March 31, 2023

The Donkey Principle!


Rachel Anne Ridge

You have what it takes to live well. It’s all about embracing your inner donkey!

Some of us feel like donkeys in a world that celebrates racehorses—the shiny and flashy success stories that make us question our own worth and abilities. But life isn’t about competing for gold medals. It’s about discovering our mettle—understanding our unique strengths and using them to mine all the gold that’s already within us.

A delightful blend of short reflections and original illustrations, Rachel Ridge’s The Donkey Principle (coming April 4 2023) has a central, timely message: Embracing your inner donkey is the key to overcoming obstacles, creating lasting change, and achieving meaningful success.

Each chapter of The Donkey Principle includes

  • beautiful, original block-print art
  • memorable stories and practical wisdom that will inspire you to gain new perspective and take action that will unlock your future
  • ideas to help you discover your own strength and perseverance
  • inspiration for moving forward with your personal definition of success

If you’re looking for an inspiring read, this charming book is for you! Let Rachel provide the motivation you need to keep going through difficult situations, especially if you need a “gentle kick” in the right direction to find the path and work that suits you best.




Rachel Ridge

Rachel Anne Ridge is an author, professional artist, and motivational speaker. Her books Flash: The Homeless Donkey Who Taught Me about Life, Faith, and Second Chances and Walking with Henry have delighted readers with their entertaining tales and poignant lessons. A certified life coach, Rachel works with individuals and organizations to discover their creative gold through hands-on workshops, retreats, and coaching. Rachel is a mom to three adult children, and Nana to five grandchildren.

Learn more at

March 30, 2023

A Female Spy With One Leg

Sonia Purnell
is the highly acclaimed biographer, journalist and public speaker who wrote the New York Times bestselling book 'A Woman of No Importance' about the heroic American one-legged spy Virginia Hall was released in 2020. The tale of extraordinary derring-do has been acclaimed as 'one of the most breathtaking stories yet told of female courage behind enemy lines'.

If you did not get a chance to read the book, I bring it to your attention now. It is well worth reading. Her book is one of USA Today's Five Must Reads and has been hailed as 'gripping' by NPR and 'a very smooth read about a rocky life' and as 'brilliant' by the Irish Times while The Economist said: 'As tales of wartime derring-do go, it would be hard to beat'. 'It's a joy to read,' said Booklist, ' and will swell readers' hearts with pride.' Sonia's book has also been hailed as one of the best Books of the Year in The Times of London. Details of forthcoming lectures in the US will appear shortly on her website

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

Based on new and extensive research, Sonia Purnell has for the first time uncovered the full secret life of Virginia Hall--an astounding and inspiring story of heroism, spycraft, resistance, and personal triumph over shocking adversity. A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman's fierce persistence helped win the war.

“Excellent…This book is as riveting as any thriller, and as hard to put down.” -- The New York Times Book Review
"A compelling biography of a masterful spy, and a reminder of what can be done with a few brave people -- and a little resistance." - NPR
"A meticiulous history that reads like a thriller." - Ben Macintyre
A never-before-told story of Virginia Hall, the American spy who changed the course of World War II, from the author of Clementine.

A descript . . .In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: "She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her."

The target in their sights was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the spy organization dubbed Winston Churchill's "Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare." She became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines and--despite her prosthetic leg--helped to light the flame of the French Resistance, revolutionizing secret warfare as we know it.

Virginia established vast spy networks throughout France, called weapons and explosives down from the skies, and became a linchpin for the Resistance. Even as her face covered wanted posters and a bounty was placed on her head, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. She finally escaped through a death-defying hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown. But she plunged back in, adamant that she had more lives to save, and led a victorious guerilla campaign, liberating swathes of France from the Nazis after D-Day.

March 29, 2023

The Easter Bunny's New Buggy

Stephen Cooks "the Easter Bunny's New Buggy"

"The Easter Bunny's New Buggy" is a fun and exciting Easter book that follows the Easter Bunny as he delivers Easter treats in a variety of new and creative ways.

The Easter Bunny is getting a brand new buggy and that is when the fun starts. From riding a motorcycle and using a jet pack, to driving a monster truck and deploying drones and robots, the Easter Bunny is determined to make this year's Easter deliveries the best yet. With vibrant illustrations and a playful storyline, "The Easter Bunny's New Buggy" is sure to delight children and adults alike as they join the Easter Bunny on his adventurous journey.

Stephen Cook is an award-winning children's book author, known for his imaginative and captivating stories that inspire young minds. With a passion for creating worlds and characters that children can relate to, Stephen has published numerous acclaimed books that have won the hearts of both kids and parents alike.

Stephen's stories are known for their warmth, humor, and relatability, and he has a particular talent for crafting characters that children can see themselves in. His books cover a wide range of themes, from friendship and family to adventure and self-discovery, and he has a unique ability to weave important life lessons into his stories without ever losing sight of the fun and excitement that make children's literature so special.

March 28, 2023

Spring is Here and Life Changes!


"Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed... Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders." — Henry David Thoreau

March 27, 2023

Vacations Are Wonderful!


Last week we took a vacation visiting family. One of the highlights of life is visiting with your family. Getting away from the everyday and stepping into different sceneries and meeting up with family and friends.
Upon rising the first morning in our vacation spot and going outside there is a wonderful walking trail with a pond in the center and a fountain in the middle of the pond. It is an invitation from mother nature to come and join her and breathe in the morning air exhailing all the stress that arrived with you. 

You immediately can see all the daffodil stems surrounding the trees. What a shame the cold air took out most of the beautiful blooms. But fortunately mother nature was able to spare a few of the blooms for us to behold. We could imagine how breath taking the scene must have been with white and yellow daffodils around the trees.

I am not sure who was having more fun, the birds singing, the squirrels running and jumping around or the rabbits.

The peace and calmness filled the air. As you can see, there is a cross on this knoll and as you stand and gaze you are reminded what time of year it is. Soon we will be celebrating a joyous Easter season. My thoughts traveled back to a time as children on Easter we hunted Easter eggs. And for just a moment I remembered the time we colored the eggs and the next day, they hid the eggs and then turned us loose to search for them.

As much fun as we had, I am most grateful for the teaching about Christ being Risen!

I wish for you and your family a time of togetherness and a time of celebrating our Lord.

As you continue walking along the trail, which by the way is paved, you get to spend your time in the wonderment of all God created and the many different shades of green as the trees are beginning to bud and merge in with the trees that remain green during our winters. It is during this time that you get to know more about your creator and the details that He puts into everything He creates,

Of course this time of year, pollen is settling on top of the pond and I don't imagine anyone enjoys pollen. But, the powdery substance called pollen is released into the air, the wind picks it up and carries to other plants so they can make seeds. I try to remember as I sneeze , pollen is important. So if it gets to bad, we can put our mask on.

The first stone arch you see is created with different color blocks. If you look right behind it, you see a different design out of steel. I think this is one of the many treats along the path coming upon the different designs and materials used which are used to fit in with nature and delight you in your walk. You can't help but stop and study each structure. There is a peaceful feeling as you look at the intricate details.

If you look close, you will see the rabbit. I don't know who was more startled, me or the rabbit. But he seems to stay put, evidently not to disturbed and eventually you can continue your walk. I think rabbits are a funny creature but it is fun to watch them.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the pictures. The trail is, as I said, peaceful and calm. A great way to regroup your thoughts and relax from the stress and tensions in life.

I realize these are a tad different pictures than people usually show from their vacation. But this vacation, as I said, was to visit family and re-acquaint ourselves with them and nature.

May you and your family as you prepare for Easter find time to enjoy your family and friends and relax from the toils in your life.

Susan Reichert, author of Conquering Fears With Christ, Listen Close, Between Me and You, God’s Prayer Power, and Storms in Life. Published numerous magazine articles and stories in 10 anthology books. Speaker at writing conferences, seminars, and libraries.

She is the founder of Southern Author Services, and Editor of Suite T. She is the retired Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine. Reichert has a passion for writing about God in devotionals, prayers, and inspirational works.

She and her husband live in Tennessee. They have four grown daughters with families of their own. Susan is a member of the DAR and a member of the First Families of Mississippi.

Did you know fear is the enemy's weapon?

Are you tired of dealing with fear? If you are, I have great news for you. You do not have to live a fearful life anymore. Learn how to put the enemy on the run.

In this book you will find help to conquer fears. Remember Christ defeated the enemy. He left us instructions. He said, “Do not fear.” He does not want us living in fear. He wants us to live the life God gave us. We cannot let the enemy steal our peace and joy that belongs to us through Christ.

We can choose to walk with boldness and courage on our journey. Christ is with us.

March 17, 2023

Most Anticipated Book of 2023 by Good Housekeeping


“[Smith]...reminds you that you can...survive deep loss, sink into life’s deep beauty, and constantly, constantly make yourself new.” —Glennon Doyle, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2023 by Good Housekeeping, Goodreads, Zibby Mag, Newsweek, BookPage, and LitHub

The bestselling poet and author of the “powerful” (People) and “luminous” (Newsweek) Keep Moving offers a lush and heartrending memoir exploring coming of age in your middle age.

You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir

“Life, like a poem, is a series of choices.”

In her memoir You Could Make This Place Beautiful, poet Maggie Smith explores the disintegration of her marriage and her renewed commitment to herself in lyrical vignettes that shine, hard and clear as jewels. The book begins with one woman’s personal, particular heartbreak, but its circles widen into a reckoning with contemporary womanhood, traditional gender roles, and the power dynamics that persist even in many progressive homes. With the spirit of self-inquiry and empathy she’s known for, Smith interweaves snapshots of a life with meditations on secrets, anger, forgiveness, and narrative itself. The power of these pieces is cumulative: page after page, they build into a larger interrogation of family, work, and patriarchy.

You Could Make This Place Beautiful, like the work of Deborah Levy, Rachel Cusk, and Gina Frangello, is an unflinching look at what it means to live and write our own lives. It is a story about a mother’s fierce and constant love for her children, and a woman’s love and regard for herself. Above all, this memoir is an argument for possibility. With a poet’s attention to language and an innovative approach to the genre, Smith reveals how, in the aftermath of loss, we can discover our power and make something new. Something beautiful.

Maggie Smith is the author of several books, including Good Bones (Tupelo Press, 2017) and the national bestsellers Goldenrod (One Signal/Simon&Schuster, July 2021) and Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change (One Signal/Simon & Schuster, 2020).Her debut picture book for children, My Thoughts Have Wings, illustrated by Leanne Hatch, is forthcoming from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins in 2024.

Smith's poems and essays have appeared in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Poetry, The Nation, The Best American Poetry, The Paris Review, AGNI, Ploughshares, Image, the Washington Post, Virginia Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review, The Southern Review, and many other journals and anthologies. In 2016 her poem "Good Bones" went viral internationally; since then it has been translated into nearly a dozen languages and featured on the CBS primetime drama Madam Secretary. Smith has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. 

She can be found online at and on social media @MaggieSmithPoet.

March 15, 2023

Book 7 In Stella Knox FBI Mystery Series

Mary Stone lives among the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains of East Tennessee with her two dogs, four cats, a couple of energetic boys, and a very patient husband.

As a young girl, she would go to bed every night, wondering what type of creature might be lurking underneath. It wasn’t until she was older that she learned that the creatures she needed to most fear were human.

Today, she creates vivid stories with courageous, strong heroines and dastardly villains. She invites you to enter her world of serial killers, FBI agents but never damsels in distress. Her female characters can handle themselves, going toe-to-toe with any male character, protagonist or antagonist.

Get Your Free Book Here:

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Be sure and get her first three books in this series:

Stella Knox FBI Mystery Series Book 7

In a psychopath’s performance, revenge is the encore.
Moments after FBI Special Agent Stella Knox briefs the Nashville Violent Crime Unit on her father’s murder, the teams’ supportive camaraderie is replaced with horror when a stranger calls to tell Agent Martin Lin he’ll never see his sister again.

A trip to Martin’s apartment confirms the situation is real. Jane, who was visiting her brother, has disappeared without a trace.

As Stella and the rest of the team try to connect the dots between video footage showing Jane leaving a local liquor store before vanishing, their only clue is a bloody piano tuner. On the heels of their last murder case involving The Pianist, it seems like a bizarre coincidence.

But when Jane’s body is found decapitated, accompanied by a grisly message for the FBI, it’s clear this crime is personal. There’s just one questio

Who's next?

Suddenly hurled into every FBI agent’s worst nightmare, the entire team is soon embroiled in a deadly game of cat and mouse, where one misstep could mean the difference between life and death for the one they love.

Terrifying and adrenaline-charged, Killer Encore is the seventh book in the Stella Knox Series by bestselling author Mary Stone and Stacy O’Hare. Hang on tight, or you’ll get thrown down a rabbit hole you never saw coming.

March 13, 2023

Fictional Characters Making a Difference


Dale Griffin

When I first saw The Last Lion of Karkov described as a feminist story, it took me by surprise, perhaps with a case of imposter syndrome. I did not feel qualified to be that voice nor was it my intention. My anxiety was triggered, fully expecting criticism for attempting to write the female perspective of struggling against a patriarchal regime when similar principals have no doubt benefited me in real life. Then, just like countless other times, I had to remind myself of something I decided a couple of years before: It’s not about me. This is for Jillian and Natalia.

The paradigm shift occurred after a period of time when I tried to abandon my project. I had written a manuscript that had potential, largely due to its awesome protagonists. As it was written, however, it was not polished enough to land the type of book deal that I had no business expecting. Financially, or for any other reason pertaining to me, it made no sense to continue. During the season I spent away from the manuscript, Jillian and Natalia stayed with me. It certainly wasn’t difficult to be reminded of them since my wife inspired many of Natalia’s qualities (only the favorable ones). My free thoughts—the times when I tend to think creatively—remained dedicated to imagining events of their childhood, not yet on the page, that would further define who they are. They made me more aware of life beyond my normal path. They impacted my decisions, inspiring me to take more chances. They had become—and always will be—part of my life. In many ways they are like my children, and as a parent, you give your children life. That’s what I felt I had to do.

It is interesting for me to look back at how I developed the characters of these two young women and wonder if I might have subconsciously passed on traits that I would have wanted my daughters to possess. Not having the opportunity to raise a daughter is the most bitter regret of my life, and I’m sure that raising her to be fiercely independent would have been my purpose. Perhaps I unknowingly had this objective as the author of these protagonists. Jillian is wholeheartedly independent from the get-go. She does everything to an extreme, and her independence from the male species is no exception as seen by her self-condemnation when she begins to have feelings for a young warrior—not to mention the whole taking down of a patriarchy. Natalia, on the other hand, spends her youth dreaming of attaching herself to a prince. Jillian became my instrument for expressing displeasure of Natalia’s early character. An example occurred when Jillian told her, “Think more highly of yourself; you are not just someone who’ll look pretty walking around on a king’s arm. You need to learn what you can be.”

Jillian’s persistent influence pays off when Natalia is finally betrothed to a prince. Shortly after their meeting, Natalia exuberantly expresses her desire to be educated among many other aspects of her new life that she was looking forward to. After being continually dismissed by her fiancé, it is obvious that Natalia will not allow herself to be forced into a submissive role without the freedom to be the kind of woman she wants to be.

As readers discover Jillian and Natalia, I hope they feel similarly about these characters as I do. They are what’s special about this book, and I have tried to keep everything centered on them. 

Even when it comes to the proceeds, my portion of the royalties will become Jillian’s and Natalia’s funds to support girls in becoming strong, smart, and bold women. This is the mission of Girls Inc., an organization perfectly suited to be championed by Jillian and Natalia. Contributing to Girls Inc. was obvious. Every detail I learned stood out to me as something my characters would be passionate about. Help girls discover and develop her inherent strengths—Yes! Help them grow up healthy, educated, and independent—Yes! Advocate for all girls—Yes! This is what Jillian and Natalia would want, and I hope they make a difference in girls’ lives.

DALE GRIFFIN is a historical fantasy writer releasing his debut novel "The Last Lion of Karkov" in March 2023. Griffin considers himself a traveler and a writer as a result. Married to his best friend and travel partner, the two explore Europe as frequently as possible. Inspired by those journeys, Griffin uses his experiences to influence his imagined worlds and the memorable characters who dwell in them.

March 9, 2023

Writing Inspiring Historical Fiction ~ What Do Women Readers Want?

Patricia Bernstein
Today’s writers of historical fiction instinctively know that women readers are looking for strong characters. These “sheros” that readers are seeking may not be physically strong, but they have strong personalities (whether they openly display their true feelings or mask them). Sheros have chutzpah. They don’t back down from a challenge. These characters may experience fear or even terror, but they don’t run away.

Women have displayed this grit throughout history, even when their sphere of influence is severely limited, and little is expected of them. Just think of how different our expectations are when we go to the opera. Most of the great operas were created during the 19th century and up through the early 20th century. The great heroines of these epic romances usually end up dying of some dread but picturesque disease, like Mimi in La Boheme or Violetta in La Traviata. Or they commit suicide out of utter despair like poor Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly. Or they are murdered like Gilda in Rigoletto or Nedda in Pagliacci. Even the staunch Aida ends up sealed in a vault to die with her lover Radames.

            We wouldn’t tolerate this nonsense for a minute in our historical fiction! We’re not interested in a heroine who, confronted with life’s many problems, melts away, dies, succumbs to depression or allows herself to be done in by some man. If she must deal with a monumental villain, we expect her to find a way to evade or outwit him, not pass out on a fainting couch.

            We also expect her, as much as is humanly possible, not to simply rely on a man to show up in a timely fashion and get her out of whatever pickle she is in. No more Perils of Pauline for us, where the cowboy arrives just in time to untie Pauline from the railroad tracks before she is obliterated by a train.

I have a vivid childhood memory of the old Flash Gordon serial in which the blonde, whom Flash loves, always stands in a corner and screams when she is threatened. The brunette, on the other hand, daughter of the series’ villain, is the smart one who helps Flash escape over and over. But, of course, she’s not the one he wants. That helpless, fragile blonde wouldn’t last for a single chapter in one of today’s novels. The real heroine would either push her out of the way or teach her how to exhibit some spine.

            One of my favorites in the pantheon of strong heroines in historical fiction is Dr. Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, heroine of the series of novels that begins with Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (pen name for Diana Norman). Sent from Salerno to England in 1170 to discover who is killing children in Cambridgeshire, Adelia brooks no condescension from anyone, including the king. King Henry II has asked for a Salerno doctor to come to his kingdom and solve a mystery, never expecting a woman to show up.

Adelia is fearless. She takes a lover and bears a child but refuses to marry, and, of course, she solves a series of mysteries and identifies the guilty parties. She becomes a kind of Kay Scarpetta of the 12th century, ferreting out the secrets of dead bodies.

            Another in this pantheon of strong women is the heroine of my novel A Noble Cunning. Bethan Glentaggart is based on the true story of Winifred Maxwell, a persecuted Catholic noblewoman. Bethan’s husband Gavin is condemned to die because of his participation in a doomed rebellion against the first German king, George I. Most women in Bethan’s situation were expected to accept their husband’s fate, say their farewells and prepare to mourn. Bethan simply refuses to give in to this cruel fate. She determines that she will somehow rescue her husband from the Tower of London by devising a clever and complicated plot, and by relying on the aid of a small group of devoted women friends.

            When we read these stories of women who overcame the limits of their situations and accomplished amazing feats, it’s hard not to feel that, with all of our modern advantages, we ought to be able to find a way to deal with our own difficulties.

Patricia Bernstein’s debut novel, A Noble Cunning: The Countess and the Tower, was released by History Through Fiction on March 7, 2023. Upon release, the book was a Semifinalist for a Chanticleer Award, reviewed by the Historical Novel Society, and was on Hasty Book List’s Most Anticipated Historical Novels of 2023. Visit Patricia at

Endorsed by NYT bestselling historical novelists Kathleen Kent and Karen Brooks comes a debut novel from award-winning nonfiction author Patricia Bernstein.

Based on a true story, something happened only once in Tower of London history as a consequence of one woman’s bravery.

Native Texan Patricia Bernstein grew up in Dallas. After earning a Degree of Distinction in American Studies from Smith College, she founded her public relations agency in Houston.

In 2018, her third book was named a Finalist for an award from the Texas Institute of Letters. The Austin American Statesman named the book to a list of fifty-three of the best books ever written about Texas. Patricia's nonfiction is previously published by Simon & Schuster and Texas A&M University Press.

Patricia lives in Houston with her husband, journalist Alan Bernstein, where she pursues another great artistic love, singing with Opera in the Heights and other organizations. She also basks in the glory of her three amazing daughters. A Noble Cunning is Patricia Bernstein's debut novel.











March 8, 2023

No Proof! No Witnesses!

William Landay

All That Is Mine I Carry With Me

A mother vanished. A father presumed guilty. There is no proof. There are no witnesses. For the children, there is only doubt. From the New York Times bestselling author of Defending Jacob. . . .
“Astonishing, powerful, and provocative, this book is worth the excruciating wait for another William Landay.”—Louise Penny, author of A World of Curiosities

One afternoon in November 1975, ten-year-old Miranda Larkin comes home from school to find her house eerily quiet. Her mother is missing. Nothing else is out of place. There is no sign of struggle. Her mom’s pocketbook remains in the front hall, in its usual spot.

So begins a mystery that will span a lifetime. What happened to Jane Larkin?

Investigators suspect Jane’s husband. A criminal defense attorney, Dan Larkin would surely be an expert in outfoxing the police.

But no evidence is found linking him to a crime, and the case fades from the public’s memory, a simmering, unresolved riddle. Jane’s three children—Alex, Jeff, and Miranda—are left to be raised by the man who may have murdered their mother.

Two decades later, the remains of Jane Larkin are found. The investigation is awakened. The children, now grown, are forced to choose sides. With their father or against him? Guilty or innocent? And what happens if they are wrong?

A tale about family—family secrets and vengeance, but also family love—All That Is Mine I Carry With Me masterfully grapples with a primal question: When does loyalty reach its limit?

William Landay is the author of "All That Is Mine I Carry With Me" (on sale 3.7.2023) and three previous novels: "Defending Jacob," which won the Strand Critics Award for best mystery novel; "The Strangler," listed as a best crime novel of the year by the L.A. Times, Daily Telegraph and others; and "Mission Flats," winner of the Dagger Award for best first crime novel. A former assistant district attorney, he lives in Boston.

Visit the author at or on Facebook at

March 7, 2023

Susan Reinhardt's Story Behind Her Book "The Beautiful Misfits"

Susan Reinhardt

When I wrote my latest novel, The Beautiful Misfits, I knew I’d dedicate it to my son, Niles Reinhardt, whose bravery and will to survive touch my heart daily.

Twice I almost lost him. Once in the womb, and later, in a gripping battle that nearly killed us both.

From the moment my pregnancy test turned pink in a Walmart bathroom, I have been crazy over the moon for my boy. I decided from that first month that I never wanted to forget a single moment, and started a journal I chronicled until he entered kindergarten.

But mine wasn’t the pregnancy I’d always dreamed about, and around the fourth month, a string of complications fell one after the other, threatening to end the life I carried. First, placenta previa and bleeding, followed by a tortuous experimental procedure to free my bladder trapped by the growing baby. At 28 weeks, I went into early labor and doctors pumped me with a brutal medicine to stop contractions, hoping I’d carry my son at least until 36 weeks gestation.

We made it a full eight months, and my baby boy debuted in this world healthy and weighing six pounds, three ounces. I thanked God every day for my son’s health, and for fifteen years our lives had been fairly typical and filled with school, sports, church, friends, and family.

It wasn’t until his teen years that I’d face another deadly crisis with him. That’s when he developed a disease that nearly destroyed us both, a much more serious battle than what he’d fought in the womb.

Niles nearly died at 19 from a combination of a near-fatal dose of alcohol and the ensuing car accident. One of his former friends had been driving drunk and whipped around a curve too fast, slamming into a tree. That “friend” fled the scene, leaving my son bleeding out on the road with head and facial injuries from being thrown into the windshield.

I don’t remember driving to the hospital, but I can still feel my body shaking uncontrollably, my mouth so dry I couldn’t swallow, responses that continue to this day when I hear sirens. I tried not to hyperventilate and fall apart as I saw him covered in blood. He lay there unconscious and hooked to tubes, shards of glass embedded in his forehead and cheeks. Fortunately, his CAT scan showed only a major concussion, but the doctors were concerned about the high levels of alcohol in his system, more than four times the legal limit.

I’d like to say that was the last time my child ever drank, but it wasn’t. For ten years, the scars still visible on his face, he fought these demons, just threw out the welcome mat and served them his soul. Every day I worried would be his last.

I spent years trying to get Niles into rehab, years not sleeping and worrying if he was safe. I joined a support group, The Addict’s Mom, followed by nearly 200,000 people on Facebook. I listened as they told harrowing stories of the kids they buried or visited in jails and institutions.

That’s when I knew that I’d write a novel about the struggles that those who love an addict endure, along with the struggles an addict weathers. The hard part was that I wanted my novel to be hopeful, and filled with honesty, grace, and even humor. I wanted it to offer answers, solutions, and ways to curb this crisis killing more of our youth than guns and car accidents combined. I spent years researching treatment centers and interviewing those who had warred with addiction.

The Beautiful Misfits, which was released this month from Regal House Publishing, takes on the drug epidemic but does so in a way that’s uplifting, even funny at times. While the novel isn’t a true story, there are things in my life, in my son’s life, that I drew from in creating the plot and characters.

The protagonist, Josie Nickels, is a former Emmy-winning anchorwoman who is the mother of an addict. One night as she delivers the news, she meltdowns on live TV, spilling family secrets and alienating her son.

When she loses her job, she ends up in Asheville, N.C., selling cosmetics at a mall department store for a luxury brand similar to Estee Lauder or Chanel. Like Josie, I’m also a former journalist, living near Asheville, who worked for a few years as a makeup artist and beauty advisor.

A friend of mine was employed by Clinique and told me about an opening at Lancôme. So I flew to New York for training and spent five wonderful years as a beauty advisor and regional makeup artist for the company.

Going from a journalist to a makeup lady is like dropping one’s legal career to style hair. But it was magical. The people I worked with were glamorous, hilarious, and had lives as colorful as those on the Housewives franchise. I knew the cosmetics counters had to be a setting in the novel. And the hijinks and scenes there offset the serious subject matter without being flippant.

As a reader, I don’t want to dive into a book that leaves me feeling as if I’ve swallowed a tackle box full of fishhooks. I want every emotion blaring, flashing, and dinging. Give me sad. Give me funny. Don’t forget the tension and high stakes. Throw in quirk and wit and a wonderful ending.

As a novelist, I strive for the same.

The Beautiful Misfits has a warm, satisfying, and uplifting ending. As does my son’s story. He finally got clean and sober. He started his own business in the hemp industry. CBD is one of the tools he used to get sober.

To celebrate his recovery, he and I recently traveled to Yellowstone National Park. We’re also planning another trip this fall to my happy place, St. John in the United States Virgin Islands. And as a spoiler, the final chapter of The Beautiful Misfits is set there.

Through God, prayer, my family’s support, and sheer stubbornness, I wasn’t about to give up on my son. No one should.

Because as long as there’s breath, there’s hope.

Susan Reinhardt is a best-selling author known for her gift of taking serious topics and infusing them with humor and heart. She is especially praised for creating casts of unforgettable, quirky characters who stay in readers’ minds long after the final page. Her debut novel, “Chimes From a Cracked Southern Belle,” won Best Regional Fiction in the Independent Publishers Book Awards international contest, and was a No. 1 Amazon bestseller. The novel was a top summer reading pick and a book-club favorite. She lives in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, NC, and is on her second and final husband. She has two grown children, three steps, a granddaughter, and a rescue cat.

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“A book club must-read and an emotionally charged story of one mother’s fight to save her son… full of heart and hope!”– USA Today Bestselling author Ciara Knight

“Susan is a wonderfully gifted storyteller who combines biting wit and laugh-out-loud humor with a beautifully moving writing style. She can turn tears of laughter into the other kind in a single paragraph. You’ll love ‘The Beautiful Misfits.’”

–Robert Tate Miller, bestselling author and movie screenwriter for CBS, NBC, Disney, and Hallmark including films such as “When Christmas was Young,” “Three Days,” and “A Summer Romance”

March 3, 2023

Do Your Goodest!

Rachel Anne Ridge

Stop trying to live your best life.

Sounds counterintuitive, right? Of course, you should try to live your best life!

Or should you?

We are always being urged to “Live Your BEST Life Now.” You need to have the best job, drive the best car, have the best things, maintain the best body. Live every moment in the best way possible.

It’s fabulous! It’s the BEST!

But honestly? It’s exhausting.

Listen, being the best is overrated.

So, what if you went for something else entirely?

You see, in your quest to be best, it’s easy to forget how to simply be good.

Once, as a discouraged mother of teenagers, I sat alone in my bedroom wiping away tears. Conflict over something important I’d forgotten to do made me retreat behind my door as I berated myself for failing yet again. Absentmindedly, I opened a dresser drawer and found an old diary, long abandoned. As I leafed through the pages, I stopped at one entry and tears began to fall once more, but this time for an entirely different reason. A few scrawled lines recounted a moment from years before when I pulled a red wagon with my then two-year-old son to the park. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the little blond boy sat in the wagon as we rattled down the sidewalk. Suddenly his tiny voice piped up. “Mommy, you’re da goodest mom I evah seen.

His words stopped me in my tracks.

Goodest mom.

Reading those words from so long ago I realized I’d been trying so hard to be the best mom ever, that I’d forgotten the importance of simply being a goodest one. I didn’t have to try to control every situation. I didn’t have to strive to be perfect. I could let go of all that and lean in to the goodness of my family, in all its flaws and failures. I was free to embrace my mistakes and learn from them, rather than beat myself up over making them in the first place.

We all spend an inordinate amount of time vying to compete on the racetrack of career and personal advancement. We pretend to be slick and shiny, built for speed and fame—all the while knowing deep inside that this is not who we really are. Pretending only gives us a false sense of belonging. When we finally embrace our true donkey-selves, we begin to belong on our own terms.

Brené Brown puts it this way: “True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

The truest thing about you is that you are worthy of all the love, all the dancing, all the belonging, and all the goodness this world has to offer.

You are enough

You see, only one person can be the best at something. Their moment of glory is fleeting, and then someone else stands ready to take their place at the top.

But good? Oh, good never goes away. It never goes out of style. No one can ever take away that crown.

This world needs the good you have to offer.

Be a good friend.
Be a good neighbor.
Be a good parent.
Be a good son.

Be a good daughter.
Be a good worker.
Be a good leader.

Being good means that you look out for the needs of others. You find ways to inspire kindness and joy. You bring light and life everywhere you go.

This proved true for a man named Tom Shadyac, who was living “his best life” in Hollywood, successfully directing films such as Ace Ventura and The Nutty Professor. However, a bicycle accident in 2007 compounded a sense he’d had for some time that life as he lived it was empty. So, he decided to trade in his fame and fortune for a mobile home and a bike . . . and a commitment to share what he had with others. He is living his goodest (and happiest) life, enjoying a creative career while helping people along the way. Tom has discovered the secret of leaving space for generosity and kindness.

These days, good is underrated. Good is actually better than best.

Good leaves room for falling down, for the unexpected, for grace. It understands that some of life’s most priceless gifts are wrapped in ordinary packages. It gives permission for being kind to yourself and to others.

Don’t let your desire to be the best rob you of the goodness that’s all around you or take away your ability to do good in the moment.

Stop trying to live your best life.

Live your goodest life instead.

Dig Deeper

· Why not make a list of ways to let go of perfectionism and the need to “be the best,” and ask yourself, “Why not try it?”

· What would a “goodest” life look like for you?

· When will you do one simple “good thing” for someone? Write down the first ideas that come to mind.

Adapted from The Donkey Principle: The Secret to Long-Haul Living in a Racehorse World by Rachel Anne Ridge, releasing from Tyndale House Publishers in April 2023.

Rachel Anne Ridge is an author, professional artist, and motivational speaker. Her books Flash: The Homeless Donkey Who Taught Me about Life, Faith, and Second Chances and Walking with Henry have delighted readers with their entertaining tales and poignant lessons. A certified life coach, Rachel works with individuals and organizations to discover their creative gold through hands-on workshops, retreats, and coaching. Rachel is a mom to three adult children, and Nana to five grandchildren. Learn more at

March 2, 2023

Writer of Faith by Day~Mystery by Night

Patricia Raybon

In the cold and dangerous spring of 1924, amateur detective Annalee Spain races the clock to solve the murder of a white barnstorming pilot before the clever Black theologian—a target of the ruthless Colorado Klan—is framed for the crime, and before she is lured by the risky flirtations of the victim’s dashing twin brother.

As this second installment of Patricia Raybon’s critically acclaimed mystery series opens, Annalee Spain offers her fancy lace handkerchief—a gift from her complicated pastor boyfriend, Jack Blake—to a young woman crying in a Denver public library. But later that night, when police find the handkerchief next to the body of the young woman’s murdered husband, Annalee becomes the number one suspect, and her panic doubles when she learns that Jack has gone missing.

With just days to solve the murder before the city’s Klan-run police frame her for the crime, Annalee finds herself hunting for clues in the Colorado mountain town of Estes Park. She questions the victim’s wife and her uncle, a wealthy Denver banker, at their mountain lodge, desperate for leads. Instead, she finds a household full of suspects and even more burning questions. Who keeps threatening her, why can’t she find Jack, and will a dangerous flirtation be her undoing? Her answers plumb the depths of the human heart, including her own, exploring long-buried secrets, family lies, even city politics—all of which could cost the young detective her fledgling love . . . and perhaps even her life.

A writer of faith by day and mystery by night, Patricia Raybon is a Christy Award-winning Colorado author, essayist, and novelist who writes daring and exciting novels and books at the intersection of faith and race.

After a notable career in newspaper journalism and journalism education, Patricia turned to fiction with release of a 1920s mystery series about a prim, poor but clever Black theologian—a fan of Sherlock Holmes--who solves murder and crime in Colorado's dangerous Klan era. The series' acclaimed debut, "All That Is Secret: An Annalee Spain Mystery," won the 2022 Christy Award for First Novel and was a Parade Magazine Fall 2021 "Mysteries We Love" selection, a Masterpiece on PBS "Best Mystery Books of 2021" pick "As Recommended by Bestselling Authors," and Stephen Curry's March 2022 personal choice for his Literati Book Club.

"Double the Lies," the second installment in the Annalee Spain Mysteries, finds amateur detective Annalee racing the clock to solve the murder of a White barnstorming pilot before she is framed by Colorado's ruthless Klan for the crime--and before his dashing twin falls head over heels for the Black theologian, testing her already promised heart.

"It's something special," says Steph Curry about the Annalee story. Best-selling authors agree.

- "Readers will be hooked from the first line." Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of "Perennials."

- "Brava, Patricia...It is captivating." Jerry B. Jenkins, New York Times Bestselling Author

- "Not only a good mystery, but a realistic insight into the African American experience in the 1920s in the West." Rhys Bowen, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling Author

Patricia's personal essays on faith, family and race have been published in The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, USA Today, USA Weekend, Chicago Tribune, The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, the Charles Stanley Ministries In Touch Magazine and featured on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition.

For a deep dive into Patricia's compelling world of faith and fiction, connect with her daring and insightful books—and receive a free download of her "Busy Person's Guide to Hearing God" -- at

March 1, 2023

Bread is Central to God's Story


Kendall Vanderslice

A Baker’s Reflections on Hunger, Longing, and the Goodness of God. Bread is central to God’s story, and to your story too.

“A satisfying offering that will prove good medicine for the hungry soul.”—Publishers Weekly

Our spiritual lives are deeply connected to bread—the bread we break with family and friends and the Bread that is Christ’s Body, given and broken for us. It’s easy to choose the cheapest, most convenient option, but the life of Jesus and the story of Scripture, as well as the substance of bread itself, shows us that there is more. In By Bread Alone, Kendall Vanderslice, a professional baker and practical theologian who spends her days elbow-deep in dough, reveals that there is no food more spiritually significant than bread—whether eating, baking, sharing, or breaking.

Kendall has struggled with hunger ever since she can remember—hunger for bread, yes, but also for community and for the ability to “taste and see” the goodness of God. She knows the tension of bread as blessing and bread as burden but has learned that bread also offers a unique opportunity to heal our relationship to the body of Christ and to our own bodies. In By Bread Alone, she weaves her own faith-filled journey together with original recipes and stories about the role of bread in church history, revealing a God who draws near to us and creatively provides for our daily needs.

When words fail, when we cry out in longing and loneliness, when God feels impossibly far away, By Bread Alone displays the tangible expression of God’s presence and provision for us in the form of bread. It’s the story of hunger and family, of friendship and unmet longing. It’s the story of a God who meets us in both sacred and mundane ways. In the mixing and kneading, in the waiting and partaking, may God also meet you.

Kendall Vanderslice is a baker, writer, and speaker, as well as the founder of the Edible Theology Project, a ministry that connects the Communion table to the kitchen table. She is a graduate of Wheaton College (BA Anthropology), Boston University (MLA Gastronomy), and Duke Divinity School (Master of Theological Studies). Her bylines include Christianity Today, Bitter Southerner, Christian Century, Religion News Service, and Faith & Leadership, as well as her book We Will Feast (Eerdmans 2019). Kendall lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her big-eared beagle named Strudel, where she teaches workshops on bread baking as a spiritual practice. Visit her online at