Friday, September 22, 2017

5 Big Fat Books by M. K. Stelmack

Half-a-lifetime ago, I worked at an independent bookstore and with September came the slow ramp-up to the Christmas season when publishers unleashed the new releases of their top authors onto the masses. Every day was like Christmas as the staff unpacked the long-awaited titles, hustling them up to the tables and front shelves for all to see.

The most exquisite pleasure was A Big Fat Book. Its weight, its density, the hollow echoing when drummed on the cover, the fanning of pages, the captured words in lines and lines, awaiting my inspection, and the glue-y, paper chemical-y, ink-y smell of a new book. You know what I'm talking about? And you know it's going to be good. Real good. So good, you have to make serious plans. You have to get meals planned, laundry done, projects deadlines sorted, because if you make the tragic mistake of opening the book before the real world is in place, all will fall apart.

To celebrate the dawn of another season, I'm going to share five of my favorite big, fat books in no particular order.

#1 OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon(and the entire books-to-stop-bullets series)

I started this series when the printers had somehow managed to stuff Voyager between the covers of a mass market paperback. I was a bored mom of two young children, one of whom I was breastfeeding. I began to crave those spaces during the day when I could be swept away to a land where Jamie roamed free. My son was one well-fed baby.

(This was the cover for the paperback I read.)

#2 QUINCUNX by Charles Palliser

I hand-sold this book like crazy the year it came out. A thick, Dickensian read with an elaborate mystery. I honestly can't remember the plot. Then again, I can't remember anything of what I read or watch unless I go through it for a second time. And we all know the saying: too many books, too little time.

#3 THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin

(Here's an excerpt from my 2013 Goodreads review of this 700+ page post-apocalyptic thriller: The Passage has a slow build-up, with person upon person being introduced and I was never sure who I should give my allegiance to because just when I was ready to commit, the narrative would switch to another person and so I became worried for everyone, even what turned out to be the 'bad' guys. Intentional, no doubt. The more compassionate I became for them all, the more I became like the star of the trilogy: Amy. A little girl who will become the salvation of the entire world. At least, that's what I think will happen. I also have to think about Peter, Alicia, Sara, Greer, Hollis, Michael, Theo, Mausami, baby Caleb....)

#4 The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

And here's my Goodreads review for this one!

I found the cure for the common cold. Last weekend, I crawled into bed and declared myself sick. You have to do that if you're a wife and mother or there's no rest, especially if, like me, you're wicked, too. I overdosed on the big, fat juiciness of The Winter Rose. As my legion of followers know (you know who you are because I surely don't), Jennifer Donnelly's The Tea Rose was everything I love in a historical and this, her sequel, is equally superior. 'Equally superior' is not contradictory. It means that at any moment, due to their excellence, one may surpass the other in my estimation of them. India Selwyn Jones is a fine woman with her plans to change the world, and is completed by Sid Malone who is a fine example of how you don't need to be good to do good. And we have the reappearance of Fiona and Joe, who have a story as meaty as you'd find in any ordinary historical. Oh, and, of course, the villian. Freddy was the best kind: cold, irredeemable and so utterly devastated by who he'd become. Really, the only difference between Sid and Freddy was good parenting. Which is why, after completing the book's clubhouse thickness in two days, I flipped back the covers and got back to being a wife and mother. I can't have anyone in my family go around ripping out their hearts. You'll understand the reference once you read the book. And you will. Because all of us, once in a while, need The Cure. 

#5 The Bible

Whether it is a testament of faith or a book of literature for you, this one book has it all. Yes, it was released a little before my time but it stands as The Big Fat Book of western culture. I didn't know which edition to use for my image and then I saw this gif--and wow.

I'm sure everyone has her favorite fat book. Hands-up for Gone with the Wind? I didn't include it because--gasp!--I haven't read it. Any others?

I can be found at GoodReads, my Website or FaceBook

Happy reading and if you want something shorter but stuffed with goodness, remember Heartwarming's September releases!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Special Pleasures

by Helen DePrima

Lately I find myself taking special pleasure in old treasures, not big things like jewelry or antiques from my mother’s family, but homely everyday items that bring back warm memories. I take my K-cups from the spatter-ware coffee pot that held my aunt’s tote tickets from Churchill Downs and sweeten my coffee from a green Ball jar bought on an antique rummage in Shelbyville, Kentucky with my cousins. Endless Summer hydrangeas nod from the hand-thrown pitcher my aunt and uncle brought my grandmother from the Smokies. I carried the start of the sweet autumn clematis frothing over my brick patio from my grandparents’ yard in a sandwich bag more than forty years ago.

But these are just things – stuff. I’ve also realized lately that old friendships need tending to survive. Last week my husband and I spent a wonderful few days in Castine, Maine, celebrating mutual fiftieth wedding anniversaries with friends from college, I in their wedding, my classmate in ours. Over the years, we somehow saw less and less of each other, finally only exchanging Christmas cards.

The time with our friends erased the years. We lingered over breakfast at the Manor Inn, strolled under ancient elms protected from disease by their remote location, and sailed the sunset waters of Penobscot Bay, all the while laughing over old memories, filling in the gaps of our separate lives, sharing hopes for the future. With luck and care, we won’t let fifty plus years of friendship languish again for want of cultivation.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Did I Forget That Again??? by Syndi Powell

Did I Forget That Again??? by Syndi Powell

I wish I could say that I purposely forgot to write this blog to use it as an example for this topic, but alas it's due to my increasingly spotty memory. I used to have a great memory for useless trivia and song lyrics. Unfortunately, that has radically changed in the last few years. While I used to recognize a minor actor in a movie and name other films I had seen him in, I now struggle to recall the name of the movie I've been wanting to see.

Part of the memory loss can be attributed to the cancer drugs I'm on. But I think a large part of it is due to menopause and aging. I remember my grandma telling me she could remember all the names of her friends when she was six, but don't ask her to say what she had for breakfast. She'd warn me that it would happen to me one day, and I would scoff at this. Well, Grammy, you were right.

So now that I'm forgetting more than I can remember, what are some things I (and you, if you're like me) can do to help my memory?

1. WRITE THINGS DOWN - Gone are the days I could go to the grocery store without a list. Nowadays, if it's not on the list it doesn't get in the cart. Use a calendar, either paper or on your phone, to remind you of appointments as well as birthdays/anniversaries/holidays. Write your favorite family recipes in a notebook so you don't lose those cherished secrets.

2. ESTABLISH ROUTINES - Every night before I go to bed, I lay out my clothes for the following day along with jewelry, socks and shoes. That way, I don't have to to think about what I'm wearing and am fully adorned. I also turn the porch light off when I feed the animals in the morning and turn it on at night when they get fed again. With these routines, I remember more.

3. HAVE A DEFINED STORAGE SPOT FOR EVERYTHING - I can't tell you how many times I've put something away for prosperity (like pictures or important papers) then forget where I put them when I want them. Establish a filing system for important papers. Organize photo albums or boxes for pictures. Buy storage bins in different colors to store holiday decorations (red/green for Christmas, orange/black for fall/Halloween, pink/purple for spring, etc.).

4. WHEN YOU FORGET WHY YOU CAME INTO A ROOM, RETURN TO WHERE YOU FIRST HAD THE THOUGHT - Do you do this too? I walk into a room for... something, but can't recall what or why. If you return to where you were when you decided, then your memory is more likely to be jogged.

5. I FORGET WHAT THIS RECOMMENDATION WAS SUPPOSED TO BE - But this also goes back to the first step: write things down. If I had, I'd remember this particular gem for helping my memory. And I'm sure it was brilliant.

Does anyone else struggle with their memory? Any tips that you can share?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Summer Food Cravings by T.R. McClure

In Deal of a Lifetime, the third in the Home to Bear Meadows series, Alex and Cyrus share fresh-baked raspberry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I write a lot about food in my books. In Pennsylvania, food is front and center at almost every gathering. 🍪

Unstoppable, the 2010 movie about a runaway train, filmed in our area. Appearing on The Tonight Show, star Denzel Washington was asked by Jay Leno what he thought of the locals. With a big smile, Denzel replied, "They kept trying to give me food." ⭐

The locals define hospitality by giving food to guests. Tea, coffee, cookies, pie... If you show up at dinner time, we just set an extra plate.

Back to the raspberry pie. I know any kind of fruit can be found in grocery stores year round, but at one time bakers took advantage of the season. In central Pennsylvania, black raspberries ripen around the Fourth of July. For about a week, you go out early in the morning, before the sun heats the air and stirs up the insects in the tall grass. As a night person, I find rising early difficult. So I deal with a few insect bites in return for quarts of delicious berries.

Raspberries are just the beginning. By late July, tomatoes are ripe. Nothing compares to a thick slice of meaty tomato, still warm from the sun, on two slices of soft, white bread coated with mayonnaise. No turkey. No lettuce. No whole wheat. Just tomato. Yum.

By the middle of August the grassy scent of ripening sweet corn permeates the summer air. A bright yellow ear of corn minutes from the field added to a pot of boiling water, slathered with butter takes me back to childhood.

Zucchini is ripening...and ripening...and ripening. What to do with zucchini?
What can't be done with zucchini? Stuffed zucchini, fried zucchini, zucchini bread, zucchini pancakes. Even zucchini jelly. One year I asked coworkers what they did with zucchini. I got a different answer from everyone.

Ten years ago Ratatouille hit the theaters.

The star of the animated movie is a rat who loves to cook and dreams of working in a famous restaurant. That year I had a surplus of tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers. Following the recipe by combining everything but eggplant, I successfully prepared the delicious stewed vegetable dish which, incidentally, originated in Nice. Trying the recipe also gave me the opportunity to use the word in conversation, as in, "I made ratatouille with my extra tomatoes and zucchini."

Maybe that's why I looked up the recipe. Ratatouille is such a happy word. 😊

Food cravings. We all have our seasonal favorites.

I've led you on a summertime culinary adventure in PA. If I came to your town, what favorite seasonal delight would you share? 🗺

As always, enjoy the read!

Monday, September 18, 2017

October Book Giveaways by Melinda Curtis

Characters in all four Harlequin Heartwarming releases in October are public servants, dedicating their lives to help keep others safe. Between hurricanes, tornadoes and fires this summer, we've all needed a good hero. And those heroes need our support, too. The four authors of October's sweet romances came together to create a giveaway that helps honor those who give to others. Four lucky winners will receive 1 autographed print book from our previous releases, plus 1 ornament. Our grand prize winner will receive four autographed print books plus other goodies, but will also be able to choose where we donate to a charity, a donation that could help those who help others, help your local community or help those in a disaster area.

Are you interested in giving to Wounded Warrior? The Fireman's Fund? The Red Cross? Or do you have a charity near and dear to your heart? Enter for your chance to direct the money where you feel it'll do the most good.

No purchase necessary to enter (and we listed a lot of ways to enter, just follow the link):

This contest is open in the U.S. and Canada (yes, Canada!). If you live somewhere else, you'll win 2 ebooks instead of 1 autographed book and an ornament. Good luck!

Here are the October releases we're celebrating:

Support Your Local Sheriff by Melinda Curtis
With his job in jeopardy, it couldn't be a worse time for Sheriff Nate Landry's past to come back to haunt him. But it would take an army to stop SWAT team member Julie Smith. The fellow cop—and sister of his ex-fiancée—wants one thing from the beleaguered lawman: custody of the toddler son that Nate didn't know he had. Nate may not be natural daddy material, but he quickly takes a shine to little Duke. And then there are the feelings Nate's been hiding for years toward Julie. Only now Julie's running for sheriff of Harmony Valley—against him. Time to retreat? Not if he wants a future with the woman he loves.

Until the Ride Stops by Amie Denman
Caroline Bennett is not looking for a summer romance. As a police officer at Starlight Point amusement park, she's got more important things to worry about, like solving a cold case involving a girl's mysterious death thirty years ago. Construction engineer Matt Dunbar is one of the few people who'll talk about the incident, but even he's not eager to dig up the past. Matt's working on a new state-of-the-art roller coaster—a project that could make or break his career—yet he still finds time for Caroline. As the end of summer approaches, her investigation implicates Matt's company, and she has to choose: justice or the funny, charming man she's falling for.

Smoky Mountain Sweethearts by Cheryl Harper
Sam Blackburn excels at fighting fire with fire in Tennessee, whether it's putting out deadly forest blazes or rescuing his old friend, widow Avery Montague, who's lost her nerve on a steep mountain cliff. What happened to the daring, adventure-loving teenager who wasn't afraid of anything? As kids, Avery was always pushing Sam to be brave, to be better, so he's ready to return the favor. Except he's up for his dream job in Colorado as a hotshot smoke jumper, and he can't be in two places at once. His future is fraught with risk, but what's the point of living if you don't take chances? He just wants Avery to find the courage to go after what she wants, and he's hoping it's him…

A Priceless Find by Kate James
A robbery followed by the discovery of a forgery at a respected art gallery thrusts Chelsea Owens into the center of an investigation headed by Detective Sam Eldridge. The instant chemistry between the high-spirited aspiring curator and the tall, dark, brooding cop is a classic case of opposites attract. Complications arise when Chelsea uncovers a connection to an unsolved art heist. Teaming up with Sam to find the stolen paintings ignites feelings that could lead to lasting love. But Sam isn't ready to move beyond the tragedy in his past, no matter how promising his future with Chelsea could be…

Did you know you can buy all 4 October releases for the price of 3? Or that the print versions of our books sell out quickly? Don't delay. Order today.

Melinda Curtis is an award-winning USA Today bestseller. She writes sweet romances for Harlequin Heartwarming, sweet romantic comedies and sexier traditional romances. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Sit Down Saturday with Janice Carter

Welcome to Sit Down Saturday!  Today we're celebrating the September release of 
For Love of a Dog by Janice Carter.

Congratulations on your debut Heartwarming, Janice!

Thank you.  It's been an exciting year since I got the call in June 2016.  This is my first Heartwarming and my 12th Harlequin.  My first, an Intrigue, was published many years ago and was followed by 10 Superromances.  I love the Heartwarming line and have been warmly welcomed by the authors of this series!

What is your book about and where did you get the idea for it?

The idea evolved after I read a magazine article about an American soldier in Afghanistan who'd befriended a stray dog while the soldier's unit was in the mountains.  When they returned to base miles away, the dog followed the unit.  Touched by the animal's determination to be with him, the soldier requested and received permission to take the dog back to the States.  I wanted to explore this unique connection between humans and animals - especially dogs - to show how that bond can have a healing effect.  Here's a peek at the back cover.
  Army captain Luca Rossi hasn't forgotten the dog who saved his life in Afghanistan.  He just didn't expect to be reunited with him on an Ohio soybean farm. Kai Westfield, the photojournalist who agreed to transport Amigo back to the States, has a different future in mind for the mutt that's bringing her orphaned nephew out of his grief. This tranquil, beautiful place is also healing the wounded soldier....and Kai deserves credit, too.  But she's only holding down the fort here until her dad recovers his good health; she can't wait to get back to the big city.  Can Luca summon the strength to stop Kai - and the peaceful life he envisions with her - from slipping away for good?

What research did you do while writing For Love of a Dog and why Lima, Ohio?

I have to thank Google search, YouTube, family and friends for much of my research!  I wanted to set the book on a farm close to a large town not too far west, to highlight the aspects of city versus country as one of the areas of conflict between Kai - who eagerly escaped the confines of family and  rural life - and Luca, who sees the country as a place to become whole again.
    My brother lives in soybean country and provided information about sowing and harvesting. Also, there's a vet in my family who described how Amigo's injuries would be treated.
  As to Lima?  It's a mid-sized city - or town - in the agricultural heartland of Ohio and seemed to be the perfect locale.  Plus, it was the fictional setting for one of my favorite TV shows - Glee.
   And years ago my husband and I backpacked overland to Australia, travelling through Afghanistan long before occupations and wars fractured that country.  It was an indelible experience and allowed me to picture the scene where Luca's unit was shattered by an IED.
  Essentially all of our life experiences and adventures are fodder for research, aren't they?

Indeed.  So what issues or themes are you exploring in For Love of a Dog?

The three main characters - Kai, her young nephew Thomas, and Luca - carry the weight of guilt and remorse over events that were beyond their control.  These emotions influenced their decisions and actions, threatening to jeopardize their chances at finding peace of mind and leading a healthy, 'normal' life.  The secondary characters - Margaret and Harry, Kai's parents and Isabel, Luca's mother - also deal with the hard, even cruel, cards that life has handed them. What sets all these characters on the healing path is their love of a dog - Amigo.

What is your favorite scene and why?

Of course I have many favorite scenes, but the one I've chosen today shows the shift in the relationship between Luca and 8 year old Thomas, an elective mute since his father's death. Luca has been helping Kai on the family farm and staying in the bungalow where Thomas once lived with his parents.  The scene comes at the end of Thomas's first walk-through in the bungalow since his father died. As Thomas sits at the kitchen table with Luca, the impact of his loss hits him once again. Luca, no stranger to grief, senses what the boy is going through.
  As Thomas sipped his drink, his study of the room drifted gradually to the contents of his glass. Luca took in the bowed head and slumped shoulders, and figured it was time to go.
 "Don't know about you, but I think it'll be cooler outside under that tree. Amigo is probably still there, waiting for us.  Shall we join him?"  He pushed his chair back and picked up his glass.
   Of course there was no response.  The boy didn't even raise his head. Luca started for the door and part way there, he heard a soft footfall behind him. As he'd predicted, Amigo was still sleeping beneath the bench.  Luca strolled over and sat down, taking in the green expanse of lawn stretching out to the highway, the rows of fir trees lining the drive and the cultivated fields rolling as far as the horizon.  It was a clear, blue-skied day speckled with dabs of clouds, and he was suddenly filled with promise.
   Thomas brushed against him as he sat down.  Luca didn't look his way, just sighed and said, "This place is beautiful."
  The tinkle of ice as Thomas drank was the only reply, but sitting next to the boy, Luca felt Thomas had taken another step toward accepting him.  He didn't know why, but that was important.  He finished his soda, enjoying it to the last drop.

What's next for you, Janice?

I'm working on more stories set in Lima, bringing in some characters from For Love of a Dog as well as new ones.
   Thanks for dropping by today!  Feel free to contact me at:
or on Twitter -@JaniceGCarter             
For Love of a Dog is available at: ; ; ;iTunes ;
Indigo and other online book stores in both print and digital formats.

Be sure to check out the other September releases:  Deal of a Lifetime by T.R.McClure;  A Father's Pledge by Eleanor Jones and  Soldier's Rescue by Betina Krahn.

Enjoy the read!

Friday, September 15, 2017

These are a few of my favorite...beaches! by Sophia Sasson

As hot summer days reluctantly give way to incoming Fall breezes, I hunger for salty ocean air. I can almost hear the roar of the waves and feel the grit of the sand on my skin. It’s my happy place. So I thought I’d revisit the beaches I’ve been fortunate enough to visit in my life. 

My favorite is St John, in the US Virgin Islands. I married my husband here in Hawksnest beach. The island has been devastated by Hurricane Irma and my heart and thoughts are with those who are on the long and difficult journey to recovering their lives and homes. St John is 70% national park so it’s one of those few places in the world where natural beauty dominates and tall resorts don’t mar the landscape.  It’s as close to a deserted island as you can get and still have cell phone reception.

A close second favorite is Breach Candy, Mumbai, India. 
I was born in Mumbai and it’s a throbbing city more congested than New York City. You’d be hard pressed to find elbow space on the streets, or a breath of fresh air in the hot humid weather. I grew up near Breach Candy and remember it as an oasis from the hustle of the city. There is nothing more therapeutic than sitting on the black boulder rocks and taking in a deep cleansing breath as the sound of the waves crash underneath your feet. And if you walk a few feet to the nearby children’s park, there is amazing street food to be had. If you have the stomach for it J

I can’t pick a third, fourth etc so here are a few more in no particular order.

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. 
The canary islands belong to Spain but are located off the cost of North Africa. My parents lived there for 13 years so I spent my summers on these beaches. Back then, there wasn’t much development on the island, now it’s a holiday hot spot for Europeans. I’ve only gone back once as an adult but what I remember is the feeling of total isolation. It’s so far away from the U.S that I still remember the feeling of awe at how big the world is. The real vacation benefit of this location; it’s volcanic and Mount Tiede is so tall that all of the rain leaden clouds dump on the North of the island. So you’re guaranteed sunny days if you stay in the South.

Acajutla, El Salvador. About 90 km from San Salvador. We all understand low and high tide but at a resort on this West coast of El Salvador, we got to experience it's true vastness. Our entire swimming beach would disappear at low tide. We could walk the ocean floor a mile out. Then at high tide, water would rush in over a few hours filling the tidal basin past the breakwaters with more than six feet of water.  It’s best seen in aerial view. The water recedes past the rip rap in low tide (see picture on right) and comes all the way into shore at high tide.

I could go on for days about beaches but one more. Two Lovers Point. Guam. Those of you who’ve read Mending the Doctor’s Heart know the fable that gives this location it’s name. But my love for this island reaches beyond just the beautiful beaches. My heart has been forever changed by people who live here, the bonds of family and culture that unite them, and the strength and resilience of their society. It was the inspiration for my book.

In fact, the Art Director at Harlequin was taken by this picture I sent her with my art cover sheet for the book and incorporated the location into the cover.

So how can I leave and not mention some of my other favorite beaches; Maui Hawaii, Ochos Rios, Jamaica, St Thomas USVI, Ocean City, MD, Myrtle Beach SC, Destin FL, all of the FL keys. I could go on. On my bucket list for beaches is Tahiti, the Maldives, Alaska, Thailand, the West coast of South America… many beaches so little time and money so lets stop here for now.

I love hearing from readers so email me at Sophia at, feel free to sign up for my newsletter or follow me onTwitter or Facebook

Don’t forget to check out the amazing line up of September heartwarming releases  from Betina Krahn , T. R. McClureEleanor Jones and Janice Carter.

So tell me, what’s your favorite beach? Or what beach is at the top of your bucket list?