Beyond the Story – Broken Steel

Broken Steel by Stuart Field

After ten years in prison for his wife’s murder, Brian Armstrong is free.

When a freak accident with the prison transport gives him and two others an opportunity to escape, they seize it. With revenge in his heart, Brian disappears into the storm-filled city. After an ex-schoolteacher is found dead, Detective John Steel is brought in to investigate.

The circumstances are mysterious – just the way Steel likes it. His partner Samantha McCall is convinced the timing between the escape and the death of the teacher are more than coincidence. As they start to investigate, the case becomes more complex than they could have ever imagined. With time running out, can they find the killer and bring him to justice?

Hello, and welcome to Beyond the Story Character Interviews. Today I have two special guests from the novel Broken Steel by Stuart Field. Let’s get to know our guests, shall we?

SJJ: Can you please tell us your full names and where you live?

JS: Hi, My Name is John Steel, I’m originally from the UK, but due to my involvement with the NYPD, I live in an apartment in Manhatten.

SM: You mean a penthouse on Park Avenue and involvement? What friggin involvement. You spend most of you’re time disappearin into shadows and makin my life friggin a misery. Sorry. I’m Detective Samantha McCall, and I have a shoebox Near the Village New York City.

JS: A shoebox – it’s a loft, you live in a beautiful old building.

SM: You, like so much Mr Steel, how about we swap?

SJJ: Ahem, OK, so moving on to my next question. So, this question is for you John. How would you describe your personality?

JS: I would say I was…

SM: I can’t wait to hear this.

JS: I would say, uhm, very…

SM: Here Steel, let me help, you a mysterious motha, the man has more personalities, sometimes happy sometimes sad, always angry. Sometimes he just blanks out so much you think the guy is made from stone. That’s usually the time to leave him alone. But I would say friggin annoying.

JS: Well, I would have gone more down the road of I don’t like showing my feelings much, but I guess what you said would work… apart from the annoying. You love me, really.

SJJ: Am I wrong or do I sense a little tension here? Never mind. Next question has two parts and is for both of you. What do you do for a living? And what is your dream job?

SM: I’m a homicide detective at the 11th precinct in the best city in the world and my dream job? I’m already doin it. Although Captain would be cool, I could get rid of this jackass then. (she laughs)

JS: I’m attached to the NYPD from Scotland Yard, it was meant to be a one-time thing, but things had escalated since then.

SM: Escalated? Seriously, you’ve blown up a cargo ship and a cruise liner – and don’t forget my car.

JS: Anyway… dream job? To be honest, I’m not sure.

SM: How about… playboy billionaire, Lord of the Manor?

JS: JS says nothing. Just smiles weirdly and shrugs.

SJJ: You know, I was going to ask, John, how you managed to blow up Samantha’s car, but I think I’ll just stick to the script.

So, What are the biggest obstacles that are preventing your from achieving your goals? Samantha, you first.

SM: Wow, uhm…him really. (she points towards JS and winks). But seriously, I overcome most of my obstacles, so they aint much of a problem. If I set my mind to something, I do it.

JS: I think obstacles are there to better us, make us think harder, so we achieve our final goal. Adapt, overcome, conquer.

SM: Yeah, he mostly kills them or blows stuff up, he’s good at that – like my car, for instance.

JS: I’ll buy you a soddin new one, don’t worry about it.

SJJ: Maybe I should ask about the car. (Smiles) Ahem, okay, moving on. Tell us something about you that not everyone knows.

SM: I hate him… Oh, wait, sorry, everyone knows that.

??: Not true, she’s totally in love with his fine British ass (a woman’s voice can be heard from the breakroom)

SJJ: Who was that?

SM: Oh, that, nobody… A dead woman. (she blushes and makes hand gestures not suitable to describe in this interview)

JS: After my family was murdered several years ago, I went into solitude in Alaska, hoping to hide away from the world.

SM: (says nothing at first, just looks at him with sad eyes.) Uhm… wow. I didn’t… I mean…

JS: It’s okay. And you were about to say… apart from the hate thing?

SM: What… oh, yeah, McCall is my mother’s name, my father forced me to take it so I wouldn’t be in his shadow when I joined the force.

SJJ: I’m so sorry, John, I had no idea. So tragic. I think I can guess what your answer will be, John, to my next question.

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

JS: I’d say the mu… death of my family. It gave me…perspective, a purpose.

SM: Possibly the murder of my dad. He was killed on duty. It made me angry for a long time that the person responsible was never found. It…I don’t know like Steel said…gave me perspective, a purpose. I guess we hear the dead speak and we help them to find justice. Peace.

SJJ: Oh, Samantha. I am so sorry. Do either of you have any regrets?

JS: Yes, not being there for my family when they needed me. But some might say if I had been there sooner, I’d be dead too. But, in a way…I did die that day. A piece of me did anyway. What piece? Oh, …my soul. A friend said I had been reborn, didn’t feel like it, but hey, a second chance, I guess.

(An awkward silence)

SM: Yeah, thanks for that, Mr happy. Regrets, I would say…. working with this guy would be top of my list…yeah. Pretty much that.

??: Stop lyin girl, you want that British ass. (the strange woman from the breakroom again)

SJJ: Sorry, who is that?

SM: That was…Doctor Tina Franks, our Medical examiner… my EX-best friend.

SJJ: (Scribbling on her notepad to speak to the ME later.) Is there anyone you look up to, consider to be a mentor, either in the past or right now?

SM: My dad. He was great. He’d come home, and we’d sit on the porch and drink beer, talk about cop stuff.

SJJ: When you were in the academy or the force?

SM: Nah, I think I was about…ten, twelve. He used to teach me stuff. How to shoot, take someone down…. huh, come to think about it, I never got bullied at school. I guess right now, my Captain, Captain Alan Brant.

JS: I always looked up to my dad for a long time, but when he died an old friend took me in, showed me the way if you like. In the army – the British army, that is. I had an instructor, a sergeant. He took a shine to me, probably because I didn’t take any crap off anyone, found out later he’d had a chat with some friends of his and got me …shall we call it an interview.

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

SM: Probably, my graduation from the academy. My dad’s face was… wow. He was so proud of me. But also, when I made detective, I remember going to my father’s grave to tell him. I always do that, share a moment with him. We have a couple of beers on his birthday. Well, I do, I just pour his on the headstone.

JS: Probably seeing my dad’s face when I got married, and again when we told him… he was going to be a grandfather.

(An awkward silence followed by muffled sobbing.)

SJJ: Samantha, John, what’s your idea of the perfect day?

SM: When he isn’t around. But then… no, scrub that if he’s nowhere near, he could be getting up to all sorts of crap. Uhm, perfect day. The weekend at my mom’s in Boston. Yeah, that’s just great. We do barbecues or bake pies, or just sit and chat. It’s great.

JS: Catching one of the arseholes who work for the organisation who killed my family and making him tell me where his boss is.

SM: Uhm, don’t laugh… he’s actually serious. I don’t know, he probably misses fish and chips or something, or scones.

JS: You know, I do miss a decent chippy. But then there’s this sports bar near times square. Excellent bloody fish and chips.

SJJ: (coughs politely)

JS: Sorry.

SJJ: What are your strengths? Your weaknesses?

SM: Strength….

JS: Your tenacity, it’s one of the reasons I found you compelling as a partner. You just see something, and you won’t stop.

SM: …Uhm, wow, thanks Steel, that’s very sweet of you.

TF: I told you, girl, gets some of that.

SM: Can we… gag her or something?

SJJ:(Scribbles again most definitely speaking to ME. Bring wine.)

SM: Yeah, strengths… I guess Steel is right I am kind of bullhead like that. It’s probably my weakness as well. Sometimes you just need to let something go, even if you don’t want too.

JS: I do like my coffee and a good vodka martini with two shots of gin. That’s my weakness. Also, my colleagues, I prefer to work alone because you have nobody to look out for. Anyone who can be used against you. I think overly protective is one of mine. But everyone here hates me, so there is no problem there.

(John laughs and is smacked by Samantha on the shoulder.)

SJJ: OK, so let’s lighten things up here. What do you do for fun?

SM: Firing range, old movies, hanging out with my ex-friend Tina.

JS: Shooting range, assault course, tracking down bad guys….

SM: Oh, Steel, don’t forget Gala diners, pretty women. Jet-setting around the world. Pretty women.

JS: (oddly silent)

SJJ: Well this should be interesting. Since you both like shooting for fun, what do you do to relax?

SM: I watch old movies with a glass of red, laze about in my pyjamas.

JS: Same as the last question really, I don’t really relax much. I like to sit in cafes and watch the world go by or go for a run.

SM: You don’t say… I’m shocked. You relax. Man, you are wound tighter than a…. wound thing. The café thing and the jogging that is called surveillance, not relaxing.

JS: It relaxes me.

TF: I know what will relax him…. (sound of a door slamming quickly).

SJJ: I guess your friend won’t be bothering us anymore. Ah, so what are your plans for the future?

SM: Make Captain. That’s it so far.

JS: Capture the people responsible for my family’s murder and rip out their livers. Probably get that fish and chips from the sports bar later. But then their shepherd’s pie is also brilliant. Could get both, I guess?

SJJ: So, here’s a fun question. If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?

JS: Wow. Hum, not sure.

TF: Henry Cavill, he’s also a fine piece of British… (door slams again)

SJJ: I guess we didn’t hear the last of her.

SM: Uhm… I don’t know. Hadn’t really thought about it. I kinda like Lyndsy Fonseca, she’s kinda badass.

SJJ: And my final question: are you happy with the way your story was told?

SM: Yeah, the third person works really well with this.

JS: What.. I’m sorry. Just had a call from the mayor, got to attend some damned benefit tonight.

SM: Seriously, no causing any problems tonight, no jumping off roofs or car chases, or burning buildings, nothing. Asshole… oops, sorry. Were we done? Will that get edited out?

SJJ: Well, I would like to thank both of you for being here today. This has been a rather, uhm, interesting interview. Thank you!


Stuart Field was born in Wellington. He joined the Royal Horse Artillery at the age of seventeen in 1988 and went on to serve in Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo and the Gulf. Stuart retired from the army in 2010 and took a security job in Germany, where he still lives and works. Stuart decided to try his hand at writing.

Despite his time in the army, Stuart says that there are “absolutely no similarities” between his life and the life of his main character, John Steel.

The knowledge and experience gained through a long military career do go towards the credibility of the novels, though.

He has published several other John Steel books;

Steel and Shadows

Hidden Steel

Broken Steel

And due out in August is; Blood and Steel.

Stuart’s Links

Book Review – Magnolia Tree by June V. Bourgo

Magnolia Tree by June V. Bourgo

Magnolia Tree by June V. Bourgo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sidney Grey has returned to the farmhouse where she was raised by her grandparents. She has great plans for the old place which includes major renovations as she intends to create a yoga retreat. The house holds a lot of memories for Sidney, but there are also many secrets surrounding her childhood home.

I very much enjoyed this first book of the Crossing Trilogy by June V. Bourgo. One of my favourite parts were reading the excerpts of the journals discovered during the renovations. They belonged to Sidney’s mother who disappeared from Sidney’s life when she was a baby.

The story has many unexpected twists, and it held my attention. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

View all my reviews

New Release by Author Mari Collier

Author Mari Collier joins me this week to discuss her newest release, Thalia – The New Generation. This is the seventh novel in the Chronicles of the Maca.

SJJ: What genre does this book fall under?

MC: Science fiction

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

MC: All my novels are science fiction.

SJJ: Who is your target audience?

MC: Anyone that likes science fiction.

SJJ: When do you expect the release of your newest book?

MC: The Kindle edition is scheduled for May 15, 2020 and the paperback a few days later.

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

MC: As thievery and deceit befall the continent, a new generation of Maca leaders will rise. Daniel, the new Maca of Ishner on Thalia, struggles to right the wrongs imposed on his people for nearly two hundred years. Determined to uncover the depths of the Sisterhood’s treachery, Daniel and the other young Maca of Thalia face danger, as new threats lead to a battle to save their land and people. With tensions mounting in the struggle for wealth and power, can they fend off the attack, or fall to the Sisterhood’s acts of vengeance?

SJJ: Where does the story take place?

MC: It may not be clear in the above. They are on the planet Thalia.

SJJ: What inspired you to write this story?

MC: Daniel and Marissa felt their tales needed to be told.

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

MC: I read up on the advances on humanoid robots (applied that to the Thalian type robot) and the advances in AI. The latter can be quite frightening when you think of the impact on our society.

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

MC: Not once I was about halfway through. The fight scenes and warring scenes had played in my mind so many times that I had no problem.

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

MC: Probably the old Star Trek series nudged me towards this one. It is the next generation.

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

MC: I have no idea. It is the cover artist/designer for Next Chapter, Pub.

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

MC: When Logan, Lad of Don, tries to save his love, Marissa, Maca of Medicine.

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

MC: Family and loyalty seem to be themes in my books.

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

MC: About nine months to write. I probably spent three months doing the editing and rewriting.

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

MC: Daniel, Maca of Ishner is the favorite in this novel. Least favorite would have to be Ilarmina. She has all duped until she leads the army of the Sisters against Medicine.

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?

MC: I have no idea who could play Daniel as he stands nearly six foot ten inches and has the massive muscular build of a Thalian. Meryl Streep would be perfect for Ilarmina.

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

MC: This belongs to the Chronicles of the Maca: Earthbound, Gather The Children, Before We Leave, Return of the Maca, Thalia and Earth, and Fall and Rise of the Macas.

SJJ: Where can your new book be purchased when it’s released?

MC: The Kindle and any digital version at Amazon. When the paperback is released, it will be Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Mari Collier was born on a farm in Iowa on a mattress her parents had made. It was covered with an oil cloth. The farm where she grew up had no electricity or inside bathroom. She has lived in Arizona, Washington, and Southern California. She and her husband, Lanny, met in high school and were married for forty-five years.

She has served on the Board of Directors for the Twentynine Palms Historical Society, and still serves as a Docent. She has worked as a loan collector, bookkeeper, receptionist, and Advanced Super Agent for Nintendo of America.

Her short stories have appeared in print and electronically, plus there are four anthologies. Twisted Tales From The Desert, Twisted Tales From The Northwest, Twisted Tales From The Universe, and Twisted Tales From A Skewed Mind. Earthbound is the first of the Chronicles of the Maca series which is soon to be seven with the release of Thalia-The New Generation in May. Man, True Man is the first of the three Tonath Chronicles. She is working on another anthology and a novel temporarily called Thalia At War. All of the anthologies have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. The first five of the Maca Chronicles have been translated into Italian and Spanish. The first three into Portuguese. Earthbound, Before We Leave, and Twisted Tales From The Northwest are also Audible books. Gather The Children and Man, True Man are scheduled to be released in audio form before the end of March.

Mari’s Links



Twitter: @child7mari

Thalia – The New Generation

New Release by Author Cynthia A. Morgan

Author Cynthia A. Morgan joins me this week to discuss her newest release, Misericode.

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

CAM: While Dark Fey was very much a Young Adult Fantasy, The Mercy Series is more of a Dark Dystopian Fantasy with elements of both Romance and Horror. It has taken a slightly

darker turn than Dark Fey, landing somewhere between a PG-13 and an R-rating. I veered away from the poetic writing style I used in Dark Fey, making this series more conversational in its tone with darker, moderately graphic content. It tells the story of a harsh new reality that exists on Earth with characters that are equally harsh.

SJJ: Who is your target audience?

CAM: Definitely an Adult audience.

SJJ: When was your newest book released?

CAM: Book One, Misericorde, is available now. Here is the official MyBook link:

Book Two, Clandestin, will actually follow very closely, as it is already completed, releasing by early June 2020!

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

CAM: It is the year 2446. The first three Horsemen of Revelation’s Apocalypse have ridden. The first Horsemen, Pestilence, War and Famine, have shifted world-wide cultures and governments from technologically advanced civilizations to dictatorships that are ruled with an iron-fist. Social structures have returned to what they were during the Middle Ages and commoners have very few rights. Liberty is a distant memory.

Before the final Horseman, Death, is released to ride, the Archangel of Mercy makes a bold plea. Tzadkiel cannot believe that mankind has forgotten what it means to be merciful. He asks to be allowed to search for even just one human who remembers. 100 years are granted, but at the end of that time the Archangel will be required to release the final Horseman. Releasing Death will conflict with everything the Archangel represents and be the hardest thing he has ever done, but he must agree. The Horseman must ride.

Tzadkiel takes human form and comes to earth. He finds that humanity is ruled by greed, hatred and fear. Compassion and kindness are considered a detriment, but he does not give up hope. After 96 years his long search leads him to New France where he encounters Levesque, a cynical military captain who hates the world he lives in. He blames God and any who serve Him for the calamities the world has suffered. When Levesque learns who Tzadkiel is, he takes revenge by imprisoning him and subjecting him to torture that would kill a human.

Tzadkiel, however, is not fully human. His life-force comes from the energy of the sun and can regenerate his body in hours. It is not entirely a blessing. After suffering Levesque’s torture for nearly a year, a young servant named Lourdes finds him. Through an act of selfless mercy, she reveals her true nature and Tzadkiel knows she is the one he seeks, but somehow, they must escape Levesque and the ruthless dictatorship he serves.

Time is running out. He has waited nearly 100 years, but the Horseman Death is growing impatient. He wants to ride. Tzadkiel has located the priceless treasure he sacrificed so much to find, but now he must find some way of protecting her from the calamity the Final Horseman has unleashed.

SJJ: What inspired you to write this story?

CAM: I began this tale with the intent of writing a multi-dimensional story. I hoped to share the story through the perspectives of several characters, rather than just one, and to provide the backstory not so much through expository prefaces or chapters, but as the plot progressed. I sought to challenge myself to create something dark that could still be tender and emotive, with which readers could connect on many levels.

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

CAM: The scenes that contain violence were particularly difficult. I strove to make The Mercy Series a rating equivalent to TV-MA. I wrote the scenes containing violence to be as disturbing as possible without actually going into graphic detail, but never having written those types of scenes before, it was difficult. Perhaps, if I found them disturbing, the readers will as well.

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

CAM: I truly enjoyed writing the scene where Tzadkiel first discovers that his feelings for Lourdes are romantic in nature. Being an Archangel, he has no experience with the physical responses of his body or the emotions she generates in him, and it was particularly stirring to write the scene when he first realizes why he’s feeling the way he is. In the scene, Lourdes asks him to sleep next to her. She’s afraid and longs for the safety of his presence. He agrees, but immediately discovers it is a far more complex matter than he expected. It’s a beautiful, sweetly romantic scene.

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

CAM: The story speaks about the courage to be kind in the face of cruelty. To be compassionate without motive. To show thankfulness through kindness and appreciate blessings through generosity.

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?

CAM: Tzadkiel and Lourdes are truly creations of my imagination. I would have a hard time selecting any actor to portray them, however, when I created Levesque (the cynical military captain who imprisons Tzadkiel) I immediately thought of Geoffrey Rush.


Cynthia A. Morgan is an award-winning author; free-lance columnist, and a member of the Poetry Society of America and Artists for Peace. Creator of the mythical realm of Jyndari and author of the epic fantasy Dark Fey Trilogy, Morgan’s powerful story relates how the power of hope, acceptance and forgiveness can change the world, when positive action is taken to create change. The only way to achieve peace is to become peace.

Morgan is also the author of the popular blog Booknvolume where over 18K followers can explore Morgan’s own brand of poetry, English Sonnets, musings about life, personal recipes, photography, book reviews and more.

Upcoming projects include a fictional drama in Regency Period England, a non-fiction exploration of the supernatural/paranormal and beliefs around the world, and a return to the realms of Dark Fey in a prequel/sequel.

Some of her other interests includes a deep love for animals and the environment. She is passionate about music and theatre, is frequently heard laughing and finds the mysteries of ancient times, spirituality, and the possibilities of life elsewhere in the cosmos intriguing. Morgan believes in the power of love, hope and forgiveness, all of which is reflected in her lyrically elegant writing style.

You can find Morgan through social media in the following places:

The Dark Fey Trilogy on Amazon:

Blog / website:

All Things Dark Fey Website:

Amazon Author Page:





Publisher’s Author Page :

Beyond the Story – The Stones of Earth and Air

After the Crown Prince of Ponderia starts behaving strangely, his best friend Pettic discovers that the prince has been replaced by a doppelganger, and the real prince kidnapped.

Unable to accept the loss of his friend, Prince Torren, nor the cruel impostor to become the new king, Pettic sets on a quest to rescue his friend. After he sees the fake prince meet a mysterious man, Pettic discovers that the prince has been imprisoned in another plane of existence.

With the help of Blundo, the court magician, Pettic finds out that the only way to enter this another world are four keys, each of them associated with a different element. As Pettic sets on his seemingly impossible quest, he discovers that the four lands that hold the keys are all vastly different… and more dangerous than he could have ever imagined.

Today’s guest on Beyond the Story is from V.M. Sang’s novel, The Stones of Earth and Air.

SJJ: Welcome to Character Interviews. Can you please tell our readers your full name and where you live?

Pettic: My name is Pettic and I live in Glitton, the capital city of Ponderia.

SJJ: Tell us, Pettic, how would you describe your personality?

Pettic: Loyal, friendly and caring.

SJJ: And what do you do for a living? What is your dream job?

Pettic: I am the friend and companion of Crown Prince Torren.

SJJ: Well, I suppose being the friend and companion of a prince for a living would also fall into a dream job for a lot of people. I mean how hard could that kind of “work” be?

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

Pettic: The day I bumped into the prince in the palace. I had no idea who he was. I shared a birthday with the prince, see? The King had told Torren that he could choose a boy from those who shared a birthday with him to be his companion. My parents heard the decree and took me to the palace to try for the position. Then when I bumped into the prince we talked and got along so well that he chose me.

If not for that incident, I’d be milking cows and grubbing up potatoes.

SJJ: Definitely fortunate for you, then. I think I would choose friend of a prince over milking cows and grubbing up potatoes, too.

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

Pettic: Getting the winged people on the world of Ariel to treat those without wings as human beings and not animals. In fact, they were treated worse than animals.

SJJ: This truly is a great accomplishment to bring people together despite their differences. The Earth could use someone like you.

Pettic, what is your idea of the perfect day?

Pettic: Riding in the countryside with Torren, or sitting talking with his sister, Princess Lucenra.

SJJ: What are your strengths? Your weaknesses?

Pettic: My strength is my loyalty and determination. I was determined to rescue Torren, no matter what it took. Some of the things I had to do in the various worlds I visited scared me, but I had to do them. I could not leave the kingdom to be inherited by the wicked doppleganger put in his place.

My weakness is fear. I was scared a lot of the time. I had no idea what was in store for me on the various worlds I visited. Suppose the world of Fire (Ignis) had been just that–a world made of fire? I would have burned to a crisp. Similarly, if Aqua, the world of water, had been only water? I would have drowned. Yes, I was scared.

SJJ: It sounds to me like you are braver than you think.

What do you do for fun?

Pettic: Ride, hunt, play card games, spar with Torren and practice archery.

SJJ: What do you do to relax?

Pettic: Go for long walks with my dog, Cledo.

SJJ: I too love long walks.

What are your plans for the future, Pettic?

Pettic: I hope to marry and have children. As I am now an earl, and have my own castle, I want to improve the farm output and make the castle more home-like

SJJ: You certainly have moved up in the world. I hope you realize your plans.

Are you happy with the way your story was told?

Pettic: Yes. I think it made me seem a better and braver person than I am, but I’m not going to complain about that.

SJJ: Thank you, Pettic, for joining me today on Beyond the Story Character Interviews.


I was born and lived my early life in Cheshire in the north west of England. I have always loved books and reading and learned to read before I went to school.

During my teenage years I wrote some poetry, one of which was published in the magazine of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). Unfortunately, that is the only one that is still around.

I became a teacher and taught English and Science at my first school. My main subject was science, though, but I also taught Maths and what was then known as Computer Studies.

I did little writing until starting to teach in Croydon, Greater London. Here I started a Dungeons and Dragons club in the school where I was teaching. I then decided write her own scenario.

The idea of turning it into a novel formed in my head, but I did little about it until I took early retirement. Then I began to write The Wolves of Vimar Series.

Walking has always been one of my favourite pastimes, having gone on walking holidays in my teens. I met my husband walking with the University Hiking Club, and we still enjoy walking on the South Downs. We bought a kayak and have done quite a lot of kayaking in Brittany along the river Vilaine and the Oust.

Quieter things that I enjoy are a variety of crafts, such as card making, tatting, crochet, knitting etc. I also draw and paint.

I am married with two children, a girl and a boy. My daughter has three children and I loves to spend time with them. I now lives in East Sussex with my husband.

V. M. Sangs Links





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The Stones of Earth and Air has just been released as an audio book. There are some copies to be given away. If you would like the code for your copy, please email me telling me if you are in the UK or the US. They are different codes!

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