The Square Root of Texas: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Review

THE SQUARE ROOT OF TEXAS:

The First Calamity of QED Morningwood

by
Rob Witherspoon
Genre: Satire / Humor / Absurdist Fiction
Publisher: Independently Published
Date of Publication: September 26, 2018
Number of Pages: 181 pages
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QED Morningwood is a liar, braggart and teller of tall tales. When he shows up at the domino parlor with a mysterious Russian crate in the back of his pick-up truck, he confides to the players he is a ‘Shadow’ member of the NRA, not on their official membership roll, and has a load of rocket propelled grenades – all lies. The news spreads to the real Shadow NRA, the FBI and Homeland Security. Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Cultural Preservation sends an agent to retrieve the crate, the actual contents known only to the Russians.

 
The Russian agent, an FBI team, a DHS undercover agent and a Shadow NRA hit team arrive in Heelstring, Texas looking for QED and his crate. Their convergence is followed by interrogations, seduction, lies, arrests, jailbreak, kidnapping and rescue – along with car chases and explosions. If not for Cotton Widdershins, an ancient black man with secrets of his own, who acts as QED’s mentor and savior, the Morningwood line would be doomed to end, or at best spend life in a federal penitentiary.

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Review

Four Stars

It is always gratifying to add a new book to my library, especially when it’s been signed by the author. In my copy of The Square Root of Texas: The First Calamity of QED Morningwood the author, Rob Witherspoon, wrote “Be Irrational!” So I knew, without opening the first page that I was in for an irreverent, outlandish, hysterical read.

In mathematics, the square root of a negative number “i” is used to balance an equation to make the result real and rational. In his first Disclaimer (they’re used throughout the book,) Witherspoon writes that in this story “i” is used to make his fictionalized Texas “real and rational – or at least as real and rational as can be expected of Texas.” After all, as he correctly points out, “reality, myth and mystique, to Texans, overlap with indistinct, indistinguishable boundaries,” and (paraphrasing here) since we’re known to be mighty touchy about state pride, he’s created “a mythical Texas” that sets the tone for this satirical romp.

Not only that, the framework for the story quickly throws out all conventions that readers would normally expect to find in a book. There are no chapters. Instead, the author (with tongue in cheek) suggests things for you to do whenever you need to take a break; get a cup of coffee, go to the bathroom, do the laundry, mow the yard… you get the idea! And, at about the halfway mark he introduces what he calls the MESOLOGUE, a means of moving the story forward. Witherspoon invents the device and, after acknowledging that readers won’t find the word in any dictionary, “wonders why nobody ever thought of it.”  After all, “there’s monologue, dialogue, prologue, and epilogue…. It just seems like someone would have put a prefix meaning ‘middle’ and a suffix meaning ‘speech’ together.”

The author also lampoons almost everything and everyone in his narrative and makes no apologies for doing so. Nothing is off limits. “This book contains material that may be offensive to: Cajuns, Scots, old people, Mexicans, swordsmen and boy scouts, but not in a mean or disparaging way. More like, ‘it’s a funny old world, isn’t it?’ way. You’ve been warned. I’m not going to insert a disclaimer every time I insult a group of people. From here on out, it’s on you.”

Witherspoon takes shots at the state capital (“Outsin” in his alternative universe,) the Texas judicial system (QED’s father had been acquitted of a capital offense by a jury of his peers, rich and white, and it certainly “didn’t hurt that he financed the reelection of the sheriff and the judge the previous year”), the Certainists, “The Certain Gospel Truth Church, a denomination of profound assuredness,” and the First, Second, and Third Southern Schismatic churches which split up over the issue of whether baptisms should involve full immersion, a sprinkling, or the use of a vaporizer,) “Shana Doo’s Pleasure Dome,” a house of vice offering “mediated affection”  to discriminating and well-paying customers, and even Texas AMU, “Texas Alchemical and Metaphysical University. Home of the Fightin’ Alkies.” As a graduate of Texas A&M University, Aggie jokes have always been around, so I took it stride while I was writing this review… really!

That’s the whole point of this book. Have fun with it! It is on the one hand absurd, while on the other quite descriptive and, dare I say, representative of this unique state. The characters and the plot are summarized quite well in the Synopsis, so I’ve deliberately not gone into them in any detail. Besides, the devil is in the details, and you’ll enjoy The Square Root of Texas that much more if you don’t know what’s coming next.

That said, if you’re a Native Texan or you’ve lived here as long as I have, or perhaps you’re just somebody who has visited or read about Texas, you’ll definitely recognize attributes easily recognizable in the people and places that make up the Lone Star State.

As the subtitle, The First Calamity of QED Morningwood suggests, this is the first book of a planned series by Rob Witherspoon. There are more “misadventures” to come and I, for one, look forward to new antics and laughs.  

 
 

Rob Witherspoon was born and raised in rural Texas. He earned a BA in Physical Education, UT Arlington 1985 and a BS in Aerospace Engineering, UT Arlington 1990. He worked in the aerospace industry for 30 years before retiring in 2018. He lives in north central Texas with his wife and youngest daughter and has spent much of his life in rural communities and on the ranch. He combines his love for Texas, lying, the outdoors, engineering, and his children in his writing.

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2ND PRIZE (US only): Signed Copy of The Square Root of Texas
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11/10/2020 Notable Quotable Texas Book Lover
11/10/2020 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
11/11/2020 Review Max Knight
11/12/2020 Author Video StoreyBook Reviews
11/13/2020 Review Book Bustle
11/14/2020 Author Interview All the Ups and Downs
11/15/2020 Guest Post Video Sybrina’s Book Blog
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Slanted Light: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Author Interview

SLANTED LIGHT
Jackson’s Pond Texas Series, Book 2
by
Teddy Jones
 
Genre: Literary Fiction / Family Saga / Western Women / Rural Fiction 
Publication Date: August 21, 2020
Number of Pages: 275
 
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Teddy Jones’s earlier novel, Jackson’s Pond, Texas, began the saga of the Jackson family. Now, Slanted Light continues their tale. 

 
Claire Havlicek’s late night call brings her brother Chris Banks from his home in New Mexico back to the town that bears their family name, Jackson’s Pond. She’s collapsed under the weight of threats to her thirteen-year marriage that have undermined her confidence and her will. Her husband, J. D., responds to seduction by a woman in need; theft and the threat of a forced buyout jeopardize Claire’s two medical clinics; drought imperils their ranch and cattle business; a teenage daughter turns to bulimia. 
 
When Claire admits her limits, her grandmother, Willa Jackson, and the other members of her family help her learn that being human, weaknesses and all, can be a source of strength and joy.
 
 
 
 

Interview with Teddy Jones, author of Slanted Light

 What made you decide to write a sequel?

Many people who enjoyed Jackson’s Pond, Texas commented that they wondered what happened next. At first, I answered that I had no idea. But after some time, I realized I wondered that, too.

What if? That’s the fiction writer’s most important question and a prime motivator for me. So, I began making notes, thinking about Willa Jackson, who was the focal character in Jackson’s Pond, Texas; about her daughter, Melanie; and about Claire, wondering what happened next in their lives. Of course, it wasn’t possible to think about those women without asking the same question about other family members. The only way to know what happened to that family, it seemed, was to write. As I wrote, the things that happened, the possibilities that events created, came to me almost faster than I could get them on paper.

I was never stuck without something to write about next; there was so much the characters “told me” that I had to begin keeping up with events and people on a story board of sorts. In the more typical sense of that term, the story board is a planning aid, a graphic organizer for planning a story. But my organizer was not a plan but a way for me to keep track of what was happening with the members of Willa’s family—not an outline, but a map of discovery.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The hardest part of writing Slanted Light was overcoming my tendency to make the characters’ lives easy, happy, having everyone get along. One of my mentors pointed to that tendency in my writing early on. He said, “You love your characters and want their lives to be happy. But lives that are constantly happy don’t make good fiction.” I took that guidance to heart. My stories have conflict and tough situations and even some peril and death. But it’s not easy for me to do that to the characters I’ve come to know.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I enjoyed a great deal of the background research for Slanted Light, and the process of seeing the whole come together from the parts is always invigorating. But to choose one thing I enjoyed most in writing Slanted Light, I would say it was seeing Claire develop as a professional and as a woman who, at thirty-four, has accomplished a great deal; watching her cope with the conflicts she encounters; and seeing her, with the help of her family, grow as a person. I admit it—I want her and her family to be happy.

Do you have a mantra for writing and/or life?

I do. Thanks for asking. It is this: Every day, the two most important things are to learn something and to do some good for others.

Teddy Jones is the author of three other published novels, Halfwide, Jackson’s Pond, Texas, and Well Tended, as well as a collection of short stories, Nowhere Near. Her short fiction received the Gold Medal First Prize in the Faulkner-Wisdom competition in 2015. Jackson’s Pond, Texas was a finalist for the 2014 Willa Award in contemporary fiction from Women Writing the West. Her as-yet-unpublished novel, Making It Home, was a finalist in the Faulkner-Wisdom competition in 2017 and “A Good Family” was named a finalist in that contest in 2018.
 
Jones grew up in Iowas Park, a small Texas town. She has worked as a nurse, a nurse educator, a nursing-college administrator, and as a nurse practitioner in Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico. For the past twenty years, she and her husband have lived in the rural West Texas Panhandle, where he farms and she writes.
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AUGUST 25-SEPTEMBER 4, 2020 
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8/25/20
Sneak Peek
8/25/20
Book Trailer
8/26/20
Review
8/26/20
Bonus Post
8/27/20
Author Interview
8/28/20
Review
8/29/20
Excerpt
8/30/20
Guest Post
8/31/20
Review
9/1/20
Top Five List
9/2/20
Review
9/3/20
Review
 
 
 
 
 
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