Tag Archives: James Raney

James Matlack Raney Offers Tips and Thoughts on Writing Fantasy Literature

Today I am very pleased to introduce a wonderful guy and author! James Matlack Raney writes fantasy adventure in his books Jim Morgan and the Prince of Thieves and Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull! Below is a guest article about why he likes and writes fantasy books, in which he offers some tips for writers who are writing or who want to write fantasy for themselves! I really enjoyed the article; I hope you do too.


Guest Article:  Hints for Writing Fantasy Literature
by James Matlack Raney, author of the Jim Morgan series

Headshot1More than any other kind of book, I love reading and writing fantasy adventures the most, losing myself in their mysteries, discovering their hidden treasures, and exploring the self-reflective borders between their worlds and mine. I grew up on Lewis and Tolkien, Stevenson and Defoe, and later, King and Rowling, walking the paths of Hogwarts and Gilead, sailing the oceans of Narnia and Middle-Earth in my mind. If you’re reading this post, odds are you have a favorite fantasy world as well, maybe from the old classics, or perhaps among the new ones, such as Panem or the Glade. But how did those worlds get there? Where did they come from? Perhaps you’re wondering how you might go about creating your own. I don’t have the answers to all those questions, nor perhaps does anyone else, but I can at least give you three hints from my own writer’s journey.

The first hint is to open yourself to your muse. C.S. Lewis famously said the entire world of Narnia was born from a single image that popped into his mind, a picture of a faun, walking through the snow, carrying a pile of Christmas packages in his arms. While I am certainly not C.S. Lewis, a single flash in my imagination gave birth to Jim Morgan’s adventures in a world of pirates and magic. I saw a young man, a black crow on his shoulder, standing on the pirate ship’s prow, the sails caught on a morning breeze. I can’t explain how the amazing human imagination works, but being relaxed, taking long walks, listening to music, all those things help daydreams take hold and grow. Close your eyes. What do you see? When you find a picture that captures you, grab hold of it and don’t let go, for somewhere in that image is a story to be told!

The second hint is to learn the language of storytelling. Once an author has a picture in mind, one that has begun to take root and grow, how does she successfully transfer it to the page? Even though most well told stories feel unique and original, the majority of them follow a measured and well-worn road, one travelled by many storytellers before, a specific set of beats and notes, a series of guideposts that aid both writer and reader in finding their way from beginning to end. If you look closely at your favorite books, you may see the pattern take shape. But if you’d like to learn from an expert, try Joseph Campbell’s books or Christopher Voegler, who has helped make Campbell a bit more digestible. Don’t be afraid to learn form and formula! I promise it won’t rob you of your creativity. On the contrary, it will help you more easily shape and mold on paper the world you wish to build in your mind.

The final hint I’ll offer is to never forget our real world as you create your fantasy universe. To me, one of the most moving moments in all the Lord of the Rings is the death and confession of Boromir, very much the same way that one of the most challenging moments in the Hunger Games is the death of Rue. There is nothing fantastical, magic, or unrealistic about either of those scenes, scenes of loss, of friendship and loyalty broken, of pain. But they are the moments that connect us most deeply with the characters and plots of the stories. The heart of every perfect fantasy is found in earthbound emotions and human experience.

So there you have it! Three hints to the creation of fantasy adventures; I hope they help you on your own writer’s journey, or at the very least, aid in your enjoyment of the great fantasy literature so many amazing authors continue to produce. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, a few of you might add Jim Morgan to your list, and join him, the Ratts, Lacey, and Cornelius on an uncanny adventures full of pirates, sorcerers, and sea monsters.

JMKTSecondBookKindleCoverAbout Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull (#2 in series)~

Hot on the heels of Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves, which was praised by About.com’s Fatherhood Guide, YAReads.com, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews and influential book bloggers across the globe as “a rip-roaring good tale for children of all ages,” Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull sees old friends, new foes and magic forces tempt and test its protagonist, who is, one year following King of Thieves conclusion, at long last ready to return home to Morgan Manor.

Faced with terrors beyond his imagination – pirate battles, hidden islands, sorcerers and sea monsters – in Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull, the formerly spoiled-rotten Jim Morgan must learn to trust new allies, discover the power and magic of true friendship – and, just possibly uncover a hero hidden within him.

Ripe with fantastical challenges and miraculous victories that will resonate with any young reader who finds themselves in the thick of navigating young adulthood’s complexities, Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves is a good old-fashioned adventure story fit for a 21st century attention span.

“I wrote Jim Morgan to grab the attention of boy readers who have few options on bookshelves in today’s marketplace,” says Raney of the series. “Contrary to popular belief, I feel that boys actually enjoy reading, provided it’s rich with excitement, danger, and emotional themes they crave.”

James Matlack Raney, Biography~

JMRJames Matlack Raney grew up all over the world, including Europe, Latin America and Africa. These days, he calls Southern California home, and spends his time writing adventures…and occasionally living a few of his own.

Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull is available now via Amazon and in select brick-and-mortar retailers.

Find James Matlack Raney on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and his blog, Storygazing.

Website: http://jimmorganbooks.com/


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Fantasy Adventure for Young Readers will Captivate with Page Turning Fun!

Today, I’ve got a chock full post for anyone who is interested in Young Adult (YA) novels, especially action adventure fantasy novels that are written and designed to engage youngsters into the world of reading. You’ll read a review of Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves, by James Matlack Raney, learn about the book, and be able to read a guest post by Raney about living the writing dream (I happen to think this was a great article too!!). You’ll also be able to try to win a copy!

I’m a huge fan of promoting literacy among girls and boys alike, and though this book is geared toward attention spans of boys who are reluctant readers, I feel that girls and children who already love to read will also enjoy this novel! My 9-year-old daughter, who reads on a middle school level, was very happy to get her own copy of the book as she prefers action, thriller, and adventure novels.  They hold her attention much better, and soon, you’ll get to read her own review of the book once she completes it.

You can read my review, the guest post, and sign-up for the giveaway below…..enjoy!


Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves, Synopsis~

Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves – the rip-roaring first installment in James Matlack Raney’s brand-new young adult adventure Jim Morgan series .

A good old-fashioned adventure story fit for a 21st century attention span, Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves – the rip-roaring first installment in James Matlack Raney’s brand-new young adult adventure Jim Morgan series – follows its namesake protagonist as his spoiled-rotten world is thrown upside down by his father’s return from a mysterious sea voyage with the secret to a vast pirate treasure.

Propelling Jim into an adventure the likes of which exceeds his most fantastical dreams, he now must escape the clutches of his father’s wicked enemies, decipher the magic of a gypsy witch, stay out of the sightline of a shadowy pirate and his talking raven, and outwit the King of Thieves and his army of pickpockets. If he is to survive, Jim must learn to trust new allies, discover the power and magic of true friendship – and, just possibly uncover a hero hidden within him.

“I wrote Jim Morgan to grab the attention of boy readers who have few options on bookshelves in today’s marketplace,” says Raney of the series’ debut. “Contrary to popular belief, I feel that boys actually enjoy reading, provided it’s rich with excitement, danger, and emotional themes that they crave.”


In my opinion, reading the book myself to gauge its interest level for young readers, with it geared to a span of about 8 to 12-year-old readers, this book starts off immediately holding the attention of the reader and making you feel you are in a fantasy world with relatable characters.

Remember those fairy tale or fantasy books we had as aspiring young readers? The kind that told a tale and engaged our minds prior to bedtime, sending us off into dream land, or keeping us awake late into the night with a strong desire to finish? This book had elements in it that reminded me of Peter Pan meets a contemporary Oliver Twist tale, with some young Indiana Jones adventure and the literary magic of Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe.

Raney’s writing is superb and well-done. It’s heads above many of the contemporary YA novels, either self-published or traditionally published. He spins a tale with elegance of prose and a knack for true story telling that is so very often hard to find in this generation. I am so excited to introduce this book to my young readers, as well as other young readers who are looking for a true timeless tale of adventure and fantasy.

Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves is definitely for any collection and will captivate young and old alike. That’s right, if you’re an adult reader who is a lover of classic fantasy tales, you’ll want to read this too. It’s was lots of fun and transported me back in time to place under my blanket with a flashlight when I read far too late into the night. 

I loved in the book how the flawed character of James is redeemed by the end due to his adventures, encounters, and unlikely friendships. Great writers like Raney utilize fine character development by redeeming their lead characters through strong  supporting characters and defining moments.  Raney adding the element of mystery, and the thrilling quest to save his father’s chest, to his book really kept the pages turning.

I highly recommend this book for young readers, boys and girls alike, who wish to read engaging fantastical literature, or for those who need the high action and adventure prose such as is most commonly found now in graphic novels. Any reluctant reader, or those with low attention spans, will be glad to have a copy of this book and be able to enjoy reading this summer!


Enter to win a one (1) paperback copy OR one (1) ebook version of Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves by commenting below or on a Facebook link with your EMAIL. Or you can email me at hookofabook@hotmail.com with the book title in the subject line and letting me know which one you want to try for, or both (you won’t win both copies, one or the other). Deadline is 11:59 p.m. EST two weeks from the date of this post.

+1 extra entry for following my blog and +2 for “liking” the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HookofaBook.

How You Can Make it Big with Self-Publishing and Live Your Dream
by James Matlack Raney, Author

IMG_0169mbwcForty-three years ago, in a smoke-filled nightclub in Boston, two small-time bands played a small-time gig that was probably forgotten the next morning by all in attendance – all but a few members of the bands.  That night, after the show, the drummer and back-up vocalist from Chain Reaction, a rock outfit from New Hampshire, and the lead guitarist from Jam Band, a free-form blues act, so enjoyed each other’s songs that they decided to join forces and create a new group.    In November, 1970, the band played their first show in a high-school gymnasium. 

Throughout 1971 they continued performing at local dive after local dive, building a small following in Boston and recording their own album, Night in the Ruts, in the process.  Finally, in 1972, after paying out of their own pockets to secure a spot on a venue at Max’s Kansas City in New York, the former drummer, Steven Tyler, the guitarist, Joe Perry, and their band, Aerosmith finally signed a deal with a major record label, and rock n’ rolled their way into music legend.

I am not a musician, nor, I imagine, if you are reading this post, did you come to this blog looking to read about music.  But I mention the story above for two reasons: first, because it is the inspiring tale of independent artists creating and performing their way to success, and second, because in the music industry, this story is hardly unique – it’s the archetypal pattern by which nearly all popular-music acts are discovered, so familiar that is has been echoed in film and on TV over and over again.  Now I believe that finally, albeit slowly, this pattern is coming to the literary world as well.

A couple of years ago I read a self-published e-book called Wool, by Hugh Howey.  The synopsis sounded like cool, post-apocalyptic sci-fi stuff and it had great customer reviews, so I tried a free sample.  The writing was great and the hook pulled me in, plus, it was only a buck, so what could it hurt? I bought the rest of the novel.  I loved it! And so, apparently, did about half-a-million other kindle readers. 

You can now find Wool on bookshelves across the country thanks to Hugh Howey’s huge deal with Simon & Schuster, and you may find Wool in your local theater before long as well, as has just signed a movie deal with Ridley Scott.  Not bad for a self-published audio technician from Florida!  But I carry a little bit of that indie-music fan pride in me because I discovered Hugh Howey before he was big – back when he was just a self-published author like me.

Hugh Howey’s story is extreme, and to even achieve one tenth of his success would be mind-boggling, but nevertheless it gives me hope for my own writer’s journey.  Self-publishing is tough. There are still those in the writing world who sneer at free, kindle titles, who smirk at independent authors’ web pages, and who still equate “self-published” with “hack.”  But I see things differently now.  

Kindle, Nook, and my book’s little spot on Amazon are my smoke-filled dives and high school gymnasiums.   I find my small (though hardly local) following of fans on Goodreads and Facebook.  Blogs, like this one, provide the write ups that local papers and magazines still use for small-town music acts to shout out: “Hey, world! Check this out! It’s good!”  Publishing is not all the way there yet, but I see the day coming when the cool kids and bloggers won’t be headed to the bookstore or waiting on the big publishing houses to deliver their literary kicks…they’ll be off in the “local scene,” scouring their eBooks and FB pages, looking to discover that indie act that catches their imagination before anybody else and holding onto the pride of saying they knew that author was going to break big before it even happened.

Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves, Info~

8028813_9780985835910_coverSwashbuckling, Rip-Roaring Adventure !


“Full of energy and a sense of wonder.” — Publisher’s Weekly 

“Beautifully written and perfectly paced…a must-read for everyone who loves to step into a world colored with a little magic and a lot of adventure.” — YAReads.com 

“A rip-roaring good tale for children of all ages.” — Kirkus Reviews

A must-add to the shopping list of librarians, educators, parents and relatives of reading-reluctant boys everywhere, among the topics and themes explored in Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves include:

  • Why exploring the mysteries and adventures the real world has to offer is infinitely better – and more rewarding – than another day behind a computer screen
  • The search for identity on one’s own: discovering a sense of self independently
  • The many shades of grey between the lines of good versus evil and right versus wrong
  • The vital importance of true friendship through the many hurdles and challenges that life throws at you

(Erin’s Note: However, this book is also great for girls who like action adventure!) *wink*

Author James Matlack Raney, Biography~

IMG_0169mbwcJames Matlack Raney grew up all over the world, including Europe, Latin America and Africa, before winding up in the mysterious land of horses and bluegrass (otherwise known as Kentucky). These days, he calls Southern California home, and spends his time writing adventures…and occasionally living a few of his own.

 Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves is currently available via Amazon in paperback and e-book formats.

Website: http://jimmorganbooks.com/

To Read More with Jim Morgan & The King of Thieves:

Monday May 13: Nerdophiles.com – book review

Tuesday May 14: Oops! I Read A Book Again (http://oopsireadabookagain.blogspot.com) – author interview + giveaway

Wednesday May 15: TracysNook.com – book review + guest post + author interview

Friday May 17:You Can Read Me Anything (http://kellysessionswoodward.wordpress.com) – book review + guest post

Saturday May 18: I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (http://www.iamareader.com/) – guest post + author interview + giveaway

Sunday May 19: Hook of a Book (http://www.hookofabook.wordpress.com/) – book review + guest post + giveaway

Tuesday May 21: Nerdophiles.com – author interview / guest post + giveaway

Wednesday May 22 – Readalot (http://readalot-rhonda1111.blogspot.com/) – book review + giveaway

Thursday May 23 – Learning & Growing the Piwi Way (http://piwiprincess.blogspot.com/) – review + guest post + author interview + giveaway

Friday May 24 – Silk Screen Views – (http://silkscreenviews.wordpress.com) – book review + guest post + author interview + giveaway


Filed under Book Reviews, Guest Posts