musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... here there be cat

Monday, December 01, 2014

walking between the pages

On my travels this fall, I wandered into the small Ontario town of St. Marys. Even though I was positive I'd never visited before, the feeling of homecoming as I drove down the main street was strong enough to raise goosebumps. 

Crossing the Thames River bridge, into St. Marys, Ontario

I stopped to explore "The Stonetown" - so called because of its many lovely old buildings made of limestone from a local quarry - and suddenly I knew. This was the real-world version of Riverdale, the small quarry town Anne Norman and I had created for our novel, Rock Solid. And there came the goosebumps again. It was like walking into the pages of our book.

"Main Street, Riverdale" - Rock Solid

"She craned her neck to see around the horribly overgrown hedge of Chinese elm
that hid his house from the street. Good. No sign of the shiny black car." - Rock Solid


"Wandering leisurely through Street's backyard and along the riverbank, Rachel was charmed by the peaceful setting. Vivid images of its eventual transformation crowded her mind as she carefully measured distances and scribbled notes on important features and interesting plants. This would someday be a very special place, she thought, anxious to begin her sketches and see the project under way." - Rock Solid

"Riverdale Place" - Rock Solid

Town Hall in The Stonetown, St. Marys

My unexpected ramble through St. Marys is a pleasure to remember - it's a town I'll forever imagine as the face of Riverdale. For more information about the real-life Stonetown, visit their web site at

Rock Solid by Cheryl Cooke Harrington and Anne Norman is available from Montlake Romance in hardcover, paperback, and for your Kindle.


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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Books of 2013

Happy New Year! It's time for my third annual New Year's Day Booklist. I finished reading sixty-one books in 2013, caught up with some 'old friends' and discovered some wonderful new authors and series.

a few highlights from 2013

Here's the complete list, in order of reading:

Cambridge Blue by Alison Bruce
The Siren by Alison Bruce
Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet
Away by Jane Urquhart
Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths
The Calling by Alison Bruce
Six Metres of Pavement by Farzana Doctor
A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie
Necessary as Blood by Deborah Crombie
A Double Death on the Black Isle  by A. D. Scott
On What Grounds – A Coffeehouse Mystery by Cleo Coyle
The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie
Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear
Royal Flush: A Royal Spyness Mystery  by Rhys Bowen
More than Sorrow by Vicki Delaney
Royal Blood: A Royal Spyness Mystery  by Rhys Bowen
Rack, Ruin and Murder by Ann Granger
Death of a Dancer (aka A Dangerous Affair) by Caro Peacock
The Silence by Alison Bruce
A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore
Jack the Ripper: And the women whose lives he took by Susan McNicoll         
Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal         
The Cure by Athol Dickson
Inferno by Dan Brown
Naughty in Nice: A Royal Spyness Mystery  by Rhys Bowen
Wool by Hugh Howey
Bryant and May and the Invisible Code by Christopher Fowler  
Giving up the Ghost by Mary Logue
Bolero by Joanie McDonell
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
In the Shadow of the Glacier by Vicki Delany
Latte Trouble – A Coffeehouse Mystery by Cleo Coyle
Walking into the Ocean by David Whellams
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)
Wiped Out by Barbara Colley
The Backs by Alison Bruce
The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Proof of Guilt (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery) by Charles Todd
Always Remember by Sheila Seabrook
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny
Room with a Clue, Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery #1 by Kate Kingsbury
The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
A Cold Day for Murder (Kate Shugak #1) by Dana Stabenow
Blue Monday by Nicci French
No Corners for the Devil by Olive Etchells
Shadows in the Cotswolds by Rebecca Tope
Playing with Poison (Cue Ball Mystery #1) by Cindy Blackburn
Pagan Spring by G.M. Malliet
Heirs and Graces: A Royal Spyness Mystery by Rhys Bowen
Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler 
Bricks and Mortality by Ann Granger    
Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood
Do Not Disturb, Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery #2 by Kate Kingsbury
Twelve Drummers Drumming by C.C. Benison               
Eleven Pipers Piping by C.C. Benison               
Ten Lords A-Leaping by C.C. Benison               
Longbourn by Jo Baker
Beneath the Abbey Wall  by A. D. Scott
Valley of the Lost by Vicki Delany

First up for 2014:
On the Kobo Mini: Terms of Surrender by Sheila Seabrook
On Kindle for iPad: A Fatal Thaw (Kate Shugak #2) by Dana Stabenow
On Audible: Murder in the Dark by Kerry Greenwood
And on good old-fashioned paper: Manna from Hades by Carola Dunn

What were your most memorable reads of 2013? Recommendations always welcome because there's no such thing as too many books.

Find me on Goodreads.


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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Grandma's Kitchen

I've often thought it strange that I'm unable to recall my childhood in any sort of detailed chronological order. I'm quite certain I was a happy child, despite a habit of solitary days spent reading on the porch or camped out in my hide at the end of the garden. If only I'd known my youth would become such a mystery to me, I'd have kept a journal from the time I could write. If only.  
Instead of a timeline, I have random but brilliant spots of recollection, as vivid today as they were at the time. Grandma's kitchen is one of those spots. I can close my eyes and find myself seated at the long table, legs dangling beneath a too-big-for me chair as I snack on tinned cherries from a blue willow bowl. I see Grandma at the sink, her back to me, wearing a yellow, paisley-patterned apron, its strings tied in a neat bow. The countertop is red, the walls a buttery cream, and there's bright sunlight streaming through the window.
Behind me, in the corner, is the cot where I sleep when I visit overnight. Grandma made the coverlet from swatches of suit fabric, stitched into cotton-stuffed triangles and knotted together at the corners with bright strands of red wool. I remember playing with those swatches when they were still bound into display books, dozens of them, with stiff cardboard covers and a red needle-and-thread logo. I have no idea where she found them but the transformation from surplus fabric samples to warm and wonderful blanket was typical of Grandma's "waste not, want not" philosophy. A patchwork of blue serge and houndstooth, pinstripes and checkerboards…oh, how I miss that funny old blanket.
I remember waking in the cot one morning feeling as if my face and neck were stuffed full of the same cotton wool as my blanket. Grandma took one look and proclaimed, "Mumps!"  Her kitchen doubled as infirmary for the next ten days and I was stuck there for the duration. I don't remember my confinement but I vividly recall the day it ended. I was sitting at the table, enjoying that bowl of tinned cherries, when my Mom and Dad arrived with a big cardboard box. I thought it must be very heavy and probably fragile because they seemed to be worried about dropping it, whispering and struggling to balance it between them. Truthfully, I was more interested in the cherries than whatever boring thing they'd brought home from their shopping trip. Until the box woofed at me, that is. If I'd known having the mumps would earn me a puppy, I'd have had the mumps a whole lot sooner!
Cookie and me, 1956
Cookie Cooke - best dog ever - and me (a few years ago).
Now that I've started writing them down, memories of Grandma's house are crowding into my mind, each one calling another into the light. I haven't found the funny old blanket, but I'm almost certain Grandma's yellow apron is packed away somewhere with keepsakes from my mother. I'm going to look for it – imagine the stories it has to tell.

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

about that parachute...

"...And then I panicked. Earthbound, height-phobic, bit-overweight me was about to go up in a two-seater Cessna.  Not just go up. I was going to fly the thing. What was I thinking?"  Click on over to Book Babe to share my pre-flight jitters and find out what happened next.
Many thanks to the lovely Tara Chevrestt who runs the show at Book Babe, where strong is sexy and women in aviation rule.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

memories are made of this

My mother is haunting me this week. Not as a ghostly apparition – she'd never approve such hijinks. "What would people think?" No, Mom's hauntings are more likely to follow the path of gentle reminder. I might find an unexpected hug in one of her crocheted "love-in-every-stitch" blankets, catch the familiar strains of Que Sera, Sera while channel surfing, or lift the lid on happy memories in the kitchen.
I made harvest soup on Sunday afternoon and as I pulled the old Dutch oven from the depths of the cupboard, Mom was there. 

Sunday's Harvest Soup in Mom's Dutch Oven

Mom and that cast iron pot were ever-present in my childhood, serving up delicious, nourishing (and thrifty) meals, everything from her oddball "Irish" stew made with ground beef and curry, to chicken with melt-in-your-mouth dumplings. And let's not forget the world's finest chili sauce. Mmm, I can almost smell it now. Small wonder lifting that lid still conjures the very best memories of Mom.

Mom's Chili Sauce

·         11 quart basket ripe tomatoes (skinned and coarsely chopped)

·         4 red and 4 green sweet peppers (coarsely chopped)

·         1 or 2 red hot peppers (finely and very carefully chopped – don't get the juice on you!)

·         2 bunches of celery (coarsely chopped)

·         10-12 onions (chopped)

·         5 cups apple cider vinegar

·         5 tablespoons salt

·         3 cups brown sugar

·         2 quarts of apples (coarsely chopped – these help to thicken the sauce)

Seasonings: (tie in a cheesecloth bag and immerse in sauce while it cooks)

·         1 tablespoon cloves

·         1 tablespoon cinnamon

·         2 teaspoons ginger

·         2 teaspoons allspice

Simmer until it thickens. Makes about 12 pint sealers.



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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

the write spot

Have you ever walked down a street just after dark, in that twilight time when indoor lights are coming on but curtains aren't yet drawn? Windows become irresistibly inviting, framing intimate glimpses of other people's lives, of stories waiting to be told.
There's a special kind of connection that happens when we're allowed those glimpses into private worlds. I think that's why I was so fascinated by the photos of famous writers' retreats in this article. My favourite is Virginia Woolf's little hut. It would suit me very well indeed.
So now I'm on a quest. Where do the rest of us (famous and not-so-famous writers) write? I hope you'll leave a comment with a link to a photo of your own writing room or favourite writing spot. Let's make some connections.
This is my cozy corner. Where's yours?

my writing room


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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

breathing space

1. a respite or a time of respite from something
2. a scheduled period during which activity is suspended
3. a period of exemption from work
4. a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation

Synonyms: breathing space, fiesta, furlough, gone fishing, holiday, intermission, layoff, leave, liberty, long weekend, recess, recreation, respite, rest, sabbatical, spell, time off.

Antonyms: work

Usage: Ahhh.  It's been a good vacation.   Also: Awww. Vacation will be over tomorrow. But it's been lovely.

Roundup: Nine days of theatre, wineries, relaxing, movies, reading, writing, relaxing, visiting, wandering, and more relaxing. Yes, I could definitely get used to this.