Posted in News, Thoughts

Remembering Adrienne

I have told this story before to sell books but my telling it now has another purpose, to honor a friend. Adrienne Dunning was a fantastic, funny and feisty woman who lived up to her hair color. She died in a tragic accident the morning of July 5th. We’d just started making plans to return to Murfreesboro for a second writers’ retreat.

It was nearly two years ago, my friend, Adrienne Dunning and I were going to a writers’ retreat in Murfreesboro. I had known Adrienne for several years through the Pamlico Writers’s Group and our work on the writers conference. We’d become closer as we worked more closely together on projects for the Pamlico Writers. Like me, Adrienne had a lot of ideas and together we were looking forward to making them happen. We were still getting to know each other on a personal level, but we liked and respected each other’s work and writing so had made plans to attend several events together or meet up at a couple. The first was our trip to Murfreesboro.

Adrienne drove, and she and I shared stories about ourselves on our trip. I’d left my husband home with no electricity after a hurricane. He had told me to go, no need for me to cancel my plans since everything else was okay. Adrienne pointed out familiar places as she’d grown up in the area. She took me on a quick driving tour of the college and down town before bringing me up to the renovated house where I’d be staying. Adrienne would stay with her parents since they lived nearby and come in for the meals and meetings.

The event’s coordinator and owner of the house, Ruth Akright, had serval authors and a illustrator who would come in to do presentations. While I truly enjoyed the events and meeting the other authors, it was our impromptu discussions about writing that made the weekend the most memorable for me.

I was struggling to write my fourth book feeling frustrated that I just couldn’t get it right. I wanted a true romance without all the murder and explosions. Adrienne pointed out that I was struggling because I was trying to force the story. That instead of trying to make it be a romance, just write it. And if I had to blow things up or murder a few people, well just go with it. I’d already written three romantic suspense stories, evidently that’s what I enjoyed writing.

Being true to yourself… true to your passions. Adrienne loved romance and Scotland, combining the two and finally checking Scotland off her bucket list was what she dreamed of! She enjoyed sharing her books with her readers but helping other writers was another passion.

I will miss Adrienne as a friend, fellow writer and her dedication to the Pamlico Writers’ Group. To her parents, family and friends I add my condolences. To her readers and fans her light was extinguished too soon. To those of us who were just getting to know the wonderful, talented woman, the loss is greater for the regrets, we believed we had more time.

Posted in Creekside Cafe, interview

Creekside Cafe Chat with Joanna Warrington

Welcome Joanna to my virtual café. If I ever win the lottery, I’ll build a real café on the edge of the creek where I can sit on the porch in warm weather and talk to fellow authors about books and writing. Right now, we are in the cold and rainy season here in eastern North Carolina. We rarely get snow so close to the ocean, but freezing rain can be worse. You are from Sussex, in the United Kingdom. How is the weather there in January?

Joanna: I love the idea of your Creekside cafe! Adorable! It’s very chilly here in Sussex. The trees are covered in frost. We can only go out for daily exercise at the moment, because we are in lockdown. Every afternoon people go for a walk in the park to meet friends and drink hot chocolate.

Sherri: Have you ever visited the United States? North Carolina? Well, if you ever travel to eastern North Carolina I suggest Bath and Beaufort during Pirate festivals, of course both are lovely especially in the spring. Fort Macon at Atlantic Beach is one of my favorite places, it always inspires stories and the Tryon Palace in New Bern as well as Union Point Park on the waterfront.

Joanna: Yes, I’ve been to California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New York, Yellowstone, New Orleans and the Deep South, Baltimore and Virginia, Cape Cod, Boston, Salem. I absolutely love America! Best country in the planet and I am frustrated not to be able to travel at the moment. I love driving through the States. It’s easy and smooth. People are welcoming. My aim is to drive through more of your wonderful country, but I’m not bothered about the grain states like Kansas!

Sherri: Visiting the UK is on my bucket list. Where would you suggest I visit?

Joanna: England is small and could fit into one of your smaller states so you could easily get round and see much of it in a fortnight – however the traffic is always heavy. We are a crowded country. If you come here, go to Penshurst in Kent. It’s near lots of stately homes like Chartwell where Churchill lived and exquisite gardens you can visit such as Wakehurst as well as castles to visit like Sissinghurst. Penshurst is a historic village with a stately home and beautiful beamed buildings and quaint old pubs with roaring fires and stunning views over farmland. It’s where I grew up, in a medieval manor house, built in 1280.

My parents ran a bed and breakfast here for years and welcomed many guests from the States. Some of them invited us to visit them – I went to Louisiana and Mississippi to stay with one family. My parents built a lake in the garden. (I attach a Victorian drawing of the house as it appeared in a book on Kent architecture) Beyond our field was the river Eden and hop fields and apple orchards. (Hops were used to make beer). My love for Penshurst was the inspiration for my latest book, Don’t Blame Me. Although I’ve used a fictitious name for the village, it is Penshurst.

Sherri: Tell us about Don’t Blame Me. How is it different than your other books? How is it similar? Is it part of a series? Tell us about your other books?

Joanna: Yes, Don’t Blame Me is a family drama inspired by the first lockdown, Spring 2020 and its impact on family life. It was also inspired by the death of my first baby in 1994. It contains my diaries from that difficult time in my life woven into a work of fiction. Readers will be very moved by the story and several readers have already told me it was incredibly sad and inspiring too in terms of overcoming grief. The character finds solace in the countryside around her, reflecting on the past and coming to terms with the fact that you cannot go back and change the past – you must move on. So, it’s about moving on.

Sherri: Your novel is fiction, but it is a family drama dealing with grief and loss. Is it based on true life?

Joanna: All of my characters are realistic and believable and loosely based on a mish mash of different people I’ve come across in my life.

Sherri: Have you always written? What started you on your writing career?

Joanna: The loss of my baby in 1994 started me on my writing journey. I wrote about it in diary form and put the diary in my attic. My first book was called The D Word and that is based on a very difficult relationship I had in 2008. 

Sherri: What are the most relatable aspects of your characters? What was the most difficult part of their personalities to get right?

Joanna: It’s about a woman who returns to England from Australia when her father is dying. She moved to Australia 25 years ago when tragedy struck. Now she is forced to confront her past and the person who she blames for years of pain. It is part of a series, Sink or Sync but can be read as a standalone novel. It is more heartbreaking than my other novels although all my novels deal with family issues such as grief, divorce, addiction, teenage angst. My happiest novel is Holiday and Don’t Blame Me is the saddest novel!

Sherri: What was the most difficult scene to write? Which one was your favorite?

Joanna: Every scene is always hard. Even though you’ve experienced situations in life it’s always hard to put it across and make it believable. My favourite scene is an act of violence in Every Son’s Fear. I enjoyed making it shocking and dramatic.

Sherri: Do you have a favorite quote from one of your books?

Joanna: I can’t recall any one quote but The Catholic Woman’s Dying Wish (which was The D Word but renamed) is littered with so many phases I absolutely love!

Sherri: How has your own life and career influenced your writing?

Joanna: My novels are totally influenced by my own life – my gambling boyfriend helped me with A Time To Reflect. My son got addicted to cannabis and his story is partly woven into Every Family Has One. Holiday is based on a family trip we did. Every Mother’s Fear and Every Father’s Fear were inspired by my thalidomide employer and the information for the novels gathered by my attendance at thalidomide events and meeting thalidomides. I wanted their story to be out there. 

Sherri: As a multi-published author, what do you feel you have learned on your publishing journey? Are you traditionally published or an indie author, or are you a hybrid of both? What would you tell a new author as they prepare to publish their first book?

Joanna: I am self-published. My advice is not to be impulsive. Hold fire before publishing. Make sure it’s well edited. Make sure it is a great story. Don’t publish for the sake of it. There are far too many rubbish books out there already. Go on courses, talk to other authors, read David Gaughran’s books and other books about writing and publishing. 

Sherri: Joanna, it has been great to have you here at my Creekside Café. I wish we could meet in person. I wish you good fortune with your books and in life. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.

Here is the link to Don’t Blame Me:

Joanna Warrington Funeral Celebrant & Author

author website:

I am on Twitter as All Things D:

I am on Facebook as Joanna Warrington Contemporary Women’s Fiction Writer:

My page is:

Posted in event, inspiration, Thoughts, writing inspiration, Writing tips

Combating Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block

I hosted a Writer’s Block Meet Up on RWA’s virtual conference. It was a great, small meet up group that allowed us to discuss different subjects. Although the main focus was writer’s block, the discussion made me realize that there are a lot of things that can cause writer’s block.

How has Covid effected your writing? Are you in quarantine writing more or are you like me, working and feeling exhausted? My writing has suffered during the virus. I’m considered an essential worker. I manage a liquor store. People are working from home or are staying at home. But it wasn’t just the increase in sales but the worry and concern over what this virus could do to me or to my family. Working with the public, having extra responsibilities to keep us safe, fear of bringing it home, all of this made it difficult for me to write. I finished Janie’s Secrets during Covid, it was nearly a month later than I’d planned but I did finish it. Unfortunately, that put me behind on other things I wanted to write like the novella for the Heart of Carolina and The New Romance Café. Covid has just zapped me.   

What do you think is the biggest cause of writer’s block? I rarely have trouble thinking of things to write. I have trouble finding time to write. This year has been difficult with the extra stress, work and grief. I have a large family, a home, a mother who depends on me, a husband who’d like a little attention occasionally, and then there is the marketing and promoting that also takes time.

The worst time I had with writer’s block was after we lost our home to fire followed by losing my dad the next year, then Hurricane Irene destroying my mother’s home, and she falling and breaking her hip. I had a difficult time getting back into the swing of writing. Chrome Pink took several years to get written, but writing it was what helped me out of my writer’s block. One of the first things I did to help with my own writer’s block was take online classes. I also attended a local writer’s conference. I began my own writer’s group. I pushed through the block and just started writing. I wrote less than 500 words a day at that time and not every day then. Making it a habit, as often as I can a daily habit, pushing myself to write more, competing in Book in a Week and NaNoWriMo has also helped fight through the writer’s block.

Do you have any hacks to help you combat writer’s block? Normal writer’s block, i.e. fatigue, stress, lack of time, I fight in a variety of ways.


I love to dance. Sometimes a little music and movement can shake something loose in the muse.

A walk. My town is the inspiration for my series, a walk around town puts me in touch with my muse. I often take photos which I use on social media, so my walk is a two-for, or three-for as it’s also good for me.

Playing with my grandchildren, two of my grands live next door and whenever they call for grandma, I can’t say no. I mean, who could say no to two adorable little boys?


Write something different.

Try poetry. Write a poem or song, try writing it from your character’s POV.

Write an interview with your characters. Ask them the hard questions.

Write an article, blog post, advertisement, or synopsis.

Write until you have a breakthrough.


Maybe you need to read over what you’ve written and see where you’ve gone off the rails.

Rethink, replot, or rewrite until you see your way out of your schlump.

Read a craft book to help you write better.

Read and relax.

Listen: this was suggested in our discussion this morning and I cannot believe I didn’t think of it because I do this.

Audio-dramas or books: listen to your favorite performances or authors and pay attention to how they write or put words together; or listening to craft books on writing.

YouTube videos or podcasts: there are several tutorials on the craft and business of writing. They can inspire you to write better or give you new ideas.

I’d love to hear how you combat writer’s block. Share your tricks and hacks.

Posted in Thoughts

Pain and Heartache

A Thousand Tiny Cuts

This past week has been a bit painful. Many of you know our infant grandson passed away. While I cannot know the pain his parents are going through, it has been doubly hard seeing your child suffering along with losing a beautiful new grandbaby. While grief itself will not kill us, sometimes the way we handle grief can.

As a fiction writer, I talk about pain and grief more easily than I do in real life. The filter through which I write my fiction allows me to view the world in such a way that makes the pain more bearable.

There is a torture method called a thousand tiny cuts. Many of you who watch spy movies or read criminal suspense thrillers may already be familiar with this. It was used on prisoners of war. It was designed to give maximum pain without fear of death. Think of a paper cut. A paper cut hurts, can even bleed but seldom leaves a scar and I’ve never known of one that was life threatening. If you have several paper cuts, one of them might leave a scar but it is doubtful you will die. You get the idea. Now imagine several cuts, some shallow like a paper cut, others just slightly deeper but none truly deep. If you are cut many times in the same place, after a while you build up scar tissue. Your skin thickens and in order to do damage your torturer must cut deeper, and the risk of death becomes greater.

In fiction as in real life, we deal with many little hurts. People are cruel or inconsiderate. Their words or actions cut and sting, some draw blood. Some of these hurts are done without malice, a parent fearing a child might get hurt if they try, might make them believe they cannot do something. That lack of faith cuts into their psyche and undermines their self-esteem. A sibling might tease leaving behind a scar that never goes away. Other cuts are done on purpose, a bully who cuts you down to make himself feel better or a cheating lover who blames you for their own weaknesses. Many cuts are done blindly, the person with the knife doesn’t know how much hurt their cut inflicts, some may not care.

This past week I felt as if I’d been sliced and diced. I’m still a bit raw but I’m healing. Some people choose to heap on more cuts when you are already bleeding but there are others who bring out the soothing balm and wrap your wounds.

In writing my new novel, my main character Janie butts heads with a controlling mother who has made her believe she couldn’t do anything because of her mother’s fears for her. She also suffers from a jealous sister and a well-meaning brother whose interference altered her life. After learning the truth of their involvement, she must work through her anger and betrayal to see if she can forgive them.

As Sheryl Crow sang, “The first cut is the deepest,” my character Janie revisits her first love but doesn’t trust herself enough to believe in second chances. Can the truth really set you free, and can Mike “…help me dry the tears that I’ve cried.”

Posted in backstory, Thoughts


Grief in reality versus grief in fiction.

I don’t know how to grieve. I tend to push my emotions down until they bubble over like a boiling pot. When my daddy died, I acted like a hostess during his funeral. I couldn’t keep still. I had to move around speaking to people, thanking them for coming. I couldn’t let go and deal with my sadness because I had to keep it all together for my mother and for my children.

I cried more at my best friend’s father’s service than I did my own father’s service. Her father died just a few months after my dad, and I think I felt a freedom to let go of my emotions and let out some of my grief that I didn’t feel at my dad’s funeral.

In reality there is no right or wrong way to grieve as long as you are staying healthy mentally and physically.

Like most people I know the basic levels of grief: the shock, denial, and guilt, the anger and acceptance. But I also know that for each of these aspects there are a myriad of emotions that twists and turns both character and real person with a tangle of confusion. Some of these emotions return over and over again even after a person feels they have graduated through that level of grief.  

Death is a big part of life. In one of my recent novels I killed off a favorite character. It was a difficult choice but when bullets are flying, and explosions are destroying the good are often swept up in the destruction along with the bad.

One of my first memories is the loss of my sister. I was just shy of my sixth birthday when my much-anticipated baby sister was born. She lived a month before she died. She never came home. I saw her once while still alive when my father, grandmother and I drove her from one hospital to another. (This was fifty years ago, and I can’t imagine a hospital allowing parents to transport a sick child from one hospital to another now.)

I don’t know how my parents dealt with their grief at the time. They were both in the mid-twenties, so young to deal with so much grief. Years later, when we talked about my sister’s birth and death, they both said they couldn’t go through that pain again. The fear of losing another child, kept them from attempting another pregnancy so I became an only child.

Grief shapes a person, changes them. I never got over my sister’s death. How different would I have been had I not known grief so early? Who knows? But in some ways my sister’s loss made me more sympathetic but I think it also hardened me in other ways. I learned to compartmentalize my emotions, hide them, and suppress them, because children can be cruel when they see weakness in another child.   

The next year after my sister’s death, my dad’s mother died, a couple years later his father…losing my grandmother was difficult but I didn’t know her that well. We moved back to North Carolina after my grandmother died and I was blessed to have a relationship with my granddaddy. His death was one of the most difficult to deal with because I was older, and I understood more what his loss meant.

Why am I writing an article on grief?

Early this month a dear friend gave up the good fight and passed away. She’d battled cancer and struggled to regain her strength. I didn’t know her health was failing. Her dynamic personality should have been enough to keep her going. She was a force to be reckoned with. But even as she was suffering, she was still giving. Her whole life was about giving to others. She was on the fire and rescue squad, a diver, she volunteered and supported her community in so many different ways. When I published my first book, I talked to her about my ideas for my second book and she took the time to talk to me about my ideas and shared her knowledge. When my son started diving, she loaned him her equipment until he could get his own. She lived life to the fullest. She never let fear stop her from trying something new. She was fierce and she leaves that legacy behind for all of us to emulate.

Later the same week I awoke to learn my newest grandchild had passed away. It is so hard to understand why one so young could be taken so soon. We hadn’t even had the chance to get to know him. This beautiful baby, just a little over a week old had seemed so perfect and strong. He was such a sweet little blessing but his stay with us was much too brief. Unlike my friend who had a good, long life, this child hadn’t even begun to live.

Grief changes us. The loss of a friend, the loss of a parent or spouse, a beloved grandparent, can change your life but the loss of a child…I don’t think you ever completely recover from this kind of loss. While you may learn to shove the sadness into a place you don’t explore often, it is still there, a shadow on your heart.

Reality or fiction, grief is difficult because no one grieves the same way.  

Posted in Thoughts

Being Relevant

Being Relevant
Whether it is in our writing or our daily life, when we feel we are no longer relevant we lose our voice or will to live. I recently went with a friend to the nursing home to see a mutual friend. She looked good and was glad to see us but the first thing out of her mouth was; “I want to die.” For me this was difficult to hear, having lived in fear the last year that I’d lose my aunt to colon cancer and recently bid farewell to two awesome ladies, when I hear her say this and it makes me sad and it makes me angry. My response, smart-alack that I am, was, “Not me. I’m so nosy, I don’t want to miss a thing. I’m afraid I’ll die before I do everything I want to do. I don’t even want to go to sleep for fear I might miss something. I want to stay around and see what happens next.”
“But I’ve done everything I want to do. There’s nothing left for me. I’m just tired and want to die.” She was not on life support, she can walk and talk and eat without help, I couldn’t understand. Why would she want to just give up? She’s retired, her husband dead and she has refused to let her friends and family come around. She’s lost her relevance. She’s turned her focus inside and does not allow anyone else in. It has become all about her{ her needs and her wants, she cannot be bothered with other people.
I believe we are at our most productive when we are serving, helping and being a part of others. It is then that we are truly living.

An artist’s greatest reward is when someone appreciates their work. Whether it is a painting or a book, when that work is shared with others and they respond to it, then there is relevance. I am as yet unpublished and there are times when I’m going and doing and so busy I think I meet myself in the doorway. But my greatest joy is being a cheerleader for others. I’m not a great artist, that doesn’t stop me from plugging away but my greatest talent is being the comic relief. 
I call my mom every day, she is the only parent I have left and I want her to know how important she is to me. I call her sometimes three times a day and we often run out of things to say. It might be simply: okay, I survived today, did you? But sometimes I say something outrageous, like are you going to join the senior citizens’ wet tee shirt contest? My silliness makes her laugh and for one moment I am relevant. Of course I’m her only child and I’m important to her if to no one else but calling her, worrying about her, taking time with her also shows her, her relevance to me. 
I think we all need to be needed. I saw this theory proved true this year while my mom’s sister was dealing with cancer. My mom suffers osteoarthritis and she has found that she is not able to do everything she used to do but while her sister was undergoing treatments for cancer, mom was there, cooking, cleaning and cheering her on. She had a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to put one foot in front of the other even when she did not feel like it. 
My aunt, like myself has always lived a full life, busy with friends and things to do and places to go, so even on her sick bed she was in constant demand. People called and came by and even though she was exhausted from the chemo and radiation and surgery, she really didn’t stop…oh she slowed way down but she kept going. She kept finding a reason to get up and live. 
My parents have always blamed me on their sisters. Both my parents were quiet and kept to themselves. Dad was a little more outgoing, especially if it had anything to do with sports. But neither liked crowds or a lot of noise and I was like my Aunt Martha and my Aunt Kay. I love to talk, I love people, I enjoy hearing their stories and learning something new. Life to me is meant to be experienced loudly and with great celebration. I cannot imagine closing myself off to others and not finding something I can do to be a part of the living. 
My husband’s grandmother was housebound most of the time I knew her. She was on oxygen and had a lot of trouble breathing but she was still fighting and living life right up to the end. She would call at O-dark-hundred on your birthday and in her raspy voice, she’d sing happy birthday. She’d call friends and church members and neighbors who were sick or grieving and share a word or a joke or a tear. 
As a writer, I just want to entertain. To have someone read my stories and like them but if by chance, someone reads something I wrote and says, that touched my heart. Your words meant something to me, then I am relevant. 
Whether my job is to cheer-lead from the sidelines, be comic relief or hold your hand when you cry, being a friend, wife, mother and daughter means I am relevant and I’m going to do my best to be so to the very end.