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

Picture This

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

(100 word challenge)

A new, black bed frame; a black wooden headboard; sheets and comforter in light and deep grays; pewter curtains; a silver fluffy rug; a black mini fridge, even a fresh coat of paint.  Monochrome-just how she views life.  Not black and white, but all the grays in between.  Not without color, but crisp images of a life well lived and loved.

Her own room, her own space, her sanctuary.  A place to cuddle with cats, to watch comedies and dramas, to write.

Sunshine fills the recesses of the room leaving nothing shrouded in pain.

Clean and new.  The Queen’s Room.

June 21, 2018

Photo by Samsei @

(100 word challenge)

I miss you.   I’m hurting and I can hardly breathe.  You hurt, you’re broken,  I accept you with all my heart.  But you act as if you don’t love me, don’t want me, can’t stand me. You hold our son above my head.  I cannot leave him to face these things without me.  Alone. 

You can’t make a commitment to me … in case It happens again.  But It is!  Windows between us are closing.  You are going to find yourself lonely until another love comes to lift you up and save you. 

And, in time, It will happen again.

Farewell To A Haunting

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

Aliese toured their abandoned home. Old furniture and boxes of everyday life remained. She envisioned fresh paint, polished floors, a cozy nook to read in when the sun shined. Her sanctuary.

There was no delay now.  She’d lingered far too long waiting for Paul.  In the end he chose to move forward alone.  Now, two paths diverged heading true north respectively.

The phone.


“The papers have been filed.”

Sadness.  He didn’t think or feel the way she did. Then …

Relief.  A new life.

The beckoning path lay before her, calling her to autonomy.

She chose the road less traveled.

Embracing The West

By Pixabay @

(100 word challenge)

He jammed a pike into the floating ice.  She watched it split jaggedly and separate.  For the second time, he sailed toward a better life without her.

There would not be a third.

As his image diminished with distance, she imagined soil beneath her feet.  Grass grew.

The sun rose behind her and she turned to face it. This time she would sail away, too.

The ocean gently nudged the ice-raft westward.  She lifted her chin. She did not need to rise this time because she had never fallen.  Her heart encapsulated the Phoenix.  Ice would never imprison her.

Highway to Hell


(100 word challenge)

“I said I would go to hell for you. That’s how much I love you. I would go, I would find you, and I would bring you back with me.”

“What if I can’t love you like that?”

“Have you ever loved anyone like that? Has anyone else loved you like that? Because I’m here, we’re here. That’s what’s real.”

“What if it’s an illusion?”

“Then make it the best damn illusion there ever was.”

“But I don’t want to hurt you again.”

“Too late.”

I can’t do this.”

We can.”

The Least Requited



by W.H. Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

“The More Loving One” appears among Auden’s poems about history, but it deals with nature and the disorienting necessity of learning to love a universe insentient to our hopes and fears, unconcerned with our individual fates — perhaps the least requited love there is, as well as the largest. It is an elegy, in the classic dual sense of lamentation and celebration, for our ambivalent relationship with this elemental truth and an homage to the supreme triumph of the human heart — the willingness to love that which does not and cannot love us back. – Brain Pickings