Mom’s death inspires MERC employee to publish debut novel

a man holds a book
MERC employee Joshua Fordyce recently published his first book, "Black Sleeve." Photo courtesy Joshua Fordyce

Every Saturday growing up, Joshua Fordyce’s mom would pile her kids into the family car and take them to the library. 

“I remember reading entire rows of a shelf because I knew I had to go and pick something,” said Fordyce, a senior electronic warfare threat analyst at the Mercer Engineering Research Center, also known as MERC, and retired Navy veteran.  

As he got older, he would think of an idea for a story, write it down and put it in a folder, eventually amassing 40 to 50 ideas. Last year, one of those ideas became a reality. 

In October, Fordyce independently published his debut novel, Black Sleeve. He started writing it in 2022 to cope with his grief after his mom died unexpectedly.  

“She had always told me that she was proud of my creativity. I’ve got all these ideas in my head, and the world may never see them if I don’t share them,” he said, recalling her encouragement as a mom and educator. “After she passed, that was all I could hear over and over in my head.”

Black Sleeve is a story about outcasts, people who are rejected by society. The book follows several characters, who are each flawed but, in some way, find redemption. 

“Overarching, it’s a redemption story, how your mistakes and your past don’t define you,” Fordyce said. 

A fan of Western and fantasy novels, he described his book as “Lonesome Dove meets Lord of the Rings.”

Fordyce wrote The Black Sleeve late at night after his wife and four kids went to bed.  

“I would just do a chapter a night, and then when I did all 55 chapters, I did a detailed edit of those 55 more times,” he said. 

He said he enjoyed writing the book, discovering the characters and plot in his imagination. But when it was done, he was terrified of letting people read it. 

“I didn’t tell many people about it as I was writing it. I kept it very hidden,” he said. “But I think once I got over that terror, and I made myself vulnerable to where people could read it, they were very responsive.” 

Black Sleeve is available on Fordyce’s website and Amazon. Fordyce will hold a book signing from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 23 at Gottwals Books in Warner Robins. 

The book is dedicated to his mom, Jackie Fordyce. 


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Jennifer Falk is director of digital communications at Mercer. She edits and writes feature stories for The Den and examines web data and analytics to drive content decisions. She also creates and supervises the creation of content for primary University web pages and e-newsletters.