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 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:

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 clichĂ© 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
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.

Newsletter 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 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.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Holding Out for Any Hero by Anna J Stewart

Boy time sure flies. March 1st will bring the publication of ALWAYS THE HERO, my fourth Butterfly Harbor story and my sixth Harlequin Heartwarming title overall. I can't believe it was only Christmas of 2015 that my very first book came out.

My excitement over this book is a bit different than the rest. Of all the books and stories I've written, Lori Bradley is probably the character most like me. There's a lot of me on the page. There's also a lot about her that is complete fiction (my mom happens to be awesome and 100% supportive, LOL). I like to say I write independent heroines who don't need a man, but when they find the one they want, it's game over. For both of them. Lori, however, is going to need a bit of confidence building before she's willing to stake her claim on Deputy Matt Knight. Mainly because, well, Matt's kept a few secrets he shouldn't have and if there's one thing Lori can't abide, it's dishonesty...and being made to look like a fool.

Speaking of Matt, let's talk about heroes. I love looking for my inspiration pictures, not only because it's a massive procrastination technique I use (and is why my writing computer does not have virus protection so I don't spend countless hours of writing time online). From the second Matt walked on the page of THE BAD BOY OF BUTTERFLY HARBOR, I knew who Matt was. What he looked like. Matt.  :)

Okay, minus the scruff <G>, cause scruff doesn't cut it in Heartwarming (except in my own mind). I can't be the only Jeffrey Dean Morgan fan around, can I? Matt might be one of my favorite heroes I've written. Wait. Do I say that with every book? Huh. I probably do. But I did fall a little bit in love with him, flaws and all. And he is flawed. He's determined to do what he thinks is best for everyone without letting anyone down. Not entirely realistic, right? Yeah. And it definitely bites him. In regards to Lori, it bites him harder than he expected, meaning he's going to be working overtime to prove he's the man for her. But a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do when he falls hard for the perfect woman. 

So who's one of your favorite heroes either that you've read or written? For reading, for me, it doesn't get any better than J.D. Robb's Roarke. Sometimes I think I read those books more for him than Eve Dallas (shhhh...don't tell anyone). There's just something about a dark-haired, blue-eyed Irishman. *swoons*

Your turn! Chime in in the comments and share your heroes! In the meantime, happy reading!

He never relied on anyone but himself…but he needs her now!

Butterfly Harbor deputy Matt Knight wants two things: to date Lori Bradley and the chance to adopt Kyle, a troubled teen. Wounded in Afghanistan, Matt knows he can’t move forward anchored to the past. But once he regains the guarded hotel manager’s trust, will his need to protect those he loves cost him a future with this extraordinary woman?

Pre-order your copy of ALWAYS THE HERO right here!

USA Today and National Bestselling author Anna J Stewart writes sweet to spicy romance for Harlequin's Heartwarming and Romantic Suspense lines. When she's not writing, you can find her at the movie theater or binge watching her favorite TV shows and dealing with an overly affectionate cat named Snickers. You can visit her online at

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The First Heartwarming novel to become a Hallmark Channel Movie: HEART’S DESIRE by CATHERINE LANIGAN

To say I’m thrilled about my book, HEART'S DESIRE, being made into a movie is an understatement. I’m blessed and so very appreciative to all the people who have worked for over four long and arduous years to make this happen. In the movies, the heroine (me) would get a phone call and someone (the publisher) would announce that Hallmark just bought my book. That’s the dream scenario. That’s not what happened.

Lissy Peace, my agent, and I on the film set of The Hallmark Channel movie of my Harlequin Heartwarming 'Heart's Desire'
The behind the scenes story, like most things in life, was bittersweet. My late husband, Jed Nolan, was a film producer, which some of you may or may not know. For nearly 15 years we worked seven days a week writing, re-writing, pitching studios, television networks, cable networks, talking to agents, managers, stars, other producers. You name it. I felt I’d walked over every inch of asphalt in Hollywood. We never got a bite. Oh, we had several accolades. Quite a few production companies we partnered with and wrote, long, long, legal and expensive contracts with ended up stabbing us in the back.

But we never gave up.

In 2005 we met two award-winning ladies who owned a small production company. They read my book, “Christmas Star” and never forgot it. When my Shores of Indian Lake series was published by Heartwarming, I sent them the first two books, LOVE SHADOWS and HEART’S DESIRE. They loved them and because they were shooting another Hallmark movie at the time, they believed the books were perfect for Hallmark. They pitched the stories. The Executive said she’d read them. Time went by, I wrote three more books. Then the Executive read those. SHE fell in love with them. She asked the rest of their very understaffed staff to read the books. They did and they loved them. Another year passed. Two and half years ago, Jed and I met with our Production Executive. He told us how perfect the stories were for them. Jed turned to me and said, “Did the Hallmark Production Executive just pitch us OUR series?”

We had delay after delay. In the process of all this, Jed became very ill and died. Jed made me promise that I would never give up on his dream for me—to get my Heartwarming books to television. I promised him and kept at it. After all, I actually do believe that deathbed promises are sacred. In addition, this promise is important to the rest of the story I’m going to tell.

A year later, I signed the contract with my production company and Hallmark.

Then there was a writer’s strike in LA. The production that was slated for last June got pushed to November. Then December. Now, it’s the end of January, but it’s finally happening. On January 29th, I’ll be flying to Vancouver and I’ll be on the set, having promotional photographs taken. I’ll be staying in the motel with all the cast and crew. For me, it will be somewhat like the film shoots I visited when Jed was producer and/or director. It’s a lot of fun, but seriously, between us, I was always looking around for my laptop so I could get some pages written. I know, is that nutty or what?

Every day there is something new and exciting that has happened, besides changing my flights! And all of it is wonderful.

But here is the story within the story. For two plus years I have put one foot in front of the other hoping to make good on my promise to Jed. I have asked the producers to dedicate the film, “In Memory of Jed Nolan”. They’ve said they will do this on the end scroll. Whether it makes it past the cutting room or not, is in God’s hands. But I’ll be fighting for it all the way.

I have to back up a bit. Years before Jed died, he and I built a storage shed in the back yard. There was a five drawer file cabinet that we put all his film files and old PR photos about him. This was his “space”. There were three 8x 10 photos of him when he was 19-22 years old that he used for acting gigs or modeling assignments. When he died I went through every single file in that cabinet looking for those photos. I wanted to put them in the Memorial Pamphlet I gave to our friends. For the life of me, I never found them. Since that time, every time I would go to the shed, I would rifle through the files looking for those photos.

Last week, I got a spectacular call from the producers. I’m not allowed to disclose the content of that call, but let me say, I was dancing around the room. The best news I’ve heard in a long time. I thanked God, Jesus and told Jed I knew he was around me and he was helping to make this happen. I asked him if he would send me a sign to let me know that I was right and had fulfilled my promise.

My friend came over to help me put the decoration bins in the shed. While she went back for another load, I stood in the shed next to the file drawers and thought, “I’m going to open this drawer and those photos will be right there.” I yanked open the drawer and a file wafted open revealing all three photos. Right where they should have been, but had not been for years. I burst into tears and laughed with joy.

Jed in the Roadster


A composite of Jed in his early years
I’m still keeping my promise, Jed. I will never give up. 

Some of you may remember that HEART'S DESIRE was featured on the USA TODAY HEA blog with an in depth interview when it released in 2014. That interview revealed a lot about my writing journey, including my days on set with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas for Romancing the Stone. You can read the interview HERE if you missed it!

Please join me on my Prism Book Tour for Heart’s Desire. The movie air date is March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, which is the beginning of their SPRING FLING promotion. There will be lots of ads about our first Heartwarming book made into a film.

In fact, not only did I have the chance to visit the set recently (see photo above with my agent on set), I was also interviewed for The Hallmark Channel. Here are some 'behind the scenes' photos from my experience on set:

Me at hair and makeup before my interview...all done!

Outside the hair and makeup trailer ready for my filmed interview

Standing with steamy men :). These two guys (Showthyme) fed the entire crew lunch every day! They were creative...the food was fabulous...and they were a hoot!
Don't forget to mark your calendars for the tour date starting March 5th and the film debut airing March 17th, 9pm ET/8pm CT! It'll be a sweet and romantic St. Patrick's Day!

Book blurb:

His homecoming is bittersweet…for both of them 

CafĂ© owner Maddie Strong is finally ready to take her burgeoning cupcake business to the next level. With the help of handsome businessman Alex Perkins, her future's all mapped out. Until her first love comes home. 

At seventeen, Maddie adored Nate Barzonni with her whole heart and soul. But when he asked her to elope, she'd said no—she couldn't let him throw away his dream of becoming a doctor. Then he vanished from her life for eleven years. Now the cardiac surgeon has returned to Indian Lake asking for a second chance, and Maddie has to choose between her new life…and the man she never stopped loving.

Catherine Lanigan is the international bestselling and award-winning author of over forty-five published titles in both fiction and non-fiction, including the novelizations of Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile. Ms. Lanigan’s novels have been translated into over twenty-four languages. Lanigan was tasked by the NotMYkid foundation to pen a collection of compelling and informative true stories of teen addicts. Ms. Lanigan’s SHORES OF INDIAN LAKE series for HARLEQUIN HEARTWARMING includes LOVE SHADOWS, HEART’S DESIRE , A FINE YEAR FOR LOVE, KATIA’S PROMISE, FEAR OF FALLING, SOPHIE’S PATH, PROTECTING THE SINGLE MOM, FAMILY OF HIS OWN, HIS BABY DILEMMA, TOO CLOSE TO THE FIRE (2018) and MY RACING HEART (2019).

The Hallmark Channel will air HEART’S DESIRE on March 17, 2018.

Ms. Lanigan is a frequent speaker at literary functions and book conventions as well as inspiring audiences with her real stories of angelic intervention from her Angel Tales series of books. She is an outspoken advocate for domestic violence and abuse and was honored by The National Domestic Violence Hotline in Washington, D.C. She has been a guest on numerous radio programs including “Coast to Coast” and on television interview and talk show programs as well as blogs, podcasts and online radio interview programs. She writes a monthly blog for Visit her at, on Facebook, LinkedIn,, Pinterest, Goodreads and Google+.

You can find Heart's Desire and all of Catherine's books on Amazon or at your favorite online bookstore. You can also find her on