North American Cardinal

Since last fall, a lone male cardinal has been visting the trees and birdfeeders in our yard. He’s been a rather shy bird, and every attempt at getting a good photograph of this beauty has turned out to be a red blur. He now no longer flies away as I slowly open the squeaky window to get a shot, even though the blue jays gathering in the same tree take-off at the slightest noise.

Beyond the Story – A Circus Affair

After four dancers join a circus in Brazil, their idea of life under the Big Top changes forever. Given a tiny, cramped caravan for their six-month contract, they make a pact: to find a man who can take them away from their rust-bucket lifestyle.

Melissa is a hopeless romantic, but can she trust the dashing Ringmaster and his secretive ways, or does he have plans of his own?
Sarah’s goal is to remain at the circus, whatever the cost. But why?

Lisa, the youngest in the group, is as naive about the job as she is about life. She is looking for romance, but can she tell the difference between lust and true love?

Wendy’s only wish is for a quiet life, but will her disturbing past catch up with her?

Finding themselves outsiders in a Latin American world of female rivalry, magic tricks and murder, they walk a thin tightrope of discovery and learn how to live the nomadic life of circus performers. Amid the trapeze, treachery, and torrid affairs that constitute life in the sawdust strewn ring, a crime has been committed. Can the girls solve it in time and make it out alive?

If you’ve ever dreamed of running away with the circus, or are wondering what happens behind the scenes, this book is for you. Find out what really goes on when the curtains close, and what true circus life is all about.

Have you ever wanted to run away and join the circus? My guest today is straight from The Big Top. Stepping out from The Circus Affair by Michele E. Northwood, let’s find out what life in the circus is really like.

SJJ: Welcome to Beyond the Story. Please tell our guests your full name.

W: My name is Wendy, just Wendy.

SJJ: Well, “just Wendy” where do you live?

W: At present, I’m living in a dirty, old caravan that my friends and I have nicknamed: ‘The Rust Bucket’. We are working in Brazil on a six-month circus contract and, at the time of this interview, we have been there for about three months.

SJJ: That doesn’t sound too glamourous.

So, Wendy, tell us a little bit about your personality. What kind of person does it take to join a circus?

W: I’ve always been head-strong and have done whatever I wanted to do regardless of the warnings, circumstances or consequences. At the moment though, I’m struggling with a mixture of fear and depression. Sorry for the cliché, but I have literally run away with the circus. I’ve managed to escape an abusive husband who has got himself mixed up with the wrong crowd. So my normally headstrong personality has warped. I’ve become twitchy and nervous. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder because I believe that if my ex manages to locate me, he’ll drag me back home kicking and screaming. I’m petrified to think about what will happen to me if he does find me.

SJJ: I’m sorry to hear that. Now I know why you’re “just Wendy”. I hope this interview doesn’t lead him to you. You’re brave for doing this.

What about your childhood and family life?

W: I had a good, middle-class upbringing and never wanted for anything. I was a good student and attended dancing classes from the age of four to sixteen. I loved it, but I wouldn’t say that dancing was my forte. My dad was a successful businessman but I didn’t get to see him very often because of his work. My mum was subservient and her placid conformity to my father’s demands angered me. Because of that, I became a rebellious teenager, determined to make my mark on the world; to be headstrong and independent.

SJJ: Headstrong and independent—not bad traits. You work in a circus now, but was that something you always wanted or was there something else you aspired to do?

W: I studied Economics at university but have never had the chance to work in that field. I met my husband at university and against all advice, I married him. I was too young and should have listened to my parents, but I was love struck and saw my future life through rose coloured glasses. In reality, I left my home to escape one dominant man but all I did was exchange him for another more dangerous example.

SJJ: Well as they say, hindsight is 20/20.

Is there anything you would like to divulge about yourself; something perhaps that’s not well known?

W: I’m fighting an alcohol addiction. Due to my failed marriage and running away to a circus where I feel distanced from those around me, I have too much time to think and wallow in my misfortune. I hide my drinking from the other girls as much as I can, but I think Melissa, one of the other dancers, is suspicious.

SJJ: Now, I was not suspecting that. But, thank you for being so candid. The first step to helping yourself is admitting you have a problem.

If you don’t want to answer this next question, I completely understand. But what do you regret the most?

W: If you mean apart from my marriage, then I would have to say that part of me regrets coming to the circus. It seemed like the perfect way out. I could run away and keep on the move by travelling around and that would make it harder for my ex-husband to find me. I indeed feel safer in Brazil than in my own country, but I´m living on my nerves and drink to quell those emotions.

SJJ: You know, Wendy, you’re braver than you think you are.

I feel like if you could leave the circus you would. So, If you could step into another book, which would it be and how could you contribute to that story?

W: I could easily fit into either of Michele Northwood’s two dancing memoirs: “Fishnets in the Far East” and “Fishnets and Fire-eating.” I could probably mentor the girls during their travels to Korea and Japan. However, as they are true stories, I don’t think she’d allow me to appear!

SJJ: Have you asked her? I mean the worst she could say is no. And besides, there are plenty of fictious novels with real places, and characters who existed (particularly historical fiction). So, why couldn’t a true story have a fictitious character? I’m sure there are books that do.

Alright, so, describe to us your perfect day, what would that look like?

W: A day where I don’t live in fear of being found. A day where my ex-husband’s crimes do not involve me paying the price for his stupidity. I don’t care where I am living; I just want to find that feeling of contentment and relaxation that I lost a long time ago.

SJJ: And I hope you have that day soon and many more.

Now sometimes people find this a difficult question to answer. But what are your strengths?

W: I guess despite everything I´ve been through, I still consider myself to be a strong woman. Although my husband tried to break me, to make me compliant to his every whim, a hidden spark of defiance refused to die. It lay festering in the darkness, just waiting for me to be able to plot and carry out my escape. Perhaps it’s obstinance, perhaps it’s defiance; I can’t say for sure, but I’m a woman who has fought back. Stood up to her repression and continues to do so.

SJJ: I couldn’t agree with you more. It takes a strong woman to do what you have done.

OK, so let me ask you something a little less serious. What do you do for fun?

W: I’m pretty good at analyzing people and when I’ve established what makes them tick, what they are really all about, I enjoy playing mind games with them. I get particular pleasure out of doing it when I know that the other person is unaware of it or is uncomfortable by my comments.

Lisa, for example, is the youngest member of the group here in Brazil and the most naïve. She never knows if I’m playing with her or if I´m being serious. I get a sort of twisted kick out of that.

SJJ: All in good fun. I used to play practical jokes, nothing harmful of course.

And another more laid-back question—what do you do to relax?

W: I find it impossible to truly relax. I´m always on edge. I guess that’s why I drink. It takes the edge off, but it’s fleeting and leaves me wanting more. It’s a vicious circle of self-abuse.

SJJ: Well, you’re not alone, I’m sure. Relaxation doesn’t come easy to many people.

On an entirely different note, what would you say is your most embarrassing moment?

W: One night during the contract, I was alone in the caravan and I thought there was someone outside. Fearing for my life, I grabbed a few belongings and fled. I spent the night in a park and when the girls found me. I was covered in mud from head to toe. It wasn’t my greatest moment!

SJJ: I’m sure that wasn’t a pleasant experience.

What are your plans for the future, Wendy?

W: Until I know that my husband can no longer hurt me or find me, I don’t make plans for the future. I live day to day with the fear of discovery. If I manage to sort this all out, I´d like to get a job. Something in the field of Economics like my Degree would be great.

SJJ: Wendy, I truly hope you find peace.

If a movie was made about your life, who would you like to portrait you?

W: I think Sandra Bullock would be a good choice. She’s sassy, like me. I don’t think she’d be the greatest dancer but… neither am I!

SJJ: Are you happy with the way your story was told by the narrator?

W: Yes, I think the author has described me warts and all. Maybe I feel a little uncomfortable because I know that future readers will find out about my drinking problem and the stupid mistakes I have made in my life. Thwy’ll see my weaknesses but they will also discover my strengths. Let’s just hope that everything works out for me in the end!

SJJ: Thank you so much for being here, Wendy, and for letting us get to know you a little. I hope you you get the life you are dreaming of and that you overcome those weaknesses of yours. You are a strong and brave woman, and I’m rooting for you.

Author Bio

Michele has a First Class Honours Degree in Modern languages, (English and Spanish). She currently lives in Spain with her Spanish husband, two dogs and two cats. She teaches English in a public school and in her own private school and considers herself to be a frustrated writer – she never has enough time to write!

Michele has won two literary competitions, and her first novel: “Fishnets in the Far East: A Dancer´s Diary in Korea” is a Double Award Winner. ( “Best Memoir” with TCK Publishing in 2019 and a Finalist in the “Book Excellence Awards” in 2020. The sequel: “Fishnets and Fire-eating” has just been released, and she is currently editing her fourth book which will be a paranormal/horror novel.

In her past life …. (okay, when she was a young woman,) she worked as a professional dancer, magician and fire-eater who toured the world for over twenty years in theatre, musicals and circus. During that time, she was in the Guinness Book of Records for being part of the world´s largest Human mobile, and worked as a contortionist with the Circus of Horrors as their first “Girl inside a bottle”. She has rubbed shoulders with Sting, Chris de Burg, David Copperfield, Claudia Schiffer and Maurice Gibb from the Bee Gees. She has also worked as a knife throwers assistant, assisted a midget in his balancing act and has taken part in the finale of a Scorpions concert.

Michele is concerned about climate change, the abundance of plastic pollution and hates the way man-unkind treats the other species which inhabit this beautiful planet which we are slowly destroying. Michele loves living in the countryside with views of the sea and likes nothing better than to sit on the terrace at the end of the day, look up at the stars and contemplate.

Michele can be contacted at:

twitter: @michele_e

Facebook: Michele E. Northwood Author

Book Review – Love and Pollination by Mari Jane Law

Love & Pollination by Mari Jane Law

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perdita Riley has no family other than one particular nun who helped raise her at the orphanage until she was old enough to be on her own. She’s beautiful and a little quirky, a characteristic that contributed to her having a lack of friends. But the few she has, adore her. Good with number, she became a financial advisor until one day her conscience gets the better of her and she finds herself unemployed. But worse than that, she’s single, jobless, and pregnant. Or as Perdita likes to say, germinating a seedling. What else could go wrong in this young woman’s life?

Love and Pollination by Mari Jane Law is the first romantic comedy novel I’ve read. And while it was a sweet story, I did not find it a laugh-out-loud kind of book. But I did find myself smiling at some of the silliness at times. The story is well-written and though Perdita’s naivety is a little extreme, she is an endearing and well-developed character. You really get a sense of who she is and can’t help but root for her. Tony, the antagonist in the story, is a jerk. But he’s a little two-dimensional. Further development of his character would have made for an even stronger antagonist.

If you like sweet and quirky stories that are well-written and paced, you will like Love and Pollination.

View all my reviews

Hey Authors!

Do you have a character that has something to say? Why not give them center stage with a character interview. It’s an interesting and fun way to draw attention to your books.

How it works

If you’re interested send me a message, and I will send you the interview questions and instructions. Interviews will be posted Saturday mornings on my Expressions WordPress Blog, and on my website Links to both blogs will be shared with you to post wherever you’d like. I will also post links to the interview on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, & Tumblr.

Book Review – Where Irises Never Grow

Where Irises Never Grow by Paulette Mahurin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Monica Chastain is preparing for her doctorate dissertation, but she requires one important component, Aesop’s Fables. When she tracks down the only copy of the antique book available to her, it’s a French edition. Luckily, she can read French and after a few days she completes the draft of her dissertation. Unfortunately, while she is gathering up her finished work, she inadvertently knocks the book to the floor, damaging its spine. Now she must get the antique book repaired. And so begins the unravelling of a mystery.

Where Irises Never Grow by Paulette Mahurin is a wonderful historic fiction novel. It tells of the atrocities of the German occupation of France through the eyes of a fictitious family who are part of the resistance. The story is captivating, and at times, I had a hard time putting it down, even through tear filled eyes. The writing is superb. The characters are well developed and the world building brought the story to life. Like the Diary of Ann Frank, this is one of those books that I know will stay with me for a long time.

View all my reviews

Beyond the Story – Sharing Hamilton

Philadelphia, 1791. James and Maria Reynolds are flat broke. Well aware of the attraction between his wife and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, James hatches a plan to blackmail Alexander and get rich – and sends Maria to seduce him.

Meanwhile, the mysterious Dr. Severus Black befriends the Hamiltons and becomes a close confidant of Alexander’s wife, Eliza. While Mrs. Hamilton grows fond of the handsome doctor, she also senses something different about the debonair young man.

Simultaneously, a vicious serial killer is stalking the city by night. As Hamilton’s affair with Maria runs headlong towards personal and professional catastrophe, the constables of Philadelphia draw a net around the emerged killer of young serving girls.

But what connection could Dr. Black have with the murders, which a hundred years later would be mirrored in his own country… by none other than Jack the Ripper?

In Sharing Hamilton, historical romance author Diana Rubino and award-winning myster/thriller writer Brian L. Porter uniquely blend the mystery and romance genres, based on the true story of the Hamilton affair with the added spice of a serial killer stalking the streets of USA’s first capital city.

My guest this week has not only stepped from the pages of this historical romantic mystery, but he’s stepped into the future.

SJJ: Welcome to Beyond the Story. Please tell our readers your full name.

SB: Well, hello there. My name, to give you my full title, is Doctor Severus Black, although for reasons that will be evident to those who have read the book in which I am featured, I am now known as Doctor Solomon Bruckman.

SJJ: I believe this is the first time I’ve interviewed a doctor on Beyond the Story. Now do I call you Dr. or just Severus or maybe Solomon? You know what I’ll just stick with doctor. So, tell us Dr., where do you live?

SB: I am currently residing in a small township known as Queenstown in the Natal Province of South Africa, having previously lived and worked in London, Liverpool, Paris and Philadelphia.

SJJ: Wow, you sure do (or is it did?) get around. I mean it’s 1791 where you come from.
And how would you describe your personality? Who are you, Dr. Black?

SB: That’s a tricky question really as I’d say my personality is rather multi-faceted.Most of the time, you would probably describe me as affable, some would say charming, and meticulous in all I do. There are times, however, when to be totally honest, I seem to undergo something of a metamorphosis, when another, let’s say, darker side of my nature tends to overwhelm me and takes control of my actions.

SJJ: So, what you’re saying is sometimes you’re a little Jekyll and sometimes you’re a little Hyde. (Laughs at her own joke).

Well, if that is what you’re like now, what were you like as a child? Did you have a happy childhood?

SB: My childhood was not what one would describe as a happy one. My father was a rather overbearing and dominating Presbyterian Church Minster in a small village in Norfolk, called Fenworthy Magna. He was an authoritarian and a fierce disciplinarian and his word was law in our home. I always felt my mother lived in fear of him as did I and my elder brother, Julian. The only person he showed any signs of affection towards was my little sister, Claudia. Beatings were a regular part of my life, for the merest infraction or failure to correctly quote scripture for example. I looked forward to the day when I would be old enough to leave home and make my own way in the world, especially after my sister’s death at an early age, and the death of my mother, of I think, a broken heart. My father’s behaviour towards me and my brother at her funeral was to put it mildly, diabolical and probably shaped the man I am today.

SJJ: I am so sorry you had such a troubled upbringing. But look at you now. I’m sure you are a successful doctor.

So, Dr., what kind of doctor are you?

SB: I am a physician, specialising in the treatment of women’s illnesses and diseases, the only job I have ever wanted to do. I was able to gain entry to the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries at an early age, later moving to the Royal College of Surgeons where I completed my training.

SJJ: You are lucky to have found your calling so early in life.

Do you have any obstacles in your life preventing your from achieving your goals?

SB: I am determined and single-minded and have never allowed anything or anyone to stand in the way of my goals in life, either professional or personal, though the French detective, LeClerc, who had tracked me all the way from Paris has interfered greatly in my life in recent years, which eventually led me to obtain passage on the barque, Emerald, bound for Brazil, from where I then obtained passage as ship’s doctor on the clipper ship, Lady Marian, arriving in South Africa some six weeks later.

SJJ: (Tracking you? Why would a French detective be tracking you?)

(Clears throat and stares at him suspiciously) Um, so, can you tell your readers something about you that not everyone knows?

SB: It is said that I am an expert on the dance floor. I do enjoy the opportunity that dancing affords me to get close to the ladies that would otherwise be beyond my reach on a social level. It is a little-known fact that I was schooled in the art of dancing by a real princess, whose name I shall not reveal, but who not only schooled me in the art of dance, but also in certain ways of conducting, shall we say, affairs of the heart?

SJJ: Dancing eh? (I suppose he’s not about to tell this audience anything incriminating).

Are there any defining moments in your life that made you who you are today?

SB: Definitely. I previously mentioned my father’s behaviour at my mother’s funeral. He, Aldous Black, with a heart as black as his name knew that my brother and I cared deeply for our mother, but we were only nine and seven years old when she died of a terrible wasting disease, which I’m sure was brought on by her heart being broken at the loss of my little sister at the age of four. Not only did my father force my brother and I to assist him in preparing my mother’s body for the funeral, but he publicly forced my brother and I to kiss her corpse in full view of the congregation in church. I will never forget the feel of her dead, cold, wax-like skin as she lay in the open coffin. It affected me for a long time to come and probably gave me my first shred of interest in the human body as a thing, rather than a living being and led me to go on to my chosen profession.

SJJ: What a terrible thing to do to young children. And I would think your mother’s death from disease was the catalyst that led you to become a doctor. Seems a little odd that you’d rather treat a body like a thing. But, hey, whatever makes you tick, I guess.

Do you have any regrets, Severus, I mean Dr.?

SB: I have regretted leaving every city in which I have practised both my medical practice, and my other activities. In particular, I dearly regret leaving Philadelphia as I enjoyed such a wonderful relationship with the ladies of polite society and especially the close bond I had developed with the beautiful Mrs. Eliza Hamilton counting her among my most favoured patients. Unfortunately, the activities of the forces of law enforcement, in particular Detective LeClerc were making life difficult as they appeared to be ready to attempt to take me into custody over the unexplained deaths of a number of unimportant serving wenches.

SJJ: Woah! What? (Shifts uncomfortably) Forget it. I don’t want to know. Well, I do… but I don’t.

Moving on. Is there anyone you look up to, consider to be a mentor, either in the past or right now? Or should I say in the past or further in the past?

SB: One of my earliest teachers in the art of the anatomy of the female body, Doctor Frederick Musgrove will always retain a place in my memory as a great mentor and teacher.

SJJ: Aww, that’s nice.

When you think of all your accomplishments, what is your proudest moment?

SB: That would be the first time I realised how incredibly easy it was to charm the ignorant and ill-educated working-class serving wenches of London into my clutches. How simple it was to lure them into my clutches so that I could indulge my nocturnal passions on their pathetic persons.

SJJ: (Pushes chair back a little further) OK, um. I… I don’t know how to respond to that. Um, you know that Jekyll and Hyde reference earlier was a joke, right?

SB: (Darkness clouds his face and he glares)

SJJ: I’m just going to move on with my interview questions (shuffles paper). What’s your idea of the perfect day?

SB: Visiting and treating the ladies of polite society, followed by, perhaps, an evening at a glittering social function, dancing with those very ladies, and engaging in conversation with them and their husbands on all manner of subjects, followed by a late-night sojourn into the dark streets in search of a young victim with whom I can indulge my nefarious tastes.

SJJ: (Jaw drops) Wow! You’re just really letting it all out, aren’t you? Related to Jack, are you? Never mind, don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

SB: My strengths are my knowledge and skills in the treatment of women’s ailments, which I consider to be greater than most of my contemporaries. I suppose my greatest weakness, if I have any, would be my inability to control my baser impulses, though I would hesitate to classify them as a sign of weakness.

SJJ: I remember reading once that a lot of great surgeons are sociopaths, or is it psychopaths? But you know they aren’t dangerous. (Laughs nervously) Never mind.

What do you do for fun?

SB: I dance, I charm the ladies of society, and do I really need to answer to my other favoured pastime?

SJJ: Nope, not at all. Moving on.

What do you do to relax?

SB: I go out for late-night walks in the moonlight.

SJJ: And here I was hoping you’d say reading a good book, or taking a warm bath… alone.
This probably won’t resonate with you, being that you’re a…. forget it. What is your most embarrassing moment?

SB: Embarrasing? Well, I suppose the night I was almost caught whilst enjoying my dalliance with Caroline, the daughter of Seamus Carew, butcher of Philadelphia was something of an embarrassment to me. A zealous and very vigilant constable later named in the newspapers as Constable Fry, almost laid hands on me in the alley where I had just strangled the girl. Only my quick thinking in charging at the constable, pushing him to the ground where he hit his head and was knocked unconscious allowing me to complete my work and make my getaway, unhindered.

SJJ: Oh, for goodness sake! I did not need for you to go into the gory details. Thankfully, I’ve only a few questions left and then you can go back to wherever you came from. Honestly!!!

What are your plans for the future? Wait, let me guess – not get caught by the detective?

SB: I have a good life in Queenstown, as the doctor to the people of the township, where I am a well-respected member of the community as Doctor Bruckman. It is a largely Jewish community, and I have found it easy to adopt the ways of these pious folk. I have not indulged my basest instincts within the township as to do so might lay me open to accusations, but I make occasional journeys to Cape Town on the pretext of visiting friends, where I once again have the opportunity to take advantage of the plentiful young females of the lower order of society.

SJJ: You are one sick…

SB: (Glares)

SJJ: Three more questions and you can be on your way.

If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?

SB: The English actor Ben Barnes, who played the lead in the 2009 movie, Dorian Gray, would be ideal to play me, as he even looks quite a lot like me.

SJJ: Now how would you know about him? He’s not from your time. Unless you’ve stepped out… never mind. I don’t want to know.

Are you happy with the way the narrator told your story in Sharing Hamilton?

SB: Yes, I was extremely happy with the way my story was told and with how I was depicted. After all, I have spent years perfecting my role of the perfect ‘English gentleman doctor’ which is precisely how I was portrayed.

SJJ: Uhuh! A gentleman eh?

If you could change one thing that happened in your story, would you? Can you elaborate or would it give too much away?

SB: It would have been perfect if that interfering Frenchman, LeClerc had not been invited to Philadelphia by the city authorities, having nearly laid his hands on me during my time in Paris. The man knew too much and if I’d remained in the city, he would probably have found me and my story would have ended at the end of a rope. If he hadn’t turned up, perhaps I could have stayed there and indulged myself for a year or two longer, before moving on. But as the Frenchies say, ‘C’est la vie’. Don’t worry, by the time you publish this account of my story, Dr Solomon Bruckman will be no more and will have moved on to pastures new. Where? I’m not sure, but the world as they say, is my oyster…

SJJ: Well, ah, thank you Severus Black for being so candid. I certainly wasn’t expecting that. You are free to climb back into you book. And as they say – don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Severus Black is a character in the book, Sharing Hamilton, co-authored by Brian L Porter and Diana Rubino. Originally written as a historical romance by Diana, her agent liked the book but felt it would benefit from having ‘something extra’ added to it, perhaps by the addition of a serial killer backstory. Enter Diana’s old friend, British Murder/mystery author Brian L Porter. Diana asked Brian if he would be able to add a serial killer element to her book, without affecting the original story too much. He set to work and very soon, not only was Severus Black created, but the story of his nefarious nighttime activities seemed to slip seamlessly into the original story, and the result was the #1 bestselling book, Sharing Hamilton.

Author Bios

Brian L Porter

Brian is a multi award-winning, bestselling author, perhaps best known for his Mersey Murder Mystery series, set in and around the city of Liverpool, and in complete contrast his true-life Family of Rescue Dogs series. Most recently, his Cold War mystery/thriller, Pestilence: Breathe if you Dare, was the winner of the Best Mystery Novel Award in the Critters Readers Choice Awards 2020. He has so far penned 28 Amazon bestsellers, writing as Brian L Porter, Harry Porter and Juan Pablo Jalisco. He is also an accomplished poet, and his poetry collections are also Amazon bestsellers. He lives with his wife and their family of 9 rescue dogs, in the north of England. You can find all his books on his author pages at Amazon, just search for Brian L Porter and follow him (as Harry Porter) on Facebook at

Diana Rubino

Diana is an Amazon Top 100 Bestselling author. Her passion for history has take her to every setting of her historical and biographical novels: England, Franc, Egypt, Italy, and all over the United States. The contemporary fantasy “Fakin’ It”, set in Manhattan, won a Romantic Times Top Pick award. She’s the owner of engineering business CostPro Inc., golfer, pianist, rachquetballer, fitness nut, Jersey Shore Italian, and real estate tycoon on the side. Visit, DianaRubinoAuthor on Facebook and @DianaLRubino on Twitter.

Beyond the Story – A Man’s Face

A slash of a scar from cheek to chin is all Marc Jordan remembers of the man kneeling over his dead mother. As he searches his memory for clues and hopes he is the first one to find the killer, he becomes involved in a bizarre psychotic family intrigue.  Murder, blackmail, corruption and betrayal leave a trail from the storied vineyards of Spain to the wineries of Southern California where no one is who or what they claim to be. When he is forced to accept a court case he does not want, Jordan inadvertently unravels the threads that lead to solving his mother’s murder. With each revelation Marc’s life spirals out of control in this dizzying thriller.

My guest today hails from the suspense thriller A Man’s Face by B. Roman. Let’s see what he has to say.

SJJ:      Hello, so happy you could join me today. Can you please tell our audience your full name and where you live?

MJ:     My name is Marc Jordan, changed from Marcus Jordain, when I became an attorney. I had rather mundane reasons for changing it, but it inadvertently gave me an anonymity that turned out to be quite beneficial.  I live in San Diego, California, but I lived in Stockton for a short time and went to law school at Berkeley. 

SJJ:      Anonymity, huh? Interesting.

And how would you describe your personality?

MJ:     I try to be outgoing and of good humor, although some of my friends would describe me as introspective, pensive, and a bit buttoned up (a stuffed shirt?). I avoid taking risks as an attorney – I like an easy win.  But my latest case is anything but that. I avoid the dating scene, bars and such – as too phony and a waste of time.  However, an unusual, serendipitous event brought me the love of my life; I am besotted and blind in my passion for her.

SJJ:      I’m happy to hear you’ve found someone to share your life. I wish you many happy years.

What was your childhood like? I like to ask this question because it gives our audience an idea of the person you are and perhaps the choice you made as an adult.

MJ:     I had the happiest childhood.  My father and I were very close, and I inherited his love of the outdoors and fitness. He was elegant and accomplished in the art of growing grapes and making wine. I adored and admired my mother who was an amazing chef, and an inspiration to me.  I lost them both to horrible tragedies when I was very young.  I was traumatized and had to grow up very fast.

SJJ:      I am so sorry you lost your parents tragically. Especially when you were very young.

Now, you stated before you are an attorney, but what kind of an attorney?

MJ:     I’m a defense attorney – a Public Defender actually. 

SJJ:      Is this something you’ve always wanted to do or do you have a dream job?

MJ:     My dream job was always to be a pilot, having my own charter jet – I got my love of flying from my uncle who worked in a charter air field. Since having my own plane is financially unrealistic, I fly for recreation, but I am happy that I became an attorney, to represent people who have no advocate because they have no money or influence. 

SJJ:      While you may not be flying for a career, you are at least getting to do what you love. And I think your reasons for being an attorney are commendable.

What would you say is the biggest obstacle in your live preventing you from achieving any goals you may have?

MJ:     My biggest, personal goal is to find the man – the man with the scar – who killed my mother. 

SJJ:      Oh no! Your mother was murdered? I’m so sorry. Please continue.

MJ:     I can remember nothing but seeing her lying lifeless on the kitchen floor as he fled.  My amnesia stands in the way of tracking him down and bringing him to justice. And I keep hoping he will walk into my office one day not knowing who I really am.

SJJ:      Well, I hope he does. I see now why your name change may work to your advantage.

What would you say are defining moments in your life that made you who you are today?

MJ:     Having both of my parents suffer heartbreaking, grisly deaths completely turned my life around.  Subsequently, I am tormented by dissociative amnesia, and am in therapy with a psychiatrist to try and remember who killed them and why.

SJJ:      As those horrific tragedies would. I so hope you get your memory back.

Is there anyone you look up to, consider to be a mentor, either in the past or right now?

MJ:     Judge Leroy Larimer, who I appear before frequently, has helped to steer my career.  I clerked for him when I was a law intern, and now he is urging me to take a big case that he feels would be a defining moment in my career.  Why, exactly, is somewhat of a mystery I have yet to solve.

SJJ:      Well, he must have a good reason for it. I say you should go for it.

When you think of all your accomplishments, what is your proudest moment?

MJ:     Without getting specific (or I would spoil your reading experience) I am proud when I find justice and mercy for one of my clients who has been wrongly convicted.  My current client is my biggest challenge, the circumstances of his case are complex and mind-boggling.  If I can get him acquitted it will be my proudest moment.

SJJ:      That would be a great thing. I’ve often wondered, if someone is guilty and they are acquitted, how does that make you feel? But that’s a question for another day. (smiles)

Let’s change the subject. What’s your idea of the perfect day?

MJ:     Taking the ferry boat from the Embarcadero to Coronado Island and enjoying the beach at the Del Coronado Hotel, then later taking a flight in a rented plane to relish the beautiful California coastline as the sun begins to set.

SJJ:      That does sound lovely.

And now for some fun. If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?

MJ:     Milo Ventimiglia.  His performance was poignant in “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”

SJJ:      Hmm, I’ve not seen that movie. I’ll have to check it out.

And one final question, if you could change one thing that happened in your story, would you?

MJ:     While tragedy and betrayals are painful to endure, I wouldn’t have followed the path that I was destined to take, or appreciate my own personal moral compass.  I’m not sure I would change anything.

SJJ:      That’s a brave statement coming from someone who has endured such tragedy.

Thank you, Mark, for sharing your story with us. You can learn more about my guest in A Man’s Face by author B. Roman.


Barbara Roman (aka B. Roman) is the author of the inspirational YA Moon Singer series and two children’s fantasy books. Because of her music background as a professional singer and composer, her fantasy books have their roots in music theories and metaphors, entwined with the magic and mystery of metaphysical concepts and matters of ethics, faith, compassion, love, and heroism.

As a grounding force, Roman enjoys turning out a suspense fiction, exploring the human psyche as her book’s characters are caught up in intrigue, murder, and conspiracies, and try to balance the scales of good vs evil. 

Books by B. Roman

A Man’s Face     (suspense)

Whatever Became of Sin? (suspense)

The Moon Singer Series

                Book I:   The Crystal Clipper

                Book II:  The War Chamber

                Book III: The Wind Rose

                Prequel:  Before the Boy

Children’s Books by Barbara Roman

Alicia and the Light Bulb People in Star Factory 13

Hubert in Heaven – a hi-tech angel gets his wings



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Beyond the Story – The Black Wall

This interview is from one of the major characters from books Two and Three of the Tides Trilogy, The Black Wall and The Grace’s War. Ves is a sometime-companion and occasional friend of Kalis Syrina, the main protagonist.

Tides takes place on Eris, in a steam-powered civilization risen on the ruins of a much more advanced ancient past, ruled by theocracy and oligarchy, and at the mercy of the massive tidal forces caused by its giant moon, known as the Eye.

While this interview takes place during the events of the soon upcoming The Grace’s War, there are no major spoilers about what is to come (but there are some hints).

SJJ: My guest today steps out from the pages of The Black Wall Tides Trilogy by Author R. A. Fisher.
Hello and welcome to Beyond the Story. Please tell our guests today your full name and where you’re from?

Ves: Vesmalimali, but everyone who’s not from Ristro calls me Ves, so you can, too. Right now, I live on a steamship I, well, acquired and renamed Heaven’s Compromise, not that I remember what it was called before. But I’ve lived pretty much everywhere these past twenty-some-odd years. Everywhere but Ristro, because down there is nothing but insects and assholes. I can say that here, right?

SJJ: (Smiles) Of course you can, Ves. So, no last name, eh? Kind of like Sting or Bono.

And how would you describe yourself? What makes you… you?

Ves: How would I describe myself?

SJJ: Um, yes.

Ves: I’d say I was the most reasonable goddamn pirate on Eris and a respectable business man on top. My crew might have other ideas, but since none of them are here, let’s go with that.

SJJ: OK, sure. (Under her breath) Not sure I’d equate a pirate with a respectable business man.

So, you’re a self-professed pirate, but what were you like as a child? And what about your family life growing up?

Ves: Most people don’t know this, but the Corsairs are taken from their families when they’re young; trained at sea. They took me from my mum when I was maybe seven or eight, and I never saw her again. Voluntary, as in she volunteered me, since I sure a shit didn’t have a say in it. I don’t really hold it against her—I’m sure she had her reasons, though there’s plenty of times I wish I could have asked her why.

That’s all to say, I didn’t have much of what most people would call a family life. My family was the Corsairs. Right up until they weren’t.

SJJ: I’m sorry to hear that, I can imagine the questions you must have.

Now, you said earlier you are a pirate; can you elaborate on your career path a little?

Ves: I was what you might call a crime lord for a good long while, and I was goddamn miserable, fat, and lazy. I’m still fat and lazy, but at least I’m happy again.

SJJ: And what about other aspirations – anything you would truly love to do?

Ves: Nah, my dream job is what I’m doing now: riding the seas on a real ship, not a fucking sail boat, and relieving others of their excess belongings. Not regular folks unless I’ve got no choice; they’ve got it bad enough without me making it worse. But the Church? The way I see it, once they convince all those poor assholes to give up what’s theirs in Salvation Taxes, those taxes belong to me and mine. You can be sure the Church isn’t going to do anything useful with all that extra tin. And Ristro, too, because fuck those miserable shits. They taught me how to be a pirate, now I’ll show them what good teachers they were.

SJJ: Let it all out.

Ves, what is your biggest obstacle that is preventing your from achieving your goals?

Ves: Well, I’ve got this… I don’t think I could call her a friend. I’m pretty sure her kind don’t have friends. But she’s more than an acquaintance, too. A business partner on very good terms, maybe.

Anyway, Syrina has this knack for talking me into doing real stupid shit, which almost always means by the time it’s over I’ve lost my ship, or my barge, or my fucking raft, or whatever else I managed to scrape up since the last time, and I wake up one afternoon broke, drunk in a tree somewhere, and need to start all over again. And yet she’ll show up later and I’ll go along with it every fucking time, because despite the fact she’s made out of more lies than blood, and she looks like a different person every time I meet her, I think deep down under all the tattoos and bullshit she really does mean the world well. That’s rare enough these days, and ships are easy enough to come by, if you’re as good as I am at stealing them.
At least that’s what I tell myself, because otherwise it would mean I’m actually an idiot, and I have it on goddamn good authority that’s not the case. She was the reason I ended up as a miserable-ass crime boss down in Valez’Mui for twenty some years, though I didn’t know it was her at the time. That should give you some idea of how long she’s been fucking with me, though.

SJJ: Uhuh! I can’t help but wonder who this “good” authority is.

Anyway, tell us something about you that not everyone knows.

Ves: There’s nobody alive anymore that knows why I left the Corsairs and turned against Ristro. I suspect there never will be again, since I’m not telling, and the Astrologers that run that miserable swamp aren’t known for disclosing personal details. And yeah, it was personal. That’s all I’m going to say about it, though.

SJJ: Fair enough.

Do you have any regrets, Ves?

Ves: I don’t think anyone can live a life the way I’ve lived mine and not have more regrets than they could pack into this ample gut of mine. But what can we do besides try to do better next time? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Just like sometimes I drink to forget my grief, and sometimes I drink to remember it.

SJJ: Well, you are human. Er, maybe not. But a conscious being. So, it makes sense you’d have some big regrets.

And what about someone you admire. Is there anyone in your life you consider to be a mentor, either in the past or right now?

Ves: There was someone, once. Not a mentor, but he knew me better than anyone is ever going to know me again. Kept me pointed the right direction; knew when to laugh at my dumb ass, and when to tear me a new dickhole… but he’s… well, he’s not around anymore.

SJJ: I’m sorry about that. Ves. It sounds to me like you could use someone like that again.

Now for a couple of lighthearted questions. What’s your idea of the perfect day?

Ves: A day of full fuel tanks, plenty of food and drink to go around, no land in sight, and everyone I care about is still alive at the end of it. You’d think I’d be an easy man to please, but I get days like that a lot less than I’d like.

SJJ: It’s nice to know you have a soft side.

What do you do for fun?

Ves: I drink, and sometimes I blow shit up. Sometimes I like to rile up my new first mate, just because. He’s a good guy, but fuck if that old man doesn’t have even more baggage than I do. If it wasn’t for me, he’d never loosen up.

SJJ: (laughs) You and I have different ideas of fun.

And after your perfect day and all that fun, what do you do to relax?

Ves: Isn’t that the same as fun?

SJJ: Well…

Ves: No? Not for everyone?

SJJ: Not mine, anyway.

Ves: Huh. Fair enough, I guess. Anyway, They’re the same to me.

SJJ: Well okay, then. To each their own.

If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?

Ves: That’s a tough one. Maybe Ving Rhames? He’s got the voice for it, but he better start drinking the hard shit now to get it just right.

SJJ: And what about The Black Wall Tides Trilogy Are you happy with the way your story was told by the narrator?

Ves: He did alright with what we gave him, I guess. He fucked a few things up, but they always do, eh? I don’t hold too much against him, anyway.

SJJ: Well, maybe you should have spoken louder, gotten his attention. He can only write what you give him.

And, on that note, if you could change one thing that happened in your story, would you?

Ves: There was that not-mentor I mentioned earlier. Remember him? Well, I love life, but I’d end mine at noon if I could spend one more morning with him. So, one thing I could change? That’s the easiest goddamn question here. I’d bring that man back to my side where he fucking belongs.

SJJ: Thank you, Ves, for being so candid with me today. I’m sure you’re eager to get back to that steamship of yours.

Author Bio

Robert Fisher has lived in Hiroshima, Japan with his wife and five-year-old son for the past four years, where he occasionally teaches English, writes, and pretends to learn Japanese. Before that he lived in Vancouver, Canada where he worked in the beer industry and mostly just cavorted about, getting into trouble and eating Thai food. He placed fourth in The Vancouver Courier’s literary contest with his short story The Gift, which appeared in that paper on February 20, 2009. His science fiction novella The God Machine was published by Blue Cubicle Press in 2011.

Beyond the Story – The Happy War

After a successful blind date, Linda and Eric want to change the world.

With fiery passion for both each other and their common cause, they hatch a twisted plan. The first step: to assemble a loyal team of hotshots, each with a specific skill set. 

Assigned to special regions all over the globe, the team launches a two-week campaign to conquer war, anger and hate. One slip-up and they could all end up in jail… and the keen Detective Vega, who seems to be on to them, is asking too many questions.

But can Linda and Eric’s love survive the distance, and will all the love in the world be enough to create peace on Earth?

SJJ:         I am happy to introduce one of the characters from Author Eve Gaal’s novel–The Happy War.

Hello, and welcome to Beyond the Story. Can you please introduce yourself and tell our readers where you live?

GC:         Bonjourno. I live in Rome and my name is Giulia Como.

SJJ:         Pleased to meet you, Giulia. I’m thrilled to be interviewing you today. For the readers who have yet to make your acquaintance, how would you describe your personality?

GC:         I am sexy. Is that a personality?

SJJ:         Well, I suppose sexy can be part of your personality.

What were you like as a child? And what was your family life like?

GC:         We not have much money, but Mama took us to Ostia. It’s near the beach. I liked to play in the sand build castles. I don’t know my Papa.

SJJ:         I am so sorry you didn’t know your father, but where you lived sounds beautiful. I love the beach.

And what do you do for a living, Giulia?

GC:         I work with Juan at the design house. My job is sewing. Maybe you say seamstress.

SJJ:         Yes, that’s it, a seamstress.

                Do you have any other goals or dreams?

GC:         I have many, many dreams.

SJJ:         And I do hope some of them come true. (Smiles)

Now, Giulia, can you share with us something about you that not everyone knows. Maybe a deep desire, or funny quirk?

GC:         Why you ask such questions?

SJJ:         Oh, seems I may have touched a nerve. Moving on.

Are there any defining moments in your life that made you who you are today?

GC:         Maybe when I have first boyfriend.

SJJ:         Um, I see. Can you elaborate on that? …. No? OK.             

                Do you have any regrets?

GC:         No, love is most important.

SJJ:         Ah, well yes, love is important. I take it then; you mean you don’t have any regrets about past boyfriends.

Do you have someone you look up to, consider to be a mentor, either in the past or right now?

GC:         My boyfriend Juan is from United States. He is a handsome man and a designer at our fashion house. I love him so much.

SJJ:         Ohhhh! You’re dating your co-worker. Got it!

And, Giulia, when you think of all your accomplishments, what is your proudest moment?

GC:         Maybe when I meet Juan?

SJJ:         Again, Juan. You’re pretty infatuated with him, it seems.

GC:         (Blank stare)

SJJ:         Giulia, I know you’ve stepped from the pages of The Happy War, but if you could appear in another book, which would it be? And how could you contribute to that story?

GC:         (Laughs) My life is more exciting than any stupid book.

SJJ:         (Jaw drops – cue the crickets.) I’m sorry, I don’t know how to respond to that. Let’s just move on to the next question. Shall we? Okay.

I know I’m going to regret this, but what’s your idea of the perfect day?

GC:         Staying in bed with Juan.

SJJ:         Yup, what I thought you might say.

You know, I’ll just read off the rest of my questions here, just for fun. What are your strengths and your weaknesses?

GC:         I am strong woman. Juan is very big. He knows my heart.

SJJ:         Juan, Juan. (shakes head) Is he here by any chance? No? OK.

(Sighs) What do you do for fun?

GC:         Make love.

SJJ:         My psychic abilities are unstoppable today.

What do you do to relax?

GC:         Nothing.

SJJ:         Sooo, to relax you sit and do nothing, or do you mean you don’t do anything to relax? Not quite sure which it is.

GC:         (Blank stare)

SJJ:         OK, next question. What is your most embarrassing moment?

GC:         Oh, this is funny, but secret.

SJJ:         Seriously? You have a moment here to show people your depth, your funny side, your ahem “human” qualities. Although, on second thought, maybe it’s something a little too risqué for this interview.

Why don’t you tell us, Giulia, what your plans are for the future?

GC:         I might be moving.

SJJ:         Well that sounds adventurous. With Juan?

GC:         (Blank stare)

SJJ:         Giulia, if there was a movie made about your life, who would you want to play you?

GC:         Maybe Sophia Loren when she is young.

SJJ:         Ahh, yes. I can see it now.

And finally, are you happy with the way your story was told by the narrator?

GC:         No, writer a bitch.

SJJ:         (Jaw drops, cue crickets—again) OK, Giulia can you elaborate?

GC:         I wish writer not make me look like stupid floozy.

SJJ:         Oh, Giulia, I think you give your writer far too much credit on that one.

GC:         (Blank stare)

SJJ:         Thank you so much for joining me on Beyond the Story with my guest, Giulia Como, from The Happy Wars.

Author Bio

Eve Gaal, holds a Master’s Degree in Human Behavior and a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature. She is the author of The Happy WarPenniless Hearts, a standalone sequel titled, Penniless Souls and a short novella called The Fifth Commandment.  

After a long career in advertising, she has written countless stories, poems and articles. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Pilot, several anthologies, and online.

Born in Boston, but a longtime Californian, she lives with her husband and a sweet, rescued Chihuahua called Pinky. Find out more at