New Release by Author Kate Messick

Author Kate Messick joins me today to discuss her new release Rolling for Love.

SJJ: What genre(s) does this book fall under?

KM: Urban Fantasy, Romance

SJJ: Is this a genre you normally write in or are you trying something new?

KM: Normal genre.

SJJ: Who is your target audience?

KM: Adults, nerds, and everyone who loves role playing games.

SJJ: When was Rolling for Love released?

KM: April 5, 2020

SJJ: Can you tell us a little about your new book.

KM: Wicked smart and stubborn, Sandy Yuhi lives life in a cloud of fantasy worlds and denial. She struggles to commit to the future and hold a job. Thankfully, her childhood friend, Amorino, always has work waiting for her when she needs it. Unfortunately for her, he is also her ex boyfriend who has a new secret that changes everything.

A stickler for rules and painfully blunt, Sandy’s personality has gotten her in trouble with every Dungeon and Dragons game in the Front Range. Her last chance to participate in the hobby she loves to hate lies in the hands of Joe, the new Dungeon Master in town. However, when Joe’s supernatural setting makes her confront her fears, Sandy’s faith in her real world choices shatters. Can the tentative friendships she finds help her end her destructive cycle with Amorino? Will the party’s Bard, Strider, win her heart? Or will Joe’s commanding presence fill her passions?

Full of action, supernatural creatures, magic, romance, and lust. Sandy’s parallel adventures through the supernatural underground and modern day will make you think, love, and cheer!

SJJ: Where does the story take place?

KM: The story is in two parts. Both are set in Colorado, the real world story pulls most of its setting from Boulder. The parallel supernatural story is in a made-up universe that echoes Estes Park and the general Colorado Front Range area.

SJJ: What inspired you to write this story?

KM: It started as a projected based on the feedback of my beta readers from my first book and it quickly took on a life of its own. I am an emotional writer and many of my characters begin as personalities I find in my own life. They always become their own people as the story goes on, quickly deviating into what I need them to be to fit the plot. The very beginning of this book was a wonderful reminder of my best friend from high school.

SJJ: What kind of research did you have to do?

KM: Fortunately, I was born and raised in Boulder so I didn’t need to do too much location research. Most of my time was spent digging into the rules of Dungeons & Dragons. You can find character sheets for the campaign’s alter egos on my website

SJJ: Was any part of this book particularly difficult to write?

KM: Sandy, our protagonist, was very hard for me to write. We all write pieces of ourselves into our books and I wanted Sandy to be the opposite of me, at the end of my first draft she was too cold and inconsistent to be a main character. On the same hand, her journey was so meaningful to me that I over wrote. I ended up cutting out 50,000 words of the first draft and reworking her personality so many times I confused my own brain. Thankfully my amazing beta readers helped me pull through!

SJJ: How did you come up with the title? Did you have any other working titles?

KM: The original title was Lust and Fury, but this title was actually very fitting of Sandy’s original personality. With my edits I wanted to soften everything, so it became Rolling for Love.

SJJ: Who designed the cover? Did you have much input in the design?

KM: The cover was designed by the team at Next Chapter and I did have input. I felt bad because I really didn’t like the first draft of the cover. I literally sent them an entire pages of edits!! To which they responded, “we will do our best”. In the end, their best was fab. Almost every edit I requested was included in the final draft!

SJJ: What is one of your favourite lines or quotes from the book?

KM: This is not really a book of one liners, there are lots of fun discussions and quips back and forth. If I had to pick one, this bit sums up a lot of the moral concepts of the book.“When people change, it’s ok to still love the good memories. It’s healthy. But take care of yourself today, for the past, present, and future are three very different things.”

SJJ: Did you enjoy writing any particular scene? Please tell us a little about it if you can.

KM: I really enjoy writing drama, there is a scene where Sandy is at work and she is indirectly confronted about her romantic interactions with the Amorino, our antagonist. The room fills with tension only she can feel as her world falls apart. I love bringing out the details. The mud on her work boots, the quality of her clothing, the sound of another woman’s heals on the unique plastic floor of the construction pod. All these little details lead us down the rabbit hole of her emotions.

SJJ: Does your book have any message or is it purely entertainment?

KM: I would say my book is ninety percent entertainment. However, we do spent a lot of time exploring the nature of what it means to want something. To get over our fears and truly reach for something even if it might hurt us in the end.

SJJ: How long did it take you to write? To edit?

KM: I write very fast. Once I have an idea, I tend get on a roll and bang it out “quickly” for a book. I probably got the initial 170,000 words typed out in three months or so. However, I then sat on it for a year, too unhappy with it to show it to anyone, but loving it too much to change it. After that it spent six months, at least, going through my amazing beta readers, being cut down in length and having characters tweaked to make them more understandable and relatable as details in the story changed.

SJJ: During editing, did you have to delete a scene you liked but because it didn’t move the book forward, it had to be removed? Can you describe that scene?

KM: I have so many deleted scenes it hurts my soul a little. But, they slowed down the book a lot and I needed to get the point. I am releasing my favorite cut chapters on my website, edited to make them short stories.

SJJ: What a great idea!

Who is your favourite character? Your least favourite character?

KM: Joe, Joe Smartin is my favorite. I love Joe. I love Joe so much that he is getting his own book. I hate to say this, but I never truly connected with Sandy. Her story, what she goes through is perfect for her personality, but even though I wrote her…I did accomplish my goal however to get out of my comfort zone and write a protagonist that doesn’t hold the same values I do. Diversity is the spice of life.

SJJ: Just for fun! If this book became a movie, who would you like to see play the main character and if there’s a villain, who would play that role?

KM: I don’t really know my actors very well. Sorry!

SJJ: Is this book a stand alone or part of a series?

KM: This book is a standalone, but a few things are left a little feeling incomplete. I loved Joe so much that he is now getting his own book. Wizards and Wives Tales is going through beta reading as we speak! It’s also intended to be a standalone with just the one character crossover and a few cameo appearances.

SJJ: Where can your new book be purchased when it’s released? Or if already released please provide links to where your new book can be purchased.

KM: My book is available for pre-order on Amazon:


Kate Messick was born 1985. She is married with three cats, and two degrees in classical music. She enjoys lifting weights, reading, playing music, playing games, and traveling.

From a young age Kate’s dad read all sorts of fantasy books aloud to his daughters. She found her insatiable hunger for dragons and stories only grow with the years. Kate is living an exciting life. Never afraid to reach for the stars, she founded the Symphonic Anime Orchestra and traveled with her music all over the US. She has worked in many fields; teacher, road construction, spinal technician, data miner, security escort, and more. She has published several music arrangements and a book: Woot! Elementary Methods for Clarinet in addition to her fantasy novels.

Kate loves life and the people she meets in it. She finds that all games, board games, and most especially role playing (like Dungeon & Dragons), bring out amazing aspects of people’s personalities that she loves to explore in her writing.

Kate now lives in North Yorkshire, England, where she word engineers, travels, and loves.

Kate’s links:

The Dungeon Master’s Wife – (my first book)

New Release from Author James J. Cudney

Author James J. Cudney joins me today to discuss his newest release, Frozen Stiff Drink. A prolific author (and reader), James has 8 published works and over 1000 book reviews on his blog.

With so many books out there and so little time, I can say that I have enjoyed reading one of James’ books, and I certainly intend to read more.

SJJ: What genre does your newest release, Frozen Stiff Drink, fall under?

JJC: Mystery (somewhere between a cozy and an investigation)

SJJ: Is this a genre one you usually write in or are you trying something new?

JJC: I write in both the mystery and contemporary family drama genres. This is the 6th book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries.

SJJ: And Who is your target audience for this latest book in your series?

JJC: Readers who enjoy amateur sleuth novels. I’ve turned the sub-genre a bit upside down by creating a male protagonist who is a single father and by writing in the first-person perspective. Usually the cozy world is focused on women and written in third person.

SJJ: When was the release date of your latest novel?

JJC: It was released on March 18th, 2020.

SJJ: Please tell us a little about your new book.

JJC: A winter blizzard barrels toward Wharton County with a vengeance. Madam Zenya predicted the raging storm would change the course of Kellan’s life, but the famed seer never could’ve prepared him for all the collateral damage. Nana D disappears after visiting a patient at Willow Trees, leaving behind a trail of confusion. When the patient turns up dead and a second body is discovered beneath the snowbanks, Kellan must face his worst fears. What tragedy has befallen his beloved grandmother?

Kellan’s brother Hampton learns essential life lessons the hard way after his father-in-law accuses him of embezzlement. While trying to prove his innocence, Hampton digs himself a deeper hole that might lead to prison. Sheriff Montague wants to save him, but she receives the shock of her life as the past hurtles forward and complicates her future.

Between locating Nana D and solving the scandalous murder of another prominent Braxton citizen, Kellan and April’s worlds explode with more turmoil than they can handle. Too bad neither one of them knows what to do about the psychic’s latest premonition. The suspicious deaths happening around town aren’t ending anytime soon.

SJJ: I have to say this sounds intriguing.

Where does the story take place?

JJC: On a college campus in a fictional town in northcentral Pennsylvania.

SJJ: James, what inspired you to write this story?

JJC: I grew up watching daytime dramas, dreaming about college life, and reading Agatha Christie. I had to write a series that took this all into account. So… there are always cliffhangers, the plots are quite convoluted, and it’s focused on academia-related murders.

SJJ: Did you have to do any research for this story?

JJC: I had to do a little medical research to understand the effects of the weapon used to kill the victims. It was quite fun!

SJJ: I agree, it can be fun to research these sorts of things.
Was any part of this book particularly difficult to write?

JJC: Not at all. Once I had my outline, I ran with it… the only concern I had was managing 3 murders when there are normally only one or two.

SJJ: How did you come up with the title? Did you have any other working titles?

JJC: All my titles are plays on words, where Word 1 and 2 mean something and Word 2 and 3 mean something: Frozen Stiff and Stiff Drink. It’s perfect for the story.

SJJ: I like that idea!

Who designed the cover? Did you have much input in the design?

JJC: When I send the summary and the book to the publisher, I provide suggestions on which building to use on the cover (always changes in the series depending on where the murder happens), what colors to consider, and which key objects to highlight. They create a draft, I provide input, then we close on it.

SJJ: What is one of your favourite lines or quotes from the book?

JJC: “It had been a day. If I could’ve returned it for a refund or shoplifted a new one from a discount rack, I’d have been better off.”

SJJ: Is there one scene you enjoyed writing? Please tell us a little about it if you can.

JJC: Writing the murder scenes is always fun because you get to pretend a lot. I envision the anger or passion coming from the killer. I think about how the victim would react, if they are aware they’re being killed. I decide who will find the victim and how it plays into determining the murderer’s identity. It’s a lot of imagination.

SJJ: I too enjoy writing death scenes. You really do have to use a lot of imagination.

Does your book have any message or is it purely entertainment?

JJC: I think it’s purely entertainment, but ultimately, the lead character, Kellan Ayrwick, is a model citizen and thinks the way I wish others would think – kindness, tolerance, dedication, determination.

SJJ: How long did it take you to write and edit this story?

JJC: I wrote the first draft in 4 weeks. It took 4 weeks to edit in and review with a few beta readers. And it took 2 more weeks to finalize with an editor. Just under 3 months.

SJJ: Holy Cow! I need to take a lesson from you.

During editing, did you have to delete a scene you liked but because it didn’t move the book forward, it had to be removed?

JJC: Not in this one. Everything stayed, but I did have to add 3 more scenes. I had to add a few red herrings to throw some potential guilt in various places.

SJJ: Who is your favourite character? Your least favourite character?

JJC: Favorite: Kellan, of course. He’s who I wish I could be if I had no limits. And Nana D… she gets all the best lines. She says what she wants, doesn’t care what others think, and almost always, she earns the most respect from anyone.

Least Favorite: I love them all… everyone plays a part.

SJJ: Just for fun! If this book became a movie, who would you like to see play the main character and if there’s a villain, who would play that role?

JJC: Kellan is a 33-year-old athletic guy, so… it’d have to be someone sexy but smart… perhaps one of the Hemsworth brothers.

The villain… well… I can’t give that away, but the judge who dies is a recurring character. I think he’s best played by John Lithgow.

SJJ: Where can readers purchase your new book?



James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College. I’ve spent twenty years building a technology career in the retail, sports, media, and entertainment industries. I enjoyed my job, but a passion for books and stories had been missing for far too long. I’m a voracious reader in my favorite genres (thriller, suspense, contemporary, mystery, and historical fiction), as books transport me to a different world where I can immerse myself in so many fantastic cultures and places. I’m an avid genealogist who hopes to visit all the German, Scottish, Irish, and British villages my ancestors emigrated from in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind, and my body. I decided to pursue my passion by dusting off the creativity inside my head and drafting outlines for several novels. I quickly realized I was back in my element growing happier and more excited with life each day. My goal in writing is to connect with readers who want to be part of great stories and who enjoy interacting with authors. To get a strong picture of who I am, check out my author website or my blog. It’s full of humor and eccentricity, sharing connections with everyone I follow—all in the hope of building a network of friends across the world.

When I completed the first book, Watching Glass Shatter, I knew I’d stumbled upon my passion again, suddenly dreaming up characters, plots, and settings all day long. I chose my second novel, Father Figure, through a poll on my blog where I let everyone vote for their favorite plot and character summaries. It is with my third book, Academic Curveball, the first in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, where I immersed myself in a college campus full of so much activity, I could hardly stop thinking about new murder scenes or character relationships to finish writing the current story. I can’t believe I’ve finished writing the sixth book in this series. Come join in the fun…

James’ Links

Websites & Blog
Next Chapter Pub:

Social Media Links

List of Published Books
Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)Father Figure (April 2018)Braxton Campus MysteriesAcademic Curveball – #1 (October 2018)Broken Heart Attack – #2 (November 2018)Flower Power Trip – #3 (March 2019)Mistaken Identity Crisis – #4 (June 2019)Haunted House Ghost – #5 (October 2019)Frozen Stiff Drink – #6 (March 2020)

Author’s Other Books

Watching Glass Shatter (Contemporary Fiction / Family Drama)

The wealthy Glass family lost its patriarch, Benjamin Glass, sooner than expected. Benjamin’s widow, Olivia, and her 5 sons each react to his death in their own way while preparing for the reading of his will. Olivia receives a very unexpected confession from her late husband about one of their sons that could shatter the whole family. Prior to revealing the secret to her children, Olivia must figure out which boy Ben refers to in the confession he left her in his will. While the family attorney searches for the mysterious Rowena Hector whom Ben says holds the answers, Olivia asks her sons to each spend a week with her as she isn’t ready to let go of the past. When Olivia visits her sons, she quickly learns that each one has been keeping his own secret from her. Olivia never expected her remaining years would be so complex and life-altering, but she will not rest until her family is reunited after Ben’s untimely death. We all need family. We all want to fit in. We’re all a mix of quirky personalities. Will Olivia be able to fix them, or will the whole family implode? What will she do when she discovers the son behind Ben’s secret? Check out this ensemble cast where each family member’s perspective is center stage, discovering along the way who might feel the biggest impact from all the secrets. Through various scenes and memories across a six-month period, you’ll get to know everyone, learning how and why they made certain decisions. Welcome to being an honorary member of the Glass family where the flair for over-the-top drama pushes everyone to their limits.

Father Figure (Contemporary Fiction / Family Drama)

Between the fast-paced New York City, a rural Mississippi town and a charming Pennsylvania college campus filled with secrets, two young girls learn the consequences of growing up too quickly. Amalia Graeme, abused by her mother for most of her life, longs to escape her desolate hometown and fall in love. Contemplating her loss of innocence and conflicting feelings between her boyfriend and the dangerous attraction she’s developed for an older man, Amalia faces life-altering tragedies. Brianna Porter, a sassy, angst-ridden teenager raised in New York City, yearns to find her life’s true purpose, conquer her fear of abandonment, and interpret an intimidating desire for her best friend, Shanelle. Desperate to find the father whom her mother refuses to reveal, Brianna accidentally finds out a shocking truth about her missing parent. Set in alternating chapters two decades apart, the parallels between their lives and the unavoidable collision that is bound to happen are revealed. FATHER FIGURE is an emotional story filled with mystery, romance, and suspense.


Academic Curveball: Death at the Sports Complex (#1)

When Kellan Ayrwick, a thirty-two-year-old single father, is forced to return home for his father’s retirement from Braxton College, he finds the dead body of a professor in Diamond Hall’s stairwell. Unfortunately, Kellan has a connection to the victim, and so do several members of his family. Could one of them be guilty of murder? Then he finds a second body after discovering mysterious donations to the college’s athletic program, a nasty blog denouncing his father, and a criminal attempting to change student grades so the star baseball pitcher isn’t expelled. Someone is playing games on campus, but none of the facts add up. With the help of his eccentric and trouble-making nana weeding through the clues, Kellan tries to stay out of the sheriff’s way. Fate has other plans. Kellan is close to discovering the killer’s identity just as someone he loves is put in grave danger of becoming victim number three. And if that’s not enough to wreak havoc on his family, everything comes crashing to a halt when his own past comes spiraling back to change his life forever. In this debut novel in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series, readers discover a cozy, secluded Pennsylvania village full of quirky, sarcastic, and nosy residents. Among the daily workings of Braxton College and the charming Ayrwick family, Kellan weighs his investigative talents against an opportunity to achieve a much sought-after dream. When this first book ends, the drama is set for the next adventure in Kellan’s future… and it’s one you won’t want to miss.

Broken Heart Attack: Death at the Theater (#2)

When an extra ticket becomes available to attend the dress rehearsal of Braxton’s King Lear production, Kellan tags along with Nana D and her buddies, sisters-in-law Eustacia and Gwendolyn Paddington, to show support for the rest of the Paddington family. When one of them appears to have a heart attack in the middle of the second act, Nana D raises her suspicions and asks Kellan to investigate who killed her friend. Amidst family members suddenly in debt and a secret rendezvous between an unlikely pair, Kellan learns the Paddingtons might not be as clean-cut as everyone thinks. But did one of them commit murder for an inheritance? Kellan is back in his second adventure since returning home to Pennsylvania. With his personal life in upheaval and his new boss, Myriam, making life difficult, will he be able to find a killer, or will he get caught up in his own version of stage fright?

Flower Power Trip: Death at the Masquerade Ball (#3)

Braxton College is throwing the Heroes & Villains Costume Extravaganza to raise money for renovations to the antiquated Memorial Library. While attending, Kellan stumbles upon a close family friend standing over a dead body that’s dressed as Dr. Evil. Did one of Maggie’s sisters kill an annoying guest at the Roarke and Daughters Inn or does the victim have a more intimate connection to someone else on campus? As Kellan helps the school’s president, Ursula, bury a scandalous secret from her past and unearth the identity of her stalker, he unexpectedly encounters a missing member of his own family who’s reappeared after a lengthy absence. When all the peculiar events around town trace back to the Stoddards, a new family who recently moved to Wharton County, the explosive discovery only offers more confusion. Between the special flower exhibit that’s made an unplanned stop on campus and strange postcards arriving each week from all around the world, Kellan can’t decide which mystery in his life should take priority. Unfortunately, the biggest one of all has yet to arrive at his doorstep. When it does, Kellan won’t know what hit him.

Mistaken Identity Crisis: Death on the Cable Car (#4)

A clever thief with a sinister calling card has invaded Braxton campus. A string of jewelry thefts continues to puzzle the sheriff given they’re remarkably similar to an unsolved eight-year-old case from shortly before Gabriel vanished one stormy night. When a missing ruby is discovered near an electrified dead body during the campus cable car redesign project, Kellan must investigate the real killer to protect his brother. Amidst sorority hazing practices and the victim’s connections to several prominent Wharton County citizens, a malicious motive becomes more obvious and trickier to prove. As if the latest murder isn’t enough to keep him busy, Kellan partners with April to end the Castigliano and Vargas crime family feud. What really happened to Francesca while all those postcards showed up in Braxton? The mafia world is more calculating than Kellan realized, and if he wants to move forward, he must make a few ruthless sacrifices. Election Day is over, and the new mayor takes office. Nana D celebrates her 75th birthday with an adventure. A double wedding occurs at Crilly Lake on Independence Day. And Kellan receives a few more surprises as the summer heat settles in Wharton County.

Haunted House Ghost: Death at the Fall Festival (#5)

It’s Halloween, and excitement is brewing in Braxton to carve jack-o’-lanterns, go on haunted hayrides, and race through the spooky corn maze at the Fall Festival. Despite the former occupant’s warnings, Kellan renovates and moves into a mysterious old house. When a ruthless ghost promises retribution, our fearless professor turns to the eccentric town historian and an eerie psychic to communicate with the apparition. Meanwhile, construction workers discover a fifty-year-old skeleton after breaking ground on the new Memorial Library wing. While Kellan and April dance around the chemistry sparking between them, a suspicious accident occurs at the Fall Festival. Soon, Kellan discovers the true history and dastardly connections of the Grey family. But can he capture the elusive killer – and placate the revenge-seeking ghost.

Author Interview with Joy Johnson

My guest this week is Author Joy Johnson. A former Marine, Joy now spends her time writing fiction.

I hope you enjoy our interview as she shares a little with us about her writing and personal life.

About Writing/Books/Being an Author

SJJ: Do you remember the first book you read that had an impact on you – in what way and what was the name of that book?

JJ: Well, that is a good question to start. I would have to say that it was the Bible – but not only for the traditional religious reasons. I believe I was around seven or eight when my Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Carnello decided to introduce the class to the book of Revelations. For those who do not know this is the final chapter, so to speak, of the Bible. It is the part of the Bible that describes the end of the Earth. It was also the first story I had ever heard that did not bear the light hearted hallmarks of all children’s tales. It was my first time hearing a truly dark, suspenseful story. The images that blossomed in my imaginative, childish mind that day as she read it to us born in me the first roots of my love for Apocalyptic tales. From that day forward, all of my stories have had a kind of dark twist that pays homage to the memory of that first reading of Revelations.

SJJ: When did you first realize you wanted to write?

JJ: I must have been around three years old. I didn’t even know how to write a single word. I just scribbled across notepads my mother would give me, telling her the story as I pretended to write. Those times are precious to me because in the coming years my mother would become mentally ill, and they are now my only memories of a time when my mother was truly my mother.

SJJ: Who are your favourite authors?

JJ: Oh! There are so, so many. I would have to say that the top five would have to be (and in this order): C.S. Lewis, Octavia E. Butler, Terry Goodkind, Dave Ramsey, and Carrie Ryan

SJJ: What is your favourite thing about writing? What is your least favourite thing about writing?

JJ: I love that writing gives me a safe space to experiment with ideas, feelings, and in some cases re-live memories but change their endings. It allows me to create alien worlds; befriend creatures that are wild and wonderful, and fall in love again and again. As a writer, I spend a great deal of time crafting and cultivating my books to exactly reflect the world that they are in and what they re going through. However, the down side is that after all that time is spent and I have created something that I am truly proud of; I must unveil it before the world of people who don’t care. Now days, even if you have a publisher, a writer must learn how to sell. It isn’t enough to announce to your family and friends anymore that you’ve been published. You have to help your publisher sell your book on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Goodreads, Pinterest, Bookbub… and on into infinity. By the end of each and everyday, your beautiful book that you spent so much time creating has been torn in half, ripped into infinity, and then thrown back in your face by every person who only sees you as yet another person pushing something on them. They don’t care if the story is good, they don’t care if every detail has been carefully placed; they only care if it’s popular. Which, lets be honest, it won’t be for quite some time if ever.

SJJ: I can sympathize with that as can all authors. It’s not an easy undertaking in any way, shape, or form

Where do your ideas come from?

JJ: Some of my ideas come from dreams. Others I have had after listening to debates on major political issues, and a number have come from intensely personal experiences in life.

SJJ: I’ve often found that creative people have more than one talent, what is yours?

JJ: Well, aside from writing, I enjoy caring for fresh water fish and gardening. I love it when one of my yellow Cobra Guppies, who have live births of up to thirty at a time by the way, has her brood. They are so, so very tiny. They don’t tend to get their spots until they are a month old or so. I use the fish waste to fertilize my house plants which are Orchids, Christmas Cactus plants, and Amaryllis. You can’t imagine the wonders that fish water will do for plants!

SJJ: I have heard of that and have used fish water in the past on my plants.

If you could jump inside a book for one day (as an observer) what book would it be?

JJ: Well, I would love to jump into any one of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books. I think it would have to be his last one though, I would love to go running in Aslan’s Father’s country with the Pevencie children.

SJJ: When you create characters, are they completely made up or do they resemble or remind you of people you know?

JJ: All of my characters do tend to lean toward people that I know and love, have met in passing, or revile. I feel that the best protagonists as well as villains are more well rounded when I write them based on an existing person or persons. Obviously, I will always change that character enough to obscure the true identity of the real person, but it is something that I have always done.

SJJ: Have you ever created a character “out of thin air” only to run into someone in real life that reminds you of that character either in personality or their features?

JJ: I remember once that I had pooled some characteristics from different people in my life to create a character for my short story, The Choice. It was a story about a failed attempt at suicide and the blessing that a second chance at life can be. Around a month later, when the story had been circulating for a little while, a young girl in another country found my story, read it, then contacted me. She told me about some suicidal thoughts that she was having, and about how similar her situation was to my character’s story. When she told me of her intentions to attempt taking her life again, I took steps to keep her safe. After the authorities got involved, I never heard from her again. I pray for her.

SJJ: How do you come up with titles for your books?

JJ: Usually the theme of the book tends to become the title. I have a short story called, The Tandem Mind. It is a story that takes you through the mind set of a mentally ill woman who is plagued by a male alter ego. I love it when the title shows itself to me so to speak because it means the story is really beginning to have a strong theme.

SJJ: What are you working on now and can you tell us about it?

JJ: Right now, I am writing a new book that is tentatively being called, Children of the Narlow. It is a Science Fiction book about two warring alien species who are at the end of their planet’s environmental resources, and are struggling to figure out what to do to save their children’s future. The Narlow are a race that are bent on consumption. They take without measure from their own planet’s core. They steal slaves from other planets to serve them in the mines. They have declared war upon the Gragoren; a species who are naturally peaceful, and whose only interest is in saving their home, the world that they must share with the Narlow. Then, we will find that a human woman torn from Earth early in the story discovers that she and a little boy could be the key to peace and progress between the two species. I am only half way done with the book but it is already turning into an amazing tale about environmental decline and attempted heroism. I love it!

SJJ: This sounds like an interesting story.

Have you won any awards for your writing/books and if so what?

JJ: I began writing a long time ago in college. I was published right away in my college anthology, then again by two different publishers over the years, but I really haven’t had the time to both write and apply for awards. I may do so in the future, but for now I would much rather focus on the writing.

A Little More Personal

SJJ: What is one thing you haven’t done but would like to do?

JJ: I would love to charter a boat to take me out to the middle of the deep ocean so that I could really SEE the stars… And then of course, I would have to have some paper with me to write about the experience.

SJJ: Sounds like this could be an amazing experience.

Can you tell us about an embarrassing/funny moment?

JJ: Well, it doesn’t have anything to do with writing, but – insert blush – it is funny. About a month after our first child was born, when the sleep deprivation was really starting to kick in, I awoke to a loud, gurgling scream. I bolted out of my bed and flew to the crib, thinking our daughter was in trouble. My heart was hammering as I leaned over her little crib to peer wide eyed at her. She was completely asleep and peaceful for the first time in a long time, so I was absolutely puzzled. Had I heard it in my dreams? Was I losing my mind? Then I

glimpsed the bathroom light on and meandered over to see if my husband had decided to get some water. As I opened the door, there he was; tears streaming down his face, toothbrush in hand, scrubbing his gums to the point of bleeding. When I asked him what on earth was wrong, he let out the noise that had awoken me and pointed to the counter. It was then that I realized that one of us, in our exhausted state of mind, had left the bottle of Desitin beside the bottle of toothpaste. He cried out, “I can still taste the omega 3’s!”

SJJ: Oooo, yuck! That would not be nice.

Have you ever experienced something weird you could not explain?

JJ: Yes. As a child I believe I once saw an angel. It was standing on an over pass. It glowed in an unnatural way that looked like it was glowing from within. It held its arms out wide as our car zipped down the road underneath it.

SJJ: Are you superstitious? Do you have any rituals for good luck?

JJ: I am not superstitious, but I do pray on a regular basis and believe that there is a God.

SJJ: What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?

JJ: When I lived in California many years ago, there was a farmer’s market that would come to town on the weekends in the summer. This farmer’s market had everything; hand made peta bread, fresh avocados, homemade apple butter, etc. We loved that farmer’s market. Well, one day at this farmer’s market we came upon some one selling Greek food. This was fresh Greek food. Not like the kind you get from an Americanized Greek fast food place, but the real stuff, made by hand. Before that day I had never had Greek food. I had no idea that you could eat grape leaves, let alone that there was a process to soak them in spicy olive oil and use them as a wrap for some of the most exotically spiced rice stuffing, I’ve ever had.

SJJ: Do you have a favourite vacation spot? Where?

JJ: I absolutely love the beach. Any. Beach. Nags head where the wild ponies run is a favorite though.

SJJ: Can you tell us about one of your favourite childhood memories?

JJ: I remember one year my parents didn’t have the money to celebrate my birthday. My mother had called my father at work and had an argument with him about it. I remember her asking him if we could even afford to buy some cake mix for her to make me a cake and he had said no. She had hung up, and had to explain to me my first lesson about money that day; that there would never be enough, ever. She had privately tried not to show me her tears as she pulled out some scissors and began teaching me how to cut snowflake shapes in them as her only means to celebrate with me. That night, very late, my father came home. He called my mother, me, and my older sister into the living room. Out of his suitcase he pulled a bundle of suckers from the Dollar Tree. He handed them to me and told me I could do whatever I wanted with them. I counted them like diamonds! I was so excited because I had thought all day that I wasn’t going to get a thing, but here they were; a delicious rare treat. I remember looking up from them, and seeing the looks of longing on my sister’s and my mother’s face. In that one moment I realized I could spend the rest of my life holding those suckers, keeping them to myself, or I could share and feel what wonder lay on the other side of giving instead of keeping. As I handed each of them one of my delicious suckers, I felt the deepest sense of happiness. My parents inadvertently had given me the biggest birthday gift of all that day, they had cultivated in me a heart of a giver.

SJJ: What a lovely story. There really is a deep sense of joy when you give freely without expecting anything in return.

What makes you happy?

JJ: Writing makes me very happy, but I think my family makes me the happiest. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not thankful to have my parents, my husband, and my two children.

SJJ: If you aren’t writing (or doing anything associated with writing), what are you doing?

JJ: Finding a way to spread kindness, and caring for my family.

SJJ: Can you tell us three interesting facts about you?


1. I have experience in catching bats. Yes, bats.

2. I have created an original alien language for some of my characters.

3. Because my son has Treacher Collins syndrome and is trach dependant, I know how to care for a trach dependant person better than most licensed nurses.

Author Bio

My name is Joy Johnson. I have traveled all over the United States as both an active duty United States Marine and now as a Veteran. In my small amount of time on this earth (I think I’ve seen the number twenty-five on my cake more times than I care to count…;) ), I have found that stories can come from all around. Characters can be developed from friends, family, strangers, and all of their many combinations. My deepest love is to develop stories that utilize both my environment and my passion for the people I meet in life who leave a profound impact upon my soul, for the better or worse. If you are here today to view one of my stories, I would absolutely adore it if you wrote me a review. Reviews are the life blood of an author’s page on Amazon, so it would mean a great deal if you took the time to write me one. All of that being said, it is my supreme hope that my characters find their way into the world and provide readers with the same kind of wonder that they have provided me with these past years. I couldn’t ask for a better audience here and on Amazon, or a better group of family and friends to help me see my dreams come to fruition. Take care, and I hope you have fun reading my stories! Joy Johnson

Joy’s Links

Amazon Author Page The Death Dealer Diaries United States Amazon Audible United Kingdom Amazon Audible



Publisher Author Page #NextChapterPub

Beyond the Story – The Girl who wasn’t Min

The Girl Who Wasn’t Min

Mulligan is not the best thief in Aberddu, but he is a man with a plan. After he finds Min and her friends scraping a living on the streets of the Poor Quarter, he knows he’s going to be quids in.

Together, Mulligan and the girls build up a rock-solid ruse. As the Fortescues, they hold the key to the homes of the city’s great, good and filthy rich. It seems like the perfect scheme – if Mulligan can avoid getting married off – but nothing this good can last forever.

The game they are playing is more complex than they first suppose, and soon enough they are plagued by enemies harder to run from than the militia. Greed, resentment and disloyalty take their toll on the gang. With Min and Mulligan enjoying the high life and Angel disappearing for hours at a time, it seems like they might spoil things for themselves before anybody else has a chance to rumble their little ploy.

As four street kids and a con-man take on Aberddu’s aristocracy, who exactly is playing whom… and will anybody come up smelling of roses?

Welcome to another Beyond the Story Character Interview where I get the opportunity to interview some truly interesting guests. This week my colourful guest and her companion come from the novel, The Girl who wasn’t Min, written by L.G. Surgeson.

SJJ: Hello and welcome, please tell us your full name and where you live?

CC: Who’s asking? Are you wiv the militia? Cos I aint done nothin; and neither has my h’associate.

SJJ: I promise I am not from any militia.

CC: You don’t look like militia. Okay. My name’s Clara Cropper, and this is my h’associate Pudding The Goblin. She’s jus’ gonna stand here while I answer okay?

SJJ: Yes, that’s fine.

CC: We lives ‘ere, in the rough bit of the Docks, in Aberddu City, but we’d appreciate it if you could keep all that t’yourself like squire?

SJJ: Um, sure I’ll keep it to myself but Clara, this is an interview and it will be posted so I can’t promise my readers won’t share the information.

Let’s move on to my next question. How would you describe your personality?

CC: Delightful. I’m amazing me… Shut up Pudding.

SJJ: Okay… And what do you do for a living, Clara?

CC: Bit of this, a bit of that, you know, a bit of the other…. shut up Pudding, not that kind of other.

Mostly, we get paid to go away. Or we steal stuff for cash. Professionally speaking, we go by the name ‘The Amazing Bazooka Sisters’, epic poems and dancing performed. But we aint really bards no more, cos we’re kicked out of the Bards Guild for getting widdled and recitin’ ‘she likes it like a well-boiled ham’ during the posh toasts at the midwinter banquet.

SJJ: Sounds like a tough way to earn a living. What is the biggest obstacle preventing you from achieving goals for yourself?

CC: Well funny you should mention it, I had a spot of bovver on the way here.

SJJ: Bovver? Excuse me for a moment while I look that up…. Ah, I see, you had a bit of a bother

CC: Some b*****d had it away wiv the buttons from me coat.

SJJ: Thanks for bleeping yourself. So, tell us something about you that not everyone knows.

CJJ: Not on your life mate. I still aint completely sure you aint militia.

SJJ: I swear, I’m not. Are there any defining moments in your life that made you who you are today?

CJJ: Probably being given a bath by Lady Iona, also that scam with Mulligan and the gang, what made us some money, and met me Pudding.

SJJ: Do you have any regrets, Clara?

CJJ: Nah, I can’t afford anyfing posh like tha’ guvnor.

SJJ: Ah, pretty sure regrets don’t cost anything. I mean unless you’re talking buyer’s remorse.

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

CJJ: Well, I s’pose Lady Iona, the Duchess of hoity-toit. She did give me a bath once… I say a bath, she hosed me da’wn in tha yard firs’ like. And she gave us a job once an all.

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

CJJ: Gettin’ thrown outta the Bards Guild prob’ly. We can do ‘she likes it like a well-boiled ham’ for ya now if you like?

SJJ: No, that’s quite alright.

CC: No? Ah well.

SJJ: Tell us, what is your idea of the perfect day?

CC: New boots, a hot meal, lotsa beer and a nice big bed. Shut up Pudding, not like that.

SJJ: I think a lot of people might agree with you there.

What do you do for fun?

CC: Anything I can get away with. Scrumping in the market, running up behind the priests in the Temple district and flicking their cassocks over their ‘eads, pushing posh buggers into the river, ‘aving a sing song, doin’ a turn at the Bird and Bottle.

SJJ: Clara, what are your plans for the future?

CC: Well, I want to get the buttons back for this coat for a start. Then, maybe a pie.

SJJ: And I hope you are successful on both accounts.If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?

CC: Huh?

SJJ: OK, I guess we’ll forget that question. Are you happy with the way your story was told?

CC: Didn’t get much choice really, story of me life.

Clara Cropper Appears in The Girl Who Wasn’t Min and in the forthcoming ‘In Shadows Waiting’. You can also catch her cameo appearance in The Winter That Follows, and in the short story ‘Clara’s Buttons’ available on LG Surgeson’s Facebook Page.

Author Bio

LG Surgeson is a writer and teacher who lives in a cottage by a stream with her long-suffering partner and their four cats. They like Mid-Wales because it’s better than the real world. She writes in her pyjamas, in the time she creates by avoiding housework and socialising. The cats like to help. They aren’t very good at it. When she’s not writing or teaching, she likes to create things or mess around in the garden upsetting the fairies.

LG writes a lot. She writes because she can’t help it, and when she’s not writing she drives her partner and the cats mad by moaning about the fact that she’s not writing. Being a novelist has been a life-long dream, since she fell in love with Jo Marsh when her Grandmother read Little Women to her when she was very small. LG writes novels, blog posts and articles. She believes it’s important to write about what you know; her novels are either fantasy adventures or semi-autobiographical stories about teachers. Both are equally believable.

Currently, the first three novels in The Black River Chronicles and The Girl Who Wasn’t Min – a stand alone novel set in the same world – are available from Next Chapter Publishing, with more to follow. These are definitely fantasy – and contain lots of magic, near-death and goblins.

Contact Links:

Twitter: @LGSurgeson

Author Christopher Coates Discusses his Newest Release

Author Christopher Coates joins me today to discuss his newest release, Alternate Purpose. Read on to learn more about this interesting novel.

SJJ: What genre(s) does this book fall under?

CC: SciFi Adventure

SJJ: Who is your target audience?

CC: Young adult or older

SJJ: When was your newest book released?

CC: January 22 2020

SJJ: Please tell us a little about your new release.

CC: A man discovers he has an amazing ability and builds his identity around this incredible gift from God. What will he do when he learns that the gift isn’t from God? Instead, he is part of a desperate plan to save humanity from an unimaginable disaster.

SJJ: Where does the story take place?

CC: Eastern USA in the current time period and 85 years in the future.

SJJ: What inspired you to write this story?

CC: It was just an idea I had.

SJJ: What kind of research did you do for this story?

CC: I had to look into current ideas around time travel. What theories are most supported and into suspected technological advancements in the next century.

SJJ: Was any part of this book particularly difficult to write?

CC: The ending was difficult. I could have kept the story going a little longer or had a very different outcome. I wrestled with it for a while.

SJJ: How did you come up with the title (which I really like by the way)? Did you have any other working titles?

CC: For several months, I was calling it Project X. As the story unfolded, I needed something better and came up with Alternate Purpose. At first I thought that would be temporary, but over time I decided that it was a good fit.

SJJ: Who designed the cover?

CC: The cover was designed by my publisher, Next Chapter Publishing.

SJJ: Did you enjoy writing any particular scene? Please tell us a little about it if you can.

CC: When the Devin learned his true purpose. His whole idea of who he is was shattered. There were many things that I needed to bring together for the story to continue.

SJJ: Does your book have any message or is it purely entertainment?

CC: We all have a purpose in life and we must make the most of it.

SJJ: How long did it take you to write? To edit?

CC: 1 year to write and 3 months to edit

SJJ: Who is your favourite character? Your least favourite character?

CC: General Marcus Quimby. Despite great personal loss, he unified and saved a dying nation.

SJJ: Is this book a stand alone or part of a series? If part of a series, please name other published works in the series.

CC: It is planned as a stand alone but a sequel is possible.

SJJ: Please tell us where Alternate Purpose can be purchased.

CC: It is available from Amazon as an eBook and in print.Amazon:

Alternate Purpose

SJJ: Thank you, Christopher, your new release sounds interesting, and I wish you much success.


Christopher Coates grew up on Cape Cod Massachusetts and moved to Michigan for college. He currently lives in Kent City, Michigan with his wife-Jerri, daughter-Nicole, and son-Jared.

Christopher is a retired Firefighter/Paramedic who works full time in Information Systems for a major West Michigan company.

His first three books, The Ark, The Resurrection Wager & Alternate Purpose are available in print and for Kindle

Christopher’s Links


Amazon Author Page:

New Release from Author Andi Lawrencovna et al

My guest this week is Author Andi Lawrencovna. Her newest release is a little bit different than previous guests’ in that it’s an anthology of 9 short stories from various authors including Andi.

Here’s what she had to say about this latest release in our interview.

SJJ: What genres does this book fall under?

AL: Romance! And a whole bunch of Subgenres! Lol. This is an absolutely amazing collection that covers everything from Contemporary Romance to Fantasy Romance and everything in between. We have Historical, Paranormal, Clean, Spicy, Personal…literally, EVERYTHING is in this anthology and it is a great way to meet new authors and new stories and just have a good time reading about love!

SJJ: Is this a genre you normally write in or are you trying something new?

AL: I think a lot of the authors in this anthology are traditionally romance authors. I usually write Fantasy with a romantic twist, which I think comes through in this anthology as well. The great thing about anthologies is that authors can choose to experiment and have fun outside of their usual styles, and I think that’s one of the things that we all were really excited about for this anthology.

SJJ: Who is your target audience for this anthology?

AL: Our hope is that this project has a little something for everyone! The goal really, or target, was to get this book out to as many people as possible, really opening up our audiences by making new connections and friends.

SJJ: When was the anthology released?

AL: Valentine’s Day, 2020! I am so very grateful to have this amazing group of writers with me who literally all said “YES” to doing this project…with little over a month of prep time for it! These stories that came from it are poignant and sweet and amazing and, really, I consider myself blessed to have such a great group of people with me for it!

SJJ: Please tell us a little about this new book.

AL: Around every corner and even right in front of you, love is spinning fabulous stories. Love can be rekindled between hearts broken by lies and betrayals if you’re willing to make a pass. Sometimes it takes playing referee to a cat and dog to find your true soul mate. Predictable might be the name of the game, until the unexpected comes along to push you into something new. Love takes so many different twists and turns: a sister left behind who is freed when she learns to love; the moment when magic sparks between two strangers and turns into something more; or second chances that come with just a little push. Just like a kaleidoscope, every shade and shape of love is imprinted on our hearts. Maybe you’ll find a few of those stories of love in this book? Gina Ardito, Grace Augustine, CJ Baty, Linda Boulanger, Edward Buatois, Jennifer Daniels, Laura Hern, Andi Lawrencovna, & M.M. Roethig

SJJ: What inspired all of you to write these stories?

AL: I am not trying to take the credit here, but Me! Lol. I contacted these authors, many of whom I’ve worked with before, and many who I have fallen in love with working with them for this first time, to create this piece together. Last year was our first adventure into writing this Kaleidoscope Hearts anthology, and I am so grateful that all of these amazing authors chose to work with my crazy again to create even more stories of love and romance to share!

SJJ: Was any part of this book particularly difficult to write?

AL: Interestingly, and I’m only speaking for myself, I had a really hard time with the “romance” here. I wanted to write a story that wasn’t just about “love between others” but about “love of self.” I watched Frozen 2 not long before starting on my story idea, and I really wanted to focus on that idea that “I am who I am meant to be” and “Love yourself” and so while there is that element of romance to my story, I wanted the main focus to be about “me” (in terms of the character! Lol), and that was really hard for me.

SJJ: How did you come up with the title for this anthology?

AL: Actually, funny story, I am a HUGE Sara Bareilles fan. I keep my iPod on shuffle most of the time, and one of her songs came on called “Kaleidoscope Hearts.” It was a month before Valentine’s Day, and all I could think about was all the different ways and types and visions of love in the world, and it just seemed like the perfect name and descriptor for an anthology that focuses on LOVE!

SJJ: Who designed the cover? Did you have much input in the design?

AL: One of our amazing authors, Linda Boulanger, who also wrote a story for the anthology, designed the cover for it. We worked together, but she is 100% the creative genius for the piece, in designing the cover which we hope has that “kaleidoscope” feel to it, both sentimental to that adventure of looking in one as a child, and representative of all the colorful pieces that make up our hearts as growing human beings.

SJJ: Is this anthology the only one from this group of authors or are there others?

AL: So, this book is actually the second Volume of this “series.” Kinda… It’s not a series in the sense that the stories are continuations of anything, but it’s more like a serial anthology. Our first Kaleidoscope Hearts anthology came out on Valentine’s Day 2019. And I’m hoping that my amazing compatriots will stick with me for a vol. 3 next year too!

SJJ: Where can this anthology be purchased?

AL: It can be found EVERYWHERE in eBook for free. We’re also selling the paperback copies on Amazon for a limited time too.


Author Bios and Links:

Andi Lawrencovna lives in a small town in Northeast Ohio where she was born and raised. After finishing her education, she decided that it was time to let a little fantasy rule her life for a while. The NeverLands were born out of a frustration with happily-ever-afters, and a burning desire for the same.

Gina Ardito is the award-winning author of contemporary, historical, and paranormal romance, currently published by Montlake Romance and independently. In 2012, she launched her freelance editing business, excellence in editing, and now has a stable of award-winning clients, as well. She’s hosted workshops around the world for writing conferences, author organization chapter meetings, and library events. To her everlasting shame, despite all her accomplishments, she’ll never be more famous than her dog, who starred in commercials for 2015’s puppy bowl.

Editor and internationally known author, Grace Augustine, was raised in Montana. Her hobbies include music, acrylic painting, container planting, and old romantic movies. She resides in Iowa and is the mother of two adult sons and an adorable feline.

CJ Baty loves a good mystery, hot sexy guys, the mountains, and a happily ever after. When she decided to try her hand in the book world, it only made sense to combine those things. She firmly believes that love is love in all of its shapes and forms. Her books contain broken spirits that need to be mended and a mystery, often a murder, which needs to be solved, so those spirits can find love. She calls southwest Ohio home, but her heart lives in the hills of Tennessee.

Linda Boulanger has always been a hopeless romantic, which spills over into her eclectic mix of published books, numerous story singles, and short stories in a few group anthologies. She spends her “free time” designing book covers for others through Tell~Tale Book Covers and TreasureLine Designs, all from her desk just north of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Edward Buatois is an eclectic reader and writer who enjoys many different genres including romance, thriller, sci-fi, and fantasy. He particularly enjoys writing urban fantasy, though he’s been getting more involved with romance lately. And there is usually a fantastical element to surprise.

Jennifer Daniels lives in Upstate, NY with her husband and son. She enjoys spending time with her family, fishing, camping, kayaking, and being on the water. Jennifer is a former nurse and for several years was very active with her local volunteer fire and rescue department. She is a paranormal/fantasy junkie, loves to read most things in those genres and is a binge-watching Hallmark Channel fan.Writing was never on her radar until her son shared with her that he wanted to write a book. So, together they began and that was when Jennifer decided to give it a try on her own. And that was how the Opalla Series was born.

Laura Hern is a native Texan and grew up reading murder and romance mysteries. She currently lives in Minnesota and is the author of the Lainey Maynard Mystery series. You can connect with Laura on her author Facebook page, Twitter, and her website.

M.M. Roethig is a happily-ever-after author who swoons for a good romance. From the time she was a little girl she was spinning tales for anyone who would listen. When she’s not making up stories, she’s spending time with family. M.M. Roethig lives in Colorado with her husband and son, close to one of her daughters and grandson. She loves movies, books, dancing, music, baseball, and traveling when possible.

New Release from Author Timothy J. R. Rains

Author Timothy J. R. Rains joins me this week to talk about his latest release, The Blade from the Barrow.

SJJ: What genre(s) does this new book fall under?

TJRR: The Blade from the Barrow is a Viking Fantasy based on the Norse Sagas. In particular, it’s a mashup of The Saga of Hervor and Heidrik and the Saga of the Volsungs, featuring the protagonists Hervor Angantysdottir and Sigurd (or Siegfried) the Dragonslayer.

It’s worth noting, however, that this book takes place in 400 AD, a few centuries before the traditional Viking Age and that the word Viking does not appear anywhere in the narrative. That said, the Nordic cultures and religions depicted are very much what the average person would associate with Vikings. For example, a shieldmaiden berserker sailing around on a long ship practicing human sacrifice and praying to Odin.

SJJ: Is this a genre you normally write in or are you trying something new?

TJRR: I normally write fantasy, but this is the first time I’ve written fantasy that is anchored in a real historical period.

It was extremely challenging. The sagas themselves are full of anachronisms and many of the real-life characters that show up in one place are from different centuries. It would be the equivalent of George Washington joining forces with Robin Hood and Joan of Arc to fight the Nazis. It’s interesting stuff to work with, but as an author it puts you in a strange situation.

For instance, if you’re writing historical fiction you’re working within the parameters of that historical time period and you have to do a lot of research to determine what those parameters are and work with them as best as you can; when you’re writing fantasy, you might want to draw on history to influence your characters and world building, so you still have to do significant research, but your main parameters are something you’ve invented (ie. How magic works in your fantasy world). But in The Blade from the Barrow, I was working with history, and the sagas and the story, and I frequently had to choose which of those parameters I was going to hold. And each time I had to make that kind of decision I was giving something up.

SJJ: When was The Blade from the Barrow released and where can your readers purchase a copy?

TJRR: It was released in the end of January and is available now exclusively on Amazon.

SJJ: Please tell us a little about your new book.

TJRR: It has been sixteen years since the infamous berserker Angantyr Arngrimsson and his eleven brothers were struck down on Samso Island. But, on the cold coast of northern Scandinavia, echoes of their savagery linger on…

With a scathing tongue, a volcanic temper, and a punch that could drop a polar bear, Hervor: Princess of Lofoten is a hurricane of trouble. After discovering the truth about her father, she’ll do whatever it takes to retrieve his magic sword and carry on his name. But that means exhuming a terrible curse, and she soon finds herself with few friends and a whole lot of enemies.

The explosive start of the High Fire trilogy, The Blade from the Barrow is a Viking fantasy composed of an epic blend of history and Norse mythology. Fans of The Red Queen’s War by Mark Lawrence or Joe Abercrombi’s Shattered Sea won’t want to miss this visceral retelling of the Tyrfing Cycle.

SJJ: What is the time and place of this story?

TJRR: The story takes place all over Scandinavia, Iceland, and Germanic Europe in the year 400 AD during the decline of the Roman Empire.

SJJ: What inspired you to write this story?

TJRR: My brother was really into Viking stuff and at one point he sent me an article about bad-ass women, and one of the women mentioned was Hervor. It briefly outlined her story, enough to get me interested in reading the saga she featured in. I toyed with the concept of writing a book about her for a couple years, but the exact moment it all came together for me was once when I was watching 13th Warrior. And the part where they’re all standing up to go on the quest, after Antonio Banderas watches them sacrifice that girl on the longship, I knew that I needed to write this Hervor book.

SJJ: How did you come up with the title and did you have any other working titles?

TJRR: For the longest time I was going to call it Angantyr’s Daughter, but I thought that might be giving too much away, and Angantyr is kind of a weird name that not everyone can pronounce confidently.

Also, The Blade from the Barrow is more cohesive with the other two (future) working titles in the series, The Deathless Acre and The Norns’ Doom – all of which are from lines from the Saga of Hervor and Heidrik.

SJJ: I love the cover of your new book. Who designed it? Did you have much input in the design?

TJRR: I made the cover myself. I did a bit of photoshop/graphic design stuff when I was in cartography school, and there is actually a fair bit of overlap between making maps and making book covers. They’re both aesthetic forms visual communication. And in addition to being emotionally appealing, a book cover needs to communicate exactly what the book is about. So, I tried to put something together that looks sharp and screams this book is about vikings and magic swords.

SJJ: I think you accomplished what you wanted. Well done!

What is one of your favourite lines or quotes from the book?

TJRR: There is a scene where Hervor is about to stab one of her allies in the back—she finds a dagger in a treasure pile and tests the blade against her finger…

“Her skin parts at the slightest pressure, causing a red tear to dribble down her finger. Sharp as the kiss of Judas.”

I always thought that was a deadly line and I always felt proud of myself when I read it over.

SJJ: Did you enjoy writing any particular scene and can you tell us a little about it?

TJRR: The scene where Sigurd and Gunther are hiking up the volcano to meet Brunhilde the Valkyrie Queen of Iceland was really fun to write. I think it introduces the juxtaposition of their personalities pretty well and highlights the codependent nature of their relationship.

Bruhilde has sworn to marry any man who can overcome her in a test of strength, and Gunther has determined to be the one to do it—only he has no intention of defeating her himself. He has recruited the help of his giant-blooded friend Sigurd, a renowned champion and chronic worrier. Right away there is the sense that Gunther has somehow manipulated Sigurd into doing this against his will, because he’s clearly uncomfortable with it and thinks the whole plan is a bad idea. And Gunther doesn’t even tell Sigurd how he intends to carry out his plan until they’re almost at the top of the volcano – that they will have to cast a magic spell on themselves and change shapes so Sigurd can defeat Brunhilde while pretending to be Gunther. Presumably, Sigurd has already refused this suggestion, only for Gunther to spring it on him again at the last moment when he has no choice but to go along. He does, but he insists that the whole thing is a terrible idea and will all go horribly wrong.

And of course, he’s right…

Author Bio

Bewitched at a young age by all things to do with swords and magic, Canadian fantasy author Timothy J. R. Rains spent his youth slaughtering Minotaurs in the misty woods of rural Nova Scotia.

He studied cartography at the Centre of Geographic Sciences and has a degree in theology from Briercrest College. When he isn’t caught up in another dimension, he’s usually out in the middle of some cold river with a cigar in his teeth and a fishing rod in his hands. He lives with his wife and daughter in Riverview, New Brunswick.

Author Links

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