shape their real-life stories like Bill Bryson and David Sedaris.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Much of our audience came from our website Flash-365. I wrote a story every day for a year and Nikita drew a picture to match each story. It was an arduous process for sure, but some of that audience translated over. I live in Russia and here everyone uses Telegram. I have a channel on there where we post stories and updates and it is a direct messenger notification for readers, so it works really well for directing traffic to new stories and engaging people on a more personal level. My girlfriend is an SMM goddess, so she manages my Instagram and Facebook and all of that. Without her I am pretty hopeless.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Be prepared and patient. It isn’t like in the movies where the main character is a writer and by the end everyone is like, “OMG I read your story in the New Yorker!” or the long-lost lovers bump into each other as one or the other walks out of a stylish and well-publicized reading. It’s a load of crap, Hollywood is full of lies, beautiful lies–but lies none the less. I would say, if someone is serious, save money. Pay to get your work well edited, once, twice, three times. Take a few weeks off after all of that, burn the book, cry, start over and then pay for another round of edits. Then, if you want to publish traditionally, get ready. It is a damn process. This means finding, and sometimes paying for services and memberships to get access to agents, educating yourself, figuring out what the f*ck a query letter is supposed to say and then waiting, waiting, waiting, then eventually you die and hopefully your grandchildren know how to write a query letter.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

We’ve just released a bilingual (Russian-English) novelette titled “The Babushka Society.” (http://a.co/d/h4L5unT

) It is illustrated by the same artist as The King of FU and we worked in collaboration with a podcast She’s In Russia (S.I.R.) to turn it into a radio drama which is available for free on their podcast (https://soundcloud.com/shes-in-russia/73-the-babushka-society). That was the past couple of months, I have recently created a Patreon page to showcase my projects and collaborations where each month I plan to collaborate with someone to create something new; radio dramas, short films, audiobooks, comics, tickle-porn. Who knows. (https://www.patreon.com/benjamindavis)

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Clarissa’s Warning by Isobel Blackthorn

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A woman’s good fortunes turn dire when her dreams of owning and restoring old ruins leads to a dangerous situation in author Isobel Blackthorn’s “Clarissa’s Warning”. Here is the synopsis.

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The Synopsis

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A lottery jackpot changes Claire Bennett’s life.

She buys an ancient stone ruin on the island of her dreams. Her mystic aunt Clarissa warns her of danger, but Claire pays no heed.

Soon after moving to the idyllic island, Claire is confronted by a mystery. As the sinister story of her home slowly uncovers, Claire enters a world of inexplicable events and ordeals. Someone or something doesn’t want her there.

But is it really a curse, or is there something else behind the events?

The Review

This was the kind of classic slow burn horror story that defines the horror/thriller genre. What starts out as a mission to fulfill a dream turns into a nightmare when Claire must struggle with the distrust of the locals, tales of an ancient curse and mysterious happenings that defy logic. The story flourished under the hopeful eyes of protagonist Claire. Peeling back the layers of this well rounded character, readers will love seeing the complex relationships with her parents, her close knit bond with her aunt Clarissa, the strength of taking a leap of faith and going after her dreams, and the struggle to merge her logical, scientific mind with the supernatural/curse nature of her new home.

The setting really brought this story home however. The Canary Islands take the center stage in this tale, an inspiration from the author’s own travels and mission to bring ancient structures on these islands back to their former glory. Themes of conserving our past, pursuing our passions and bringing the truth to light all shine through in this truly incredible horror thriller. 

The Verdict

Overall I loved this tale. The novel soars as a classic story of love, passion and a promise to protect the places that hold our civilization’s history within it. With a heavy focus on character development with light doses of horror and thriller elements, this is a story readers will thoroughly enjoy. Be sure to preorder your copy of Isobel Blackthorn’s “Clarissa’s Warning” today.

Rating: 8/10

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About the Author

Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific Australian novelist of dark psychological thrillers, mysteries and contemporary fiction. On the dark side are Twerk, The Cabin Sessions and The Legacy of Old Gran Parks. On the lighter side are AsylumThe Drago Tree and A Perfect Square, and the short story collection All Because of You. Soon to be published are three more novels: A Matter of LatitudeClarissa’s Warning and The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.

Isobel’s writing has appeared in journals and websites around the world, including Paranoia Magazine, Mused Literary Review, Backhand Stories, Fictive Dream and On Line Opinion.

Isobel’s interests are many and varied. A humanitarian and campaigner for social justice, in 1999 Isobel founded the internationally acclaimed Ghana Link, uniting two high schools, one a relatively privileged state school located in the heart of England, the other a materially impoverished school in a remote part of the Upper Volta region of Ghana, West Africa.

Isobel has a background in Western Esotericism and she’s a qualified Astrologer. She holds a PhD from the University of Western Sydney, for her research on the works of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey, the ‘Mother of the New Age.’ After working as a teacher, market trader, and PA to a literary agent, she arrived at writing in her forties, and her stories are as diverse and intriguing as her life has been.

Isobel performs her literary works at events in a range of settings, gives workshops in creative writing, and writes book reviews. Her reviews have appeared in Shiny New Books, Sisters in Crime, Australian Women Writers, Trip Fiction and Newtown Review of Books. She talks regularly about books and writing on radio, in Australia, and on occasion in the UK and USA and Canary Islands.

British by birth, Isobel entered this world in Farnborough, Kent, as Yvonne Margaret Grimble. She has since been Yvonne Rodgers, before changing her name completely in 1996 to Isobel Schofield. After a number of years as Isobel Wightman, she is now very happily and permanently Isobel Blackthorn. Isobel has lived in England, Australia, Spain and the Canary Islands. She now lives on Australia’s southern coast with her cat, Psyche.  You can find out more about her other achievements here.

The Blogger Trailmap: How to Take Your Blog to the Next Level in Easy Steps by Chivi Frost Review

Have you ever wanted a fast paced guide on how to get your very own blog, vlog or podcast rolling? Do guides with statistical analytics and chapter after chapter of tactics make you feel overwhelmed at the idea of starting your own blog? Then author Chivi Frost has the answer for you in the novel “The Blogger Trailmap: How to Take Your Blog to the Next Level in Easy Steps”. Here is the synopsis.

Have you ever wanted a fast paced guide on how to get your very own blog, vlog or podcast rolling? Do guides with statistical analytics and chapter after chapter of tactics make you feel overwhelmed at the idea of starting your own blog? Then author Chivi Frost has the answer for you in the novel “The Blogger Trailmap: How to Take Your Blog to the Next Level in Easy Steps”. Here is the synopsis.

The Synopsis

“The Blogger Trailmap” is great both for beginners who are about to start a blog, as well as those bloggers who are established and ready to grow. 

This book brings for you a proven plan, tools & templates you need for incredible success. This power-packed concise guide can help you in many ways: 

Templates to set clear goals and craft a blogging roadmap, avoid common mistakes, and how to get started quickly. 

With a focus on action, this book brings for you the tools, templates, and checklists to help you quickly Implement what you learn in every section of the book. 

Gives you a proven framework for creating content which people would love to read and share. 

Simplifies every critical aspect of a blog – e.g. Magnetic Headlines, Copywriting, Swipe Files SEO, Sales Funnel, Landing Page and email Harvest. 

Crush it on social media without going crazy – Build a list of raving fans and subscribers on autopilot without constant hustling. 

Secrets to rank high in search engines with SEO best practices so that you can grow your traffic and get readers to come find you. 

An easy-to-follow, systematic process to make money through your blog & grow your business. 

Above all, you will learn that you don’t need fancy tech or cool tricks to grow your blog! 

Whether you are a hobby blogger or blogging for profit, I am confident that this book would give you game-changing ideas to make your blog more meaningful and hugely successful. 

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The Review

This was an incredibly thought out, easy and informative read. As a blogger myself, it was refreshing to see a guide that focused more on the personal, social connectivity of a blog (or vlog or podcast), than the statistical side of things. While statistics and facts all have a place in starting your own blogging business, you can’t get to that point without first learning what your brand is and who you are trying to reach. 

From explaining the concept of these formats and showing off the fundamental trail to follow in order to build your blog, to showcasing how to find your blog’s identity and the identity of your audience, this guide has it all. It’s a quick yet powerful read that will give anyone hoping to build their website the confidence they need to take that initial step into the blogging world.

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The Verdict

Overall this was a fantastic read. It’s a great roadmap to the beginning stages of any blogging format (blog, vlog or podcast), and gives readers the confidence to find their voice and not give up when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. For anyone looking to get their voice heard in the world of blogging and in search of a helping hand, then pick up your copy of Chivi Frost’s novel “The Blogger Trailmap” today.

Rating: 10/10

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Write On Your Terms: Why You Can Succeed As A Writer Without Committing To NaNoWriMo

Let me start off by saying this: I love NaNoWriMo. I’ve participated twice in the last four years, and each time I felt myself challenged, excited and creatively supercharged with each passing day. The process of writing in 30 days a full 50,000 word or more novel is exhilarating to say the least. So this post is not a knock to the event at all. In fact the event is still a very huge presence in my writing in the month of November.

However, for any authors out there who are not participating or can’t participate in the event, know that it is ok. You do not have to participate in the event to be a great writer in life or even just in the month of November. I struggled for a couple weeks on whether or not I wanted to participate in this year’s event.

Am I participating?

So many factors came into play when it came to my ultimate decision. I am working four jobs right now, all of which take up a lot of my time. In addition to this, I have responsibilities at home that take up even more time of my day, so by the time I get to the point where I have time to write, I’m either exhausted or have very little time to write, only getting a few hundred words in at most. I also have a project I am deeply committed to, but I am already at over 40,000 words. I’m not sure how many more words my project will end up taking on, but I don’t want the pressure of having to write another 50,000 just to satisfy the goal of NaNoWriMo and writing more than I really needed. Each story is unique (as many of you writers know), and should not be constrained by word counts for the sake of statistics. It usually sacrifices the story and flow of the novel overall as a result. I started coming up with an outline for a short story anthology I want to write to create a whole new project to work on, but with all of the other factors in play, the timing for NaNoWriMo 2018 just didn’t feel right.

So I decided ultimately to hold off for the year. I felt at first like I was failing to join the writing community or failing to be the best writer I could be. Then I started to ask myself: why? My day jobs consist of writing. I have a whole project I’m in the midst of working on that will include more writing. I’m neck deep into the world of writing. Why should I feel any less of a writer just because I’m not participating in the event.

Your Terms

There is no shame in taking your own path when it comes to writing. Whether you have an existing project, a project that doesn’t require 50,000 words or more or already is near that goal, you don’t have to commit to an event to feel like a great writer. The best advice I can give to a writer is to just be you. Write what you love, and write it on your own terms. Whether it takes you a month or ten years, don’t let anyone else tell you, (although, unless you are writing the next great novel, ten years is a bit long. Just kidding). Even I am still growing as a writer, and learning that you cannot rush the creative process or a project as a whole. To anyone participating in NaNoWriMo, good luck to you guys and I wish you well. I look forward to reading some of these projects in the future, and to interacting with you guys throughout the month as we all write alongside you. To everyone else, be you, and write on your own terms.

What do you guys think? Does this help any of you writers out there? Do any other authors have advice for anyone not participating in NaNoWriMo? Leave your comments below and be sure to share this post on your social media sites.

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Cast No Shadow by Brandon Dragan Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A dark, perilous story that explores one man’s struggle to balance the horrors of war, family and the hunt for justice in an unjust world, author Brandon Dragan’s short story Cast No Shadow is a gripping tale that packs a punch in just a short amount of time. Here’s the synopsis:

Set deep in the heart of 1980’s Texas, Cast No Shadow tells the harrowing tale of Vietnam veteran, husband, and father, Beau Moreland. By day he helps his elderly neighbors and watches his son’s baseball practice; by night he hunts drug gangs. In his quest for justice and a more peaceful life for his loved ones, Beau inadvertently sets off an unstoppable chain of events which will hurtle his family toward a startling and breath-taking conclusion.

The story was incredibly engaging. It showcased the struggle many veterans face coming home from war and seeing the horrors the nation they fought so hard to protect are enduring on their own front doors. In a unique twist that kind of blends stories like Breaking Bad with The Punisher, we see Beau take on criminals while still profiting from his vigilante work, and how the danger he comes into contact with slowly begins to infect his daily life at home.

It also does a great job of exploring the impact we have on our children as a whole, and the way profiling and judgement can lead to trouble no one would ever expect. The writing was incredibly powerful and captured the essence of the story perfectly. The setting and imagery was incredibly vivid, and by story’s end you were left wanting more of Beau and his story, hoping to delve deeper into this amazing character and his backstory more.

Overall I thought this short story was brilliant. It was an evenly paced short tale of intrigue, action, and heart-pounding thrills that very few short stories manage to capture. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copies of Cast No Shadow by Brandon Dragan today!

Rating: 10/10

About Brandon

brandon dragan author photo 01

Brandon Dragan grew up in New Jersey, just miles from the Lincoln Tunnel.

At eighteen he left home to attend Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

He draws on a wide range of influences—from literature, to history, to philosophy—to craft meaningful and often surprising narratives that challenge the status-quo and reach for a deeper understanding of what it means to be human.

Brandon and his wife Jami live in the Nashville area with their two daughters, Natalie and Brooklyn.

He enjoys road cycling and is an avid supporter of Arsenal Football Club.

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