Category Archives: Autobiography

Welcome, Christie Wood!

We’re excited to welcome Christie Wood to spotlight her life-changing journey through the dark world of Alzheimer’s. Her novel exposes the enormous struggles alongside the fleeting triumphs of caring for a loved one who suffers of this disease. For those who believe there is a reason for everything, enjoy the feature on A Town of Mabel’s–Jo Grafford, Highlighted Author Co-Hostess



All About Christie

DSC_0032 (cropped) (2)Christie Wood traveled through the world of Alzheimer’s with her Mother. She is currently on that journey with her sister. She lost her sense of humor on the first journey; she is determined to recover it on this one. Christie lives in southern California with her husband of 36 years and is about to become a grandmother for the first time.










A Town of Mabel’s

A Town of Mabels CoverI began to write a book about my mother’s life. As she descended further and further into a disease called Alzheimer’s, my writing morphed into questions of: Why her? Why this disease? Why our family? Am I at risk, my daughter? It became a search to get to know a woman and her history, not only to honor her, but to understand her disease. It’s my story of how I met her with a smile; a willingness to accept her wherever she was on any given day. Without a doubt my story leaves me one conclusion, although I am my mother’s daughter, I do not need her disease.

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“How is your mom doing?” friends often ask. I never ever know what to say. It is my nature to always try and make people feel better. I used to believe this was my way of being liked, but I have learned it is genuine of me to actually want to be kind. So to answer this question with any amount of truth is next to impossible for me.

So I say, “The same.” She is in this or that stage of Alzheimer’s, but her appetite is good. She is happy, content. Some folks want me to elaborate, or there is a lull in the conversation mostly because they have no idea what to say next, so I sometimes throw in details like these: “She lights up when she gets ice cream.” “She has never gone through that angry stage, so we feel blessed.” This is not exactly the truth. I was with her as we withdrew her (cold turkey) from antidepressants. She was angry then, and she just missed my face with her clenched fist. Immediately she stopped herself and reached for me, saying that she was sorry, that she would never hurt me! She had no idea who I was, but like most visits she knew that I was someone she loved and someone who loved her.

Prior to my cold-turkey visit I had spent five days with her and thought those days would be my last time spent with her. I thought this almost every time that I saw her. I was reduced to uncontrollable sobs alone in my car after I left her on the fifth day. What was the trigger for the depth of my rage? She sat at a table with three other Alzheimer’s patients eating their dinner. Some needed assistance; she did not at that time. This would change by my next visit. I had knelt down beside her and told her that I had to go. She said, “I wish you didn’t.” This like almost everything that she said surprised me. My family and I were not accustomed to her talking much, and when she did, it did not always make sense. Although at that time, it still sounded like English. This, too, would change by my next visit. I replied that I would be back. As I did, she reached for my face, cupping my cheek in her palm. I felt the softness of her hand, my eye caught the wrinkled spotted skin—her hand, with its long, boney fingers, nails painted red, a color applied by the staff that she had not worn on her nails since the forties, and I let the tears run down my cheeks. I reached up and gently placed my hand over top of hers as if I was moving in slow motion, and I let it rest there on my cheek. I moved toward her and leaned into kiss her cheek and told her that I loved her. As her dinner mates, my sister, a speech therapist, and a wife of another patient looked on we all were captured in a moment so much more powerful than any disease. This was a moment of pure love, and nothing could keep it away, not even Alzheimer’s. By the time I reached my car, I could barely walk. I was shaken to the core with grief. In the safety of my car, locked in, sound-proofed and alone, the rage I felt at this disease poured out of me as if I were bleeding it.





  • “Shared memories sew people together. “In a Town of Mabel’s,” Christie Wood tenderly but honestly faces the reality of the disease which cruelly and callously unraveled the memories and finally took the life of her mother.  As much a story of family as of Alzheimer’s, Christie reweaves another tale, one of courage, care and ultimately, unconditional love.  I love this book and its beautiful message of faith and kindness.” —Maria Hall-Brown, Executive Producer, PBS SoCaL | PBS for Greater Los Angeles
  • This book is open and honest about family struggles. The writing is personal. You are invited into the family experience of a daughter coming to terms with her mother having Alzheimer’s and then coming to find her sister on that same difficult path. The story places value on love and understanding to help to endure and overcome family trials. It’s an encouraging book, as it shows how relationships can grow in new and meaningful ways. A worthwhile read. —Myra Mycena PhD, Speaker, columnist for The Orange County Register and Radio Host “Wake up & Live Your Life.”
  • A Town of Mabel’s is a heartfelt step into the world of Alzheimer’s and a walk into the early life of the author and her colorful family. Within the first 5 pages I was caught up in the story and could not put the book down. Many kudos to this new author. —Linda Axtell Thompson, South Orange County Women’s Book Club



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Welcome Greg Kihn

 Join me in welcoming Greg Kihn to Highlighted Author.



NBC called Greg Kihn “Rock’s True Renaissance Man” and for good reason. As part of the eponymous band he has: toured the globe, had hit records, been inducted into the San Jose Rock Hall Of Fame, opened for the Rolling Stones and jammed with Bruce Springsteen. You may have heard of his smash worldwide #1 hit “Jeopardy” and “The Breakup Song”, not to mention the parody written by Weird Al Yankovic.

Being a famous and successful rock star is only one part of the mosaic that is Greg’s story. In the 90s Greg poured his passion for lyrics into writing fiction—publishing four novels, one of which “Horror Show” was nominated for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel.

In this vein, Greg merged his love of writing with Rock and Roll and wrote “Rubber Soul”—a unique rock murder mystery featuring The Beatles. The inspiration for this novel came from Greg’s interviews with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Pete Best, Yoko Ono and Patti Harrison. In this way Greg gained exclusive access to the biggest band ever to exist. “Rubber Soul” is a work of fiction, but it is 100% historically accurate and a story that only rock veteran Greg Kihn could have written.


What they’re saying

“There’s no one more qualified to write a rock-and-roll novel than Greg Kihn. He’s the real deal and at his Kihntillating best in this book.” – Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist of Apple

“Rubber Soul is a magical mystery tour de force by Greg Kihn, a rocker who obviously has a way with words as well as music. His imagined story about the Beatles is fast-moving, full of twists and tension, and musical nuggets and insights. Great story-telling set to a Fab-four beat.” – Ben Fong Torres

“Rubber Soul captures what Rock-n-Roll is all about – and Greg Kihn would certainly know! This nearly-true story of the Beatles is pure magic and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.” – Eddie Money

“Greg Kihn is the most compelling author who ever had a top five singing career. Rubber Soul is a fantastic story by Greg, with an historical back beat. I urge you not to miss this.” – Joan Jett

“I’m happy to report that Rubber Soul, the latest work by my pal Greg Kihn, has correct punctuation, complete sentences, even full paragraphs – some of the exact same literary devices that can be found in the greatest novels our culture has ever produced! It’s also written in English, which happens to be one of my very favorite languages.” – “Weird Al” Yankovic

“While the RIAA may not be able to certify Kihn’s work with a gold disc, fans of Kihn and The Beatles, as well as those who long for the simpler yet magical time of the 1960’s will thoroughly enjoy and fall in love with Rubber Soul. They certainly don’t write ‘em like this anymore.” – Chris Shapiro, RetroPulse


Rubber Soul Tour

Tour Schedule

Rubber Soul

Greg Kihn is a rock star, seasoned radio host and author. Rubber Soul, his latest novel is inspired by intimate interviews that he conducted with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Pete Best, Yoko Ono and Patti Harrison. Though Rubber Soul is fiction, as Greg says it is “100% historically accurate” and an candid glimpse of the phenomenon that is The Beatles.

Rubber Soul is a an innovation in the Rock Thriller genre, taking readers on a rollicking ride through The Beatles legacy from the early days in Liverpool to six sold out shows per night in Hamburg and full-fledged Beatlemania.

Dust Bin Bob runs into some lads from Liverpool at his second hand shop on Penny Lane. The lads: John, Paul, George and Ringo and Dust Bin Bob become firm friends, sharing vinyl that will spark a revolution. Murder, mystery and Beatlemania mayhem ensues—with the boys narrowly avoiding an international incident and an attempted assassination. It’s the ultimate Beatles story that could have happened!



Rubber SoulThe Ed Sullivan Theater on West 53rd Street only held seven hundred people but the show had received about fifty thousand applications for tickets. Cops lined the street in front.

Bobby thought the Beatles were keeping remarkably calm. Ed Sullivan himself greeted the band, waving a telegram from Elvis Presley. “He wishes you luck,” Ed said proudly. “Elvis and the Colonel both wish you success in America.”

All four band members nodded, impressed that the King of Rock and roll would acknowledge their presence.

Bobby stayed out of the way and accompanied George’s sister Louise to her seat. Bobby saw a dense crowd of teenage girls squirming in their seats. The atmosphere crackled with electricity. TV cameras waited.

At last the stiff, uncomfortable image of Ed Sullivan appeared. After a rehearsal John had said Ed walked like he had a pole up his ass. Bobby could now corroborate this although no pole was visible. The red lights above each camera flickered on; the time was at hand.

Ed welcomed the viewers, made a few remarks, then  introduced a brief commercial. A minute later he returned to a breathless audience. He must have known his words would go down in history, yet he rushed through them in the excitement of the moment. “Now, yesterday and today, our theater has been jammed with newspapermen and hundreds of photographers from all over the nation, and these veterans agree with me that the city has never witnessed the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves the Beatles. Now, tonight you’ll be twice entertained by them, right now, and in the second half of our show. Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!”

Paul counted off the song and went into the first line of All My Lovin’. As soon as the band joined in, shrill keening filled the air. The sound shook the theater walls, echoing across America and raised the hair on the back of Bobby’s neck. Hysterical screaming drowned out the music washing over them like a sonic tsunami. Louise clutched Bobby’s arm.

The response to the Beatles was thunderous. The manic behavior of the audience frightened Bobby. Faces around him seemed twisted and desperate. The screaming rang in his ears. Tears rolled down the cheeks of the female audience members. Bobby found himself swept up in it and realized he too was shouting at the top of his lungs.

The Beatles seemed above it all, delivering their music to the frenzied masses in a thoroughly professional manner. The harmonies in All My Lovin’ were perfect; the vocal blend was as natural and smooth as the Everly Brothers. Bobby was impressed that the group could play that flawlessly with relentless screaming in their ears.

All My Lovin’ ended and Till There Was You started with another Paul vocal. Bobby thought it odd that they would follow All My Lovin’ with another ballad sung by Paul but realized it was probably a group decision with Brian Epstein and Ed Sullivan approving the choice.

The third song, She Loves You, galvanized the audience and caused the greatest reaction of the set. Bobby considered She Loves You the ultimate Beatles song. Its “yeah, yeah, yeah” chorus and high pitched “whooo” at the end of the verses made it instantly recognizable.

When it ended the theater seemed to deflate. When the Beatles left the stage a huge vacuum sucked up the atmosphere.

Bobby looked at Louise. She blinked unbelieving. “Good Lord. I don’t believe it.”

“It’s beyond anything we could imagine,” Bobby said.

They hardly noticed the next act, a man in a tuxedo doing card tricks. Bobby’s mind went back to the Beatles. He wondered what
they thought of it. They were used to British Beatlemania, but this was… well, this was out of control. Bobby wondered where
it would all lead.

They hardly noticed the next act, a man in a tuxedo doing card tricks.

Bobby’s mind went back to the Beatles. He wondered what they thought of it. They were used to British Beatlemania, but this was… well, this was out of control. Bobby wondered where it would all lead.

The cast of the Broadway show Oliver followed, but Bobby couldn’t focus on the song. Frank Gorshin did impersonations of celebrities Bobby never heard of, but Bobby enjoyed the man’s elastic face and wild body language. Tessie O’Shea stood larger than life, strumming her banjo and belting out show tunes, but it seemed boring and ordinary to Bobby. The Beatles made everybody sound boring and ordinary.

An odd comedic team did a skit about a boss and his secretary, and Bobby found himself glancing at the clock, counting the minutes before the Beatles returned. At last they were back, and the screaming began anew.


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Blog Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 2/16/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Welcome Ronny Herman de Jong

Join me in welcoming Ronny Herman de Jong to Highlighted Author.


Ronny Herman de Jong Ronny Herman de Jong, author of two books and featured in a 2013 Anthology, currently lives in Prescott, AZ, is a survivor of the World War Two Japanese concentration camps on the island of Java. The very first books she owned, she received after the war for her ninth birthday from her grandmother and her third-grade teacher. She still has them. Writing became the joy of her life in fifth grade. When she lived in Hawai’i, she loved to swim, snorkel and dance hula. Now, living in Arizona, she likes to hike with her Rottweiler, Isabelle, read, write, and practice yoga and Pilates. Her motto is Reach for the Stars!

A member of the Professional Writers of Prescott and the Society of Southwestern Authors, Ronny holds a BA in English Literature from Leiden University in the Netherlands.

She’s with us this week sharing her book, Rising from the Shadow of the Sun: A Story of Love, Survival and Joy.


Interview with Morning Scramble



What they are saying:

“Aided by her mother’s secret diary (published here in its entirety) that she kept during this awful time, written in Dutch of course that Ms. de Jong later translated into English, the author tells this harrowing little-known story, another from World War Two, that is a horrific picture of life in a concentration camp but, much more importantly, a testament to the endurance of the human spirit.”—H. F. Corbin “Foster Corbin”

“Ronny Herman de Jong’s book, “Rising from the Shadow of the Sun,” is many things: a journal of a mother, Netty (Jeannette Herman-Louwerse) who survived a Japanese extermination camp, her husband’s military story, and their daughter, Ronny’s reflections on her own life in context of her parents’. These three major “characters” bring unique points of view about the experiences of a family during the Japanese invasion of the island of Java, in the Dutch East Indies. However, the combination of the three in one book is like looking into a prism with many faces. In the final analysis, the stories blend into one another and the reader gains a much fuller, richer view than she would with only one perspective. “Rising from the Shadow of the Sun” is an important account of courage and hope.”—Nancy Owen Nelson, PhD, Memoirist, poet, college professor

“Rising from the Shadow of the Sun: what an incredibly beautifully detailed account it is. Many books have been written in the Dutch language (about the Japanese concentration camps in the Dutch East Indies), but what is so special about this book is that it gives such a complete overview. It covers almost a whole life span. The reader is pulled into the story (from the very beginning).

De Jong provides an important service to all English-language readers. I know for certain that there is a need among readers of the second and third generation in English-language countries to read this book.

I think it has the potential for a movie. Sadly, I only produce documentaries.”—Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich, Producer  



Rising from the Shadow of the Sun


The story of a mother’s love and courage during World War Two in the Pacific and the journey of her little girl from the horrors of life in Japanese concentration camps on Java in the 1940s to peace and prosperity in the United States in the 21st century.   


Book Trailer




Part One

In the Shadow of the Sun


Eluding Death

Rising from the Shadow of the Sun Front Cover (2)Sticking his bayonet through the gedèk (bamboo fence), the Japanese soldier aimed to kill me. He missed. A little girl with blond braids, I was only five years old in March of 1944. The bayonet sliced through the air over my head. “Mamma!” I cried.

“Ronny, come here!” cried Mamma. Dropping my flowers I scrambled across the slokan (ditch) and into Mamma’s arms. “Oh Ron!” said Mamma. “I am so glad you could run so fast through the slokan! You’re such a big girl!”

“What was that, Mamma?”

“You probably came too close to the gedèk. On the other side is a soldier. He thought you were running away and put a stick through the gedèk to scare you.”

“Can you get my flowers, Mam? They are for you.”

Mamma took my hand. “We will get them later, when the soldier is gone. All right?”

That morning, Mamma and I were walking along the edge of the camp. I was picking wildflowers for Mamma across the slokan. On the other side of the gedèk, a Japanese guard heard voices and intended to kill me. It is one of the bad memories I have of those three and a half years in Japanese concentration camps. At that time, Mamma, my little sister Paula and I were incarcerated in Halmahera, a Japanese concentration camp outside of Semarang, on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies. The war had gone on for two years.

The Japanese Army had conquered our island in March of 1942. Civilians—men, women and children—were put into concentration camps. Our captors withheld food and medication and treated the prisoners in the most inhumane way. Many were tortured and raped and beheaded. The Imperial Japanese Army’s instructions were to exterminate the Western Race in the islands at all costs so Japan could achieve a monopoly in Southeast Asia.

It was a near miss. I did not die at the hands of that Japanese soldier in 1944 because I was too small. I could have died a year later from hunger edema. In August of 1945, I was six. My legs were like sticks, my tummy was bloated and my cheeks were puffy. I was in the last stages of beri-beri, hunger edema. Paula, then four years old, had dry edema and was a mere skeleton. She could not walk or sit anymore. I imagined how it would happen. Paula would die first. Mamma had “wet” edema, like me, and she would die soon after Paula. I would have a month, perhaps two, before it was my turn. The Japanese would throw me into a mass grave outside the camp; a large hole in the ground dug especially for this purpose. When the war was over, allied rescue troops would unearth my body with all the others and bury it properly in the cemetery outside of town. They would top my grave with a nameless white cross. They put white crosses on thousands of graves in memory of the women and children who perished under the cruel treatment of the Japanese.

Forty-nine years later, I stood at that cemetery and wept. I wept tears of sorrow for all those mothers and children who had perished, and I wept tears of joy because I was alive.

I did not die in 1945 from hunger edema, because on August 15, 1945, the Japanese Empire abruptly surrendered and the war was over.

The world knows a lot about the war in Europe, the German occupation and the Holocaust. This book captures an aspect of  WWII that is unknown to many: the torture and deaths that took place in civilian concentration camps all over Asia under Japanese occupation: the Asian Holocaust.


March 8, 1942


They are here. The Japs came marching in today. I heard the sound of many motorcars, a heavy droning sound, along a wide avenue near our street. I ventured to look around the corner and saw the Japanese army, marching and driving. On both sides of the street many of the natives were waving small Japanese flags. I felt they were betraying us and hurried back home.

Yesterday, our next door neighbor, who lives in the large home on the corner, didn’t come home from the office. He works in City Hall. He left in the morning, as usual, but didn’t return in the afternoon. A telephone call notified his wife to take a small suitcase with some clothing and toiletries to the prison. The prison! She came to talk to me today, totally upset. Her husband, a high government official, had been imprisoned. She didn’t know why.

Fokko has gone. I don’t know anything about him. I don’t even know where he is, whether he is still alive or whether we’ll ever see each other again. You can understand how I feel. This is the worst thing that could happen to me, because as long as you have each other you can endure anything. I’ll try to tell you everything that happened since March 1st, now exactly a week ago, also a Sunday.

Fokko had to work that day and wouldn’t be back until Monday night. When Ronny and I said goodbye that morning at the gate I said, “See you tomorrow night.” The funny thing was that we said goodbye twice, which had never happened before, and I thought, How strange. I hope nothing happens to him. I’d always have to think about this. We had our daily bombardments and around 11 our neighbor came over with a telephone message from Fokko. He’d called to ask if everything was all right. An hour later I was called to the phone (we didn’t have one of our own) and Fokko asked me the address of Jos’ wife’s parents in Malang, where I was to go if we had to be evacuated. He said, “Just in case we don’t see each other before you have to be evacuated, I need to know where I can find you.”

That telephone call frightened me. I went home, only to be called over again an hour later, and there it was: he had been assigned to a group of men who had to evacuate to Tjilatjap, a harbor town on the south coast. That’s all he knew. He asked me to pack a suitcase and didn’t even know whether he would have time to pick it up himself.

“And what about me?” I asked.

“You are staying here,” he said and he gave me an address where I would get money every month, part of his salary.

I went home to pack Fokko’s suitcase. All kinds of horrifying thoughts went through my mind. In the afternoon I went to a phone booth to call him. He said he didn’t know anything yet, but he was almost sure he’d have time to come by before he had to leave. “Say goodbye to Ron and little Paula.” I got home just in time for the next alarm. That night Fokko called me again at the neighbor’s and we had a good, long talk. He cheered me up again, but I didn’t sleep much that night. Early the next morning, while I was sorting out some pictures for Fokko to take, I heard from one of the neighbors that the base would be destroyed around 9 a.m. When we heard the terrible explosions, tears started running down my face. You should have heard Ronny trying to cheer me up. Stroking my arm she said, “Please don’t cry, Mam. Maybe Pappa will come home to pick up his suitcase.”

When that didn’t have any results, she said, “Maybe Pappa will stay with us for a little while longer.”

“No, Pappa really has to leave.”

“Do you love Pappa so much? Maybe then we’ll get another Pappa,” she finally said.

At noon the radio broadcast the news that the Japanese had invaded Java’s north coast. A little later Fokko drove into the driveway for the last time. Of course he was depressed too. They had each received some money and a lifebelt (did that mean he would go overseas?), and the train would be leaving at 7 p.m. that night. We spent some time talking, while Fokko looked through the papers he wanted to take with him. Kokki  kept the girls occupied, but we didn’t feel like dinner that afternoon. At five Fokko and I left for the tram, which would take him to the train. It cut me through my soul when I heard him say, “Pappa has to leave now. Be good, girls.”

He took them in his arms, hugged them and kissed them goodbye. They couldn’t understand that it possibly meant goodbye for a long time. He had to leave them just like that. How terrible.


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