The Power Of Love – Cheryl Shireman And Daughter Scarlett On The Prairie

Day Six

Okay, I hope you’ve all brought a box of tissues along, because you’re gonna need them.

Because it’s Little House On the Prairie time here at MWi, and I promise you there won’t be a dry eye in the building by the time you finish reading today’s guest post.

Okay, I lied about Little House. No Laura Ingalls Wilder here with us today. Sorry. If anyone remembers the TV series but has never read the books then you’re missing out on some great reading, by the way.

But if you had to sum up the series, books or TV, in one word, there’s really only one word that would suffice: Love.

Sure, Little House is about kids growing up in the prairie states, and it was adorable just for that, but the theme that bound every episode of the TV series and every chapter of every book, was love.

The love between a family that lived and loved together.

Which of course rather dates it, right? Families don’t live together anymore. Nowadays the kids are on the first flight out to Independence City and old-fashioned family values just don’t apply. Or so it seems sometimes.

For some years now I’ve been very slowly tinkering away at a West African version of Little House. It’s called Sunrise Over Serrekunda. If I ever finish it, it’s unlikely to be a commercial best-seller, but it’s my chance to share some of the incredible warmth and beauty of everyday life here, that is every bit as alien to the modern western reader as Little House.

But some recent discussions with today’s guest, Cheryl Shireman, gave me some ideas for another novel set here on the planet’s most impoverished continent, and it may be that Sunrise Over Serrekunda will take a back seat a bit longer. Cheryl suggested maybe it’s time I created my very own girls-kick-ass character here in the Third Word. Cheryl, you’re absolutely right. Thanks

I first came across Cheryl thanks to an interview she did over on indieiq. At the time she was just coming to terms with her new found success as an indie writer. Her book, Life Is But A Dream, had made the top 100 in lit fiction on It’s now in the top forty, and in the top thirty in several other categories.

Her latest book, Broken Resolutions, is chasing it fast. Good luck with that, Cheryl.

But I didn’t invite Cheryl her to talk about that. She has her website and blog if you’re interested. I invited – nay, insisted – Cheryl come here today to tell us about another book she has out, that I downloaded and read a few weeks back, and have been in tears over ever since. It was that bad! So I demanded Cheryl come here and explain herself.

Of course, that’s not true. Yes, I was in tears, but because the book was so good.

The book is called You Don’t Need A Prince. It’s very short. It has lots of images and very few words. It’s also one of the most beautiful and moving books I’ve ever read.

Oh, and it’s a love story



Just four tiny letters.

One solitary syllable.

But it’s probably the most powerful word in the English language.

It has a thousand and one meanings, but whenever it’s used we know exactly what it means at that given time.

We love our parents, our children, our partners, our siblings. We love our pets. In each case we know exactly what we mean. We know the romantic love we share with our partners is not the same love we share with our parents or children. Or our pets.

We make love to our partners (anyone with confessions about the others on the list, please report to the nearest police station).  We want to love and be loved by the rest. And in each case we know exactly what we mean when we use that word.

We love chocolate and coffee. We love going to the cinema. We love reading books. We love summer. We love fall. We love snowflakes and flowers. We love cinnamon and ballroom dancing. We love Bill Hayley and Pink. We love to dress up, or dress down. We love… Well, you get the picture. The word has even found itself a role in sport. Anyone for tennis?

And it’s not just a word. It’s a theme. And just any old theme. It’s the theme.

Love dominates literature, and indeed all the arts. It’s inescapable.

Dig beneath the surface of almost any novel and love, in one of its infinite manifestations, will surely be there. And I don’t just mean the romance genres.

Where would Harry Potter be without the love for and of his parents to drive his quest? And of course love was in the air in other ways as the characters grew up. And which kid wouldn’t love to have been Harry or Hermione?

Stephen King explored love through bizarre extremes in Carrie, Christine and Firestarter, and which writer among us will ever forget the corrupted love in Misery?

James Patterson is the world’s best-selling thriller writer by far, yet fully one third of his average Alex Cross novel is given over to the MC’s love of his family and friends.

And of course love has always dominated crime fiction. Our own Sugar & Spice is about the love of a mother who lost her daughter to an entirely different and corrupted kind of love. Most crime fiction takes a less controversial base-line, but invariably the theme of love will be lurking nearby.

So let us be thankful for horror stories, where we can get away from all this mushy nonsense, right? Only, what is Frankenstein if not a wonderful love story? Dracula? Even more so.

Which brings us back to today’s green room guest in the MWi studio, Cheryl Shireman.

That’s not to say Cheryl is a bloodsucking vampire, by the way. I was still talking about the theme of love. Honest!

Cheryl’s book, You Don’t Need A Prince, started with a few personal emails she fired off to her daughter in moments of quiet reflection and forgot to delete.

Well, from such tiny beginnings are great novels sprung, right?

Only, this isn’t a novel. This is those actual emails, reproduced unedited, in a book, with a few family album photos throw in for good measure.

A nice family keepsake? Undoubtedly. But not just for the Shireman family.

This is for anybody who has, or will have, a daughter. If Caroline Ingalls had ever had a computer, she would have written emails like this to Carrie, Mary and Laura.

It’s a book that will remain forever on my Kindle, and when my daughter is old enough to understand it then it will be compulsory reading for her.

But even if you’ve not got a daughter, this book is a must-read. It’s about relationships. It applies to everybody.

As I said, it’s short. Download it today and you’ll have read it all in thirty minutes.

But the sentiments will stay with you forever.

Cheryl wrote it for her daughter and so, in an unprecedented move, I asked her daughter to join us here at MWi too. Between the three os us we span three continents.

Here’s Cheryl. And Scarlett. Don’t forget the tissues!

As a parent, there are few things more painful than when your child is hurting and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. As a mother, I often held my children and successfully soothed them after they had fallen down and scraped a knee or after someone had teased them on the school bus. But as those same children became young adults and scraped knees turned to broken hearts, it became much more difficult to console them.

A little over a year and a half ago my youngest daughter, Scarlett, called home from college in tears. She had been dating the same guy for about four years, but she didn’t feel like things were right between them. She had been thinking about breaking up with him for months, but just couldn’t bring herself to hurt him. To make matters even more complicated, she had just met another man and she was totally infatuated with him.

To be honest, I wasn’t entirely broken-hearted that she was thinking about ending the relationship with the first guy. Nothing against him, but he just wasn’t the right guy for her. And he lived in California – all the way across the country! Selfishly, I was still hoping that she would find a nice guy from Indiana and end up living down the road from me. Now she was head-over-heels in love with some new guy she had just met. I secretly hoped he lived in Indiana. Soon, I found out that he did not. Head-over-heels guy was from Denmark. As in the country – Denmark!

I listened to her on the phone as she cried and longed to wrap my arms around her and tell her that everything would be okay. Only I didn’t know if it would be okay, so how could I lie? I didn’t think California Guy was right for her, but I couldn’t tell her that. She had to discover that for herself. And I certainly didn’t think Denmark Guy was right for her, based solely on location. Denmark?! She cried some more, and we talked some more, and then I got off the phone and cried a little too.

That night, I had a nightmare about her and woke up at 3 a.m. Shaken, I got out of bed, went to my computer and sent her an email. I had no easy answers for her. I couldn’t tell her what to do. The only thing I could tell her is what I have learned about love. And so I did. I poured my heart out to her in an email and then went to bed. That email meant so much to Scarlett that she began forwarding it to her friends. And they then emailed it to their friends. A network of girls began reaching out to each other through these words of love. At the time, she told me, “This should be a book for women to give to each other.” I was thrilled that Scarlett placed so much value on my email to her. Sometimes, as a parent, you get it right.

Fast forward to about a month ago. As an Indie Author, I had just published my first novel, Life is But a Dream, in late January. My second novel, Broken Resolutions, was published in April. The first novel had already far exceeded all of my expectations for sales, and the second novel was just beginning to take off. One day I started thinking about that late-night email and Scarlett’s words – This should be a book. And it suddenly hit me – with the revolution of Indie Publishing, this could be a book! I thought that perhaps if I put these words in the form of a book, they might comfort and encourage another girl going through a tough time. Perhaps a friend might pass the book along to another friend. Perhaps a mother might give the book to her own daughter. An aunt to a niece. A grandmother to her granddaughter.

As I began to think of how to illustrate the book, I immediately thought of little girls – even though the intended audience for this book is women. Because I believe every mother sees her daughter as a little girl, no matter how old she is. And I believe every woman is a little girl at heart. I also believe when we are children, we know how to love. It is only as we become adults, that we often lose our way. Now, with the Royal Wedding still fresh in our minds, perhaps we all need a reminder – you really don’t need a prince to make you happy.

Immediately, I started creating the book, including a cover that I absolutely fell in love with. I had already determined that I would make this book and present it as a gift to Scarlett. If she wanted to share it with the rest of the world, that would be her choice – not mine. It was her email. Within a relatively short time I had created the book. I made a video call on Skype to Scarlett, and then emailed her the final product so I could watch as she opened the book. She loved it. She agreed, wholeheartedly, that the book should be made available to everyone.

In Scarlett’s own words – That was such a confusing time in my life. Should I stay in a relationship that I was “comfortable” with or follow my heart and pursue what seemed like “true love” at the time. As I read the email, so much of what my Mom had written rang true. I almost hated that she was so right! I am one stubborn girl (I get that from her!), but I had to admit, every word I read was true. I could see myself and my sometimes unrealistic expectations in those pages. I began crying uncontrollably. As the weeks and months went by, I let her words sink into my heart. When I finally made my decision, it felt as if a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. And I knew it was the right decision for me. I feel so lucky to have the kind of Mom who would take the time to write such a loving and inspiring letter when I needed it the most. Now, I hope this book will spread across the world to girls and women who feel lost and confused. And I hope it will encourage them to make the right choices. Thank you so much, Mom. I love you more than words can express. See ya later Alligator!

And so, thanks to the revolution of Indie Publishing, what started out as my simple email of love is now available as an eBook (Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook) or as a paperback through Amazon. I know it has been said time and time again. But this is nothing short of revolutionary! I can write a book, illustrate a book, and publish a book – all from the comfort of my home. Now, my novels are reaching thousands of readers. And I just published my first title in late January. As I write this, it is mid-May. Within less than four months my books have found thousands of readers! Astonishing! The traditional publishers and literary agents are no longer gatekeepers. For the first time in history, the writer has the power to bring his or her words to the new gatekeeper – the reader! The reader, alone, will decide on the success or failure of any given title.

As for You Don’t Need a Prince, my book has already succeeded. Even if it never sells a single copy. My daughter was married last December in a beautiful fairytale princess wedding to the man of her dreams. She now lives in Denmark. Yep, Denmark.

(After while Crocodile!)

Guys, yeah we know. Something in your eye. Funny how that always happens…

Girls, when you’ve mopped up, check the book out, and share the love.

  1. What an amazing story. Thanks for sharing and I’m off to check out the book right now. Believe me, I could use it. And I know some other women who could, as well…

    • Shea, I’d barely pressed the publish button before you’d read it and commented! How do you do that?!

      I know I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again – this book is adorable. Scarlett is so lucky to have a mum like that, looking out for her across the thousands of miles that separate them.

  2. Oh my gosh. I AM crying. And it’s not like I didn’t know most of the content ahead of time. Whew! I feel like I can just die now. Cause, really, how is it going to get any better than this? Mark, first – thanks for contacting me and asking me to do this. I never had any idea that the result would be something so beautiful. Your intro was amazing.
    And this is so odd – You readers need to know that Mark adds those photos to illustrate the article. Toward the end of that article is a picture of a wooden figurine of a mother holding a little blonde haired girl. Okay, ready for goosebumps – I BOUGHT THAT SAME FIGURINE FOR SCARLETT – Right now, it sits in her apartment atop a desk in Denmark. Mark just chose a photo to illustrate the theme of love. He had no way of knowing this. I saw it and, literally, gasped.
    So, now I am going to send this link to Scarlett so she can read it. And I really need to pull myself together. For I do have work to do today. Right now the tears are slowing that down a bit. Geesh!
    And I will be back to read comments and answer questions.
    Thanks again, Mark. sniff…snifff…sniff…

    • Wow! That is definitely a goosebumps moment!

      Hope Scarlett enjoys the post as much as I did writing it.

      As and when I can access Amazon properly I will of course be leaving a solid five star review, but my location prevents that at the moment.

      Looking forward to the sequel You Don’t Need A Princess for my son.

  3. Awwwww. This is such a sweet story. And what a nice touch that Mark chose a picture of that figurine. The book looks great. Very clever cover, BTW.

  4. Thanks Anne. It is so odd – that figurine. Now THAT”S an weird coincidence! I love the cover too. That little girl is so cute – kind of sassy and with the crown on her head.

  5. And Shea – you ARE full of awesome! 🙂

  6. That is such a lovely idea for a novel, Cheryl. I’m sure there are so many people out there who experience a break-up and can really relate to the emails.

    And Mark – you said: “We love to dress up” – I knew it! I knew it was you at Stansted Airport reading chicklit in your pink stilettos!

    • I guess forgetting to shave that morning gave the game away. Damn.

    • Thanks Sibel!
      But it isn’t really a novel – more of an illustrated gift book for women to give to each other. Just don’t want anyone to order this expecting a novel! 🙂
      And I don’t even want to know about Mark in pink stilettos!

  7. Mark,

    Thank you so much for this article. The way you wrote it is just beautiful! I really appreciate you taking the time you did on it. The pictures go with the story so well- and the sculpture of the mom and the daughter really gave me goosebumps too mom.. I have that exact sculpture sitting in my apartment right by my desk! I really hope woman can spread the word about You Dont Need a Prince.. because it is a truly inspiring book.. and it is all about love, like you said! Thanks again Mark and mom.. :-)love, Scarlett

    • Scarlett, you and mom ought to get together and co-author a full novel based on your story.

      Thanks for agreeing to share it with the world, and thanks especially for adding your own bit for the post. A pleasure to have you here.

    • Scarlett – counting the days until you come home to visit!
      I love you with all my heart.

      See you SOON alligator!

  8. I am definitely intrigued and will be adding Cheryl to my reading list. Thank you!

    • You wn’t regret it. I’ve not read Broken Resolutions yet but loved Life Is But A Dream.

      And of course You Don’t Need A Prince should be a compulsory part of the school curriculum.

    • Thanks so much. I am just happy that you read this article!
      Mark did such an amazing job with the intro. I have been involved with quite a few interviews and written a few blog posts – but none like this. It really does feel as if love is pouring from this post. Honestly, I feel so grateful, and humbled, to be a part of it.

  9. Mark, your intros are amazing! I am loving your blog and you have introduced everyone so far with such finesse. I loved this particular post because I’m a Brit and I married and American and moved to the US. My Mum was heartbroken that I left England for love but has come to accept my decision although she still is not happy about it even 10 years later 🙂

    I will be checking out Cheryl’s book that’s for sure and yes, there was a lump in my throat.

    Thank you

    • Thanks, Alison. Writing the intros is almost as much fun as reading the guest posts when they come in.

      I can relate easily to you and Cheryl. My mum is still back in the UK while I live my life here in beautiful West Africa.

      She’ll never understand why I want to leave all the comforts of Europe for a mud-hut existence in one of the poorest countries on the planet, but she understands I’m truly happy here and that material wealth is meaningless to me.

  10. Yes – it is tough – having an ocean between you and your loved one. But as a parent, the thing we want most in the world is for our children to be happy. If that means living in another country, then so be it.
    My daughter is coming home in two weeks for a month-long visit. I, literally, have a count down on my computer! And then I will go to visit her this fall. And THANK GOD for Skype! We talk on Skype several times a week. It really helps to see her and not just hear her voice.
    Thanks so much Alison for taking the time to read this post. I am glad that you enjoyed it. Now go Skype with your Mum. 🙂

    • Hi Cheryl, I wish my mum would use a computer it certainly would make life easier. But no, she flatly refuses to learn so all we have is one phone call a week at a designated time so we both know we’ll be in. Sad! My mum has missed out on a lot of my life (emails, facebook, photos, skype etc) but she older, and terrified of computers so won’t even try.

      • Does she have any friends who use computers? If so, she could go to their house periodically and talk to you via Skype. She would only need to get there and sit down for the conversation – if she had a friend who could use a computer.
        Talking to her every week on the phone is great, though. I am sure she really looks forward to your talks.
        But if she just had one friend with a computer, then you would be ready to Skype every week!
        Geesh! I am such a mom! I am trying to connect you with your mom and we don’t even know each other. lol
        But – if you manage to do it, please let me know – because I will always be wondering! Ha! You can contact me via the Contact Form on my website –
        Best of luck, Alison.
        Surely your mom (Mum) must have one friend with a computer…. 🙂

  11. To comment on an old thread, brought here by comments on a new thread. :}

    I think I’ve got a list of households I want to send the book to. Formost being my Mom and my mother-in-law. My mother would totally understand about the distence thing. She only recently told me ow terrified she was when I made the decision to move across the USA to California with my boyfriend. Yup, he was only my boyfriend. things worked out though as we are now married, with two kids, still loving it, and we’re also a bit closer to home. (It’s an 8 hour drive rather than a 6 hour flight.)

    Anyway now to comment on Little House on the Parrie, which is not the first book. *giggles* I have them all, read them all, and should probably read them again. Funny part was I didn’t realize they were an autobiography until later in life. Well, Farmerboy was a biography of her husband’s early life. I even have “The First four Years” whcih was found by Laura’s duaghter after Laura’s death. You can tell Laura hadn’t begun editing it and adding in the depth as she had the others. But, the love was still there.

    :} Cathryn

    • Cathryn – how nice to come across your comment on this blog post. Thanks so much. It is funny, but that is exactly what this little book has become – something for one woman to give to another woman. Which is exactly how it started – so that really seems appropriate. And, I have to say, touches my heart so deeply.
      I’ve heard from many readers who bought the ebook and then bought the paperback as a gift for another woman (daughter, friend, niece, etc.). I love that about women – the way we rally around one another to support and encourage.
      There are a lot of great books out about Wilder – writings she wrote before being published, biographies, etc. She was really a fascinating woman.
      Thanks again for the great comment. You made my day.
      Oh – and an update. My daughter and her husband may be moving to the states this year. Fingers crossed. 🙂

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