The Danger

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It started in her forties. She became very angry at her parents and found them difficult to be around. Situations and beliefs she never questioned as a child now seemed glaringly and alarmingly scary and wrong. 

Like the Halloween night, when she was eleven, her mother and grandmother stayed far too long, almost until midnight, at a friend’s house. Her dad slept in the chair in front of the television at home and could not be awakened. 

So, Rita and her little sister Jess braved the eerie night, at the witching hour, and ran panicked and frightened beyond belief when two teenagers chased them on bikes through their darkened neighborhood. Street lights and pumpkins no longer glowed. No lights within homes offered safety until, at last, one house showed a light in the kitchen window and Rita stopped at the porch, choking for breath. 

“We made it!” she gasped, feigning their arrival at the intended destination. The boys rode on. 

Then Jess, ever the songstress of truth, cried out, “But this isn’t the right place!” The boys circled back and Rita dragged Jess by the hand around and away from them and straight through a suspended chain in a driveway, at a speed she’d never run before. The chain gave way and they rounded the corner and Rita pushed hard toward that porch light while Jess peddled the air. 

They were going so fast she could hardly touch the ground. Rita banged on the door. The boys cruised nearby like sharks. The door opened, Rita blurted out what was happening, and the woman whom her mother and grandmother were visiting…burst into laughter. 

Desperate, Rita dove inside the house and stumbled with Jess into the kitchen where the full light of the overhead reassured her that she was safe at last. But her mother would have none of the story. “That’s enough,” she said. There wasn’t any sympathy or comfort. Rita and Jess were left to stand while the three women shared drinks and laughed, first about the girls, then about situations Rita didn’t think were any more funny than hers and were, in fact, quite boring. 

Her angst itched lightly, at first, with this predicament, but grew more worrisome with the passing of time and the lack of consideration for her father. 

At last they left for home, down streets that seemed less scary now that the witching hour had passed and the boys had swum off to hunt other victims. But the unstable way her mother and grandmother walked propping each other up, and the moment her mother stumbled and sat down in the gutter and the two laughed for some time, spiked a new fear with incomplete understanding that made Rita uneasy. 

She had the vaguest sense of what was happening and how events connected, but at age eleven all she could think of was getting home where everything would be normal again. 

And by the morning it had become that. Everyone was awake. Everyone was home. That terror was behind them.

Interview with Lisa Barker

When did you first start writing?

When I was fifteen, I found one of my greatest loves in life: writing. Back then I wrote romances, but they always had very emotional characters, the kind that aren’t yet prepared for a long-lasting relationship. But it wasn’t until I went through years of revising INHERITANCE that I grew and matured enough to realize the kind of transformation people with “messy” lives have to go through to be prepared for a long-lasting commitment.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

I am comfortable writing, editing and producing books myself. I like the control I have, though I have had a lot to learn in the process. So it’s taken me awhile to be on the brink of success, like with Smashwords, but the journey is worth it.

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?

The greatest joy of writing has been the response I have gotten for INHERITANCE. I’ve connected with an audience that is affected by the story in a deep way. Hearing from them about their emotional response and the request for more, has been both shockingly surprising and touchingly profound. It is the greatest thrill for an author to have readers really get what they intended when crafting the story. I still marvel at the response INHERITANCE gets. It has encouraged me to write again, after a ten year hiatus following my daughter’s death.

What is your writing process?

I listen to music, and when an emotion grips me, I write the characters and the story that I imagine that absolutely compels me to write. With TAKE A CHANCE (the working title of a new book) it’s been a bit of do-wop and Motown and SHE WILL BE LOVED by Maroon 5.

DELIVERANCE (the working title of a new book) is inspired by the music video TAKE ME TO CHURCH by Hozier.

With INHERITANCE I was heavily influenced by the Eagles and Dolby Gray’s DRIFT AWAY.

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

2020 is kicking my can. Right now National Novel Writing Month, starting November 1, is my inspiration. I’m looking forward to getting to know my characters, Eloise and Jason, and seeing them through to their happy ending.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

It was about a rodeo clown and a girl that falls into the arena and in the direct path of a charging bull. Very lost and lonely people, which I can see now was inspired by clinical depression when I was a teen. It was a good story, but, alas, it is lost in the passage of time. No worries, I have new stories just waiting to see the light of day.

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

I grew up in a close family filled with love. But there was alcoholism. Addiction defined my parents’ lives and mine. It’s the personality we shared. I also suffered from undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder, but seeking help was considered taboo.

So with that start in life, it’s no wonder why I feel the characters that I create, the inner me that tries to connect with the the outer world and the inner world of others.

It is an understatement to say that writing has been very cathartic for me.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

I visit with my grown children, I photograph my cats for Instagram, I read, and I play Redecor. These things rejuvenate me and utilize my creativity in different ways that nurture my writing.

What’s the story behind your latest book?

INHERITANCE deals with addiction, domestic abuse, poverty, and alcoholism. Joe and Wendy come from childhoods that created “messy” (unhealthy) adult lives. They recognize love in each other, but they naturally have obstacles to overcome to find their happily ever after. People have requested further stories regarding these characters, but again I find myself needing to mature a bit before I have clarity of vision.

TAKE A CHANCE, the working title of the latest book I am writing, deals with mental health, divorce, and grief – definitely obstacles to overcome in order to find that happily ever after. But Eloise and Jason will find that they are stronger than they think they are.

DELIVERANCE, the working title of another book I am writing, deals with alcoholism and healing from family dysfunction as well as the things that test a strong committed relationship. Daniel and Ryan know they have what it takes for a lifelong marriage, but it will take everything they have to face Daniel’s demons.

How has Smashwords contributed to your success?

Smashwords is allowing me to develop my own niche. One of my favorite prolific and successful Smashwords authors is Ruth Ann Nordin ( who writes romance as well. She is my inspiration!

Take a Chance

New book coming out in 2022!

Working title: Take a Chance

Working summary: Eloise meets Jason in a Romance Writer’s Club that Zooms weekly. Eloise likes him but is convinced that after two failed marriages, the right thing to do is not get involved; her mental health would make it unfair for a new partner. But she explores a committed relationship in the romance novel she is writing. Perhaps the third time is a charm?

Working cover:

Photo by Valentin Antonucci

The Hard Side of The River

Loved this book. Fits my motto: Life is messy, Love prevails



By Johnny Payne

A tale of abolition, THE HARD SIDE OF THE RIVER, engulfed me in the immediacy of the characters, their lives, and their demons.

Certainly, this is a tale of setting Jacob Pingram, a slave, free.  Two abolitionists, Dana Curbstone, a proprietor and headmistress of a finishing school, and Cal Fenton, a preacher called by God to free slaves, set out to help Pingram escape.  They are tracked by Dan Baskin–the protagonist; a famous, expert slave tracker who is so entrenched in the historical and realistic slave-focused world created by Johnny Payne, that it takes an intimate encounter with a “Yoruba girl”, Abejide, a seventeen year old slave, to crack open his heart to the idea of love.

THE HARD SIDE is not only the story of one man’s escape from slavery, from being owned and at the mercy of another simply for being “an inferior race”.  It’s a narrative about the enslavement of human beings to their own demons, and THE HARD SIDE brings every character to their knees and their breaking point.  How will they abolish what has become the internal norm for them, and be set free?  Not every character does.

The quest for freedom in Johnny Payne’s novel is a quest for healing love.  Even Jacob Pingram, who successfully escapes, is a slave in his mind and owned by his deepest regret.  Dan Baskin is faced with the chance to escape the solitary hard life he has spent years building that leave him empty.  Dana Curbstone wrestles with passions that threaten to consume her soul, and Cal Fenton faces the totality of himself and his calling–will it break his sanity?

The lives of secondary characters echo this quest for healing love.  Will Rae, a slip of a young girl, escape dysfunction and poverty and embrace those who care for her?  Will Leora, a prostitute that has pined for Dan for years, be set free from the hard existence life forced her to choose?

Johnny Payne’s THE HARD SIDE OF THE RIVER, will snatch you right out of your comfy chair and bring you into a hard world that only men that abuse their privilege seem to thrive in.  When all looks bleak and hopeless, you will find yourself turning page after page seeking redemption and justice for these characters.

THE HARD SIDE OF THE RIVER left me feeling drenched in the sweat of their struggle, shocked and sorrowful for those that remained enslaved, and deeply satisfied with the freedom won by those that fought hardest for it.

–Lisa Barker, author of INHERITANCE