Last Days of Autumn

When writing a book, our stories are technically works of fiction, our characters are not real people, although sometimes we wish they were. But underlying the creative process of developing characters, creating a story arc, and stirring up just the right amount of conflict, there is an element of truth. My brand leans toward subjects that are not at the top of the favorite topics of conversation. I like to tackle the hard stuff people experience in our reality. Life is hard and we get kicked around a bit along the way. So I think it’s important to talk about those topics and shed light on the issues out there that need our attention. We all deal with things like divorce, illness, abandonment, grief, abuse, and crime in some form or fashion. Let’s talk about it.

Last Days of Autumn follows two of my favorite characters. They are easy to get to know, easy to love, and so darn cute. Unfortunately they are facing one of the worst things we all know too well, cancer. But illness is not a barrier to love. Illness is not a barrier to hopes and dreams. Often we find our true selves in the struggle, we learn we are stronger than we thought, and love is so much sweeter than we ever imagined. All those things are true for Autumn Landers and Caroline Cross. They have a lot to get through to find that happily ever after, but it is all the sweeter when they do.

Truth. The truth is I wrote Last Days of Autumn for my friends Kim Bailey and Kim Massengale. Both having the same first name, I call them Bailey and Kim. Ten plus years ago Bailey was diagnosed with colon cancer. Throughout her battle, I was humbled by her calm perseverance and her fierce determination. Throughout that journey her partner Kim Massengale stood by her side, she was her defender, her cheerleader, her nurse, and her constant source of go-get-em. And here we are over ten years later, far past the estimated survival, and they are still going strong. Bailey is quite possibly the sweetest and kindest person I have ever met. I remember questioning the fairness of her having cancer, I remember being afraid of every test, and I remember the joy each time her results come back clear. Most of all I remember the love and commitment these two wonderful women showed each other. I have stood by their side at their wedding, I have stood by their side as they lost loved ones, and I hope to stand by their side for many many more years of their happily ever after.

Although the characters in Last Days of Autumn are of my own creation and their story truly is fiction, the details are true to Bailey and Kim’s experience. So it is no surprise that I love this story, it mirrors the truth of those I love. It faces cancer head on and in the end kicks some cancer ass. It is a story of hope and triumph. It is a story about love. Yes, it is about cancer, but it is about so much more. I hope it touches your heart. I hope it inspires you to fight through whatever struggle life has thrown at you. I hope it encourages you to reach out to others, let them care for you, let them be with you. You are loved and you are not alone.

Relating Captive to human trafficing

In the past few years, human trafficking has gained much needed public attention, but we are far from where we need to be. According to, human trafficking/involuntary servitude is believed to be the third largest criminal activity in the world. It includes forced labor, domestic servitude, and commercial sex trafficking. This trade does not discriminate, it includes US citizens and foreigners alike and has no demographic restrictions. The individuals held captive in these organizations are often held in unsanitary and inhumane conditions and forced to work for little or no money. They are coerced into captivity through the promise of a paying job that will support a starving family, threatened with the lives of those they love, and tripped of their identities and all ties that give them hope of freedom. But the problems goes even further. There are laws in the US that allow businesses to “employ” those with physical and mental disabilities for less than minimum wage. Daily, migrant workers are required to work long hours doing demanding physical labor only to be underpaid, and they are often the victims of assault and robbery, stripped of their hard-earned wages. We have a long way to go as a society before we can rid the world of these crimes against humanity.

Writing Captive was my way of shedding light on the underworld where human beings continue to be bought and sold for the pleasure and financial gain of others. It is my hope that we will all be a little more attentive to the things around us and alert authorities when we see evidence of these crimes.

Each character I created for this book represented a real person, not someone I know, but those I know exist out there in the underworld. In a romance we are given the certainty of a happy ending, but for the real victims there is little hope. We are heading in the right direction, but there is much left to do if we are going to put an end to these crimes.

If you or someone you know is the victim of human trafficking or if you have information about a potential trafficking situation, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1-888-373-7888.

I want to offer a special thank you to all those engaged in the war against human trafficking. Please join us in this fight. To quote John F. Kennedy, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”


Greyson Cooper is exactly where she wants to be in life when she sets out on a section hike of the Appalachian Trail. When she’s abducted and placed into slavery in a fight club, she isn’t about to be a part of their barbaric plan and does everything she can to upset the ranks, even if it costs her her life.

Olivia Danner has worked hard for everything she has. All that’s left is her dream job and someone to share her life with. But her plans are cut short when a man who wants her as his personal prize kidnaps her.

Together in captivity, Olivia and Greyson become players in a game of deceit and violence. To survive and escape, they will have to figure out whom they can trust. If they can get out alive, the next challenge will be forging a path to lasting love.

Out Raleigh 2017


I am pleased to announce that I will be returning to Out Raleigh May 6, 2017. Out Raleigh is a special event for me because this is where I first met D. Jackson Leigh, Yolanda Wallace, and Larkin Rose way back in 2013. It was quite an adventure for this introvert to travel six hours away from home to meet total strangers and promote my very first book Healing Hearts.  For any of you that have read Larkin Rose’s books, you can imagine I received quite a hazing, but only in the sweet “we’ve got you now” kind of way. These authors took me in as the newbie and made me feel like a part of a family, and they each hold a special place in my heart.

Each year changes, and sometimes our little group can’t always stay together, but we’ve been pleased to be joined by other authors such as VK Powel and Erin Dutton from time to time along the way. This year will be no different, and I can’t wait to start out the summer “Southern Crawl” with a visit to Out Raleigh with D. Jackson Leigh and Yolanda Wallace. After the much missed welcoming hugs and catching up, we will set up the Bold Strokes Books Tent and get down to real business, meeting and getting to know the wonderful readers who come by to see us.

Out Raleigh is different from the other events I attend each year. This isn’t your usual Pride event. Out Raleigh is about celebrating out LGBT families. I don’t think I have ever been to any other event that could rival the number of LGBT couples with baby strollers. It is such a breath of fresh air to see people come together to celebrate the unity of LGBT relationships and the commitments we have to one another.

With a little luck the weather will be bright, sunny, and warm. Unlike that first event in 2013 when I swear I got frost bite. But not to worry I will be prepared this time with my parka and a pair of shorts just in case. I will have copies of all my books for sale, including my new release Unbroken.

So, if you happen to be in the area, or like me feel like making the drive, come out to see me, D. Jackson Leigh, and Yolanda Wallace on May 6, 2017 at Out Raleigh. I look forward to seeing you there.

Just for fun, here is a photo of our little group from 2013. My how time has flown.

Unbroken, The Book That Almost Wasn’t.


So, I think I mentioned in my last post that writing Unbroken was a bit of a challenge and I actually took a year away from these characters to write Love’s Redemption. Here’s what I think happened. I wasn’t listening to my characters. In my work as a therapist I once heard a story of a young child who had been receiving counseling and wasn’t progressing. She changed therapist and made some pretty big disclosures. When asked why she hadn’t talked about these things before, she simply answered, “my therapist wasn’t ready”. I tell that story now to punctuate the problem I was having with this book, I wasn’t listening to my characters, I wasn’t ready for their story.

After the year away from Unbroken I was able to come back and really get into making this story what it was supposed to be. Because I took the time to let it unfold, I was able to invest in these characters the way they deserved to be known and understood. It was refreshing to me to have Jackie and Kayla lead me through their love story. I am so glad I took the time to do that.

What was different about writing Unbroken compared to my other books? First, I realized I wrote this book without a playlist. I hope I never try that again. When I have a list of songs that I feel takes me into a story, the repetitive listening keeps me grounded. I didn’t have that with Unbroken so I spent a lot of time chasing squirrels. Second, I didn’t have a quirky pet in this story. I love my quirky pets. I learned a lot about myself and what works and doesn’t work for my writing. When I get stuck now, I know it is because I am not listening to the story. Writing is easy, until it gets hard.

I hope you will take the time to read this story and get to know these two wonderful characters. They are funny and people I would like to know. I’m glad they didn’t give up on this writer. I know I’m glad I got to know their story. Just so you know, just because I don’t have a quirky pet in this book, doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting animals. That seems to be one of my signatures. Ah the things I’m learning about myself along this wonderful journey or writing. I hope you enjoy the adventure too.

Unbroken is available on preorder at Bold Strokes Books and Amazon, and will be released in May 2017. I hope you’ll read Unbroken, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. The book that almost wasn’t turned out to be pretty darn sweet.

Just for fun, here is one of my favorite quirky pets. This is Lily, my crazy beagle. Her full name is Lily Get Down Damn It, but we just call her Lily Bug most of the time. She’s my old girl and not doing so good these days. She’d appreciate some healing thoughts and love her way if you have some to spare.  Thanks everyone. Happy reading.

walking in the Smokies

Writing Love’s Redemption

Love’s Redemption is my third book. It is very special to me because it addresses hard issues that need more attention and discussion in order to reduce intimate violence. I was already deeply involved in writing Unbroken when the idea for Love’s Redemption came to me and the characters began demanding their story be told. I admit that although it was hard to set aside a year from Unbroken, both stories benefited from that decision. Love’s Redemption is a strong romance, while addressing the issue of sexual abuse.

Our social and legal history of dealing with sexual and domestic violence is nothing short of shameful. Victims have been blamed for their abuse, victimized by the courts, shamed and too often ignored by those sworn to protect them and those who claimed to love them. Unfortunately the gains we have made in the fight to end intimate violence are at risk of being washed away. The Trump administration has placed 25 grant programs under the Violence Against Women Act under threat of going to the chopping block. The loss of these grants also include programs working to prevent domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, and elder abuse. Please use your voice to stop this from happening.

For me the process of writing Love’s Redemption took a great deal of personal exploration and willingness to look at the skeletons in my own closet. It allowed me as a survivor and a therapist to act as the voice of millions of women and children who are the victims of intimate violence every day. These stories are often uncomfortable, but if we are willing to listen, we will come out better for knowing.

This story was inspired by a case I worked over twenty years ago when working as an advocate for the mentally ill. It was an unfortunate case that did not end well and had a profound impact on me for many reasons. In writing Love’s Redemption, I was glad to have these great characters, Rhea and Morgan shed light on these legal and social issues that further traumatize so many victims. But at the heart Love’s Redemption is a strong love story about resilience and willingness to stand up to injustice. Love’s Redemption is about many things, love, sexual abuse, injustice, stereotyping, and a moral and spiritual journey, all while dealing with a bad guy out to ruin everything.

I love this story and I love these characters. I hope you’ll give Love’s Redemption a read or a listen as it is also available on audiobook. I’m sure you’ll love it too.

Donna K Ford