The American Fathers: Emperor by Henry L. Sullivan III

Narrators: Adrianne Cury, Karin Anglin, Kevin TheisAmro Salama, Antonio Castillo, Jeff Cummings, Scott Duff, Steve Downes, and Tony Dobrowolski

Publisher: Sullivan Serials (2017)

Length: 3 hours 2 minutes

Series: Book 4 The American Fathers

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 4 in the series, it works well as a stand alone, though it is definitely enhanced by enjoying the first 3 episodes previously. However, if you do pick this up as a stand alone, you might want to check out the glossary first to pick up some of the lingo, characters, and overall atmosphere of the series. For the audiobook, this glossary starts at the 2 hours 41 minutes mark and lasts just over 20 minutes.

Set in 2032, Victor Daco is at the height of his career, being America’s king in all but name and official letterhead. He’s been the power behind this New Rule movement for decades, setting up this rulership step by step. Now he just has to crush the POP Watchers, a hacktivist resistance group, and have the US President sign the final piece of legislation that will allow him total authority.

This is the book I had been waiting for in this series, the tale that ties all four stories together. The history of how the ruling Houses came into being is clearly laid out, past characters (such as Victor’s daughter Irene) are mentioned or brought into play, and the entire story arc moves forward a bit as Victor’s enemies circle him like waiting sharks.

My one quibble is that the female characters aren’t particularly important to the plot as they were in the first 2 books. Natalia, Irene’s mom, has the most lines. She is clever and elegant but nearly all of her role is to comfort Victor even as she builds up or reigns in his ego. I think she has more to give and I’m doubtful we will get to see that in future installments.

The science fiction bits were great. I love Victor’s chosen mode of transport, all the corporate spying that goes on, and cyber enhancements the rich can obtain. While I did like Victor’s fancy suit of armor, I felt the story was a little rushed in taking us from Victor the Ruthless Businessman to Victor the Iron Man. The story spends plenty of time on the political intrigue (which I like) but I would like to see this level of detail in Victor’s character arc as well.

Hispanic US President – yay! I quite love the multi-ethnic character list this series continues with. Take Victor’s college nemesis, an Arab royal, into account as well because Victor hasn’t made note of him, a failure he will regret. There’s a solid ending to this installment though I do wonder where the author will take the series from here. I expect Big Things to come about from the events of this book.

I received a free copy this book.

The Narration: The audio production and narration for this series continues to be excellent. The full cast provides a range of distinct voices for the characters. There’s also sound effects that enhance the story instead of distracting from it. I especially liked the use of this heavy metal music for this particular scene; it wasn’t loud enough to drown out the story but it was prevalent enough to make me believe the characters were having a hard time with the volume.

What I Liked: Great narration; Victor Daco is an interesting characters; his story arc from college student to the New Rule to his current high station; all the SF bits; the ending of this installment of the series.

What I Disliked: The ladies aren’t nearly as important in this part of the tale as they were for Books 1 and 2.

The American Fathers: Escape from New Orleans by Henry L. Sullivan III

SullivanEscapeFromNewOrleansNarrators: Adrianne Cury, Cameron KnightJennie Moreau, Juan Francisco Villa, Kevin Theis, Rebecca Cox

Publisher: Sullivan Serials (2016)

Length: 1 hour 13 minutes

Series: Book 3 The American Fathers

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 3 in the series, it works well as a stand alone, though it is definitely enhanced by enjoying the first 2 episodes previously. However, if you do pick this up as a stand alone, you might want to check out the glossary first to pick up some of the lingo, characters, and overall atmosphere of the series. For the audiobook, this glossary starts at the 59 minutes 20 seconds mark and lasts just over 14 minutes.

Devin Wayne is a hunted man and he doesn’t know it yet. He’s just waking up to another day in the near-future New Orleans that is complete with AI, coffee, and annoying yet loyal friends. Mike has unexpectedly stopped by Devin’s hotel room and Devin, always on the edge, nearly took Mike for an assassin. Devin isn’t far off the mark because Mike is there to deliver some bad news: a hit has been taken out on Devin and one of the most skilled assassin’s in the trade as been hired.

This addition to the series is quite different from Books 1 and 2. While Swept Away and Dinner Invitation were more cerebral and full of political intrigue, this book is all action. It starts with Devin pouncing on the unexpected Mike to their attempt to escape New Orleans to the cat and mouse game Devin and MCM play throughout the rest of the book. Also, there’s no sex. Still, even though this book has a totally different tone, it is still pretty darn good.

There’s a decent amount of future tech built into this tale. I loved the vehicle AIs and all the stuff that can go wrong with such things. Then Devin, who is a highly skilled operative, has some tricks up his sleeve for evading MCM. Yet not to be outdone, MCM has some tracking gadgets that Devin and Mike weren’t expecting.

The action rolls in waves throughout the book so I never got battle fatigue from the story. Things start off mellow with Devin waking up and then he goes on high alert as he tackles an unexpected Mike. Things mellow out again as the two men catch up and then things peak again with the first attack from MCM. This really worked for me because I don’t need one adrenaline rush after another in my stories.

The banter between the two men was very amusing. They obviously have a long history and have built up this trusting friendship over time. Like Mike, I was hoping just a little that Devin would describe some of his intimate moments with his girlfriend Irene Daco (who we met in Book 2) but I can respect a person who doesn’t kiss and tell. I do want to know more about MCM and if this episode will be the last we see of this assassin.

While this episode of the series had a nearly all-male cast, it balances out well with the series as a whole. The female characters were definitely the stars for the first two episodes. Now we’ve seen that Sullivan can do action scenes as well as he does political intrigue and sexy relationships. All around, I’m impressed. I look forward to seeing what he does next.

I received a free copy this book.

The Narration: The quality of this series continues to be top rate. The vocal narrations are well done, each character being well cast. I especially liked Devin’s voice, being a rich manly voice. Mike was playful and impertinent and I could just picture the impish grin on the narrator’s face as he performed this character. There’s a handful of other voices throughout the story and I really liked the New Orleans accent some of these characters had. Sound effects and background music complete the experience. These are well timed and also don’t compete with the narration, which remained crisp and clear throughout.

What I Liked: Future tech stuff; plenty of action; some humor as well; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was an excellent story!

The American Fathers: Dinner Invitation by Henry L. Sullivan III

SullivanDinnerInvitationNarrators: Adrianne Cury, Amy MontgomeryFawzia Mirza, Cameron KnightJennie Moreau, Juan Francisco Villa, Karin Anglin, Kevin Theis

Publisher: Sullivan Serials (2016)

Length: 1 hour 56 minutes

Series: Book 2 The American Fathers

Author’s Page

Note: Since this is Book 2 in the series, it is better (though not absolutely necessary) to have read Book 1, Swept Away, before reading this book.

Once again, we return to the near future America, where powerful houses run the country from behind the scenes. Irene Daco, the first American dynastic princess, is a current hot topic. Sheila, a smart academic who believes the dynastic houses will ruin the country, has been swept up into an undefined relationship with the mysterious Jasira, a congressional correspondent. Now Sheila is offered a dinner date with this dynastic princess and she’s tempted to go.

It’s been over a year since Book 1 came out in audiobook format, but this sequel was worth the wait. I think it’s even a little better than Book 1 (which I really enjoyed). First, my little criticism about the lack of cutting edge tech in Book 1 has been blown away by the wonderful tech integrated into the story here in Book 2. I can’t tell you all the awesome stuff going on in this book because that would be spoilery, but I was definitely impressed with the cutting edge tech and how it added to the ambiance of the story. I will say one thing: artificial intelligence. Yay!

Jasira and Sheila continue to be my favorite characters. Sheila is so open and straight forward, perhaps even a little naive in some ways. Jasira is full of grace and mystery and I can’t tell what her motives are, but I do hope she’s on the side of good. The chemistry between these two was sweet and intense in Book 1 and it continues to be intense in Book 2. The love scene was fantastic – detailed, hot, and charming all at the same time.

Irene Daco plays an important role in this story and she isn’t what I was expecting. I was glad that we finally get to meet someone from one of the big American dynastic houses. Sheila has pre-formed ideas about Irene and I think that’s going to be hard to shake. Yet I have faith in Sheila because she’s a fair person… and yet I also worry that someone is trying to trick her. Perhaps we’ll find out in the next episode which way that will fall out. This book does end on a little cliffhanger, so that’s another reason to look forward to Book 3.

Just as an side note, I want to give this story credit for bringing the Peters map into play. It’s difficult to portray the Earth accurately on a flat surface and the Peters map shows land area correctly, which looks a bit different from the maps we typically see in American school systems. The conversation between Sheila and Jasira about Sheila’s work on the dynastic houses was pretty intense, and the Peters map was the perfect comparison.

Over all, this is a smart and sexy story and I really enjoyed this second installment. I’m definitely looking forward to what the author will do next with this tale!

I received a free copy this book.

The Narration: The audio experience continues to be excellent. The ladies performing Sheila and Jasira do an incredible job – the accents and emotional inflections are spot on. Also, the love scene is so well done I have to wonder if there’s real chemistry between the performers. All the character voices are distinct. The production includes ambient sounds to add to the over all experience, never drowning out the dialogue. Just a quality production all around.

What I Liked: Political intriuge; to trust or not to trust; Jasira and Sheila continue to captivate; Irene Daco; the love scene; the AI; the cliffhanger – I need more!; great narration and sound effects.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was an excellent story!

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Henry L. Sullivan III, Author of The American Fathers

SullivanAmericanFathersSweptAwayFolks, it is with pleasure that I welcome Henry L. Sullivan to the blog today. I quite enjoyed the first episode (Swept Away) of his audio drama series, The American Fathers. We chat about obstacle courses, creating smart, lively characters, the importance of reviews, and so much more. Don’t forget to check out the audiobook GIVEAWAY at the end of the post!

Conventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

Interacting with readers and audiobook listeners is my favorite part of self-promotion. I’ve had private message (PM) exchanges with readers through LibraryThing and Goodreads. Hearing what people thought about something I’ve written is the primary thing that keeps me going. I think, on some level, all writers hope that the public will enjoy their work. I personally love it when that happens.

My least favorite part of self-promotion is having to ask people who have downloaded review copies of my work for honest reviews. I’ve used LibraryThing’s early reviewer program, and have found that only one out of twenty or thirty people who download the book through that program actually post a review. I’ve done several giveaways. If this is what LibraryThing’s early reviewer program is in reality, it would be great if it were just called that. And to be honest, I feel so bad about bugging people for the review they promised, that I usually don’t do it. The problem there though is that in reality your book lives or dies by reviews. I’ve read several articles and heard successful writers say that less than one percent of people who read a book will post a review of that book, even if they enjoyed the book. Most of the reviews I’ve gotten so far have been either five or four star reviews, but I appreciated the one star review I received from one early reviewer, simply because it was her honest opinion. I was surprised to find after receiving that one star review that it didn’t necessarily stop readers from buying the book. I was told by one woman through a PM that she tried my book because it had BOTH five star reviews and a one star review, which made her believe that the reviews were from real people and not provided through a service or by fellow writers, friends and family only.

SullivanDinnerInvitationThe mix of near-future political intrigue and erotica in The American Fathers series is both smart and sexy. What brought these two elements together for you?

Smart and sexy! (lol)​ I am so glad you see it that way.

I​n writing Sheila and Jasira I​ made mistakes at first, but things started to come together as I got two things right – Sheila’s character, and the role Sheila and Jasira’s relationship plays in the overall premise of the serial.

First let me explain how the Sheila you heard in the recording​ came to be. When I first started writing Sheila, the point of view character for Episode 1, I emphasized her political ideology – concern for workers’ rights and well being, opposition to the dominance corporations have in our society, similar to what Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been talking about for the last couple of years. There were two problems with that Sheila: 1) she didn’t have much personality, and 2) readers could not see why Jasira was attracted to her.

It may be hard to see the transition here, but Sheila became a stronger character when I started working with Adrianne Cury, director and narrator of Episode 1 – the full cast audio book (or audio drama). It happened quite by accident. We were trying to figure out how to promote the project, but even though we had already ​cast Fawzia Mirza in the role of Jasira, we hadn’t cast anyone for Sheila, so we didn’t have dialogue recorded for that character. Adrianne offered to perform Sheila’s dialogue for the promotional recording. I should mention here that Adrianne spent her childhood in the south, but the character, Sheila, was originally from Ohio. Adrianne’s suggestion made me consider, for the first time, making Sheila a southerner. That background change totally transformed my perception of the character. Sheila went from being a kind, passive, lonely, and yet ​a ​passionate academic, to a feisty, opinionated, socially awkward, and not necessarily nice but well intentioned academic/advocate. ​Once a southerner, she literally jumped off the page, and became one of my favorite characters to write because her choices and behavior ​we​re so compelling and​ interesting.

Figuring out how to use each episode to lay out the overall premise of the serial was the other thing that happened around this time. Feedback I received in a developmental edit from Juliet Ulman was extremely helpful. Juliet thought Sheila’s relationship with Jasira in the original version of Episode 1 was a Rom Com (romantic comedy), while the serial’s overall premise was more akin to an action thriller or drama – ​in 2032, the United States of America officially becomes ruled by thirteen dynast​ies. Sheila and Jasira’s relationship in the original version of episode 1 didn’t have anything to do with the overall serial. ​I knew the premise, I just hadn’t written it into the story.

Both Juliet and Adrianne were pretty blunt with me. Juliet said I missed​ a great​ opportunity conve​ying the conceptual aspects of dynastic rule in 2032 America ​through the work and perspective of a labor economist – Dr. Sheila McKinley. Adrianne said Sheila and Jasira’s dialogue was too ditzy and silly for intelligent women – one, a successful economist, the other, a successful journalist.

They were both right. As I said earlier, making Sheila a southerner made her interesting and a lot more fun to write. I tried to make her obsession with and suspicion of the dynasties work by expressing it through ​her new,​ pushy, no-nonsense personality.

You may be wondering about Jasira. All I can say is that for some reason she has been a clear, easy character for me to write from the beginning. The combination of her ambiguous relationship with the dynasties, the fact that this matters a lot to Sheila, Sheila’s attraction to Jasira, Jasira’s unexplained and yet explicit interest in ​Sheila, are all juicy elements that come together like a great gumbo.

One important thing to know about my ​writing ​style is that I ​lay out my​ stories through the framework of ​romantic ​couples.

  • Skepticism about this new political arrangement – dynasties ruling America – is told through Sheila’s relationship with Jasira.
  • The personal toll this new arrangement has on the people in power is told through Devin Wayne’s relationship with Irene Daco (Devin is military intelligence. Irene is America’s first princess).
  • The story of dynasties rising to​ become America’s official rulers is told through Victor Daco and Natalia Daco meeting, ​getting, and building the most powerful dynastic House in America (The New Rule creates thirteen houses, and Victor and Natalia are Irene parents).
  • The story of how some r​ebe​ls are just disgruntled elites is told through the story of Todd Giannopoulos (a Point One Percent, or POP Watcher​ – the POP Watchers are hacktivists​) and Ever Harrington (heir to House Harrington).

As for the sex, I’ve been told Devin and Irene’s sex is generally steamier than Sheila and Jasira’s, but I guess that all depends on the personal preferences of the reader. Sex has had a big influence on my personal relationships, so I have a hard time writing these couples without sharing their sexual experiences with the reader. To me, that’s the heart of how fiction works – the author shares the personal experiences of a character with readers. Since sex ha​s been important in my life, sharing the sexual experiences of my characters with the reader just makes sense to me.

SullivanEscapeFromNewOrleansWhat has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

For over ten years I worked as a manager for different national retail and restaurant chains. I hated that job. I had to work thirty two hours straight once because every one of my employees quit instead of coming to work. This happened four shifts in a row. I was the new manager of that gas station, and each employee quit without notice.

Writing is an extremely satisfying experience. The world is a better place for me when I’m writing.

Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you?

The BBC adaptation of White Teeth by Zadie Smith is the truest book to TV adaptation I have ever seen. I don’t play video games, however.

Full-cast audio experience versus single-person narration: what made you choose one over the other?

I have a strong preference for the fullness in sound produced by full cast as compared to regular audiobooks. I’m impressed, sometimes, by an actor’s ability to perform multiple roles in a recording, but I never like the singular feel that method produces. I always know it’s the same person, even when they’re doing a great job distinguishing one character from another. I cannot remember ever liking a male actor’s portrayal of a female character. I’ve heard some that were terrible. But male to female or female to male, I always prefer hearing individual performances of each character.

American Gods, for instance, for me was a much more satisfying listen than The Fall of Hyperion, even though I enjoyed reading The Fall of Hyperion. Both novels were written very well, but for me the experience of listening to the recorded performance is better when different actors are cast for each one of the main characters.

SullivanTheAnalystWhat do you do when you are not writing?

​Housework. I’ve been doing the laundry in between writing responses to this interview. I can cook, but everyone in my household has different preferences, so I usually cook what I want to eat. I probably don’t clean to most people’s satisfaction, but I try not to make more mess than I can handle myself. ​

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

​I would either invite Bartimaeus (from the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud​), Seraphina (from the novel by Rachel Hartman), Celia Bowen (from the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern), or Brawne Lamia (Hyperion by Dan Simmons, which was also a great full cast audiobook by the way).

Drinking with any one of these characters would be extremely interesting. Seraphina is the only one out of the four who would complain the entire time (until drunk, of course), effectively serving as a burden, until her dragon uncle flew in to help.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I recently took two road trips – one from the Chicago area to Bimidji, Minnesota, the other to Lake Norman, North Carolina. During the first trip I formulated the background story for Devin Wayne, point of view character for Episode 3: Escape From New Orleans, Episode Five: Return of the Prince, and Episode 9: Voyage to Nowhere. Maybe because we took the second trip shortly after the Bimidji trip, I began writing Voyage To Nowhere. Here’s what I have for the episode summary so far:

Devin and Irene are running from teams of assassins working for House Watson. Devin has a plan. He knows they will be safe if only they can make it to Nowhere. For the first time in Devin’s life, he hopes he will have the opportunity to introduce a woman to his parents. He is sure about his feelings for Irene, but not about the nature of their relationship. What future can they possibly have? Her father, Victor, no longer wants to kill him. But Irene is still a princess whose kingdom is at war. Even if they make it home, he doubts she will want to stay Nowhere forever.

SullivanAmericanFathersSweptAwayBook Blurb for The American Fathers: Swept Away:

Fresh off a break up, Sheila McKinley, the easygoing college professor, meets Jasira Said, the up and coming journalist and political columnist.

Sheila has no idea her friend Rima is acquainted with Jasira, so their arranged meeting is easily disguised as a simple dinner party. Even after she agrees to show Jasira around town, she really doesn’t suspect her real intentions. But after an accident at a night club things move quickly, until everything is crystal clear.

Places to Stalk Henry L. Sullivan

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GIVEAWAY!!!

Henry Sullivan is graciously offering ten Audible.com copies of Swept Away (Episode 1 of The American Fathers series). Honest reviews, of course, would be welcome and appreciated. In order to enter the giveaway, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer the following in the comments: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) What are some of your favorite audio dramas? 3) Leave a way for me to contact you! Giveaway ends November 5, 2015, midnight.

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The American Fathers: Swept Away by Henry Sullivan

SullivanAmericanFathersSweptAwayWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrators: Adrianne Cury, Amy Montgomery, Deb Doetzer, Fawzia Mirza, Scott Duff

Publisher: Sullivan Serials (2015)

Length: 58 minutes

Series: Book 1 The American Fathers

Author’s Page

Set in a near future America, the world is a bit different. Powerful houses run the politics, and hence, the country, from behind the scenes. Sworn fealty to a powerful house can bring the average person a decent paying job in a world where society is scrambling to hold it together. Sheila, a smart lass from Tennessee, sees through this BS and is trying to open the public’s eyes to this power shift. Meanwhile, the Lebanese congressional correspondent Jasira agrees with Sheila, off the record. Yet, despite Sheila’s unarguable attraction to Jasira, she can’t help but question Jasira’s motives.

I stepped into this book thinking it was more near future scifi + politcs than romance + erotica. However, I couldn’t help but be caught up in the story. The author does a very good job of showing us, through Sheila’s eyes, the power structure and what Sheila believes to be wrong with it. The story opens with a hosted TV show on which Sheila and Jasira are guests. Through that show, they get to interact with a few members of the show’s audience, who have questions that leave the the door open for Sheila to comment on the politics of the day.

There’s only a touch or two of what you might call futuristic tech. Honestly, telling your sound system to play a certain selection of music is possible now with a swanky system. Still, it was nice to have these small reminders that this is a near-future story and not some alternate story of what Earth and politics might be today. I personally would have preferred a little more future tech.

This is a romance erotica and that part of the book is sweet. When Jasira turned on the charm, I melted. The sex scene doesn’t happen until the end and there is a very nice build up. We get a clear picture of who each of these ladies are – and they are both smart and savvy in their own ways. Plus there are those hints of hidden secrets and things rather not said for both ladies, giving the story that overtone of possible future conflicts of interests. By the time the sex scene arrived, I was thoroughly caught up in the characters and so wanted them to be happy with each other. The descriptions of the love making were detailed but not gauche. It was a very nicely done piece of erotica thrown into a larger story of political intrigue. As a side note, I really like that we have more than 1 ethnicity represented in this story. I will definitely be looking for episode 2.

I received this book at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: This was an excellent performance all around. Sheila’s character had a light regional accent that wasn’t overdone. The voice for Jasira was perfect – by turns clever and insightful, and then sexy and tempting. The rest of the character voices were distinct and well done. The production was smooth with touches of ambient sounds that never drowned out the dialogue.

What I Liked: The story’s setting; political intrigue; some intelligent female characters; we’re shown what the political situation is instead of being told; excellent sex scene; excellent narration & production; more than 1 ethnicity represented.

What I Disliked: A tiny quibble – I would have enjoyed more future tech thrown in.