Tuesday, February 20, 2018

On the Road by T.R. McClure

As do many of my fellow Heartwarming authors, I enjoy traveling. Last year I wrote a blog about airports and how much I like them. Some comments were positive, others detailed travel nightmares. Lately I've been traveling more by car than plane, however. And according to statistics, so are a lot of other people. Apparently low gas prices have people choosing automobiles over planes and trains.

One of my non-writing activities is teaching defensive driving. Writers hold a lot of conversations in their heads. Teaching helps remind me it's healthy to have actual conversations. This week I received my schedule for the summer and as usual started me thinking about my driving habits. I thought I'd share some of those thoughts with you.
The good news is cars today are much safer than they used to be. After buying a new car last year, it took me a while to adjust to the differences between the old and the new. My favorite new technologies are  blind spot monitoring and the backup camera. The lane departure warning system warns me sometimes to pull over and have a cup of coffee. Sometimes the warning goes off as I'm drinking a cup of coffee. Occasionally there's a donut with that coffee. As with most technology, it takes time and practice to adjust.

The bad news is there is so much to distract from our task of paying attention to the road. Inside and outside the car.
Everyone knows distracted driving is one of the biggest problems on the road. The obvious and the one most people think of is the use of the cell phone while driving. The act of sending a text causes a driver to take her eyes off the road for about five seconds, the length of a football field if traveling at 55 mph. Others include changing the radio station, checking GPS, and even drinking that cup of coffee.  I like coffee on an early morning trip and I also like to listen to books on tape if I'm driving by myself. I tell my students to use their best judgement. If you're in the city, rush hour traffic, the safest thing is to eliminate every distraction possible.
A lot of accidents happen at intersections, especially for older drivers. A suggestion is to find an intersection with a traffic light. Exits at malls, for example, offer both types. So why not choose the exit that controls the traffic for you?
Last week, on a surprisingly balmy day for central Pennsylvania, I looked in my rear view mirror and spied a motorcyclist. We don't often expect to see motorcycles or bicycles out and about in February. Many states require at least three feet of distance when you pass a bicyclist on the road. Pennsylvania law requires four feet.
Most of us have been driving since we were sixteen and the act of getting in the car and pulling out onto the highway is second nature. But next time you prepare for a trip, short or long, take care of the possible distractions before you put the car in drive. Have a safe trip!

As always, enjoy the read. Just not while you're behind the wheel!


Monday, February 19, 2018

Fight or Flight.

That's how we respond when we're in trouble, right?

I'm in flight mode.

It's absolutely the wrong response. Right now, I'm up to my eyeballs in accounting, the day job. I had two people working with me, and one has moved on, and I haven't found a replacement. I'm not sure long term I want one, and short term, I don't have time to find someone and train them. This is the busiest time of the year for my business.

This isn't the first time I've been swamped. I took on too much when I was a one person business, and I ended up with bursitis/frozen shoulder from too much accounting. I was working evenings and weekends, and I got an accounting injury. It's true, it happened, and it wasn't even a paper cut.

I'm trying this time to not work evenings and weekends because of injury and work life balance, but in any case, what I'm wanting to do is run, figuratively.

That means, instead of knuckling down and just getting stuff done, every time there's another email or phone call with someone wanting something else done, I'm trying to flee. Find something on the internet to read, pick up a book, find something around the house to do. Which is wrong. I just want to hide out until it's over, but it won't be over till I get it done.

I know I'll get through it. I did when I gave myself bursitis, and also the year I was working full time, taking accounting courses, doing a second job and then decided to make all my Christmas presents by hand. We call that as the crazy Christmas around here.

I realized, in my book coming out next month, that I wrote a female protagonist with a very different response. When Bridget gets in trouble, she faces it head on.

Bridget had a bad feeling and knew exactly where to look for answers. She stalked down the hallway to Wally the Weasel’s office.
He wasn’t there, so she sat in a chair to wait for him.
Bridget’s temper smoldered as she read the email Monica forwarded. Wally had included everyone but her; that was obviously deliberate. By the time Wally showed up, Bridget was ready to ignite.
Wally was almost around his desk before he noticed Bridget sitting in one of the visitor chairs.
“Oh, Bridget.” He swallowed. “I didn’t see you there. I’m kind of busy...” His voice trailed off as Bridget stood up and closed the door firmly.
“So what’s going on, Wally?”
“The name is Walter—” He scurried behind his desk as he saw the look on Bridget’s face. He swallowed again. “You mean about the pool, I suppose.”
“Yes, you suppose right. Yet, again, you’ve failed to notify me about something important to my job.”
“Oh, dear, did you not get the email? Maybe your server?”
“Cut the crap, Wally,” Bridget answered. “There were a couple of emails, all of them connected to the pool and this problem you’d detected, but I wasn’t on any of them. I’m the swim coach, and I was never asked about it, or told that there was an issue.”
“I’m not sure I like your attitude—”
Bridget stood up. “And I don’t like your crap. You’ve had it in for me ever since I started that swimming program. What is wrong with you?”
Bridget’s voice was rising. She leaned over his desk, gripping the wooden edge to resist the temptation to grab him around his weaselly neck.

A month from now, it'll be over. And I'll feel much better. But right now, instead of working, I'm doing a blog post. Flight response.

How do you handle these situations? Are you like me, or more like Bridget? Fight or flight?

Just wanted to add:  Happy Family Day!  I didn't realize it was a holiday up here in Canada, partly because with no kids in school I didn't get notice that teachers were not going to be taking care of my kids, partly because working for myself at home there was no discussion about a day off, and partly because of the craziness I described above. I hope you all are having a better Family Day than I am!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Sit-Down Saturday with Cerella Sechrist (The Way Back to Erin)

Welcome to Sit-Down Saturday! Today, I'm featuring my latest release, The Way Back to Erin, the third book in my A Findlay Roads Story series.

This is the third book in the A Findlay Roads Story series. Tell us a little bit about the town of Findlay Roads.

As I mentioned in my last post, the town of Findlay Roads is loosely based on several Chesapeake Bay area towns, including Havre de Grace, MD. Because I’m a history lover, I had to create the town’s early origins, even if they never made it into the story. But I was able to use that information in Harper’s Wish when Rory talks about how Findlay Roads came to be: “…it was founded by an Irishman. Donal Findlay came over before the start of the French and Indian War and brought his entire family with him. They settled this area, and old man Findlay’s descendants have been a rich part of this town’s history, participating in the Revolution, the War of 1812 and even ferrying slaves across the bay so they could escape to Canada and find their freedom.”

If you’re a history buff like me, I’d recommend researching other Chesapeake Bay towns and their history. There are some great stories out there!

Concord Point Lighthouse, Havre de Grace, MD (photo: Cerella Sechrist)

Do you have any actors in mind for any of the characters?

Many authors have someone in mind for the characters in their novels, and I'm no exception. In fact, I have a friend who is currently reading in the book, and she asked me (as she often does when she reads my writing!) who I imagine in the hero and heroine's role. I've always thought Jewel Staite had the strength but wholesome innocence that personifies Erin. And in case you're wondering, my friend agreed!

Burke is a little trickier, and I had a couple people in mind while writing the role, but I think Dan Stevens (any Downton Abbey fans out there?) makes a good choice to reflect Burke's wounded and wary nature but also his kindness and loving heart.

I'm a Pinterest addict, and I have an entire board devoted exclusively to the Findlay Roads series, so if you want more visuals on the cast, the town, and the story, make sure you follow me there!

What was the hardest thing about writing this story?

While each of the stories in the Findlay Roads series has some difficult, true-to-life element at their core, I think this one carried a lingering weight given all the grief both Burke and Erin have experienced in their life. I didn’t expect this book to be quite as challenging, on an emotional level, as the others. The other stories deal with some devastating subject matter such as Early Onset Alzheimer’s, fractured families, and infertility. But I underestimated the power of grief, which is the central conflict for Burke and Erin. As I said in my Reader Letter at the beginning of the book:

“Grief is a tricky thing. It has no timetable. It is not bound by the constraints of a five-step process. It will catch you unawares, lulling you into a false sense of security one hour, only to strike you savagely with the reminders of your loss in the next.”

But I ended with: “Grief will tie you up, cut you deep, and hold you down. But it will not keep you there forever.”

The best, but also the hardest, thing about The Way Back to Erin was bringing both Burke and Erin through the sphere of grief they were stuck in. It was a story with no easy answers because life itself is not easy. They had to work for their happily ever after, just as the rest of us do. But it was also extremely satisfying to wrestle with them and their emotions through the book and then see where they ended up and knowing they deserved to be there. You’ll just have to read the book to see what I mean!

Do you have any interesting trivia from writing the book?

I always find it fun when authors share "behind the scenes" tidbits about their works. One from this story is that Kitt, Erin's son, nearly went through a name change in the series’ first book. One of my editors pointed out that I had a lot of gender-neutral names scattered throughout the cast of the series (Kitt, Rory, Peyton, Jamie, etc. – all of which could be used for either a male or a female.) She requested I change several of these to eliminate any confusion. I very nearly changed Kitt's name until my sister made a request that I keep it because she felt it was a good choice for his character. As I wrote the book, I was glad I did. Kitt seems to fit Erin’s son very well. (In case you're wondering, Peyton became Paige, the oldest sister in the Worth clan, and Jamie became Connor, the hero in Harper’s Wish.)

Do you have a theme song for the story?

While I wouldn't say I have a theme song for The Way Back to Erin, there is one song I listened to many times when I was writing the book. It was Heart Hope by Oh Wonder. The mood of the music just worked for so many scenes in the story. I actually listened to it repeatedly when I wrote the scene mentioned below.

Do you have a favorite scene?

I have several, but the one that probably moved me the most while writing was between Burke and great aunt Lenora, the woman who raised him after his parents died, and he and his brother had been shuffled around from home to home until Lenora took them in. Here’s a snippet:


She clasped her hands on the table. “I know you’ve never seen this place as your home. Gavin did. But not you.”

The knot remained lodged in his throat. “I’m not sure I could see any place as home, after my parents died.” He drew a breath. “And I’m sorry, that I wasn’t able to be more like Gavin.”

“More like Gavin?”

“Yeah. That I couldn’t…I don’t know. He just, he had a way…” Burke broke then, the tears for his brother rising unexpectedly. “He was a healer. Gavin had that gift of making the worst situation better because he had faith. I could never be like that. And I’m sorry. I know you loved him better, that everyone loved him better…and he’s the one that’s gone.”

He lowered his head and let the tears flow, so overwhelmed by his grief that he didn’t realize Aunt Lenora had moved from her chair and come to his side until he felt her lay her head on top of his.

“Oh, dear child.” He felt the weight of her small frame, leaning on him. He’d grown accustomed to her not touching him. It had never been her way. But feeling her so close to him now was soothing. “I never loved him better. Just differently. You were the one who captured my heart.”

These words stunned him. He straightened, and so did she.


She gave a short nod. “You and Gavin were so different. He saw the light in the world and tried to preserve it. I think that’s why he joined the army. He wanted to protect what he valued. But you…you see the truth. The only problem is you don’t always know how to live with that truth. Gavin may have made the world brighter, but you, sweet boy, make it matter.”


Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?

I love celebrating the release of a book with themed giveaways, and The Way Back to Erin is no exception! I’m participating in a group giveaway with my fellow February authors to help four lucky readers “Warm Up this Winter”, but I also have another giveaway going on exclusively for my Author News subscribers. If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, you’re eligible to enter to win the prize package featured below. Make sure you enter soon, though, the sweepstakes ends on Monday! Just click the links to enter either giveaway for a chance to win!

Click here to enter my Author Newsletter giveaway!

Click here to enter the Warm Up this Winter giveaway!

CERELLA SECHRIST lives in York, Pennsylvania with two precocious pugs, Darcy and Charlotte, named after Jane Austen literary characters. Inspired by her childhood love of stories, she was ten years old when she decided she wanted to become an author. She’s been known to post too many pug photos on both Instagram and Pinterest. You can see for yourself by finding her online at www.cerellasechrist.com. The Way Back to Erin, Book #3 in her "A Findlay Roads Story" series, is her fifth Harlequin Heartwarming novel.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Valentine's Romance Trivia ~ ala Harlequin

by Shirley Hailstock

This month, as you know from all the Valentine's Day blogs, we celebrated a day of love. Harlequin Enterprises, as the largest romance publisher, joined in the celebration of that day by sponsoring a promotion for authors and readers. They set up a program called Romance Trivia and Terri Brisbin and I hosted it. Terri writes Harlequin Historicals.

We went to a bookstore, a real store with shelves and clerks and other readers to meet in the stacks and talk about what books we've read and recommend. (The experience online is not the same.) Booktrader of Hamilton is an independent store in Hamilton, NJ owned by Joan Silvestri. She is super romance friendly and whenever I go in her store, she and her staff make me feel like a queen.

On the Saturday before Valentine's Day, Joan had put up signs, sent out texts, emails and posted on her Facebook page about the Romance Trivia event. Harlequin sent a box of materials, including the trivia questions and answers and prizes for the winners.

After Terri and I set up the area, we started the three rounds of questions. And then the fun began. Joan started passing the chocolate and cream puffs around. Terri read the questions. I partnered with one of the teams and Joan kept score.

The questions weren't always on books, some were about movies or popular culture figures (ala Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez).  There were a few questions we disagreed with, like; After seeing Niagara Falls, who said it was the second greatest disappointment for American wives? (Answer: Oscar Wilde).

There were teams who got logical and started using our old high school methods of test taking to rule out the obvious wrong answers. And in several cases, we were wrong. But the laughter was worth it.

There was also the questions on which we needed a third opinion. There was Joan with her computer open and Google ready.  When we argued over if Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward met on the set of The Long Hot Summer, Google informed us that they met in 1952. The movie was filmed in 1957.  So Harlequin's answer was correct. Do you think they used Google, too?

There was the need to find a song and let the group hear it. The question was: A popular song from the movie, The Bodyguard is I will Always Love You sung by Whitney Houston. Who wrote this song? (answer: Dolly Parton). Since the group couldn't imagine Dolly singing it (we'd heard the Whitney Houston version too many times), Joan pulled it up on Youtube and we listened.

Here's a link if you want to hear Dolly sing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_utP1mGoutQ

It was a wonderful day, with great readers. They were so good that we sat around talking for two hours after the program ended.

They were all A+ readers and trivia buffs.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

...want of learning is a calamity... - Liz Flaherty and Helen DePrima

by Liz Flaherty 
 I haven’t seen Helen’s post for February yet, so I apologize for us not "matching." Sometimes our row of ducks is startlingly crooked!

Shirley and Laurie mentioned Black History Month the other day. I’ve been reading a lot about it, particularly black women in history, and have been inspired. Here are a few links in case you haven’t seen them. Since I’m a retired postal worker, Mary Fields is a particular favorite. Watching the stories of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, the heroines of Hidden Figures, was a life-changing event. Both times I've seen it. Every time I read a quote from Frederick Douglass, I am amazed by his wisdom. My favorite (and it must be everyone else's, too--it's everywhere) is "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." Amen, Mr. Douglass.

Chubby Checker came out with "The Twist," in 1960 (I was 10, so I don't

remember it all that well) and I remember watching him on "American Bandstand." I grew up in a farming community that was more diverse in its breeds of livestock than it was in races or ethnicities of its residents, and I knew very few African-Americans. But what I remember was that when I watched Chubby Checker, I just saw a cool guy who could sing and dance better than anyone I'd ever seen. It was the first time--and thankfully not the last--that I saw the person instead of his or her color without thinking about it. It was a great lesson for a 10-year-old. I'm glad it stuck.

It is a time of strife in this country. Of divisiveness. Of anger and pain and hurt. Our history, particularly that which we celebrate this month, shows that all those things have been around a long time. It's disappointing how little we've grown in some areas. And exhilarating how much we've grown in others. 

I wish I'd done more during my life to open things up. To make that anger and pain and hurt better. But I'm still enthralled by our country's history, hiccups and all. And I'm so glad I was there when Chubby Checker was on "Bandstand." You remember him. He's the cool guy who sings and dances better than anyone you've ever seen.

by Helen DePrima

February in northern New England is a test of endurance. Christmas is long past (although I haven’t gotten around to taking down my wreath), and my gardening catalogues have been studied and dog-eared for new flower and vegetable varieties. Unless you’re a winter sports enthusiast, which I’m not, February is a month to curl up beside the wood stove with a mug of coffee and a favorite book, to read or to write.

I grew up with my grandmother’s books. She read voraciously, and new books came into the house on a regular basis. I was allowed to read anything I could puzzle through, from history and poetry to essays and fairly steamy novels, for the day. One of my favorites, which I’ve reread almost to death, was Mrs. Appleyard’s Year, somewhat like today’s blogs, with chapters devoted the specialness of each month. Mrs. Appleyard was a proper and prosperous Boston matron living on the brink of World War II – little did I suspect that I would become familiar with her world, light-years removed from my grandfather’s Kentucky farm or the Colorado mountains where I worked after college. In our forty-plus of living in New Hampshire, we’ve made many trips to Boston for plays and concerts and Celtics games. Now our visits center more on the superb medical facilities, but I still delight in the pre-Revolutionary buildings rubbing elbows with modern glass and steel, the peaceful resting places of early patriots occupying prime city real estate.

Mrs. Appleyard liked that February could produce both snowballs and snowdrops. Her year must have included a mild winter, because just an hour north of Boston, we’re still a good month from seeing any kind of flowers that don’t come from the florist or blossom on my geraniums spending the winter on a south-facing windowsill. But the snow is receding around our big maple as sap begins to rise, and robins peck industriously in sunny spots thawing on the south side of the ell. Most exciting, a bluebird and his mate are visiting my suet feeder regularly; I hope they’ll decide to homestead in the birdhouse properly sited at the edge of the woods. And with luck, in a few weeks I’ll find last fall’s spinach making a brave comeback under the mulch.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sweet Recipes for Your Valentines by Carol Ross & Amy Vastine

It’s Valentine’s Day and we’re going to help you make it a sweet one! 

That old clichΓ© about the way to a man’s heart being through his stomach is kind of spot on. At least, Amy and I think so. But we believe this holds true for just about anyone. (At least it does for us.) So, get your apron on and bake a treat for that special Valentine in your life - husband or boyfriend, wife or best girl, kids, or friend – we’ve got you covered!

For Your Sweetie Pie

My husband LOVES chocolate. If a dessert isn’t chocolate, he doesn’t see the point. There are a few exceptions, one of them being ice cream where vanilla is preferred. This decadent classic combines two of his favorites.

Hot Fudge Cake

1 cup flour
¾ cup sugar
6 Tbs cocoa powder, divided
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
½ cup milk
2 Tbs canola (or other light) oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup brown sugar – packed
1 ¾ cup hot water

Combine flour, sugar, 2 Tbs cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Stir in milk, oil, and vanilla until smooth. Spread into ungreased 9-inch square baking pan. Combine brown sugar and remaining cocoa. Sprinkle over batter. Slowly pour hot water over the mixture. Do not stir! Bake at 350° for 35 – 40 minutes. Cool slightly and serve over ice cream.

For Your Miniature Valentines (aka Kiddos)

It’s a tradition in my family to bake and decorate sugar cookies for just about any holiday. Valentine’s Day is especially fun because you can cut them into heart shapes and turn them into edible Valentines!

Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter - softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 ¾ cups flour
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp soda
½ tsp baking powder

Cream butter & sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Gradually add dry ingredients. Cover & chill at least 3 hours. Roll out and cut into desired shapes. Bake at 375 for 7 - 10 mins on ungreased cookie sheet until edges are very slightly brown. Do not overbake! Cool and frost.

Galentines Need Love (and Dessert) Too!

Amy and I share a mutual love for many of the same things and one of them happens to be sugary treats! We have an ongoing quest to find the most delicious dessert at RWA Nationals every year. (I’ve already googled the best ice cream in Denver.) So, I thought it only fitting to share the recipe I’d make for my cupcake-loving pal. Amy, I wish I could deliver these to you in person!

Chocolate Vanilla Cream Cupcakes

2 cups sugar
1 cup 2% or whole milk
1 cup canola oil
1 cup water
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

In a large bowl, beat the sugar, milk, oil, water, eggs and vanilla until well blended. 
Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into egg mixture until

Fill paper-lined muffin cups half full.  Bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes or until a
toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from pans to wire racks to
cool completely.

¼ cup butter, softened
¼ cup shortening
2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbs 2% or whole milk
1 ½ tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

In a small bowl, beat the butter, shortening, powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt until fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Insert a small tip into a pastry or plastic bag with filling.  Push the tip through the top of the cupcake to fill each cupcake.  Frost with buttercream frosting.

1 cup butter, softened
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1 to 2 Tbs milk or half and half
1 tsp vanilla
Beat until light and fluffy.
(This recipe originally appeared inTaste of Home magazine.)

What are you baking up this Valentine’s Day? Or are you more of a box of chocolates kind of person?

For more information about Amy Vastine and Carol Ross, including complete lists of their books, please visit their websites!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Who Decides These Things? By Patricia Forsythe


Once again, it’s time for Valentine’s Day, when we think about our loved ones, exchange cards and gifts, and eat too much chocolate. It has grown in popularity, and commercialism, since the mid 1800’s.

Romance writers are very fond of Valentine’s Day because it’s about love, but Valentine’s Day isn’t the only holiday in February. This year, we also have Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, which falls on Valentine’s Day. It’s also National Organ Donors Day. There’s a message in there somewhere -- maybe about eating too much chocolate?The 15th is Singles Awareness Day. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that single people are aware of the fact.

Here in the United States, we also have Groundhog Day in February, as well as George Washington’s birthday, and Abraham Lincoln’s. Maybe because the 12th is Lincoln’s birthday, it’s also National Lost Penny Day where people are encouraged to search for loose change. Turn over those sofa cushions?

One list I saw had seventy-three different awareness and celebration days in February, a heavy load for a month that only has twenty-eight days. February 1st was No Politics Day. I’m sorry I missed that one. The 3rd was Eat Ice Cream For Breakfast Day. I’m really sorry I missed that one. Some days have so many celebrations and remembrances listed, you could exhaust yourself trying to take part in them all.

It occurred to me that anyone could declare any kind of national awareness day they wanted to. Therefore, I’m going to declare February 14th as Give A Romance Writer A Hug Day. How about you? What kind of day would you like to declare?

Patricia Forsythe is the author of many romances, both traditionally and electronically published.  Her most recent Harlequin Heartwarming releases were in the Oklahoma Girls series; At Odds With The Midwife, The Husband She Can’t Forget, and His Twin Baby Surprise.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Feeling the Love by Cheryl Harper

Today, I'm in a grateful mood. I love writing, but I am not writing today. This is a celebration. When I think about how I feel, George Michael is singing "Freedom" and dancing. On Friday, I sent off a book that is going to require some heavy editorial lifting, but it's finished.

For a while, I've been in survival mode. No reading (WHAT?). No movies. Just work.

Today? I'm looking around in a Joan Wilder, "I just blew my nose on piece of paper, but I survived the deadline" haze and wondering at what point I just sell the house as-is and move to a new one instead of clearing out the dishes and laundry.

I'd like to say that's not me, but I think it might be the new me. I've always been all or nothing about life. I'll do it all (resolve to lose weight AND declutter my house AND build a strict budget AND be everything to everyone AND be happy about it) or nothing.

This year has already proven to be a lesson in learning the middle ground. I made the deadline but my house is wrecked, so destroyed I will physically fight anyone who tries to enter my kitchen at this point. I've missed some things to do something that's important to me but managed to find the time for friends when they needed me.

And today? Forget the mess. Forget the taxes. Forget the groceries I desperately need. I ordered pizza. I'm reading books. That's what I love the most. That's why I write. And that's what it takes to sit back down in front of the computer.

To my friends who write, I salute you. Thank you for learning to balance it all.
And to my friends who read, tell me what I've missed. What's the most recent book you read that was reading at its very best?

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Sit-down Saturday with Cynthia Thomason

With Cynthia Thomason

Hi Everyone, welcome to Sit-down Saturday. Today I’m going to talk about my February release, HIGH COUNTRY COP, the first of a trilogy about the Cahills of North Carolina. So much is going on with this month’s releases of Heartwarming books including a fabulous contest for some great prize packages. But more about that later.

I have come to think of the Cahills almost as family. Mom, Cora, who lives on the family farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Son, Carter, about whom this book is written. He is chief of police in the small mountain town of Holly River. His brother, Jace, the laid-back,  guitar-playing brother who owns the local rafting expedition company. And sister Ava, whose journey will take her from corporate America back to the town she loves.

What makes this book so special?
Well, it’s the first of the series, and I’m hopeful readers will like all the stories of the Cahills. Carter is an honorable man, a “good cop,” who cares for his community and family. He’s suffered some setbacks in his life, none so profound as the loss of Miranda Jefferson, the love of his life. She moved away, married, but now is back. And Carter must decide if he will follow his heart or follow the law.

The other factor that makes this book so special is my personal love of the setting. I have been going to the small town of Banner Elk in the North Carolina High Country for several years. The town is charming, as most small towns are. The people are welcoming and friendly, as most small town people are, and the barbecue is great. If you decide to visit Banner Elk, make your reservations early. We only have one motel, but a number of beautiful bed and breakfasts.

Who is a favorite character in this book?
Now that’s not fair! I like all the characters or I wouldn’t have written about them. But aside from the hero and heroine, I suppose I like Miranda’s ten-year-old daughter, Emily, the best. She’s smart and sassy and draws conclusions that the adults sometimes miss. And she’s a whiz with a camera. Since I have a son, I always enjoy getting into the girl’s point of view.

Where did I get the idea for this book?
Research, research! I knew I wanted to write about my favorite town in my favorite mountains, so I began touring the area with an author’s eye for detail. I soon discovered a story around every corner. This one came about because I was riding in a car with a friend, and a policeman stopped us for “sliding” through a Stop sign. He was handsome and nice and let us off with a warning. Carter Cahill was born.

I hope you’ll give all the February books a read. Oh, the places you can go in Heartwarming books by Harlequin. And enter the contest at the link below.

I love to hear from readers. You can contact me at www.cynthiathomason.net
Happy reading!


Friday, February 9, 2018

Ode to a Lighthouse: The Way Back to Erin by Cerella Sechrist

The Way Back to Erin may be the third book in my Findlay Roads Story series, but it was actually the first story I envisioned for the series.

I had a very clear vision of the opening scene: a groom, left standing in the rain, after his fiancee failed to appear, and a single mother taking pity on him and offering him a temporary place to stay at her bed and breakfast. That story eventually became Erin's, a character who has been present in both of the previous Findlay Roads titles, Harper's Wish and A Song for Rory.

When I first created the town of Findlay Roads, I researched and visited several towns in the Chesapeake Bay region. One of my favorites was Havre de Grace, Maryland, where I spent the weekend at a B&B (similar to the Moontide Inn featured in the book), strolled the waterfront promenade, and visited the Concord Point Lighthouse. 

All of these features played heavily into my creation of the town, but especially due to my time in Havre de Grace, I knew I wanted to feature a lighthouse in one of the stories. It only seemed fitting that the Findlay Roads lighthouse ends up at the heart (and cover!) of Erin and Burke's story.

Concord Point Lighthouse, Havre de Grace, MD (photo: Cerella Sechrist)
The Concord Point lighthouse in Havre de Grace has a long and distinguished history, including a story that further inspired Findlay Roads' fictional history:
During the War of 1812, Irish immigrant, John O'Neill, helped defend Havre de Grace against an onslaught of British naval artillery commanded by Admiral Sir George Cockburn. O'Neill fought valiantly, refusing to abandon the cannons even when the rest of his militia deserted him. He was eventually forced to retreat, but he managed to use a musket to continue to fire upon the British ships in the harbor. Finally, he was captured by the British and sentenced to hang aboard ship. With a bravery worthy of a Heartwarming heroine, O'Neill's teenage daughter rowed out to the ship in a skiff and begged for her father's life. Cockburn was so moved by her courage that he relented and released O'Neill.

In the years to come John O'Neill and his descendants had the care of the lighthouse as its keepers throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century until it was decommissioned in 1975.

Havre de Grace has a rich history that not only inspired my creation of the town, but the lighthouse - and its stories - shaped the theme of The Way Back to Erin: finding your way back home.

In the story, Burke, our hero, has had a sad past. His parents died when he was young, and he and his older brother, Gavin, were passed around from distant relative's homes until they ended up at the Moontide Inn with their great aunt, Lenora. Burke spent the remainder of his childhood living at the B&B, watching other families make memories while his own had been fractured. When Burke's brother left for Army basic, Gavin charged Burke with keeping an eye on Gavin's girlfriend, Erin. Burke did his best to honor his brother's request...and ended up falling in love with Erin himself. As soon as Gavin returned from his initial training, and Burke graduated, he left the town - and Erin - behind, fearing his presence would only conflict and complicate his brother's relationship.

Gavin and Erin married...had a child...and ended up living at the Moontide Inn while Burke traveled the world as a photo-journalist, never settling down, never returning home. He kept himself away and denied himself the hope and promise of a home and family.

But after a twist of fate (you'll have to read A Song for Rory, book #2 in the Findlay Roads series to find out more!), Burke has returned to Findlay Roads...still uncertain if the town will ever be home.

This is the purpose of a lighthouse: to lead others safely to the shore, to guide them back to the harbor and bring them home. The lighthouse in Findlay Roads plays a small but critical part in The Way Back to Erin: it is a safehaven, a symbol, the light at the heart of the story, leading Burke and Erin back to each other and the home they've both longed for.
To find out more about their story, and the town of Findlay Roads, check out one of the books in the series: Harper's Wish, A Song for Rory, and The Way Back to Erin.

And be sure to enter the giveaways going on this month! There are several prizes being given away from me and my fellow February authors as well as a personal giveaway from me for new and existing newsletter subscribers. You can learn more or enter by clicking on the links below.

Be sure to check back on Saturday, February 17, when I share more details about Findlay Roads and The Way Back to Erin.

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 CERELLA SECHRIST lives in York, Pennsylvania with two precocious pugs, Darcy and Charlotte, named after Jane Austen literary characters. Inspired by her childhood love of stories, she was ten years old when she decided she wanted to become an author. She’s been known to post too many pug photos on both Instagram and Pinterest. You can see for yourself by finding her online at www.cerellasechrist.com. The Way Back to Erin, Book #3 in her "A Findlay Roads Story" series, is her fifth Harlequin Heartwarming novel.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

My favorite romantic movies by Amie Denman

As a romance writer, I also read dozens and dozens of romance novels every year. I love reading the wide variety within the romance genre itself, and I never get tired of a happy ending. When I'm not reading or writing romance novels, I'm watching romance movies. Here are my top three romance movies:

Somewhere in Time (1980). Time travel romance! One of my earliest movie introductions to how much a person will sacrifice for love. And the cast...who could resist Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour in the same movie? They are delightful. The costumes, setting, and musical score by John Barry make this one of the best movies ever. I have a movie poster hanging right next to my desk where I write. Because I love the setting so much, visiting The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, was one of my life's goals. I've been back four times now and I never get tired of walking the porch and dressing up for dinner.

Romancing the Stone (1984). Not only hilariously funny and clever, it features a romance writer as the heroine. Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) writes romances in her lonely apartment while dreaming of her own hero. When she ends up running for her life to save her sister in the jungles of Colombia, she has her own romance with Jack Colton (Michael Douglas). My favorite moment is when the Colombian drug smugglers recognize her name and gush about how they read all her books. I also adore the scene at the very beginning. Joan Wilder has just written The End on a novel, and she's neglected everything else in her apartment except the cat. She doesn't have a tissue left and hasn't ventured from her apartment in weeks...but she has a bestseller ready to deliver to her editor. An added bonus of this movie is that the novelization of the movie was written by Heartwarming author Catherine Lanigan!

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003). I know it's not a romance in the same way the other two are. When her husband unexpectedly asks for a divorce, literature professor and author Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) picks up her pieces and takes a trip to Italy where she buys a villa and reinvents herself. She toys with love along the way, but it's when she finally accepts herself and is happy with her own life that love walks in when she's least expecting it. I think that's what happens in every great romance--people have to be happy with who they are before they can give their heart to someone else. Wonderful music, scenery, and a great cast--I watch this one over and over.

Does anyone else love these movies as much as I do? There are so many great romance movies I didn't include here--please leave a comment with your favorite romance movie.