Buck Woods, a stressed-out NYPD homicide detective and former Marine Scout sniper on sabbatical, returns home to Orono, Maine.
Upon arriving back in town, Buck meets up with his old high school friend, Detective Jim Barkowsky of the Orono PD. Jim invites Buck to stay with him, his wife, and their two children.
The next morning Buck and Jim go to check out Buck’s new home, an old run-down log cabin he inherited from his grandfather on two acres of land on Punshaw Lake. Upon entering the cabin, they discover the decomposing body of an unidentified man. The victim died from a single gunshot wound. It is obvious that he was murdered.
Buck and Jim set out to solve the murder by putting together the pieces of the puzzle. Unexpected twists, turns, and obstacles abound, leading to a climax that puts Buck’s life on the line.
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The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Gold Award Winners
Silver Award Winners
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Sudden and violent loss is the introduction to this story, a war veteran and his family fall victim to a tragic and yet seemingly deliberate attempt on their lives. Our main character survives, along with the family dog, but we quickly learn the fate of his wife and son was far more grisly. When local law enforcement fail to provide the answers he seeks, our war veteran takes matters into his own hands. Answers alone will not right this; we follow the recently widowed down the rabbit hole of his own thirst for revenge, strongly driven in his pursuit.
Death by the Jaguar piqued my interest right away, a personal fan of sailing and being on the water, and I definitely enjoyed how often it returned to that setting. Either James Ruby is experienced himself or did his research, as his attention to detail regarding many basic mechanics and proper names surrounding the handling of water craft was on point. His technical skill as a writer shined through once more in regards to setting the scene. Ruby paints a picture well, giving enough focus on the characters surroundings to immerse the reader without putting too much weight in to detail. One aspect that continuously distracted me was his over use of commas. The flow of the story remained choppy throughout, thoughts consistently broken up too much by the trip of a comma.
I feel Ruby did a solid job portraying the scattered and distracted mindset of the main character, writing his portions of the story from a first person point of view. Consistently being pulled into the memories of a war veteran while he doggedly pursues justice for his family shows a glimpse of what it is like living with PTSD. I was a little bit back and forth on how I felt overall about just how quickly he gained his thirst for revenge, with little to no mourning and not even attending the funeral. However, I still felt he wrote this broken character with fair knowledge of human psychology. One thing that caught my attention was that we never seem to catch the name of our main character. I could be wrong and just missed it, but I personally find myself relating to a character better when I at least know their name.
Another issue was the repetitive interactions of Sullivan, an arrogant Chief of the local law. It seemed that with every interaction there was so much focus on this characters need to assert his station of power, his need for it to be recognized. The story itself left me wanting; the entire tale is a build up of vengeful actions, but in many respects it lacks the expected action factor, making it somewhat difficult to stay interested.
I was impressed with James Ruby’s ability to set the scene and draw the reader in, as well as his attention to detail regarding areas that the common person wouldn’t be too educated in.
Pages: 291 | ASIN: B0755JWFNR
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A Higher Calling follows Sam as his reputation follows him even though he’s retired from his gun wearing days, and his new life is threatened as the opportunity for revenge comes knocking. Why did you think this was a good starting point for book 2 in the series?
At the closing of book one, Sam had gotten a glimpse of what his life could be instead of the anger and violence filled existence he had accepted. For a few months he is able to enjoy that normalcy. He is not only seen by the family and neighbors as a husband and father, he starts to see himself in those roles. Even a few friends from his past are willing to give him a chance to be a different man. Too soon, a stranger demands Sam return to the gun. The stranger bribes Sam with money, but also carries a threat in order to manipulate Sam to do his bidding. Sam must choose who he is to be.
Sam must achieve a series of steps in order to become a member of a civilized society. I think of them as similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. First, Sam had to forgive himself and see himself as something more than just a killer. Now, he is making commitments to a family. He has the chance to become a part of that family if he chooses. Hence the name of this book, “A Higher Calling.” Which is the higher calling? Be a husband and father or avenge the death of a friend.
We get to dig deeper into Sam’s character in this book as he has to decide if he is Sam Cardiff or Sam Moses. What were the obstacles you felt were important in develop his character further?
Sam, to me, represents soldiers and Marines who return from combat and are unable to adjust to the quieter life. We only hear about them, unless we know them, when they commit some horrendous act of crime or violence. Sam gave me the opportunity to tell people, who don’t know, that these men and women are wounded as surely as if they had lost a limb. The only difference is the wounds can’t be seen.
That’s what I wanted Sam to tell the reader. He was just a guy with dreams, plans and hopes who circumstances put in a situation so ugly he couldn’t cope. In the aftermath, his value system, his self-awareness, his expectations of himself as well as others are distorted.
Are you a fan of western novels? What books do you feel influenced you as a writer?
I grew up reading Louis Lamoure, Clair Huffaker and Will James. While I read more than just one genre, I am a fan of the western, but I also have a complaint about them. Too often, the characters are single dimensional or at best shallow. This series is the story of the internal struggles of a war vet. I chose the Civil War as I felt it allowed me to tell a better story. I could have chosen any war, but I felt there was a poetry in choosing a 19th century warrior inflicted with a 20th century injury.
Where will book three in the Sam and Laura’s Story series take the characters?
Recovery from any emotional/mental illness is a progression of steps. In book one, Sam came face to face with himself. Who was he going to be. The changing of his name represented that turmoil. In book two, Sam had to find his place in a family but also a community. Once he accepted himself, he had to find a way to accept those around him and allow them to accept him. Book three addresses Sam’s relationship with God and nature. He has spent several years cursing God and wishing God would strike him dead. Now, he must find a way to resolve that conflict.
“What is the matter with you? We do not need his money!” She stood behind him; her hands on her hips.
“It’s not about the money.”
His voice was calm. He could have told her what day of the week it was with the same level of excitement.
“Then why? Why must you go back and try to get yourself killed? You have responsibilities here!”
Sam stopped brushing and seemed ready to turn and face her. He then thought better and did not. He returned to brushing the horse.
“Samuel, you turn around and face me! You tell me why I have to get ready to mourn a second man in my life. You tell me what I’m supposed to tell our children!”
His turn was powerful and deliberate; he faced her, “Our children, Laura? It wasn’t that long ago you told me in no uncertain terms they were your children and I was a bad influence. You share them with me only when it suits you. They are our children if you think you can use them to your advantage.”
“Is that why you’re doing this? To punish me for what I said?”
“Laura, please. Do you really think that little of me? I gave the man my word. I promised him I would avenge him if this happened.”
“You promised? You promised? You also promised my husband you would look after us. I know Wiggins was your friend, but he is cold and dead in the ground. There is nothing you can do that will change that.”
Sam’s’ brows furrowed, “And how is that different from William, your husband? Is he not also cold and dead in the ground?”
Laura stepped forward and took his free hand. She placed his hand on her chest, between her breasts, “Does this feel like it’s cold and dead? Do you not feel the love that surges through my body with every beat of my heart? Tell me what I have to do to keep you here? What must I do to change your mind?”
Sam Moses was in a quandary, a crossroads. He had followed the beautiful Laura Stoddard and her children to Missouri in order to care for them as he had promised the dying William Stoddard, the husband and father. He was determined to keep his word.
Now, he had received notice a friend had been murdered. A friend whom he had promised to avenge if such a thing happened; now, it had. Avenging his friend would most likely kill him but he had given his word.
Now, after living most of his life being beholden to anyone, he must choose, which promise is the higher calling?
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Thicker Than Blood is a fast paced action story about a battle hardened veteran desperately trying to keep his daughter safe. What was your inspiration for Hayes’s character and the relationship he has with his daughter Charity?
This story went through many evolutions before it became what it is today, but regardless of his back story, Lynn Hayes remained the same at his core. He was born with a talent for leadership, unflinching courage, and an irrepressible will. He inspires others by actions, not just words. He believes in duty and honor, and that is evident in all aspects of his life, including his role as a father. I drew upon my own experience as a father of two daughters when describing the interactions between Lynn and Charity. The main inspiration for Lynn Hayes was my own father and his father. My training as a United States Marine and a US Army Soldier, and all of the heroes I served with had no small part as well.
There is a mercenary in the story that is after Hayes and Charity that doesn’t seem to stay dead. What was your process in creating that character and developing the characters motivations?
I started with his appearance and imagined what a person might fear about him. I designed Death to be heartless and cruel, then crafted a relationship between his moral decline and a life changing interaction with the main character. Death is the antithesis of Lynn in every way. I wanted him to be someone the reader could hate. His physical characteristics resemble his flawed personality. He’s gaunt and pale to the point of being skeletal. He towers over people and intimidates, hungers for power and is driven by revenge. Death craves blood, revels in savagery and abuse. Death also introduces the reader to blood magic, the source of his regenerative power. Throughout the story, Death’s blood lust grows in direct relationship to his indulgence in blood magic. My goal was to create something that oozed evil, and enabled supernatural changes in Death and others affected by blood magic.
What was the idea, or spark, that first set off the need to write Thicker Than Blood?
I began writing about Charity and her father, Lynn Hayes, as a bedtime story for my daughters. Believe me, the story I started back then didn’t look anything like it does now! When I made the decision to write for a more mature audience, I revised the story to meet my own preferences and satisfy my guiltiest pleasures. I love a violent and gritty story with larger than life characters, and an underdog who faces insurmountable odds.
I find a problem in well written stories, in that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Is there a second book planed for Hayes?
Book two is in the works! In the second book, a new hero joins Lynn and the others to fight against Duke Dennison and the Rebels, and a new threat from over the mountains. Foss Bird is the biggest bastard anyone has ever seen. In his first battle, he wields his axe with such brute force that it breaks against a stone, leaving him with a blunt hammer. Foss towers over the battlefield, and sweeps aside the enemy ranks. Unafraid of the revenant soldiers, he strides forward, breaking bones and crushing skulls. Singing as he smashes all those in his path, Foss earns the moniker “Hammer.” Thus the Hammer Battalion is born.
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Lynn Hayes will do anything to keep his daughter safe. He is a battle hardened veteran who doesn’t flinch, he swings…hard. When a mercenary named Death picks up their trail, Lynn cuts him down, but the evil bastard won’t stay dead. Allied with a smart aleck Lieutenant, and a luckless cripple, Lynn knows that fighting dirty is the only way to win. The bloody and vicious fight that follows revives an old legend and inspires hope in a people who desperately need it. They need it more than anyone knows, because Death is not just a mercenary, he is a harbinger of darkness yet t come.
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