Saturday, June 24, 2017

Sit Down Saturday with Virginia McCullough

Welcome to another Sit Down Saturday. We’re here today with Virginia McCullough who is a new Harlequin Heartwarming author. Her debut novel, Girl in the Spotlight, just released this month. Welcome, Virginia and readers!

What does the back cover say about Girl in the Spotlight, Book 1 of Virginia’s Two Moon Bay Series?

When Miles Jenkins sees the graceful young figure skater on TV, he can't believe how much she resembles Lark McGee, the girl he dated briefly in college. Could this aspiring star be the child Lark gave up for adoption eighteen years ago? He has to find out.

Locating Lark ignites conflicting emotions in Miles—including regrets for what might have been and romantic feelings that take the two single parents by surprise. As they prepare to meet their daughter, this deeper connection between the two just might be the chance at love they never got.

Where did you get the idea for the novel?

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to discover that a child relinquished for adoption grew up to be well known or somehow in the public eye. That formed the seed, but I’m also a fan of figure skating, so I combined the two themes. I also wanted to create a couple, who weren’t necessarily star-crossed as young people and torn apart by circumstances. Lark and Miles had a casual relationship as college students. They are surprised by what could happen to them as adults.

Do you have a favorite scene?

Hands down, my favorite is the first time Lark and Miles see their now 18-year-old daughter, Perrie Lynn, skate. They’re sitting high in an arena looking down on the ice, and it’s as if a painting comes to life. Lark is distressed that she can’t immediately single out Perrie Lynn in a group of skaters, and the reality that she knows so little about her daughter hits hard. But that gives way to a trancelike state watching Perrie Lynn perform. Lark feels every jump, extension, and spin in her own body (and so did I!). Lark is overwhelmed by sharing this intimate moment with Miles.

Tell us about Two Moon Bay.

Two Moon Bay has it all—it’s located on Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shore. It has all the elements needed for a busy life in a small lakefront town—the Silver Moon Winery and the Half Moon Café to a yacht club that’s the perfect place for big gatherings. It has tour boats and waterfront paths and everyone enjoys coffee and at treat at the Bean Grinder. 

What’s next for you?

I’m pleased that book 2, Something to Treasure, is scheduled for release in January 2018. Dawn, a busy and lively PR consultant (and Lark’s best friend) is looking for a new challenge professionally and personally and finds both with Jerrod, a newcomer to Two Moon Bay. He runs shipwreck diving excursions and needs Dawn’s help to establish his business on the Lake Michigan shore. He’s yet to fully recover from the devastating loss of his wife and one of his daughters in a terrorist attack halfway around the world. Dawn herself has deep longings of her own and some healing to do.
Book 3 is underway, so I’m deep into Andi and Zeke’s story. Andi happens to be Miles’s ex-wife, and given their ability to team up to raise their daughter, Brooke, I thought Andi just had to have her own story. Zeke was in the right place at the right time. Putting their heads together to restore something old might give them a chance for something new.

Do you have themes that emerge again and again?

In my previous novels and Girl in the Spotlight and Books 2 & 3, the characters could be our family, friends, or neighbors. Like everyday people, they often struggle to hang on to hope, have wounds to heal, and are always grateful for second chances. 

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Download your copy of Girl in the Spotlight from your favorite online retailer. If you enjoy the story, please consider posting a review to help other readers discover Virginia’s books.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Big Weather Out Our Way. You?

Severe thunderstorms were predicted for my town and surrounding area on Tuesday evening. You know, the usual--wind, rain, lightning, possibly hail. The good news is that we only got the wind. The bad news is that boy, did we get wind!

Gusts of 110 km/h hit the town from the northwest, snapped mammoth trees at the base like toothpicks, scattered trampolines and garbage cans and left hundreds of homes without power. Nearby Red Deer was declared a local state of emergency because power outages were expected to last three days in some areas.

Everyone has their own story. My daughter and I saw the storm clouds but decided to take a quick walk, thinking that the approaching rain would keep us in for the rest of the evening. When the winds suddenly escalated we broke into a run three blocks from home, the wind spraying gravel at us and then buffeting us like a bully. We entered the backyard to sandbag our little apple tree. It was then that I noticed that our trampoline was missing.

Yes, that's it leaning against the neighbour's swing. Notice how bright and sunny it is during the windstorm. So bizarre. My 12-year-old son had been on it only minutes before but had jumped off when the wind turned cold.

My husband was at the lakeshore when the storm blasted in. He spotted a waterspout (a tornado on open water) on the lake and while driving away, the wind tore into a huge display at the nearby water sports place, so he was bombarded by inflated toy sharks and crocodiles and pink dragons.

Trees were the hardest hit.

This is me beside one in Red Deer which experienced the same storm. Many poplars were toppled. I don't know if it's because of a shallow root system or what that makes them more prone to high winds.

Here is a common sight at the lake today.
While it's sad to see such shade-giving, enormous living structures gone in seconds, it was only the trees that were destroyed. In more than one case, giant trees crashed into houses or cars.
All this tree mess has been a windfall (yes, pun fully intended) for tree services. This truck appropriately boasts, 'Specializing in Dangerous Tree Removal'.

Oddly enough, my story coming in February 2018 is set in July when a once-in-a-lifetime storm hits town, creating a windfall for the roofing company my hero owns. As well in the real-life storm, many houses lost shingles. Only one left our house--phew. But during the storm itself every house on the block had shingles lift and flap like hosts of bird wings. 

Two days later, the storm has long gone but the tidy-up continues and the stories grow as high as the log piles.

I know everyone has one of their own. Tell me yours!

Visit me at M. K. Stelmack or Facebook.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Art of Translation By Cari Lynn Webb

I’ve acquired a new skill recently: translator. I’ve become rather adept at translating teenage body language, single syllable replies and eye rolls. And I like to remind my daughter daily that yes, I do in fact have her number and she better step up her game if she wants to take me on. As luck would have it, my husband and I have also descended into the “inability to communicate effectively” phase. Perhaps it’s because we just moved last week and I told my husband he severely underestimated the amount of stuff we own and he argued that I have too much stuff (although he might’ve been more creative in his word choice for stuff). We’ve had more than a few conversations in the last week that’ve begun with: I heard you say, what I meant to say and I heard you, but sorry I wasn’t really listening, well, at all. And I have to admit, I laugh every time my husband admits he heard me talking, but didn’t listen to a word I said. It’s refreshing to know I’m not the only one guilty of that particular flaw.

Good communication takes practice. A lot of practice and even then, it still goes haywire between couples, families, and friends. In my July release, The Charm Offensive, my heroine, Sophie Callahan has stopped believing in empty words and has put her in faith in actions. For all too often, Sophie has been left to deal with the fall-out from her family’s broken promises.

Here’s a teaser from The Charm Offensive. Once again, Sophie’s sister has gone back on her promise to return home and Sophie is the one left to make everything better for her young niece. Unfortunately for Sophie, words aren’t enough to alleviate the pain and disappointment.

“Do you think Mother will like it?” Ella asked.
Sophie’s heart stalled as if clogged by those extra cotton balls. “She’ll love it.”
“After we add the clouds and I finish the rainbow, you’ll help me write ‘welcome home,’ right?” Ella ran her hands over the rainbow arc she’d formed with thin, flexible wax strips.
The joy in Ella’s tone stole Sophie’s heart, and her throat swelled, feeling stuffed by another bunch of cotton balls. “Whenever you’re ready.”
“She’ll be home in nineteen days,” Ella said. “So I need to be ready soon.”
“About that.” Sophie sat on the bed. “I talked to your mother today.”
Ella’s hands stilled on her picture. “Is she excited to come home?”
A guardedness tightened Ella’s voice as if to protect the joy. Sophie swallowed her scream of anger. Her niece didn’t deserve this amount of pain. “She’s excited to see you.” Sophie hugged Ella, wanting the contact to be more comfort than her empty words, but knew it’d never be enough. “But she needs to stay a little while longer.”
“Then she isn’t excited to see me.” Ella dismantled her rainbow and her joy.
“Oh, sweetie, she wants to see you,” Sophie said. “She wants to be home, but she needs to finish her therapy.”
“She could do her therapy here.” Ella twisted the wax strips in her fingers.
Sophie resented that small kernel of hope in Ella’s voice. Sophie had had that same hope bubble when she was Ella’s age. Her grandmother would pop it with the harsh truth. Over the years, Sophie’s hope bubbles had shrunk in size until they were small enough for Sophie to hide in places her grandmother couldn’t poke.
Ella rushed on. “They have yoga here. I heard Taylor’s mom talking to another mom about their afternoon yoga class over on Market.”
She hated that she’d stomp on Ella’s hope now. She’d never wanted that for this precious girl. “It isn’t the same.”
How Sophie wanted it to be the same. To be that simple.
“It’s better.” Ella smashed the purple modeling clay in her fist. “Her family is here. I’m here. You’re here. There’s yoga here.”
And there was nothing else Sophie could say. She couldn’t promise Ella that Tessa would be home soon. Tessa always found a reason to delay. She’d tell Ella that her mother loved her as usual, but Sophie was too mad at her sister to spend the time to convince Ella it was true. Mothers weren’t supposed to break their daughters’ hearts. Her chest ached and her stomach tightened into knots no Yogi master could release. She’d tried to soften the hurt every time, but the pain was always there. “I’ll go get those cotton balls.”
“There’s no rush.” Ella pushed her drawing across the bed and picked up her headphones. “I’m going to finish my book.”
Ella rolled over onto her side, away from Sophie. Sophie ached. Ella ached, too. Yet no tears dampened either of their faces. But Sophie always dried Ella’s tears and teased away the disappointment. The tissues she’d shoved into her pocket before talking to Ella remained untouched. When had they stopped caring? Ella could see the truth better than most people with twenty-twenty vision. She could see better than her own mother. Sophie’s ache spread like a poison vine, strangling every bone, every vein, consuming her.

Until next time, may all your conversations be easy and uncomplicated.

Happy Reading!

THE CHARM OFFENSIVE by Cari Lynn Webb will be out in July. Pre-Order today!
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Foodie Book Gathering + A Recipe from Laurie Tomlinson

One of the best parts of releasing a novel with two foodie main characters is the excuse to go all out at book signings, launch parties, and other events. Last night, I attended the first book club meeting for With No Reservations, and it was so much fun!

I wish I could gather all of my friends and readers in one place for one giant, glorious party where the coffee is flowing and the calories don't count -- which is a good thing, because my characters use a lot of butter :) But since advancements haven't solved issues of time and distance, I thought I'd give you a glimpse!

My hero went to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and is starting a French cafe, so the menu has a predominantly French theme. If you were at my launch party, you would be treated to:

Chantilly Cake - Lacy white cake with gooey berries
Tri-colored Macarons - Crispy cookies sandwiching a layer of heavenly frosting
Sloane's Cookies - Chocolate chip toffee pudding cookies from Chapter 1
Buttery Croissants - Chocolate, Strawberry, and a LOT of Butter
Truffles - Balls of chocolatey bliss
Chocolate Mousse - Poured chocolate cups filled with creamy chocolate-espresso mousse
Cheese Board - Cheddar, Gouda, Brie with seed and berry crackers and grapes
Mini Bundt Cakes - Personal servings of fluffy cake
Fresh Fruit & Cream - Sliced berries and cream whipped with a touch of sweetness

In the background, if the chatter died down for a moment, you could hear the faint sounds of our favorite Rat Pack members -- Sinatra, Dean Martin, and their contemporaries -- crooning their hit songs. But, as you know tends to be the case when we reader-types are gathered, that wouldn't be often as we agreed, debated, and interpreted 350 pages of story. 

Maybe someday we can celebrate in person, but for now, you can make the chocolate chip toffee cookies found on the very first page of With No Reservations.

Sloane's Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from


  • 2¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butter, softened at room temperature (Sloane uses Kerrygold Irish butter)
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding, dry
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (Sloane recommends mini semisweet chocolate chips)
  • ½ cup toffee bits 


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a bowl, combine flour and baking soda.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment (or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer), cream butter and sugars together.
  • Mix in dry pudding, eggs, and vanilla until well combined.
  • Add flour mixture slowly, 2-3 parts at a time, until all is combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. 
  • Fold in chocolate chips and toffee bits.
  • Using a tablespoon or cookie scooper, roll dough into balls and place on greased baking sheet.
  • Sloane's (optional) tip: Press additional chocolate chips and toffee bits into the tops of the cookies to make them prettier :)
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 8-12 minutes.

Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God’s love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. Her novella That’s When I Knew was featured in the Love at First Laugh collection, and her debut novel, With No Reservations, is now available from Harlequin Heartwarming

You can connect with Laurie on her websiteFacebook page, and Instagram.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Airports Big and Small by T.R. McClure

Earlier this month I revealed the cover for Deal of a Lifetime on my Facebook page.

The third in the Home to Bear Meadows series, this Harlequin Heartwarming story debuts the first of September. Behind the hero and heroine, hugging on the tarmac, is a commuter plane.

Anyone who lives more than 100 miles from a large city is accustomed to flying out of a regional airport. Compared to their international cousins, regional airports are smaller and easier to access. Commuter planes usually seat 50 to 100 people.

Air travel has been in the news a lot lately, mostly for negative reasons. Fights and arguments abound. But last year I saw a story about a little girl who lost her Teddy bear on the plane. She posted her dilemma on Facebook. An airline employee found the bear and took pictures throughout his workday. In the cockpit. On a baggage cart. At the end of his shift he returned the bear. What a great story.

Maybe that's why I love airports. Big ones, small ones, busy ones, quiet ones. So many stories swirling in the air. Between flights once, I met a woman from Madagascar, a beautiful set of islands off the east coast of Africa. No, I've never been, but I wouldn't mind seeing someday. She was on her way to Texas to visit her daughter. I was on my way to Atlanta to visit mine. She wore a colorful sarong and headdress. I wore jeans. So different. So much alike.

Living in the Northeast I, along with millions of others, dream of going south in the winter. Miami International, Cancun, Hilo in Hawaii. All conjure up images of palm trees and fresh ocean breezes.

Checking out a college with my other daughter (I have twins), we flew into Charlotte. I remember a long line of white rocking chairs in front of big windows. I think that's where I saw the grand piano, too, but I'm not sure. I have a secret ambition to stop and play a song there some day.

Denver has the famous statue Blue Mustang out front. I spent the night on hard plastic chairs when the last flight out for the day was canceled due to a blizzard. It was May.

A few years ago we drove to JFK International to put my daughter's Saint Bernard on a cargo flight to Milan. She and her husband were based at Aviano Air Base for the next four years. Driving a Saint Bernard through New York City? Of course I had to write about the adventure.
Rocky in NC

This true story ended up in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Military Families which came out May 9.

Travels with Rocky meant a lot to me. I was grateful Chicken Soup gave it a home.

When I think of airports I think of adventure. Of people coming and going. Of interesting stories. And not an insignificant fact...I met my husband at the airport.

So what's your airport story? Do you have a favorite airport?

As always, enjoy the read.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Those Bloomin' Gardens (and Giveaway) . . . by Kate James

If you visit our blog regularly, you might recall my April post when I took you for a walk through our gardens. If you'd like to revisit what the gardens looked like then, here is the link to that post. Well, spring finally arrived and with it came lots and LOTS of rain. So much rain, in fact, that records were broken and some low-lying areas flooded.

With all the rain, our gardens did quite a bit of catching up, and all the perennials seem to be back on schedule, if not a little ahead of their normal bloom times.

As it's a beautiful, sunny afternoon as I write this post, I thought I would take you for another walk, but this time I'd like your help! I (sheepishly) admit that I don't know the names of all the plants in my gardens. Please help me identify the plants that I don't know. One person will be chosen at random from those naming (correctly . . . I'll check!) at least one plant to receive the prize pack detailed at the end of this post. You'll get one entry for each plant you name correctly.

So, let's get started! And please feel free to correct me, if I have some of them wrong.

This first picture is of one of the gardens edging our back patio. The purple and yellow flowers in the background are pansies, the white ones are a type of impatient, but do you know what the salmon-colored ones in the foreground are?

Picture number 2 is the same garden from a different angle. Doesn't that little stone dog look like he is inhaling the sweet fragrance of the flowers? There are hostas behind him, daylilies (not yet in bloom) to his left and more impatientspink in this casebut what is that deep burgundy, feathery plant in the bottom right quadrant of the picture?

Picture 3 shows another garden by our patio. This was actually a window-box planter that I purchased and put in the ground. I plants with the red flowers are dragon wing begonias, but what are those plants behind the begonias with the purple spikes getting ready to bloom?

This is one of my very favorite things in my gardens! Picture 4 shows the flowers of a beautiful ornamental tree. I have no idea what type of tree it is, but I love these flowers and refer to them as cartoon flowers, as that's what they make me think of. Can you name the tree? Anyone who gets this correct will get two entries for the prize draw!

This picture was taken at the foot of the stone steps leading from the upper garden to the lower garden. There's no guessing required here, as I know that the purple-and-white flowers are bearded irises and the clusters of small white flowers are bleeding hearts. Am I correct? (Yes, I have both pink-and-white and all-white bleeding heart plants.)

Picture 6 shows a hosta and more bleeding hearts, but do you know what the yellowish ground cover between them is called?

I believe the flowering bush in picture 7 is commonly referred to as a beauty bush. Am I correct? Do you know its proper name?

This one is easy. It's a red peony, and picture 9 below is its pink cousin!


I think the plants in picture 10 are pink and purple lavender, but I'm not certain. What do you think?

I am fairly certain that this is a rhododendron, but I would appreciate confirmation.

Picture 12 shows more irises, but also that yellowish ground cover again.

Picture 13 shows my banana plants (they grow like weeds but, sadly, they are only annuals in Ontario), daylilies, hostas and some flowering annuals in the front.

This is another portion of the same garden shown in picture 13. Does anyone know the name of the flowering bush behind the fence?


And I thought I would end the tour with a pretty planter. You have been very patient touring my gardens with me, and now I would like to share the contents of the prize pack with you.

The prize pack contains an autographed copy of When the Right One Comes Along, the first book in my San Diego K-9 Unit series, a collection of bookplates and bookmarks, and a bejeweled notepad and matching pen. The giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada. If the winner has already read When the Right One Comes Along, I will happily substitute another one of my previously released books of the winner's choosing.

As a reminder, to enter, all you have to do is help me identify any of the plants in my gardens that I am unsure of, and you get two entries if you correctly name the tree with the "cartoon" flowers. When naming the plants, please refer to the picture number. You have until end of day, Friday, June 23. I will announce the winner at the bottom of this post on Saturday morning.

In closing, here is some information about my 2017 releases. 

Purchase links:

March 2017                   July 2017                   October 2017

Huge thanks to everyone who supports my writing!

And the winner is . . . 

Thank you to everyone who visited our blog and took the time to help me name the plants in my garden.

With so many helpful comments, I decided to pick not one but three winners. And the winners are . . .
  • Anne Rightler,
  • Winnie Thomas, and
  • Lynn Brooks.
Congratulations, ladies! You will each receive a prize pack, consisting of a signed copy of When the Right One Comes Along, bookplates and bookmarks, and a bejeweled notebook with matching pen. Please e-mail me at readers @ kate - james . com (without spaces) with your mailing address and I will get your prize pack in the mail to you.

Thanks, again, to everyone who participated. Watch for more giveaways in the near future from me and the other authors with July releases.

Happy reading!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sit Down Saturday....with Carol Ross

It’s Saturday! I’m super excited to sit down and answer a few questions about my latest book, Summer at the Shore.

This is what the back cover says:

Saving lives is who they are
Risking his life for others is all in a day's work for Coast Guard petty officer Jay Johnston. Until he comes to the rescue of Mia Frasier after her small plane goes down. Maybe it's because the empathetic blue-eyed vet wants to save the world just as passionately as Jay wants to create a safe haven for his five younger siblings, but there's no denying their bond. Despite his growing feelings for Mia, a romantic relationship isn't on Jay's radar. How can two people always on the move stay in one place long enough to create a family of their own?

Where did you get the idea for this novel?

Coast Guard officer, Jay Johnston was introduced in the first Pacific Cove book, Christmas in the Cove. In the first draft of that book, there was a love triangle involving the heroine and hero and Jay. Ultimately, it took up too much space and I had to cut it. But I totally fell for Jay! So, here he is getting his own story.

What is your favorite scene?

Heroine, Mia, is a veterinarian so there are a lot of fun scenes in this book involving cats and dogs. There’s one funny scene where Jay and his teenaged siblings are trying to trap a stray cat that is hunkered down under an old shed. Jay crawls in to try and nab the cat and, well, as tough as our Coast Guard hero is, he loses his first cat fight. I laughed out loud when I was writing it. (Love it when that happens.)

In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption, what would it say?

“Sometimes in life, love is all about meeting in the middle.” Jay and Mia only live a short distance apart in “beach miles.” It’s much farther in road miles and the homes they live in are kind of symbolic of how different their lives are. Mia lives in a million-dollar ocean view dream home with her mom and Jay lives in a run-down, rat-infested, rental shack with his teenaged brother and sister. In the story, Jay and Mia head to the beach from their respective homes and walk along the shore until they “meet in the middle.”

What does this book mean to you in a personal way?

Like so many of our Heartwarming authors and readers, I’m an over-the-top animal lover. I’ve adopted numerous rescue cats through the years and I’m currently the proud dog-mom to a rescued mini-dachshund named Lucky. I’m a huge proponent of adopting rescue pets. And, this is probably a little out there but “Coastie,” the dog that Jay rescues in this book, is inspired by my first border collie, Mishka (rest her soul.) Mishka was even smarter and more amazing than Coastie but I was afraid if I wrote her that way no one would believe it.

Adopt a rescue pet today! (Sure, you can have them both.)

What do you plan to work on next?

I am currently finishing up book seven for Heartwarming. It’s number five in my Seasons of Alaska series. I’m excited about it. But also a little nervous because it features a hero who has made an appearance in every single Seasons of Alaska book. His story is by far the most requested by readers and I don’t want to disappoint.

For more information about Carol and a list of all her books, please visit her website:

Now, who's ready for some summer reading?

Summer at the Shore can be purchased here:

Thanks so much for stopping by and have a fabulous Father’s Day weekend!