Posted in Book Review, interview, poetry, writing inspiration

Unmasking Our Truth

October is associated with Halloween, a time of wearing masks and costumes. Most of us wear many costumes throughout our lives from uniforms to conforming to societies’ expectations of acceptable fashion. But for many of us Halloween is a time of unleashing our true selves, we can for one day be honest about who we hide from the world the rest of the 364 days of the year.

I spoke with a young woman this week about her poetry book, Speak. We talked about speaking our truth and unmasking ourselves. At twenty-four this lovely young woman knows who she is and has revealed her true self to her friends and family. I was in awe of her strength and courage as at fifty-eight I still feel as if I hide behind a mask of acceptability. Would people accept the real me, do I even know who that is. When I spoke with Lashanya ‘Shan’ Dudley and she shared her poetry, I saw the beauty in the raw, honesty of her words.

While I am not a poet myself, I am in awe of those who can touch your soul with their words. Shan has the talent to reach into the darkest depths and bring the truth into the light. She takes off the mask that has imprisoned her and reveals her true beauty. She gives voice to those who have been kept silent. Her words whisper a song and shout a charge to be heard over the din of peer pressure.

Good poetry should make you feel and make you think. Talking to Shan, she said “if you feel uncomfortable when you read my poetry, you should because I felt uncomfortable when I wrote it.” After she left, I couldn’t get her poems out of my mind. I did feel uncomfortable reading the poem, but I also felt sad and angry. As I ponder her words and how she put them together, I see there was also love and hope amid the anger and pain. This may have been Shan’s first collection of poetry, but I do not think it will be her last. She has a lot to say, and her words will touch you with their truth.

Speak is a collection of truth, raw, ugly, beautiful and soul-deep.

Posted in Creekside Cafe, interview

A Memoir with a Purpose

A Creekside Cafe Author Interview with S.C. McIntyre

A Creekside Cafe

Author Interview with S. C. McIntyre

Today I am so excited to welcome Sue McIntyre to my Creekside Cafe. Sue is a member of the Pamlico Writers’ Group. She has shared pieces of her story during our critique group meetings but even with those insights I had no idea of all she experienced.

Her memoir, Outside Heaven: An Afghanistan Experience is a book everyone should read. It should be added to our school curriculum. This is a story women of all ages should be discussing. I had to keep reminding myself that Sue was a grandmother when she went to Afghanistan, she wasn’t a twenty-something fresh out of college. She was a mother, wife and she was dealing with her own mental and emotional exhaustion.

Home sweet camper, outside Heaven. The codename for the embassy.

Home sweet camper, outside Heaven. The codename for the embassy.

Welcome Sue to my virtual Cafe. Thank you for sharing your story with the world. Why did you decide to write this memoir?

Sue: My first inclination on writing my memoir was to share my work with family and friends, especially my grandchildren who had no idea why I was gone so much of the time.  But, as I began writing, I realized that I had much to share with the general public about the special events and times that brought me to Afghanistan and the existing conditions on my arrival at the very beginning of the U.S. invasion in January 2002.                                    

Sherri: Why not your whole life? Why this vignette?

Sue: I thought this experience could capture the nature of my work for those interested family and friends.  I decided to concentrate on this historical time as the primary focus of the book rather than on my entire life because of the enormity of what had happened in America with the 9/11 attacks and America’s response.  Hence, the time frame is limited to my working in Afghanistan.  I could have many other interesting and exciting experiences to share in other countries but decided to give this book’s full attention to Afghanistan. 

Sherri: Why do you think this story and others like it are important?

Sue: I believe that it is important for the general public to get as many “views” as possible on any critical international situation and how our government works in its humanitarian  response.  My views presented in the book are not political or military, but come from the perspective of a woman and a humanitarian.   

Sherri: What do you hope to accomplish with your story?

Sue: I hope my story brings the Afghan people to light in a more personal and human way.  I hope it takes the reader into some of the everyday life of these far-away people. If the book opens up the eyes and minds and hearts of Americans, or others, toward the Afghan people, I will be happy with the results.

Sherri: What do you hope readers come away with after reading Outside Heaven?

Sue: My hope is that the reader will expand their understanding of the complexity of international humanitarian work as offered by the US Government but also, and more importantly have more empathy for the Afghan people who have suffered for generations of war on their homeland.  I hope the book increases their tolerance towards all foreigners who come to America bringing their own unique lifestyles, different religions and new languages.  I hope the reader will see the beauty in new lands and cultures.  

Sherri: I was a little disappointed you didn’t send photos of the fishnet dress. For those of you who are asking questions, you’ll just have to read the book. The photos you sent are awesome and so historical. While many may never be published anywhere but here, they mark the time invested and I’m sure they bring back a lot of memories both good and bad.

How difficult was this memoir to write?

Sue: I think with any memoir there are challenging parts of the book. It is always difficult to revisit old wounds and fears but I thought it was necessary to share some of my childhood and past experiences to allow the reader to get inside my mind as I went to Afghanistan.  As can be seen from the book, I had some very difficult times personally and professionally while in Afghanistan.  Revisiting some of the horror of any of my work always brings a risk of reentering the sadness and pain of that time.  But I thought I needed to be open and honest to give the reader the full picture.  

Sherri: Did you experience any flashbacks or PTSD after your experience or while writing this memoir?

 Sue: On days when I was writing about the difficult times or sad events, I found myself wallowing in those moments.  It was hard to walk away from the computer and put them back in time especially when I saw the ongoing fear and suffering of the Afghans every day on TV.  With the events of today in Afghanistan being a prominent news story and the ending of our 20 years in that country I did a lot of reflection on what I had written and what I thought had been accomplished in our time as a country in Afghanistan.

Sherri: How did you handle the emotions, memories and reliving the drama of this time in order to retell it? Was it therapeutic to put it on paper? 

Sue: Writing about me does not come easy.  I am very private so it was hard to open up.  My editors and husband both kept telling me I had to put more of myself in the book.  Many of the emotions and memories are ones I have dealt with over the years either through group team briefings or through personal therapy.  Still, I was surprised to find it very therapeutic to write things down and to share with others.  

Sherri: I remember my first book and it was just a simple fiction. I cannot imagine how you must be feeling about your first published book?

Sue: I’m terribly excited to see my book in actual print and to be able to go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble websites and find me there.  I am also very relieved to complete the book.  It really has been 10 years in the making.  I was constantly interrupted in my writing when sent out on new assignments where my time, energy and focus was on whatever new country and crisis I was working in.  But my commitment to completing the book was firm.  So over the past two years, since my retirement, I have worked more consistently on the book.  It’s a thrill to have it finished and see it in print. 

Sherri: Will you do anything different with your next book?

What are you working on now? How different is this from your memoir?

Sue: My next book is in progress and is set in Yemen.  I am writing a fictional story about the common practice of child marriages for girls there.  I am enjoying the freedom to create a fictional story. Still, I am writing about some very disturbing events that are common in many rural and undeveloped communities.  I am also hoping this book does not take me 10 years to finish.  Since I am retired, I am writing more consistently so hopefully I can finish this book in the next year. 

Of course writing fiction opens up the possibilities of characters and events in the way a memoir does not.  Also, I am not having to consider how my words might affect others in my life.  I love the control of making people do what I want them to do and making events as public and creative as I want.  It is amazing to me as I begin this fictional book to find the characters taking on lives of their own and surprising me with choices they make.  

Check out her wonderful memoir, Outside Heaven: An Afghanistan Experience

 My book is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites and can be ordered through any book store.  I will also have some copies in our local bookstore, Pamlico Books, in Washington, NC. Please ask for it if it is not available.  It is also available as an e-book through all websites providing e-books.

Posted in Creekside Cafe, interview, promo

Welcome Back to Creekside Cafe Tiffany Christina Lewis

I’d like to welcome my fellow crime fiction author, Tiffany Christina Lewis back to Creekside Café. Y’all may remember our previous interview. Tiffany is a publisher at Rebellion LIT, she works tirelessly to support other authors. I was lucky enough to have been interviewed on Rebellion LIT. Welcome Tiffany, it’s so good to have you back.

Tiffany: Thank you for speaking with me again Sherri! I will never forget our last interview because you helped me get over my hesitation to write Romance. Shortly after our interview, I was able to write two romance plots. A short story and a novella, so I am very grateful for our chats! 

Sherri: You have a new book coming out. Is this part of your crime series?

Tiffany: No, this new book is a short story collection. Helpless is my opposition to the tropes of true crime. As much as I love true crime, women are often seen as victims in the shows and they are rarely shown as survivors. It’s just the formula the channels are using that has given them the best ratings. My book includes eight stories of women who rise above adversity, save themselves and those around them and take control of their lives. I feature Crime Fiction, Romance, Sci-Fi, Paranormal, and Adventure stories. I’m very proud of the stories I’ve offered!

Sherri: Tiffany is the author of six books and has been published in more than a dozen anthologies and magazines. I know this isn’t an easy answer, but what inspires your writing?

Tiffany: Everything inspires my writing, but I think my stories come from characters first. For instance, with my Michael Taylor series, I knew Michael first. He is based on one of my long-time celebrity crushes, and truly, the idea just came to me based on the idea of the character. The same thing happened with my new release. I knew all the women first, then their profile created the story I wanted to tell. More recently, I’ve been inspired by the books I read. I’ve been reading 3-5 books a month, depending on the length of course, but the Indie authors I read always inspire me and give me ideas by creating worlds I can get submerged in and for my imagination to chew on.

Sherri: What inspired this new book? The blurb from Janae Bunn called it a book dedicated to the craziness, determination, and spirit of grit that women possess. I’d like to know more about that.

Tiffany: The characters definitely inspired this book. It started with one story. I was waiting at a vanpool stop to pick up my boyfriend after work and it was in the Fall so it was pretty dark out. All of a sudden I had the wild thought of someone smashing my car window with a brick. lol. Crazy, I know, and I was in a completely safe environment. There were tons of people waiting with me there, but as I explored the idea more, I created the story of Rainey, which is a crime fiction story in the collection. Each story really started with the woman, her struggle, and a big moment. Some stories are gritty, some are a little crazy and all of the women are determined.

Sherri: As you know, I like kick-ass women characters. I believe that sometimes we have to be the heroes in our own stories and rescue ourselves.

Tiffany: Absolutely! I think Fiction does a great job of presenting women like that, especially now. As I say in the introduction to my book, women are not just a ball of emotions, they can fight and they can win!

Sherri: What are you planning to do next?

Tiffany: I’m actually in the process of editing Michael Taylor number four but after that, I think I’ll take a step back from my own books and really put my publisher hat on. I have a poetry book to release under Rebellion LIT and I’ve been pushing back the start of our first Anthology release. I wanted it to be coming this summer, but obviously not… I’ll need to take some time away from my books to get this done because my Rebellion “staff” consists of 3 people and I’m the only one who releases the books so it’s a lot of work. Doing the author and publisher thing at the same time is challenging and I want to give my all to the authors I’ll be serving.

Sherri: Tiffany resides in Sacramento, CA with her family and Miniature Pinscher. This has been a difficult year and a half especially for those of you who live in larger cities, how have you managed during the pandemic?

Tiffany: I have been very blessed. My job as well as my boyfriend’s offered us work alternatives, so I was able to work from home with full pay. As a preschool teacher, my duties were very limited initially but this school year things ramped up. It did give me a lot of time at home that I wouldn’t typically have. We couldn’t go anywhere, I eliminated my commute, so I was able to write and fully plan this book release. It’s really been excellent for my writing career but not as good for my classroom. I am concerned about how my students will do in Kindergarten and I hope our state has a plan for these children who have had so little socialization.

Sherri: While I’m sure everyone will agree there’s been a lot of awful following on the tails of Covid-19, there have also been some wonderful innovations, ideas, friendships, and blessings. Do you have a special something to lift our readers?

Tiffany: I have definitely had a chance to connect with a lot more authors, interact more, share ideas and grow as an author during this time, believe it or not! Being on social media more, which I think we all have been, has actually been good for me. It has been the only way I could meet like-minded people during this time. Zoom has even played a role in my social life, outside of work! I also think the deeper connections I made with family have been a mirrored experience of others. Just checking in with family more and wishing more people well has made me feel joyful.

Sherri: I know you like to help other writers, what advice would you give a new writer? What would you say to one publishing their first book? What advice do you wish you’d had before becoming a published author?

Tiffany: I actually had a TON of advice before publishing. My mentor was a five-time published author who then became my publisher and she told me what I tell people all the time now, the number one advice I would give a new writer is to write another book! I would follow that up with please get a professional editor and an amazing book cover. Releasing your best work and putting a great face on it is step one, but if you don’t have another book coming soon, it can be hard to keep the momentum of your career. Especially depending on the genre of the book. The literary industry is so complicated, but on a lower level, writing another book means you are writing and writing is the best way to get better at writing.

Sherri: Like the strong women you write about, you embody the spirit of your heroines. Tell us again how we can find your books and remind us of your latest.

Tiffany: My latest release is Helpless: A Short Story Collection, with 8 stories of women kicking butt and taking names! To see all my titles you can check my website here, Find my Amazon Book Store here:

Book Blurb: 

Content and Trigger Warnings for this title and all titles by Tiffany Christina Lewis are available at

“Finally, a book dedicated to the craziness, determination, and spirit of grit that women possess.” — Janae Bunn

Women are powerful and can be rational thinkers under pressure. They can also be devious and vengeful. A woman is not just a ball of emotion. Women can fight, they can protect, and they can win.

These eight stories of women kicking ass, standing tall, and refusing to be victims are Tiffany’s opposition to the tropes of true crime. With stories from five genres including Paranormal, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Romance, and Crime Fiction, you are sure to find a story you love.

“Tiffany Christina Lewis branches out with new stories that will have you at the edge of your seat and wanting more! Her writing now explores the realms of paranormal, science fiction, and romance with short stories that will entrance her readers.” — Joseph S. Samaniego author of the Legends of the Carolyngian Age series

Here is a link to the book as well:

Sherri: Thank you for stopping by my virtual café, it was so good to have you back. I wish you much success on your latest book and hope we can get together again soon.

Thank you so much, Sherri! I appreciate your time. I included book links for Helpless below. Autographed: Bookstores: Amazon: Goodreads:

Tiffany Christina Lewis
Novelist of Crime Fiction


Posted in contest, my books

Giveaway #theleewardfiles

My sister-in-law’s favorite book of mine is White Gold. Perhaps it is because I dedicated the book to her or because many of the readers who know her thought it was written about her. For those of you who do not know my sister-in-law, she is the person you call if you want something done. She has had her own business and worked as many as five jobs at one time and still is willing to volunteer for church, community or charities she believed in, as well as help family and friends. She embodies the character of Dana Windley, the heroine of White Gold.

Dana Windley has just opened her dating club, Cupid’s Zone, a combination computer and face-to-face dating club. She is in charge of the festival fundraiser beauty pageant. When two of her contestants go missing, she discovers they are being prostituted and she is determined to rescue them. With the help of North Carolina SBI agent Jake Monroe and her friends, they uncover a sex trafficking ring operating in their small town. Can they save the girls before they are sold to the highest bidder?

In honor of my sister-in-law I’m doing a special giveaway to celebrate her birthday. To receive a signed copy of White Gold, a hand-crocheted scarf donated by my aunt and tiara, post a photo, meme or GIF and use the hashtag The Leeward Files (#theleewardfiles) on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If you post a photo of a strong woman who inspires you, I’ll add your name in twice. Let’s flood social media with strong, wonderful women!

The drawing takes place December 7th. Good luck and thank you for helping get the word out about my series.

Posted in audio books, Book Review

The Latest Veronica Speedwell Story

A Murderous Relation by Deanna Raybourn Narrated by Angele Masters

It is no secret that I am addicted to audiobooks and one of my favorites has been the Veronica Speedwell series. Narrator Angele Masters brings this character brilliantly to life.

While I was late in discovering the author, Deanna Raybourn, coming up her only after she started the Veronica Speedwell series, I have become a die-hard fan. If you haven’t read or listened to this series you need to start at the beginning, believe me, these books are worth your time. The Veronica Speedwell series begins with A Curious Beginning. Veronica is a modern woman in Victorian England. She has had to rely on her own wits to survive. She is a butterfly hunter, scientist and scholar. She writes papers using only her initials because the era is not welcoming to women with thoughts in their heads, even with a woman monarch.

From the first book in this series to this fifth book, A Murderous Relation, Deanna Raybourn has given us a little more insight into the main characters Veronica and her colleague Stoker, and those closest to them. While each story stands alone the relationship and the growth of the characters from book one to five is an important progression.

Veronica is a woman of honor, strength and conviction. While she may not be conventional, she is of her era, but she is also the embodiment of the women who changed the world. Like women from all eras in history, Veronica pushes against the constraints polite society has put up her, she strives to be greater than her stature and she is determined to do whatever has to be done to see the job completed.

In A Murderous Relation, Veronica is once more to be used as a pawn against the monarchy. She and Stoker find themselves protecting the prince against those who would start a royal scandal. Is it just about an expensive gift to a courtesan or will they try to accuse him of being the notorious Jack the Ripper? Will Veronica and Stoker live to explore the romantic relationship that’s been simmering for way too long or will their relationship be used to destroy England?  

Posted in Book Review

Shelter in Place

By Nora Roberts

This was a hard book to start. Nora Roberts writes her characters so well that I felt as if I were the fifteen-year-old girl hiding in the bathroom while her friends were shot down in the mall theater. Simone Knox kept her head and dialed 9-1-1, her early response saved lives.

Reed Quartermain was home from college working at the mall and hoping to get a date with the girl at the sunglasses kiosk when all hell breaks loose. Two guys come into the mall and start shooting people. He rescues a kid and hides out in the same kiosk with the girl’s blood pooling at his feet.

A young female police officer is one of the first responders. She takes down JJ Hobart in the theatre. Her quick response and caring changes lives. It makes a huge impact on the college kid, Reed, who because of that night, because of Essie, he decides to join the police force.

Simone doesn’t know how to live. She just wants to forget. Mi-Hi Jung wants her life to mean something, both mourn the loss of their friend, Tish. It is her one constant, her grandmother CiCi, who sees what she really needs and helps her to find it once she is ready to start living her own life.

Cici, a renowned artist, gives Simone the tools to find her own path. Even as she battles her parents and sister, their relationship strained at best, Simone begins to find herself.

As one thing leads to another, Reed makes detective and becomes partnered with his mentor and friend. He is constantly seeking information about that night. He’s always felt there was something missing.

Things heat up when he realizes the three boys were not the masterminds behind the mall shooting, and someone is finishing off the survivors from that night.

Roberts ratchets up the tension as more people start dying and Reed tries to build his case. When he becomes a target, he knows those he cares about could be hurt as well.

As the newly hired chief of police of Tranquility Island, he hopes to stand his ground. When lives are on the line, a simple mistake could be a costly one.

Will they catch a psychopath before other innocents die or will Reed be too late?

A fantastic story that kept me on the edge of my seat.

Posted in audio books, Book Review

What Doesn’t Kill Her by Christina Dodd

What Doesn’t Kill Her by Christina Dodd Narrated by Vanessa Johansson

When your whole life is built on a lie and you are living a constant nightmare it is difficult to trust anyone, even the man you love. For Kellen Adams, the person she trusts the least is herself. A year-long memory gap, a nightmare and a seven-year-old daughter she never knew threaten to undermine the fragile foundation she has built after running off to join the military.

Someone wants her dead and is willing to go to great lengths to see that it happens, but Kellen Adams isn’t easy to kill. But she has a vulnerability. Though she has tried to avoid getting close to her daughter, when the little girl shows up on a job, she discovers quickly how easy it would be for someone to get to her through the child. After surviving the job, she starts planning a wedding and if she survives, she might live to see her happy ever after.

This is an awesome story, I want to go back and read the rest of the series.

Vanessa Johansson is a fantastic narrator adding her own dramatic reading to an already wonderful story. Being a fan of audiobooks, it is truly important to find the right narrator for your story, Vanessa gives Kellen the voice that rings true to character.  

Posted in Book Review

Family Ties

Family Ties: Book 2: Conall Clan

Do not mess with the Conall Clan, you will regret it, if you live long enough. This werewolf/shifter romantic suspense is full of family dynamics, drama and romance. It brings the past and present together with strong characters and intense emotions. This is an edge of your seat suspense thriller that will leave you sitting up to two in the morning to finish it.

Even if you don’t like shifters, I bet this one will change your mind. A great story with fantastic characters.

You don’t have to read the first in the series to enjoy this book but you should because it is just as good. Don’t Look Back

For more about the author, Donna Steele, check out our Creekside Cafe chat.

Posted in Book Review, inspiration, my books, Thoughts, writing inspiration

Seven Favorite Books

I recently played a game on Instagram showing pictures of my favorite books for a week. Only one book per day, how could I limit my favorite books to only seven? I choose books that held a memory, a turning point or something that touched my life. I could only use pictures, no words to tell you how these books affected me. As a writer, I felt compelled to share why I chose these seven books. I could list so many books that have changed my life, given me hope or perspective, or simply opened my eyes. Perhaps I’ll do another article and tell you about more books and what they have meant to me.

Day one: Sabrina Jeffries’ “The Truth about Lord Stoneville.”6545791e-f532-4a3c-8c1a-b5b18efa2ec3-40633-00000a0270c53c39

I have been a fan of Sabrina Jeffries for many years but in truth, the love I have for this book is more about my husband, than about Ms. Jeffries. This is the book David bought for me after our house burned down. Now, many of you will question, why a book when we needed underwear and socks and so much more. I am a book-aholic. Books are the escape that helps me deal with the realities of life. Reading relaxes me and renews my spirit. I needed a book like a drunkard needs a drink.

I’d had tubs of books in our old house, many of which can never be replaced. David understood my need for a book and he took care of that need.  He took me, weary and half-crazed, to Books-a-Million and told me I could have any book I wanted. The display of Sabrina Jeffries’ newest book caught my eye. I’d read her School for Heiresses series and they always made me smile. I needed that levity in my life right then.

Disappearing into a book for a few minutes each day allowed me to regain my composure and prepared me to take on the next phase of our life. The pages of “The Truth about Lord Stoneville” entertained me and allowed me to travel to a time where someone else’s woes were more important than anything happening in real life, for a brief respite anyway. I loved this series, The Hellions of Halstead Hall, and appreciate all the hours of reprieve I was able to enjoy thanks to the talents of Ms. Sabrina Jeffries.


Day two: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith


I read this book as a young teen and discovered the strength of women. I was still under the illusion that my mother wasn’t very strong and wanted to rebel against her gentleness and humility. This book gave me a better understanding of women, my mother and even myself. I saw through Francie’s eyes the hardships women often go through and the things they will do or put up with in order to secure a better future for their children.

There are many correlations between Francie’s life and my own, though thankfully my dad wasn’t a drunkard, nor a singing waiter. My dad was an electrician who owned his own business and later began working construction. Anyone who has dealt with construction knows it is an insecure lifestyle. Dad once told me, when he still had his own business that, either everybody wanted you or nobody did. I also saw my parents, especially my mother work hard on a job then come home and work some more. I didn’t appreciate all they did to make a life for me until I too began making a home for my own family.

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” also opened my eyes to a different place, a different time and the sameness of life. It is the book that made me look at people and wonder at their stories. How was their life different from mine, how was it the same? There are still parts of this story that come to mind forty years later. It is a classic, for it still has wisdom to impart.

Day three: “Shanna” by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss


I chose this book because it was the first historical romance I’d ever read. It began my love for the genre and it was the first book I ever read that I was able to discuss with friends.

My friend’s step-mom, Jean, had just finished the book and I saw it. It looked interesting and I asked to read it. I devoured the book. I stayed up late at night with my lamp under the covers reading this book. My firefighter friends are freaking out about the lamp under the covers. I melted the back of the lamp. It was never the same afterwards, but then, neither was I.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the “bodice rippers” of the seventies and eighties. How romance gave us unreal expectations for life. The truth is, these books showed us what brave women might go through to gain their freedom. That a woman in history must learn to fight for what she wants and be willing to go against societies’ expectations. One of my favorite slogans is: “Women who behave, rarely make history.” I believe that is also true of historical fiction, but it is definitely true of change.

Gloria Steinem and the women’s movement were not the first women to fight conformity. All through history women have sought their independence, their right to an education, to own property, to become doctors, scientists, etc. Romance novels encourage women to be who they are. It’s okay to be a wife and mother and take care of the home, but it is also fine to do something different. Here, amid the pages of these books, we learn to believe there are other options. Romance novels are a feminist movement.

Day four: Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place”


This book may surprise some of you who have read my novel “Chrome Pink.” Believe it or not, I attended three years of Christian private school and went to a Free Will Baptist college. These were both good and bad experiences. Attending a Christian school opened my eyes to religion in many ways. Unfortunately, it also created more questions and obstacles to my own faith.

Still, I consider myself a Christian, though I know I don’t always live up to that title. Thankfully, it is by grace and not my works that I am saved. Like all religions, it is about belief, faith and seeking understanding.

“The Hiding Place,” takes place during world war two. It is about the war and its atrocities, but it is mostly about a woman’s faith, strength and courage. Corrie Ten Boom and her family were Dutch. They rescued many Jews, believing it was their duty as Christians. They risked their own lives and their freedom to help others.

To do the right thing often comes with a high price tag. To risk it all for people who didn’t even believe the same as they did is mindboggling. The Ten Boom family were caught and incarcerated, most of the family died in prison. Corrie tells of the life before the concentration camps and after they were imprisoned. It is a moving story of love for her family, especially her sister, and a story that will inspire you no matter your religion. As a Christian, it was a measuring stick of faith, as a woman, it was a measure of courage.



Day five: “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett


My class read this book when I was in the third grade (just a few years ago). My teacher, Ms. Krigger had us do a craft project about the story. This was my first solo craft project and my first to explain a story. Crafting, reading and writing have been my loves ever since.

I’d always loved to have mama read me a story or listen when stories were read in class. I was finally developing the ability to read and understand big chapter books on my own and the world was opening up to me. Having a teacher that encouraged us to experience books in different ways: book reports, craft projects, discussion, etc. made reading even more fun. It is a love that has lasted a lifetime.

Day six: Jayne Ann Krentz’ “Eclipse Bay”


I’m not positive “Eclipse Bay” is the first book I read by Jayne Ann Krentz. I started reading Amanda Quick’s historical romances and loved them. I’d read through everything the library could get for me and wanted more. My friend, Robina suggest I read Jayne Ann Krentz, but she wrote contemporary romances. I didn’t read contemporary romances. The only books I wanted to read were historicals or histories. Then Robina told me Jayne was Amanda and urged me to give it a try. From there I was hooked. I also read her futuristic science fiction romance novels penned under Jayne Castle.

Not only did this open up my reading to more genres but it also opened my writing to more. I’d been trying to write a great historical romance, doing years of research and writing and then hiding it all under the bed, except for the one that disappeared inside the computer to never been seen again. This was before the cloud and before I’d learned to back everything up on disc and later thumb drives. It was because of Jayne Ann Krentz that I started trying to write contemporary romance, she is also the one who influenced my suspense/thriller side.

Day seven: “The Blue Virgin” by M K Graff


I debated adding “The Blue Virgin” to the list. There are so many books to name but the truth is, without “The Blue Virgin” there would be no “Chrome Pink.”

I have said it a few times, how Marni Graff is my mentor and without her I would not be published. I met Marni shortly before she published “The Blue Virgin.” She had started a group called “The Writers’ Read.” We met in a bakery on Main Street in Washington until the bakery closed. Marni, then moved the group to Belhaven. I and a group of friends started traveling to Belhaven every couple of months because we loved the format Marni used to help writers. Her critiquing and discussions allowed us to learn in a free flow of information and questions. Her encouragement, passion for writing and her willingness to proof read and critique were invaluable but the greatest gift she gave me, was her belief in me and my talent. She even pitched my story to an agent she met at a conference.

Marni, my librarian little sister Robina, my big sis Denise, my sons, my husband and our parents, friends and neighbors have all pushed, encouraged, listened and celebrated my first book. Each of them has had a part in seeing my dream come true. Each of these books I have chosen has been an influence on me as a person and as a writer. There are more books, more authors, more stories but that is for another today. I hope when you read a book, you will find solace, excitement, enlightenment and perhaps a little inspiration. If some day, that book is one I wrote, then I will have fulfilled a dream. Happy reading!