Upcoming Events

I will be signing my novels, Catherine’s Cross and The Cast Net, at the following locations. Thanks to all my hosts for having me!

July 13th  The Book Dispensary, 710-C Gracern Road, Columbia SC, 29210  1:00 PM until 3:00 PM

July 20th  Hair Perfections,  130 Amick’s Ferry Road, Chapin SC, 29036 from 11:00 AM until 2:00 PM

July 27th  McIntosh Book Shoppe, 917 Bay Street, Beaufort, SC 29902 from 1:00 PM until 3:00 PM

August 3rd  Barnes and Noble, 278-A Harbison Blvd, Columbia, SC 29210 from 1:00 PM until 3:00 PM


How I Researched the Gullah Culture for Catherine’s Cross

I’d like to start by saying that I have been visiting the Sea Islands near Beaufort, SC, for the last twenty years. During that time, I have met and spoken with the descendants of Gullah people. I have listened to the pronunciations of their words and attempted to duplicate the language patterns through characters, Ida Mae, Meta Jane, and Mose Lafitte.


While I was writing Catherine’s Cross, I read a novel, Daughter’s of the Dust by Julie Dash. Her novel follows her heroine’s introduction to the Sea Islands near Beaufort. Her mother having been raised on the Sea Islands, has moved north to New York City, but her daughter wants to know her relatives and the land of her ancestors. I thoroughly enjoyed Dash’s depiction of the islands and the Gullah people. In addition, I read The Gullahs of South Carolina by Pearce W. Hammond. He discusses the Gullah culture, their language, and superstitions. For instance, I learned that the cry of a screech owl is a sure sign of death. I reference this superstition in both The Cast Net and Catherine’s Cross.


Lastly, I purchased and scanned the Gullah New Testament, De Nyew Testament. I found the writings difficult to understand. For the characters in Catherine’s Cross who speak a version of Gullah, I decided that their pronunciations would be a mix of Gullah and Standard English so they could be understood. Each of the Gullah descendants in Catherine’s Cross are pure and honest individuals.

Virtual tour of Catherine’s Cross

Hi everyone! Please visit the virtual tour of Catherine’s Cross this week. Here’s the schedule:

June 24:  Andi’s Book Reviews
June 25:  Just Jeannie’s Books and Bling
June 26:  Book ‘Em North Carolina
June 26:  Long and Short Reviews 
June 27:  Writers and Authors
June 28:  It’s Raining Books


Where do ideas come from?

My novels, The Cast Net and Catherine’s Cross are set in the Low Country of South Carolina. As I was working on The Cast Net, which was my first novel, I read at least twenty-five books on the history of South Carolina. I tried to gain as much knowledge about the area, the people, and the history of our culture and customs. I am a native South Carolinian and many of my ideas come from historical research.

While reading about the Low Country, I came across interesting facts that I used in my novels. For instance, I have a fictitious point of land on one of the rivers near Beaufort, South Carolina, in Catherine’s Cross. I named the point, Nairne Point after Indian agent, Thomas Nairne, who was tortured to death by Yemassee Indians in 1715, during an Indian uprising. The point becomes ominous when a character’s, (he betrayed his Gullah family over their ancestral land) sapphire blue Cadillac is found submerged after a fisherman catches the hood ornament with a fish hook. His body was never recovered, and a relative, Meta Jane, hoped he had a visit with a shark.

From researching the Civil War period, I created the fictitious Catherine’s Cross. The crucifix was stolen from Miss Iris Elliott, the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner in the Beaufort area by Union soldiers. In truth, the Federal navy captured the Beaufort, Hilton Head, and Port Royal communities in late 1861. Their naval base would remain in the Beaufort area throughout the Civil War. During this period, properties were looted including wealthy plantations homes. The white planters fled the area.

Catherine’s Cross was from the collection of Catherine the Great. Iris Elliott’s father had purchased it while on a tour of Europe in the 1850’s. The cross was stolen from the Elliott plantation and stowed on a Union ship bound for a northern destination. A fire breaks out on board, and the boat sinks in waters off the South Carolina coast. The cross becomes a long lost prize sought after by treasure hunting divers.

Diving for artifacts in the waterways around Beaufort is a hobby of sport divers. In the years after Beaufort’s founding in 1711, there were numerous taverns located along the rivers. After beer or wine was consumed, the bottles often ended up at the bottom of the rivers. I have seen these ancient bottles for sale in Low Country antique stores. At the beginning of Catherine’s Cross, the heroine, Jenks’s twin sister Gigi, accidentally drowns while diving for artifacts with her

McIntosh Book Shoppe

Hi all! I will be signing Catherine’s Cross and The Cast Net this Saturday, May 25th at the McIntosh Book Shoppe, 919 Bay Street, Beaufort, SC starting at 1:00 PM. Please come by for a personalized copy! Check out this link: http://www.islandpacket.com/2013/05/19/2509240/a-chat-with-millie-west-author.html

Debut of Catherine’s Cross

I had a wonderful time in Charleston, SC yesterday at the Reinert LePrince Gallery on King Street. I debuted my second novel, Catherine’s Cross. The response from customers was outstanding. I was thrilled when several people stopped by and said they had read my first novel, The Cast Net, and loved it! They then purchased Catherine’s Cross! I had a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Also, I’d like to thank Randy and Kira Berry at Newberry, SC’s Books on Main,  and Rhonda and Betty at Prosperity, SC’s Towne Square Antique Mall for recently hosting me for successful book signing events! Many thanks!

I will be presenting The Cast Net and Catherine’s Cross at the South Carolina Book Festival, this weekend, May 18th and 19th at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, 1101 Lincoln Street, Columbia, SC 29201.

Big Mama’s Collards!

The heroine of my upcoming novel Catherine’s Cross, Jenks Ellington,  discovers a wonderful recipe for collards after moving to Beaufort, South Carolina. Having never had collards cooked with a little molasses, Jenks quickly finds that a few unique ingredients used in Big Mama’s greens make them fabulously delicious! To get the full recipe for this scrumptious dish go to author, Pat Branning’ s website to purchase Shrimp, Collards and Grits! Jenks is glad she did! https://www.shrimpcollardsgrits.com/

Debut of Catherine’s Cross

Hi all! My second novel, Catherine’s Cross, will debut in May of 2013-just a couple of months away! Like my first novel, The Cast Net, Catherine’s Cross, is a mystery / suspense novel with a love story.

Here’s a short description: When Jenks Ellington experiences a sudden, alarming sense of panic about her identical twin sister Gigi, she has to wait until nearly midnight before learning the reason her her unease: Gigi has drowned while diving for artifacts in a Low Country river near Beaufort, South Carolina. Although Beaufort County detective Seth Mason is suspicious of Gigi’s diving partner, there is no evidence of foul play. But, when Gigi’s Port Royal home is broken into and ransacked, Jenks discovers two clues–one on which leads to a Gullah medium.

In a painstaking search for answers, Jenks delves more deeply into her twin’s life. Along the way, her bond with Detective Mason reaches unexpected depths. And what secrets could medium Meta Jane be holding? Was Gigi’s death really an accident?

Preorder Catherine’s Cross at: http://shop.boutiqueofqualitybooks.com/Catherines-Cross-9781937084912.htm


South Carolina Writer’s Workshop Conference

I attended the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop conference in Myrtle Beach this past weekend. I learned many helpful techniques which I plan to use in my writing. I also had the valuable experience of meeting Lynne Marie, author of the intriguing Seahawk’s Sanctuary which has numerous five star ratings. I look forward to reading her upcoming novel, The Lion’s Lair.

Also, I had the good fortune of meetings authors, Brenda and Jane Bonds whose humorous work on adventures in a retirement community is sure to be a hit!

Chan Chich Adventure

I recently had a fantastic adventure in Belize while doing research for my upcoming novel, Catherine’s Cross, which will be released in May, 2013. My daughter, Whitney, and I flew from Belize City in a Cessna 172 piloted by Alisa, with Javier Flying Service. We landed at Gallon Jug, named by British mahogany loggers in the nineteenth century after they found gallon jugs left by Spanish explorers centuries before.

We spent the next several days exploring the wonder that is Chan Chich. Built on the plaza of a Maya ruin, Chan Chich is a jungle resort with cabanas, a lodge, fabulous cuisine, nine miles of walking trails, and bird and animal watching. There are several species of large cats on this estate, including the puma and the jaguar.   .

My daughter and I spent many hours with guides, Gilberto and Marvin as we explored the ancient settlement. We saw some Maya sites excavated by archaeologists,  but others that had been looted several decades ago by thieves. We also learned about the medicinal qualities of native plants, and watched many species of birds. I was amazed by the call of the howler monkey whose growls and howls can be heard for miles. One of the visitors to the lodge spotted a jaguar on a trail, and a motion sensitive camera caught the image of the elusive creature for all of us to see!

In my upcoming novel, Catherine’s Cross, part of the action takes place in the jungles near Chan Chich which is in the Orange Walk District of Belize. I feel excited about my presentation of the area in my novel, and I hope you will want to read about this historically rich and natural area of Belize. Many thanks to Elder, Irma and his staff for helping with my research. We had an amazingly wonderful time!